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Showing posts from November, 2013

Thanks and the Holidays

I have much to be thankful for this season including a healthy birthday, a lovely Thanksgiving Day, and a productive month of writing for NaNoWriMo. Let me take this moment to thank you, the Blood-Red Pencil readers, for joining us every day this past year and sharing your thoughts and feelings about the writing life. I'm grateful for the BRP blogging team. Because of your efforts, this blog has succeeded for over five years and has logged almost 1,500 interesting and relevant posts. You inspire me daily with your savvy views on writing, editing, and marketing books. Let's be friends forever! Starting on Monday and through the month of December, we'll be re-sharing some of our favorite posts from previous years. They truly deserve a repeat run. We all wish you the peace and joy of the holiday season and a pleasant slide into a new year. On a good book, of course! ~ Dani Greer/Chief Red Pencil

Gratitude and the Digital Age

This post was first published here on November 27, 2013. Prior to the invention of the Internet, writers holed up in their attics, alone and palely scribbling, fantasizing about an elusive publishing contract. They spent sunny afternoons deep in the bowels of libraries flipping through the card catalog and paging through thick reference books. Scribes developed callouses on their fingers. They sported perpetual ink stains from writing draft after draft on paper they wadded and tossed in bins. They longed for someone, anyone, to talk to about their passion. They were isolated introverts with impossible dreams, often in desperate need of a critique group or at least someone to help with plot snags or elusive titles. Then some smarty pants invented the electric typewriter, which led to the personal computer, which led to the Internet. Writers were able to research from the comfort of their living rooms while still in their bathrobes. They could draft and revise a hundred ti

Thankful for Books

I am thankful every day for many wonderful things in my life. But during this special season of Thanksgiving, I want to focus on thankfulness for books. I am thankful my dad was an avid reader and passed that love to me. I’m thankful for the bookmobile, the libraries and the bookstores that have provided me with wonderful avenues of adventure throughout my life. And, I’m thankful for the gift I’ve been given to write books. I’d like to share a few of Marketing guru John Kremer’s 32 Great Reasons to Read a Book: • To escape your normal life. • To travel to real destinations. • To explore new worlds.  • To imagine more than you could on your own • To dream a new life. • To know more than you could learn on your own. • To learn what you don’t know. • To learn what you do know. • To discover something extraordinary. • To meet incredible characters. What are some of your reasons to read? A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in North-central Arizona. Her fi

Chameleon Characters

Photo by William Warby , via Flickr In the animal kingdom, chameleons are noteworthy for being able to change color in response to their environment. This makes the word chameleon an apt metaphor to denote that specialized class of Fantasy characters whose moral priorities and personal loyalties are (or appear to be) in a state of flux throughout the story. If you’re a Fantasy writer, having a chameleon in your cast list is like having a wild card up your sleeve in a poker game. I.e., it can really liven things up when the chips are down. To begin with, the chameleon often has a touch of “the alien” about him. 1 He may be racially distinctive (one lone dwarf in a company of elves); he may come from a suspect place on the map (a Southron merchant visiting Minas Tirith), or he might belong (or might once have belonged) to a socially dubious caste or profession (a former imperial inquisitor who claims to have renounced his past). Whatever the nature of his “difference”, h

Dashing Off A Note About Ages

Graphic courtesy of stock.xchng Hello again, dearies! Having just enjoyed a birthday, your Style Maven is inspired to discuss age. Not my own mind you; Heavens, no. What we’re going to discuss today is the fact that while age is only a number (usually unlisted), it’s terribly important to write that number correctly. When age is included in a description, how does one hyphenate? More to the point, should a hyphen be used at all? As usual, it boils down to usage. Since we’re all of an age (and quite clever enough) to learn by example, I’m going to show you when and how age terms should be hyphenated. Raise your hand once you catch on; you’re sure to pick it up straight away. When I was twenty years of age, I purchased a five-year-old coat in a vintage shop. A collection of thirty- to forty-year-old hats was found in the costume closet. These shoes are three years old, but still very chic. A six-year-old often has a unique sense of fashion. Are you

When a House Is Like a Book

The DH and I have been in the process of getting our house in order, a project long overdue. He's the kind of guy who's deathly averse to change. I'm usually immersed in writing and promoting, and don't expend much energy on keeping the house in shape. Something set off a signal in my brain. Suddenly, I became disgusted with the state of our house. I had to make changes or go crazy, despite my husband's protests to leave well enough alone. Before the necessary task of moving the furniture, what was inside everything had to be removed and put somewhere else. Some of the items we plucked out may find their way back to where they were before, while others will be donated or thrown away. The walls are now painted, but nothing can go back to its proper place until the carpeting is installed. What does this have to do with writing? Some of you may have already guessed. Improving a house is very like editing a book. Sometimes an author can become complacent, un

Gratitude Attitude Revisited

How do I thank thee? Let me count the ways… (apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning) Here’s my “thank-you” list of all those who have helped me get my books out. Please share yours. • Beta readers • Editors • Cover designers • Book designers • Printers • Publicists • Readers • Fellow editors on BRP • Fellow authors on BRP • Commenters on BRP • Family and friends who grant time and space • All who encourage and support writing efforts • Anyone who brings a glass of cold water or cup of hot chocolate or fixes a meal Planting the seeds of a story, cultivating them through the arduous writing process, thinning them after editing storms, and harvesting them onto the printed pages hot off the press — this is what writing a book is all about. While it may grow out of long hours of lonely work, it is not a work that’s accomplished alone. Many or all the above people likely played a role in helping that seedling grow and blossom into a glorious flower. Writing a book is

Word Play

A friend of mine sent me a Word Play list three years ago. While searching for something else, I came across it in my computer and thought I'd share it. Whether you're a writer, reader, or editor (or all three), enjoy this Play on Words. The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational one year invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are the winners: • Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time. • Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an a-hole. • Intaxicaton: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with. • Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly. • Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the n

Story Ideas Come From the Strangest Places

Some writers get their story ideas from reading newspaper items or hearing things on the news, especially us we mystery writers. Others get theirs from dreams. One of my writer friends dreams an entire story every night then gets up and writes it. I hate her. I really do. Okay, maybe I don't hate her, but I really, really am jealous. My dreams are so fragmented, I could never pull a story together. Not to mention the fact that it would entail remembering the dream. Kudos to those who can, but not this lady. Anyway, my friend, and frequent guest here, Slim Randles, shared a most unique way to get a story idea. When Jim Kennedy uses his big backhoe, a crowd usually gathers. He's an artist, you see. He runs his massive-toothed monster gouging holes in the backyards of his neighbors, putting in their pipes and even the occasional swimming pool, and does it with the grace of a surgeon.  At Bud McFarland's place the other day, he was there to install Bud's new

When Your Story Takes a Vacation - 5 Ways to Cope

This is probably not the time to talk about this subject, especially while so many people are busy working on NaNoWriMo projects, but we have to face it: sometimes, the writing won’t come. There are some writing experts that will tell you to write through this moment to get back to the story. I’m not really a fan of that suggestion because it can lead to a lot of frustration and negative feelings when/if the story continues to stall. Writing is mental; it’s also physical, emotional, psychological, and for many people, spiritual. When problems arise in one or more of these cogs, writing can stall. Sure, you can push your way through and perhaps suffer agitation, frustration, and anxiety over the lack of writing. However, you can also tell yourself, IT’S OK, and work in other areas to keep your creative juices flowing and ready for when your story returns. So, what can you do when the story packs its bags and flees? Here are a few suggestions. Play with your characters .

Countdown to a Book 14: Pre-sales

You only have one opportunity to create “buzz” about your book, and you don’t want to squander it. The hope is to create enough excitement about your release so that it explodes from the gate. My gate opens—hopefully with a bang—less than three months from now, on January 28. Pre-sales As you can see by the number “14” applied to this monthly post, I’ve already been creating buzz for The Art of Falling for some time now. So much so that every now and then—when people say, “Didn’t that already come out?”—I have to remind them that the bees haven’t already fled the hive! Once you get fully invested readers to pre-order, however, you can stop worrying about that. Now that pre-orders are live and the final copyedits complete, my evolving author website devotes two pages to my novel.  The first  shows the cover, a brief synopsis, trade review praise and blurbs, and—for the first time—debuts the opening chapter. If the reader is favorably impressed, she need do no more

Actor to Writer

Taken during my summer in England, 2012. I never thought my training and experience as an actor would be of much use outside a theatre. Certainly my family thought so. Announcing one is going to pursue an acting career garners the same response as announcing the wish to write novels: "But, what are you going to do as a real job?" As an actor I spent years (and I do mean  years ) getting inside other people's heads. I've played career-driven women, women with relationship issues, women hungry for power and women looking for love. I've even played a man with emotional troubles; the psychiatrist, Martin Dysart, in Peter Schaffer's classic play  Equus . I learned a myriad of dialogue rhythms, from comedic to tragic to Shakespearean. I honed my comedy. I discovered how people react to different situations and how to portray that (both emotionally and physically) on stage. As a director I had to 'look at the whole board' (to quote one

Grammar ABCs: X Marks the Spot, a Placeholder

"Work, the what's-its-name of the thingummy and the thing-um-a-bob of the what d'you-call-it."—P.G. Wodehouse, Psmith, Journalist A placeholder is what a writer puts in when she can’t think of the right line or idea at the moment. Placeholders can be a useful tool when you are making that mad dash through your first draft, especially during November’s NaNoWriMo challenge. How often do you get bogged down when you stop to try to think of just the right word or phrase? How many times do you make a detour to the Internet to search for that word or phrase and get further derailed by blogs, articles or that “ding” that signals you have a Facebook message? Well, turn off everything but your word processing program and remember “placeholders.” You can use a placeholder when you can’t remember what you named the heroine’s fifth child ten  chapters ago. “When he saw the huge shadow looming, Little Whosit dropped his books on the ground and ran.” You don’t need to take

A Month of Writing Intent

I've done it for five years. I'm doing it again this year. For one solid month, for 30 running days, I will focus my attention and intent on writing a long piece of fiction. A story. A novel. Not blogging. Not editing. Not all the other running-words-together writing I do. I will focus on writing a book and I will do it by joining 200,000 or more other writers participating in NaNoWriMo a.k.a. National Novel Writing Month . And I will do it first thing every morning, crapping out 1,667 - 2,500 words before I do another thing. I will not care if it's crap. I will write. I will write fiction. I will create a world. I will create characters. They will do stuff. To each other. To me. And maybe, some sweet day, to you. I am already starting to get nervous. My palms are sweaty. My heart is beating faster. Freakout! How about you? Are you revved up for NaNoWriMo? Does a group effort like this excite you? Propel? Inspire? Leave us your NaNo handle i