Monday, February 28, 2011

Another Word Tutorial

What I'm reading: Death Roll, by Marilyn Victor and Michael Allen Mallory

Reminder: Today is the last day to take advantage of the 50% off coupon at Smashwords for When Danger Calls. Click the contest tab for the code.

Also: Did you notice the RomCon icon in the sidebar? I'll be at RomCon in Denver; would love to meet some of you, and maybe the $20 price reduction will help. Click the icon to register.

Last Wednesday,I mentioned going through the document for overused and weak words. Since it took me forever to figure out some of the Word features that make this easier, I thought I'd share them (just in case there are others out there who are as slow on the uptake as I am). I use Word 2003 (it works for me, and I'm afraid to upgrade), so if you're using a different version, you might find things are different.

Click Edit in the toolbar. Then "Find" (or the binocular icon instead). In that popup, there's a little box that says "Highlight all items found in … and when you check it, you should get a choice that says "Main Document." That's what you want. Then, type in the word you're looking for. Before clicking "find next" click the "More" button. You'll get choices that allow you to match the case, and also to select whole words, or all word forms. Depending on what you're looking for, you can check one of those boxes.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

And the Winner is...

Thanks to everyone for leaving comments on Carolyn's post. The winner of a copy of her book, THE BIG GRABOWSKI is Sharon Ervin.

Sharon - email Carolyn to claim your prize.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Field Trip - South Dakota Badlands

First - don't forget. February is almost over, and with it, the 'everybody wins' contest. Click the contest tab for details.

My photographer son, Jason Odell (for those who haven't 'met' him here before) is taking us to the South Dakota Badlands this week.

And, if you'd like to take pictures like these, Jason is leading a field trip to the area June 9-12. Join him for some hands-on personal instruction. Details here.

Here's a sneak peek at a few of the photos you might be lucky enough to take if you join him. And if you can't, just sit back and enjoy. If you have some photographer friends, point them this way.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Will You Still Need Me?

I know I said I was going to talk about my word-culling and editing in today's post, but you know what? It's my birthday, and I'm going to take the day off.

(If you're looking for something to do, I can point you to a few books you might enjoy!)

Come back tomorrow - Jason's taking us to the South Dakota Badlands (and he's offering a way for you to go with him and learn some of his techniques!)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Writer's Day

Thanks to Carolyn for yesterday's entertaining post. Remember, you can enter the drawing for her book through Friday, so if you haven't left a comment, scroll down and leave one under her post. And PLEASE pop over to SOS Aloha, where I was interviewed.

So, what do writers do all day? (Aside from sitting around in comfy clothes?) Here's a quick recap of all the things that count as 'writing' but don't get words on the page that I dealt with yesterday. This doesn't include the normal things like laundry, cooking, cleaning (ha!) or other non-writing tasks.

Check email – a given. More on dealing with it later.

Blog crawling. This falls under 'education and promotion' most of the time, and I don't hit all the blogs I subscribe to every day, nor can I leave comments on all of them.

Writing the next day's blog. Entails thinking of a topic, writing, uploading, looking for pictures, formatting. Tell myself to get farther ahead than one day.

Try to tweak Blogger template for the Retweet button.

Post a copy of yesterday's blog to the Savvy Author's site, since there was interest.

Discovering there's a "new" feature at the Kindle Boards that I haven't taken advantage of, so set up profiles for two of my books there. Not exactly sure where to link them, but here they are: What's in a Name? and When Danger Calls.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Writer's Dress Code?

I'd like to welcome Carolyn J. Rose to my blog today. After 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington, she teaches novel-writing in Vancouver, Washington, and founded the Vancouver Writers’ Mixers. Her hobbies are reading, gardening, and not cooking.

Over the course of my life, I’ve had to adhere to a number of dress codes in order to succeed—or at least stay far enough under the rule-makers’ radar to reduce the hassle factor and/or hang onto a job. I despised most of those codes. In my opinion, they didn’t make good sense.

The first code was imposed by my grandmother who loved to sew and made almost all of my clothing. The code was simple: pink is for girls and blue is for boys. Part two was: you’ll grow into it. Suffice it to say that once I got a job and could buy my own clothing, I never again wore a pink tent dress.

The second code was the one enforced at my high school in the mid 60s. The word Draconian leaps to mind. Girls weren’t allowed to wear slacks. So, on icy Catskill winter mornings, I walked the quarter mile to the school bus wearing two pairs of tights, knee socks, boots, and long woolen skirts (in shades of pink and red my freshman year). Books clutched against my puffy ski jacket, I repeated through chapped lips, “Get good grades and get out of here.”

Monday, February 21, 2011

Over and Over and Overused Words

What I'm reading: Marrying Daisy Bellamy, by Susan Wiggs

First – I've learned that my next Five Star release, WHERE DANGER HIDES, the second in my Blackthorne, Inc. series, is available for pre-order at Amazon. If you haven't already read the first in the series, WHEN DANGER CALLS, you can get it at the discounted price of $1.50 at Smashwords by using the coupon code found in the Contest tab above. (Coupon expires at the end of February--don't wait.) But, even at full price at the Kindle store or All Romance eBooks it's only $2.99.

Second - after much trial and error, I've added the 'tweet meme' to this blog. If you find a post worthy of sharing, I hope you'll use it.

Okay, commercial over.

As a member of the Savvy Authors group, there's a nifty feature you can used, called "autocritter." You plug in a scene, or chapter, or more, from your manuscript and it calculates overused words. Now, we all have our personal crutch words, but this program is based on the specific overused words used in commercial fiction, so it will find not only overused words, but it tells you which ones need to be at the top of your hit list.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

And the Winner is ...

The magic random number generator has picked a winner from Monday's commenters. The Winner of Romancing The Geek is ... Kathleen O'Brien! Congratulations, Kathleen.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Field Trip - Africa

Here are some shots from a 2007 trip to South Africa. I had a job in Cape Town, so we decided it would be foolish not to tack some touring onto the trip. These are from the Port Elizabeth area.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Books and Dog Shows

What I'm Reading: Lost in Shadow, by CJ Lyons.

I confess I really like watching the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, especially the little animated dust mops. But there's something more to it than just watching dogs.

Kind of like publishing, right? Sure. Dogs and books. Obviously connected, right?

What we see on television are the final rounds. Each breed has already been winnowed down to its best representative. So, when things start, labs are competing with labs, and bulldogs with bulldogs. Then these compete with others in their respective groups.

At this point, they're looking at groups made up of lots of different breeds. Taking some information from the Westminster Kennel Club's website, here are a few of the groups:

SPORTING: These are gun dogs that were developed to assist the hunter, and generally have high energy and stable temperaments. Pointers and Setters point and mark the game, Spaniels flush the bird, Retrievers recover the game from land or water.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

DigiCon, E-publishing, and more

What I'm reading: Unforgivable, by Laura Griffin

First, before I forget – contest winners are announced on the weekends, so if you don't leave your emails in comments, you'll have to check back. This means there's still time to scroll through posts and add a comment for a chance to win. This week's special was posted on Monday, in case you missed it.

Thanks to Margaret Fieland for reminding us why it's so important to back up our work, and with suggestions for ways to do it. I happen to use a program called Dropbox (or is it a service? – terminology eludes me). With our new digs, living on 2 stories, it's so nice to be able to bounce downstairs (only did that literally once) and work on the laptop for a change of scenery, and have all my backed up files follow me down instead of dealing with flash drives.

Note: if anyone's interested, I can send you an 'official' invitation, and you'll get some extra storage space when you sign up. Just email me.

Since most of yesterday was spent down in The Springs while the Hubster underwent some oral surgery, I'm going to point you to the blog I did yesterday at Savvy Authors about e-publishing. The publishing industry is changing – nobody knows exactly where it's going, but to quote Bob Mayer, it's going very fast.

I made comparisons between the traditional print-first model, the e-book first, and the indie publisher models. The topics I covered included Speed of Publication, Support, Gatekeepers, and Payment for those three models, with some examples of my own experience.

I think the blog is up for public viewing as part of the Savvy Authors DigiCon that runs all this week. You should be able to find it here.

And because we wrote a ginormous check to the dentist, I would like to remind you of my e-books from the Kindle Store,(click the Kindle Books tab) Smashwords, and All Romance e-Books.

I should be back with a meatier blog tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Poetry and Prose

While I'm blogging over at DigiCon, I'd like you all to welcome my guest to Terry's Place. Born and raised in New York City, Margaret Fieland has been around art and music all her life. In addition to her writing, she earns her living as a computer software engineer. "The Angry Little Boy," will be published by 4RV Publishing in early 2013.

Why I back up my data, and why I'm glad it's organized.

I wrote poetry for years, scribbling in notebooks that I stuck in a box in the attic, before I bothered to figure out how to organize and keep my poems, and now that I've started writing novels, I have a system all worked out.

What got me started was that I had written a poem I knew I wanted to keep and try to get published. I looked around for someplace to keep it where it would be both accessible and protected. Sad experience had taught me that backing up one's data is vital.

The first time I encountered data loss, I shrugged it off as an aberration. I was working for a place in the west 40's in Manhattan, a little hole in the wall that did data processing for one of the large department stores that has since gone belly up. We were at lunch, in one of the many restaurants that peppered the area, when the conversation turned to smoking.

“John had given up smoking,” Colin, my boss, remarked, “but he took it up again when he deleted our source code. We had to restore it from backup, and he started smoking again.”

“What happened?” I asked.

Monday, February 14, 2011

What Is Romance?

What I'm reading: Edge of Sight by Roxanne St. Claire.

Don't forget my new contest where everyone wins. Click the Contest tab above. And there's another contest in today's blog--details at the end of this post.

It's Valentine's Day, a holiday devoted to romance. I thought I'd ask what others find romantic, but before I did that, I went to to see what the 'official' definition was. I was surprised when I found this at the top of the page:

1. a novel or other prose narrative depicting heroic or marvelous deeds, pageantry, romantic exploits, etc., usually in a historical or imaginary setting.
2. the colorful world, life, or conditions depicted in such tales.
3. a medieval narrative, originally one in verse and in some Romance dialect, treating of heroic, fantastic, or supernatural events, often in the form of allegory.
4. a baseless, made-up story, usually full of exaggeration or fanciful invention.
5. a romantic spirit, sentiment, emotion, or desire.
6. romantic character or quality.
7. a romantic affair or experience; a love affair.
8. ( initial capital letter ) Also, Romanic. Also called Romance languages. the group of Italic Indo-European languages descended since a.d. 800 from Latin, as french, spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Provençal, Catalan, Rhaeto-Romanic, Sardinian, and Ladino. Abbreviation: Rom.

Scrolling down, I found the entries for the World English Dictionary to be the following:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Field Trip - Finishing the Remodel

Don't forget the new contest where everyone wins. Click the contest tab above.

Since no one stepped up with pretty pictures to share, you're getting some of the final steps of our remodel project today. There were a lot of compromises, but that's going to be the topic of another blog post, so for now, some more of the 'finishing touches' (far from finished!) on the basement and a few shots of the master bath upstairs.

We planned to put one bookshelf on either side of the entertainment center. However, I ordered them without thinking about actual dimensions. I was going by the ones in my office, which said, "five shelves" just like these did.

However, they were much taller than the ones in my office, and I never thought to look up -- there's a bulkhead in the ceiling for the duct work. Hey, I'm short. Who thinks about ceiling height. I don't have to duck.

So, we had to move things around to make room for the second unit.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


February might be the shortest month, but in my family, it was always a busy one. Not only did we have Washinton's Birthday and Lincoln's Birthday (now combined into President's Day), but there's Groundhog Day (if you're a reader of this blog, you'll know why that's something I celebrate), Valentine's Day, my mom's birthday, two cousins' birthdays (one is 6 days older than I am, the other is exactly 5 year younger), and my birthday.

To celebrate all these occasions, I'm having a "non-contest" this month. Everyone can win. All you need to do is click the "Contest" tab above for your prize.

And now, back to writing.

Some POV exercises

Looking over some of yesterday's comments, there were a couple that mentioned authors re-telling the same scene from each character's point of view. I think this can be used as a plot device, especially if there's a very different perception of what happened in the scene, but as mentioned yesterday, it might not work for everyone.

I wrote a short vignette of the same scene from two points of view. It ended up being my first published piece. (If you haven't read "Words", it's free from Smashwords, which includes it's distribution affiliates, as well as All Romance eBooks. It started because I couldn't decide which POV to use, so I tried both. Often, when a scene isn't working, it could be because you're in the wrong POV. So, for an exercise, take a scene you're working on and write it from a different POV.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Short Cycling

Thanks, Ana for sharing your experiences with us. I'm so out of touch with that market, I wouldn't know how to begin--but you gave us some great pointers.

Yesterday was one of very few wintery days we've had since moving up to the mountains. It looked like a drizzly day, except it was snow, not rain. Since I had nowhere to go more important than the mailbox, and since 90% of our mail is junk anyway, I saw no reason to leave the house. There was plenty to see from my window.

And, with the temperatures in the negatives and highs in the single digits, staying inside was definitely the way to go. Coming from a climate where air conditioning ran about 9 months out of the year, getting used to heat—and gas heat—is new for us. One thing we noticed when we first had to use the heat was that it didn't simply kick on in the morning (we run it much lower at night) and run until the house was at the daytime temperature. And, during the day, once it had reached our set temperature, it tended to cycle off and on after only a matter of minutes.

We called in the heating guy and he said, "Oh, you're short-cycling"—a new term for us. And as I was reviewing the revisions for my manuscript, I noticed something similar had happened when I considered Point of View.

I know I've discussed POV here before, and my preferences. I've always been a one scene per POV character, and I don't like a lot of characters commandeering the page when I read or write. In my romantic suspenses, I follow convention and have two POV characters—hero and heroine.

When I undertook this new project, the editor's vision had two main characters mentioned in the brief synopsis I'd been given. I asked if they were both POV characters, or if, like most mysteries, I should choose the one that seemed dominant according to the outline.

The response was to use two, and to write it in third person. Since I'm comfortable with that, I had no problem. I was also glad she didn't say to use as many POV characters as I wanted. There are many authors who can bounce between 5 or 6 POV characters, but I've never cared for writing that way. I like to believe that my readers are getting caught up in my characters, and every time there's a switch, it makes them stop and regroup.(Note: changing POV characters is not necessarily head-hopping. If your transitions are smooth and clear, you can move from one character to another. Sticking with one per scene is personal preference. Not. A. Rule.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Writing YA—with an Attitude

Today I welcome writer Ana Kenley to Terry's Place. Ana is writing her first young adult novel. Learning the ins-and-outs wasn't easy, and in her article, Writing YA--with an Attitude, she shares how she went about discovering the key to writing for a teen audience.

This last November, when I participated in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNo), I decided to try my hand at a young adult novel.

I thought it would be easy, after all, I went to high school, I was a teenager, I remember what it was like. What more could I need?

Well, as it turned out, I needed a lot more. I didn’t even make it one page—nope, not one page, before I realized I needed serious help.

Not because I didn’t remember the high drama or emotional roller coaster, or what it was like to want to be popular, or experiencing things like a first date or first love, but…knowing exactly how to take all of the things I did know and make it work so someone would actually want to read it.

I guess I shouldn’t say someone, I mean teens. My audience. They know all these feelings first hand and, while they look for that emotional connection, it’s not everything. Okay, maybe it’s most of it, but there’s one more piece that is needed to make a young adult real.

And that one thing is attitude.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Revising in the Dark

What I'm reading: Love me to Death, by Allison Brennan

When you're an author, you sit and write the books in your head. Sometimes the story flows, sometimes it slogs, but you write. Most of us have critique partners or groups—people to bounce ideas off of, and to offer feedback on the WIPs. If they say they have trouble with a plot thread, or even the way you've worded a paragraph, the decision to change things is yours. But what happens when someone with more clout than a crit partner wants changes?

Late last week, I heard from my agent, who finally heard from the editor. We'd submitted a three chapter proposal last November, and, as happens so often in this business, we waited. And waited.

The news. Good and not quite so good. The good. The editor didn't say no. The not so good. She wanted me to revise.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

And the Winner Is...

The Winner of Doranna Durgin's comment contest is ....

Elizabeth Spann Craig

Congratulations. You've won an ARC of THE RECKONERS.

Email Doranna to claim your prize.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Friday Field Trip - Pacific Northwest

I've been busy working on revisions to my latest proposal, so I just opened one of my photo files and picked some shots, pretty much at random. This was a trip to the Pacific Northwest.And once again, it's my day to blog over at Author Expressions, where I'm talking more about dealing with reading ARCs.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Tools of the Trade

What I'm reading: Love is Murder, by Allison Brennan

A couple of weeks ago, my printer died. Then, last week, my keyboard decided that hitting a key would produce a random response. No telling what you'd get, if anything.

Both of those tools are critical for my work. I have backups—there's another printer in Hubster's office, although it's not a color printer. I have a laptop, and we have an old keyboard. Although I wasn't dead in the water, working wasn't the same.

My solutions? A refurbished printer just like my old one is on its way (I have almost new cartridges of toner, and this way, I'm not out the mega-bucks they cost.) I found a new keyboard. It's not quite the same. It was a trade-off of getting one that worked immediately, or driving all the way down to the Springs to see if there was a better selection at Office Depot. Or going on line and ordering something that might not be what I wanted, or would take too long to get here. There's a bit of adjusting to the new keyboard, beyond simply the feel of the keys. The function keys aren't all the same, and the mouse doesn't have all the same hot buttons. Some of the extra keys aren't where they were on the old keyboard.

But I can work.

What about your characters? They all have their own tools. What happens when you take some (or all) of them away? How do they cope? Do they give up? Go get new ones? Make do with something else?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Happy Groundhog Day

What I'm reading: My last RITA entry.

Thanks to Doranna for yesterday's post. Setting is a big part of books. You can still leave a comment in her post to be entered in her contest.

And if you didn't check out the Daily Cheap Reads feature, you can do that here.

With just a few updates, this is a re-run of a post I ran two years ago. For me, it's still timely.

Groundhog Day isn't a major holiday for most folks. When I lived in Florida, I always thought six more weeks of winter (our kind of winter) would be nice. Very nice. Our first winter in Colorado has been very mild, so if we're getting six more weeks of the same, I can deal with it. But, significant or not, it's a special holiday for me and the Hubster.

Forty-two years ago, in the parking lot behind the Biology building at UCLA, he proposed. Now, I'm not sure if the one-knee thing was because I was sitting in my car and that was the only way he could make decent eye contact, but he asked. I said, "Yes." We even went to my parents' house and he did the formal, "I'd like to marry your daughter," thing. Survived the third degree -- "How will you support her?" (Remember, 42 years ago things were different--women were just beginning to be 'liberated.) He explained he had $2000 in a savings account, tied up as collateral for the loan on his truck, but he could pay off the truck at any time and untie the funds. And that was good enough for my dad. Then again, the dollar wasn't the same then, either.

I hadn't known him long--we'd met the first day of class when he was the lab TA for a course I had to take for part of my teaching certification. There were 2 other females in the lab section. One was engaged, and the other had a steady boyfriend. Then there was me. Our first "date" was a threesome. He was going to have to lead a field trip to the tidal flats and he wanted to scope it out first (being a non-California guy, he wasn't familiar with the inhabitants of the shore). He invited me and the girl with the steady boyfriend to tag along. I'm still not sure he knew about the guy at this point, but it was anything but a formal date. He dropped her off first. And there it began.

So, met in October, engaged in February, and married in August. Forty-two years ago. Happy Groundhog Day, Hubster. Wanna try for eighty-two?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Vicarious Wallow

Doranna Durgin writes across genres to include fantasy, mystery, tie-ins and various flavors of romance--from the action-oriented Bombshells to her latest paranormal release, STORM OF RECKONING; she also manages the Backlist eBooks project with author partner-in-crime Patricia Ryan. She spends what's left of her time hanging around with horses, dogs, and wildflowers--all of which inspired the commentary to follow.And be sure to read the entire post for instructions for winning one of Doranna's books.

And while Doranna is my guest, I'm being featured at Daily Cheap Reads. Hope you'll pop over there, too.

Welcome, Doranna:

I spend a lot of time outside.

When you add up the bird-watching, the flower-prowling, the agility training, and the horsie back riding...yeah, I spend a lot of time outside, and always have.

I started out working as a park naturalist in Ohio and then headed to the deepest Appalachians (100 acres, log cabin, endless mountain ridges); from there, I had an interlude in the western New York suburbs. I eventually escaped to the rural southwest--first to the amazing world of Flagstaff's San Francisco Peaks, then to Albuquerque's unique South Valley, and most recently through the pass to the Tijeras Canyon foothills.

That's where I am now, and that's where, barring significant surprise, I'll stay.

It's a journey that spans a treasury of different ecosystems, different weather patterns, different critters. It includes the richest riparian forest; chill flat hickory and chokecherry woods; the rarified air of high desert, snow pack, and ponderosa pines; the hot bosque valley of the Rio Grande--and now the windward foothills of another sacred mountain. Totally different flavors of life, and they've all become part of me.