Every Author Needs a Photo Shoot, Right?

I’m on the last leg of my journey to getting my words and stories in front of people. It’s scary. I feel like I’m on a roller coaster going up a giant, terrifying hill.

When I was a child and I dreamed of being an author, I had a photoshoot, a book tour, and lots of people wanting my autograph. Now that the publishing industry has collapsed and I’ve decided to become an independent author, I’m responsible for creating my own traditions and dreams.

For Christmas, I gave myself a photo shoot. I learned about a photographer here in town that works with a hair and make-up artist and does great work. I haven’t had such in-depth pictures taken of me since my wedding in 1999, so I was nervous, but Annette, the photographer, worked hard to put me at ease.

Now, let’s get this straight. I write about everyday women thrust into glamorous situations, but I am not at all glamorous. I’ve never been the foo-foo type as I call it. I don’t typically wear a lot of make-up, and my hair does its own thing. But I let Annette have her way, and her stylist worked wonders.

At first I was nervous, but she got me talking about my book, and that got me laughing pretty quickly.  We were three girls giggling about the ramifications of my character’s one-night stand in Vegas.

I felt like a princess.  All that I was missing is a tiara.

So Annette, thank you. You’re truly magical.

If you live in the South Carolina area and you are interested in a great photographer, Annette can be reached through her Facebook page, at https://www.facebook.com/EveInYou.

Here are a few of her masterpieces…

Black Coat

Are we really ready for this?

Writer with Pen

As I was saying…

In the next few weeks, as I march toward publication, I’ll be talking about my journey, and more importantly, about my book. I’m having fun along the way, including creating my own rituals and milestones. Come back tomorrow for the big title reveal!

 

How Do You Feel About Gerunds?

I am sitting in my car thinking about how much I use gerunds in my writing, those pesky little -ing words meant to show immediacy. According to recent feedback from my editor, the answer is too much.

Did you notice the first sentence had two? I could have gone for three. I could have said “I am sitting in my car thinking about using gerunds in my writing.” That might have made my point more, but it was implying future use of gerunds, so it wasn’t as effective.

Like most current fiction, my book is written in third person past tense, but I still find myself sprinkling in gerunds. Here’s an example:

Lindsey tried to talk to the red-headed girl beside her, but that failed when the girl’s phone was ringing and she got up and left.

This is a clumsy example from an early draft, but you get the idea.

What about this instead?

Lindsey exchanged a few words with the red-headed girl beside her, but that failed when the girl’s phone rang and she got up and left.

I think it still kept a sense of immediacy. I’m still not happy with the sentence, but it’s closer.

What about you? I challenge you to go on a gerund hunt. You may be surprised at what you find.

The Uber Cookie: Can Your Characters Bake?

I don’t bake a lot. I cook, but my brand of cooking is generally Southern and simple. We eat everyday things like tacos, spaghetti, chicken tenders, that kind of thing. Occasionally I will go out on a limb and make homemade salad dressing. The other night I made homemade croutons. My fare is simple.

I don’t bake. It’s time-consuming, and since we could all stand to lose a few pounds, I just don’t mess with it. But tonight the kids wanted something sweet, and I hadn’t been to the store, so I decided to make some cookies. Below I want to explain the decision-making process that led to the creation of the Uber Cookie.

CookieThe original recipe was from the back of a bag of chocolate chips, and went something like this:

  • 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour (1st mistake — I used self-rising)
  • 1 tsp salt (left out — because I used self-rising)
  • 1 tsp baking soda (left out — because I used self-rising)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened (I used 1/4 of this)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (used about one cup)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (omitted)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (forgot)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (used about 1/2 that)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (left out)
  • Added 1/4 cup oil to make up for missing butter
  • Added 1/2 cup applesauce to make up for missing butter and add more sweetness

So, amazingly enough, out of a ten-item recipe, only one item I got right, and that’s the two large eggs. I plopped those cookies down on a baking sheet, sort of like drop cookies, and baked them. I left them a good distance apart, but once the batter heated up, the spread was on.

Was it a cookie? Was it a cake? Or somewhere in between? The consistency was almost like a dry cake or an airy cookie. It was sweet, but not too sweet. The best word that my husband could come up with was odd. The kids were fascinated with them. They were really excited that I made the cookies.

The next time you have a failure in your kitchen, think about it from your character’s perspective. I’m not a ditz. I know that to have something come out right you have to follow the recipe. I ran into trouble when I didn’t have enough butter, and I didn’t realize until I had already committed. The self-rising flour I thought would be okay to substitute. My daughter was helping, and she would have been really disappointed if I had changed my mind. So, yes, I knew I was in uncharted territory and they may not have been edible, but sometimes you’ve just got to experiment.

So how would an OCD character handle it? Throw the batter away when she realized she didn’t have the butter? Or go across to the neighbor’s and borrow it?

My husband ate a cookie, pronounced them odd, and we had a good laugh. But what if he were a jerk about it? What if I had been trying really hard and he had said I was worthless because I couldn’t bake simple cookies? Would that be the beginning of a drawn-out ugly fight? Would that be the beginning of a female character finding her self-worth again?

Or what about the OCD widower, whose former wife’s sister is a clutzy aunt who is taking care of the kids for the night and they make fun cookies and a huge mess in the kitchen? I could see a Lifetime or Hallmark movie starting with that.

I know. I’m an incurable romantic. How would your character handle a baking experiment gone wrong? Next time you’re stuck, think about it. How do you use your everyday choices in your character’s lives?

The Valentine’s Day Backlash

Glancing at my Facebook feed, I’m not seeing a lot of love for Valentine’s Day these days. A few married couples have tossed out Happy Valentine’s Day wishes to their spouses.  A few moms have wished their children a happy birthday who happen to be born on St. Valentine’s Day. A few singles have posted pictures of a broken heart followed by Happy Single’s Awareness Day (SAD). My circle of friends appear to be over the holiday.

On twitter, the hashtag #CandyHeartRejects continues, and Commander Hatfield @Cmdr_Hadfield is retweeting the best of #ValentineFromSpace.

If you are a romance writer, how your characters deal with this holiday could be very informative.  For example, the stereotype of a man who rails against Valentine’s Day as a made-up holiday comes to mind. However, what if the female character is the one who hates the day and all of the fake love associated with it? One of my long-time male friends from college posted a story on Facebook this morning that his spouse of many years hates Valentine’s Day, and always has.

What if Valentine’s Day was also your wedding anniversary, but then there’s an ugly divorce? Would the day forever be tainted, even if you are close to finding new love?

What if a character is not very materialistic and a new beau gives an expensive bracelet for Valentine’s Day hoping to impress, but it has the opposite effect?

What if a first-date on Valentine’s Day goes awry because the fancy restaurant loses the reservation?

Why can’t I get these people out of my head?

Happy Valentine’s Day. 

What are your feelings about Valentine’s Day? Which stereotype do you match, or do you have a unique story?  I remember when I was single it was a very depressing holiday for me. Now that I’m married with kids, we typically avoid going out because of all the crowds.

Finding Time to [Insert Activity Here]

Everywhere I look, writers are looking for time to write. There are only 24 hours in the day, and when you subtract sleep, working at your full-time job (which most of us do), taking care of children and the house, that doesn’t leave much.  People who don’t write are having the same issues fitting in their hobbies, whether it be playing board games, golfing, running, sewing, or baking.

At our house, my hobby is writing fiction, and my husband plays golf. As a a family, we like to put puzzles together, play board games, and going exploring/hiking at battlefields. Lately, I think we have done a good job fitting together all sorts of things we like to do.

Writing is a solitary hobby. If I spent all of my spare time at a keyboard, I wouldn’t be a very good wife or mother. So here’s to our attempt to find balance.

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Here are a few tips to make the most of your day:

  • Make an appointment with yourself. Instead of just saying I’ll fit it in later, give yourself a specific time and stick to it. Be as specific as possible. For example, at 9:00 after the kids are in bed I’m going to work on revising Chapter 7. Or, While the kids are at basketball practice I’m going to the gym to exercise.
  • Set realistic goals and deadlines. It helps you find time to make those edits if you know you’ve committed to have them by a certain date. This can be problematic if you are an indie writer. First drafts and edits can drag out longer than they need to. I am guilty of this.
  • Brainstorm constantly. I’m using Evernote on my phone and computer to track random thoughts about characters, future scenes, and plot ideas for future projects. We all have dead time, whether it’s standing in line at the grocery store, waiting at the DMV office, or waiting for a child’s event to start.  Fill it by typing away on your little phone, and you’ll be amazed what gems you can keep.  Quietly type in bits of conversation that you may overhear to study later and perhaps throw in as dialog. Everyone else will think you are just playing a game.
  • Cut back on scheduled events. You don’t have to attend every invitation that comes through your inbox or even your mailbox. Be choosy with your time. If you are going out of a sense of obligation and not enjoyment, sometimes you can bow out and send a gift instead.
  • Cut back on the frequency of “maintenance” activities. Grocery shop only once a week instead of making multiple trips to the store. Don’t go shopping at all unless it’s something you absolutely have to have. Cook enough for two meals and have the second portion later.
  • Delegate. My kids are old enough now that they are helping with laundry and household chores. As they get older, this will increase. It’s important that every child learn what it takes to make a household run smoothly.
  • Hire it out if you can. My husband and I agreed a while back that we would have a lawn service because it’s not something that either one of us enjoys. Soon I hope to add a house-cleaning service into the mix.
  • Cut back on television, and the Internet. I know, ouch, right? Enough said.

These are just some ideas. Don’t feel guilty about finding time for fun. Our lives shouldn’t be all drudgery. Sometimes we get sucked into doing nothing but work, kid’s activities, cleaning, and sleep.

Take time to do a puzzle.

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Or go to a battlefield. Here’s a picture from a trip we recently took to a local battlefield where participants were dressed in period costumes from the Revolutionary War.

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Carve out time with the family to go on hikes, explore local battlefields, and play games. Carve out time for yourself to do what you like, too. I think it’s important for kids to know that mom and dad have interests away from them, whether it’s golf, writing fiction, or going to a movie for a girls’ night or afternoon out. Laundry can wait.

(Note these pictures are all mine. Please do not use without permission)

Writer’s Tip Monday

I’m still editing and I’m almost there. Here are my Monday tips.

Tip One: There is no there there.

If you are at the polish stage, do a quick search for the adverb there and look for a stronger sentence construction. Often “there” is a filler that can be strengthened with some creativity. Remember, unless you are referring to a place, there is no there there.

Tip Two: The moon was jumped over by the cow.  Or by the zombies.

Look for passive construction. I saw a great tip today on the grammarley blog from twitter user Rebecca Johnson (@johnsonr).  You can find it here:

http://blog.grammarly.com/post/34095768680/writeworld-mightymur-the-final-brilliant

Her idea: Look for your verb. If you can insert the phrase “by a zombie” after it and it still makes sense, you have a passive sentence.  I love this! I don’t want to steal their thoughts, so check out the grammarly blog for the exact examples.

That’s all folks.  Remember, editing doesn’t have to be a painful process, and it doesn’ have to extend into infinity.  My goal is to send the complete manuscript to my editor by the middle of November. I would like to be done before then, but I’m realistic, and considering I work full-time and have two elementary school age kids, I think that’s the best I can hope for.

Write on!!!

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.