Up This Week

This week, we have the fabulous Leanna Renee Hieber (Strangely Beautiful, Magic Most Foul) as our guest for a Writer Wednesday post! Mark your calendar and get your excerpts ready! For those of you who have not seen these before, they are a one day writing workshop on a mentor-of-the-day. Leanna is our mentor, and she has already chosen and written about a topic. And, she’s ready to coach you on the same topic.

Spread the word, please!

Also this week, I’ll have a review of Prospero Lost, a modern-day epic fantasy based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I’d like to reread The Tempest before writing my review, so look for that later this week.

Have a great week!

Bored with my Hiatus

I got bored, so here I am. I meant to be Christmas decorating by now, but the artificial tree we’ve been using since, oh about 2003, gave up the ghost today, so I have no tree to decorate. How does a tree give up the ghost? By refusing to light. We put it out on the curb for tomorrow’s trash, but some dependable rednecks came along and took it away for us. Merry Christmas, guys! Maybe you can get the blasted thing to light.

So tomorrow we’ll get another tree, and this time we will get one WITHOUT lights. Once, long ago, I had this set of colorful twinkle lights that were 150 feet long. I would wind them all the way up the tree, back down again, and then back up. It was the only set of lights that I needed. When I was finished, that tree didn’t blink, it shimmered. When we first got the pre-lit tree, I was very disappointed to see that it sort of winked on and off in random chunks throughout the tree. Very drab compared to my beautiful shimmer-tree of old.

So I will be looking for an artificial tree about 7 feet tall (or taller) and another set of colorful twinkle lights. And we’re going to go out to get it at about 7:30 tomorrow morning. Earlier if we decide to eat breakfast out!

How was your Thanksgiving? Because I had to work today (outta time off, unfortunately), we stayed home and had a cozy little Thanksgiving with just the three of us. I cooked for three hours, making a low-fat meal for my husband, who needs to lower his triglycerides. The only thing with fatty stuff in it were my candied carrots, because I went ahead and used real butter. I figured my husband wouldn’t have a huge serving, and he didn’t. I also made lowfat brownies by substituting egg whites for whole eggs and applesauce for half the butter. They were delicious, but next time I’m going to use more cocoa powder. The first time I bake something, I usually go strictly by the recipe, but the second time, I start experimenting.

While I was “away” this week, I revamped my Facebook author page, making a welcome (or landing) page for first-time visitors. You can see it here. If you’ve never seen my Facebook page, that would be the first page you would see. One of the differences between a page and a profile is that visitors do not have to be logged into an account to see everything on the page. They can’t interact with it, but they can at least see everything. What do you think of the profile image? I was inspired by what Inez Kelley did on her own Facebook page.

Not much else going on, other than writing, writing, writing. What’s up with you?

Massive Giveaway at Inez Kelley's Site

Carina Press author Inez Kelly’s birthday is today, and she’s giving away lots of books, including one donated by yours truly. She writes spicy romance and erotica, but the books for the giveaway is of every genre you can think of. Ok, maybe not every genre, but there’s a huge mix, some print, some ebook. She will be drawing names all day! Just leave a comment to enter.

Hmm … she didn’t mention how old she is. Maybe she’ll mention that today.

Anyway, go leave a comment at inezkelley.com if you want a chance to win books.

A Week's Hiatus

I’ll be taking advantage of the low traffic I’ll have over the week of Thanksgiving for a blogging break. While I’m on break, I’ll be re-evaluating what I want to do with this blog. I expect to be making changes for the new year, but I have not yet decided what those changes will be. I do know that what I’m trying to do here is no longer working, and I’d rather not run a substandard blog. So yes, the changes I am contemplating are not minor. As in, yanno, major changes.

And no, I don’t expect to stop blogging altogether.

In the meantime, throughout December, I’ll continue to be closed to review copies, but open to guests and announcements. Kinda like it’s been since August.

By next week, I expect I’ll be finished with Prospero Lost, so I’ll have that review for you. I have also scheduled a Writer Wednesday with Leanna Renee Heiber for that week! Plus, I’ve written a post about an alarming experience I had lately and I’m contemplating whether I should post it. I’ll probably rewrite it before I do so. You know how it is.

I’ll still be on Twitter and I’ll put little writing updates on myFacebook author page, so you can always catch me there! See ya next Monday!

Random Awesomeness

Here are some random awesome things:

Chicory has a blog! She’s just getting started, so go over there and say hi! Fill up her follower box!

I got an email about a shared galaxy called Galaxiki. It’s this wiki where you can buy a planetary system and populate it with your own lifeforms. Here is an example of a system that has been edited. It looks pretty cool–quite a geeky time waster!

I now have almost 300 Twitter followers! (Sorry. I think it is awesome.) And while I’m self-promoting, I have thirteen reviews at Amazon (average rating 4.5!). AND, over 100 people have added my book to their GoodReads shelves, with 31 reviews/ratings so far!

John Ottinger, owner of the awesome Grasping for the Wind, has guest-edited a science fiction magazine! Residential Aliens–or ResAliens–#4 is his issue, and he has provided me a sample copy to review!

I learned about a great word tool on GalleyCat–Visuwords! It is so awesome–beyond words. A souped-up web 2.0 thesaurus–plus much more. Just try it! The only thing it doesn’t do is rhyme!

But without question, here is the most awesome thing:

RomVetsPatchWhat is it? A RomVets patch! What is RomVets? It’s the “homepage of military women who’ve turned the sword into a pen.” Or, romance writers who are veterans. Who knew such a group existed! I thought it would be fun to join, but I was floored when Merline Lovelace–excuse, me, Colonel Merline Lovelace (I’d better salute!) wanted to send me my squadron patch and pin.

RomVetsPinYes, pin! (Don’t you love how I got the nice glint in the corner? That took about eight tries.) You can really see their cool logo in this picture–a fountain pen with a crossguard and hilt!

I learned about RomVets through the awesome Kimber An, who awesomely featured me (again) on her blog when she recognized veteran authors. Huzzah, Kimber!

And I was JUST saying to my husband that I needed to get a leather biker vest to put all my military patches on, a la the Freedom Riders. What do you think of this one?

VSL1007Rawr! I don’t need a lot of room for patches, unless I discover (or found!) SciFiVets or FanVets, and do up patches and pins for them as well.

And that’s my little post ‘o awesome for today. May something awesome happen to you today!

Linnea Sinclair on Deep Third Point of View

Today’s guest at my local RWA meeting was Linnea Sinclair.

I have not really written about the RWA meetings. At my chapter, the meetings last four hours and go something like this:

  • Sign in/Mingle
  • Opening Remarks
  • Speaker 1
  • Break
  • Business Meeting
  • Speaker 2 (often the same as Speaker 1)
  • Adjourn

I did not stay for the second half of the meeting. I have certain challenges at home, and I usually decide ahead of time whether I can make the whole meeting, the first half or the second half. I make special arrangements if I want to attend the whole meeting, and this was not one of the meetings that I made special arrangements for.

Anyway, today Linnea Sinclair spoke about Deep Third, or deep third person point-of-view. Linnea gives lots of classes, some online and some in person. You can find her upcoming classes here.

I’ve only recently grasped the concept of Deep Third myself, and I am still very much in need of learning all the little nuances. It’s not really something I learned outright; I had to stumble into it the hard way, finally recognizing the technique in the various books that I was reading. I don’t recall the book that flipped the light switch on for me; I don’t think there was any one book. But I do know that I didn’t realize I had it until I was working on my Christian suspense, A Hollywood Miracle. That project is currently shelved (love the story, need more plot), but I am still using the technique in other stories and learning from it.

To illustrate Deep Third, I’ll share with you a little exercise we did in class. This is two versions of a short scene–one in simple third person, and the other in Deep Third:

Simple Third

Jennifer was surprised–and pleased–to see Mark walk into the coffee shop. She wondered what he was doing here in the middle of the afternoon.

Here’s how I made it into Deep Third:

The cup almost slipped out of her hand when Mark walked into the coffee shop. Jennifer felt the muscles on her face jump into a smile before she could stop it. What was he doing here? Didn’t he have clients scheduled? And what was that in his hand–a tiny black box?

It’s writing in such a way that the reader experiences what the character does.

Here are some of Linnea’s tips:

The reason a reader reads, she said, is to experience tension. Some people disagreed. She explained that you want to experience the tension in a safe way, in your armchair, while under no real threat.

And the job of the writer, she said, is to “manipulate the emotions of the reader.” And “the author must get out of the way, and keep backstory to a minimum.”

I didn’t “get” this technique at all until I wrote an entire novel in first person, and then decided to use third for a subsequent piece. I realized that I missed that first person experience, and I just wanted to write as close to first person as possible. I didn’t know there was a name for it. I was just trying to mimic the experience of first person.

Well, in her presentation, Linnea said that if you already write in first person, you are partway there. I was happy to hear this!

There was a big discussion about head-hopping. Lots of people like it, and they pointed out their favorite writers who employ the technique. Linnea made the argument that head-hopping was a technique that was popular for a while, but now–not so much. Editors are looking for writers who can elevate tension by keeping the point of view on one person and limiting what the reader knows by limiting what that character knows.

And the longer we are inside the head of one character, she said, the greater our emotional involvement in that character is. Therefore, even if you switch points-of-view between scenes and chapters, you are taking the focus away from your character.

It was a great workshop. If you write, this is a worthwhile topic to explore.

Here is an excerpt from a novel I’m working on, where I attempted this technique without even realizing it. It is a time travel historical called East of Yesterday. And yes, I improved it, post-workshop.

A confusion of lights snapped her awake. Bethany pulled herself up from the floor of the carriage and lifted the canvas to peer out back. A swirling mass of red, blue and white lights came to a stop just behind the coach as an ear-shattering blast of sound brought her children awake with cries of terror.

“Mama! What is it?” he daughter asked from the seat beside her.

Bethany had no idea—a bugle, maybe? Just as suddenly, the sound stopped. Her hobbled mules brayed in protest.

“What in the hell?” an unfriendly voice asked. Feet crunched on the hard surface of the highway, and then on gravel. “You in the coach! Get out of there!”

Oh good Lord, she thought. It’s a highwayman.

She grabbed the shotgun.

“Out of the coach, now!”

“Children, stay in the coach,” she said.

“But Mama!”

“Don’t talk back.”

She opened the door and jumped out, swinging the barrel of the shotgun toward the lights. She blinked at it. Was that some sort of white carriage? Or one of those newfangled motorcars?

A man in a dark suit yanked a gun out of his holster.

I’m not sure yet where this scene is going to fit into the story–right now, it’s a prelude. It’s probably clear that Bethany is a time traveler, and she’s come a bit far forward out of her comfort zone.

This scene demanded a very close third person point of view because most of the time, Bethany has no idea what she is looking at. Consider the first paragraph:

A confusion of lights snapped her awake. Bethany pulled herself up from the floor of the carriage and lifted the canvas to peer out back. A swirling mass of red, blue and white lights came to a stop just behind the coach as an ear-shattering blast of sound brought her children awake with cries of terror.

I was trying to think of how to describe police lights in a way that would be recognizable to someone reading it, but in such a way that I didn’t venture outside her point-of-view. I tried to experience her confusion.

Also, I mimicked the passage of time by choosing when to include description. The blast of sound brings her awake, but she can’t even begin to identify it at first. Then, her daughter asks her about it, and she associates it with something she knows. I don’t spend as much time on the bray of the mule, because that’s a sound with which she is familiar.

Again, while the policeman is reacting to the shotgun, she’s trying to identify his car. At this point, I identify the time period that she is from–she knows what a motorcar is. She’s from 1905. A police car would be like a UFO to her.

Feel free to critique. This is still a work-in-progress.

Happy Veterans Day! Plus Stuff

I am a Cold War veteran, having served under Reagan. Ours was the era of the threat of Soviet espionage. It was pretty peaceful during my term of service–in fact, I don’t qualify for the American Legion, because there were no fighting battles during my term. I entered just after Granada and my inactive reserve ended just before Desert Shield (Remember that? Before Desert Storm?).

Anyway, this day is also called Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, and it’s observed in many countries. Shake the hand of a veteran today. Many of us will be wearing flag pins or at the very least, patriotic colors. So Happy Veterans Day!

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I’ve been a bit over-committed lately, which is why there isn’t a lot of original content appearing here. I’ve been judging a writing contest (a lot of work!) plus I’ve been doing guest posts and having guests. The result is I am over-scheduled. My deadline for the contest judging is the 15th, but hopefully I’ll be finished with this last entry a few days before then.

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Leanna Renee Hieber is going to be my guest for a Writer Wednesday!!! I happened to mention on Twitter (another reason to love Twitter) that I was prepping a Writer Wednesday post, and she sent me a private message, expressing interest! So now we are just figuring out a day and a subject! Is there anything in particular you’d like Linnea to cover?

An aside–doesn’t she look like Buttercup from The Princess Bride? Seriously!

~*~

Today, an interview Lexie did with me will appear at Poisoned Rationality. Stop by and chat–another copy of The Sevenfold Spell is up for grabs!

Writer Wednesday – Elyse Mady on Writing for the Times

Elyse Mady writes fairly * ahem * adventurous (otherwise known as menage) historical fiction, and her first title, The Debutante’s Dilemma, just came out this week. She wrote this terrific article on adapting your writing to the historical times in your novel, and I knew I just had to host her. Elyse blogs at www.elysemady.wordpress.com about writing, research and romance novels, both historical and contemporary.  You can reach her by email at elysemady@cogeco.ca or find her on Facebook for updates and upcoming titles .

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TheDebutantesDilemmaAbout “The Debutante’s Dilemma” by Elyse Mady

One woman in search of passion

Miss Cecilia Hastings has achieved what every young lady hopes for during her first London season…in duplicate! She’s caught the eye of not one but two of England’s most eligible bachelors.   Both Jeremy Battersley, Earl of Henley, and Richard Huxley, Duke of Wexford are handsome, wealthy and kind, the epitome of proper gentlemen. But Cecelia doesn’t want proper, she wants passion. So she issues a challenge to her suitors: a kiss, so that she may choose between them.

Two men in love with the same woman

Friends since childhood, and compatriots on the battlefields of Spain, falling for the same woman has set Jeremy and Richard at odds, and risks destroying their friendship forever.  But a surprising invitation to a late-night garden tryst soon sets them on a course that neither of them could have anticipated. And these gentlemen quickly discover that love can take many forms…

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Getting a Word in Edgewise

by Elyse Mady

Everyone knows that single guys who are making a good living want to get hitched.

Or to put it in more familiar terms, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

See the difference between the thought expressed in contemporary terms and the immediate impact the same idea has couched in the Regency terms that the author, Jane Austen, used?  With one sentence, thanks to subtle clues conveyed by word choice, syntax and grammar, in both versions we know when the story is taking place and if the sentence is really good, sometimes even by whom and why.  That’s a ton of information conveyed just through some carefully chosen words, so how can you replicate its impact in your own writing?

Authors are often exhorted to spend a lot of time world building when they’re writing their manuscripts, especially if their characters inhabit realities distanced from our own by time (historicals and futurist stories), alternative realities (magic and fantasy) or technology (sci-fi and steampunk) so that their worlds are coherent, deep and rich.  But I’m of the firm opinion that word building is just as important, if not more so.

So, what exactly is word building?  Well, let me give you an example from my most recent story, “The Debutante’s Dilemma”.  Here’s how I described the heroine in the opening paragraphs:

Miss Cecilia Hastings was the luckiest girl who had ever lived to draw breath.

This was the near-universal assessment of the five hundred guests who found themselves crushed into Lady Stanhope’s lavish ballroom like so many potted fish on this early June evening.

That the young lady was well-favoured, with a tall, even figure, a smooth throat and milk-white skin, striking grey eyes and dark chestnut hair, there was no doubt. Just eighteen, Miss Hastings was everywhere lauded for her calm manners and her unerring ability to navigate London’s treacherous social shoals while appearing neither missish nor imperious. She danced divinely. She both sang and played the pianoforte. She could read Italian and spoke French beautifully. She befriended those wealthy and modest, with equal disregard for their particular standings. Her sartorial sense was unmatched and her dresser had been offered no less than a half-dozen bribes if she would but reveal the secrets to her mistress’s beauty regime.

Without any other details, most readers would recognize this as a historical novel, set in London amongst a group of wealthy individuals who attend balls and other grand social events.  They learn this in two ways: firstly, through the factual details like description and setting but secondly, and more subtly, through how the story is written.  It isn’t enough then to simply convey facts about the world or the characters themselves: Cecilia Hastings is considered lucky, she’s pretty and dresses well and treats everyone fairly.  Instead, I’ve carefully replicated not only period terms like being ‘well-favoured’ and ‘her mistress’s beauty regime’ but mimicked its syntax and phrasings, too.   This creates (hopefully!) an immersive experience for the reader, that allows them to be transported seamlessly into the story’s setting.  This process occurs in every story but it’s more evident in stories where the characters inhabit a world that is distinct from that of the readers.

So, how do you do this convincingly?  After all, no author wants their book or their characters to sound like a bad actor, trying on an accent that wavers and disappears erratically (Are you listening Kevin Costner?  ‘Cause I’m talking to you!).  So go slowly and work on building your ‘ear’ and your ‘eye’ for period styles gradually, at a pace that’s comfortable for you.  Otherwise you run the very real risk of alienating your reader and drawing unwelcome attention to the cobbled-together and ‘borrowed’ nature of your storytelling.

Here are five easy tips for historical writers on how they can develop their word building skills in their manuscripts.  But have no fear – these tips are also great for sci-fi writers and steam-punk writers and well, frankly writers of all stripes!

1. Get Lost in a Good Book

It isn’t enough to read historical romances written by contemporary authors.  They may have lots of good research behind them but the only way to really get a sense of how people wrote and spoke is to read, read, and read some more from authors published during the era you’re replicating.  For Regency buffs, Jane Austen is a great and accessible starting place but don’t neglect other great authors from the period like Maria Edgeworth, Ann Radcliffe, Samuel Richardson and Frances Burney.   For Victorian eras, authors like George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain and the Brontë sisters are all wonderful while the Gilded age has some spectacular writers including Edith Wharton and Henry James to explore.  Almost all of these books are available in free online editions but if you’re intimidated by the thoughts of tackling a ‘classic’, look instead for a modern edition published by Oxford University Press or Cambridge University Press.  Their editions usually include footnotes to help decipher unfamiliar dates and events, plus a glossary for strange terminology.

2. Dear Diary

We forget in this age of instantaneous communication how ubiquitous letters, diaries and travelogues were prior to the days of easy communication but there are literally hundreds and hundreds of published letter and diary collections by historical figures large and small.   Unlike novels, these fragmentary documents don’t tell a story from beginning to end but their style is often unguarded and intimate and gives a real window into people’s every day concerns, plus includes the day-to-day undertakings that may be lost in ‘big’ history books.  My favourite diarist is Frances Burney, whose wonderfully evocative diaries span nearly the whole of her life in the 18th and early 19th century but a search through any library catalogue or an online database like the Internet Archive will reveal many, many more.

3. Read All About It

Newspapers and magazines are another fantastic resources to get a sense of the period’s concerns and writing style and how they convey information in short concise bursts.  They’re also a great inspiration for story ideas – I’ve discovered a whole host of inspiring true-life ideas just by perusing old articles.  Best of all, many newspaper archives like the London Times and the New York Times are online now, which makes searching them as simple matter.

4. All the World’s a Stage

Plays are a perhaps the best way to understand speech patterns from whatever period you’re exploring.  Whether you’re chuckling over Sheridan’s “School for Scandal” or laughing at George Bernard Shaw or Oscar Wilde, remember that the texts are meant to be performed and spoken, so don’t hesitate to read them out loud – you’ll find yourself hearing aural jokes and understanding the pacing and word play of your period better than ever.  And if reading it out loud doesn’t appeal, never fear; many classic plays are available in audible versions that make taking them in as easy as popping in a CD or downloading them from sites like Audible.com

5. You Just Can’t Make this Stuff Up

Finally, I also love printed ephemera for inspiration and word building: sermons, pamphlets, reports, advertising, court documents and the like.  They’re windows onto the concerns of the era and they make understanding and recreating the ‘mental’ aspects of your historical characters much easier.  You can choose to agree or rebuff the historical talking points but understanding the environment in which your characters find themselves is essential to creating a holistic and believable setting.  My favourite sources for these kinds of documents are the Internet Archive, which includes everything from print to sound recordings, images and more and the Gale Digital Collections.  The former is free; the latter does require a subscription so be sure and check with your local library or college because many of them subscribe to the research collections and allow community members free access.

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Is this article not a wealth of information? Elyse will be popping in all day to answer comments, so don’t be shy about asking questions!

The usual guidelines apply. Please keep any excerpts to 300 words or less, and post critiques and excerpts in separate comments. This blog uses threaded conversations, so when you are replying to a particular comment, please use the reply link in that comment rather than the one at the end. When you use the one within the comment, your comment will be inserted into the conversation thread.

Interview at the Mojito Literary Society

Today, The Mojito Literary Society will post an interview between myself and Susanna Ives. Yesterday, Susanna posted a wonderful review of The Sevenfold Spell–including the misgivings she had before she cracked the cover! The interview will appear later today.

The Mojito Literary Society

Tomorrow, Writer Wednesday returns! Elyse Mady penned a column that I just couldn’t resist and which looks terribly useful for historical fiction authors.

Winner's Choice Showcase

The winner of last week’s giveaway was JenM, and she chose Linda Robertson’s Vicious Circle from my stash. So I thought I’d showcase it here:. Here’s the blurb:

ViciousCircleA girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do….

Being a witch doesn’t pay the bills, but Persephone Alcmedi gets by between reading Tarot cards, writing her syndicated newspaper column, and kenneling werewolves in the basement when the moon is full — even if witches aren’t supposed to mingle with wolves. She really reaches the end of her leash, though, when her grandmother gets kicked out of the nursing home and Seph finds herself in the doghouse about some things she’s written. Then her werewolf friend Lorrie is murdered…and the high priestess of an important coven offers Seph big money to destroy the killer, a powerful vampire named Goliath Kline. Seph is a tough girl, but this time she bites off more than she can chew. She needs a little help from her friends — werewolf friends. One of those friends, Johnny, the motorcycle-riding lead singer for the techno-metal-Goth band Lycanthropia, has a crush on her. And while Seph has always been on edge around this 6’2″ leather-clad hunk, she’s starting to realize that although their attraction may be dangerous, nothing could be as lethal as the showdown that awaits them.

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I had the whole series and I hated to break it up, so I snuck the other two books in the envelope as well.

HallowedCircleFatalCircle

Shh! It’s a surprise. Don’t tell.

These books were furnished free of charge by Juno/Pocket books. I also tucked a slew of bookmarks into the envelope, along with some of my blog business cards. Never miss an opportunity to network!

Oh! By the way! If you’d like some bookmarks, just let me know and I’ll pop some in the mail! Either leave a comment or contact me.