Archive for September, 2010

30
Sep

Self-Editing #10: Got Clones?

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

And we come to self-editing tip #10. According to my notes, this will be the final Self-Editing Series post for awhile… I may run more at a future date, but this is the last in this series. If you’ve missed any of the posts or want to refresh your memory, here’s the full series of posts in one handy-dandy list!

So… on to today’s topic!

You might have read the title and thought… “Oh, another topic on characters!”

Er, I apologize for possibly leading you astray. You see, I’m not writing about characters at all, but rather the actions that they do over the course of a story. Particularly in certain sentences.

The key term here is simultaneous action. That means having your character do two things at the same that are physically impossible to do at the same time.

Unless your character has a clone, these sentences need to go (and if your character does have a clone, you’re probably going to want to mention that…).

How do you find these sentences?

As you’re reading through your manuscript, stop at every sentence that begins with a participle (that’s an –ing word, for you non-grammarophiles… yep, that’s right, I just made that word up right now).

Here’s an example of simultaneous action that’s physically impossible (this example is from Kelly Mortimer’s Grammar Guide, so please credit her if you use this info on your own blog):

 

Pulling out of the driveway, he drove down the street.”

The simultaneous actions are in red. These verbs tell us the character was leaving the driveway AND driving down the street at the same time. Impossible, right? Here’s the correction:

“He pulled out of the driveway, then drove down the street.”

Let’s try one more example from my morning-addled brain:

 

Incorrect:  Cheering on her husband as he slid into home plate, Kristi asked Sarah about her fiancé’s job promotion.”

Correct: “Kristi cheered as her husband slid into home plate, then turned to Sarah to ask a pressing question.”

Kristi can’t cheer and ask a question at the same time—it’s physically impossible.

Make sense? I think many of us write sentences like these in the first draft because we want to keep the action moving. Placing verbs in this way gives a false sense of continuous motion, when really what’s happening simply can’t be happening without the help of character clones walking around and doing things for the real character. In which case, you’re likely writing a Sci-Fi novel and have other things to worry about. Like, when will the clones realize they’re the clones and not the real person, and try to kill off the main character? I’m betting you’d rather worry about that than simultaneous action. Seriously.

So… how’s your character doing? Been in two places at once recently?

Or possibly attacked by a murderous clone that plans to take over your life? (You might want to get some help for that…)

28
Sep

Wanna Build a Platform?

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

So, remember that crazy time last week when we all went around to each other’s blogs and commented and talked about characters? Yeah, that was pretty fantastic.

Would you like to do something similar again? Rach Writes… is hosting the:

Inaugural Writers’ Platform-Building Crusade

…which, aside from its lengthy name, is (as I understand it) an effort to build each other’s web presence through the creation of a large support network. It’s a ‘pay-it-forward’ idea: I follow you, you follow me, we comment and link around, la-dee-doo, we’re all getting more exposure and having fun doing it!

Now, I’m not entirely certain how this will work, but it sounds like Rach plans to run some Crusade Challenges and Blogfests, which are always fun and a great way to meet new people.

This post tells you how to join the crusade.

So… who’s up for making new friends? :)

26
Sep

In My Mailbox (13)

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Books! Mailbox! My poor postman! …honestly, sometimes I wonder if he hates delivering to our house because of all the heavy book envelopes… oh well, he’s got a good job going, so hopefully the benefits make up for it in the end. Heh…

Anyway, here’s what came in my mailbox this week, along with a couple impulse purchases from last Sunday afternoon.

FYI: In my mailbox is a weekly meme started by The Story Siren to showcase books you’ve received for review, bought, borrowed, or swapped. Anyone can participate, and it’s a great way to showcase new books and encourage blogger/commenter interaction!

ARC of

 

The False Friend

by Myla Goldberg

 

 

 

 

ARC of

 

Running the Books

by Avi Steinberg

 

 

 

Purchased

 

The Glass Castle: A Memoir

by Jeanette Walls

 

 

 

Under the Dome

by Stephen King

 

 

 

 

What came in your mailbox this week? :)

25
Sep

Plugging the Parasol Protectorate

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Hello, readers… I have a few questions for you.

Do you…

…like fantasy?

…like steampunk?

…like romance?

If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions – and if you have the unfortunate position of being counted among those who have not yet joined Miss Tarabotti on her adventures – then I invite you to read on. I have a book series to recommend that you definitely don’t want to miss out on.

I first learned of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series from friends on Librarything.com (a site you really should check out if you’re a book lover… I prefer it to GoodReads, to be honest) back when the first book was released, and rushed out to get a copy. Yes, rushed.

What’s the appeal?

Here’s the description of book one from Amazon.com:soulless

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she’s a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire — and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London’s high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?


SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

And that’s just the first installment!

In the second (Changeless) – and I don’t want to spoil anything for you if you haven’t read the first book – we’re introduced to even more intriguing characters, including a French inventor and a rather interesting relative of Lord Maccon’s.

 

In book three (Blameless), the steampunk element becomes even more prevalent, and we’re treated to some very tantalizing tidbits of worldbuilding, in the sense of understanding more about Alexia’s soullessness and what that might mean for – dare I say it – future progeny.

 

Now, I know this isn’t a proper review post – I haven’t told you what I thought of each book, the strengths, the weaknesses, etc. – but to be quite honest, I’m not sure I care to do a proper review of these books because I loved them so much. And really, I just wanted to write a post to plug them and support what I think is possibly the best new series this year (and the author seems quite lovely to boot).

But I’ll break it down this way: I enjoyed Soulless quite a bit, but didn’t adore it as fully as I might have, due to the excess of romance (though my cousin loved the romance element) that I thought distracted a bit much from the main storyline. I do enjoy romance, don’t get me wrong, but a few scenes were a bit overlong for my taste. But again, my cousin loved those scenes, so I suppose it’s a matter of taste. However, I still rushed to grab Changeless the week it was released. I really enjoyed it as well, though it suffered a bit from a lack of romance where there was an excess in the first book (I’d elaborate here, but I’m afraid I’d have to give spoilers to do so). Still, I drove to the bookstore on release day to get a copy of Blameless, and proceeded to devour it the same day. It was my favorite of the series thus far.

I’m very anxious to read the next book, which isn’t due until next summer (*sob*), but we were definitely spoiled to receive three books in one series in the same year (er… by which I mean, within 12 months; Soulless was released in October 2009).

Also, I should mention that the first novel is really steampunk-lite – there aren’t many steam inventions, and the paranormal element is focused on a bit more than the Victorian surroundings and inventions. However, this picks up with a bang in the following installments.

All told, the character development is fabulous, the surrounding cast is very entertaining (and funny), and the premise is clever. Carriger’s voice is really very different from the majority of paranormal lit you’ll find on the shelves these days, and as a result, I think this is truly the breakout series of 2010.

If you haven’t joined the Parasol Protectorate… you’re missing out! I, for one, have purchased my first teeny-tiny hat in honor of a rekindled interest in steampunkery. And I do love it so. (Though I have yet to acquire a parasol.)

3GailCarrigerCream About the Author: New York Times Bestselling author Gail Carriger began writing in order to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. Ms. Carriger then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She now resides in the Colonies, surrounded by fantastic shoes, where she insists on tea imported directly from London. She is fond of teeny tiny hats and tropical fruit.

24
Sep

Writing Compelling Characters

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Today’s post is brought to you as part of Elana Johnson’s ‘The Great Blogging Experiment’ – over 150 people are participating by talking about compelling characters on their blogs, the idea being that each post will be unique, just like the person who wrote it. So, here we go!

(And don’t worry – I’ll continue with my self-editing tips series next week!)

What Makes a Compelling Character?

As simple as I can put it, this is what makes a compelling character for me:

  • Flaws

And there you have it.

Okay, it’s not quite that simple, but here’s what it boils down to when I think about compelling characters, particularly the main characters of books I’ve recently enjoyed – they’re human, through and through (even if they’re not technically a member of the human species… er… you know?).

If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you know that in many of my book reviews, I bring up the issue of flawed vs. perfect main characters. And sometimes I get really irked.

In a certain series by a certain author (which I read earlier this year; you can find the reviews around here somewhere, but I’d rather not name names as what I’m saying isn’t all that flattering), I had difficulty relating to the main character (ie. I hated her) because she was so disgustingly perfect. We’re talking unnaturally sweet & innocent (though I’m sure she’d make a nice friend) to the point where, if I was friends with her, I knew she’d be a doormat in seconds.

It’s not exactly a good thing when a main character is so perfect that you find yourself wanting to bully her just to see how she’d react. There was nothing real about her.

Let’s look at another (good) example:

Alexia Tarabotti from the Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger (and if you haven’t read this series… do it!!! Also, I hope to post a little overview / review of the series tomorrow, come back if you’re interested!) is an example of perhaps one of the most compelling characters I’ve come across lately.

What are some of Alexia’s most compelling features?

  • she has no soul (ah… we start out with what might be considered a rather LARGE flaw)
  • she’s extremely stubborn
  • she has no imagination
  • she has a slight penchant for violence
  • she doesn’t exactly conform to the social mores of the time

And these are characteristics we learn from the back of the book and the first several pages. Sounds interesting, right?

My friends, creating compelling characters is only as difficult as the humanity we’re willing to give them. If the reader can’t relate to your main character, she’s going to put down the book in frustration and walk away. No one wants to read about the perfect person who never has any problems and for whom life’s a shiny double rainbow.

But as you create, don’t just throw in things like “she has bad acne” or “he’s reclusive” for no reason. Flaws need meaning and logic behind them.

Consider the world around you: People don’t have issues just for the sake of having issues (okay, maybe some people do, but hopefully they’re the exceptions).

Things like:

  • Upbringing
  • Birth Order
  • Past Relationships
  • Self-Image (usually tied in with the above)
  • Past Experiences
  • Environment
  • Belief System

…shape all of us. Use these, mine these, and find those areas that make you go “hmm” and which present clear areas in which to find those issues, flaws, and little character quirks that make each of us – every single human – different and unique. Real. Imperfect. Flawed. Fascinating.

How do you create compelling characters?

Make them real. And then use those flaws in a way that propels the story forward, because each person will react to others and situations in accordance with who they are as a unique individual.

That’s how.

…thoughts?

21
Sep

Dealing with Negative People

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

If you’ve followed my blog for a little while, you’ll know that I’ve been posting Self-Editing tips that were inspired by agent Kelly Mortimer’s Grammar Guide. Kelly is an extremely giving soul, one of the hardest working people in the business, and an inspiration to me personally.

And I’ve never even met her.

Well, that’s not entirely true—I heard her speak at Write!Canada, and will hopefully post some of the great info she gave once I’m done with the self-editing tips. I also applied for an agent internship position with her a few months ago, and while I didn’t get the internship, I made it to the second last cut (with the final 9 people, out of the 50+ that applied). I was super thrilled to have made it that far, and I wish the woman who was chosen all the best. It’s going to be a tough job, but I bet she’ll exceed all of our expectations!

But anyway, the point I wanted to make today has to do with a trend I’ve seen recently.

It’s the resurgence of the Negative People. These people are a destructive force, convinced they are Right and Just in how they deal with problems and situations, and don’t care that logic has escaped their interactions with others. They don’t care who gets hurt or how they resolve things, as long as they are proved right in the end.

Kelly is going through something like this right now, and you can read about it on her blog right here. The stress and the negativity from certain people has forced her to cut back on her agenting duties and re-focus herself in order to improve her health, relationships, and enjoyment of life. I don’t blame her. It’s exhausting to fight the lies people spread about you. She doesn’t deserve this.

Another situation in my own circle of dance friends involves a few individuals who, for reasons unknown to me, decided to spread hostile rumors about a warm, caring dance instructor who I teach for. I don’t know why they’ve done this, but I imagine there’s a sense of entitlement behind whatever they thought that the instructor owed them… and when they didn’t get it, they became Negative People and started spreading lies. She doesn’t deserve this.

In my own life, one particular individual has done something similar to me, based on an agreement she thought we had, but which wasn’t specified in the document I signed for her. Rather than discuss the situation with me like a rational human being, she’s resorted to more extreme measures.

So what’s with all the negative people?!?!

Note that the people being negative are all creative types: Writers, dancers, business owners.

Hilary Rettig has an excellent guide to beating procrastination (which I’ll talk about sometime in future) where she talks about negativity:

“Negativity is a serious problem for anyone, but particularly for ambitious dreamers… the nature of ambitious dreams is that they are tough to achieve and thus require a lot of perseverance… negativity impairs your objectivity and causes you to misread people and situations… you are bound to make erroneous assumptions.”

(The Little Guide to Beating Procrastination, Hillary Rettig; p.35)

Look: Success puts you in the line of fire from these people. They’re ambitious but passive, and can’t stand to see others succeeding where they’ve failed (or have yet to achieve success). It’s going to happen, and you’re going to be the target of hostility, even when you don’t deserve it. Especially when you don’t deserve it.

But instead of sitting back and taking it, don’t let anyone abuse you.

Get rid of these people in your life and replace them with a supportive community.

I’m tired of seeing people I care about get slandered and hurt by negative people. Fortunately the women I’ve mentioned above are strong enough to fight back, and I hope that if this is going on in your life, that this post will inspired you to stand up and deal with the Negative People in a way that pushes them OUT of your life and brings in a NEW, SUPPORTIVE group of people.

As your success grows, so will the naysayers.

Prove them wrong. Get rid of them.

Surround yourself with positive people who support your dreams and goals.

Don’t allow the Negative People to pull you away from achieving success.

/rantover

19
Sep

In My Mailbox (12)

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

And… here we go again! Three for me this week, all part of the September book tour for Graf-Martin, Inc. & Baker Books. Whoo-hoo!

FYI: In my mailbox is a weekly meme started by The Story Siren to showcase books you’ve received for review, bought, borrowed, or swapped. Anyone can participate, and it’s a great way to showcase new books and encourage blogger/commenter interaction!

Have a New You By Friday

by Dr. Kevin Leman

(I love, love, LOVE Dr. Leman’s books… very excited about this one!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope

by Mary Beth Chapman with Ellen Vaughn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Every Heartbeat

by Kim Vogel Sawyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What came in YOUR mailbox this week? :D

And if nothing came in the mailbox… what are you reading right now?

Hope you’re having a great weekend!

17
Sep

Self-Editing #9: Unqualified Words

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

And you thought being unqualified was a bad thing… but when it comes to your writing and the words you’ve chosen, qualifying often does more harm than good.

What’s a qualifier, you ask?

A qualifier is an unnecessary word that dilutes, weakens, or blurs the meaning of your sentence. This apple is orange-red with patches of green!

Think of it this way: If your character is holding an apple and you need to describe it, it’s either red or it’s not. It isn’t kind of red, or slightly red, or almost red. It might be red with yellow flecks, or a pale red that deepens along the base, or a Granny Smith and therefore bright green.

But almost red? Nearly red? Yes, the reader can visualize it, but the wording is weak.

Here’s another example:

“It felt a little warm outside.”

We talk this way to each other when someone asks about the weather, but in a book? It’s ambiguous and doesn’t state anything concrete. Instead, try writing:

“It was warm outside.”  Or a variation on that theme (maybe something that isn’t quite so bland…).

See what I mean about making concrete statements? As soon as the qualifier slips in there, the meaning of your sentence becomes diluted.

Here are some of the most common qualifiers to look out for:

  • nearly
  • almost
  • a little
  • kind of
  • sort of
  • just
  • seemed
  • only
  • rather
  • slightly
  • …and so on…

There are others, but once you know what you’re looking for, it’ll be easier to pinpoint them and hit that DELETE key!

Exceptions to the rule would be: character dialogue; purposeful speculative statements (ie. on what another character is thinking, doing, etc.).

Are there other qualifiers that you tend to overuse?

I use them all the time… it’s probably one of my worst offenses in first drafts (and I’m willing to bet ‘probably’ is my most overused qualifier, to boot…)!

16
Sep

Freelance, Anyone?

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Year after year, I declare that I’m going to “break into magazines” and “get out of online content writing”… and year after year, I fail to follow through. I took a course through Writer’s Digest once on writing for magazines, but nothing really came of it (and the course wasn’t as helpful as I’d hoped, in the end).

I’ve resolved once again to at least make the attempt to break away from content writing, and the active step I’ve taken to push me into it is this: I signed up for a course offered by WOW! Women on Writing and run by Nicole LaMarco, a successful freelance writer.

I’ve never taken a course through WOW! before, so I’m not entirely sure what to expect… but for a 10-week course, the price was right (especially when compared to the cost of some of the 4 or 6 week classes).

The course is called: Get Paid to Write: Become a Freelance Writer! and it starts from the very beginning and pushes you all the way through to actually applying for jobs (that’s the assignment in week 6… yikes!) and establishing your portfolio.

Here’s the weekly breakdown given in the course description:

  • Week 1: Freelance Writing Basics
  • Week 2: How to Choose a Writing Niche
  • Week 3: Building Your Writing Portfolio
  • Week 4: How to Create a Writing Resume
  • Week 5: How to Query and Submit to Publications
  • Week 6: Applying for and Landing Jobs
  • Week 7: How to Make Money Writing
  • Week 8: Bookkeeping Basics for Writers
  • Week 9: Writing Resources
  • Week 10: You’re a Writer!

Weeks one and two should be fairly easy… I’ve already got both of those down, but it’s the weeks afterward that should be incredibly valuable. As long as I stay on top of the work, by the end of week 10, I’ll have begun the process of being a freelance writer who actually gets bylines for her work (online writing is a b!#@& that way) and I’ll hopefully kiss goodbye sites like Elance and RentaCoder forever.

So… anyone want to join me? Class starts Sept. 27th! :)

And if freelance writing isn’t really your ‘thing’, is there anything you keep telling yourself you’ll ‘get into’ someday but haven’t got around to it yet? Maybe scriptwriting? Writing grants? Learning a new language?

14
Sep

Book Review: ‘All I Ever Wanted’

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Looking for a fun, humorous, light-hearted romance this fall?

As cliché as that sounds, I’m 100% serious! When I received Kristan Higgins’ latest book in the mail, I had no idea what to expect. I saw the ‘Harlequin’ logo and thought “oh nooo… what if it’s full of sex scenes and no plot?!?” So, I visited the author’s website, and saw that her tagline is:

Real life, true love & lots of laughs…

And I felt a lot better about reading the book. Here’s how it went:

 

All I Ever Wanted – Kristan Higgins

 

Publisher’s Synopsis:

One Happily-Ever-After Rocking Chair… and no sign of any forthcoming babies to rock in ol’ Georgebury, Vermont. For Callie Grey, turning thirty means coming to grips with the fact that her boss (and five-week fling) is way overdue in his marriage proposal. And way off track because Mark has suddenly announced his engagement to the company’s new Miss Perfect. If that isn’t bad enough, her mom decides to throw her a three-oh birthday bash in the family funeral home.

Bad goes to worse when she stirs up a crazy relationship with the town’s not so warm and fuzzy veterinarian, Ian McFarland, in order to flag Mark’s attention. So Ian is more comfortable with animals…. So he’s formal, orderly and just a bit tense. The ever-friendly, fun-loving and spontaneous Callie decides it’s time for Ian to get a personality makeover. But dang, if he doesn’t shock the heck out of her, she might actually fall for Vermont’s unlikeliest eligible bachelor….

My Thoughts:

This book is adorable! The heroine is capable yet flawed, the hero is brooding but has a soft side… and there are animals everywhere! Dogs, specifically. I was very impressed with the way Higgins incorporated animals into her story in a natural way, without them getting in the way or seeming like they were just there to add something ‘extra’. After looking at the covers of her other books, it looks like Higgins includes animals in all her novels – something to look forward to!

I also really liked the tone of the book. It’s very light, cheerful, and peppered with humor throughout the entire novel. I hesitate to say this, since I know the negative connotations some people (often falsely) have toward it, but the writing, pacing and plot development reminded me of some of the best chick lit I’ve ever read. It just so happens to be packaged under a romance label in this case.

Now, before you go all “whaddaya mean, chick lit?” on me, what I’m saying is that the romance is sweet without being overwhelming or drowning the rest of the story, the heroine makes real mistakes that bring her to a point where you wonder “how will she EVER make this right?!?”, and the surrounding cast of characters is realistic to the point where you wonder if the author has been spying on your life. That’s what I mean.

And just in case you thought I wouldn’t get back to the whole ‘Harlequin’ thing, guess what? Higgins’ books fade to black. Yes! Really! Nothing here to make you blush, but still steamy enough to satisfy the romance-hungry.

I’m not the only one to think so: Higgins’ novel Too Good to Be True won a RITA Award this year (and she won another back in 2008), and I won’t be surprised if All I Ever Wanted is a serious contender next year.

So, if you’re looking for a sweet romance with realistic characters and plenty of laughs, this is definitely one to read.

And if you like the book? Drop Kristan a note on Facebook and let her know! She’ll write back!

 

Photo by Marie Curtis (from author's website)

About the Author: Kristan Higgins, author of All I Ever Wanted, combines real life, true love and lots of laughs in her stories. Her books have received praise and accolades from readers and reviewers alike. Kristan won a Romance Writers of America’s RITA® Award in 2008 for Catch of the Day, and received a 2010 nomination for Too Good To Be True. Called "one of the most honest and creative voices in contemporary romance," Kristan is hard at work on her next book. She lives in a small Connecticut town with her heroic firefighter husband, two lovely children, one devoted dog and a regal cat. Kristan loves to hear from readers! Visit her website at www.KristanHiggins.com.

I received a copy of this book for review courtesy of FSB Media.