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Anticipation

Today, my husband and I will be attending the last of the Shakespeare Festival’s summer plays. I’ve looked forward to this for weeks. If you’ve never attended one of these outdoor events, it’s a wonderful evening of theater preceded by a picnic with wine, cheese, and bread or whatever you choose to bring.

 As I was trying to think of a subject for the blog, the word anticipation popped into my head. And, naturally, because it’s a blog with writers, I thought of how important anticipation is in any story. Many of my writer friends have gone from writing romance or women’s fiction to writing erotica. In talking to one of the more successful erotica writers, she told me, for her books, it isn’t about the actual acts but about anticipation.

Roller Coaster

 My books for children don’t take on the same subjects, of course, but anticipation is a big part of the stories I write for them (at least that’s what I’m aiming for). Why? Because anticipation builds tension and tension moves the reader forward. Sounds easy, huh? It isn’t.

In a class I took, the theme was building tension through each scene. I’m a pantser, so classes like this are agony for me. But if I force myself to try and think of my story in scenes instead of flowing moments, I sometimes see how I can build a better story.

What do you do to make a better, faster moving story?

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10 Comments

Posted by on September 12, 2013 in Idaho

 

#annoying

hashtagI am not against change. I try to keep up with our language and how it evolves. One of the beauties of language is how it is ever-changing.

However, some trends are run into the ground and just plain annoying, IMO. The ubiquitous use of the “hashtag” has gotten out of control.  I hear it on TV, see it in print newspapers, on Twitter, movies, radio, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, etc. The list goes on.

Hashtags date back as early as 2007, but they have exploded as a means of communicating in the last couple of years. According to Wikipedia, it is a form of metadata. “This kind of metadata helps describe an item and allows it to be found again by browsing or searching. Tags are generally chosen informally and personally by the item’s creator or by its viewer, depending on the system.”

And herein, lies what I object to in using hashtags. The informal creation of ridiculously-named hashtags to voice opinions. #idontlikehashtagssodontusethembecausetheyarestupid would be a hashtag I create. Not elegant enough for me, I guess.

I googled “hashtag abuse” and came up with a lot of links! One article, in particular, states, “When anyone uses a hashtag (simply a way for people to search for tweets that have a common topic and to begin a conversation) on a website, text message, or anything that does not pertain to Twitter. This is quite annoying considering hashtagging only works on Twitter.”

Here’s an article from Chris Messina, an engineer generally considered the creator of hashtags, talking about abusers.

And here’s where 7 Hashtag Abusers are listed. I love the verbal hashtagger because I’ve heard so many celebrities do this.

Let me have it with both barrels. Do you use hashtags? Do you like them as a useful search tool?

 
13 Comments

Posted by on September 10, 2013 in Idaho, twitter

 

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Self Publishing 3

This summer I had the opportunity to read several books. Some of the e-books I chose to read were free on Kindle, by long published authors and new authors taking advantage of the self publishing boom.

I have an eye for spotting errors in what I read, probably because I have practiced editing and proofreading my manuscripts for many years. I’ve gotten so that I can spot an error in anyone’s book, at least one error, ninety-five percent of the time. I am okay with, or can tolerate, up to four errors per book, but after that I am annoyed and most psychology books will say that being annoyed leads to anger.

Yes, I became angry with a new author, who could write, but had errors in her book. It wasn’t misspelled words that got my attention, but words that didn’t belong in the sentence, like someone used auto correct. Another common error in this book was leaving out a word in a sentence. Writers can leave out a word and miss it in the editing process because our minds know what we meant to say and so we think it’s there. It happens to the best of us, that’s why we need another set of eyes on our manuscript. Actually, more than one pair.

Today the trend is to hire a professional editor to go over a book before self publishing. An editor is someone who prepares the final version of the manuscript, helping the writer determine the length and the order of events and scenes, character development, etc. Yet, I believe the author mentioned above needed a professional proofreader more than an editor. A proofreader goes line by line and marks corrections in grammar, spelling, omitted words, etc.

Presently, some of the best marketing opportunities are asking for books with four and five star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. They want proven books, reviewed by average folks, not your author buddies. So, basically, the writer needs a proofreader and an editor, whether you hire someone or not. Don’t trust your eye as the only proofreader you need because it is quite likely you will miss something. The goal is to present your best work to the world, so don’t be in a hurry and get the help you need.

 

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Outside the Genre

One of the more frequent pieces of writing advice I see is to read outside the genre one writes in. The reasons to read extensively in one’s genre are obvious: one needs to know the rules and assumptions that define that genre’s boundaries. Figuring that out, really understanding it, requires you to read books comparable to the ones you write. But the risks of reading exclusively one genre are a little more nebulous than the advantages of reading extensively in that genre. I think the fear is that reading one genre exclusively risks internalizing those rules too much and becoming formulaic and stale by creating a closed creative feedback loop. 

Obviously, what we read is not our only source of inspiration, but, for me at least, it’s an important one. I want to write books I want to read. Reading a fantastic romance makes me want to write one. It inspires me to want to write better, faster, deeper. So, you know, that’s great! Read romance! Yay! And, honestly, I’d really be pretty happy if all I read was romance. About five years ago I realized that I have no interest in reading fiction that doesn’t have a happy ending. I remember the two books that drove that home to me: The House at Riverton and I Capture the Castle. They’re both fantastic books, but about 2/3 of the way through The House at Riverton I realized that there was just no way that book was going to end well and I couldn’t take it. I put it down and didn’t pick it back up and felt bitter and unhappy about having forced myself to read that far. I did finish I Capture the Castle, but the ending destroyed me. To this day I pretend that the end wasn’t, that my edition was just missing some happy epilogue found in all other copies of the book. In fiction, I need a happy ending to enjoy the experience. And reading for me is about enjoyment. I’m not going to force myself to read fiction just because it’s good for me, but I really do think that reading romance exclusively is bad for my writing. So what’s a happy-ending addict to do?

(1) I read mysteries by authors I know from past experience will leave me content. Romance is my current love, but mysteries were my first love and they meet my need for a satisfying ending without feeding my gluttonous desire for happy love stories. Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Sayers, Edmund Crispin, and Elizabeth Daly are old friends. They follow different rules and write in different styles and feed my creative well in an entirely different way than romance does.

(2) I read non-fiction. I go through phases where I start obsessively collecting books on different subjects. You need recommendations for an entertaining non-fiction book on the Black Plague? WWI? British travel writers? English country houses? The history of the British aristocracy? English social history from 1919-1939? I’m your girl. (I said they were different subjects, I never said they didn’t have a common theme. What can I say, I’m an Anglophile.) These are all subjects that are very unlikely to make their way into anything I write, but they stoke my curiosity and keep my brain learning and stretching in different directions. They’re not useful, except in the way that they get me outside of the obsessive romance-reading bubble I would otherwise happily live in.

What about you? Do you naturally read books outside the genre(s) you write in or do you have to push yourself a little? Any other Anglophiles out there?

 

Repurposing

Staples is one of my favorite stores. I know, writer—office supply store. Who’s surprised? I was looking at all the incarnations of office supplies and it brought to mind the things you can do with them that aren’t related to back-to-school.

Here are some things I came up with.

Plastic cases for three X five cards. Sticking either Post-it notes or three X five cards in them and clip a pen to the top. Stick it in the car or purse and the notes stay clean and unmolested, so you’re always have note-making material. I gave my husband one and he uses it all the time.

Pencil cases—the short skinny kind. You can put all sorts of things in them that aren’t pencils. I have fingernail files and other long manicure items in one. Makeup brushes fit in nicely. Make-up items like mascara, lipstick, chap-stick, or anything in a tube for your purse. They work great for a first aid kit.

Pencil cases—the long skinny kind. These are essential for travel. Great for curling irons, hair brushes, anything long and skinny you don’t want mingling with the rest of the stuff in your suitcase.

Pencil cases—the square kind. Everything. No really. I have sewing stuff in a ton of them. You can label the end and everything is right at hand. They’re great for seeds and plant labels. If you have a hobby that involves small items they’re essential. Makeup when you travel doesn’t get crushed. Those pretty soft carriers are…pretty, but they don’t have hard sides to protect lotions and tubes.

Pencil cases that fit in a three-ring notebook. These are great for putting editing supplies in and sticking them in your purse or backpack. That way you always have the supplies you need to edit while you wait for someone. They can double as a first aid kit or to hold coupons.

Wire locker dividers. The ones shaped like an upside down flat-bottomed, “U”. I have a trash can on top and a recycle/shred can underneath. They’re fairly sturdy, but without the sides of a locker to support them I wouldn’t put anything like a printer on one. (Note: at the kitchen store, they have plate platforms that are sturdy enough for a printer. I have my laptop on one.)

Back in the commercial, area they have display supplies. I have a stand that has two face-outs on it. On the top I have my calendar. It holds it open to the week and I can see it when I sit down. Very handy when I remember to turn the page to the correct week. On the bottom face-out, I have Post-its. I can put a notebook or other reference in it if I need to.

What do you use for a different purpose than it was intended for?

 
14 Comments

Posted by on August 29, 2013 in Idaho

 

“The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living.” –Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

I have to admit this blog post is of a self-serving nature. My goal is to share with you a couple of books or phrases that have captured my attention and left a lasting impression on me. In return, I’m hoping you will share some of your favorites with me.

One of the most compelling non-fiction books I’ve read is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. Most people are probably already familiar with the works of this amazing WWII concentration camp survivor. In college I had to read this book and write a paper on it. I’ve held on to it ever since. I’ve gone back and skimmed through it countless times over the last twenty years. The dog-eared pages are yellowed. Sticky notes peek out from all directions. Multi-colored highlights abound from the pages as I found different passages spoke to me depending on the time in my life that I was reading it. It even smells a little dusty. At this point it’s become more of an old friend than a book.

The next book wasn’t a particularly profound read but more of a fun one. However, there was one passage in the book that grabbed my attention enough to warrant jotting it down. The book is Shannon Hale’s Austenland and the passage reads, “Why was the judgment of the disapproving so valuable? Who said their good opinions tended to be any more rational than those of generally pleasant people?” This captured my attention because it made me realize how much credence I sometimes put into the opinions of people who are inherently difficult to please.

Now that I’m done baring my soul (what a book lover won’t do for a few good recommendations), I’d love to hear your favorite books or passages. Maybe it’s completely different from these. It could be one that always makes you smile, motivates you or just makes you think.

 
16 Comments

Posted by on August 27, 2013 in books, inspiration, Psychology, reading

 

Blogging Weekly

My publisher has a blog called Marketing Monday, and they post ways to market. Last week the suggestion was to create a blog by picking a subject, any subject, and posting once a week.

After researching various subjects, I decided on Rodeo Cohorts. One of the definitions of cohort is a companion or associate. That is what the equine contestants in rodeo are, companions and associates. I’m going to spotlight a different horse each week, including barrel, rope and dogging horses along with bareback and saddle broncs. I might even throw in some specialty acts and an occasional bull or two. These are the equine personalities who make rodeo such an amazing sport, and many have fascinating stories.

To start this off with a bang, I’m highlighting Gills Bay Boy, better known as Scamper. Scamper accomplished what no other barrel horse has come near to doing. He and his owner, Charmayne James, won ten Women’s Pro Rodeo Association World Titles in a row between 1984 and 1993.

Charmayne and her father bought the AQHA gelding from a feedlot when he was a six year old, and she was just twelve. Two years later they qualified for the National Finals Rodeo. They went on to win the NFR that year along with the WPRA World Championship and the WPRA Rookie of the Year.

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One of his most amazing runs came during the 1985 NFR. As they came down the alley to enter the arena, Scamper’s bridle broke. He ran the pattern on his own and won the round. In 1986 the pair won money in all ten rounds at the NFR, a feat only three other riders have accomplished.

Scamper ended up with the enviable record of ten WPRA titles, six NFR titles and ten RodeoHouston titles, along with many other circuit finals and major rodeo championships. He carried Charmayne to more than one million of her $1,842,506 lifetime earnings. He was retired after the 1994 season and was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1996.

Because he is a gelding and cannot reproduce, James made the decision to clone Scamper. The animal genetics corporation Viagen performed the cloning, and the ensuing foal, nicknamed Clayton, was born in 2006, kept a stallion and now stands at stud.

Scamper died at the age of thirty-five on July 4, 2012 at the age of 35. James said he enjoyed good health to the end.

“He’s one in a million. He’s a miracle…I doubt there will ever be another horse like him.”

Charmayne James, describing Scamper, 1989

I was only fortunate enough to be able to watch Scamper run in person once, but I watched on TV many times. He was one of a kind.

I’m about four weeks into my blog and have had some new readers. Time will tell if it gathers in readers for my book. What ideas do you have for a weekly blog?

 
14 Comments

Posted by on August 22, 2013 in Idaho