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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Importance of a Good Editor

This is a guest post by Carl Schmidt, author of the mystery novel, Dead Down East.


Every seasoned novelist will tell you that there is absolutely no substitute for a good editor. 

An editor doesn’t just alert you to mistakes in spelling, grammar, sentence structure and punctuation; editing goes way beyond that. Your story needs to be consistent, factually correct, clear, and succinct. This might sound obvious, but when you are dealing with a 90,000-word novel, there are plenty of ways to muck it up on every single page.

So. You’ve written your first novel, or maybe you’ve just completed a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Chances are you’ve read it several times, and it looks good to you. You’re excited about it. You’ve created a likable story or perhaps you’ve made some kind of definitive statement. Now you want to have it published.

Hold your horses, Kemosabe.

This last sentence is a perfect example of why you need an editor. I know what “Kemosabe” means, but do you? I was raised on The Lone Ranger and Tonto, but if you are considerably younger than I, you might not have a clue. And if you don’t, I may have just lost you as a reader. A good editor will bring this to your attention and make sure you use references that will be familiar to your target audience.

Every chapter in your novel needs to have a fresh beginning and a logical conclusion. The fresh beginning will keep your reader awake, and will revitalize his/her interest in your story. The logical conclusion will wrap up that particular scene and give the reader a breather. It may have taken you a week to write the chapter, and in that time you have been so wrapped up in the content of the storyline that you may have lost sight of what your reader knows at this point, and the pace of his reading experience. If your editor suggests that the chapter rambles, then clean it up and shorten it. If your editor says that something is missing or unclear, then you probably have left too much to the reader’s imagination.

Another important purpose of editing is to broaden your vocabulary so that highly descriptive words or phrases are not overused. A Thesaurus can help with this, but every author has a tendency to repeat himself in some way, either with specific words or sentence patterns. Repetition will blemish your story, and a good editor can spot it.

JanMarie Moullen edited my first three novels. She has an uncanny ability for recalling my use of unique adjectives and adverbs, and letting me know when they appear too often throughout the book. There were instances where she went back 50 pages or more in the text to find that I had used an unusually graphic word, and when it appeared for just a second time, much later in the book, it stood out to her as tiresome. And…she was right.

Overall, I took her advice about 95 percent of the time. I learned to trust her judgment, and it paid dividends. Several reviewers have commented on how crisp the editing is in my first novel. She deserves most of that credit.



Carl Schmidt, the author of the mystery novel Dead Down East, has spent dozens of summers in Maine, on lakes and in the woods. He chose it as the setting for his Jesse Thorpe Mystery Series because he loves its rugged natural beauty and the charming idiosyncrasies of Mainers. He has also written and recorded three musical albums. This, along with his formal education, proved invaluable when molding the persona and voice of Jesse Thorpe, the narrator of Dead Down East, and endowing him with both a creative eye for detail and a sense of humor.

Buy the paperback version of Dead Down East here.
Buy the Kindle version of Dead Down East here.  
Check out Carl Schmidt's website here
Connect with Carl Schmidt on Facebook here



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Q & A with Author CeCe OsGood




Hi, Cece! Let's get started. What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Like so many writers, I want readers to enjoy the characters and how they relate to each other. Friendship is a major element in my books, and I hope the readers like spending time with these people.

What would your career look like in an ideal world?

Well, I guess the seven-figure movie deal would rank pretty high up there for me, along with several best sellers. I can’t even imagine having a theme park and a musical (Harry Potter).

That would be pretty incredible. I think J.K. Rowling's career is a goal for many people. What’s your guilty pleasure TV show?

Major Crimes—I like the interaction with the cops, especially Lt. Provenza. He’s grumpy, like the cat in my Sunny Truly series. Also, the Silicon Valley series. Those guys are too funny.

I would’ve said Inspector Lewis, the BBC series, but it just ended. Grrr. Ditto for Downton Abbey. Double grrr.


Do you believe in fate or love at first sight?

Yes. We live in a mysterious universe, or if you believe Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, multi-universes.

What is the strangest fact about you?

I was born on an island that’s one mile wide and a mile and half long. There are no cars, only boats and bicycles, for transportation. And, I get seasick easily.

Which writers inspire you?

Currently, I’d have to say Susan Elizabeth Phillips for romantic humor, Diane Orgain for cozies, and Joy Fielding for darker mysteries.


What are you working on right now?

I’m stirring up Mimosas & Murder, the third book in the Sunny Truly Mystery series.

Why do you write?

I like creating worlds populated by wily females, their fun friends, sweet families and adorable pets. Along with all that goodness comes the dark side: murder, jealousy, revenge and avarice.

And, of course, justice. That’s why the killer gets caught. So often in real life, culprits go free or live life large, but in my mysteries, they get their just desserts, I don’t mean pie or chocolate flan!

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to publish their own book?

Prepare to make mistakes. Don’t rush to publish. Get beta readers who know what they’re doing.


What books are you currently reading?

On my Kindle, I’m reading Diane Orgain’s Motherhood is Murder and Liliana Hart’s Whiskey Sour. And on the darker side, I’m listening (when I drive) to Joy Fielding’s Shadow Creek.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

My website. There’s a subscribe button for my newsletter which I want to title Once In A Blue Moon because it will only come out for a new release or a giveaway or a contest … or a blue moon.  Thank you for the interview.

Thanks for joining me and good luck with your next book in the series!





Sunday, September 11, 2016

Furiously Happy | Jenny Lawson

“Don’t sabotage yourself. There are plenty of other people willing to do that for free."


Genre: Memoir/Humor.
Number of Pages: 329.
Perspective: First.

This book is a collection of stories by Jenny Lawson as she tries to combat anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses by being “Furiously Happy” instead. For a complete summary, you can go here.

I normally HATE memoirs. I don’t know why I keep reading them. But THIS is why. This is the memoir that I have been wishing for! This book is the first memoir that I truly loved. I ate this book up. But, I really think this will be a polarizing book. Some people won’t get her humor and will not enjoy this book at all, other people will relate or at least empathize, and will absolutely love this book. Personally, I gave this my Best Book Award.

Jenny is vulgar, an exaggerator, and self-admittedly crazy. But, boy, is she hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud, and not many books can do that to me. I more likely to cry from a book than laugh. Warning: Do not read this book in public if you get embarrassed by laughing to yourself. 

Sandwiched in between crazy hijinks, Jenny shares a few serious stories about her struggles with her mental illnesses. Even though she tries her hardest to combat them, there are still tough days, weeks, and months. I think this book is eye -opening to people who brush off anxiety and depression. It can also be a beacon for people who do struggle with similar issues. 

My favorite part of this book was her story about renovating her house. My husband and I are nearing the end of our home renovation, and Jenny perfectly summarized all of the ridiculousness that is contractors and renovation projects. 

I recommend this to people who struggle with mental illness, or to people who just need a good laugh. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“Don’t make the same mistakes that everyone else makes. Make wonderful mistakes. Make the kind of mistakes that make people so shocked that they have no other choice but to be a little impressed.” 






5/5 Stars 



Monday, September 5, 2016

Book Chat: Cuckoo's Calling | Robert Galbraith

**WARNING: This is for people who have already read this book. There will be spoilers! If you do not want the book's wonderful surprises to be ruined, read my review of the book, read the book, then come back to read our chat. Thank you!**




Amber: Let’s get started! So what was everyone's overall impression of the book?
Erin: I haven't finished yet, but I'm on the fence about how I feel about the book. It certainly did not instantly grab my attention.
Kimberly: The book felt pretty slow to me and I wonder if it really needed to be as long as it was. After finishing it, though, it did pick up at the end and I was happy with how it turned out. Long stretches of narration with little action was sometimes difficult to push through, but overall I liked the concept of the book enough to finish reading
Amber: Yes, the writing was definitely purple prose--overly descriptive, fluffy writing. I was confused at first because I thought it took place in the 50s. It had a film noir feel to it. But then they started using the internet...
Marina: So my favorite part of the book was actually in the middle of the book, the conversation with Guy. Everything about the scene was so overly orchestrated. The location of the building, the attendants and costumes and the overly chic office made it seem like a badly designed movie. I got the impression that it was how Guy liked to live, in this kind of constructed movie fantasy of designers. The conversation between Guy and Strike, in contrast, felt incredibly real and raw. Guy's confusion over some of the questions, his conviction about Lula being murdered, and the way he tried to perfectly compose himself in the end just made the whole scene really fun to read. The part I most hated was the interaction with Rochelle at the McDonald's. I don't think it was well written. It feels like the author was confused about exactly what he wanted out of the scene and so extended it to where Strike was awkwardly following Rochelle down the street.
Amber: How did everyone feel knowing that this was written by the same person that wrote the phenomenon Harry Potter?
Marina: Disappointed.
Erin: It definitely raised my expectations. I loved the Harry Potter series and it was so thoughtful and well-written that I anticipated this novel would follow in the same line. Unfortunately, I have not been super impressed with any of her novels outside of the Harry Potter series. And it really does sadden me to say that.
Renee: I think I was more disappointed because my expectations were so high from Harry Potter.
Amber: She is just talented at writing a particular type of book. She is great at world building and having an entire series for character development. Mystery novels by nature are cliche and formulaic unless written by someone very skilled at that particular genre
Marina: Strike is a dumb name.
Stuart: So I'll start by saying that I'm super biased for two reasons. 1. I haven't read a book for pleasure in ages, so this book was absolutely thrilling for me and I don't have much to compare it to which might explain why I loved the hell out of it. 2. I'm a male, and I think (while this may be controversial, but what the hell, should spark some dialogue) that this book was written for a male reader. I'll get to the male perspective in a moment, but first I'd like to say that this book was absolutely fun as hell to read, you might not think so because it took me forever and a half to finish it and post on here, but nonetheless. I thought Miss. Rowling did an excellent job at painting personalities.
Marina: I guess that would make sense that it would appeal to men. I really think that it wasn't very well developed, though there were a few things I did like. I just feel like the character development was very stereotypical and lacked real depth.
Stuart: Now at times, I'll admit, the descriptions of the scenes and personalities were a bit too much and not exactly smooth. it seemed like it was a brand new author who was writing them, not the writer of 7 of my favorite books of all time. But I can't deny that there was a very clear picture of what each character looked like, acted like, carried themselves, etc...
Marina: I know that Strike has a furry belly.  LOL
Stuart: I think stereotypical is right, Marina. Amber, you touched on it too. She was certainly going for the noir feel. The furriest of bellies.
Marina: A lot of the scenes felt very forced and that the in between was an attempt to force the story to get to those specific scenes because the author really wanted to put them in there, whether or not they actually worked. What I will say is that the background characters felt more like real people than the main characters did. I really liked learning about all the different side characters connected with the death.
Stuart: One of my biggest gripes is just how drastically the pace of the book changed at the end! I mean some books are super "efficient"--a lot happens in only a few pages, (99 percent of this book was certainly not efficient). Other books are drawn out, wordy...honestly, Charles Dickens and Great Expectations comes to mind as an example. But that's a pretty interesting point! We certainly did learn a lot about the side characters, from Rochelle to Guy to Evan. Now, I've seen a lot of dislikes about my boy, Strike. Why (other than his name, but that was a hilarious comment hahaha) don't people like Mister Cormoran?
Marina: I think a lot of their depth comes from how minimally she went into some of their lives. Like, in the beginning, Rochelle is just the concept of a druggie hanger-on.  We learn more about her in a very forced interaction, but the development feels like you would naturally learn about somebody in real life. I think that he would be someone I don't get on very well with in real life. He doesn't intentionally foster the 'dark and mysterious' air. However, he isn't very open about what he wants to say, he's constantly socially uncomfortable, and he only really gets on with other male characters. I'll let someone else reply for now. 
Stuart: I agree, he's certainly not the type to work the room...now. But I think all that changed once he went to Afghanistan. Remember the story of how he met Charlotte? He was drinking at a party, he had a mate of his who he was hanging out with and he walked up to Charlotte with a corny pickup line. The whole situation reminded me of a college kid at a party. But (and the book doesn't really nail down whether or not this was before or after Afghanistan) when I read this scene in contrast with the rest of the book, it made me think that this party boy Strike disappeared somewhere in Afghanistan. And when he came back he became much more of a recluse. he didn't view people the same way and he had some sort of urge to continue to fight the good fight. So you have this party boy, who goes to war, and comes back and can't help himself but continue to seek out justice, no matter the cost to himself. He doesn't mention once that he'd prefer another life, a family, an actual place to live. He just accepts that he will do private eye work. AND he is even quick to turn down Bristow upfront because he thinks it is indeed a suicide like the rest of the world. Long story short. Strike may not be a people person, but he is all about justice. Oh, and I think it's written for males because of how much detail the author went into with describing female beauty. Attractive male characters were not present. And a random dude slept with a supermodel and I'm pretty sure that every young man's dream (but not me *cough cough* cuz I'm a gentleman...) Anyway, that's my rant
Amber: Haha, great points! So it sounds like you would recommend this book, Stuart. Would anyone else recommend it? I looked up reviews online and the general consensus seems to be that people loved it. But my opinion is that successful books are polarizing because it creates good discussion when some people love a book and other people hate it.
Kimberly: I actually enjoyed the book and will read the other two, eventually. Although there were times that I thought the pace of the book was slow, I did enjoy the writing and did think that Strike was an interesting complex character that we never fully figured out. I'm also interested in continuing to see how his relationship with Robin develops.
Amber: Alright, I will see you all next month for our book talk on Mud Vein by Taryn Fisher!


Have something to say? Feel free to comment below to add to our discussion!


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Don't Let the Spirits in: A Look into the Origins of Myths

One time when I first met my now-husband, Brandon, we were driving in the car. As we passed a cemetery, I shouted “hold your breath!” and clamped my mouth shut. 
Brandon quickly listened and held his breath with me. A few moments later, I let out a big exhale. Brandon also exhaled while staring at me. 
He asked, “What? Did you fart or something?” 
I started laughing and had to explain to him a superstition that I thought everyone followed: holding your breath while passing a cemetery so that the ghosts don’t enter your body through your mouth or nose. This is obviously ridiculous, and I didn’t believe it would ever actually happen, but I had done it habitually since I was a child. I cannot remember exactly where I heard this superstition, but I think a friend must have told me about it when I was little. The first time I remember doing this, I was on the school bus. My friends and I would hold our breath while passing a local cemetery and always lift our feet when going over railroad tracks. 
It is difficult to find the origins of this superstition, but one origin could come from the story of Adam and Eve, since “it is believed that God breathed life into Adam” (Bryson, 2011). So life and breathing have a correlation. Another belief of the origins has to do with the actual word soul, which “always derives from the word for breath” (Bryson, 2011). A different belief is that this superstition originated from Native American culture since they believed that “breathing near the dead was risky because you might accidentally inhale someone’s soul” (Cowart, 2015). So that could have been altered over the years to include bodies that were already buried.
Looking back, I realize that I have not held my breath while passing a cemetery since that day in the car with my husband. I now recognize the ridiculousness of continuing to do it, even out of habit. I suppose most superstitions seem ridiculous, even to the people that continue to do them. 



References
Bryson, B. (2011, July 8). Don’t breathe while passing a cemetary [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.pseudoparanormal.com/2011/07/dont-breathe-while-passing-cemetary.html

Cowart, K. (2015, January 8). 25 common superstitions and their origins [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://equinoxparanormal.tumblr.com/post/109640223377/25-common-superstitions-and-their-origins-from 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

It’s a Writer Thing --Harness the Power of Stimulus Control in your Writing

This is a guest post by Jessica Bayliss. 



Welcome back to It’s a Writer Thing. Over the last few months, I’ve been writing about all things feedback. I hope you found those posts helpful, and if you did (or didn’t), I’d LOVE to hear from you. Please go ahead and leave a comment below. 

Today I’m switching gears. I’m very excited to write today’s blog post, because I get to dig into my psychologist bag of tricks for this one. From nine-to-five, I’m a clinical psychologist, and so much of what I studied all those years in school is applicable to our experiences as writers.

One concept that comes up A LOT on blogs, Twitter feeds, and in craft-related articles is our environment and the habits we keep. Some people insist we must write every day, at the same time, in the same place to build a good habit, while others prefer a more flexible approach.

But who’s got it best?

The answer is neither and both!

Over the course of a few posts, I’ll dig into a couple psych concepts that can put this debate into context. I’ll be talking about the differences between stimulus control versus stimulus generalizability and how that relates to cognitive control. Today, I’ll focus on stimulus control.

Despite the formal-sounding lingo, these concepts are very simple, and most of us writers are well-acquainted with these already, just maybe not the names. 

So here goes. First a few definitions.

DEFINITIONS:


A stimulus is just anything in the environment (external or internal) that will trigger a response. Sometimes the response is automatic and unconscious, but it can also be voluntary.

Stimulus Control is the idea that a particular behavior will happen in response to specific stimuli. So, the simplest one we can all relate to is the good old-fashioned stop sign. We have well-ingrained responses to that big red octagon. If it’s present, we stop, if not, we keep going. Of course we stop at other times too: for red lights, for a crossing family of geese, because we just noticed a donut shop we can’t pass up. You get it. 

Some behaviors only occur in response to a particular stimulus, but most of the time, behaviors will happen outside that context too. So, that brings me to…

Stimulus Generalizability, when a particular behavior is likely to occur in many contexts and in response to many stimuli. In dog training, a good pet owner will train the dog to sit using one controlled environment to start. But, in order to have a really well-trained dog, she needs the pup to sit in the living room, the kitchen, while walking down the street, at the park, etc. And it’s no good for the dog to only sit if the original trainer gives the command. All members of the household should be able to get the same response. To get there, a trainer will vary the learning environment and stimuli that are present, and viola, she’s got a dog that’s not an asshole in public. 

But what does all of this have to do with writing?

STIMULUS CONTROL AND WRITING:



Many authors talk about the importance of establishing a routine that’s repeated every day. Sit in your writing spot, at the same time, with the same drink, with the right playlist, and you’ll ingrain a habitual behavior that will make it easier to write consistently. 

Are they right? YES!

By repeatedly pairing the behavior of writing with these stimuli, the writer will come to crave the behavior of writing whenever these stimuli are present. This is why I itch to write first thing every morning. I have my chair, my coffee, and my computer in my lap, and it’s awesome. The days when the world has other plans for me, I miss my writing time and my I don’t feel quite right.

This is good, especially for writers struggling to be productive on a regular basis.

HOW TO HARNESS THE POWER OF STIMULUS CONTROL IN YOUR WRITING:




To harness the power of this classic psychological principle, create your own routine where you pair certain stimuli with your writing. Pick a time, a place, music, a candle scent, a beverage, or snack. Anything works as long as it’s consistent. If you want to get really into it, you can pick an item of clothing like a favorite sweatshirt or comfy slippers. Be sure to write under those circumstances every day (or, if one of your stimuli is something like day of the week, be sure to not miss a Sunday or Tuesday or whatever). Do that for a week or two (the more chances to practice, the faster the connection will be established), and you’ll have a very strong urge to write under those circumstances thereafter. 

WATCH OUT FOR THINGS THAT WILL HINDER YOU:




It will work for you, I guarantee it, but there is one thing to watch out for: distraction. If you get into your writing zone and instead of opening that WIP you open Twitter, you won’t condition the stimulus-behavior link you’re going for. So resist the social media and the pull to do other things during that time. 

Other things that might hinder your progress are interruptions. Kids, husbands, dogs, chores, the phone. All of that can intrude on our designated routine, so be sure to choose a time where you’ll have the least chance of being interrupted. 

Five AM on weekdays is perfect for me because I’m the only one up and there ain’t none of my friends awake calling me at that early. And if they did, I’d think they were crazy.

Next time for It’s a Writer Thing, I’ll continue this discussion and talk about the way stimulus control can hinder the productivity of an author. Yes, there can be too much of a good thing. Until then, another HUGE thanks to Amber Gregg for welcoming my series on her awesome blog, and of course… You can do it! You can write!


This article was also posted on www.jessicabaylisswrites.com as a part of the "It's A Writer Thing" series. 




Jessica Bayliss is an author of commercial fiction who loves nothing better than getting lost in a good story, whether in print or on film. When not busy with her latest fiction project, she can be found loving her friends and family—especially her husband, Eric—playing with one pesky Havanese, or trying to appease an ornery cockatiel, typically with a cup of coffee near at hand.