Sunday, July 31, 2011

Last Day to Save!

Today is the last day of the Smashwords Summer Sale! Don't miss your chance to save 25% on What's in a Name?, my Daphne du Maurier finalist romantic suspense.

Running for the wrong reason can still get you killed.

Kelli Carpenter has changed her name, her appearance—her life—to avoid being connected to a crime she committed in self defense years ago. But just when she thinks she has nothing to fear, handsome stranger Blake Windsor shows up.

He claims to be the handyman her boss sent to help complete the project she's working on—Camp Getaway—a place where inner city kids will get respite from concrete and drive-bys. Being a loner has kept her alive, and Kelli's instincts tell her to leave. But without Blake's help, the refuge for inner city children won't be completed on time. Against her instincts, she accepts his help.

Blake Windsor, a corporate executive, accepted his boss's request to find out if Kelli Carpenter is really a woman his boss thinks he knew years before. He begrudgingly returns to the blue-collar construction lifestyle he vowed to leave behind, hoping doing this favor will advance his career. The woman he meets bears little resemblance to the woman he's supposed to find, but something about her mystifies him, and he decides to continue with his deception to learn more about her.

When someone makes an attempt on Kelli's life, she runs—but she takes Blake with her. Keep your friends close but your enemies closer is her philosophy. And Kelli is convinced Blake knows something that will link her to her former lover's death, ending her life as she knows it.

What's in a Name? is full of twists and turns as Blake and Kelli try to keep one step ahead of whoever is following them—while they try to figure out why.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

And the Winners Are ...

Maryn Sinclair has announced the winners of her books. Congratulations to

Linda and Karen

Email Maryn at MarynSinclair (at) gmail (dot) com and she'll get your prizes to you!

Thanks for commenting.  And be sure to come back next week, because my guests have another giveaway.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Field Trip - My LA Vacation

I was in Los Angeles visiting my parents a few weeks ago. I've got a few photos to share.

First, we went down to the beach so I could dip my toes in the Pacific, a place where I spent many, many hours growing up. It's still cold.

Another trip was to the Getty Museum. Gorgeous grounds.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Publishing a Book is an Adventure

Reminders: Scroll down to leave a comment on Maryn Sinclair's post (Tuesday's) to win one of her giveaways. Be sure to come back this weekend to see if you've won.

Don't miss the last of the Summer Smashwords Sale.

Today, I'm over at Patricia de Hemricourt's "Publishing a Book is an Adventure" blog. I hope you'll drop by.

Tomorrow, I've got a few vacation pictures from my recent trip to Los Angeles to share.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Develop Those Characters

What I'm reading: Pray for Silence, by Linda Castillo; Crazy for Love, by Victoria Dahl

Thanks to Maryn for her post yesterday. I'm working on re-editing a backlist book so I can publish it when I get my rights back. It was the first book I had published—and actually, the first book I wrote, although it had been rewritten countless times before being picked up by the publisher. Anyway, I know exactly what she's talking about. And don't forget – you have until Friday to leave a comment to win a book. Since she's giving two books away, that doubles the odds that you'll win.

And don't forget the summer sale at Smashwords. What's in a Name? is 25% off, but only until the end of July.

In my blog hopping the other day, I came across two posts talking about developing characters. One used worksheets and questionnaires, and suggested spending a LOT of time getting to know characters before putting words on the page, including suggestions to spend ten minutes writing and reflecting on the character. This, while it might work for some, is a total turnoff to me. If I'm going to write for ten minutes, I want to be working on the WIP.

The other said you could do that, but it wouldn't create the depth of character you'd achieve by looking at how your characters behaved, and that you have to write beyond the character notes. If I may quote their guest blogger, Harry Bingham:

First of all, character emerges from every tiny detail. Those little snippets of dialogue. The humour. Weird little choices of vocabulary. You can’t get those things from writing character notes, you just get to them by writing the character. Letting yourself sink into the moment.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

When Are You Finished Editing?

Today, my guest is Maryn Sinclair. Maryn is a New England native living in the South who loves creating characters who murder, love, hate, and connive, but mostly love. Her novels are erotic, but she hopes readers find that they’re more than about sex, with contemporary characters who are confident, insecure, damaged, recovering, loyal, duplicitous, intriguing, heartbreaking, and every other conflicting adjective known to Roget, hooking readers from the beginning and turning pages until the end.

Leave a comment for a chance to win one of Maryn's books. She'll be choosing two lucky readers. Please check the end of this post for details.

When do you say your book is finished and enough is enough? At the South Carolina Book Festival on May 14, bestselling author Robert Dugoni mentioned that if he had his way, he’d be red-penciling his manuscript as it rolled through the presses. Boy, could I relate. Not that my books are rolling off the presses, because they’re e-books and I’m certainly not in the same class as a bestselling author, but because if someone didn’t set a due date, I’d forever keep editing until I probably sucked the life out of what I liked about my book in the first place. So when do you decide your book is ready to go to print, or e-print?

The question made me think of my very first freelance job as the owner of my own illustration/copywriting business. I’d freelanced for Fairchild Publications, a national chain of fashion newspapers, including Women’s Wear Daily, doing all the illustrations that originated from manufacturers and designers in the New England area. Rarely, the New York paper would publish one of my drawings, but usually they were redrawn and bundled to coordinate with fashion reports from other regional offices around the country. One day, I received a call from an exclusive shop on Boston’s trendiest street, asking me to draw a shoe for their Sunday ad. I decided that this was going to be the best drawing of a shoe ever to hit any newspaper anywhere on the planet. I accepted the job, settled at my drawing board, and began.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Book Clubs - What Goes On?

What I'm reading: One Small Victory, by Maryann Miller

Last week, I talked about reading outside my normal genre range for a book club.

They meet at their library (which is not in my county system, but isn't that far away, given typical distances up here in the mountains). After a bit of mingling, they have a nice breakfast, and then they have their business meeting.

The leader assured me that this meeting was atypical in that they had a lot of community business to discuss. The club is part of their "Friends of the Library" and they do more than discuss books. Things on the agenda included organizing a library clean-up day, and a book sale at a local community "fair", a cemetery tour as a fundraiser, as well as concern for a new school scheduled to break ground next month and open in a year.

Once their business was finished, the group divided to discuss the two books assigned for the month. Because the group is large (about 35 members), they're split into two groups, so although they're a united front for the business meeting and social time, each group reads only one of the books, which allows more time for each member to add to the book discussion.

Since I was a visitor, I had my choice of groups, and I opted to sit in on the group that had read the book I didn't much care for. I was curious to see how my opinions matched those of others in the group, and how reading like a "writer" differed from reading like a "reader."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Field Trip - Badlands of South Dakota

Jason's back with more pictures, as promised.

The Badlands of South Dakota are tucked away in the middle of nowhere, but offer photographers incredibly unique scenery. I recently returned from leading a four-day photo safari to Badlands National Park. Here are some of the images from that trip. You can see more images online at my image galleries:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What Makes a Book Good?

Have you ever read reviews or had people recommend books, and then you read them and can't understand what all the fuss is about? What works for one reader might not work for another. And there's nothing wrong with that—that's why there are so many different books!

While I was in Los Angeles, I had time to hook up with a friend from high school. We discussed reading and writing, and we got started discussing the male-female thing. He'd read books by a well-known female mystery author, and he said he rushed through all the "emotional" stuff because he wasn't interested in that. He wanted the "mystery" stuff, not all the "feeling" stuff.

I recently read two "out of my normal genre" books in anticipating of attending a book club meeting. I'll be interested in seeing how the book club works, especially since the woman who invited me stressed that they served a delicious breakfast rather than extolling the brilliance of the book discussions. I've never joined one before, since they remind me too much of assigned reading in high school.

One of the books I read would, by today's standards, probably be considered poor writing. But it was a memoir written by someone born just after the Civil War, who had very little formal education. The publisher had opted to leave the manuscript virtually intact rather than edit it for spelling or grammar.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Character Quirks

What I'm reading: Burn, by Nevada Barr

Thanks to Laurin for her excellent advice on making settings matter. Settings are excellent ways to show more about your characters.

My recent visit home triggered some thoughts about other ways to approach dealing with the characters who populate our novels. We've all met people with identifying characteristics. Sometimes it's physical appearance. Sometimes it's an unconscious gesture. Sometimes it's speech patterns.

All of the above are ways to help your reader see and understand your character. But what about some other idiosyncrasies? Does your character have an endearing habit? What about an annoying one? Is the character aware of how the habit might affect other characters on the page? Does he care?

You know those clever little magnets that you put on the dishwasher that say "clean" on one side and "dirty" on the other? In our house, they would have been a waste of money because my mother never left clean dishes in the dishwasher. As soon as it finished running, it was emptied. The one night she complained about how tired she was, but couldn't go to bed until the dishwasher finished, my dad told her she could do it in the morning. No go. We finally agreed to wait until the cycle was over, and one of us would empty it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Setting: It's not just a place

Today my guest is Laurin Wittig, who writes historical romances set in the Scottish Highlands. She’s blogging today on how to make your settings do more than just be the backdrop to your story. And as a bonus, it's also my day over at The Blood Red Pencil.

When you create a story, does the setting matter to you? It should. The setting is an important backdrop for your story but it can be so much more than Aubusson carpets, castles or spaceships. If you can pick your story up and put it in another setting without changing it, then you are missing an opportunity to deepen both your story and your characters.

I was recently critiquing a story written in first person which included a lot of what I termed "reporter" mode whenever the protagonist went into a new environment/setting. The place and the things in it were described well enough that I could picture where she was, but it was flat and frankly a little boring. The setting didn't matter to the character, so it didn't matter to me. That's when I realized something I've intuitively known for a long time: it isn't the description of the setting that is important to the reader's experience, it's the point of view character's perception and emotional response to the setting that's important.

You know how writers are always spouting off about "show, don't tell"? This is a great example of why that is so important. Let me give you an example of reporting/telling about a setting:

Monday, July 18, 2011

To Hyphenate or Not To Hyphenate?

What I'm reading: Deadly Currents, by Beth Groundwater

I'm slowly reaching the end of my copy edits for ROOTED IN DANGER. As I mentioned, just because this is the second editorial pass doesn't mean all the errors have been caught, so I have been reading the whole book. She's caught things that weren't picked up on the first pass, but I've also caught a few glitches that nobody else did.

For the most part, the editor's suggestions have been painless, and I agree with most of them. There are a few places where she's changed sentence structure, and it didn't work for me.

My mom's first language was German, not English, and her sentence structure often followed the Germanic patterns. Our family favorite: "Look for me in the bottom drawer for the pound cake."  Of course, my brother and I opened the bottom drawer and said, "Mom! You're in here!"

In one case, I'd written: She went into the bedroom closet and dragged the cardboard carton she’d brought with her to the bedside. 

The editor preferred: She went into the bedroom closet and dragged to the bedside the cardboard carton she’d brought with her.

Which would you prefer?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Field Trip - We Have Liftoff

Last week Jason traveled to Florida to observe the final space shuttle launch. He was fortunate that the launch went off on schedule; in all our years of living in Orlando, few of them did. I'm sure the photographs are all the more meaningful given that they were taken live.

There aren't as many pictures as I normally share--but he had a 40 second window before the shuttle disappeared into the clouds. Enjoy this historic occasion!

Atlantis on pad 39A before dawn.

STS-135 Atlantis clears pad 39A around 11:28am EDT on July 8th.

Don't forget to click to see the rest!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Another Day, Another Editor

What I'm reading: Still Life With Murder, by P. B. Ryan

If you haven't checked out WHEN DANGER CALLS as the Book of the Day featured at Ereader News Today, take a minute to pop over.

And thanks for all your comments and suggestions yesterday. I'll send a list to the editor, and will update you on our final answer.

Speaking of editors, I seem to be in editing mode these days. Just as I'm finishing up with edits on my short story, I get the copy edits for my next Blackthorne, Inc. story, ROOTED IN DANGER, which is due to be released next April. (Note: reminder to those who have been following my discussion of editorial preferences with my police procedural short story, this post is about a different story, a different publisher, and a different editor.)

I've already worked with the first round edits, where my editor and I worked with the manuscript I'd submitted to Five Star. We worked together to turn in the best possible product. But from there, it goes to their copy editing department, and they go over it carefully. Despite the efforts made to give them something perfect, they're probably going to find things that need attention.

Much as I dislike working with Track Changes, these edits come back in a pdf document, so you can't really make changes. Anything the editor changed will show up very much like it does in Track Changes, but there's no "accept/reject" option. Instead, you create a new document in Word, noting page numbers and paragraphs, and noting anything you disagree with. For the most part, changes are things to be sure the manuscript conforms to house style, and catching inconsistencies. For example, the heroine's family business is Epicurean Unlimited. However, in two places, I'd written Epicurean, Unlimited. Neither the first round editor nor I noticed it, but copy editors are alert to things like this.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Editing: Who's on the Page? 2

What I'm reading: Bound by the Heart, by Marsha Canham

What I read while away: My Sister's Keeper, by Jody Picault, Passions for the Dead, & Dying for Justice, by L.J. Sellers

Thanks to Cricket for her Jessica Fletcher Syndrome post yesterday. I know I live in a small town and have never tripped over a dead body the way they seem to turn up in Cabot Cove.

WHEN DANGER CALLS is Book of the Day at eReader News Today. I hope you'll send some traffic that way.

To continue with previous posts on when editorial input becomes editorial intrusion, I submitted my changes to the editor, and said I didn't like her changing "asshole" to "jerk."

As in any writing where we're striving to create conflict and tension, the character needs to have a question or a problem. He needs a goal. As the author, it's our job to stand in the way of that goal.

In essence, there are three outcomes to any of these conflicts we throw at our characters:

1. Yes
2. No
3. Yes, but …

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jessica Fletcher Syndrome

Today I welcome Cricket McRae to Terry's Place. Cricket’s interest in traditional colonial skills is reflected in her contemporary Home Crafting Mysteries featuring Sophie Mae Ambrose. She lives in northern Colorado and fits writing around soap making and food preservation, spinning and cheese making. Her books are set in a fictionalized Cadyville, Washington, which brings up the question of just how many murders you can get away with staging in one small town.

Thanks! I’m delighted to be a guest here at Terry’s Place.

According to the Urban Dictionary, Jessica Fletcher Syndrome is a:

“Condition of a place or person that seems to attract a large number of murders without having an active part in that crime. From the TV-show Murder She Wrote where every week a close friend or relative of Jessica Fletcher is either murdered or suspected of murder. Suspension of disbelief is stretched to the limit.”

That last is a consistent challenge for some mystery writers. Cozy authors in particular tend to set their stories in small towns where people know each other – perhaps a little too well. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you face the problem of JFS.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Roving Body Parts

Since my body parts are traveling today, and I recently read a blog with a very black and white view on how to deal with body parts, I thought I'd reprise this 2009 blog post. I don't have trouble with figures of speech, and if I'm reading that a character 'flew down the block to John's house' I don't see her mid-air. If someone writes "a lump of ice settled in her belly" I'm not seeing actual ice.

Do the eyes have it?

How do you react when you read things like this:

Their eyes met from across the room.

His eyes raked her body from head to toe.

There seem to be two schools of thought on this one. I'm on the side that doesn't mind. I understand that 'eye' can be used as a noun or a verb. "He eyed her" is acceptable. "He gave her the eye" is an idiom I have no trouble with. I don't see him extracting an eyeball and handing it to her. So if a characters eyes move, I don't get visions of eyeballs floating free.

Which side are you on? Would the following pull you out of the story?

Her blue eyes, enlarged by her wire-rimmed glasses, rambled from Colleen's head to her toes.

"What's wrong with my face?" Her fingers flew to her cheeks, and she pulled them away, studying them.

Yet there are those for whom those would be book-tossing offenses. Me, I see the eye movement in the first example, but the eyes remain firmly set in their sockets. In the second, my brain assumes the fingers are still attached to the hand, and I don't think about body parts floating in space.

If we took everything we read literally, a lot of the richness of the language would be lost. If his eyes are pools of molten chocolate, do we really think that he's got Godiva eyeballs? Or just deep brown eyes?

(That's a metaphor, I think – if his eyes look like pools of molten chocolate, that would be a simile, right?) I've never been good at remembering terminology. Metaphors, similes, idioms, hyperbole—they're things I use, but I don't worry about what they're called when I'm writing them.

At any rate, my editor said it's a house 'rule' to avoid using floating body parts. Apparently they want to avoid having books thrown across the room by readers in the 'I see eyeballs' group. I'm guessing they figure that those who don't mind won't notice. For me, however, substituting 'gaze' for 'eyes' in those situations gets tedious and repetitive. Which means I don't feel comfortable with a simple swap, and end up trying to rewrite the entire passage.

Chime in – what's your preference? Which group are you in?

Tomorrow, my guest is Cricket McRae who's talking about the Jessica Fletcher Syndrome. And I hope all my body parts will be home again.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Friday Field Trip - Oregon

Hubster went to Portland and Salem. First part business, second part to visit his sister. He's sharing some of his pictures today. Since I'm still out of town, if you want more details, ask in the comments and he should answer.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Going Unplugged

First – thanks for all the lively discussion on yesterday's post. I do want to make it clear that I wrote this for exactly that reason—to discuss the role of an editor, and how an author should approach making changes based on editorial input. It's a matter of choosing one's battles, and in this case, as of the time I'm writing the, it's not even a battle, as I haven't sent in my edits yet.

And, here's the preliminary cover for the anthology. Doesn't look much like an assortment of cozy mysteries to me, which makes it all the more curious as to why readers wouldn't expect some "hard boiled" content.

I will send my editor my rationale for rejected her word choices. I will offer to find a new word that's mutually acceptable if she absolutely can't bear the idea of the word "ass" in any form being part of a book put out by her publishing house. (And it IS her publishing house.) There are plenty of other word choices, and I have faith we will find one that works for both of us if I can't use my original wording.

As you read this, I'm paying a much overdue visit to my parents in Los Angeles. It's a relatively short visit—I'll be back late Monday night—but I'm traveling light, so no laptop. My folks have computers, so I'm not totally cut off from the planet, but I'm certainly not going to be doing anything other than checking email once or twice a day.

So, what will that mean?

First, I'm not going to be visiting many websites or blogs, because I won't have my bookmarks and passwords, and it's not worth the trouble to bring them along, even if I do have more computer access than I anticipate.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Editing - Who's on the Page?

Thanks to Karla for her inspiring post yesterday.

Monday afternoon, I got the first edits for the second of my short stories for the upcoming anthology. Publication has been delayed well over a year, so I wanted to try to get them finished before I left for a visit to my parents in LA on Thursday morning, and hoped the edits wouldn't be extensive. The story is only about 9,000 words, so it's nothing like having to turn around edits for a novel.

I found that the editor didn't ask for any revisions, so all I had to deal with was either agreeing or disagreeing with her changes. For the most part, they were technical or style things. Dashes, commas, and some differences in dialogue tagging. Nothing major and nothing I didn't agree with.

But (there's always a but, right?) She did change a few words, and I really didn't agree with them. Really, really didn't agree. And, if you follow my Facebook page, you might have seen some of the discussion yesterday.

The story is a police procedural, told in first person by a seasoned homicide detective. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know that I researched all my cop stuff for all my books, and I talked to a variety of law enforcement officers. One of my first crit partners had been married to a cop for 20 years. I even had a cop read my story, and after making a few suggestions as to procedure, he proclaimed it "right."

So, this is my opening paragraph:

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

When Inspiration Strikes

Karla Brandenburg writes contemporary romance with a hint of paranormal thrown in. She’s blogging today on finding inspiration.

If you ask Nora Roberts, she’ll tell you that she has a million ideas roaming around in her head so she’s never at a loss for a story line. I think it’s like that for most authors. The challenge, on my part, is organizing those ideas into an interesting story.

I’ve been working on a project that I’d completely written, but it was fairly lackluster. Even I knew that. When I finished it, I let it “rest” and moved on to something else, figuring I could revisit it later, when I could take a more objective look at it and figure out what went wrong. It was a story that I wanted to tell, but I needed to find a way to tell it better. That time is now.

As I began reworking it, I started getting all sorts of new ideas, and attempted to weave them into the fabric of the story, until I realized I was pulling in too many tangential threads and losing any semblance of cohesiveness to the story. So I stopped. I redrew the story outline and plopped in the places that needed to be jazzed up and the places that were nothing more than “blah-de-blah.” And then I started with the “what-ifs.”

Now, the “what-ifs” can take you on a wild roller coaster ride, but ultimately, the thrill of the ride will leave you with something worthwhile. I had myself laughing with the ridiculousness of some of my ideas and bored with some of my “are you kidding?” ideas. And then, once I found some that stuck, I had to look at the bigger picture. The “if this, then that” repercussions of the changes I wanted to add. That process culls out more of the “that will never work” ideas.

Monday, July 04, 2011

New Ventures in Reading

What I'm reading: Pioneer Woman, by Ree Drummond; Daughter of a Pioneer, by Atlanta Georgia Thompson; Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson.

Happy Independence Day to my readers in the US. We have a total burn ban in the county, so we won't be doing the fireworks thing here. However you celebrate, be safe.

First, a reminder that today is the last day to take advantage of my Buy 1 Get 1 Free sale. Second, there's a new summer sale at Smashwords and WHAT'S IN A NAME? is on special for 25% off. Check the Deals & Steals tab.

My reading pile has taken a shift in genre recently. I tend to stick to mystery or romantic suspense. The majority of my variations come from giveaways or because I'm judging a contest.

At my last RWA chapter meeting, I won a drawing and had a choice of two books as my prize. My tastes in reading seem to be reasonably well known, because one member of the group called out, "You took the Pioneer one?" I pointed out that the second offering was FINDING SARAH, which I just happened to be one I'd written, so there wasn't really any question about which book I'd choose.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Friday Field Trip - China

First - Happy July. My Buy 1 get 1 free sale ends on Monday, so check the Deals & Steals tab. Two books for 99 cents -- a $2.99 savings.

Also, please check out my interview at The Romance Studio.

Shortly after China opened its doors to tourism, my parents visited there. Here are some shots my mom sent. Enjoy.