Archive for May, 2008

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A New Soap Opera for Authors

Between belonging to two critique groups, being edited by different publishing houses and reading information on blogs, I feel more confused than ever. It seems that rules change from house-to-house and while the lines blur, I am very clear on the following traps we authors fall into while writing. I just wonder why some people refuse to crawl out after they’ve tripped up. I keep reading the same mistakes over and over so I’m offering a few helpful hints that I’ve garnered from such places as Michelle Styles’ awesome blog, http://michellestyles@blogspot.com, and from the owner of Enspiren Press, Suzanne James. These people seem to have an awesome grasp on what NOT to do when writing that winning novel. I’m going to address a few areas in no particular order:

1. ACTION/REACTION Sequence
The sequence makes sense. Before someone can react, something has to happen first. What may seem simple can be demonstrated with the following examples:
John jumped up and screamed when the ghost appeared from the closet. Or A ghost appeared from the closet, and John jumped up and screamed.
Sally bumped her head when the car hit a curb. OR The car hit a curb and Sally bumped her head. Both make sense, but the rule is: Action first, Reaction second.
The ghost appearing is the ACTION, and I believe John’s REACTION is apparent.
Sally probably wouldn’t bump her head unless the car hit a curb. Make sense?

2. ‘THAT’ bad habit
When I write, and I notice others do the same, I tend to stick in ‘that’ where not necessary. I almost did it when I wrote the first sentence. Out of habit, I wanted to put “I notice THAT others do the same. A recent rejection I received noted I used ‘that’ far too frequently, so now I’ve become accustomed to thinking before I type it. I normally would have typed the preceding sentence thusly: A recent rejection THAT I received noted THAT I used ‘that” far too frequently, so now THAT I’ve become accustomed to thinking… I think THAT you get the picture…oops. I think you get the picture.

3. BACK STORY
Almost every story we write requires some back story (facts leading up to current), but the secret is peppering it throughout so that we don’t bury the reader with it. Novels are supposed to unfold as they’re read—happen in the moment and drawing the reader into the action. If you spend paragraph upon paragraph to TELLING what happened before rather than SHOWING what is happening now, you’ve most likely lost the reader’s interest. Give enough detail to bring the reader up to speed but don’t drown them in facts that may not impact the story at all. It’s an acquired talent and one I’m working hard on.

The same goes for describing the scene. The reader doesn’t need to know the location of every tree on the property and how many birds nest in them. Better yet, paint a mental image of the tree shading the heroine’s window and the light filtering through the leaves. I recently read a drafted story in which the author fully-described everything in the heroine’s kitchen, down to the knives in the drawer. I tried to explain that you might mention the counter as the heroine moved past and picked up a knife from the drawer, but three paragraphs describing everything in the room soon grew tedious and overdone.

4. RUE
Resist the Urge to Explain = RUE. A good writer enables the reader to determine emotions from the text. Michelle Styles gave a wonderful example on her blog. Rather than TELL the reader that your heroine is sad, use descriptive sentences to reflect it. Let the reader assign the emotion. I’m going to use Michelle’s lead. Which would you prefer?

It was Cindy’s birthday and she felt sad.
Or
The date on the calendar mocked Cindy—her birthday, but it seemed like any other day. As she sifted the mail, rifling through unwanted catalogs and advertisements, she hoped for one single personally-addressed envelope holding a card. There were none.

Since I read Michelle’s piece, I’m so much more aware of unnecessary information we add to our stories when our dialogue should show the feeling and eliminate the need to explain what the reader should feel or see.
ANOTHER EXAMPLE:
Excited, Sarah entered the room. She felt tense and nervous at the same time. She needed water to soothe her thirst.
Could be: Sarah burst into the room. (Entered versus burst – using an action verb to show her excitement). Her heart raced, yet her jaw tensed. (showing her tenseness and nervousness). She smacked her lips, hoping for saliva to combat the cottony feel in her mouth. (showing her thirst).

Okay…so I’m not Nora Roberts…I wrote this on the spur of the moment. 🙂 I think you get the message.

5. NAMES
If you have an exchange going on between two people and it is clear to reader, there is no need to continually use the characters name in the dialogue. One must assume the reader is intelligent enough to determine who is speaking to whom with a minimal of hints and tags. Wouldn’t you find this a tad tedious? The concept is taken from something I recently proofread for one publisher:

Jane and Fred sat next to the fire, enjoying their wine. Fred turned to her, with the flames reflecting in his eyes. “Jane, I’m having a wonderful time. Thank you for inviting me.”
“Me too, Fred. I’m so glad you came.”
“Jane, would you like me to refill your glass?”
“No thank you, Fred. I’m fine. I get giddy if I drink too much.”

The same applies for starting every sentence with ‘she/he’. She heard the bell chime can be The bell chimed. She saw the sunset become an artist’s pallet of colors can be The sunset became an artist’s pallet of colors. He or she doesn’t have to identify with everything. Words are better spent describing action to your readers.

I notice this is a trap into which most new writers fall. (See, I didn’t end with a preposition)

6. TENSES (Past, Present, Past imperfect…blah, blah, blah.)

I’m still trying to acclimate to reading things written with ‘could see’, ‘could hear’ ‘could speak’, ‘had been missing’. Although I realize it’s a style, I’ve had it beaten into me that ‘saw’, ‘heard’, ‘spoke’, and ‘missed’ make the story unfold in the moment, and for me are preferred.

Consider, ‘she could see his face, even in the dim light. The only sound she could hear was crickets outside the window. If only he could speak the words she longed for. She had been missing him far more than she expected.’

Now consider…She saw his face, even in the dim light. The only sound she heard was the crickets outside the window. If only he spoke those words she longed for. She’d missed him far more than she expected.

Okay…CORNY! Still, I prefer this style when at all possible. I realize that dialogue can be in past tense, but I want to feel my stories happening NOW.

We all write so differently. Each of us have a style or flair that is innately our own. I’m willing to make some changes and concessions during editing, but one thing I will fight for…keeping my own voice. Everyone should. It’s what makes us unique and helps us stand apart from the crowd. The hard thing is trying to convince your editor of that. *lol*

What things have you learned during your editing process, and was this at all helpful? I hope so.

Ginger

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May 28, 2008 at 7:55 pm Leave a comment

It’s Time


Ladies,
There comes a time in our lives when we need to decide to minimize. We all want to maintain our youthful appearance, but some of the things we do only draws attention of our eligibility for the senior discount at Dennys. I’ll give you a few hints:

Minimize the blush. There’s nothing attractive about looking like a clown, unless of course you’re dating Ronald McDonald.

Minimize the lip liner. You aren’t kidding anyone when you try to draw on bigger lips than you actually have. God gave you what you’ve got. Go with it. Stay away from Botox injections, too. Even less enticing are lips that look like you’ve been stung by a swarm of angry bees.

Minimize the blue eye shadow. C’mon gal’s, it’s never been the in thing, and certainly not when smeared on up to your eyebrows. A little bit goes a long way.

Minimize the spandex in your wardrobe. It is not your friend. It shows every flaw in your body. If you have cellulite, spandex screams it out to the world.

Minimize blouses that spotlight your midriff. Unless of course you have a midriff that warrants spotlighting. If you have ‘six pack’ abs, then that’s a different story, but if you have a pony keg, then cover it up. No one wants to see it. Trust me.

Minimize the times you wear Daisy Dukes. Everyone knows that as you age, gravity moves things down. Maybe when you bought those shorts, you butt cheeks were where they were supposed to be, but chances are you’re sporting two half moons and the sun is still shining.

Minimize your boobs. There are several brand name brassieres available to help restrain those sagging bosoms. You might have worn a 38DD at one time, but if you’re like me, you’ve graduated to a 40 Long. A minimizing bra can make an amazing difference. Just warn people standing nearby when you prepare to remove it.

If you MUST wear a thong, please wear it wisely. 🙂

Just a few helpful hints. I’ve finally decided that Popeye the sailor had the right idea when he said, “I am what I am, and that’s all that I am.”

If you really want to maximize something…how about making it the times you download or order a book by Ginger Simpson. (Shameless promotion at it’s best.)

May 25, 2008 at 4:09 pm Leave a comment

Got Gas?


At this moment, I don’t know the author of this hilarious piece. I wish I could claim I wrote it, but I didn’t. I do know that it provided the best laugh for me that I’ve had in months. I’m still wiping my eyes and giggling after having read it. If I found out the source, I’ll be sure to post the author’s name. Have a good chuckle!

I went grocery shopping this weekend, which in hindsight may not have been very wise. You see, the previous evening I had prepared and consumed a massive quantity of my patented ‘You’re definitely going to $h!t yourself chili. Tasty stuff, albeit hot to the point of being painful, which comes with a written guarantee from me that if you eat it the next day both of your a$$ cheeks WILL fall off.

Here’s the thing. I had awakened that morning, and even after two cups of coffee (and all of you know what I mean) nothing happened. No ‘Watson’s Movement 2’. Despite habanera peppers swimming their way through my intestinal tract, I appeared to be unable to create the usual morning symphony referred to by my next door neighbors as thunder and lightning.

Knowing that a time of reckoning had to come, yet not sure of just when, I bravely set off for the Wal-Mart grocery store for some tasty breakfast and lunch tidbits.

Upon entering the store at first all seemed normal. I selected a cart and began pushing it about dropping items in for purchase. It wasn’t until I was at the opposite end of the store from the restrooms that the pain hit me. Oh, don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m referring to that ‘Uh oh, gotta go’ pain that always seems to hit us at the wrong time. The thing is, this pain was different.

The habaneras in the chili from the night before were staging a revolt. In a mad rush for freedom they bullied their way through the small intestines, forcing their way into the large intestines, and before I could take one step in the direction of the restrooms which would bring sweet relief, it happened. The peppers fired a warning shot.

There I stood, alone in the spice and baking aisle, suddenly enveloped in a noxious cloud the likes of which has never before been recorded. I was afraid to move for fear that more of this vile odor might escape me.

Slowly, oh so slowly, the pressure seemed to leave the lower part of my body, and I began to move up the aisle and out of it, just as an elderly woman turned into it.

I don’t know what made me do it, but I stopped to see what her reaction would be to the invisible but odorous cloud that refused to dissipate, as she walked into it unsuspecting. Have you ever been torn in two different directions emotionally? Here’s what I mean, and I’m sure some of you at least will be able to relate.

I could’ve warned that poor woman but didn’t. I simply watched as she walked into an invisible, and apparently indestructible, wall of odor so terrible that all she could do before gathering her senses and running, was to stand there blinking and waving her arms about her head as though trying to ward off angry bees. This, of course, made me feel terrible, but then made me laugh. Mistake.

Here’s the thing. When you laugh, it’s hard to keep things ‘clamped down’, if you know what I mean. With each new guffaw an explosive issue burst forth from my nether region. Some were so loud and echoing that I was later told a few folks in other aisles had ducked, fearing that someone was robbing the store and firing off a shotgun.

Suddenly things were no longer funny. IT was coming, and I raced off through the store towards the restrooms, laying down a cloud the whole way, praying that I’d make it before the grand mal assplosion took place.

Luck was on my side. Just in the nick of time I got to the john, began the inevitable ‘Oh my God’, floating above the toilet seat because my ass is burning SO BAD, purging. One poor fellow walked in while I was in the middle of what is the true meaning of ‘Shock and Awe’. He made a gagging sound, and disgustedly said, ‘Sonofabitch!’, then quickly left.

Once finished I left the restroom, reacquired my partially filled cart intending to carry on with my shopping when a store employee approached me and said, ‘Sir, you might want to step outside for a few minutes. It appears some prankster set off a stink bomb in the store. The manager is going to run the vent fans on high for a minute or two which ought to take care of the problem.

That of course set me off again, causing residual gases to escape me.

The employee took one sniff, jumped back pulling his shirt up to cover his nose and, pointing at me in an accusing manner shouted, ‘IT’S YOU!’, then ran off returning moments later with the manager. I was unceremoniously escorted from the premises and asked none too kindly not to return.

Home again without having shopped, I realized that there was nothing to eat but leftover chili, so I consumed two more bowls. The next day I went to shop at Kroger’s. I can’t say anymore about that because we are in court over the whole matter. Bastards claim they’re going to have to repaint the store.

Note: Kudos to whoever wrote this. Hilarious!

May 19, 2008 at 7:59 pm Leave a comment

Ghost Writers

As someone who sits down daily and tries to plunk out a least a few paragraphs of a work-in-progress, I’m highly annoyed at the publicity and fame many have enjoyed because of the talents of their ghost writer. I’m not sure I understand how there can be any feeling of accomplishment on the part of the so-called author, when the closest they came to creating the novel was verbally relaying information to someone else. But let’s face it, you can’t live on pride alone.

From the monetary perspective, I think I chose the wrong profession. I should have tried my hand at ghost-writing. According to Wikipedia, although some ghost writers are hired to polish a completed manuscript, most are hired to write the entire novel. Information garnered as I read made me nauseous. It’s reported that ghost writers for ‘big name authors’ contracted by NY publishers receive anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 from the ‘author’s’ advance. At the time the information was compiled, Hilary Clinton’s memoirs had not yet been completed, but it was estimated that her ghost writer would receive $500,000 from Hilary’s eight million dollar advance. Cough, gasp, vomit! What about her life is memorable enough to warrant eight million dollars when people are starving to death in America???

Barak Obama used a ghost writer to pen his novel, too. It makes me wonder if either he or Hilary become president, will they be able to sign necessary documents in the oval office, or will they have someone do it for them? *lol*

I had no idea how many people are taking bows for someone else’s writing. Did you know that the pseudonym used on the Nancy Drew Mysteries represents a slew of different ghost-writers who, following a similar format or template, penned the various books? I didn’t, and in my opinion, that’s just depressing. I pictured one person pumping out the series that has enthralled young people around the world. I guess you never know who really wrote the books you’ve read unless someone in small print they receive recognition. I guess I’ll have to pay more attention.

Make sure you note I gave Wikipedia full credit for this information. Cassie Edwards suffered terribly for utilizing ‘research’ statements in her books. I sure don’t want to be accused of plagiarizing anything. Seems silly doesn’t it. You use one person’s sentence verbatim and you stole it, but someone else can write a person’s entire book and the so-called author can take credit. Duh uh!

How do you feel about ghost writers? Does knowing that a book was written by someone other than the person claiming to be the author affect your desire to purchase and read said book? I wonder how these ‘authors’ can sit on talk shows and discuss “their” books. I guess I’m missing the point. The biggest joy of being an author for me is knowing that I DID the work, but it seems in order to reap BIG rewards or appear on Oprah, you have to let someone else do thejob for you. How sad is that?

The older I get, the less things make sense to me. Now I hear people have ghost-bloggers. Oh, give me a break.

May 13, 2008 at 2:24 pm Leave a comment

What a Hoot!


Today in the mail, I received a flimsy envelope from Reader’s Digest… you know, one of those that you tear off the edges and unfold. I almost threw it away, but I decided to open it. Inside was a note, “Thank you for your contribution, which will appear in an upcoming issue…” Also included, a check for $100.00! *Woot*

I can’t even remember when I submitted a joke to them, although I do recall doing it. I have no idea what the joke was, so you’ll have to wait until it appears to see if it was worth the money. Anyhow, I’m planning a relaxing pedicure because I deserve it.

I may have found a new pastime, submitting jokes. This amount surpassed by last royalty check by a mile… no make that ten miles. How sad is that? Did I mention that I have three new releases coming out???? *lol*

May 9, 2008 at 9:41 pm Leave a comment

Cell Phone Danger

HANG UP AND DRI VE


I’m all for multi-tasking, but do you have to do it while you drive? Honestly, I rarely go out, aside from my daily eight-mile jaunts to deliver and pick-up my grandson from school, but let me count the traffic infractions I witness every day, not to mention to near misses I have with idiots who can’t walk and chew gum let alone talk on a cell phone and drive. Add in eating lunch and you’ve got an accident waiting to kill me.

I had a totally different blog in mind today, but I just returned from picking Spencer up. In that short sixteen mile round-trip, I was amazed at the hazardous driving to which I was exposed. I heard a news announcement on television a month or so ago about using driver’s licenses for the purpose of identification for airline travel. At the time, I was shocked to learn that Tennessee was among a handful of states whose residents would not be allowed to use their licenses as a form of ID. I’m beginning to think I know why. *lol* Anyhow, that’s not the purpose of my blog, although if you live in TN you might want to see if that’s been rectified before you plan to fly.

Anyhow, as I sat at a signal, I noticed the woman across from me chatting away on her cell. The light turned green, and I had the right away as I was proceeding straight. She bolted right out and made her left turn in front of me. Luckily, I saw the cell phone and anticipated it, plus I have a PT cruiser which is rather ‘slow off the line.’ Not one minute later, a big rigger trying to balance a phone with his chin while eating his hamburger, crossed over the line and forced me onto the shoulder. C’mon people…quit trying to kill me. I have things to do and books to finish.

HANG UP AND DRIVE….SAFELY!

Although I appreciate the convenience of cell phones, I firmly believe using them while driving should be against the law. Companies are literally making a killing because it seems no one can exist without having a phone to their ear, whether it be in a store or car.

Besides the risk to my life, I’m actually sick of sharing in everyone’s private conversations, and I sure don’t want them to hear mine. I stood in line at the Walmart pharmacy today and listened to the woman in front of me have an in-depth discussion on her cell phone about her bleeding hemorrhoid. I could have gone my whole day without that image, and I’m quite sure the other people around her didn’t need to know anything about it either. 🙂

I remember the good old days when you actually had to pull over and find a pay phone. These days, if you do, I’m sure it has cobwebs on it and is missing the phone book, and probably the receiver.

Did you know that if you engage in an unsafe maneuver behind the wheel, while talking on the cell phone, and a police person witnesses it, it’s an automatic “wreckless driving” infraction and maximum points on your record? Aside from the fine, your insurance will most likely increase because of the citation. Wouldn’t it make more sense to make it against the law to use a cell phone while driving? Yes on the sense, but no on the money. It’s not only the phone companies who are benefiting here. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything I can do but share my opinion. It’s like every other war. They’re fought at a much higher level than one person.

Have a safe day, and watch for those people who have a chronic crick in their neck. They don’t know it, but they’re out to get you. And NO…I don’t talk on a cell phone and drive. If it’s that important, I pull over and stop. I admit, I can’t walk and chew gum.

May 8, 2008 at 2:11 pm Leave a comment


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