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Getting started again!

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Have you missed me? I’ve missed you!

Life, as always, sometimes gets a bit more than one can handle and some things have to fall by the wayside. I did not want this blog to be one of those things. Unfortunately, that happened anyway.

However, we’re going to start again, you and I, if you’re willing. I won’t promise daily updates, but, for now, I’ll promise weekly ones. And then we may move up to meeting twice a week! And even perhaps three times. And oh, won’t they talk about our clandestine romps, then!

So, how about it? A weekly date? You and me? We’ll talk about writing and reading and publishing. Maybe we can get a podcast or two going. What do you think?

Free Writing Software Today Only!

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Thought I’d pass this on!

Giveaway of the Day has Liquid Story Binder XE available for free download today. If you’re struggling with the organizational side of writing, particularly a large work, check this software out. There’s really not much out there that compares to it. You can do character sketches, import photos, do time lines and link everything together. It can also be used for word processing. The great thing about it is that it doesn’t “force” you to use it a particular way. You can use whatever components you find helpful. I downloaded a previous version a year or two ago and I really like it. There’s something of a learning curve, but the get-started tutorial is really helpful, plus there’s a Yahoo group for support as well. Here’s the link to the download page:

Giveaway of the Day’s Liquid Story Binder XE Download

The thing to know about Giveaway of the Day is that the software must be installed today. If you end up losing the software (such as a hard disk crash or getting a new computer), generally, you can’t reinstall, but some people have been able to reinstall some software by keeping the registration information from the original install. That may or may not work here.

One last thing… this software also installs on portable drives. So if you use a thumb drive to keep your writing, you can install it there. I plan on installing the updated version on my desktop, laptop and USB drive. I highly recommend this download!

Do you use writing software on a regular basis? If so, what software and how has it helped you?

Editor Girl!

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So, I’ve got some news. I’ve been waiting to post this until it was officially official (as opposed to unofficially official).

I’ve taken a position as a junior editor at Loose-Id Publishing. I’m very excited about the opportunity to get into editing. Those who know me know that, long-term, I’m looking to open my own small press and magazine. I think, in addition to being able to do something I love, I’ll be able to gain a lot of knowledge about e-book publishing and perhaps some print publishing as well.

Loose-Id is one of the top 3 e-book publishers out there. And they publish erotica. How fun! 😉 I have several friends who publish with Loose-Id, so I already knew they were a good group of folks.

In other news… I’m having a big party this weekend that I’ve been busting my tail to get ready for, so I haven’t had as much online time as normal (or as what I want to be normal). Once the party is done with, things will get back to a regular schedule here. I’ve got several WIL posts planned and, of course, we’ll have more Steps on the Journey. So hang with me! Good stuff is around the corner!

While I’m cleaning my house…what would your advice be to a teenager who’s interested in getting into the writing game? What sort of guidance would you give him or her?

Contest – deadline July 31

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Thought my readers might like to get in on the following contest from A cappella Zoo.

Origins Contest

They’re interested in primarily literary fiction, but welcome a magical realism bent. The deadline is July 31 and first prize is $250. There is a $5 entry fee, or you can purchase a discounted subscription and the fee will be waived. Keep in mind that the theme is “origins” and you should adhere to their normal Guidelines for submission.

Good luck!

Strange Horizons 2008 Fundraising Drive

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You won’t see this sort of thing on this site often, so when you do, you’ll know it’s a good cause! Strange Horizons is a free, online magazine publishing speculative fiction of all stripes. It’s free to read and is one of a dwindling number of short fiction markets for spec fic. They’re not-for-profit and rely on donations to keep things going. And they’ve been around for 8 years! That’s more than a lifetime for online venues.

Strange Horizons is wrapping up the 2008 fundraising campaign. They’ve extended it for a few days because they’re only a few hundred bucks shy of their goal amount: $6000.

So if you can spare $2 or $5 or more to help keep this great magazine churning out creative electrons, please check out their 2008 Fundraising Drive!

The Graduate!

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You may have noticed the blog’s been on hiatus for awhile. Finishing up Soul Cavern and the other requisites for graduating from SHU pretty well kicked my tail! Add to it that we bought a house at the end of April and moved in around mid-May. But, I’m happy to say, I’m back in the saddle! I managed to get everything done and everyone I needed to pass me passed me, so I did, in fact, receive my Master of Arts degree in Writing Popular Fiction! Woot!

More importantly, however, my manuscript is very close to being submit-able. I have a few revisions I’d like to make, but then I’m shoving it out of the nest to make its own way in the world!

As always, when I’m at residency, I learned a TON, and I’ll be posting some of that soon in What I’ve Learned. I also did my own teaching module on how to write action scenes, which will eventually end up here in some form. I met several very cool author-types whom I’ll be hyping as we move along, as well. And watch for expansions in the Links list on the left side of the page! I’ve got so much to put in there, you’re going to be amazed! We’ll also be getting back on path with the Steps in the Journey feature very soon.

I’m planning on a bit of a revamp on the website, but that’s back-burner, end of the list, whenever I get to it type stuff. I’ve got a few pages to add and I swear to whatever that I’m going to get a proper Contact Me page up!

So here we are! Ready to get started again?

What I’ve Learned: Floating Body Parts

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Inspired by a comment by Fiendish!

She swung her eyes around to where he stood in the doorway.

My first questions when I read a sentence like this: Are they tied to a string? Is she using them like nunchucks? Doesn’t that hurt?

Her face fell as he broke the news to her.

Again: Ouch! She should have latches installed or something.

Here’s one I just read in a novel by a best-selling author:

His eyes slid over her face.

Ewwww. Just, ewww.

My first mentor at SHU had this thing about passive verbs and floating body parts (FBP), so I learned pretty early on to get rid "was" and "were" as well as FBPs.

So what’s a FBP? It’s any time in the story where an action is attributed to a body part rather than a character. The quotes above are pretty good (and common) examples.

In the first, she swung her gaze around, not her eyes. Accuracy in description is important. Many readers won’t catch it, but the more literal-minded will. And you don’t want to ever lose readers if you can help it.

The second example is a little different. Saying someone’s face fell is a somewhat common expression, but when writing, there are much more effective ways of getting the idea across. What things happen which create the "falling" of a face? Perhaps the jaw goes slack, or the brows furrow or come together over the nose. If you describe the changes in the face that create the crestfallen look, not only will your reader get the idea, but your writing will be that much stronger for the description. Your character will seem more alive.

The third example is similar to the first, only grosser. Blech.

"But," you say, "my favorite author, Mr X, does that all the time!"

Well-published authors, best-selling authors, and authors who have made a niche for themselves aren’t always considered as critically as new authors. If an author already has numbers (sales) on his side, it means he already has a fan base which will buy his books regardless of some minor issues.

Unfortunately, those of us who are just breaking into the business, or attempting to, are held to a higher standard. We have editors to impress in order to get our foot (feet?) in the door. We’re competing against hundreds, often thousands, of other hopeful writers, so anything we can improve in our writing can only increase our chances of catching the editor’s eye. Tight and accurate descriptions help.

I know when I started writing, my characters’ body parts were doing all kinds of things! Once I started recognizing FBPs and began to shift the action from the body part to the character,  my characters became more realistic and my scenes, especially action scenes, came across as more focused and immediate.

Have a look at some of your stories. Do you have issues with floating body parts?

 

Half-Passed!

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I love the play on words of the title!

I heard from my first mentor for SHU, Leslie, who is my second reader for my thesis/manuscript (don’t ask, the first mentor/second reader, second mentor/first reader thing is confusing). She passed my manuscript! So that’s one down and one to go!

I’m a bit more concerned about my current(second) mentor/first reader though. Not that Leslie is easy, by any means, but she’s not in my genre, so she couldn’t be very critical in that regard. Leslie’s awesome for all the technical stuff though: passive verbs, adverbs, floating body parts. She catches all that stuff! On the final ms pass, she did nail me on lay/lie and further/farther as well as a few other things. I guess I should have paid closer attention to my Elements of Style, huh? It wasn’t bad enough to fail the ms though, so yay!

Anyway, as I was saying, I’m more concerned about my second mentor’s pass through of the ms. Mike’s a horror writer, a tenured professor and an extremely astute reader. He’s always pushing me. He’s fantastic! But, because he’s more familiar with the genres I write in, he can be a lot more critical. Add to that his position as an English prof, I am sometimes overwhelmed. He’s used to analyzing writing. I haven’t analyzed much since I was an undergrad… not in terms of literary criticism and analysis. And let me assure you that my undergrad years were quite a long time ago!

I’m still optimistic, though. I have no idea whether he will pass or fail the ms–don’t mistake me on that. But I’m keeping my chin up and hoping for the best.

If he doesn’t pass the ms, he’ll give me the reasons why and I’ll have an opportunity to fix the problems. Then he’ll re-evaluate. So it’s not as though this is the last chance.

Now, I’m working on my critical essay, which is a ten page paper on where my novel falls into the larger genre. And I have to develop a lesson plan for my teaching module. I still think I’m going to do action scenes. I have an interesting idea for a class activity, but I’ll need more than that. But I’ve got time.

Oh, and add to all this, I’m buying a house next Thursday. My life is a bit hectic these days!

Aaaand…we’re back!

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Okay, I think things are going to tone down for awhile now. My manuscript is in. Now I wait for word on whether I need to change things or whether it passes as is.

In the meantime, though, expect some new posts this week! Woot!

Amazon – POD Monopoly?

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I was going to do a post on anthologies today, but I just found out about Amazon’s bid for complete coverage in the POD world. There are a couple large Print On Demand (POD) printers – BookSurge (now owned by Amazon), LightningSource (owned by Ingram book distributor), and a few medium sized ones. Print on Demand allows for lower costs for small publishers as well as self-publishing authors.

Now, however, Amazon is using its leverage as a retail giant to force publishers to use BookSurge. The result if they don’t? Amazon will turn off the "Buy" button on their book listings. This means that potential customers can see the book on Amazon, but can’t buy it. But, if the author/publisher switches over to BookSurge–viola!–the "Buy" button returns. Read about it in detail at Angel Hoy’s Writers Weekly.

According to Publisher’s Weekly:

Neither Amazon nor BookSurge returned calls, although spokesperson Tammy Hovey told the Wall Street Journal the move is a “strategic decision. What we’re looking to do is have a print-on-demand business that better serves our customers and authors. When we work with some other publishers, it’s not truly a print-on-demand business.” 

What? You’re serious? So, you want to have an apparel business and if the designers don’t use your manufacturing company, you can’t truly be an apparel business? That must be one of the most asinine comments I’ve ever seen.

Amazon, you’ve totally screwed up this time. Your company was built on the words of authors. Books got you where you are today. And now, you’re holding POD books hostage until the authors/publishers pay the BookSurge ransom. Shame on you!