Thursday, August 30, 2007

I Heeded the Call...


and entered Gather’s First Chapters Romance contest. (Cassandra posted about it August 5th.) The First Round of voting opened on Monday, so of course I’ve come begging for votes. (Unofficially, I’m being trounced. But what do I expect when an ex-American Title, almost GH Finalist and First Chapters finalist is pitted against me?)

I’m hoping LOVEMAKER will hold it’s own against the pack of 300 (+ or – ). Who knows maybe I’ll have a rush of votes come September 17th (the day before voting closes). I can only hope my writing is strong enough as well as throw myself upon your mercy to take pity and vote for me...pretty please?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

In order to vote, readers must become a member of Gather. You can do this by going to http://www.gather.com/ and clicking on the orange “It’s Free-Click Here” button. You’ll see a form to fill in details about yourself, however there are safeguards so you don’t have to reveal your entire name, nor where you live. (And you aren’t required to friend anyone or post, you can simply read, comment and/or VOTE.)

There are a few rules about voting (aka clicking on one of the little stars under the “Article”, but before the comments). Only votes of 10 will determine the 10 chapters that will go to Round Two (the Gather Editorial Team will pick the other 10). Yep, that’s right anything 9 and below will automatically be dropped. (This was instituted because of all the 1’s left as pranks during the first chapters contest.) You can only vote once for each individual chapter. If you vote more than once for each chapter, ALL your votes will be deleted. You can vote for as many of the chapters as you want and you can leave as many comments as you’d like.

To sweeten the reward for readers (who all the contestants are driving over to Gather) there is an incentive!! Members who post the most insightful comments on each of the 25 winning submissions from Round One, plus each of the 5 winning submissions from Round Two will win a $50 Borders Gift Card!

I don’t know about you, but free books are always a fabulous prize as far as I’m concerned!

To visit the moderator’s article which provides an overview about voting as well as links to all the entries, go to:

http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.jsp?articleId=281474977081858

Or you can simply go straight to LOVEMAKER (hint, hint):

http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.jsp?articleId=281474977091233


Please go forth and vote! I know I’d appreciate it! And I’m certain all of the other authors who’ve put themselves out there by submitting their chapters for this NATIONAL contest would be equally as grateful!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

On the Serious Side

As you know, my publisher went bankrupt recently and regardless of the clauses in my contracts assuring me that I would have my rights (to the books) returned immediately upon such an event, I’ve learned differently.

Bankruptcy courts can, and do, override the clauses in the contracts you sign and can usurp your rights to re-sell your books to the publisher of your choice. I don’t know about you but this strikes me as totally unfair and it puts a penalty on the author (who kept her/his side of the contract).

The only way we can stop this (and it’s too late to help me or the other authors at Triskelion) is to write our U.S. senators and congresspersons and urge them to sponsor legislation barring this practice.

It's easy to do. Just google "Find your U.S. Senator" or "Find your Congressperson" and you can fill out a form for each one online. You can cut and paste your letter.

Here's what I've sent to my senators and congressman. Feel free to incorporate my wording if it serves your purpose, although you may want to vary it a bit so they don't view this as a form letter.

Dear Senator X:

Writers, illustrators and composers in this country are being subjected to a grave injustice – by our own federal judges. This is a situation that can only be rectified by an act of Congress, and I urge you to consider sponsoring such a bill.

Briefly: Professional creative artists contract with publishers, producers or similar entities to bring their works before the public. These contracts generally include a clause stating that, in the event of the entity’s bankruptcy, all rights in the contracted work revert to the artist. Many of us would hesitate to sign contracts without such protection.

Yet, unknown to many of those signing such agreements, federal judges routinely void these clauses in the event of a bankruptcy by the publisher/producer. Their rationale is that bankruptcies are adjudicated under federal law and contracts are signed under state law, and that federal law takes priority. Therefore, they seize these rights and allow the trustee in the case to sell them off without the creative artist’s consent.

There is a marked discontinuity between what copyright and contract laws say vs. what bankruptcy law says. That should not be allowed to continue.

I contracted with Triskelion Publishing, an Arizona LLC, to publish two novels and a novella. I received no advance payment, only the contractual assurance of a percentage of sales revenues (royalties). Then in July 2007, Triskelion declared bankruptcy.

Not only am I owed royalties for sales in the second quarter, but the bankruptcy court proceeded to confiscate my rights – and those of numerous other authors – in violation of our contracts. Thus we face not only a loss of moneys owed, as would any creditor in a bankruptcy, but a far more serious affront: the loss of control over our creative work.

Further information and confirmation of these basic facts may be obtained from the legal department of The Authors Guild in New York or RWA (Romance Writers of America) in Texas.

Freelance writers, illustrators and composers are among the most vulnerable members of our economic community. We are not protected by minimum wage laws; we receive no benefits, overtime, paid vacation or sick leave; we have no job security; and we are often poorly compensated. Our only protection lies in our contracts. By voiding a key provision in such contracts, the courts deny us control over the future use or misuse of our works.

Legislation banning bankruptcy courts from voiding such clauses would, in my opinion, have no widespread ramifications or harmful effects on trade or commerce. It would simply protect those who enhance our society through their creativity against an unnecessary and unjust confiscation of their rights by federal judges.

-- Lynda

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Internet Doesn't Smell

I remember many years ago when the bookcase in the corner of my parents’ living room contained a complete set of Encyclopedias, a lovely collection of books about wildlife, a collection of classic literature including the plays and sonnets of Shakespeare, a collection of children’s fairy tales and the Holy Bible.

That was my library as a kid. And as a lover of books from an early age, I spent a lot of time leafing through all those pages. I liked the smell of books and the feel of them. I liked to stack them up, move them around, leave bookmarks in the really interesting pages.

In grammar school I discovered the library and because it was often a requirement for school work, I balked at spending time there. In college, I lived in the library. Research was practically my religion.

Once I graduated, I went through that rebellious period where I only read for pleasure. Then newspapers and magazines became my research material of choice. I wanted to know what was going on NOW, not what had happened way back THEN.

Then I rebelled again and I cancelled my magazine subscriptions. I don’t care what the celebrity of the week had for breakfast anymore. My newspapers often go right in the recycling bin unread. Real life is depressing. That’s why I write fiction.

Now, almost thirty years after I decided I wanted to write for a living, I don’t own a set of encylopedias. I don’t think my kids would know what to do with research material you don’t access with a keyboard and a mouse. At my fingertips I have dictionaries, thesauruses, wikis, databases and the collected knowledge of everyone from experts to laymen on just about any subject I can name. I can Google, Ask Jeeves and Yahoo whenever I want.

But I still miss the smell of those encylopedias. I miss climbing up into the couch with a heavy, glossy-paged book in my hands intent on the journey of discovery. I miss paging through letter after letter on a lazy afternoon and picking up tidbits of all kinds of things. I miss sitting with reference books spread all over my desk with sticky notes stuck all over them and pencils balanced behind my ears.

I’m planning a trip to the library. I haven’t spent time there since I graduated college. I don’t have a particular research project in mind at the moment, but I thought it would be nice to go and familiarize myself with the place again, to get to know the stacks and the layout, to steep myself in the smell of books again.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Getting Side-Tracked

All right, I started to check out the art work of Michale Whelan, and what happened? I got side tracked! I started looking at one picture, then another, then another...then another... This is what happens to me all the time. (By the way, awesome art work!)

Research always ends up with me getting side tracked. I look up one thing, search for another, get really involved in the whole thing, do a Google search...and before I know it, several hours have passed and I have done nothing. I could say I started research and that would be true, but what I ended up doing wasn't research. I got side tracked!

I admit to it. But there are just so many interesting things to see on the Internet, to read in books, to do! And one thing leads to another and then to another and then...don't even ask me why I ended up typing family names in Google and peeking, because I don't know how that happened when I started searching for other things.

Just another side track effort by yours truly.

Imagine if I lived in a sci-fi world, with all those cultures, people, aliens, beings, space ships, creatures, customs, laws - you'd find me at the bottom of a heap of books researching on Google and STILL getting side tracked!!!

cheers!
Angela

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Let's Hear It For Sci-Fi and Fantasy Artists

For years I've had a love affair with book covers painted by Michael Whelan. There's just something about his work that can so transport me to the places in the books he contracted to paint covers for. It's wonderful to be able to look at those beautiful paintings and have the worlds the author's built solidify in your mind. If you want to see some gorgeous artwork, pop his name into a Google search and sit back and enjoy. I honestly can't decide which of his paintings I like the most.

Several years ago, (2001 to be exact), Dave and I attended the World Fantasy and Sci-Fi Con in Philly. In the art exhibit, originals of Michael Whelan's work hung on the walls. I thought I was going to have heart failure. And the canvases were huge. HUGE! I couldn't believe how big they were. One I know had to be six foot across. I just stood there and stared with mouth agape. You'd expect Dave to be doing that since he's the artist. But for me...seeing the original paintings to books I've read was like...I don't know...meeting a movie star or something. Unfortunately every time we went by the the little table where he should have been sitting...the chair was empty so I couldn't meet him in person. - Probably a good thing. Hehehhehee

At that same show was an artist named Tom Kidd. Now, I don't really know if Kidd was there in person, or just a someone selling promotional items for him. But his work is kind of left-of center, but rendered in what looks like water colors, but is probably oils...(considering on his website, he says that he works in layers upon layers. Usually something people who work in oils do.)

Every issue, RoF magazine does an article on a fantasy/sci-fi artist. This is perhaps one of my favorite columns in that periodical. They really go in-depth with the artist covered on motivations, mediums and inspirations. It's wonderful to read the stories of how these talented men and women came about their profession. I've always been amazed and awed by people who can bring life to canvas and colors. Since I cannot draw even a convincing stick figure, I think anyone who can visually transport me to another place and time deserves high praise.

There are others who I admire and would love to add here, but alas...I have to go get ready for work. (Reality crashes back down upon my head.)

Who are some of your favorite cover artists? And who would make you pass out if you ever found out they were commissioned to do one for you?

-Kat

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bass-Ackwards

I have never been able to mold myself to fit an ideal. In anything. Even when I'm trying. Even when it really really means a lot to me to be able to progress through something in order, from start to finish.About the only thing I can do is remember that undies go inside the pants.

So it shouldn't surprise me when I find that the second half of my WIP is in much better shape than the first. In fact, it's a different story altogether. In the middle of the story, the characters begin working towards a brand new goal with completely different motivations. What in the world was I thinking?

I was thinking bass-ackwards is what. Or rather, backstory-ackwards. Beginnings are one of the hardest elements of storycrafting, but they're one of the most significant as well. Beginnings are what hooks your reader, both to your characters and to you as a writer. If you can't intrigue them, tempt them to keep reading rather than put the story down and watch TV, surf the internet, or pick up another author, then your story sits untold.

So now that I have an ending--or a middle and an ending--in draft form, in order to start revisions and turn this thing from a giant literary sudoku puzzle into a coherent story, I need a beginning. Noodling out the beginning can take as much time as noodling out an entire draft, for me. But once I have that beginning...it's like the wheels are greased, the nosecone is pointed downhill, and the brakes are off and I'm gone, baby. Without that beginning nailed and solid, turning the rest of the slush into a margarita of a story just won't happen.

Beginnings are also one of the easiest parts of the story to screw up. Thousands of writers--self included--begin tens of thousands of stories in the wrong place. We confuse beginning with backstory. We spend too much time and too many words in the ordinary world of the hero's journey. Sometimes it's because we need to do that as writers, in order to understand our characters and the universe in which they live. And after we've answered those questions for ourselves, it's our duty as writers to excise it and start the story where the story really starts.

Ironically, that's often the last step of my revising process. I told you I have it bass-ackwards. Now if you'll excuse me...I have to go take my shorts off to put my underwear back on...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Finding the Little Red Dress

You all know what I mean by the perfect little black dress, right? Well swap that out for a fiery red one that hits right above the knee and shows off your cleavage in a spicy display.

That almost sums up the one I wore to The Gathering in Atlanta, but I think more people commented over the Zsa Zsa star pin I’d tacked in the lowcut V, so I didn’t show too much.

In reality the dress I’m talking about isn’t an actual dress…it’s a symbol, an icon even, of one of the lines at Harlequin Enterprises.


So why am I gushing over something I can’t even touch? Because the e-mail that delivered itself into my inbox was just as ethereal. I couldn’t touch it, but that didn’t keep me from letting out a whoop (along with several of my chaptermates). It seems an editor at Red Dress Ink wants to see the full manuscript of BLITZ ME BABY!

I went to eharlequin.com so I could send my co-workers a link with my good news. Contemporary, Edgy, Witty, Sophisticated—is what Red Dress’ tagline boasts. The adjectives do sum up the perfect party dress as well as the girl in it. Their animated gif did go on to say—Quirky, unforgettable characters you expect—which sums my heroine up to a T. (And yes, I knew all this beforehand or I wouldn’t have submitted, but who really expects something other than a rejection?)

Of course one can never do too much research, so I drug my bf to the new neighborhood B&N to scan the shelves for the “little red dress”. The only way to put your best foot forward is to see what everyone else is sporting to the ball. I took half, and he took half of the fiction section, though we found only about a dozen titles (as well as Bantam’s rooster insignia which he announced was the red cock).

From the leads I ran down (in my comfy sneakers) I noticed that almost all of them were written in first person. The only thing I’d written in that POV was the erotic boundary-stretching story I’d written in college, my YA sleuth book, and my latest cat shifter novella (because the hero refused to submit!) However, I was happy to see that the books had longevity past a month (unlike the other Harlequin series titles). After reading quite a few pages I noticed that most of them were tongue-in-cheek, frolic-filled journeys, which suited BLITZ ME BABY’s storyline. Then I really went off on a daydreaming tangent and imagined readers complaining about paying the trade-size price. That negative notion got whisked away by the reality that everyone I knew would love to plunk down a few extra bucks to see my work in print. I know, I know…I really should’ve reigned myself in because nothing ever comes of dreaming big. Been there, done that and got the burn marks to prove it.

So what does this have to do with paranormals? Nothing really. Though I can say I did think long and hard about mixing in magic with my mythological overtones. In the end I decided there was already plenty of that kind of book on the market and I didn’t want to follow the same path. (Unless of course the editors want me to, because we all know who’s the boss.)
Hmm…it might be time to play dress up for a red-hot promo picture in my sassy smock after I shrink my big head. Maybe this time I can even get my bf to play fashion photographer a la Nigel Barker.
___________________________
In other news, CRASH INTO YOU didn’t get picked to be part of Samhain’s ON THE PROWL cat-shifter anthology. I’d dreamt of having another book to announce, but like usual things didn’t pan out. Hopefully Samson and Carey’s story will do better in the Brava Novella Contest. Make a wish for me!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Confessions of a Research Whore

Hello. My name is Lynda and I’m a research whore.

I’ve always been this way but...I don’t necessarily research for a book I’m writing. No, I research just because I like to learn. Generally, this learning will involve something in the science field.


Here's a great pic of a star with a tail. Bet you didn't know a star could have a tail like a comet, did you? Me either until recently. But I once had seen a binary star that 'shared' matter with its smaller dwarf companion. That led me to write a short story entitled Magician's Tale several years ago.





I’ve always been drawn to astronomy, geology or the biological sciences. This picture is of a cross between a horse and a zebra. Think of how this could spur an alien creature! I recall once that George Lucas said he'd created a number of his Star Wars creatures by combining and intensifying creatures that were found here on Earth.



I also love to research history (who'd have thunk it? I hated History in school!) Ancient history, medieval history, or anything before 1900. And it includes things like paganism, mythological lore, cultural anomalies. I have books and books on cultural anthropology. When I decided to write Altered Destiny, I got information from books and the Internet on Scottish history, the culture, the language...kilts! LOL

I could go on and on but I won’t bore you.

So when I start to write, I already have a lot of fodder for my book. I can pick and choose from all the enticing tidbits I’ve learned over the years to start the story and feel confident enough to move along fairly well. Of course, as the story unfolds my characters will reveal a knowledge I don’t have. Yet. And I’ll sit and rub my hands with glee as I set out on a new learning curve.

It’s almost orgasmic. It’s definitely addicting.

That’s why when I read a book and find new bits and pieces of knowledge that I haven’t before encountered, I get a thrill. It means I have something new that I can check out.

Right now, I’m reading an ARC of The Reincarnationist by M.J. Rose and guess what? I’ve got the subject of reincarnation to research, ancient Rome (which I’ve already fallen in love with and done some research on but, hey, when you’re a research whore, you can always learn more!). MJ Rose has written this story with the confidence of a fellow research whore but she hasn’t just given us a brain dump of everything she’s learned for the book. No, it’s presented in a very logical, understandable fashion and coupled it with a very interesting story to boot. The Reincarnationist will be available in September, if I’m not mistaken, and I’d definitely recommend you read it.


Who knows? It may inspire you to become a research whore as well.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Researching Backwards

Just so you know...I haven't been to bed yet, and I'm typing this in at 1:44 in the morning...so techincally it's still Wednesday for me.

Now a little secret about how I research. I do it all backwards. I'll write the book and put in what I want or think should be there, then I'll go back and look up the facts to insert. Do I end up having to rewrite some passages...oh, sure. Do I care? Not really, since I'm most likely going to pick over the manuscript again and again anyhow. I find that by doing my research this way, I tend not to get bogged down by details or go on wild goose chases that might lead me astray. I do occasionally read books on subjects before I start writing and I find I do get little details that might spark ideas for other books. While I love when that happens, I tend to let it sidetrack me while the entire fresh idea goes full blown in my head. Very bad for business. If you could see my files and all the half-finished novels I have that never saw their endings for this very reason, you'd know why this is such a hazard for me.

Another reason why I love researching backwards is for the simple fact it helps to focus your search down. It's hard to ask questions if you don't know what the questions are. Same with research. If you already know the exact focus of your search you'll save valuable time in digging through books or the endless stream of internet files. Warning: If doing research online be sure you're facts come from reliable sources. Granted, JoeShomeshouseoffacts.com might have the answers right, but I wouldn't count on it.

-Kat

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

To The Internets!

I admit it--I never have been an organized person. I am not now an organized writer, either. One day, perhaps. It's my dream to someday know WTF I'm doing sometime prior to five seconds after I've done it.

I know a lot of writers who sit down, and are able to either plot out their stories, or at least map their writing processes to say, "at this point, I am ready to do research on the subjects in my story. I'm not one of those people. In fact, I don't really do much research at all while I'm writing. I know what you're thinking--boy, it's a good thing she doesn't write historicals, and you'd be right. I'm far too compelled to write about what I know about the Middle Ages--the stink, the backbreaking labor, the oppression of nobility and church, the widespread acceptance of the belief that women are worth about the same as draft horses, etc. No, it's a good thing I don't write historicals.

A lot of writers also complain about getting lost in the research. As if this were anything but a foregone conclusion--the majority of us are readers as well. Get lost in books? Us? Say it ain't so!

It's not that I don't do research--I do. But other than a short glance at wiki or another reference site, I don't do it while I'm writing. Research is something I do in between books or when I've set aside a day and given up the writing for lost or need a break from it. And I do immersive research. I've come to appreciate the value of systemic understanding of a subject, and that's what I attempt to do, and as you can guess, it takes an intensive amount of time and effort to get to the level of being so familiar with a subject that you don't have to withdraw from it to parse its effect on your life.

There's nothing that jars me more in reading a story than coming to a point where it's obvious that the author is inserting research. To my mind, the only way to avoid that is to be immersed in the element you need to understand for the story as much as the characters will be. On some subjects, that's harder than others, and in some cases you as author will need to go back and do some explaining as best as you can, so that the audience, most of whom will not give two mutant rats' asses about your subject, can still enjoy the story.

But that's a job for editing.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Research--How I Do It

My story ideas usually start with the characters. And I always find that giving them a name helps solidify them in my mind. (Yelling at someone called Hey You can make several people perk up.) I always used http://www.babynames.com/ as my rule of thumb because you can search by a meaning (courage, dragon, etc.) and find names that go along with the topic. (Remember how I said I wanted all of the Dragons’ names in BELIEVE IN ME to reflect that? This is how I brainstormed the large number of names to christen them.) However, they have reorganized their site and it isn’t as user friendly as it used to be. While I was brainstorming CRASH INTO YOU (the novella I sent to Samhain) I stumbled across http://www.behindthename.com/ which not only gives the searcher the meaning, but also interesting bits of history about people associated with the name. (Try Samson or Maeve to see what I mean.)

Then my mind usually moves the characters around like chess pieces to determine what their conflicts are and how those situations will best show them as well as help engender their love. My settings for romane have ranged all over. One of the coolest I researched was Aachen, which is linked with Charlemagne, who showed up in the opening of JUST ONE LIFE .

I also enjoyed researching the herbs and home remedies I used for Ravin’s pastime in ALL I EVER WANTED. I’d give you a source, but most of what I learned came from books I borrowed from my aunt. My sister’s plethora of mythology books helped with my heroine (and leading line-up) in LOVEMAKER and one of her relationship self-help books planted the seed for the love techniques in PERFECTION NOT REQUIRED. Though I mooch others books, I do also comb my local library for sources. In fact, I was intrigued to learn that May Memorial (which I included a pic of in my June post) carried a reference book about witches. Hmmm…who knew?

Talking of witches, the most research I ever did was for JUST ONE LIFE, due to the historical settings and because I wanted to make sure that I did my spells and other witchly things correctly. I ended up with two 3-inch binders of information (though all of that didn’t make its way into the book). I kept them under my coffee table and was always worried a guest would come in and think, “Oh, reading material,” flip open the cover and see what was inside. Then of course I’d have to profess that I’m neither Wiccan nor an evil sorceress, though the characters I was molding like clay were.

At the end of writing the first draft, there always comes the time to go back to the highlighted or starred sections of my manuscript to make sure my MO or details are correct. For CRASH INTO YOU that meant hours of research about biker outfits, because if I’d described something that wasn’t available (since this is set in present day) the reader would go, “What?” and possibly chuck the book. Since a writer never wants the reader to come out of the world they’ve built, I had to do a little digging. In the end, I found out I was wrong and had to change the hero and heroine’s first meeting accordingly. For the novella, I also had to do car research (since my bf ultimately got tired of my gazillion questions).

While I was working out the nit-picky issues my editor marked on edits of TIES OF VALOR, I did a lot of looking at http://www.wikipedia.org/. It was one-stop shopping for questions about windspeed for aircraft, vortexes versus sandstorms and what used to be held in ancient silos. (I know it’s a strange combination.) I’ve also learned from a fellow writer that http://www.wikihow.com/ exists to tell people how things are or should be done.

When I was writing about NY in LOVEMAKER, I hadn’t been there in twenty years. So I went to their official website which was a portal into the city. I was able to find out tons about the city that never sleeps including train schedules, visitor info, where to be and what to see. One of the coolest things I discovered were street cams like this one where you can actually see what’s taking place in almost realtime.

Overall, I think the most fun I’ve ever had with research was creating codes and learning about spy techniques for DECODER & THE WORLD OF YESTERDAY. Of course, I started with juvenile how-to books, then worked my way up. My bf gave me very strange looks when I went on a hunt for packets of lemon juice to test my theories of using everyday items to concoct hidden codes. While researching DECODER, I also got the 411 on texting language and a bit of Leetspeak.

With all of this knowledge tucked away in my brain (and harddrive), I guess I truly am a jack of many trades, but master of none like my ex-boss said.

Friday, August 10, 2007

THE END isn't the end

Typing THE END isn't the end of the writer's job. Not at all, you nod sagely, now begins finding a market for all those lovely words.

Wrong. Now comes the editing process where we make all those lovely words sparkle and shine. There are different kinds of editing. There's editing for content (making sure the heroine's eyes are green all the way through). There's editing for plot (making sure there aren't any dangling plot threads that ought to be tied up). There's editing for grammar and spelling plus a host of other editing jobs we should do before we send our babies out into the world (Seriously, you wouldn't send your children to school wearing their play clothes, would you? Didn't thing so :D )

In this day and age of computer assisted spell and grammar checking, you'd think that this particular form of editing would be a piece of cake. It's not. For one thing, most grammar checkers are just shy of stupid. Their protocol doesn't really reflect the way writers develop sentences or use various parts of grammar for dramatic purposes.

I'm sure you've seen the green squiggles underlining a sentence fragment that you purposely wrote. And if your grammar checker is like mine, you've probably seen is holler about fragments even for sentences that clearly have a subject and verb. The best advice I can give is turn the sucker off. If you need guidance with grammar, either get a copy of Strunk & Whites Elements of Style or go online and review it. It's very helpful.

The spell checker is just a little more user friendly for writers than the grammar checker. But you have to be careful with automatic corrections (as in turn them off). I had a writer friend once whose hero's name was Jonah. She had the auto correct on and didn't realize until she'd sent the mss to her editor that the mischievous program had changed every instance of Jonah to gonad. That was not a good thing, LOL.

Another thing we need to keep in mind is that spell checkers can't differentiate between words that can be spelled in different ways and have entirely different meanings. The best we can do there is to read the mss out loud. That helps us find those words that have gone on holiday someplace other than our manuscript.

Like all writers, I edit until my eyeballs feel like shards of glass are permanently embedded in them. And like all writers, I've sent manuscripts out only to discover I'd dropped a word or had a typo I didn't catch. It's inevitable. Your main goal, though, as a writer is to make your work as perfect as possible.

For a chuckle, and an example of the Impotence of Proofreading, listen to the youtube I've included here. I know none of us have ever made so many and so, um, descriptive blunders. Have a great weekend!



Lynda

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Two of Me

I’ve been asked by a fellow author about the differences in my two personas and I thought that might make a good blog topic.

Let me introduce you to Jennifer Colgan and Bernadette Gardner.



Jennifer has been writing forever. She began in 1977 writing YA science fiction that quickly morphed into fan fiction. That kept her entertained for many years, but the dream of being a full-time working novelist lingered and eclipsed any other possible career choice. Jennifer feared rejection though, so for too many years she only wrote stories that didn’t have a chance of publication. Finally in 2003 she decided that life was too short to spend the rest of it daydreaming about getting published. She started a science fiction romance novel entitled Flight of the Valkyrie and in 2004 she sent it out to publishers. While waiting to hear feedback on her first submission, Jennifer frequented a critique group where another author suggested, after reading a rough draft of the love scene in Flight of the Valkyrie, that Jennifer try her hand at erotic romance.



Hunter’s Moon was written long hand in a notebook during #1 Son’s soccer practices and when it miraculously found a home at New Concepts Publishing in the last moments of December 2004, Jennifer decided she needed a pen name.


Bernadette Gardner began writing before she was born. She put her name on Hunter’s Moon and stepped fully formed into the role of Alien Queen of Science Fiction Erotica.


Not bound by social convention, Bernadette’s stories explore what she believes are the naughty fantasies of female science fiction fans everywhere. She recognizes that girls like spaceships too, and women have just as much desire to explore strange new worlds as men do. She likes there to be science in her fiction, and sex on the minds of hunky alien males.

Two years after Jennifer’s first sale to New Concepts Publishing and Bernadette’s first erotic novella release, Jennifer has decided to concentrate on sensual paranormal romance. Though Flight of the Valkyrie eventually found a home at NCP, and her third full length novel, Ravenstar’s Bride garnered 4½ stars from Romantic Times Magazine, she sees her future in vampires, Fae, demons and gargoyles. Bernadette, meanwhile is knee deep in the mire of alien worlds and is thrilled to be turning out sizzlers for Ellora’s Cave and Amber Quill Press. She has dozens of planets to explore and has been busy all summer working on new novellas for release in 2008.

Jennifer and Bernadette often work side by side, and one day, they may even write a story together, ala Nora Roberts and JD Robb, but for now, they intend to remain two hopefully distinct voices in the romance world.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Road Less Traveled

If you’re at all like me, you have a defined schedule. Up at 7:30; at work by 8:30; lunch at noon; off work at 5:00; then writing/housework until bedtime at 11. Most of my days are cookie cutter exactly like this. So how exciting can I be in my writing?

Sure I read romances, watch bits of TV show as well as movies and listen to music that inspires me, but shouldn’t I want to be a little more spontaneous like my heroines? That brings me to the road less traveled. Editors and agents say they are looking for something different, not the stayed same-old-same-old plotlines, characters, settings, etc. Making that happen means taking a path far different from the crowd. In order to do that, you have to forge a new path.

If you don’t do that in your own life, how can you hope to do that for your hero/heroine? In an effort to be more carefree I used my vacation time last week to the max. I rode four coasters at Busch Gardens (Europe) in VA and I will say Apollo’s Chariot scared the crap out of me. I like to be strapped in tight and buckled down safe for a ride, not clinging with my arms and legs to a little lap handle when dropping a few hundred feet at 70+. But I rode it twice. Why? I wanted to overcome my fears (and because I didn’t want my twin to go by herself, nor one up me.) I needed to live life and know exhilaration so I could write about it, instead of sitting on the sidelines.

People often say you have to write what you know (or atleast something with a similar basis). In order to do that, you have to branch out and be willing to learn new things. For example take a tour in the blazing hot sun at a local landmark like Colonial Williamsburg, VA. Can you imagine being a slave or indentured servant and working 16 hour days in the sun? How about giving birth on a bed made of nothing but wooden planks? Imagine sitting in the same place where Thomas Jefferson once sat in church or entering the same jail cell as a few of Blackbeard’s cutthroat mateys before they were hanged. Makes you think about what you take for granted doesn’t it? I had no idea such lush historical places and important information resided only a few hours drive away.

I can definitively say I am glad for the experiences. Just like the game of putt-putt I played (and came in last in) there are often two ways to get to the cup. You have to decide which direction is your best bet. Do you play it safe or go a little wild and hope the risk pays off? I know that I’m a by-the-book type gal, but when I’m writing I want my books to be anything but. Who wants to read ho-hum anecdotes anyway?

So I hope you all follow my lead and go down the unbeaten path every once in a while. Hopefully you will learn something you never knew, pick up some valuable advice and be able to breathe fresh life into your writing! I myself am thinking of an escaped pirate who is meeting a certain kind lass under the train trestle…though he doesn’t know he’s walking into more dangerous territory because she’s a witch who always stirs things up. Hmm…a historical romance with paranormal elements…now that’s hot!

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When thinking about taking chances, I can’t help but recall my time driving alone on US 129, AKA The Dragon, in the mountains of NC & TN. I caught myself more than once shying away from the terrain that scares enthusiasts who challenge The Dragon yearly. One wrong move can literally mean death. Every time I told myself—you’re strong, you can do this—and I made it through. In fact I even laughed when I reached the other side and joked about getting a Survivor t-shirt.

Why do I mention this? I harkened back to my rescue trip when I decided to pen a novella for Samhain’s ON THE PROWL anthology. Growling car engines was the first image I though of, followed by a shifter hero who wanted things his way. I knew the dangerous setting was way different than anyone would brainstorm, plus the lush mountainside provides a perfect spot for a bewitching weekend getaway. Mix in a heroine who doesn’t take any guy’s crap (including the hillbilly baddie) and CRASH INTO YOU was born. Now I’m getting prickled by more pins and needles waiting to see what the editors think. Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

First Chapters Romance Writing Competitioin

Here's an interesting contest for all those aspiring unpubbed writers out there. Seems like too good an opportunity to miss!

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Gather is very pleased to announce the next generation of First Chapters: The Gather.com First Chapters Romance Writing Competition. On August 1, we'll launch this new competition in conjunction with Simon & Schuster's Pocket Books imprint and Borders. This unique opportunity will enable one talented Gather member to win a guaranteed publishing contract, along with a $5000 cash advance!

Here's How It Works:
From August 1 through August 22, aspiring romance writers will have the opportunity to submit a full-length romantic fiction manuscript for consideration. Over the course of the competition, authors will post chapter one of their manuscripts in the First Chapters Romance Group. These chapters will be rated by the Gather community and the Gather Editorial Team, and five finalists will be selected through two rounds of voting. (See our new voting guidelines.) One Grand Prize Winner will then be chosen for publication by a panel of judges. Visit http://romancenovel.gather.com for more details.

So are you an unpublished author who's passionate about getting your romance novel into bookstores? Well, put away your unrequited query letters and enter The Gather.com First Chapters Romance Writing Competition. For those of you who don’t have a romance novel at the ready, readers are needed, too! In the weeks to come, you can join other romance lovers and writers to help read and rate the entries. Who deserves their big break? YOU can help decide.

If you're not into romance, stay tuned for another First Chapters announcement very soon.

Program Details:

Submission Period: August 1 - August 22, 2007
From August 1 through August 22, romance authors can post the chapter one of their manuscripts in the First Chapters Romance Group, and email their full manuscripts to romancenovel@gatherinc.com.

Round 1 Voting: August 27 - September 18, 2007
Reading and voting on entrants' first chapters officially begins on August 27.
At the end of the Round 1 voting period, 25 writers will advance to the next round of the competition - 15 based on the most '10' ratings from Gather members, and 10 selected by the Gather Editorial Team. Votes cast before August 27 or after September 18 will not be considered. The 25 semifinalists will be announced on September 24.

Round 2: September 24 - October 8, 2007 The 25 remaining novelists will post their second chapters in the First Chapters Romance Group, where the Gather community and Editorial Team will narrow the pool down to five finalists. The five finalists will be announced on October 11.

Round 3: October 11 - October 30, 2007 The judging panel will review the complete manuscripts of the five finalists and select the Grand Prize-winning author.

Grand Prize Winner Announced: October 30, 2007

The Grand Prize Judging Panel:
Maggie Crawford, Editorial Director, Pocket Books
Lauren McKenna, Editor, Pocket Books
Sue Grimshaw, Romance Buyer, Borders Group, Inc.
Tom Gerace, Founder & CEO, Gather.com

Friday, August 03, 2007

S.T.A.R.

Have you ever looked at or listened to something that just seemed...off to you? Have you ever read a book or story or piece of story where you put it aside and think, "yanno, that just didn't work for me." Or a painting that seemed just a little cockeyed but you're not sure why? Or a song that just fell flat (I make no pardons for the puns)?

Being able to articulate what doesn't work is a skill unto itself. Being able to articulate why is an art form. Also known by the form of distinctive literary torture known as Revision.

Now I know some writers who don't revise. They've got their storytelling process down, and once they start writing, it's gold to them. They are few, and some are very popular bestselling authors that have hit the Times. Many are plotters--zealously outlining and altering and re-outlining until the minute they start writing--the revision is in the prework for them. Some of them are just that focused. I envy them.

I used to have flashes of that kind of focus, where I'd write something, know it was solid, and be proven right later on. But the older I get, the less those divine lightning strikes seem to be finding me. Actually, what I think happened is that the older I get, the more I realize I don't know, hence the pressing need to develop some seriously keen revisioning skills, especially when I'm trying to tell stories that are more complex.

Unfortunately, revising isn't one of those things that can be taught, so much as it's something that needs to be experienced. Sure, you can take courses and workshops on editing, where proper mechanics are applied to the technical elements of writing, and some of the basic, measurable rules of storytelling can be checked off against a list. But the real, deep, get-in-there-and-rip-it-apart kind of revision, where you treasure-hunt for themes, symbolism, parallelism, and sometimes social commentary, in the text, put it in when it's not there, and have to cover your tracks well.

Something that I have been making do with as I learn about my personal revision process is a STAR list. The acronym, I borrowed from my days as a consultant in an industry that saw a lot of ex-career military folk. As soon as we started drafting, we started our STAR list. The two went hand-in-hand. If you had a draft, you had a STAR.

I've been keeping a STAR list for my current WIP, and lamenting the fact that I have this great list and yet...the pathway for removing items from the list is woefully nebulous. The list itself, by its own nature, is also woefully nebulous. But still fairly reliable.

By now, you're wondering what STAR actually stands for. It's full of the simple, practical eloquence characterized by the unique industry whose reality is characterized best as the bastard love-child of Dilbert, Beetle Bailey, and the TV cast of MASH. The STAR list is a list of Shit That Ain't Right.

Having a STAR list is only the first step on the road to revision that will turn a good work or a good start into something strong. But it's an important step, and how much more important can you get when you have your own acronym?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Guest Blogger - Christine Norris


Hello! As you’ve probably guessed by now, this isn’t the usual blogger. My name is Christine Norris, and I’m a children’s fantasy author. I’m actually promoting my new release, Return to Zandria, available now from Amazon and LBF Books.

I’ve done a lot of interviews lately while promoting the book and some people…okay, MANY people, have asked me why I write fantasy, and why for children?

Here is where I’ll give much more then the perfunctory short interview question answer. What you must understand is that I am first and foremost a lover of fairy tales. My childhood was filled to brimming with them. Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty. Not just the Disney-coated versions, although those classic film remain to this day some of my favorites, but the written versions, full of adventure, suspense, and Happily Ever After.

Talking mice aside, I loved the romanticism of those stories. Not only the charming prince and the kissing bits, but the way that the stories took me out of my everyday, mundane existence and allowed me to slip into another world. And the great dresses didn’t hurt; I’m a sucker for a good costume.

I devoured these tales when I was young, over and over again I would imagine myself as the fairy princess (and sometimes as the evil witch, but that’s another story), and think up new stories, new adventures for the characters.

As I got older, my love for fantastic tales didn’t wane. From the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen I shifted to Roald Dahl and Madeline L’Engle. While other girls were watching soap operas (which I do now, but never did then) and reading Sweet Valley High, I was knee deep in A Wrinkle in Time and The Witches.


I suppose I come by it honestly; my mother handed down her copy of The Hobbit to me, and it was dog-eared. The books on our shelves had titles like The Annotated Alice and The Simarillion, and The Complete Works of Shakespeare (which I also inherited, if not a love, a good appreciation for). It was she that first introduced me to these wonderful tales of things that could never be. I still have the children’s version of Peter Pan that she used to read to me from, and to this day, Peter’s story is my very favorite.


I shifted for awhile, as a teenager, to mythology. Greek, Egyptian, Irish, Native American, I loved tales of the gods and how they made life difficult for us humans. The two books I have coming out next year, the first in a series, will tell you how where that little bit of obsession led me.

At some point, I don’t recall when, I put aside what some would call childish things. “They” all told me I had to grow up and live in the “real world”. And so, I went to college, dropped out, worked, went back to college, got married and had a family. In between the end bits of that, I discovered Harry Potter. I didn’t get on board with the series until Book 4 was on the shelves, so I had a bit of catching up to do. I was enthralled, captivated, and not just by Harry’s world, but by Jo Rowling. A single mother, living on welfare, writing on scraps of paper. I suppose that up until that point I labored under the delusion that you couldn’t write a book unless you went to school and learned how. But now I saw the light!

Then I asked myself what kind of book I should write. I never was much into romance (sorry!) or chick lit or Science Fiction novels. Literary things bored me. I liked mysteries, but didn’t have any desire to write one. Stephen King had been a favorite when I was in High School, but I didn’t have the stomach for that. So I went back to my roots – fairy tales.

At first, I had no illusions of having anything published; I just wanted to see if I could get all the way to The End. So I wrote Talisman of Zandria completely for myself. I loved creating my own world, outside of the everyday, and putting characters into it like the director of a play. If I wanted a Dragon, I could have one. Wanted to fly on its back – there I was. Of course there was depth, but there was no messy adult themes, no deep meaning, nothing but adventure.

And I realized that’s what I loved about children’s fantasy—I didn’t have to spend the entire book justifying it to the reader. Children accept, children imagine, without question and with happiness.

I have a feeling, and I know it sounds corny, that in every person who writes fantasy for children, there is a corner of their soul that believes. It’s what draws them to the work, without pretense of being ‘adult’, and what makes their stories wondrous and captivating.

I love writing fantasy because I reach into the furthest corners of my imagination and put it on paper. I write for children because I want to give them the same wonderful adventures that I grew up with, to give them the joy that I felt reading ‘And they all lived Happily Ever After’.


Make every day magical!



Christine Norris is the author of several works for children and adults. She spends her time divided between her writing, substitute teaching, and caring for her family of one husband-creature, a son-animal, a large dog whose greatest achievement is sleeping in one position for an entire day, and a small feline who is very adept in his position as Guardian of the Bathtub. She also works at English Adaptations of novels translated from other languages.

To learn more about Christine Norris, please visit http://www.christine-norris.com. Send an email to Christine at risseybug@aol.com or through her MySpace page, at http://www.myspace.com/christinenorris.



To Purchase Return to Zandria, Click Here