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Showing posts from July, 2011


I have an author in mind for my Hearing Voices series here at the Blood-Red Pencil, and when I approached her about an interview and to get a copy of her newest book, she asked me if I could use NetGalley for the review copy. What? I hadn't heard of it, but the explanation sounded good to me. NetGalley delivers secure, digital galleys to professional readers. If you are a reviewer, blogger, journalist, librarian, bookseller, educator, or in the media, you can use NetGalley for FREE to read and request titles before they are published. So I went to the NetGalley website, signed up, and requested her manuscript from the publisher. In short order, I received a notice in my email that the manuscript was ready for download. I followed the directions, and soon had a pdf to read on my computer! It was that simple Of course I signed up to receive NetGalley e-letters and notifications of new publishers and the titles they are offering in digital format. I was also pleased to

An Out-of-the-Ordinary Contest

May Sarton with painting and live photo Our theme this month is "out-of-the-ordinary" and I have a list as long as my arm of people and organizations in the publishing world that fit the theme. Today I'll share the new May Sarton Memoir Award , a project of the Story Circle Network , a memoir-writing group for women. We've talked about SCN before, and founder, Susan Wittig Albert, is an occasional guest at the Blood-Red Pencil. The award is her brain child, and is yet another tool the organization uses to foster "lifewriting" for women. We all have stories to tell, and there are many reasons to tell them. The Sarton award is meant for women who have taken their stories to the ultimate goal - publication. I don't think we've discussed writing awards here, but they are an important part of the publishing world and book promotion. The process of choosing award winners is also an important, sometimes complicated, and often time-consuming process.

From Out of the Ordinary to Extraordinary

From Jules Verne to Gene Roddenberry, from J.R.R. Tolkien to J.K. Rowling, readers have been enticed, engaged, and enthralled by science fiction and fantasy. The imaginary worlds, incredible beings, and exotic plots that fill these popular genres transport the reader from his everyday experience to a place where he can consider familiar ideas anew. Ironically, yesterday’s fiction has on occasion become today’s reality. And to its credit, some recent fantasy has made readers out of youngsters who previously had not opened the cover of any book they were not forced to read. Why? Harry Potter, et al., were definitely out of the ordinary . What if you aren't a fantasy or science fiction writer, and you choose to set your story in the real world? Does this mean you are out of the game when it comes to "out of the ordinary"? Absolutely not! For this discussion, I'd like to focus on self-published and independently published books. Reason: Among the hundreds of thousands of

The Mis-pronouncables

I recently read through a thread in the “Word Nerds” group on LinkedIn and wanted to share some of these funny stories. It started with one commenter saying that every time she sees the word “misled,” her eyes single out the “isle” first, causing her to pronounce the word as “mild.” Others chimed in with “mizzled” or “missiled.” Another wrote that when she delivered a high school speech for class, she pronounced indict as in-dickt instead of in-dite. My husband had the same problem with “elicit” (E-lissit), pronouncing it e-lickt. The word I remember puzzling over when I was a new reader was “doughnut.” I had apparently just learned that words like “enough” were pronounced with the “f” sound. So, I went to my dad and asked, “What is a duff-nut?” Someone else remembered a "sermon my pastor gave in the young life of our startup church. He went on and on about the facade we put on for others. Only he used a hard "c" every time. FACK-aid.” Apparently, 20 years later, he stil

Birth of a Fantasy Novel – Part 2

Yesterday, we posted the first part of an interview with fantasy writer S. K. Randolph , author of The Dimensioner's Revenge . Today, as Paul Harvey would have said, we have the rest of the story. 5. What is your goal with this book? Borderline dyslexia created some early stumbling blocks for me as a reader. When these challenges were overcome in fifth grade, the miracle of reading opened up a whole new world. Books provided an escape, a place to learn new things, and an avenue for exploring life in wonderful ways. My goal is to entice young people to read, to keep reading, and to get out from in front of the computer. With that vision in mind, I wrote The DiMensioner’s Revenge , the story of four young people and the impact life has on them—the lessons they learn and what they discover about themselves during a birthday adventure gone awry. As a former educator, I could not help providing life lessons, but my hope is that they are a natural part of the growth of the characters rat

Birth of a Fantasy Novel – Part 1

For almost eight years, S.K. Randolph worked on her debut fantasy novel, The DiMensioner’s Revenge . This month (July 2011), it went to press. Her dream became a reality. A few days ago, I asked her about the long process that culminated in the publication of her book, which will be available after August 1. Her candid responses may be both helpful and encouraging to many writers who visit Blood Red Pencil. 1. When did the idea for The DiMensioner’s Revenge come to you, and when did you begin writing? Since I read my first science fiction/fantasy novel, I have wanted to create my own world, my own universe, my own creatures and characters. A trip to New York City eight years ago left me thinking about kids playing in the streets and in concrete school yards. What if—somewhere in the depths of a city—a magic portal would transport children to a place where they could explore and play, a place with forests and mountains, a barn filled with animals, and a garden. As I began exploring th

Editors have questions, too

Some time ago in a discussion in our office - the list where we BRP contributors take care of the business of keeping the blog running smoothly and providing the best tips and advice we can share - one of our editors asked, "How many of you build your Word dictionary to include oft-used words? How many of you use Spell Check on manuscripts? How many of you run through common passive words before you read the manuscript?" Some of the answers reflect how we approach this as editors, as well as when we are writing something original. MARYANN: I add words to my dictionary all the time, especially character names so I make sure they are spelled the same way throughout the manuscript. In my own work I have a tendency to spell last names differently. My editor caught that in my last book, thank goodness, so now I make sure I have the name in the dictionary. DANI: I have Spell Check turned on and I notice that many manuscripts come to me with misspelled words. Apparently, the writer

Reflecting on Grammar (and other stuff)

Once again please welcome Terry Odell for another guest post. Since I'm back at intensive writing, and doing critiques for my writers group, I find my reading for pleasure moves deeper into edit mode as well. Most of these things have no effect on plot or storytelling, but they're things that slow my read. I wonder if anyone else notices or even cares. I don't begin to consider myself a grammar guru, although I had a lot of basics pounded into my head by Miss Cook in junior high, and Mr. Holtby in high school. Lately, I've noticed that some of these lessons don't seem to matter anymore. Or else copy editors had different teachers. Our language is fluid, and constantly changing (my agent said the comma before "too" is no longer required and made me remove all of them which still waves red flags for me), so I wonder if there are other memos I've missed. Of course, even if you get the memos, they're not written in stone, as my editor went and put back

Critique Speak

Many of the manuscripts I edit would have benefitted from review by a critique group. Maybe you don’t trust your peers—after all, the individuals who make up such a group may have no more experience than you do. But as practiced readers, each can contribute something of use, and as I wrote in my Friday post , the better the shape your manuscript is in, the more an editor can help you achieve your vision. But first you have to learn critique speak, a nondescript mode of communication in which what people say is not always what they really mean. Example One Critiquers told one of my clients, “You need to start with an establishing shot.” Establishing shots are used in the movies all the time: the camera pans mementos in a room, the streets of a town, or, from a helicopter shot, a protagonist lost deep in thought on a cross-country bus ride. Anyone who’s hung around modern writing instructors knows that such openings are passé. So why would her critique partners tell her such a thing, and

That book was edited?

“That book was awful. Where was the editor in the process?” Have you ever wondered that? Almostvoid has, according to a comment he left at our last Ask the Editor Free-for-all . Editing is a collaborative business. For any book, the editor is only a part of the process. And especially in this world of independently published books, the editing can be buried deep. So deep that there have been times, when an author has thanked me in the acknowledgments, I've wondered what they were thanking me for. I won’t pretend that the days of Maxwell Perkins will return, where an editor will see potential in a rough book from a guy like F. Scott Fitzgerald and then carefully hone and develop it. Here is my ideal of how the editing process can look: 1) self-editing through numerous drafts 2) developmental editing, round 1 3) developmental editing, round 2 4) line edit 5) proofread And this is the process before you submit to agents and editors. Unfortunately, today, steps 2 through 5 will cos

10 Reasons Writers Might Drink

There's that stereotype out there that we writers are a hard-drinkin' lot. This may not be completely true, but here are 10 occurrences that might tempt you to slurp from the nearest bottle. 10. You've written the same scene not twice but four times. 9. You've written three afternoons in the same day. 8. Your vegetarian character is tucking hungrily into a steak dinner. 7. You have six characters' names all starting with the same letter. 6. You're sure you've finished polishing your manuscript. Sure. Positively, absolutely sure. Then you see the phrase " this writing sucks, this writing sucks " mid-way down page 53. 5. No one told you writing takes time and discipline. It's like...a job . 4. Your happily-married pair of characters spend the entire book fighting. 3. You spent 2 hours at your laptop. You wrote 1 sentence worth keeping. 2. You're stare resentfully at the thick volumes lining your bookshelves as "How did they manage to do

The Idea Store

“Where do you get your ideas?” All writers recognize that question. I always want to answer, “At the Idea Store.” This sounds snarky, but there actually is such a thing. It’s called Conversation. It’s dangerous to talk to a writer. All my friends and family now know this. You never can tell when something you say off-the-cuff, some insignificant little remark, might set off a creative spark in the writer’s mind, and woof! Off they go into Creator-Land, and you’ll find your throwaway sentence suddenly transformed into something wild and wooly and utterly different than you intended. Writers must be on guard for those glittery images that zip past you and run off down the road, never to return, if you’re not listening. Some of your best writing topics might be lurking in the meandering blabber of your neighbor, your Aunt Matilda, or the snarky office gossip-monger. My favorite example of this phenomenon is a short story I wrote over 20 years ago. It’s called "Miss Maud and the Thr

It's Leave A Tip on the Blood-Red Pencil Day!

It's Leave a Tip Day again at the Blood-Red Pencil. Today, as every second Tuesday of the month, we invite you to be a good neighbor and share a writing tip. We're all at different levels - beginner, intermediate, advanced. No matter where you are in the writing spectrum, you're welcome to contribute. Pick a tip that helped you, no matter how obvious or how convoluted it may seem. Your tips can pertain to writing, publishing, or editing, and can be about any format or venue, traditional, indie, self-publishing. To share, you need only leave the tip in the comment section. You may also leave one website or blogspot URL, in case a reader would like to know more about you. When you comment, if you wish, you may tell us where you've heard about this blog. My tip for today is: If you want others to read your book when it's done, somewhere along the line you'll have to figure out your target audience. For more on this topic, you may wish to see http://acmeauthorslink.

Knowing Your Editor's Editing Philosophy

Less than two weeks ago, Dani Greer published a short post titled " Who Is Your Editor? " The question, for me, begged another: why is your editor "your editor"? And that question made me think about why I edit. Here's the fairly short answer. I edit because I'm a teacher and I love to impart knowledge. For me, editing is not about receiving a manuscript with errors and returning that manuscript error-free, pristine, and perfect, like the manuscript is on an assembly line and I'm merely perfecting it before it's boxed and shipped to a consumer. When I edit, my goal is to teach something, to explain to a client why I made the changes I did or why I suggest s/he rewrite heavily then resubmit for editing. My goal is to edit and to explain how/why I edit the way I do. The result of this, and this has 100% always been the case with repeat clients, is the second book is so much stronger than the first book was when it was submitted for editing. This

Cues from the Coach: Economy of Words

Example One Maria stepped off the bus and looked around. The employment agency should have been right there, but she didn’t see it. Turning one way and then the other, she stared up and down the street, her gaze pausing at a pet shop window near the bus stop. A puppy watched her through the glass, its tail wagging its smile. Forcing her mind back to her dilemma, she rummaged vainly through her purse for the piece of paper she had written the address on. Shaking her head, she tried to remember where it might be and then smacked her palm against her forehead; it must still be by the telephone. She looked at her watch. Her appointment was in less than five minutes, but she wouldn’t be there because she couldn’t even recall the name of the agency. With the back of her hand, she wiped away the tears in her eyes. Then she turned around and sank down on the bench at the bus stop. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered anymore. She wouldn’t have gotten the job anyway. She never did. Example Two M

Who Are You Hanging Out With?

Many writers I know, myself included, seem to gravitate towards other writers, particularly online. I belong to several writers’ forums, a challenge group, and a critique group, subscribe to writing newsletters, friend writers on Facebook, and write for writers here and on my own website. And the support and fellowship of other writers is important and valuable. However, it can become a drawback if you’re hanging out with other writers to the exclusion of your potential readers. Yes, writers do read, and they do buy books. And they might be easier to convince to order your book from an indie bookstore. But few writers have unlimited funds and if all writers on a forum are marketing their books to each other, only a few have a chance of being bought. A few years ago I joined a parenting forum where the values and philosophy of the members matched my own. At the time I was just looking for advice and support through my pregnancy and early parenting journey, and then gradually I was

Time out for a little fun

Maybe someone should invent an early detection system for gullible writers. Sirens and whistles would go off the next time we’re approached by a big talker who sweeps into our life with enough patter to sell vacuums to Kirby salespeople. You know the people I mean. The blowhards who convince us that we’re on our way to stardom and incredible riches because they recognized our talent and are ready to make great things happen. We see these people at conferences or any other place where writers gather. They’re surrounded by a crowd of rapt admirers who cling to every gilded word like barnacles on a boat. I am not too proud to admit that I’ve been suckered in. There’s the film director I met at a writer’s conference who was going to hand-carry my screenplay to the biggest producers in Hollywood. I should’ve realized that if he really had that kind of clout, he wouldn’t be in Houston, TX taking money from a bunch of starry-eyed scriptwriters. But he just smothered my ability to reason i

Enjoy Your Independence at Ask the Editor Free-For-All

Yesterday was Independence Day for the United States of America. In this exciting day and age, with so many choices of where and how to get published, everyday can be an independence day for authors no matter where you live. Despite the vast opportunities now available, one criteria doesn't change. We still need to write the best book we can. That's not easy, especially if we get stuck on a point and don't know where to turn for advice. That's where Ask the Editor Free-For-All comes in. How Ask the Editor Free-For-All Works: Today, as in every first Tuesday of the month, our editors are here to answer your questions and and help you achieve your potential of true independence. I send e-mail blasts to e-groups, Facebook, other social networks, blogs, everywhere I know, inviting writers to ask questions. Our editors answer, dispensing valuable tips on writing basics, manuscript submission to publishers or agents, self-publishing, and more. To Submit A Question, Follow The

Grammar ABCs: C is for Comma

The comma is the most common punctuation mark inside sentences. Although they seem to be thrown by the wayside more and more these days, a simple comma can change the meaning of a sentence entirely as in: The July 2nd Thursday meeting will be held … Is it on July 2 or the second Thursday? Commas are used to separate complete sentences connected by a coordinating conjunction: and, but, for, because . The bat is a nocturnal animal, and it sleeps during the day . I thought I could stay up all night, but I fell asleep about 4 a.m. The comma should not follow the and or but (such as T he bat is a nocturnal animal and, it sleeps during the day .) The only time I let that one slide is occasionally in dialogue if the speaker is pausing for effect: “He is a completely self-centered man, and, he is a jerk.” However, there are better ways to show this. Use a comma to set off most introductory phrases. A simple definition of a Phrase: A word group that lacks either a subject or a predicate or b