That “Oh, no” moment

I got my proof copy of Riverbend from Amazon last week. I started to look through it, and —

Yes, you guessed it. I saw a typo. Then another.

To make matters worse, when I began reading it more carefully, I noticed places where I could have chosen a better word or phrase. Oh, the beauty of hindsight.

When I think about ordering a book online, I read the reviews. If readers complain of poor editing or too many typos, I usually pass.

I do not want that to happen to me!

So one more time, I went through it page by page, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by … You get the idea.

I followed some advice I heard at a workshop and started at the last page and worked my way to the beginning. When sentences are taken out of context, it is much easier to see errors.

And now I see my back cover blurb doesn’t really tell what the story is about, so I need to work on that as well.

At this rate, I’ll never be ready to let go, but I have a firm publication date of May 1.

I remember reading about an author who  wasn’t satisfied with the ending of his book, so every time he was giving a reading or lecture in a new city he’d visit the library and cross out the last paragraphs and write in the new ending.

I don’t intend to go to that extreme. But I am going to make sure this book is as ready as it can be for its debut.

There are people, and I used to be one them, who think writing a book is easy. You just sit down and begin typing.

They don’t  know the whole story.

Pun intended.



Juggling the genres

Last week I was at the beach, enjoying sunny warm afternoons, splashing through the waves in my bare feet.

This week, I dug out my sweatshirts and warm coat, going outside only when necessary.

Yes, this is North Carolina weather. Rather than complaining, however, I used the time to hunker down at my computer. The stories were written, but  it was time for the next step.

The novel I polished at the beach during the writers retreat needed one last-minute check. Then I had to write the synopsis, which I just finished.

I wrote a synopsis before I started, as I may have noted before. This was my guide, my lifeline that made certain I didn’t stray too far afield. But it isn’t the same synopsis that one submits to a publisher. This time, I had to be more careful of my grammar and punctuation while still, hopefully, retaining my original enthusiasm for the project. This I will send off, fingers crossed.

My other novel? I decided to self-publish, so I spent some hours working on the cover design, then formatting the Word document. Luckily, by this time around I know the pitfalls and most of it went smoothly, with only a few corrections to be made. I’m fine-tuning it now, having looked at the first proof copy and deciding the margins were too wide and the indents too deep. Saved about 50 pages there, which allows me to lower the price.

They are wildly different books. One is a contemporary romance and the other is historical fiction with a bit of mystery and of course, a love interest because what is any story without some romance?

It’s kind of an experiment. Which will fare better? Should I stick with light stories, meant for a few hours’ entertainment, or should I continue to tackle the research a historical requires?

If you’ve been following my path, I’ve done women’s fiction, romance, paranormal, and now historical. That may not be the best way to build a firm platform, but I’m not trying to make a name or career for myself. I write what I love to write, and if the genre’s differ from one book to the next, it’s because it expresses my interests at the time.

If I were younger, it’d be different. I’d choose a genre and stay with it, book after (yawn) book. Most authors do well this way. We know what to expect from them and aren’t disappointed.

But I’m not young and so I give myself permission to write what I please. If the book sells, I’m delighted. If not, I write another. So far, the reviews have been positive, so I must be doing something right.

My contention is, if someone picks up one of my books they have only to turn it over and read the blurb to decide if they want to buy it (or borrow it from the library). Who knows, they may decide to try a new story, even if it wasn’t what they expected, and like it.

I love to read and at any one time I may have a stack of books consisting of a biography, a historical romance, an action drama, and a mystery.

So if I like reading different genres, it follows that I like writing them.

I’m not sure what comes next. I have a few ideas …

We’ll see where they lead me.





Just the facts, Ma’am

I am trying to not get involved in politics. It’s pretty tough.

Today, at  birthday luncheon, someone mentioned the Republican Convention. Now, these are all gray-haired old ladies. Does the fact that we were celebrating one of our member’s  94th birthday tell you our approximate age? (Okay, I’ve never made a secret of the fact that I wasn’t born yesterday.)

Immediately, someone said…well, never mind. Then someone disagreed. Then a third person suggested we not talk about politics during what was a celebration.

Silence reigned. Then someone said…

You know how it goes. Everyone has a opinion and no one is willing to listen to anyone else.

I’ve been keeping my head down and writing. But it’s hard not to pay attention to what is going on. In fact, we should all be paying attention.

One thing you learn fairly quickly if you are a writer is to check the facts. This is especially important when you write historical fiction, but it’s true in any genre. Get a fact wrong and some alert reader will be sure to fire off an e-mail pointing out your error.

Yet facts seem to go flying off the page this electoral season. Yes, there are fact checkers who try to keep us all on the straight and narrow, but it seems to me the only people reading the results are the few whose minds are not so closed that any fact that disagrees with their mindset rolls off them like butter off a hot biscuit.

At least in my crowd we are trying to be civil and not throw a punch (not that any of us could without seriously injuring ourselves). A sniff and an eye-roll suffice.

My hope is that once the election is over, we can step back and accept victory or defeat gracefully and join together to address the real problems that face this nation–inequality, poverty, health care, a crumbling infrastructure, and the price of e-books.









What’s in a name?

A fellow writer and I attended the annual Book ‘Em literary festival at Robeson Community College on Saturday. It was my third time to go and the first time I was on a panel. Our topic was romance and as expected we all had differing views of exactly what romance is. I guess that is why there  are so many sub-genres, from sweet (think Amish) to erotic (think 50 Shades).

The goal is to sell books and support literacy efforts at the same time as part of the sales profit is donated back to the people who organize the event who then donate the funds to various literacy programs.

That’s their goal. Mine is meet other authors and potential new readers. While chatting with one author, she said someone had picked up her book and mused, “Murder on the Mississippi, huh.” Then she said, laughing but still a little indignant, “He looked at me said ‘What’s it about?'”


But it got me thinking. Do our titles really tell what the story is about, like a condensed elevator pitch? (If the term is new to you, it’s what you say to an agent or publisher if you are in an elevator and they ask what your book is about. You have 30 seconds to pitch it to them before they reach their floor.)

Authors spend hours composing their elevator pitch. It isn’t easy. Think of a favorite book or one you just finished reading and try to explain it to a friend in one or two sentences.

Authors also agonize over a title. A woman politely informed me as she flipped through my book that Dale Evans had written a book called Angels Unaware years ago. I do, but I discovered the fact after my book had been published. Or take A Question of Time. Google that, and a dozen books with the same or similar title pop up.

Titles are not copyrighted, thank goodness. But it might be wise for an author to research their title before settling on it. And to try and make it hint at what the story is about. The title and cover are what make the reader pick up the book. Only then do they read the description on the back cover.

The title doesn’t have to be a two- or three-word book report. Sometimes a story can’t be shortened to two or even five words. So your title needs to get attention, like Gone with the Wind or Love in the Time of Cholera. What do you think when you read them? Are they enough to make you want to read the blurb?

Does your title?

So the title is important. It has to grab the reader, make her curious enough to think, “Oh, this sounds interesting,” and pick up the book.

Maybe they still won’t get it, as the person who asked what Murder on the Mississippi was about.

But you can bet the farm I will be thinking more seriously about my titles from now on. If I am fishing for readers, I had better make sure the bait is alluring.




Role reversal

There’s difference between beta readers, critique partners, and editors.  As I understand it, a beta reader reads the finished manuscript to comment on the overall story. The main thing you want to know is if she liked it or not.

If she says yes, you can do your happy dance. If she says no,  she may not  be able to say exactly what she didn’t like.  She may say only, “It felt wrong.”

The fact that she senses something out of kilter is enough for you to go back to your story and re-read with a dispassionate eye. You may have to put it aside for a few weeks in order to be able to do this.

A critique partner works along with you, chapter by chapter or scene by scene. She is an essential part of your journey, helping you  spot flaws before they magnify into major problems.

An editor — or editors, as you may have more than one — doesn’t care as much about the story as he does grammar, spelling, and typos. Your editor may hate your story, but he will point out that you changed tenses in a sentence, or were head-hopping, or had your heroine yell “You’re a xenophilic!” at the hero without your looking it up first to make sure she knows what she is yelling about.

I’ve asked friends to be beta readers. I’ve had critique partners (and need to find some new ones since my last group disbanded). And I’ve asked professional friends to edit. I value their opinion.

This past week the shoe has been on the other foot. I’ve been reading a manuscript both as a beta reader and as a critique partner. Oh, and editing/proofing along the way. It’s not easy because I have to put my own writer’s hat aside. I use an Oxford comma; my friend doesn’t. I have to stifle the urge to add a comma in every string of phrases or words. It’s an internal battle of wills, believe me.

When I send it back all marked up I will repeat what I told him at the beginning when I accepted the assignment: these are suggestions and you can delete them or accept them, whichever you want. Because what I see as an error may be exactly how he wants it written. And, I could be wrong.

Does editing someone else’s manuscript make me a better writer? I think it has to. If I see an error in his work, I am more likely to spot it in my own. It sharpens my skills, and that has to be a good thing.

Oh, and while editing/proofing my friend’s work, I’m also proofing the galleys on mine. It’s my fourth time to go over the pages — three previous editors have marked them and sent them to me for approval. I dare not disapprove. These people work for the publisher. Their job is to make my writing better, not be my Facebook friends.

I have a week to get this done, so I may have to slack off on my friend’s book until then. Release date for “A Question of Time” is October 13.

Just letting you know:)







Even pantsers need to plot sometimes

I am a pantser, not a plotter, so sometimes I get to a point when, like a driver without a road map, I have to admit I am lost.

Luckily, I have OnStar for road trips. But to plot out my course in a work in progress…not so much help.

I had a feeling yesterday while I was writing that something was wrong. I had a plot, I had a good idea of where I was going, but I wasn’t sure the destination was valid. That same feeling sent me to Google and I did some research.

Yep, you should listen to that inner voice. I based the ending of the story on a premise that wasn’t true. If I’d gone on and eventually published the book, my email would have been filled with angry letters from historians.

In the story, my protagonist is being blackmailed, but what I discovered was that what he did was not exactly against the law in the early 1800s. Well, it was, but he wouldn’t have been punished except for a fine that he could easily have paid. In real life he’d have laughed and told his adversary to go ahead and report him.

So the threat wasn’t a threat after all.

I felt both crushed that I had to come up with another sin in his past and happy that I’d taken time to fact check before I had gone any further, because I hate looking like an idiot.

I left my work station and went outside and whacked some upstart weeds, raked and bagged pine needles, and piled up some dead branches that had fallen in the last wind storm. And thought.

I do some of my best thinking while engaging in physical labor. Also at 3 a.m., but that’s another story.

I did come up with a alternate idea. Now my protagonist has a choice of giving in one more time or telling his blackmailer to go ahead and betray him — but this time the stakes are much bigger. He could lose everything. Conversely, he could gain his heart’s desire.

Will he accept the gamble?

I know the answer to that question, but I’m not telling.








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