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Showing posts from July, 2014

Perfecting the Craft of Writing

Humorist Slim Randles is back with an update on how Dud, the writer among the folks who hang out at the Mule Barn Truck Stop, is progressing with his novel. Dud is always trying to improve his craft. Dud Campbell, our resident would-be novelist, was busy on his day off. Anita watched him excitedly as he removed something from the box that had arrived. It was a CD. And it was something he hadn’t asked her about. Sometimes Dud just did things like that. So here, on his day off, Dud was walking around the yard wearing ear buds and talking to himself. Anita opened the window and listened. “Low,” Dud said. “Hi,” said his wife. Dud grinned. “No Honey, I said low, because low is French for water.” “We’re going to France?!!!” “Well, no. It’s an experiment I’m doing for the book . I think maybe what the book needs is a touch of sophistication, you see. So I’m trying to find out what language the duchess might speak.”  The Book, seven years in the crafting … so fa


Photo by Andre Chinn , via Flickr Firsts are exciting. They’re the things you remember forever, right? I was racking my brain, trying to think what I wanted my first post for Blood-Red Pencil to be about. Should I write about my self-publishing experiences? How I’ve been writing since I was 10? The pitfalls I’ve encountered or the tricks that keep me from getting writer’s block? Or should I write about Romance and the beauty of genre fiction? While I was contemplating all this, a first of epic proportions happened. It was a first that could change everything. I knew I had to write about that. Because on Saturday, July 26 th , a novel called Off the Edge by Carolyn Crane became the first self-published novel to win a RITA award. That’s right, a self-published novel just won a major industry award. So why is this important? Why is it important for you? Obviously, when a self-published novel is judged by two rounds of peer readers to be the very best in its sub-genre, it sends

Little Fixes - Your Turn

Those of you who follow the blog regularly know that I have a penchant for finding little things in writing that are awkward and pull me out of the story. So often I wish the author and/or editor had taken one last pass through a manuscript and smoothed some of the rough edges. I first wrote about my obsess... er, interest in those little problems back in October 2007 here at The Blood Red Pencil. Wow, we've been doing this a long time. But I digress. The title of that older post is Things That Drive an Editor Crazy , and not everyone has agreed with my critique. That's okay. We don't have to agree on everything, and one of the nice things about this blog is that we are all constantly learning if we keep ourselves open to new ideas and other opinions. Today, just for fun, I thought I would turn the editing over to you, our readers. The following are some bits of writing that made me stop reading because I found them awkward. Why don't you try a rewrite on one or t

Remember the Reader

Today we have a guest post from Roy Faubion, a Texas writer who does a newspaper column Ponderations From the Back Porch that is published in a couple of small town newspapers. Roy has been a journalist for many years, and finally settled into this once-in-a-while offering that he shares occasionally with readers at my blog, It's Not All Gravy . I thought this piece was particularly interesting and had a message for writers as well as entertainers. Enjoy.... “I am the star; therefore I am the most important person here tonight," declared the diva as she expressed her feelings of herself, the Grand Lady of the opera.  Standing in the wings, listening to the orations of the presenter and his magnificent introduction of her, she smiled with the confidence developed over the years by the pampering of her managers and the adoration of music lovers of several continents. Responding to her remarks, the stage manager gritted his teeth and said, "No one is more important t

Prologue and Epilogue

I’ve seen a lot of questions about using prologue and epilogue lately in forums. I’ve heard many an agent or panelist at a conference say: cut them, period! There is some truth to that. However, I’ve seen both done well. This rule is often broken to effect, particularly in Literary, Fantasy, and Thriller and Suspense genres. The prologue gives background information to the story that would give the reader insight that helps the story move along that is not found within the story itself. An author might add a prologue to help the story flow more smoothly by getting in information that would be clumsily delivered otherwise. The epilogue is the opposite. It helps tie up loose ends or possibly hint about a sequel or continuation of the series. An author could add an epilogue to entice the reader into buying the next book in a series or provide resolution by telling us how the characters end up further down the timeline. There are multiple ways to use prologue and epilogue.

Similar, But Not the Same

Camilla Franks at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, photo by Eva Rinaldi , via Flickr The other day when I was at church I couldn't help noticing that two women sitting apart from each other wore the same floral patterned top. After a second look, I realized that actually one of them wore a pull-over blouse, while the other had on a short-sleeved cardigan. What could this discovery have to do with writing? Well, some authors get the notion that others steal their ideas. In some cases, that might be true. However, in many, it's not. According to British journalist and author, Christopher Booker, in his book, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories ,   there are only seven basic storylines. Wikipedia  lists them along with examples, of which I've provided one for each. 1. Overcoming the Monster - James Bond 2. Rags to Riches -   Cinderella 3. The Quest -   The Wizard of Oz 4. Voyage and Return - Odyssey 5. Comedy - A Midsummer Night's Dream

32 Reasons to Read a Good Book

From John Kremer's blog , Tips on Marketing Books and E-books , here are 32 great reasons to read more books. Please share. To escape your normal life. To travel to real destinations. To explore new worlds. To imagine more than you could on your own. To understand something new. To understand something old. To connect with the author. To connect with other readers. To dream a new life. To compare dreams, realities, and in-between. To laugh and enjoy. To deepen your understanding and insight. 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. To build a larger vocabulary. To cry after a great read. To be entertained by a great story. To relax with a great storyteller. To stimulate thought. To grow your spirit. To find motivation to do more. To go on a great adventure. To learn how others live or have lived. To expand your horizons.

Narrative Voices - Part Two: Third Person Limited

Photo by Ryan Wick , via Flickr As noted in my previous post , in First Person narration, the angle of vision is “single-track”. The central character is also the story-teller who addresses the reader directly, uses first person pronouns for self-reference, and recounts events in his/her own words. In Third Person limited narration, the angle of vision is similarly “single-track”. There is only one focal character, and our access to plot developments in channeled through his/her personal perceptions, experiences, and discoveries. But there the similarity ends. In Third Person Limited narration, the focal character is being viewed through a telescope wielded by the author. And this makes a Critical Difference. In Third Person Ltd. Narration, the character is oblivious to the fact that he/she is under observation. Meanwhile, the author plays the role of an on-the-scenes reporter operating under cover. Like a Nato observer, he/she uses third person pronouns when reporting n

Connect Those Dots

Every now and then, there's a scene that absolutely refuses to get from opening to closing in a straightforward fashion. When I was working on a scene for Danger in Deer Ridge , I had my starting plot points, there were only two characters in the scene (and one was asleep for most of it), and I had a reasonable idea of where it should end. As I worked on it, however, it was more like a connect-the-dots picture, but without any numbers telling you where the next dot should be. This scene happened to be one of my few ventures into the villain's POV. It's only the second time he's been on the page, so I wanted to show what kind of a man he was in a little more depth, as well as reveal some points that would heighten the tension. And, as I was writing, it turned out he was a lot nastier than I'd first thought. My plot points for this single-scene chapter: Bad guy is having an affair. He's thinking about breaking it off. He's looking for something he th

Villains Are People Too

A line in a recent review of one of my books gave me the idea for this blog post. “I loved the way in which even the so-called unsavory characters have been endowed with humane and just feelings.” Villains in mysteries, thrillers, and suspense novels are many times more important than the hero and heroine. Antagonists drive the story, create the suspense, and put the main characters at risk. The worse they are, the more tense the story. We want our readers to turn the pages as fast as they can, but if they don’t feel the hero or heroine is threatened, that their life is on the line, we probably haven’t written a memorable villain. However writers craft their villains, we have to be careful. The reviewer who prompted this post wasn’t talking about the true villain in my book Threads , an unrepentant psychopath, evil through and through. He is a rare character for me. I like to imbue my bad guys or gals with characteristics that make the reader care about them; otherwise, they beco

Collector's Items

Another lovely day in La-La Land, dearies. Just in case your area, like the Midwest, is enjoying the remarkably non-July-ish weather, I’ll keep this brief so you can skip outside to play. Our topic for today is the mass noun . No, this isn’t a sermon; we’re talking about noncount nouns, those little words that denote uncountable concepts. These nouns fall into two categories: abstract ( trendiness, comfort) and collective ( the paparazzi, the staff ). The interesting thing about mass nouns is how they are paired with verbs. In essence, this boils down to location, location, location. In American English, most mass nouns receive the singular treatment, and are paired with a singular verb. The audience was bored by the uninspired offerings of the fashion show. On the other side of the pond, British English allows for singular or plural treatment. The whole family was stunned by Mother’s makeover . Also, the paparazzi were staggeringly rude again. There are certain mass

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - The Original Handwritten Manuscript

Shelley, M. ( 1816 ). " Frankenstein - Draft Notebook A ", in The Shelley-Godwin Archive , c. 56, fol. 1v . Retrieved from The Shelley-Godwin Archive Transcription from Shelley, M. ( 1816 ). " Frankenstein - Draft Notebook A ", in The Shelley-Godwin Archive , c. 56, fol. 1v . Retrieved from The Shelley-Godwin Archive If you have a spare hour or ninety, have a browse through the Beta version of the Shelley-Godwin Archive , a project to make available in digital format the handwritten manuscripts of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley, William Godwin, and Mary Wollstonecraft. So far only Frankenstein has been scanned, but that's plenty to get excited about (well, for us editors, anyway). You can read the entire manuscript online, together with the transcription and highlighting of Percy Shelley's edits and alterations to Mary Shelley's text. It's an opportunity to examine a classic author's writi

Are You an Advocate for Yourself or a Jack of All Trades?

Image by Ryan Ritchie , via Flickr Let’s face it: being an author isn’t a simple, one-task job. Similar to that of a wage earner/wife/mother (or the male counterpart), it requires expertise in multiple fields. Exactly what all does a writer need to be? We can begin with researcher, organizer, storyteller, grammarian, developmental editor, content editor, proofreader, marketer, publicist, PR person, distributor, and the list goes on. Oh, yes, this includes learning the formats/skills required by these diverse professions. Remember that being a jack of all trades also implies being a master of none. Yet we are counseled to learn our craft. How can we do that without acquiring the expertise needed to fulfill all the “jobs” included under the “successful author” umbrella? We can become advocates for ourselves. One dictionary defines advocacy as the act of supporting something, and who can support us better than we can? After all, we have the most to gain—and the most to lose. Howev


How many of you are self-publishing your work? If you're getting it printed yourself, how are you doing it? Using a local printing company? Using Lightning Source? Going Print On Demand? Despite the emergence of e-books, a lot of writers still want their book in print. Now that's doable since we're into a new era of publishing. More and more authors are "doing it themselves". This is especially true when it comes to e-books. But it's also true for those who want to publish a print book. Putting your book into print is not all that difficult to do anymore. Admittedly, it takes time and the formatting can be a bit arduous. You can make it easier, though. We're now in a new era of publishing. Some of us are adapting and participating. Some are kicking and screaming. Either way, we're now in a new world of publishing. The good news is that the formatting is pretty basic. Whether you publish through Smashwords or Lightning Source or wherever,

Playing With Words

Humorist Slim Randles is our guest today with a bit of non.. er, fun from his friend, Windy, who sure does like to mess with words a bit. The Literacy Tree On a good, warm Saturday morning, you have your choice here in our valley: yard saling or livestock saling. Since Windy didn’t have much of a need to rummage through stacks of doilies or record albums starring Patti Page or the Kingston Trio , he headed for the sale barn. You see, Alphonse “Windy” Wilson doesn’t have a ranch or farm.  No, Windy was trolling for an audience. He tried the coffee shop, but there were just two ranchers there, and they were in an intense conversation. He walked around through the waiting pens, and it was there he saw the kids. There were three of them, teenage boys, chatting with each other, wearing hats and boots. Leaning on shovels. Windy knew what their jobs had to be and figured them as good audience fodder. “Shore is a flamtastic kinda day, ain’t it boys?” Windy said, maneuvering so th

Whoosh...That was my deadline!

Image by Joshua Kopel , via Flickr Time was when I always met my deadlines, even when I was writing four books a year and had a part-time job. My latest 3 or 4 books have all been turned in late. My work-in-progress, the 24th Daisy Dalrymple mystery (Superfluous Women) was due June 1st. My editor will be happy if I get it to him by the end of July. We both have our fingers crossed. I have an excuse. I have multiple excuses. The most fundamental is the length of the series. After 21 books, I've run through a great many of the possible permutations of plot, character, motive, mode of death, and so on. One of the difficulties of a series such as Daisy's is finding new reasons for her to become involved in investigating murder, and ways to get her husband, DCI Alec Fletcher, on the case. The longer the series grows, the more my powers of invention and imagination are taxed. It takes time to come up with new variations. I've also slowed down for physical reasons. A

Journaling Your Way to Creativity

As the first-half of 2014 closes and the second-half opens, some of us writers might find our writing much like us when we step outside in the heat: wilted. This month, I wanted to share one of my favorite ways of reinvigorating my creative writing: journaling. To do that, I talked with a dear sisterfriend, author, blogger, encourager, and creator of the Optimist-Kit , Pachet Spates. Like me, she adores journaling and uses it for a variety of projects. Below, she shares her thoughts on journaling, how writers can tap into journaling to better their creative writing, and her Optimist-Kit project. Pachet Spates is a creative trifecta who is following her passion of creating innovative products, inspiring others to tap into their creativity and motivating individuals to think outside of the box. You can delve into Pachet's world by checking out her blog and The Optimist-Kit and by following her on Facebook , Twitter , and Instagram . Why did you get into journaling? I star

Innie or Outie? A Quiz Actually Helpful to Writers

If you are a writer on Faceboook, you’ve had the opportunity to take a plethora of quizzes. Which Disney princess are you? What is your prostitute name? Which U.S. state should you really be from? Amusing? Perhaps. Creative time-wasters? Down to the last one. Here’s a quiz, however, that will actually help you with your writing. It was constructed by Dr. Katherine Ramsland , author of more than fifty books ranging from vampires to serial killers to creativity, and who holds graduate degrees in forensic psychology, clinical psychology, criminal justice, and philosophy. Published on her popular "Shadow Boxing" blog at Psychology Today , the quiz assesses your “OQ,” or observational quotient, and places you on a scale of inward to outward focus. Knowing which you gravitate toward helps you identify your natural strengths as a writer, and allows you to see where you should probably focus revision efforts. Ramsland writes: The ability to observe one’s surroundings, in

Bare Bones Draft

I used to waste a lot of time on my first draft. I agonized over each sentence. I filled it full of stuff I would later cut or alter. Revision layers took forever to complete, especially repetitive words. My first drafts are now skeletons. I gradually add muscle and skin and dress the bones in the revision layers. I start with a conflict outline and a timeline (which I generally mess up somehow anyway and have to go back and fix). When I sit down to write a scene, I start with: Date, Time, Location, (Type of ) Conflict # _____ Dick needs to convince Jane to do something. Date, Time, Location, (Type of) Conflict # _____ Jane is caught snooping around Dick's office. For me, scenes are visual. I see the characters moving around the room or characters talking to one another. My first draft consists of dialogue and choreography with a tiny of hint of description. It looks a bit like a screenplay. Dick (insert tag) “ ....” Jane (insert tag) “...” Dick enters (describe