Sunday, November 29, 2009

Editing with Track Changes and Comments

This post was previously published here at the Blood-Red Pencil, but it, along with many of our earliest posts, is so useful for writers that we are featuring the best "oldies but goodies" during the month of December.

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The Track Changes and Comments features of a word processing program are very useful for editing or critiquing either your own or another writer's manuscript. Here is a guide to using these features.


Using Track Changes in MS Word
  • Tools, Track Changes
  • Or
  • Double click TRK on the Status Bar
Track Changes can be used to keep a note of changes you make to a document, particularly if you are not certain you want to keep the changes. It is very useful if you’ve asked another person to edit or comment on your work, and you wish to review their changes before accepting them.


Comments

The Insert Comment option is available on the Reviewing Toolbar that pops up when you select Tools, Track Changes.

To hide the comments in a document, click Show on the Reviewing Toolbar, and deselect Comments.


Comparing documents

If the person you sent your work to has not used Track Changes while editing your document, you can still view their changes by selecting the option to merge their document into yours.

With the first document open, select:
  • Tools, Compare and Merge Documents…
  • (You may also be prompted with the option to compare documents if you attempt to save one document with the same filename as an existing document).
  • Select the document for comparison
  • Click the down arrow next to Merge and select Merge into Current Document
Word should turn Track Changes on automatically when the two documents are merged (if it doesn’t, you can still turn it on by double-clicking TRK on the Status Bar if you want to continue noting the changes made to the document).

In Word 2002 upwards, the changes are assigned two different colors: one for the differences highlighted when the documents were merged, and another for any new changes you make to the new merged document.

Changes can be accepted or rejected by right-clicking on the colored text, or the edit in the margin.

Avoid using your original document for any comparison work where you think you might change your mind about the revisions. Make a copy of your document to use instead and save it with a different filename.


Accept or reject changes
  • Tools, Track Changes…, Accept or Reject changes
Once you are ready to incorporate the changes into your document, the Accept or Reject Changes Menu allows you to jump from change to change in your document with the Find command.

Viewing and accepting or rejecting each change individually gives you far better control over the edit than selecting Accept All or Reject All, but these options are useful if you have read through your edits and are satisfied that you want to keep all changes (or reject them all).

If you have doubts about your changes and want to view your original text without the change present, select Original under View on this menu. This option temporarily hides the changes. If you prefer the original, click Reject to remove the change permanently.

You may want to read the sentence with the change in place, without the distraction of the Track Changes editing marks. To do this, select Changes Without Highlighting under View on the Accept or Reject Changes Menu.

You can toggle between the Changes Without Highlighting and Original views if you have trouble choosing between the two versions of your text.

A quicker option to using the Accept or Reject Changes Menu is to right-click a specific insertion or deletion and select Accept or Reject from the drop-down menu.


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Elsa Neal
Is Word driving you crazy? Then Word 4 Writers is for you. Learn to tame the monster and save your time in front of the screen for writing not fighting. Elsa Neal has been strong-arming Word for 14 years and teaching others to do the same. She is based in Melbourne, Australia.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

What Makes a Book Marketable? #2

A few years ago I read a novel by a favorite well-known author whose stories had always drawn me in. This particular book, however, proved to be such a disappointment that I have never bought or read another piece by this writer. Was the story memorable? Apparently not because I don’t recall what it was about—and I do remember several of the same author’s earlier books. So what was the problem?

Poor editing turned me off. I couldn’t read the book for pleasure because my mind kept trying to fix the awkward prose and ineffective dialogue. What happened to the quality I’d learned to expect from this writer? I have no clue. But she—and her publisher—lost a reader who bought books.

Does a lesson for us wend its way out of this experience? Absolutely! No matter how “big” we get—no matter how well-known we are—we need the fine hand of a competent editor who works in our genre and who is a great “fit” for our personalities and our writing styles. The day we think we know more or better than that editor is the day we may join the author referred to above. It is often said that we never get a second chance to make a first impression. This holds true in our writing. We may be witty, charming, and absolutely delightful company, but our readers don’t know that. They judge us by what we share with them—our written words. Have they been professionally polished to perfection?

Interestingly, the writer above published through a major house, and the book came out some years before the current “recession.” We might conclude, then, that the economic downturn had nothing to do with its poor quality. However, the publishing industry, like so many others, is in flux. Large houses no longer edit and market as they once did. But none of this excuses the publishing of any book that fails to qualify as a “great read.”

In tough economic times, we all have to cut corners. Writers—especially those who self- or independently publish—must economize like everyone else. Regardless of this or any other excuse, the editing corner is not the one to cut. The goal of almost every author is sales, sales, sales. Bottom line: A marketable book means dollars in the bank. And a marketable book is a well-edited book. What else is it? “What Makes a Book Marketable? #3” has the answer.

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Linda Lane and her editing team offer streamline edits to fit almost every writer's needs. She has authored two novels and is planning a sequel to the second one, Treacherous Tango.

Friday, November 27, 2009

What Makes a Book Marketable? #1

Since I have NO time to read books for pleasure—and haven’t had all this year—I cannot offer any recommendation for a “must-read.” However, I can comment on two different areas that have come up in recent discussions about books.

The first addresses an issue from a recent dialogue on Murder Must Advertise, an online writing group capably monitored by 2009 Anthony Award Winner, Jeffrey Marks. The discussion explored the pros and cons of using foul language in writing, particularly fiction. Various contributors commented that they had lost sales at book signings when potential readers questioned whether the book being offered included swearing/obscenities. Points of view ranged from the writer’s right/obligation to present information or dialogue that is honest and realistic to arguments that readers shouldn’t be exposed to material that they find offensive.

The bottom line, however, is sales. What makes a book sell? What keeps a book from selling?

Limiting our discussion here to strong language and two companion issues—graphic violence and explicit sex—let’s consider whether “shock” value translates into book sales. In other words, does the inclusion of one or more “shockers” turn readers “on” or “off”?

Statistically, I can’t answer that question. But like “R” rated movies, such books will no doubt attract a certain element of readers who are curious or who thrive on dirty words, blood and guts, and salacious scenes. Other readers, however, will refuse to buy these books because they are offended by the very things that attract the first group. Back to that bottom line: a significant number of potential readers may be lost.

So let’s examine the other side. Would the writer forfeit the same number of readers by penning a story so compelling that the reader wouldn’t miss the profanity, violence, and sex? Would readers who prefer hard-core language and details be offended if these elements were absent, but the gripping story kept them turning pages? In other words, can powerful writing win out over bad words, sex, and gore? And what is more important—harsh reality or appealing to the widest reading audience to sell books? What do you think?

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Writer/editor/publisher Linda Lane offers “team edits” that benefit the writer because two (or three) sets of eyes are far better than one in finding flaws that make a manuscript mediocre and transforming that story into an enthralling work of art.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Punish the Deed by Diane Fanning

I recently got my hands on the second book in Diane Fanning’s mystery/police procedural series starring Lieutenant Lucinda Pierce. I’ve been looking forward to following Lucinda again.

Lucinda is, in a lot of ways, typical of women police officers. She’s tough and believes in her work. In others, she’s very different. After taking a shotgun blast to the face, one side is mauled and she lost an eye. In this book, she’s taking the first real steps to plastic surgery, but is still on the job. Along with dealing with the physical injuries, she’s working on the emotional ones.

Setting aside her personal problems, Lucinda now has to deal with a violent killer who hides in the shadows and who eventually threatens her own life. She’s got quite a few other things going on in her life - like the rest of us. Lucinda Pierce is no one-dimensional character. I enjoyed discovering the different layers of Lucinda.

Here’s a snippet of Diane’s writing in Punish the Deed:
“She’d been to many crime scenes and seen many gruesome photos from others. Those sights were not alien -- they were the stuff of her life. She could think and work as she looked on the gory remains of a brutal death. She could hash over the details with her fellow professionals without the slightest churn in her gut. She swore that none of it bothered her any longer. But then there were those images that burned into her brain. The visuals she wanted to forget but instead they hung on, haunting every blink of her eye and troubling her dreams.”
The intensity of the plot and the believable development of the characters keep you reading. Fanning comes to mystery writing with a credible writing pedigree. She’s the best-selling author of 10 true crime novels, as well as another mystery series starring Molly Mullet. You may have seen Diane Fanning on Court TV or the Discovery Channel. If she ever comes to speak in your area, go hear her. I sat in on a talk she gave at the University of Texas on The Criminal Mind and she is a great speaker. Her talk sent chills down our spines.

If you or someone you know likes mystery/police procedurals with a strong, totally believable protagonist, I recommend you look for Punish the Deed by Diane Fanning. It’s available online at Barnes & Noble or on Amazon.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Helen Ginger is an avid reader. When not devouring books, she’s a freelance editor, book consultant, blogger, and writer. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. In addition, her free ezine, Doing It Write, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its tenth year of publication.


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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In Their Blood by Sharon Potts

Born into a life of privilege, Jeremy Stroeb loves freedom, loathes responsibility, and drops out of college to start backpacking across Europe. But this free-spirited drifter crashes back to brutal reality when his parents, Rachel and Daniel Stroeb, are murdered in their home on Miami Beach.

When he returns to Miami, Jeremy assumes guardianship of his teenage sister Elise, who is traumatized and convinced the killer will be back for her.

With steely, urgent resolve, Jeremy vows to find out what really happened to Rachel Stroeb, the respected CPA, and Daniel Stroeb, the controversial professor. Determined to get on the inside of his parents’ lives, Jeremy takes a job at the accounting firm where his mother worked, and enrolls at the University where his father taught.

But too many details don’t add up. With mounting certainty that his parents were anything but the people he thought they were, Jeremy must face the toughest questions of all. Who were Rachel and Daniel Stroeb? And when will the killer be back for the next of kin?

Entrepreneur, CPA, soccer mom, president of an executive search/accounting recruitment firm —Sharon Potts filled a variety of rolls before penning her first novel.

Amazon reviewers have called In Their Blood (ISBN-13: 9781933515625) “a super amateur sleuth tale,” a “coming of age suspense novel with a rich emotional landscape,” and my favorite, an “edge-of-seat thriller.” I have to agree on all counts and can’t wait to read the next Potts tale.

If any adults on your Christmas list enjoy a mystery with thrills and chills, this novel is a great gift choice.

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Charlotte Phillips is the co-author of the Eva Baum Detective Series, 2009 President for The Final Twist Writers Group and contributor to multiple blogs. Learn more about Charlotte and her books at:

MarkandCharlottePhillips.com

News, Views and Reviews Blog

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Resqueth Revolution by Mark H. Phillips

Revolutions not only change worlds—they often transform flawed men into heroes.

In The Resqueth Revolution, disgraced physicist Steve Marks joins a group of paranormal investigators in their violent confrontations with other-dimensional monsters that feed off human fear. Soon the team must also battle the aliens’ human allies within the U.S. military. As Steve discovers more about the entities, and how to hurt them, he becomes the key factor in the plans of multiple factions. Steve must become a full player in a genocidal game he doesn’t fully understand. He must also rediscover his own integrity—an integrity that will force him to risk his friends, his new-found love, and even the survival of the human species for what he knows is right.



Mark H. Phillips's mystery, suspense, and sci-fi short stories can be found in anthologies A Death in Texas and A Box of Texas Chocolates. Hacksaw, an Eva Baum mystery/suspense, was his first published novel.




The Resqueth Revolution (ISBN-13: 9781440109539), Mark's first science fiction/thriller, has received multiple five star reviews and Midwest Book Reviews wrote, "highly recommended." I have to agree.

If anyone on your list enjoys fiction that blends cutting edge science with nail-biting thrills, mixes ray guns and flying saucers with a touch of romance, moves through unexpected plot twists with over-the-top cinamatic action, laced with complex conspiracies and thought-provoking moral ambiguities, this is the book for you.

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Charlotte Phillips is the co-author of the Eva Baum Detective Series, 2009 President for The Final Twist Writers Group and contributor to multiple blogs. Learn more about Charlotte and her books at:

MarkandCharlottePhillips.com

News, Views and Reviews Blog

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Two Books That Would Make Great Gifts


Gift Book Suggestions

I recently read two books that would make great gifts for the upcoming holidays, especially for writers.

One is a memoir by a political cartoonist, Jeffrey Koterba, titled Inklings. This is a funny, poignant, and interesting look at Koterba’s life journey that was anything but smooth and easy. In it he writes freely about his dysfunctional family, led by an alcoholic father who also had Tourette’s syndrome, but the writing is not filled with angst and anger. It is almost a celebration of the craziness that played a big part in shaping the artist Jeffrey was to become, and he shares that artistry with wonderful sketches sprinkled throughout the book.

The second book 600 Hours of Edward is a novel by Craig Lancaster, and I read this one right after finishing Inklings. This book is about Edward Stanton, a 39 year old man who has a severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder along with Asperger's syndrome. The title comes from the 25 days, or 600 hours that chronicles the undoing of the life Edward was comfortable with and opening up a new world of possibilities. Change is not something that is easy for a man with OCD and Asperger’s to deal with, and Edward’s journey is equally funny, poignant, and interesting.

One of the things that struck me about these books was that Inklings read so much like a novel and 600 Hours of Edward could have been a memoir. The writing in each is compelling, honest, real, and reflects the characters so completely the reader feels like they are real people. Of course, Jeffrey Koterba is, and Edward Stanton isn’t, but he could be.

I suggest these books for writers as they are great examples of how non-fiction can read with the same drama and immediacy as fiction. But also because they are wonderful examples of how to write about sensitive issues like mental illness, alcoholism, and neurological problems with a frankness that doesn’t offend, yet is very enlightening.

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Posted by Maryann Miller who loves to discover new books and new authors to enjoy. Visit Maryann's Web site for information about the holiday special she is offering for her book, One Small Victory. When she is not working, Maryann loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Russian Roulette by Austin S. Camacho - Recommended by Morgan Mandel


Austin S. Camacho was kind enough to forward a PDF version of his recent mystery, Russian Roulette, to me.

I'd never read a Hannibal Jones mystery before, and wasn't sure what to expect. Whenever I read a book, I need to connect on some level with the main character or I won't want to finish it.

Could a white, 5'4" female who steers clear of caffeine and on sunny days pulls a cap over her forehead relate to a 6' tall African American male, who seems addicted to coffee and Oakley sunglasses?

That was the challenge. Somehow Austin had to convince me that superficialities didn't matter.

As I got into the story, I came to admire Hannibal. I saw him as a likeable, unselfish guy possessing not only a proficiency at martial arts, but also a knack for adapting to pressure situations. I also liked his sense of loyalty not only to his beloved Cindy, but also his neighborhood.

I can't imagine how I'd react if I a Russian assassin camped out in my home and threatened to harm a loved one if I didn't follow orders. That is only one of the situations Hannibal faces. Other antagonists turn his situation more deadly. Though under emotional duress, he somehow manages to keep a clear head through it all.
As the plot wends its way, suspects appear and disappear. Every time one of them seems to be the culprit, that person ends up dead.

Austin kept me guessing right up to the final standoff. If you like solving puzzles, you won't want to miss this one.

Russian Roulette is a great standalone mystery. You don't have to start from the beginning of the series to enjoy this one, but after reading it you just might want to do so.

Austin S. Camacho's website: http://www.ascamacho.com/
ISBN# 978-0979478840
Publisher: Intrigue Publishing


Amazon Buy Link:
http://www.amazon.com/Russian-Roulette-Austin-S-Camacho/dp/0979478847/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1239242373&sr=1-6
Presently priced there at $11.66, Kindle @6.95
------------------------------------------------------
Morgan Mandel

The Midwest Book Review gave
Morgan Mandel's recent release,
Killer Career, 5 stars. For more
about Morgan, check out:
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com/
http://www.morganmandel.com/
http://choiceonepublishing.com/

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Friday, November 20, 2009

2009 Fun Reads for Adults

A Box of Texas Chocolates is a delightful, multi-genre short story collection contains fourteen stories contributed by thirteen authors, all members of Houston's The Final Twist writing group.

If you have readers on your list and you're not sure what they like to read, readers who enjoy discovering new authors, or readers who grave diversity in reading material, this book is an excellent choice.


Do any adults on your list enjoy spicy romance written with humor? Remember Walter Mitty? Walter never had dreams like this. In Ripping the Bodice, Casandra Devon spends most of her life daydreaming about an imaginary, erotic world in which she is the protagonist is a series of romantic dramas closely resembling the traditional bodice rippers she loves to read. Real life intrusions result in thoroughly entertaining situations. I laughed from beginning to end.

Inara Lavey is the romance-writing pen name of a San Francisco mystery writer and former B-movie actress. Can you guest who?


If your reader prefers thrills and chills in the form of dark fiction that could come to life, check out The Blood Notes of Peter Mallow. While reading, I repeatedly calmed myself with the mantra, "This is only fiction. This is only fiction. This is only fiction."


Author Paul Boor, M.D. conducts research at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston - home to the highest level bio-safety laboratory in the U.S. Yes, that part is real. Deadly viruses are grown and studied in a place that has been torn apart, at least twice, by hurricanes. Dr. Boor uses this setting to create a world of cut-throat research grants, corrupt safety boards, and ambitious-beyond-reason scientists where one little hurricane can turn an idyllic island into a nightmare.

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Charlotte Phillips is the co-author of the Eva Baum Detective Series, 2009 President for The Final Twist Writers Group and contributor to multiple blogs. Learn more about Charlotte and her books at:

MarkandCharlottePhillips.com

News, Views and Reviews Blog


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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Little Journeys by Jory Sherman


I have another book to recommend for gift-giving this holiday season; Little Journeys by Jory Sherman, a wonderful book of short stories.

In the introduction Richard S. Wheeler writes, “All of these stories reach deeply into the human heart, and touch upon the great burdens that life brings to us all. These are stories of optimism, of love remembered, of the unexpected sweetness of grief, of the impulsive kindness that transformed a life and he gives us still more. Jory Sherman is quintessentially a poet, and he brings his mastery of the English tongue to each of these stories.”

After that quote from the introduction, I’m hard pressed to come up with other words to better describe this collection of stories by award-winning author, Jory Sherman. He is well known for his westerns, of which he has written hundreds, but it is his lyrical prose that I enjoy most. The Ballad of Pinewood Lake, a novel that was released in 2001 was my first introduction to the more literary style of this prolific writer, and I immediately thought of that book when I started reading Little Journeys.

Sherman is a gifted writer and the stories he tells of ordinary people in sometimes extraordinary circumstances touch all hearts. All the stories in this book have a recurring theme of a journey to a greater understanding. Sometimes it is about the beauty and majesty of nature. Other times it is about the beauty and majesty of mankind. They are stories to be read and reread for the pure enjoyment of the prose, as well as the subtle life lessons one can glean from the experience.

Jory Sherman, who has been a full-time writer for over forty years, began his writing career as a poet in San Francisco. That poetic influence is strong in all his work, but perhaps strongest in his more literary projects. In addition to writing, Jory is an accomplished painter. Visit his Web site for more about this talented man.

Little Journeys by Jory Sherman. Introduction by Richard S. Wheeler
AWOC.COM publishing
978-0-937660-76-8
Trade Paperback $12.95
148 pages

BUY

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Visit Maryann's Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. When she is not working, Maryann loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas.





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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Inklings & 600 Hours of Edward

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More Gift Book Suggestions


I recently read two books that would make great gifts for the upcoming holidays, especially for writers.

One is a memoir by nationally syndicated political cartoonist, Jeffrey Koterba, titled Inklings. This is a funny, poignant, and interesting look at Koterba’s life journey that was anything but smooth and easy. In it he writes freely about his dysfunctional family, led by an alcoholic father who also had Tourette’s syndrome, but the writing is not filled with angst and anger. It is almost a celebration of the craziness that played a big part in shaping the artist Jeffrey was to become, and he shares that artistry with wonderful sketches sprinkled throughout the book. (full review HERE )

The second book, 600 Hours of Edward, is a novel by Craig Lancaster, and I read this one right after finishing Inklings. This book is about Edward Stanton, a 39 year old man who has a severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder along with Asperger's syndrome. The title comes from the 25 days, or 600 hours, that chronicles the undoing of the life Edward was comfortable with and opening up a new world of possibilities. Change is not something that is easy for a man with OCD and Asperger’s to deal with, and Edward’s journey is equally funny, poignant, and interesting.

One of the things that struck me about these books was that Inklings read so much like a novel and 600 Hours of Edward could have been a memoir. The writing in each is compelling, honest, real, and reflects the characters so completely the reader feels like they are real people. Of course, Jeffrey Koterba is, and Edward Stanton isn’t, but he could be.

I suggest these books for writers as they are great examples of how non-fiction can be written with the same drama and immediacy as fiction. But also because they are wonderful examples of how to write about sensitive issues like mental illness, alcoholism, and neurological problems with a frankness that doesn’t offend, yet is very enlightening.

Plus, they are darn good reads.

-----------------------------
Posted by Maryann Miller who loves to give and receive books for gifts. Check out her Web site for a special offer on her book, One Small Victory.






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Five Years at Sea by James V. Lee

Five Years at Sea by James V. Lee is a unique book. It’s part memoir, part travelogue, part insider’s view of being on board Navy ships, and all interesting.

Lee spent five years, from 1989 to 1994, traveling the world aboard 13 different Navy ships as a civilian teacher of English as part of the Navy College Program for Afloat College Education. Since he was former Navy, he presents a unique perspective on shipboard life.

He enjoyed his years teaching students under difficult circumstances, and he talks about these men who, having found purpose and structure in their lives, are eager to learn. He also took advantage of the opportunity to visit places all over the world and interact with the people who lived there. He takes readers along on his many journeys to places most tourists don’t go. Those years also provided him with a front-row seat to some historical events.

I’ve never been in the Navy or even on a ship, but I enjoyed reading and looking at all the pictures Lee includes in Five Years at Sea. His book has been endorsed by some big names, including two Rear Admirals. An article in the Dallas Morning News recently talked about Lee attending the commissioning of the USS New York by invitation of one of those Rear Admirals.

I recommend it for yourself or as a gift to someone who has served aboard a Navy ship or who likes to travel. Lee’s perspective on this time and on life in general is fascinating. It didn’t take long for me to get into the book, and then I wanted to keep reading long after I should have been doing other things.

You can go to Salado Press to read more about Five Years at Sea. If you’d like to purchase Five Years at Sea, you can go to Barnes & Noble. And if you’d like to read the Dallas Morning News article, click here.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Helen Ginger is an avid reader who loves discovering interesting new books. She’s also a freelance editor, book consultant, blogger, and writer. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. In addition, her free ezine, Doing It Write!, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its tenth year of publication.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cowgirl Dreams by Heidi M. Thomas

Defying family and social pressure, Nettie Brady bucks 1920s convention with her dream of becoming a rodeo star. That means competing with men—at a time when cowgirls who ride the rodeo circuit are considered “loose women.” Addicted to the thrill of pitting her strength and wits against a half-ton steer in a rodeo, Nettie exchanges skirts for pants, rides with her brothers on their Montana ranch, and competes in neighborhood rodeos.



Broken bones, killer influenza, flash floods, and family hardship team up to keep Nettie from her dreams. Then she meets a young neighbor cowboy who rides broncs and raises rodeo stock. Will this be Nettie’s ticket to freedom and happiness? Will her rodeo dreams come true?



Raised on a ranch in isolated eastern Montana, Heidi Thomas has had a penchant for reading and writing since she was a child. A tidbit of family history, that her grandmother rode steers in rodeos during the 1920s, spurred Heidi to write a novel based on that grandmother’s life.


When I turned the last page of Cowgirl Dreams, I felt like I was saying good-bye to new-found friends. So, I was thrilled to learn Cowgirl Dreams is the first in a series about strong, independent Montana Women.


Based on the life of Heidi Thomas’s grandmother, a real Montana cowgirl, Cowgirl Dreams brings history to life and is a great gift idea for both adult and young adult readers.

---------------------------------
Charlotte Phillips is the co-author of the Eva Baum Detective Series, 2009 President for The Final Twist Writers Group and contributor to multiple blogs. Learn more about Charlotte and her books at:

MarkandCharlottePhillips.com

News, Views and Reviews Blog

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Notes from a Midnight Reader—Kathryn Craft



Scholastic; $6.99

It is a privilege to witness the birth of the career of a really good writer. So when the Blood-Red Pencil editors started tossing around the idea of sharing gift ideas, Jordan Sonnenblick sprang to mind. I met Jordan in 2003 when he was a middle school teacher and writing his first book, DRUMS, GIRLS & DANGEROUS PIE, on the side. Jordan says he was as surprised as anybody when the book took off: it received several starred reviews and was named to the American Library Association’s Teens’ Top Ten List.

Since then, the book has sold over 300,000 copies and been translated into eleven foreign languages. Jordan’s second novel, NOTES FROM THE MIDNIGHT DRIVER, was published in 2006, and was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. The Italian translation of NOTES won the prestigious Premio Cento prize and his third book, ZEN AND THE ART OF FAKING IT, was a BookSense Pick and a Family Circle Book of the Month. He has since written three middle grade books. His new YA title, AFTER EVER AFTER—the sequel to DRUMS—will be published in February by Scholastic.

Pretty cool, huh? He’s that good. I’ve read several of his books and loved them all.

My recommendation today, though, is NOTES FROM A MIDNIGHT DRIVER. I love the situation: a teen begs attention from his dysfunctional parents by taking his mother’s car, crashing it while driving drunk to the house of his father’s girlfriend (his third-grade teacher, no less), then slumping from the car only to puke on a cop’s shoes. For these unfortunate choices Alex, a jazz guitarist who is typically a good kid, must fulfill a most unusual community service: he must play companion to the Egbert P. Johnson Memorial Home for the Aged's most cantankerous resident, Solomon Lewis. Alex's voice is a hoot, yet the tone never downplays the serious situations—and the bond that grows between these two during the end stages of Sol’s life will touch readers both young and adult.

I recently spoke with Jordan about his work.

Kathryn: NOTES FROM THE MIDNIGHT DRIVER, among other things, is about the consequences of drunk driving. Your first book was about a character whose life is reeling from his little brother's cancer diagnosis. So you haven't shied away from the tougher situations teens might face today. Did you encounter any obstacles with your publishers about this subject matter? What kind of feedback have you gotten from your readers?

Jordan: I have to say, my publishers have been hugely supportive of my work and everything in it. In all honesty, when I started my first book (DRUMS, GIRLS AND DANGEROUS PIE), a lot of my friends thought I was nuts when I told them I was writing a funny book about childhood cancer. Once the book came out and sold really well, though, that all went away. Now my readers expect to laugh and cry when they pick up one of my books, and I would expect to hear criticism if I didn't deliver that high-intensity experience.

K: I love the reluctant relationship between Alec and crotchety Mr. Lewis, the patient he is "sentenced" to be a companion to. Did you have a relationship with an older person that was important to your own growth?

J: Oh, yes. Solomon Lewis's personality is completely modeled on the persona of my maternal grandfather. I adored Grampa Sol, but he had a biting wit and a flashing temper. I tried to capture both my grandfather's great warmth and his difficult side in the book, which was hard. You want to paint this flattering picture of a person you love so much, but part of his lovability was his crotchety nature.

K: Have the books you've written since then continued to explore difficult issues?

J: Well, all of my teen books have. I have also written the DODGER AND ME trilogy for elementary-school readers. Those books are considerably lighter.

K: I love the voices of your characters. Are they hard to come by?

J: No, I have absolutely no trouble regressing back to my teen self. In fact, when I got my first book advance, my wife congratulated me on finally putting my immaturity to good use. And I know she meant that in the warmest possible way!

K: You used to be around kids all the time as a middle school English teacher, but now you write full-time. Is it any harder to come up with characters and plot ideas now that you are shut away in an office?

J: So far, I've been okay in that regard. I would say the source of my inspiration has shifted, and that now maybe 60% of my stuff comes from my own children. The main trouble with being shut away in an office all day is that one has to be careful not to get hugely fat. Other than that, it's been all good!

K: Alex plays guitar, and your author photo shows you with a guitar. Can you really play it? Does your interest in music feed your creativity as a writer?

J: Yes, I can really play the guitar, bass and drums. I don't know if that feeds my writing, but I think all inspiration comes from the same place—whatever that is!

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Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com. Nurturing the birth of great literature is both her work and her joy. May you take time to read many good books in the upcoming holiday season!






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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hamilton Swoop Wizard of Green Ridge by L. Stewart Hearl


In Hamilton Swoop Wizard of Green Ridge, Hamilton is summoned to the Center City Wizard’s Guild, where he revisits his past, then discovers his amazing magical destiny. What can a powerless Wizard like Hamilton do about it?






Mr. Hearl is a freelance writer and has been published nationally as well as He writes a regular column for a local Mensa newsletter, InforMensa. Hamilton Swoop Wizard of Green Ridge is his first published novel. He owns several cats. None of them is named "Whiskers" and, he claims, none can "talk".


This entertaining read, written with both intelligence and humor, is appropriate for both adults and teens.


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Charlotte Phillips is the co-author of the Eva Baum Detective Series, 2009 President for The Final Twist Writers Group and contributor to multiple blogs. Learn more about Charlotte and her books at:

MarkandCharlottePhillips.com

News, Views and Reviews Blog

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gift Book Recommendation- One Small Victory


Here at the Blood Red Pencil, we are making recommendations for books that would make good holiday gifts. There have already been some good books introduced, and I have several that I will be reviewing later this month. It is much easier for me to rave about someone else’s book, than my own, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to introduce you to the book of my heart. One Small Victory

This story was inspired by a woman of great courage and I think readers will enjoy her story of victory.

SHORT SYNOPSIS

Life can change in just an instant. That's the harsh reality that Jenny Jasik faces when her son is killed in an automobile accident, but never in her wildest dreams did she ever expect to be working undercover as a member of a drug task force. She is, after all, just a mom. But don’t discount what a mom can do when the safety of her children is at stake.

REVIEW SNIPPETS

“One Small Victory is an amazing, heart pounding, emotional tale about one mother's love of her children, and the steps she takes to protect them from harm.” Jennifer Lawrence for Amazon.com **** FOUR STARS

“One Small Victory is great Romantic Suspense and a read you won't want to miss.” Victoria Kennedy, Midwest Book Reviews

“One Small Victory is not for the faint of heart, but it is an excellent, well-crafted novel. The tension is all pervasive, and heat, rage, sorrow, despair, and all-enveloping terror fill every page.” Carolyn Crisher for Romance Reviews Today

"A compelling read of a grieving mother's crusade to rid the streets of her home town of drugs, and those who lure our children into addiction." Laura Castoro, author of Icing on the Cake & Love on the Line

“One Small Victory is one huge win for author Maryann Miller and her readers. This is a novel that rings sadly true as readers follow a mother's journey from the depths of grief and loss through menacing territory ruled by street gangs and drug lords. Miller's done a masterful job of creating interesting, sometimes quirky but always believable characters and in weaving a story sure to be a favorite among lovers of mysteries and countless other genres.” Paula Stallings Yost, Editor/Author, What Wildness is This: Women Write About the Southwest, Editor, StoryCircleBookReviews,

“One Small Victory is a riveting journey through fear, love, and a woman's determination to make things better.”
Slim Randles, author of Sun Dog Days, Raven’s Prey and the syndicated humor column, Home Country.

"The writing is eloquent, and the story is well plotted, and I would recommend this book to anybody who is interested in crime novels and human drama." BCF Book Reviews

Special Holiday offer: The book can be ordered through my Website at a discount, and part of the proceeds will go to a woman’s rehab center in East Texas. Details HERE

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Posted by Maryann Miller, who hates to toot her own horn, but, hey, somebody’s got to.


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