About Writing on Wednesdays: Updates on To Touch A Unicorn and First Snowfall

Well, I’m here in Maryland and have been for nearly two weeks. I was supposed to go home last Friday but the car broke down in Virginia. Fortunately it was late in the afternoon so the heat wasn’t too bad for humans or dogs. Thank goodness because Rex has a hard time in very hot weather. Still, it was hot enough that he whined a bit.  As a matter of fact I whined, too. Belle Amie and Paul did pretty good. Hot, thirsty, and in Paul’s case very dirty from working on the car, we all survived.

The editor from Buzzy Mag contacted me last week while I was here in Maryland about To Touch A Unicorn. I have to admit I was a little intimidated and put off reading her comments until this week. But honestly? When I finally read them it wasn’t bad. Everything she pointed out was dead on and I have no problem with making the changes. My feelings are not hurt and it is a lot like working with Beta Readers. I love working on the story to make it a great read.

Diane and Terry both beta read First Snowfall for me and loved the story. They tell me it’s creepy. Yay! I finished the edits they suggested in the middle of the night this week. There was no else around except me, Rex and Belle Amie. My own story creeped me out. Belle Amie kept barking and shaking at nothing. I’m pretty sure I just made this story up in my head. Didn’t I? o_o

After the story marinates a few days I’ll read over it, during the day, and send it off to see if anyone wants to publish it. I’m crossing my fingers. Many thanks and much appreciation to Diane and Terry for their time, critiques and encouragement.

The sequel to To Touch A Unicorn is in the works. I had to trash most of it although I hope to salvage some scenes. The fact I was having such a hard time moving forward in the story should have been a big clue I was writing in the wrong direction. I like the new start better and hope to have the story finished soon. It may end up being a novella. I’ll find out once I sit down to plot a few scenes. I should have done that to begin with anyway. I do know better.

Moonfire is calling to me. You know? My writing has grown and I might just be ready to get back to that story and get her done. One thing I’ve realized is that I was trying to write to an agenda. There are certain elements in the story that make it easy to cross a line and sermonize instead of telling a great story. I have enough maturity as a writer now to recognize that fact and hopefully fix it.

 

 

Peace.

 

References:

The clip art used is from ClipartPal.

 

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About Writing on Wednesdays: I’m Confused, Where’s That Comma Go Again?

Grammar, I understand, is an important tool in a writer’s arsenal. I haven’t seen anyone ‘taste’ grammar as I have seen them do with a word, but still I’m sure it’s at least as important as the words used to write a story. It is up to the writer to set the mood, rhythm and voice of their work with the grammar they use.

During the course of my self-education I have learned commas are important, and complicated. According to Margaret Shertzer, author of The Elements of Grammar, there are thirty-one different ways to use a comma.  Strunk and White devotes six and a half pages to them in their book, The Elements of Style. *Shudder* No need to cringe, I have no intention of going over them. If you’re in to self-torture go ahead.

I ran across this definition of commas from World English Dictionary:

the punctuation mark(,) indicating a slight pause in the spoken sentence and used where there is a listing of items or to separate a nonrestrictive clause or phrase from a main clause

I like that description. Short, sweet and to the point. Me, being me, can’t leave it alone. No, I need more description. Back I go to Shertzer, Strunk and White; my eyes cross and I get a bit of a buzz in my head while I work out all the intricacies of what you can and can’t do with commas. Commas, I’m pretty sure, are the invention of some little minor demon in hell to give even the devil a headache.

Commas are misused, according to an article I read about them not too long ago. I’m pretty sure that’s true. I know I abuse them in a gleeful manner on a regular basis, and no wonder. Who wouldn’t want to abuse such prudish, uptight punctuation? Besides it’s so easy to do. Evidently.

According to another article I read the use of a comma is up to the writer.  What?! I’ve stressed over my commas, colons and semi-colons for nothing? But wait, according to this same writer they’re misused. I’m scratching my head.

My conclusion is there are basic rules for commas as indicated in the dictionary’s definition. The how of using a comma seems to depend on who you talk to or read, what you’re writing, who you’re writing for (as in your publisher, etc.), your audience and if you’re willing to say kiss my asterisk, I’m putting that dang comma here, so there.

Do you use commas correctly? Or do you enjoy to abusing those suckers? Do you stress over commas? Are you a comma-phobe, like me? Did you know you can italicize a comma? You sure can, here it is:

English: A normal and an italicized comma in T...

 

The articles I’ve referenced:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/09/fanfare-for-the-comma-man/

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/21/the-most-comma-mistakes/?src=tp

Peace.

About Writing on Wednesdays: What’s Up?

Well, I’ve been writing of course.

You might be surprised to know I have blogs written but not posted. Most are 3/4 written or just need to be polished up but I’ve yet to do this. I may never post them and just start over.

The problem is allergies are killing me this year. Not literally of course but there’s been a couple of days all I could do was just boil some water with sage in it and ride out the runny nose, coughing, sneezing in the bed with a box of tissues.  The worst part is when my eyes swell, itch and water making it difficult to see let alone type.

I bought one of those sinus cleaners and I came to the conclusion all that controversy about water boarding may be exaggerated. Cause hel-lo, Americans pay good money to waterboard themselves when they purchase one of these products. I thought I was going to drown myself the first time I tried it last night.

Huh? Oh, yeah. Right. Writing.

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About Writing On Wednesdays: Boogie To The Vampire Vibes

Edward in the sunlight was shocking. I couldn’t get used to it, though I’d been staring at him all afternoon. His skin, white despite the faint flush from yesterday’s hunting trip, literally sparkled, like thousands of tiny diamonds were embedded in the surface. He lay perfectly still in the grass, his shirt open over his sculpted, incandescent chest, his scintillating arms bare. His glistening, pale lavender lids were shut, though of course he didn’t sleep. A perfect statue, carved in some unknown stone, smooth like marble, glittering like crystal.      ~Stephenie Meyer in Twilight

Experts gathered together to discuss more on my favorite subject of vampires: Faith Hunter, Kalayna Price, Theresa Bane, Tony Ruggiero.  We had lots of fun in this discussion. This is also the last post about Stellarcon.

Theresa Bane is a Vampirologist and author of Encyclopedia of Vampire Mythology. “Vampires prey on the most precious in society,” explains Theresa. As an expert on vampires she doesn’t believe in the blood drinking fiends or the psychic ones.

The concept of the psychic vampire evolved in the sixties from slang such as ‘negative energies’ or getting certain ‘vibes’.

Those who practice vampirism are called lifestylers. The police call Theresa for help on some of their cases but her expertise is only with the vampire myth. Really? Modern day police actually have to know about vampires? She couldn’t tell us about any of the cases but talk about being freaked out.

Instead of advising them to sharpen some stakes and approach said vampires only in daylight she advises them to call Michelle Belanger who is a lifestyler. I’ve seen Michelle in several specials on TV including: The History Channel, A&E and on the Reelzchannel Twilight specials.

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Freaky on Fridays: Freaking Over James Rollins

 

On Tuesday, June 21st 2011 James Rollins is releasing his seventh book in the Sigma series. A description from Amazon:

From New York Times bestselling author James Rollins comes a novel of boundless imagination and meticulous research, a book that dares to answer a frightening question at the heart of America: Could the founding of the United States be based on a fundamental lie? The shocking truth lies hidden within the ruins of an impossibility, a lost colony of the Americas vanished in time and cursed into oblivion. A place known only as The Devil Colony

Deep in the Rocky Mountains, a gruesome discovery—hundreds of mummified bodies—stirs international attention and fervent controversy. Despite doubts about the bodies’ origins, the local Native American Heritage Commission lays claim to the prehistoric remains, along with the strange artifacts found in the same cavern: gold plates inscribed with an unfathomable script.

 During a riot at the dig site, an anthropologist dies horribly, burned to ashes in a fiery explosion in plain view of television cameras. All evidence points to a radical group of Native Americans, including one agitator, a teenage firebrand who escapes with a vital clue to the murder and calls on the one person who might help—her uncle, Painter Crowe, Director of Sigma Force.

 To protect his niece and uncover the truth, Painter will ignite a war among the nation’s most powerful intelligence agencies. Yet an even greater threat looms as events in the Rocky Mountains have set in motion a frightening chain reaction, a geological meltdown that threatens the entire western half of the U.S.

 From the volcanic peaks of Iceland to the blistering deserts of the American Southwest, from the gold vaults of Fort Knox to the bubbling geysers of Yellowstone, Painter Crowe joins forces with Commander Gray Pierce to penetrate the shadowy heart of a dark cabal, one that has been manipulating American history since the founding of the thirteen colonies. 

But can Painter discover the truth—one that could topple governments—before it destroys all he holds dear?

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About Writing on Wednesdays: What Kind Of Character Do You Have?

Faith Hunter, Ed Schubert and Larry Correa discussed their thoughts about character development in this panel at Stellarcon.

The focus was on the protagonist and how to create him or her with the something extra that makes a reader’s eyes pop out. Something more than eye color, hair color, weight or height. The something that makes them keep reading and want more.

You love your character. S/he is the best thing since sliced bread. Naaaannnh! This is a huge red flag that your character is bor-ing. Part of the story is the flawed character that needs improvement. To keep the reader interested your character must grow and change through the end of the book.

However, your character can’t just change without warning. Something has to make the character see him/herself clearly. This is the point where the character transitions from good to bad or vice versa. The character must make a choice that determines his or her path for the rest of the book. A choice that helps decide how your book ends.

Readers must be able to relate to your characters. Some ways to humanize characters: have them fall short of a goal; have low self-esteem; break a code of honor; unable to complete a task; make them clumsy; have bad luck; have ill-health; have a phobia; not the sharpest marble; be shy or walk away from something because it’s too hard.

Flaws to give your character: they’re judgemental; they have a temper; they’re impatient; they’re arrogant; they’re introverted; they’re a loner; they’re overconfident; they’re weak; they’re ignorant; too rigid and won’t change easily; prejudiced against race, religion, etc.; they’re amoral or too promiscuous.

A deeply flawed character discussed was Dexter from Showtime. A TV show based on a series of books. He is an example of a bad character who is fun to write. If you are not familiar with the show or books he is a serial killer.

I saw the first two seasons of Dexter before I cut Showtime loose. The premise was his stepfather saw the trait in him and directed his energies to killing other serial killers. The twist is he works for the police. I liked the show and now I’m thinking I should check out the books although I’m sure they’re nothing like the TV show.

Characters who walk a very narrow line between good and bad are Anne Stuart’s stock in trade.  In general her male protagonists are amoral but somehow she always manages to make them likeable if a little scary. True love puts them on the right path. Of course it’s a wide path.

 If you’re interested in these type books try Anne’s books from the Ice series or Ritual Sins. In case you don’t know and you’re interested, Jeff Lindsay writes the Dexter books.

Be careful when writing a character like Dexter or Bastian from Black Ice. It would be all too easy to antagonize your readers instead of enticing them to read more.

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About Writing on Wednesdays: Can Science Steal the Story?

Ok. Let’s try this again. I accidentally trashed the first try. Sorry.

Tedd Roberts, Toni Weisskopf, Gray Rinehart and Christiana Ellis were on a great panel at Stellarcon called Science Vs Story.

Toni Weisskopf took over Baen Books as publisher after Jim Baen died. She is a hoot. She is in your face and says it how she believes it. I think it’s safe to say you will always know where you stand with her.

Now all through the weekend I heard a lot about information dump, don’t do it. The first thing that came out of Toni’s mouth was she is a fan of the info dump. In her words, “…give me the effing science. Be specific and get to the point.”

Gray Rinehart, her General Slushmaster, had just said in another panel not to info dump. He was sitting next to her as she said this and gave her the ‘are you kidding me’ look. I had to laugh because I’m sure they had a talk about that later.

A colorful, larger than life woman Toni was eff this and eff that for a while until she stopped and apologized. Editing and publishing induced “passionate” feelings in her, she said.

The panel touched very little on the science versus the story angle but I do like a well written sci-fi story, especially a good space opera. It’s important so we will talk about it.

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About Writing on Wednesdays: What’s Your Point of View?

Ok. There is a lot more to point of view (pov) than I realized and it took the pros at Stellarcon to point it out to me.  Ed Schubert, Laurell Ann Hill, David Coe and Gray Rinehart were the panelists for this discussion at Stellarcon.

David Coe spearheaded this panel and was able to point out the ways a writer can manipulate their story with different points of view. This was a very interesting and informative discussion.

As every writer should know the point of view is the eyes, ears, thoughts and emotions through which the reader sees the action of the story at any one given time in the story.

First person is what I call the “I” books. The story is told from one pov in the character’s voice. There was some discussion as to whether this is more intimate and conveys stronger emotion. I think it is and does.

In the book All Is Quiet on the Western Front the story is told through the narrator’s eyes and because it is I think the end is devastating in a way it would not have been otherwise.

David Coe gave his opinion that first person doesn’t work well in epic fantasy although it can be done.

Second person. ‘You’. It is rarely done and everyone agreed they did not like it. Yeah, I’m not sure how it could be done without sounding accusatory. The panelists did not have any examples of that. Does anyone else?

Third person. Personal pronouns such as ‘he’ or ‘she’ are used. Everyone agreed this pov adds tension to the story. It is the most used pov and the most popular.

Omniscient. Tells the story from the distance. There was general agreement that this pov is hard to do in today’s market. Readers want the writing to be up close and personal.

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Katara Update

It’s been over six months since Paul and I went on the epic trip to Missouri to deliver Katara to her forever home with Marti V. We left around midnight on Wednesday and made it to Kansas City, Missouri around 10:30pm on Thursday night. In just under twenty-four hours we drove over 1,000 miles. Read more about Katara here, here and here.

 

One of Marti’s first emails to me after we got home was how much joy and laughter Katara had already brought into her life. She said their walks together were already giving her energy.

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Curio’s Past, Shhh.