Happy National Punctuation Day!!!

Do you have any big celebrations planned?  Come on, you can tell me…

In honor of this minor holiday, I thought I would talk about some of my personal issues with punctuation. Feel free to share your own in the comments.

  • I want a comma before then almost all of the time. For some reason, I think in my head that then should be treated like but. In my recent edits of my work in progress, I have changed many a “then” sentence.  One example is I would like it to be correct to say, “He crossed the room, then sat down.” Now why, I don’t know, but I clearly need to become more aware of it, since I had to fix a ton of those. The best explanation that I’ve found about this resides at the Music City Romance Writers site, here. http://www.mcrw.com/index.php/and-then-and-then/ This was from the Grammar Wench, and I found her musings insightful.
  • I over-use the em dash.  This is the long dash that can sometimes be used in place of commas to separate a dependent clause.  I love em dashes.  I need to be more judicious in my use so my prose doesn’t appear choppy.
  • I caught myself several times using multiple exclamation points.  Really?!!??  (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

So what punctuation infractions are you fighting as you write/edit your next work?  You know you want to confess. You get amnesty on National Punctuation Day!

I Learned Something Today: French Word Choices

As long as I have been reading and writing, I have never realized that there were two forms of blond/blonde and two forms of fiance/fiancee.  Apparently, when these words came over form the French, they kept their masculing and feminine attributes.

Blonde vs. Blond

Blonde is a noun and is always used to refer to a woman. Blond can be a noun or an adjective. As a noun, it is only male. As an adjective, it can modify a male or female. Some have argued that using the word blonde as a noun is sexist.

Fiance vs. Fiancee

My spellcheck kept kicking back fiance as misppelled. I think it waned the little accent mark. So when I looked it up, fiance is a man engaged to a woman, while fiancee is a woman who is engaged to a man.  I’m not sure how it would treat same-sex couples, but that will be a question for another generation.

Crazy, right?

Identity Crisis: Book Reviews

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Who Am I? Who am I posting as? I’m creating a web identity for Lily, my pen name extraordinaire, and I’ve gotten a few twitter followers, and occasionally some fabulous bloggers will pop over here and give me a comment.

I have a personal twitter account, where I follow some celebrities and occasionally tweet with friends, and I have Lily’s account, who talks about writing and general things that amuse me. Lily is more popular.  (@Lilybishop)

On Amazon, I have my basic account where I exist as my real name. I have written maybe two or three reviews in a decade.

However, in pondering how I can give back to the indie authors who have rocked my world lately, I’ve been wanting to write some reviews.  I have three questions that I would LOVE feedback on.

Dilemma 1: Who do I review them as?

Do I review them as Lily, or me? I looked around and Amazon has alias’s. How does that work with a later pen name if I publish through Amazon Kindle Direct?

Dilemma 2: What do you do about legitimate concerns you have about a book?

Now I’m not planning to trash anyone. This isn’t about negativity at all. In fact, the only negative review that I’ve ever written was against a national NYT best-seller that aggravated me beyond measure. I can guarantee you, it didn’t hurt her sales a bit.(Think Historian)

In general, my only complaint against indie authors has been one who skimped on the proof-reading, and another that wrote out of genre.  (I expect a happy ever after (HEA) in romance and I didn’t get it. In fact, the heroine killed the “hero” in the last chapter. Boo!!! I guess he was an anti-hero, but the author implied all along that he wasn’t the bad man everyone thought, and that he had changed. NOT!)

So, for those books that you just don’t get, for whatever reason, do you review them at all or leave them alone? How can you warn readers that they won’t get a HEA without spoiling it? I don’t want to be bitchy, but this particular author really needs to re-bill herself as straight suspense, not romantic-suspense.

Should I focus on spreading love for the indie books that I believe truly deserve to get additional attention, and ignore the ones that I just didn’t quite get?

Again, I want to be clear that I’m not talking about “competitive reviews” that I’ve read about lately, where someone is trying to bring another author down. That’s not it at all.

Dilemma 3: What Scale do you Use?

I’ve always approached it as a “5” would be hard to earn. But what if 5 means it’s a book you enjoyed, and you would read more by this author. It doesn’t exactly have to be the BEST BOOK EVER, right?

I’m aiming for escapism in what I read and write these days. I don’t expect someone to tell me that my book changed their life. I just want to give them a fun little afternoon.

5 – Great story, great characters

4 – Enjoyed it – had some concerns

3 – Probably won’t remember it but no issues

2 – Serious issues (plot, excessive typos, characters not believable)

Yes, I over-analyze things. I should probably just head on over to the great river and give a shout-out to some of my recent favorites. But if I’m going to do it, I want to do it right, and I want to be fair.

I would LOVE some opinions here!  Thanks in advance for sharing.

This post is a great take of the adage “Kill your darlings”. I am about to purchase her book on writers and social media — We Are Not Alone.

Confessions from a Romance Writer!

One of my favorite bloggers is featuring confessions by writers today. I thought I would join in the fun and put my little secret out there. A shout-out to her post is here. http://www.patricialynne.com/4/post/2012/09/written-confessions-blog-hop1.html

My confession has two parts.

Here goes…. I read (and write) trashy kidnap/abduction romance novels. Yes, I admit it. (They say that’s the first step, right?)  I like all kinds. The hero (or heroine) has to be a good guy who is doing this bad thing for the right reasons. It doesn’t have to be a forcible taking, although that’s the best. The heroine could agree to go somewhere and then not be able to leave. Historical, paranormal, contemporary — you name it, if it’s got a romantic kidnap plot I will snatch it up. Why is that? I don’t know, but why fight it?

Do I want to be kidnapped by a Scottish laird and sent back in time, or trapped on a pirate ship? Of course not. But man, it makes for some steamy reading. So any writers stumbling across this — if you have a kidnap plot, post a link in the comments and if you’re under $5 on the kindle you’ve got almost a guaranteed sale. If I don’t already own it.

My current work in progress, A Strategic Alliance, has the barest hint of a kidnap plot, but it was enough to keep me going.  Stolen away on a yacht with a gorgeous hunky man? I’m there.

The second part of my confession is that, despite my obsession with kidnap/abduction plots, I have not read the big bondage trilogy out there right now. Too many writers that I respect said the writing was atrocious. Plus, the price point was higher than I want. I can get my erotica fix elsewhere, so I passed. (Since I haven’t read it, I don’t know whether there’s a kidnap/abduction component or not, but bondage usually has some elements of forcing or what would be the point?) Let me be clear that most of my kidnap plot ideas are the actual taking. The romance comes later, and and rape, fake-rape, or rape fantasies are never ever involved.

So there you have it. I put it out there. What about you? Do you have a confession?

Scrivener — Writer’s Little Helper or Busy Work?

I recently discovered Scrivener, a software package that, from their website, is “a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.”

Scrivener; for Microsoft Windows

Here is a link to their website: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

The cost is $40 for the Windows version, and I decided to give it a try.  I’m a few days into the 30-day trial period (which is 30 days of use, not 30 contiguous days).  So far, I love it.  I think it will be great for a project started from scratch. I plan to buy it soon.

At this point, I’ve imported my current manuscript, about 67k, and I’m working on a fairly substantial revision. I’ve found it helps me move between different chapters and scenes easily to edit where I need to edit. This is definitely easier for me than paginating through a 170-odd page Word document to find where I need to be.

However, having all of the scenes broken up is a double-edged sword for me, because I have lost all sense of the length, or the idea of a page. While I can certainly use word count to estimate length, and I can compile and print, I’m struggling with day to day editing knowing the size of a chapter or its composite scenes.

I wold love to hear from other Scrivener users out there who have found a solution to this issue.

So far, my review would be thumbs up with a definite plan to buy. I’m excited about learning more about the nuances of program. I took the tutorial, but I’m an experiential learner, so I can’t wait to get down and dirty with it.  I think in a new project the character templates would be helpful, but in this instance, I don’t have the time to do all of that.

Have you looked at it? What do you think?

Alternate Reality of Fiction

A Feminist Professor’s Closing Chapters

If you are interested, the link above is to a moving description of a woman fighting ovarian cancer. I felt blessed this morning reading her story. I want to pay tribute to her by talking about a quote she has lower in the article.

“I am always happier when I have a book in progress,” she says. “Living with a book in process is like living an alternative reality. You are out of time, it is a kind of transport, a kind of addiction.” (Quote from Susan Gubar, Professor and Feminist at Indiana University)

As a writer, the quote above hit me between the eyes. This is so true!!  I have my reality (my husband of 13 years, two children in those pre-teen years, and a full-time job) and I have my fictional world, which at the moment is careening between Vegas, Miami, Atlanta, and the Bahamas. And when the words are coming, it is an addiction. When the words aren’t coming, I get immersed in my life and find excuses not to look at the Word file taking up space on my netbook.

I’m working right now on the story arc, morphing a series of random events into a compelling story.  Because in fiction, it has to all tie together, it has to make sense, and it has to be compelling.  No one cares if a couple starts dating, decide to date exclusively, fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after with 2.2 kids, a dog and a cat.  There’s no drama.  There’s no story. But throw in some betrayal, missing corporate funds, and a sister who is somehow connected and now missing, and you’ve got something.  I hope.

Busting Up the Concrete

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I took this picture where I work a few days ago. Look at this mess. The parking lot was fine, but there were problems with the curbing. To fix the curbing, a whole section of the parking lot had to be dug up and the spaces were unusable. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how perfect the concrete is, you have to bust it up. 

I’m working on a new ending when the current ending worked fine. It was fine, but that’s all it was.  It wasn’t a zinger. It wasn’t wow.  It was more like an ‘eh’. Don’t get me wrong.  I loved parts of it.  But even when I read it in sequence for the first time, part of me knew that I was taking the easy road.  Perhaps I had poured concrete over a large root to a dead tree.  Perhaps I had poured over an uneven area. Over time, it became more and more obvious that i would have to dig up that section and make it better.

But it was paved!  (Sigh). It was a beautiful piece of concrete.  (Insert justification here.) It looked perfect. But the characters whispered to me that this ending wouldn’t hold up to foot traffic.  They didn’t think anyone would buy it.

“I would so not do that,” Windsor told me, her hands on her hips.

“She’ll do it, because she loves me,” Grady said and winked.  That’s when I knew it wasn’t going to work, because Windsor wasn’t there yet, and Grady was still being an ass.

William Faulkner once said “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”  It doesn’t matter how beautiful the writing is, or how cool the scene is, if it doesn’t contribute to the story arc it has to die.  I can’t wait to see my fresh new paving.

So what do you think? E-books or printed copies? I am a true convert to e-books. Take his poll and join in the conversation.

Secret Readers: Romance Novels

I want to commend Maria Bustillos for her article “Romance Novels, The Last Great Baston of Underground Writing” that appeared on www.theawl.com.  There is a link below to a great overview of why romance novels are so popular.  As someone who cut her teeth on Harlequin and Silhouette, I understand exactly what she means.

I stopped reading them in college because there was a stigma to being seen with them, especially since I was majoring in English Literature.  After college, before I got married, and after I married, I read mostly women’s fiction, such as Ann Rivers Siddons and Dorothea Benton Frank.  After I had kids, when they were young, I didn’t read at all. Who had time?

Then everything changed. My husband bought me a Kindle for our tenth anniversary, and I am such a fast reader, I couldn’t keep it stocked with books.  I discovered that Harlequin and Silhouette sold book bundles on the Kindle — all the books they published for the month for one tidy sum.  I could still read a bundle of nine books in a week, but you couldn’t beat the reduced price.  The kicker — no one could see what I was reading.  Harlequin and Silhouette have since discontinued the bundling practice. Or they may bundle a story sequence, for example eight books about a single family or company.  I’m still reading.

I’m not the only one.  Romance readership is at an all-time high because of the e-readers.  Women can give in to their guilty pleasure without anyone looking down their nose and making judgments.

The romance genre has really gotten a bad rap because some of the older books can come across as sexist, and even go as far as to be misogynous.  Some publishers have also been slow to change some of their formulas to adopt to modern mores. Up until a few years ago, I think Harlequin Presents heroines still had to be virgins, no matter how old they were. Remember that when Mills and Boon was founded in 1908, women weren’t in the workforce, and if they were, it was as household staff, teachers, and nannies. Almost all office positions were held by men. It’s understandable that this filtered through into the books.

In many of the current books, the men aren’t interested in marriage at all, but rather want a no-strings-attached-affair.  The heroines won’t settle for that long-term, and eventually win the hero’s heart as he realizes that he does want a family after all.  Current books are much more sexually detailed than years past, but everything about our lives is more sexual than the past. The best writers find a way to deepen the relationship through the sexual detail without being obscene, and that can be difficult. For me, it’s tough to decide when to close the bedroom door and when to leave it wide open for my characters.

Yes, I read romance novels. And I write them. Now if I could just get this “hot mess” revised I’d have something.

http://www.theawl.com/2012/02/romance-novels