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Showing posts from November, 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. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 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

Basic Proofreading Tips

Whatever you write – whether it is a manuscript, an article, a business letter, or advertising copy – will require some level of checking for accuracy before it is ready to be sent out. Different types of documents often have different requirements, for example a manuscript often needs editing in addition to proofreading, while an informal letter may only require a read-through for spelling and grammar errors, and advertisements may even break grammar rules for effect. Spelling If you’re mainly concerned about checking spelling, it can help to read your document backwards, checking one word at a time. This prevents you from skimming as you read and therefore missing errors because your brain is focused on the content. Break longer words into syllables and check that letters have not been transposed within each syllable. As readers, our brains have been coached into making assumptions to gain speed. Often we see only the first few letters of a word, recognise it, and move on – wi

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 tha

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

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 s

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 w

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 i n 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

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 t

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 th

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 gu

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 th

Inklings & 600 Hours of Edward

();} catch(e) {}" href=""> ();} catch(e) {}" href=""> 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 synd

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 includ

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.

Notes from a Midnight Reader—Kathryn Craft

Notes from the Midnight Driver By Jordan Sonnenblick 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. H

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. ---------------------------------------- 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

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

Notes from a NaNoWriMo Newbie

--> This is my first time participating in the National Novel Writing Month challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. Fifty thousand is a phrase to inspire fear and trepidation in any writer—unless you are a hard-core disciplinarian and write that much every month already. Break it down. How many words do I have to write in a day? 1,666—oooh, that’s a sinister number. A lot of words—yikes! How many pages is that? Maybe that’s a bite that easier to digest. If you go with the common estimate of 250 words per page, that's six and a half pages. Well, that doesn’t sound too bad, does it? But…some days I struggle to eke out a couple of pages to meet my deadline of meeting with my critique group. OK, all my objections aside, I signed up to help give myself a deadline, a virtual kick in the pants, and hopefully to develop a better daily writing discipline. So far, I haven’t met the daily goal, but I have been writing every day. That’s better than I was doing before! Maybe,