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1. What have you got lined up in the coming weeks and months?

Where is Jon - compressed


Aside from two days of Fun with Fiction workshops at Millington Elementary School, and my teaching gig at the GCU, I haven't done any speaking events so far this year.

I do have a couple of talks lined up,
and I'll certainly be attending some writing group meetings, but for the most part, I'm keeping my head down, having a great time working on major revisions for Abraham Lincoln Stole my Homework and the outline/first draft of Dead Doris (also middle grade).

Here are some of the talks and events I'll be giving during the coming months:

2015 SPRING SEMESTER  
EN215: Creative Writing
Georgian Court University
Lakewood, NJ


2015 APRIL 1st (Weds)   Autism in the Family (7pm - 8:30pm)
Speaking on the Spectrum (SPotS)
Camden County Library (South County Regional Branch) 35 Cooper Folly Road, Atco, NJ 08004

2014 APRIL 26th (Sun) Author Lunch

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2. Five Questions for Trent Reedy, author of BURNING NATION

(The first in a new series of brief interviews with authors of forthcoming books)


1. Tell us a little bit about your book.

Burning Nation is the second book in the Divided We Fall trilogy. It continues the story of seventeen-year-old Idaho Army National Guardsman PFC Danny Wright and his friends as they are stuck in the middle of a tense stand-off between the state of Idaho and the federal government of the United States. In the first book, Divided We Fall, Idaho has voted to nullify the Federal Identification Card Act. When Danny’s National Guard unit is sent to quell a protest/riot resulting from this nullification, he accidentally fires his rifle, which causes other people to shoot, leaving twelve dead and nine wounded. The president demands an investigation and prosecution. The governor of Idaho refuses to cooperate, saying that he gave a lawful order to the National Guardsmen under his command.

Burning Nation begins right where the first book left off, with the president sending the military to force Idaho to comply with federal law. Right from the beginning, Danny and his friends are caught up in the fight, but as the country descends into the chaos of the Second American Civil War, losses begin to take their toll. It becomes hard to understand what has been won, but easy to see what’s been lost. As the sacrifices mount and betrayals abound, Danny and his friends begin to think about the wounds they’ve suffered, inside and out.

It’s an action-packed book that continues to explore what happens when America’s current political divide widens into tomorrow’s nightmare, and it’s alarming how many real-life headlines seem to have been predicted by Divided We Fall and Burning Nation.

2. If this book had a theme song, what would it be and why?

Ten years ago, when my fellow soldiers and I were serving in Farah Province in Afghanistan, we were struck by how much the landscape resembled that featured in the movie Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. That movie features a song by Tina Turner called "We Don’t Need Another Hero." My fellow soldiers would joke about this song, with one man saying, “We don’t need another hero” and another replying, “We don’t even know the way home.” The video is a bit dated and cheesy, but if you listen to the words, the song really fits as a commentary on the brutality and waste of war that is very appropriate for Burning Nation.


3. Please name and elaborate upon at least one thing you learned or discovered about writing in the course of creating this book.

When I began work on Burning Nation, I was under the naive assumption that writing the book would be easier because I had already finished Divided We Fall. I knew the characters, the setting, and at least the situation that led to the events in Burning Nation. I should have known that Burning Nation would be as significant if not a greater challenge than the first book. One of the challenges came from the situation the characters face. Throughout most of Burning Nation Danny and his friends must endure a federal military occupation of their small northern Idaho town. With U.S. soldiers hunting for them all the time, their movements, and thus my options for the kinds of scenes I could include, felt rather limited. I began to feel almost as claustrophobic as Danny and his fellow soldiers.

Another challenge with writing Burning Nation was that it was the second part of a story that already had its first part on the market. I was facing a situation that was new to me, that of having public feedback on characters and other aspects of the larger Divided We Fall story, while I was writing that story’s second installment. It felt like having many, sometimes too many, advisors in my office with me while I worked. Cheryl was wise, as she usually is, when she encouraged me to stop looking at reviews and reader comments as I worked on Burning Nation.

4. What is your favorite scene in the book?

I’m really quite happy with a lot of the scenes in Burning Nation, so I’m going to cheat and list two. First, since Burning Nation isn’t merely an action/war book, but is a piece which, I hope, encourages the reader to think about the terrible nature of war and its effects on those who live through it, I’d like to point out a scene that happens after Danny Wright has been through terrible physical and emotional torture. He is out of his mind from sleep deprivation and other torments, and when his one-time rival TJ bursts into his cell to rescue him, Danny isn’t sure if what is happening is even real. He’s confused and kind of cries, “Travis?” Travis Jones realizes that Danny is seriously messed up and it’s going to be harder to rescue him than he and his friends supposed. It’s a small moment, but I hope there’s a lot of emotion in that simple question, that exhausted and near-breaking-point, “Travis?”

And since I love some good action, I’m also quite happy with a hand-to-hand fight scene near the end of the book. It’s a fight between Danny and a U.S. Army major, a desperate fight to the death where Danny has to make an important decision about how deep into the war he’s willing to go, and how much of himself he wants to save. In addition to the moral question the fight raises, I just think it’s a clear scene, a tense and suspenseful fight. And the conclusion of the scene is really quite chilling.

5. What are you working on now?

I am hard at work on the third book in the Divided We Fall trilogy, entitled The Last Full Measure. The story follows America’s further final decline into a terrible civil war, and the difficult consequences this has for Danny Wright and his friends. I’m having lots of fun working on it, and it’s on schedule for a 2016 release.

For more about this book, including an excerpt, reviews, and purchase information, visit the Burning Nation page on the Arthur A. Levine Books website. 

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3. Matt Wayne on What Dwayne McDuffie Meant To Comics

dwaynephoto

Although it’s in Playboy, it’s SFW and a must read: former Milestone managing editor Matt Wayne on his friend, the late great Dwayne McDuffie:

“I’m 22 and I haven’t done anything with my life!”

That was my friend Dwayne, speaking to me in his dorm room in February 1984. Nine years after he got his name in the papers by attending the University of Michigan at age 13 (but only for a year — turns out, even genius kids need to be around their peers). Seven years after the Detroit News named him one of its All State high-school basketball players. A year after a crisis of conscience turned him away from his undergraduate research into the properties of thermocouples — he learned his work had been applied to missile guidance systems — which started his writing career in earnest. And three years before he became the first African-American to create a Marvel comic.

 
There was only one Dwayne, but his memory lives on with the Dwayne McDuffie Award being presented this weekend at the Lonb Beach Comics Expo. I’m extremely proud to have been associated with this first award, and thrilled with the final list of nominees. We have a long way to go to live in the world that Dwayne may have dreamed of, but that doesn’t mean we should give up.

Today is the next to last day of Black History Month. I don’t always mark it with content here at the Beat because I think there should be 12 months a year of black history and women’s history and queer history and Asian history and every kind of history. Confining any minority to their own month is ultimately counter productive. I don’t always succeed but at the Beat I try to create an atmosphere that invites diversity….and NOT just women writing about women or writers of color writing about those issues. I think that’s confining too.

That said, there were some good BHM pieces, and here’s one: Reggie Hudlin, Jamar Nicholass Jerry Craft and Brandon Thomas talking about comics with Danica Davidson. More to come.

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4. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e February 27th 2015



Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last weekabout writing from the last week:

Overcoming Your Distractions (Rachel Kent)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/overcoming-distractions/

Becoming a Student of Your Own Creative Process (Dan Blank)
www.writerunboxed.com/2015/02/27/becoming-a-student-of-your-own-creative-process/

Could You Benefit From a Website Redesign? (Chris Jane)
http://janefriedman.com/2015/02/27/website-redesign/

Writer Productivity Tip: Healthy Competition (Rochelle Deans)
http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2015/02/writer-productivity-tip-healthy.html

Two Video Tutorials on Nailing Your Concept (Larry Brooks)
http://storyfix.com/two-video-tutorials-nailing-concept

The Dark Side of Digital (Dario Ciriello)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2015/02/the-dark-side-of-digital.html

Wrules to Liv By (Dani Greer)
http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/2015/02/wrules-to-liv-by.html

When You’re Missing the Mark (Rachelle Gardner)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/missing-the-mark/

Multitasking is Death to Creative Writing (Michael McDonagh)
www.querytracker.blogspot.com/2015/02/writing-productivity-tip-multitasking.html

The Seven Deadly Sins of Dialogue (Susan DeFreitas)
https://litreactor.com/columns/the-seven-deadly-sins-of-dialogue




If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2014, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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5. 5 Tips for Defining Characters

In addition to describing a character's phyical appearance, the words you use to describe the character reveal a lot about how he or she feels about herself and others.

1. A situation can cause Dick to view Sally in a different light. He might have a negative opinion of her at first and change his mind later. You can illustrate the shift in Dick’s opinion of Sally through description.

First impression: The chick stalked into the conference room, wearing a tight gray dress that crackled like stiff paper. Her pale hair was cinched in a tight bun that made her skin look too tight. She met his glance with cold, dark eyes and a clenched jaw. Dick straightened in his chair and ran a finger inside his collar. This witch would not be an easy sell.

Final impressionSally slipped into the conference room. Her navy dress was wrinkled after having spent the night balled up on his bedroom floor. A few of her whiskey-colored curls escaped a hastily gathered knot. Her smile flickered then faded. Dick squirmed in his chair and ran a finger inside his collar. The memory of all that hair spread out across his body left him flushed and shaky. He shuffled the papers in front of him. Sally had yet to sign on the dotted line, the tantalizing witch.

2. Personality clashes may cause Dick to view Sally in a negative light, even if she is runway model gorgeous. If Dick and Sally have a turbulent history, Dick thinks Sally's designer dress and shoes are an affectation rather than a turn on. These moments create tension.

3. Looks and personality are not synonymous. A character may not have symmetrical features or a svelte waistline, but she is lovely to know and a joy to be around. Her good nature makes her attractive to the viewer. A well-manicured, stately matron may have gutter sensibilities and a lewd sense of humor. Stereotypes are boring. Shake it up. I, for one, am tired of the perfect hero with sculpted abs and the tall, stacked heroine in four-inch heels.

4. Characters project a false self to protect their inner child. An insecure person might make sure every hair is in place. A secure person might not care how she looks.

If Dick's socks don't match because he accidentally pulled a blue and a black sock out of the laundry basket, how secure he is determines whether he delivers a blistering counter-attack when Sally points it out or bursts into genuine laughter over the error. Make sure your characters are multi-dimensional.

5. Look for instances where your point of view character analyzes another character. How does he feel and react when that person is around? Is there a dichotomy between his reaction and how he should feel? Dissonance creates tension.

For more information on character building, check out:

Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict in e-book and paperback.

Story Building Blocks: Build a Cast Workbook in e-book and paperback.

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6. Something Writerly About Dreams

So, I don't know about all y'all, but I've not been sleeping well.

I have a gun!


(There are a few voices calling from the aether - they are saying...
JOIN THE FRICKIN' CLUB!
Aether voices, I salute you.)

Salute

Anyhoozle, the weirdest and random dreams have been plaguing my subconscious.  Like one time I dreamed of storm clouds that went roaring by, sort of like those old Disney movies where it films the clouds in fast-forward, and seconds later a veritable tidal wave flooded the landscape.  This happened twice.  It felt quite portentous.

Shelob

Another time I dreamed someone had been falsely accused of murder, and there was a frantic rush while we rushed the accused to safety, and it was very Bourne/Narnia.  I know, right.  Weird.

What?

What?

Another time, the dream started IN prison, one of those old antique prisons, and the nice little prisoner very cleverly found a way out of the prison, picking up a random hairy stranger on the way, and at the end of the dream the nice little prisoner gets hurt and the hairy stranger (who apparently magically sheds his extreme hairiness) has to protect him.

I dunno

Anyway, I mention dreams because I had one where nightmares and bad dreams are different from each other, in that bad dreams are essentially that - BAD dreams - and nightmares are the conscience that can steer a bad dream back to good dreams.
 
*snicker*
That's cool, folks.

I mention THAT because I feel like an oft forgotten necessity for writers is to always keep a notebook by their beds.  You never know when an idea will attack you while you sleep.  You have to be ready for it, ready to pounce.
 
Pounce!

Yep.  I just posted a writerly blog post!!  CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!?!?!

Pretty much!
Oh, and if you are ever feeling "dried up" creatively, think about buying one of these suckers:

Buddha Board
 I "impulse bought" one at Barnes and Noble the last time I was down there, and it is incredibly soothing and freeing.  You just use a little water and the water "paints" on the canvas.  It's non-permanent, and you wouldn't believe how fun it is to just draw knowing nothing will be permanent.  I love it.  I want a big one.  I bought the mini, which fits in my purse, but I want the big one now.

No, the big one! Big one!

This is the Cat, leaving you with THAT whisker of wisdom.

:-)
Cheers and God Bless!

The Cat

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7. Logic Problems

Watch out for these logic problems to prevent your reader from being pulled out of the story.

http://writershelpingwriters.net/2014/12/four-logic-problems-will-ruin-day-manuscript/

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8. The Audiobook is Live!!

I’m so excited to tell you that the audiobook of WISH YOU WEREN’T is live! I didn’t realize after approving the final version that it would take Audible nearly two weeks to listen to it to make sure the quality was up to par, but I’m glad they did. Because that ensures that anyone who […]

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9. Edging back to blogging

posted by Neil Gaiman
I really am out of the habit of blogging, aren't I? Some of it's from travelling too much, and most of it is probably from using Twitter and Facebook in places and ways that I would have blogged in the past.

Last year's social media sabbatical was really pleasant and rewarding, though, and I'm thinking about doing another, longer one, at the end of this year. Which will probably mean I'll return to blogging again then.

I'm writing this from a hotel in Dublin, where I was today receiving the James Joyce Award. Now off to the UK, where I'll be delivering the Douglas Adams memorial lecture, as a benefit for Save the Rhinos. (Almost all tickets are gone. A few VIP tickets are up on ebay.) The Lecture is called Immortality and Douglas Adams. I know that. Now I just have to write it.

A new book is out: it's called Trigger Warning: Short Stories and Disturbances.

I learned when Smoke and Mirrors came out what people say in reviews of short story collections, and learned it again when Fragile Things came out, a decade later. The reviews say "A good collection of stories, let down by (the weak stories) and redeemed by (the strong stories)" But nobody ever seems to agree on what the weak and the strong stories are, so I never feel I have learned very much from the reviews, but am always happy that people found stories that they did like in there.

So that's what most of the reviews say.

Then there's Frank Cottrell Boyce writing in the New Statesman, about Trigger Warning, short stories, what they are and how we read them, and it's an essay I'd love even if I weren't in there:

It is interesting that Saint Columba makes an appearance. Columba began his exile on Iona in penance for his part in the 6th-century Battle of the Book, a conflict that had its origin in his secret copying of Saint Finnian’s psalter: a kind of medieval illegal download. The subsequent ruling – “To every cow its calf, to every book its copy” – marks an important moment in the history of books. Were they beautiful, magical objects, to be carried into battle as charms (as the psalter was)? Or were they a means to disseminate information? Should their magic stay locked inside or should it be shared? Trigger Warning seems to grow out of a similar rift – the alternating currents of struggle and synergy that flow between the page and the electronic media.

I'm pleased that most readers seem to enjoy most of Trigger Warning, especially pleased and relieved that "Black Dog", the second of the American Gods stories of Shadow in the UK, seems to be well-received. I'm nervously caracoling towards the next novel, and suspect I'll start it in a few months, when the current giant jobs are done...

Amanda and I went to Sarasota to see my 97 year old cousin Helen, and seeing we were there and it was Valentine's Day, we did an event at the beautiful historic Tampa Theatre. This, at the end of a VERY long evening, is me singing "I Google You".



And the beautiful P. Craig Russell limited edition print we did for it is up for sale at Neverwear:

Ah. That was my return to blogging and it wasn't funny at all, was it? Bugger.





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10. “Imma let Bilal finish but Jodorowsky is one of the most inspiring artists of our time.”

10437659_883656848323805_2368046984849607672_n.jpg

Via
Alexander Jodorowsky is the visionary filmmaker behind El Topo and Santa Sangre. He’s also kind of the original “films to comics” crossover creator, since filmmaking is very expensive but comics aren’t—in recent years The Incal, Bouncer, Tehcnopreists and many other weird and wonderful books.

Kanye West is a well known collaborator with Paul McCartney.

The documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune came out in 2013!


4 Comments on “Imma let Bilal finish but Jodorowsky is one of the most inspiring artists of our time.”, last added: 2/27/2015
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11. What makes a story “high-concept?”

In an article titled Write Better: The 7 Qualities of High-Concept Stories, Jeff Lyons, a story editor, outlines the aspects that help a story fit the notion of “high-concept” whether for film or a book. The qualities he lists are:

  1. High level of entertainment value
  2. High degree of originality
  3. Born from a “what if” question
  4. Highly visual
  5. Clear emotional focus
  6. Inclusion of some truly unique element
  7. Mass audience appeal

Check out what he means with each of these things here.

For what it’s worth.

Ray

© 2015 Ray Rhamey

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12. Interruptions and Trailing Off

I was working on an edit this morning and it reminded me of a small writing issue that I see way too often in manuscripts. Now, some people have called me very strict when it comes to dialogue formatting, and I’d agree. I have very low tolerance for excessive dialogue tags, too much gesture/action clogging up scene, improper formatting, and fancy “said” synonyms or adverbs. What I’m about to discuss here is another one of my pet peeves. The good news is, it has a very intuitive fix, which you can begin to implement as soon as you’re aware of the issue.

This week we’re talking about proper formatting for interruptions and trailing off in dialogue. Let’s first look at examples of this done the wrong way:

I began to say, “You just never let me finish any…” when Mom interrupted me.
“That’s because there’s nothing you can say,” she moaned. “What you’ve done is so…so…” She trailed off.

Here we find both an interruption and a trailing off description (with a bonus fancy “said” synonym). We also find, and I hope this popped out at you, a lot of excess description of pretty obvious stuff. This dialogue is currently bogged down in logistic. Instead, it should really move quickly and fly off the page.

The good news is, you can accomplish that with punctuation that exists for just this purpose.

To create an interruption that everyone will recognize as such, use an em-dash where you want to end the dialogue. You create an em-dash by typing two hyphens, and most word processing programs will tie them automatically into the longer dash.

To indicate a person trialing off from their train of thought, whether in speech or narration, use an ellipse. You create one by typing three periods in a row with no space before and sometimes a space after. If there’s a pause within a sentence…like this, you don’t need a space after. If there’s a pause between sentences, use a space… And that’s really all there is.

Now we can use both of these punctuation tools to revamp the example:

“You just never let me finish any–”
“That’s because there’s nothing to say. What you’ve done is so…so…”

You’ve cut the whole “I began to say” business, and the “Mom interrupted me” because it’s all right there in the punctuation. Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am!

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13. Business Success - Do You Really Have the Power? (8 steps to help you get there)

I read a great article over at Matt Lloyds Blog. It explained why some are able to create a successful online business and other can’t. It was a l-o-n-g article, but it was interesting. To break it down and give you the gist of what Matt said, we do have the power. We are in control of whether we become successful or not. We have to stop making excuses and playing the ‘woe is me’ card. Stop

0 Comments on Business Success - Do You Really Have the Power? (8 steps to help you get there) as of 2/23/2015 6:42:00 AM
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14. Monday Mishmash 2/23/15


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. My daughter's birthday  My daughter turns eight on Thursday! I can't believe it. We're having a party on Saturday, and she's really excited. It's Monster High themed, of course. ;)
  2. Editing  I've got a full week with edits again. 2015 has been non-stop editing.
  3. Drafting  I surpassed the 40K mark on my WIP this weekend. I have a feeling I'm going to have to put it aside until I get some of these edits off my plate over the next two weeks.
  4. Less than a month until the release of Looking For Love  I'm getting everything together for the release of Looking For Love. The blog tour is in process, and the teaser quotes are ready to go. :)
  5. Giveaways  I have two giveaways going on right now, but you have to be a member of my street team to enter. If you aren't a member but would like to join, you can do so here.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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15. Playwright's ruminations - the fix is in

Sitting down in front of the computer, chin in hand and thinking about playwriting. Again. Note the word, "thinking" but not the actual act of taking fingers to keyboard and producing some worthwhile dialogue. Still further delayed the process by going over finished plays and assessing whether they need fixing or editing, something I'm prone to do in both my writing and painting. Frequently, the end result is ruining any progress on whatever project I'm "fixing."

I'm an inordinate "fixer" of all my artistic undertakings, which really don't require further adjusting. Recently, I applied what I swore were the absolute final strokes to a black and white painting first started three years ago, which has been "fixed" over the years. Perhaps this will be the reality and then again, who knows.

In as far as my plays are concerned, some have been altered to the point where all objectivity has been  lost as to the strongest version. Most often, the changes are relegated to small dialogue adjustments or altering what appears to me to be a weak a scene. In the end, a decision has to be made which version is the best version to submit, followed by a period of self-doubt and whether my plays are actually produce-able. Perhaps this is a common pattern with writers in general in that the selection of the right words is paramount to the whole story line. In as far as dialogue is concerned, the character has to utter words and phrases that suit her/his mannerisms, personality and mien and therein lies the challenge.

Although the actual act of submitting plays is a positive move, there is also the self-doubt that creeps in  waiting for updates on their fate. Negative thoughts like:

- perhaps the wrong version was sent - whatever that is
- maybe I don't have what it takes to be a "real" playwright
- given the volume of experienced and produced playwrights, many of whom are familiar names to   
  the public and within the theatre community, do my literary gems stand a chance?

And so the uncertainty continues but something drives me to persevere. The possibility, whatever the odds that  there  is a theatre "out there" somewhere that will see something special in my plays is enough to keep me going and press on. Meanwhile, some fine tuning of the dialogue and changes to the story arc is required to Dead Writes. Really.

P.S.: just read that Larry David's new play, "Fish In the Dark" is a big hit on Broadway. It should only happen to me!  Mazel-tov, Larry...or Mr. David. Good to note that good comedy will always draw a crowd.

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16. Interesting blog posts about writing – w/e February 20th 2015



Here’s my selection of interesting (and sometimes amusing) posts about writing from the last weekabout writing from the last week:

Mentally Preparing for Revisions (Janice Hardy)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2011/01/re-write-wednesday-revisionist-attitude.html

Test Your Observation Skills (Mary Keeley)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/test-observation-skills/

4 tips for handling multiple perspectives in a third person narrative (Nathan Bransford)
http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2015/02/4-tips-for-handling-multiple.html

7 Ways Writers Live in Paradox (Rachelle Gardner)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/live-in-paradox/

The Mini-Outline (Adriana Mather)
http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2015/02/writing-productivity-tip-mini-outline.html

Avoid Overwriting – Subtle is More Sophisticated (Jodie Renner)
http://blog.janicehardy.com/2015/02/avoid-overwriting-subtle-is-more.html

Fatal Submission Mistakes (Wendy Lawton)
www.booksandsuch.com/blog/fatal-submission-mistakes/

How to Self-Publish Your Book (Jane Friedman)
http://janefriedman.com/2015/02/16/self-publish-your-book/


If you found these useful, you may also like my personal selection of the most interesting blog posts from 2014, and last week’s list.

If you have a particular favorite among these, please let the author know (and me too, if you have time).  Also, if you've a link to a great post that isn't here, feel free to share.

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17. YA Fiction on Kindle: Life with Jesse Daniels

Racy Young Adult Fiction

Well, it's official! I'm once again chained to my desk, a slave to a novel, this one titled My Best Friend's Brother. Wanna guess what it's about?

I've revised, edited, revised, and am now editing it again. I don't feel completely nuts yet, which is quite odd, because my word processor is crashing every 3-5 minutes; I'm literally to the point where I'm saving work every 15 seconds. I would wish this on my worst enemy, but not on anybody else.

In the meantime, my debut novel—Life with Jesse Daniels—is now on Amazon Kindle! Check it out here!

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18. Character Descriptions

Creative character descriptions are hard to master.



There are long debates about how much character description is enough and how much is too much. Some readers want to know hair and eye color, height and weight, etc. Some want to fill in their own details.

Not enough detail and you have talking heads. 

Too much detail and you turn some readers off.

The choice is yours. Write what you enjoy reading.

Either way, you have to define your character in a way that makes the reader care what happens to him.

An important consideration when describing characters is the viewpoint lens filtering the information. Self-description is tricky and often results in narrator intrusion.

1. Dick can compare and contrast himself to someone else.

He was five-six maybe five seven, coming up to my shoulder. His hair was buzzed like mine, which used to indicate military but had become a recent fad. He could be bulked up from training like me or a gym membership. It was hard to tell these days. 

2. Someone can insult or praise Dick's appearance.

“Your nose looks like you head-butted a rhino, your big brown eyes are bloodshot, and that dimple doesn’t make up for the weakness of your chin.”

3. The three-item list is a little on-the-nose, but employed often.

Dick was a thirty-five-year-old with a pot belly and no hair.

If this is in Dick's POV, it is narrator intrusion. Dick would not talk about himself that way. But a secondary POV character could describe him:

Dick turned out to be a thirty-five year-old with a pot belly and no hair. His wide blue eyes and plump lips completed the resemblence to a man-sized toddler.

4. A unique voice makes descriptions pop.

He had the kind of face that would render him boyish well into old age: round blue eyes, fair wavy hair, freckled nose, and baby smooth skin, the kind of face that would age quickly overnight, as if a witch's spell had broken. The transition would be quick and painful.

5. Mirror gazing is considered cliché, but character self-description is done.

Rather than a list, add a little attitude.

Christ, I was getting old. My hair had more gray than brown and was receding faster than the ocean at low tide. The bags and sags on my face made it harder to shave. My eyebrows had taken on a life of their own. The guy in the mirror wasn't me. It was some old fart sitting in a park feeding pigeons.

6. Avoid narrator intrusion.

 The following descriptions are narrator intrusion in anything other than omniscient POV.

1. Dick's blue eyes lit up when he saw Sally.

Sally could see his blue eyes light up. An omniscient narrator could say it. A first or third person narrator would not.

2. Dick stared at his handsome reflection in the dresser mirror. His eyes were blue. His nose was crooked. His chin was dimpled.

This is you, the author, telling us what Dick looked like.

7. Sense of character trumps details.

You need to give your reader a firm idea of who they are dealing with more so than the color of his eyes, especially when you choose the vague description technique.

Is Dick harsh and judgmental, sweet and lazy, or coarse and fun-loving? The reader fills in whether she thinks that person is corpulent or thin, attractive or not, based on the way the character presents himself.

It creates dissonance when a character's physical description counters what the reader feels about him. This can be done accidentally or on purpose.

8. Make your characters authentic from the ground up.

As outlined in Story Building Blocks II and Story Building Blocks Build A Cast Workbook, it is useful to assign each main character a personality type. The traits propel them and affect the way other people see them. Temperament types are universal, but you can warp and shape them in hundreds of ways. This may sound like too much work, but it is well worth it to do the research. Personality types react to each other in different ways and your readers will not be the same temperament type.


The majority of writers employ pedestrian descriptions; those who master the craft are unforgettable.

Related Posts on Character Description:

http://dianahurwitz.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-magic-of-voice-and-r-kahler.html





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19. Monday Mishmash 2/16/15


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Drafting  I didn't get much drafting in last week because I had so many client edits. I think I wrote about 3,500 words and that was all on Friday. This week I'm hoping to write more.
  2. New Agency Sibling  If you didn't hear the good news, DL Hammons announced that he's signed on with my agent, Sarah Negovetich. I'm so happy for DL, who runs the Blog Blitz I'm part of and Write Club. Congrats again, DL!
  3. Editing  I have more edits on my plate this week. 2015 has really been the year of editing for me so far.
  4. Beware the Little White Rabbit Animated Cover  By now, you probably know I'm an editor for Leap Books. Well, I'm editing this amazing anthology that just got an animated cover. Check it out. (If you don't see the animation, click on the image.)
  5. Looking For Love Cover Reveal  Last Friday, I revealed the cover of the final installment in the Campus Crush Companion Series (written as Ashelyn Drake). In case you missed it, here it is:
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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20. A communication question for you

The other day I was listening to a news item on the radio and this number was cited: 500 million. It struck me that “1/2 billion” was the same.

But is it? Do they communicate the same thing?

For me, one expression “feels” like a larger amount even though, mathematically speaking, they are identical. What about you? Give your answer in the poll.

Do you have a similar communication issue that you can mention in comments?

Which feels larger, if either?

My answer: because a “billion” is a hugely larger number than a “million,” for some reason ½ billion feels like the larger of the two.

For what it’s worth.

Ray

© 2015 Ray Rhamey

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21. Ten Principles of Fair Use

The College Art Association has just released a guidebook about the special circumstances when it's OK to use someone else's copyrighted artwork.

Called the "Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts," the short, free, PDF is the result of years of work from the Association's legal experts.

Here's a quick summary of 10 main principles that are covered in the document.

1. You don't need to worry about Fair Use if permission is already granted, such as work designated by a Creative Commons license, or work in the public domain, such as images published before 1923.

2. If you're writing a review or an analysis of a given work, you can show the work or quote necessary parts from it, as long as you give appropriate credit. Generally speaking, this kind of use is permissible if it involves "criticism, comment, teaching, or scholarship."

3. If you're a teacher, you can display a copyrighted work as part of a specific curriculum for a specific group of students.

4. If you make art, you can adapt or reference copyrighted material if you use only what you need, and alter it into a new medium, generating new artistic meaning.

5. It's generally OK to use copyrighted work if the use is transformative, meaning that it "adds something new, with a further purpose or different character."

6. Museums can show copyrighted works as part of their curatorial mission, as long as it's credited, and not downloadable in high resolution form.

7. Academic libraries and art schools can preserve digital copies for purposes of study, again as long as they're properly credited, and not released in high resolution form.

8. If you deliberately repurpose the work of others, you should be prepared to explain the artistic objective, and you should not claim to be the creator of those derivative elements.

9. Judges consider whether the derivative work is commercial or educational in nature, and whether the derivative work undermines the market for the copyrighted work.

10. None of these are absolute rules. Like principles of freedom of expression, there are plenty of gray areas, and judges may rule one way or another, depending on many factors. My personal disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer; these ten basic principles I've summarized here are necessarily oversimplified; they're not the last word on my personal opinion; and I recommend you read the whole document.

In an appendix to the publication, Peter Jaszi puts the principles of the Copyright Code in context by explaining how the rights of the creator are balanced against the needs of the culture at large:

"The goal of US copyright law is to promote the progress of knowledge and culture. Its best-known feature is protection of owners’ rights. But copying, quoting, recontextualizing, and reusing existing cultural material can be critically important to creating and spreading knowledge and culture. That is why there is a social bargain at the heart of copyright law. That bargain is: Our society offers creators some exclusive rights in copyrighted works, to encourage them to produce culture. The compensation that creators receive from exploiting their copyrights is important as an incentive to this ultimate end; it is not an end in itself."
Free PDF: Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts
Wikipedia on Fair Use
Thanks, Animation World Network

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22. Do you live in the South? Can you help me find Clem and SLY?

back of $5front of $5
Isn't this amazing! A writer in Cummings, Georgia (Meghan Harker, http://exquisitelyodd.com/) found it in her till at work. She posted it on Twitter and a friend alerted me. I traded her $5 bills - only mine was in a copy of Girl, Stolen.

Can you help me find Clem & her friend SLY? I would guess Clem and SLY are in middle school. I originally thought Clem was short for Clementine, but a librarian in Georgia says Clem is a pretty common boy's name there.
April and Jenny KOIN Clem Sly
After I put it up on Twitter and Facebook, I heard from KOIN-TV. Reporter Jenny Hannson and her photographer Ole interviewed me Monday for a story that will run on Friday (and be online) about the $5 bill found in Georgia with instructions that it be used to buy a copy of Girl, Stolen. There's a chance the story may air in Georgia as well.

April and Ole KOIN Clem and Sly croppedI would love to find Clem and SLY and give them and their school library some books!  And if you could help, I'd give you books, too!

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23. Writer Wednesday: Text-to-Speech Proofreading


Two weeks ago I mentioned that you should always read your book aloud during revisions because it allows you to hear errors. Well, today I want to take that a step further, and here's why. It's already been proven that the human brain can read misspelled words as long as the first and last letter are in the correct places. Well, think about this. You've read your own book countless times and know the story so well, that your brain is also filling in missing words. So what do you do?

Some people hire editors. If you are self-publishing, I highly recommend this. And not just because I am an editor. You are too close to your manuscript to find errors. Your brain will fill in what your fingers either didn't type or typed incorrectly. So having an editor is a must for self-publishing. (If you aren't self-publishing, get a few beta readers and/or CPs.) However…editors are human too. Yes, we do our best to make your work as error free as possible, but our brains work like yours. I read every book I edit twice. On the second time through, I know your story. That means my brain may fill in gaps (missing words or letters) just like yours will. Think about how many published books (even by the big five) still have an error or two in them. This is why.

What now? Ereaders have a cool feature that can help. It's the text-to-speech function. Over the past few weeks, this has become my favorite final pass on manuscripts. I send the Word document to my Kindle. (Handy tip: If you email the document to your Kindle with the word "Convert" in the subject line—don't actually use quotes, though—your Kindle will convert the document's formatting to make it look nice on your Kindle.) Then I let my Kindle read the book to me while I'm looking at it on the Kindle and following along. I have the Word document open on my laptop at the same time, so that when I hear a mistake, I can pause my Kindle and fix the error on my document.

While proofing the ARC of Looking For Love, my Kindle let me know I misspelled Harvard. Hearing Havard jumped right out at my ears, but not my eyes or my proofreader's eyes. So this is my new favorite proofreading method.

Have you used the text-to-speech feature to help you proofread?

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24. The Room In My Head - revisited - Linda Strachan

In January 2009 I wrote a blog on ABBA about the  Room in my Head.  It went something like this -

The Room In My Head


As the new year begins I look inside my head to find that room where inspiration might be hiding….   


In the middle of the room there is space, empty of life or furniture.   Walls, accustomed to colour and pattern, stand bereft waiting for design - perhaps imprints of flowers, pattern or activity.



Underfoot boards made of wood and nails move to mark my passage and where the light floods though glass no curtains block its passage. 


And yet the room is full of hope and joy because the sun is shining, casting summer against the emptiness.  
Sounds fill the space with anticipation - strains of mystery that fill my ears and delight my senses, holding me captive - wondering - what I will discover?



This year, many years and stories later, I find my year starting with the Room in My Head well populated by the book I am currently writing.  There is still space in the room although it is well furnished with characters and places, ideas, textures and much activity.



Underfoot  ideas are scattered on the boards like so many sparkling jewels - tempting and clamouring for attention. 

Terrified they might be discarded, their brilliance allowed to fade, dissipate and be condemned to become mere pebbles abandoned on the path to the finale.


Light flooding through the glass varies with each passing day, dependent on the story's progress, from dreary grey rain-clouds...







to breezy sunshine over water.




At the moment the Room in my Head is packed with a tapestry of thoughts, emotions, wrong turns and epiphanies.


It changes daily and fills to bursting with the noise of those who inhabit the story, each with their own goals and intentions, duplicitous or discernible,

but always fascinating.




What fills the Room in your Head?



---------------------------------------------
Linda Strachan is the author of over 60 books for all ages from picture books to teenage novels and the writing handbook Writing For Children.
Linda's latest YA novel is Don't Judge Me  
she is Patron of Reading to Liberton High School, Edinburgh.

Her best selling series Hamish McHaggis is illustrated by Sally J. Collins who also illustrated Linda's retelling of Greyfriars Bobby

website:  www.lindastrachan.com
blog:  Bookwords 




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25. Google’s Panda Crawls Your Pages Looking for Ranking Factors (Good or Bad)

Josh Bachynski, over at the TheMoralConcept.net, wrote an amazing post on Google’s Panda. What I love is in his opening line, he admonishes Google Panda for being, lack of a better word, unethical, “Google sets the Panda SEO rules according to their subjective standards which they do not outright publish other than a list of vague, unhelpful, questions.” This is exactly how I feel and I’m

0 Comments on Google’s Panda Crawls Your Pages Looking for Ranking Factors (Good or Bad) as of 2/18/2015 7:23:00 AM
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