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Showing posts from November, 2014

Cool Tools for Writers

Most writers have seen ads galore for gadgets and gizmos to increase productivity that do anything but. You have undoubtedly received endless pens, paper weights, journals, etc. Here are a few of my favorite tools that you can ask Santa for this year. If Santa neglects to bring them, treat yourself. 1. Nuance PDF  allows you turn documents into PDF documents within Word for Windows: just select Print, Save as PDF, and voila - done. 2. Word Web Pro  brings up a dictionary and thesaurus within word with a click of Control-W. It includes pronunciations and usage examples, and has helpful spelling and sounds-like links. 3. Smart Edit  goes beyond the many editing tools available in Word for Windows (as outlined in Story Building Blocks III) to make your prose the best it can be before you turn it over to an agent or editor. If you are an independent publisher and can't afford an editor, at least give your manuscript a run through with this tool before hitting upload. 4. Nat

Happy Birthday and Happy Thanksgiving

To the Chief Red Pencil who dances into her sixties. Happy Thanksgiving to all our American friends who ate too much. Two good reasons to shake it up good! Enjoy your day, dear readers.

Thanks to Baristas and the Coffee Drinkers They Serve

Richard Keller joins us at the Blood-Red Pencil today. Photo by GoToVan , via Flickr Not so long ago, in a coffee shop not too far away … They wouldn’t stop talking. Talking and drinking coffee. Talking, drinking coffee, and eating. They complained about their college classes, their roommates, the people they were dating at that particular hour. And they were loud — to the point I couldn’t concentrate my writing. I think it was my science fiction novel Paradise Not Quite Lost or my erotic/mystery/horror/comedy novel based on Kafka’s The Trial . Sadly, due to the incessant conversation at the other table, and a lack of ropes and gags at my own, I packed up and left. Fast forward a few days, or weeks, or months later, and I’m back at the same coffee shop with another group of loud, young, angst-filled college students sitting in front of me, talking, and eating, and … you get the idea. I’m about to leave, or at least scream at them to be quiet, when one of them says something

Being Thankful

Looking ahead to Thanksgiving in two more days, I have spent some time considering all that I have to be thankful for. First and foremost, is my family. I am blessed with terrific kids and grand-kids who have been so good to me in a most difficult year. So have all my brothers and sisters and cousins and nieces and nephews. What would we do without family? Next I would have to say I am most thankful for all the friends I have; those here in my small town as well as those in the larger arena that is the Internet and social media. Who would have thought that one person could have thousands of friends on Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and Google+. It boggles the mind and thrills me to hear from readers who have enjoyed my books. I am also thankful for the advances in publishing that have opened so many doors for writers. When I started my writing career, back when dinosaurs typed on old Royal manual typewriters, there were few choices for places to submit a book, and most of th

Fun With Palindromes

Here's something to spark your Thanksgiving dinner conversation! Palindromes are words or phrases that read the same in both directions, e.g. EYE ,or RACECAR , or MADAM I'M ADAM . Here are a few good ones: Do geese see God? Was it Eliot's toilet I saw? Murder for a jar of red rum. Some men interpret nine memos. Never odd or even. Palindromes have been used for centuries, going back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Here are the top 30 from the website Fun With Words Don't nod Dogma: I am God Never odd or even Too bad – I hid a boot Rats live on no evil star No trace; not one carton Was it Eliot's toilet I saw? Murder for a jar of red rum May a moody baby doom a yam? Go hang a salami; I'm a lasagna hog! Satan, oscillate my metallic sonatas! A Toyota! Race fast... safe car: a Toyota Straw? No, too stupid a fad; I put soot on warts Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to

Skimming Stones (or The Art of Omission)

Photo by Killy Ridols , via Flickr In the real world, we are all slaves to linear time. Waking or sleeping, whether we like it or not, we have to live through every minute of every day. Only a relatively small proportion of what we experience on a daily basis is interesting enough to make it worth remembering. An autobiography detailing every moment of the writer’s life would make excruciatingly dull reading. If I were going to write my “life’s story”, I’d focus only on the high spots. Much the same principle applies in fiction. Writing your first draft is a bit like “living” the plot a day at a time. But when it comes to Draft Two, what you leave out can be as significant as what you put in. Like a kid skimming stones across a pond, sometimes you want your story to leap from point to point. The actor Robert Morley (1908-1992) used this “shortcut” technique to comic effect in his various memoires. In Around the World in 81 Years , he sums up his early career with drol

To Free or Not To Free

I recently attended the Novelists, Inc. (NINC) Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida. This conference is one of the few devoted totally to the business of publishing. Members are all authors who have published at least 2 books, and they're a savvy group. Industry professionals—editors, agents, lawyers, publishers, as well as representatives from the big e-tailers, aggregators, marketing experts, cover designers … well, it's a wealth of information sharing. One topic that came up frequently was whether authors are "cheapening" the reader perception of what a book is worth by selling their wares for deeply discounted prices, or even—gasp!—giving them away. If you're an indie author, you have the right to set prices for your work that make sense for you. While traditionally published authors bemoan the $3.99 e-book, those indie authors are making more per sale than those with traditional, mass-market paperbacks. If you can attract readers to your series with di

Elmore Leonard and the 10 Rules

I love Elmore Leonard’s books. I write characters who cross ethical lines, but no one has written more books with questionable characters than Mr. Leonard. In some, you can’t tell the good guys from the bad. Over twenty of his novels have been made into movies, and more people found his books through the TV show Justified . His 10 Rules of Writing is well known among writers. I decided to see how they applied to my own writing, remembering that since I’m self-published, I have no masters but my readers. My rule is never to follow religiously anyone’s Never Rules. For that reason―and I say this fully aware that people will think I have a lot of nerve to question a master of crime fiction―I don’t agree with most of Mr. Leonard’s rules. Why? They don’t take into account the specifics of the story. Now I realize these are generalities, but Leonard writes them as if they’re the Ten Commandments. I’ll take them one by one. 1. Never open a book with weather. Storms, hurricanes, bliz

The Style Maven Steps Out

Photo courtesy of freeimages.com Greetings, duckies! It’s been an absolute rollercoaster around here these past few weeks. Various forms of drama, and none of it the fun kind that you can leave behind after two hours in a matinee. Sigh. I decided to treat myself to an outing, which turned into a (possibly) naughty bit of free advertising. Mind you, I only did it to give my favorite authors a boost; there was nothing at all self-promoting about it. Shall I tell? All right, then. I found myself enjoying one of those rare but glorious days when there’s actually time and gas money for a trip to a brick-and-mortar bookstore. Might as well go out in the cold when you have a lovely new jacket, don’t you think? Rounding a corner of the mystery novel section, I spied a familiar name. Gasp! One of our own from the Blood-Red Pencil! Deciding that the volumes weren’t nearly visible enough, and since I had the department to myself, I set about twitching the books a bit clos

Who Knew? or Seven Things I Learned by Ghostwriting

One of the reasons I love my job as a ghostwriter is that I get to learn so many unexpected things. Although there are times I wish I hadn’t learned them, because some stories are painful. Yet those are the ones which make me feel grateful – and lucky. Other stories are hilarious and make me laugh out loud, and they too engender gratitude. All stories – yes all of them – will teach me something. Stories are like that. Here are just seven of the many interesting tidbits I’ve learned from my clients. Since I only ghostwrite non-fiction, they must be true, right?   1.  Did you know that it is important to teach your child to always close the lid before they flush the toilet, because billions of small water drops full of nasty bacteria are released into the air with each flush? These water drops are capable of aerolizing twenty feet from the center of the flush, if they are not stopped by the toilet lid. So close that lid. Or at least rinse your toothbrush in peroxide before you

Scary Night to New Beginning

by Earl53 in MorgueFile When I was a child, each holiday occupied a place distinctly its own. Gorgeous autumn colors led up to rows of corn shocks in fields depleted by the harvest of luscious ears of the succulent grain, bright orange pumpkins dotted the brown earth, and root vegetables found their way into storage for winter’s hearty meals. On the heels of this seasonal change came Halloween with trick-or-treaters knocking on neighbors’ doors in hopes of finding candied apples and other sweets to add to their burgeoning goody bags. After the treats were consumed and blustery November winds rearranged piles of dead leaves (hopefully into the neighbors’ yards), thoughts turned to Thanksgiving menus and plans for family gatherings. Black Friday didn’t exist, at least by its dark name, and Native Americans, Pilgrims, turkeys, and cornucopias graced school artwork and home decorations. by Earl53 in MorgueFile Following Thanksgiving, merchants and families eased into what is

Build Your Story

Recently I came across some old photos. I think photos can be helpful when you're trying to develop a character. You can also look at the picture and, in your mind, build a story around the people or scenery. I've recently been going through old family photos, deciding which to keep, which to throw away, which to make copies of and send to relatives. I sent some to my nephews, including a picture of their mother, my next older sister, Cathy. It was her high school graduation picture and she was beautiful. I hung my copy up on our wall of family pictures. There are three other pictures I want to make copies of and send out. One is of my oldest sister, Gordonna, and the next sister, Cathy, and me. In one, we're all sitting on the grass. In the other, we're standing and Gordonna's holding me on her shoulder. I also have several pictures of Gordonna by herself. And then there's the youngest sister, Molly. I have pictures of her, too. I came across a picture

Time Out For Some Fun

My how the days have flown by. Was it not just last week I posted the fun for October? Here we are into another new month, and I am here to remind you to stop, take a moment for a deep breath or a little chuckle, or both. There are great health benefits to deep breathing and laughter.   This first bit of frivolity is from One Big Happy by Rick Detorie. Ruthie is working on a homework assignment, completing several proverbs:      Seeing is … something you do with your eyes.      If you can't stand the heat … move to the North Pole.      A man who is his own lawyer …doesn't have to send himself a bill.      It's never too late to …microwave a snack.      The squeaky wheel gets ….on your nerves.      If you make your bed. ..be sure nobody's in it.      Give the devil …a firecracker and RUN!      No news …is better than no comic strips. Oh, my. What would we do without the comics? This next one is from Shoe by Gary Brookins and Susie McNally.

War, Research, and TMI

Armistice Day. November 11th. A date I’ve known all my life and commemorated annually with a red poppy in the buttonhole as long as I lived in England; commemorated—without really understanding its meaning until I started to write about the 1920s. I’ve learned a lot about the first world war in the 20 years since. Though I decided not to make its horrors the focus of my series, I soon realized that two subjects that attracted me to the period were inextricably linked to the war. First, the country could not afford the extravagances of fashion, so women’s clothes became much simpler and more comfortable; and second, the huge loss of life in the trenches helped open an unprecedented range of careers to women. The more I learned, the more careful I had to be to pick and choose what information I used in my mysteries, especially as they’re basically lighthearted. We’ve all read (or started to read) novels where the author has attempted to cram in every scrap of extensive research. Noth

Writing in 140: Color Your Story's World

One quick yet important way to infuse your story with meaning (emotionally, mentally, physically, even spiritually) is through color. Research shows that color can affect mood and human behavior, and those in marketing often use the psychology of color in branding products. Multicolor Card Stock Image by gubgib with  FreeDigitalPhotos.net Whether you consider color at the start or end of writing a book, it’s a good idea to at least ask what color represents your… …Setting’s personality? What colors within the setting create this personality? …Character’s personality? What colors in a character’s dress and home create this personality? …Conflict? Think about your protagonist and consider contrasting colors to represent your antagonist(s). Don’t go overboard in using color; a little goes a long way. Don’t be cliché in your use of color; allow color to work in the context of YOUR story. When painting your story’s world, how important is color? Shon Bacon is a

Memories and Flashbacks

Memories can add poignancy, reveal clues, and give insight into character behavior.  A character may have a flash of memory every now and again.The key is to keep them short and simple, a sentence or two, perhaps a paragraph, and make them relevant. It helps to trigger memories with something the character sees, smells, touches, or tastes. It can be a person, place, or thing. Songs stick with us and can bring up a feeling or a forgotten person. Smells can take you back to a place and time and the person it reminds you of. Every time Dick sees the ocean on television, he may smell saltwater. Every time Jane smells fresh baked cookies, it may remind her of the grandmother she adored. Every time Sally hears a train, it may remind her of her sad childhood. The neural connection is hard-wired. The response is involuntary. Use memories as a visceral beat. Dick frowned at the impossibly blue sky, perfect sand, and white-edged waves on the travel poster that r

Being Grateful 10 Times

I’m Canadian, so I celebrated Thanksgiving last month. However, not everyone is Canadian. So, in honour of American Thanksgiving I’m sharing 10 things I’m grateful for each and every day. Bonus # 11. (Dare we say it?) No trolls to feed. Photo by Josh Wedin, via Flickr 10. The ability to weave a plot and create characters to walk its path. 9. Being able to lose myself in my fictional world. 8. Warm soup on a cold day. (Remembering to keep said soup out of the spill-zone.) 7. Fingerless gloves. (No, it doesn’t get that cold in my little corner of Canada, but it does get damp.) 6. The increasingly acceptable option of being in charge of my own destiny by self-publishing. 5. Getting away from the lights of the city and glorying in the wonder of the stars. 4. A purring cat. In my opinion, there are few sounds more comforting that the rumble of a cat’s purr. 3. Typing “The End.” 2. Having my characters talk to me. I might not like what they’re saying or the hour tha

Adapting - And a Freebie Alert

This morning I was struck by how birds readily adapt to change. In lieu of what at one time was their normal venue, they're now in the habit of perching on wires. Not only that, they've built nests in the fixtures on our patio, they sit on top of shovels and broom handles, and today I found some sitting on the branches I'd placed in a bin, due to a windstorm. The birds flew off before I could show them to you, but note what they left behind on the shovel. Birds adapt, and authors can and do. Countless have taken the plunge and are self-publishing, either all or some of their books, in e-book and/or print format. Some, myself included, have either hired illustrators for covers, or even created their own book covers, through such resources as Amazon Cover Creator.  Many readers have also adapted, and use e-readers, instead of, or as well as print books. I like both, but lean toward reading from my Kindle most of the time. Promotions also have changed. Before, booksignings