Writing

And the Winner is…

editing example

Diane Davis! Congratulations! Look for my email about how to claim your copy of The Stone of Kings. 😀 Thanks so much to everyone who entered! I hope you had fun cracking my code. 😉

Here’s the solution: “My heart is full of thanks for my God, my family, and books. When my days are filled with all three, my days are happy.”

If your so inclined to decode my diary page, go for it – but it’s a poorly written account of how I got sick at a carnival in front of my crush. The only thing interesting about it is the code itself. *snicker*

And Now, Announcing…

Masterpiece Editing! Just in time for you NaNoWriMo-ers out there currently in need of a copyeditor. 😉

After much research, consideration, and discussion with my spouse, we have agreed that my Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature would be best spent as a freelance copyeditor. Instead of killing myself to grade 350 high school papers a week for meager pay and even less appreciation, I can focus on the enhancement of one story at a time.

I sincerely hope that I can be a positive benefit to any writer who desires to make their manuscript sparkle. If you’ll notice, there is a new heading on my blog about my editing services. Feel free to take a look to see if I might be a good fit for editing your manuscript.

I’ve been through the process myself, and know first-hand how daunting it can be to put your “baby” in the hands of someone else. It’s rather like dropping your child off at daycare for the first time.

Of course I will continue my own literary pursuits between editing jobs. So Grannie’s story will eventually come. 🙂

Happy writing!

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Writing

What’s In a Name?

You may think we're William and Charlie, or even Peter or Spiderman. But really, we're George.
You may think we’re William and Charlie, or even Peter or Spiderman. But really, we’re George.

If you have a sibling, especially one of the same gender, you were probably called by the wrong name from time to time. Growing up, my parents would occasionally call me by my sister’s name. I never understood why. After all, I had perfect recall of my classmate’s names. Why couldn’t my parents get two simple names right?

Then I became a mom of two boys. 😉 Enough said.

Charlie is the twentieth grandchild on my hubby’s side of the family. My mother-in-law just calls all her grandkids George.

Sometimes I want to do that with my characters. Every so often, choosing a name comes naturally, other times it takes research. I try to pick character names that have meaning for their role in the story. For example, I chose Ardan for the main character of The Stone of Kings because it means “high aspiration.”  An average reader probably wouldn’t pick up on it. But for those like me who revel in detail and happen to know the meaning, we realize from the start that there might be more to this clumsy little orphan boy.

Other name selections are more personal, like Sarah McKenna from Harp Lessons. She’s a fictionalized version of myself at that age, so of course her initials had to also be SM. Grandma Maggie is my Grandma Caroline and the story of letting strangers wander into her house for tea in case they were thirsty came from Grandma Caroline about her friend Maggie. 🙂

*giggles* And then there’s George. I couldn’t think of a name when I created the character in Harp Lessons, and I didn’t have time to research something at the time, so I borrowed the trick from my mother-in-law, and simply called him George. In The Stone of Kings, Hannah’s little brother (and Ardan’s alias) is also George. And in my NaNoWriMo book (tentatively titled The Secrets of the Kennel Plantation), George is the family name for the Kennel descendants.

The benefit of naming characters in a story, is that we, as authors, happen to know the character’s story and can name them accordingly. As parents, we have no idea what our children will grow up to do. My boys are William and Charlie, named for Shakespeare and Dickens. Will either of them ever grow to be great writers? I have no idea. But hubby agreed to their names because he was thinking of William Wallace and Charles Ingalls. I’ll be proud of them no matter what they choose to do with their lives as long as they live honorably. Personally, my mom happened to be watching Family Feud just before I was born and thought that the contestant named Shea had a pretty name. 😉

Do you look for meanings in names? Were you named for someone famous? Were you named for family? Have you ever looked up the meaning of your name and found that it totally described you? Does it not describe you at all? If you’re an author, do you have a particular method for choosing your character names?

Gluten · NaNoWriMo

Bring Back My NaNoWriMo Attitude!

I feel as if it will take the strength of two superheros to get me out of my slump. Rescue me, Spider-men!
I feel as if it will take the strength of two superheros to get me out of my slump. Rescue me, Spider-men!

This will be short, because I feel broadsided by life and gluten. But not to worry. To keep from being a Debbie Downer, I end this post with two positives.

Normally, I know that gluten causes my depressions and I can usually push though it. But after deaths of beloved grandmothers, our car being stolen, and now a beloved uncle – who I was looking forward to visiting with again – will quite likely never make it back to the States from England, I’ve been feeling like sludge, both physically and emotionally. I totally expected to be back into blogging again, but I can barely bring myself to work my edits for The Stone of Kings (which are now overdue). So please bear with me while I get through this mess which is currently my life.

I may just be that all I post for a while is Friday Fun, because I do have one lined up for this Friday. I thank the Lord for my boys because without their sweet hugs, smiley faces, and hilarious clowning, I’d be reduced to tears everyday. I’m so blessed to have them lift my spirits even just a little. 😀

For my second positive, I just discovered that the audio version of Harp Lessons has been released! It was quite surreal to hear a professional reader bring my words to life 😀 And I love the beautiful new cover!

Gluten · NaNoWriMo · Writing

When It Rains, It Pours

I’m thinking this may be a good look for our next car. Anti-theft paint! Image attributed to popejon2 from Paddington, Australia via Wikimedia Commons.

Well…

Okay, so trying to make this fun. Somehow. Who can make anything fun? SNL! I looked up Debbie Downer. I watch Saturday Night Live only occasionally, and I remember seeing a few bits with this character. In the Wikipedia article, it talked about the sketch where Betty White (as the grandmother) tells Debbie not to enjoy her birthday cake because gluten allergies run in her family.

Hahaha!

Why is this funny to me? I’ve always thought that my Grandma McIntosh (the last of my grandmothers who’s alive) resembles Betty White and she’s the grandmother who has celiac disease. In other words, I inherited my gluten problems from her.

So, what is it I’m trying to make fun?

Our new year is off to a bang-up start. The big thing is that less than a week into the new year, hubby’s car was stolen. And no, the keys or other valuables were not left inside, nor was it left in a high crime area. On top of that, the boys glutened me again, which, as miserable as I feel, after what happened to the car, it’s the least of our worries.

What a great way to get back into my blog, huh? I guess this explains my prolonged absence too. 😉

So, the bright side.

There’s a bright side? Okay, well,

1. They didn’t take the family car.

2. It was ours – not the bank’s. We don’t have to make payments on something we don’t have since we don’t like making bankers rich taking out loans.

3.We will be getting money toward a new one in the likely event that the stolen one is not recovered.

4. I learned a new emotion to use and correct for a reaction in my NaNoWriMo book: helpless, victimized, anger. My main character is kidnapped, and after this experience with our car, I’ve realized that her parents are not nearly angry enough about it.

Anyway. I hope your New Year is going better than ours.

Please tell me good happy things going on in your New Year! I need cheered up!

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo · Writing

Finding Positives From the Worst November

I’m ready for next year! 😀

This is not the worst November because it was my first NaNoWriMo and I didn’t “win.” On the contrary, NaNo pumped me as a writer. I’m looking forward to finishing my third book in much less than half the time of my previous two.

This has been the worst November because it was parenthesized by the deaths of two beloved grandmothers.

So, positives:

1. My grandmothers were both ready to pass. They died in relative comfort. I’m grateful that neither one is in pain anymore.

2. I’ve proved to myself that it doesn’t have to take a year to write a book. Even one that requires a bunch of research.

3. I had fun posting my blog contest entries and engaging in the comments that were made.

4. I won the blogging contest! And Jessica has been gracious enough to allow me another month to finish my book. I’m looking forward to her critique. 🙂

5. I didn’t get glutened.

6. I got a new computer. 😉

Despite, and in some cases because of, the positives, I’m exhausted. So I’ve decided to take a two-week blogcation. I’d like to focus on family and finishing my book. In that order. 🙂 I hope everyone has fun with their pre-Christmas festivities. See you in two weeks. 😀

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo · Writing

#30 Why Do You Think You Could Benefit From Manuscript Evaluation and Critique?

Pre-polishing. Image attributed to Scotty00 via Wanacommons
Pre-polishing. Image attributed to Scotty00 via Wanacommons

Despite having been a writer since I was 6, I’m still learning. Despite having a degree in English Literature and having taught High School English, I’m still learning. Despite having published a book and having another one under contract, I’m still learning. If I have ten plus books under my belt, I’ll still be learning.

I have grown a pretty thick skin. I need feedback whether good or bad because I know that it means I can learn to get better. That’s why I’ve been pretty disappointed that I’ve only gotten two reviews for Harp Lessons. Sure, I’ve had people come up to me to tell me that they enjoyed it, but I really want to know what they liked about it. I want to know what they didn’t like about it.

Help me be a better writer!

But even better than reviews, is having a professional evaluate my manuscript before it gets sent to my publisher. It’ll be great to have someone tell me which “little darlings” need to bleed out and which spots need to be beefed up.

I’m very curious how this manuscript is going to come out. I’ve never written anything this quickly before. I can only imagine how much editing I’ll need to do when it’s finished. It would be nice to already have a plan in place to adjust the parts of the story that need work before I even get started on the grammatical issues.

A different set of eyes is always helpful. Different people have a different set of experiences to bring to the table. A different editor can catch things that another one may not. Not that the other editor is a bad editor, just one with other experiences. And the other editor may catch things that the first one didn’t.

The bottom line is, I want to be a better writer. The experience of NaNo will be unique for me. I’m hoping it will help, but I’d like to know if by the end of it, do I have a descent book or is it just puked out words?

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: A little more, but not much. Still not quite 26,000, but I didn’t get the chance to count. As stoked as I am that I found out I won this contest, especially for reasons expressed in the above post, I also found out that my Grandma Caroline just passed. She was a great inspiration for my writings. I will miss her tremendously.

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo · Writing

#29 Thoughts On Completing This Contest?

I feel like this contest was my NaNo warm-up. At first, I cranked out the posts and I was way ahead of schedule. But I wasn’t done when I went on vacation. No matter. I could get a few done during the trip, and at the rate I was going, I could easily finish when we got back.

Then Grannie died rather suddenly.

Along with the torrent of emotions and distraction of family, some of whom I hadn’t seen in over 10 years, I confess I didn’t get any posts written.

Boom!

I lost my “lead” and began to feel like a procrastinating school kid who doesn’t finish their essay till the night before it’s due. As it is, while I write this, it is October 30th, I’ve got the last topic to write plus the “Day in the Life” post which I sort of skipped because for me, it required a bit of background reading. I’ve finished the research on that one, but still need to write it out.

To my credit, we also had computer issues too these last few days. I’ve had to write out most of my final posts from my tablet, hunt and peck style. Ugh. But now, two days before the posts are due, we finally got the computer reimaged so I can add my links and pictures (and type normally).

But you know what? I’m glad I had stresses and distractions that kept me from finishing early (obviously, I really could have done without the sudden loss of a loved one). But I should get done on time, and the stress has boosted my confidence that I can do this NaNo thing.

So thank you Jessica! Whether or not you choose me as the winner, I’ve already “won.” And look at that! Another post finished and two left to go! 😀

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 25,289. We ended up needing a new computer anyway, so I did something I never do. I waited for 2 hours last night at Office Depot for the pre-Black Friday sale. Got a great deal, but I don’t want to do it again. lol

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo · Writing

#28 Do You Plan To Do NaNoWriMo in 2014?

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Absolutely! One of the things I recognize in myself as a writer is my utter inability to turn off my inner editor. I need to gag her, bind her and stuff her in a closet along with the cotton that fills my head whenever I accidentally eat gluten. I’m counting on NaNoWriMo to help me with that.

NaNo will be the drill sergeant I never got to have. Because if I really want to be a professional writer, well I’ve got to be my own boss. A physical boss imposes deadlines, doesn’t care if I’m sick for a month because of gluten, and doesn’t tolerate playing computer games on the job.

NaNo will be the Boot Camp I need to get me fit for writing as a professional. “I don’t care if you’re cramping and nauseous! You’re not vomiting, so you can drop and give me 2000 words right now!”

“Yes, drill sergeant!”

I love the way Kristen Lamb uses the analogy of the inner editor in NaNo Boot Camp. If we edit while writing, it’s like cleaning dirt and vomit off our boots while climbing a hill.

“What do you think you’re doing Private Ford? I don’t care what Private Editor told you! Leave the passive voice and head hopping on your boots! Move it! Move it!”

I’d like to think that I’ll keep the Nano momentum for the rest of my life, but I know life will get in the way. So yes, I’ll be looking forward to next year’s contest where I’ll be held accountable for my word count for the month. I’d like to write more than one book every two to three years. Besides, I’ve got ideas in my head that are ready start smashing windows in order to get out. So to avoid the broken glass, I’d like to get them out as quickly and effectively as possible.

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 25,289. Happy Thanksgiving! Okay so, yeah, while it looks like Boot Camp has failed me, I’m here to say it has NOT! 😀 External circumstances have kept me from writing as often as I had thought I could. It was like getting a severely sprain ankle on the second day of Boot Camp. Days ago, I set two new goals: get to 25,000 before the end of the month (DONE!), get to 50,000 or finish the book by the end of the year (ON TRACK!). I’m actually pretty stoked since my last two books took a year or more to complete a piece. 😀

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo · Writing

#27 What Do You Like To Blog About The Most?

Neverending silliness!
Never-ending silliness!

Okay, so don’t get me wrong, I love blogging about my boys. They’re funny and always come up with great stuff to entertain. Be on the lookout for a few things on my adorable nephew too, who, due to distance, I don’t get to see nearly enough. But that’s all info I can easily share on facebook.

So I’ll be honest. I blog because I don’t really want to blog. It’s a writing challenge – that’s the purpose. It’s a way for me to improve my skills and build my author platform at the same time.

I’d have to say that I mostly like to blog about anything that pertains to whatever I’m writing. Lately much of it has been about Ireland because that is where The Stone of Kings is set. But I’ve also talked a bit about the evils of bigotry and prejudice because that is also a big theme in the book.

Come December, I may be writing more on the bigotry issue because my NaNo book is a mystery/suspense about the Civil War. I guess that’s why part of me really wants to get back into teaching. Just the four months of seeing the racism evident in the students that I taught…well, it shook me to the core. I had no idea that there were still people out there teaching their children the useless idea of hate.

It made me so sad for them.

That’s why I’ve titled my blog the way I have – Author of Open-Minded Fiction. I may move on to something else that I feel more people ought to be more open-minded about, but for now, it’s urging my readers to influence others to push hatred aside and find commonalities with each other.

When I begin to write my dystopia, I’ll probably start blogging more on making sure that we think for ourselves. Because, is it just me, or does it feel like our society is allowing the media and government to think more and more for us?

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 24,464

Blogging Contest · NaNoWriMo · Writing

#26 What “Being An Author” Means To You

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Being an author had meant that I’d hang out in coffee shops or bookstores signing my books and maybe reading an excerpt or two. Then, I’d write another book and trust that everyone would respect my need for solitude. When I’d finish the next book, I’d send it immediately to an editor, who would only have to catch my typos because everything I write is golden…

Okay, who was holding the glue under my nose? C’mon, ‘fess up.

A little research, a little Kristen Lamb kicking my rear like Jillian Michaels, and I’ve learned that the way of an author – a successful author – is a lot of hard work. But honestly, how can anyone truly be successful at anything without having worked hard?

So now…

Being an author means writing – everyday. It means reading – any spare moment, fiction and craft books. It means getting the voices in my head down on paper and trying to come up with new ways to connect them to my readers. It means blogging, tweeting (gotta work harder on that), and facebooking. It means breaking out of my comfort zone and trying new things, NaNoWriMo for instance.

But it’s also dreaming.

I dream that I can write the kind of fiction that can touch lives the way other books have touched mine. I dream that if I’m ever a best-selling, popular author, that I won’t ever lose sight of why I started writing books in the first place. I also dream of being a voice of reason to young people. I am by no means a wise sage, but I’ve learned some things from my youth – things that I wish I had learned earlier. As an author, I’m writing to my younger self in hopes that others, young or old can learn what I have. I hope it helps them in some way.

[This post was written as a part of the NaNoWriMo Pre-game Kick Off over at Jessica Schmeidler’s blog.]

NaNo word count: 24,067