Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Christmas books, already?

 I've been getting notifications for dozens of Christmas books! It isn't even Halloween! I suppose people want to start stockpiling for the weeks ahead, but for me, it's still TOO EARLY.

Okay, now that I got that off my chest...

The autumn leaves are just about done. The colors this year have been outstanding! Brilliant crimsons and sunny yellows and burnt orange. Kind of like taking pictures of snow in the winter, I can't seem to stop taking pictures of the pretty colored trees on my walks when I get out and about. I suppose some of that is because the colors aren't as vivid every year. Sometimes the leaves just die and fall, or sometimes the colors aren't as uniform, so you get more half-and-half trees. Like with the snow. I take pictures because "look how pretty," or "look how deep it's getting." Every snowfall is different (even when it's the same) and every autumn is different.

{clever segue coming up}

And THIS autumn, I've written something a little different (even when it's still kind of the same). Years ago, I wrote a book while traveling through canyon country, but I thought it was too far from what my readers normally expect from me and shelved it. With all this hanging around at home stuff, I pulled it out off the shelf and decided to share it. After all, one of my favorite authors used to change things up regularly, from historical to contemporary and sometimes a little spooky. I'm hoping my readers are willing to take the ride with me. I'm expecting edits for CANYON LEGACY from my editor today. I'm also revisiting my friends in Hillendale and writing the fourth installment in that series.

While you're waiting, if you're looking for a Christmas book, I have two options to consider, one "sweet" - the Hallmark variety of book (WHILE WE WERE SHOPPING) and one steeped in legend with a psychic twist (MIST ON THE MEADOW) - in case you needed a recommendation. 😉

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

ARC and Beta copies

I often forget when I read an ARC or beta copy that its prepub and uncorrected. I’m not alone. As I’m reading for a friend, I’m seeing the errors. I know my ARC readers always send me the errors they find. How distracting is that? 

 Beta readers can expect more errors, simply by the fact the author is looking for feedback on what works and what doesn't. Technically, its still in development (although it should be darn close to done). The author is the alpha reader by virtue of creating it, and they're looking for a second opinion, or beta reader.

There there's the ARC. I know I've released a couple of books to ARC readers that were uncorrected, and I heard about it. An ARC should be one step away from a final version. That doesn't necessarily mean perfect, but the errors should be minimal, if any. This is the version that is in queue for publication. I've read uncorrected ARCs by other authors, too, but I've also received feedback on uncorrected ARCs of mine that the remaining errors turned readers off. For that reason, I've stopped sending "uncorrected" ARCs. The last couple I've sent out were "one proof" away from final (which means they'd been through multiple sets of eyes to spot those pesky errors that don't want to be caught). Even at that stage of production, there are bound to be errors, and I thank my readers for pointing them out to me. 

As a reader, how annoyed are you with errors when reading an advance reader copy or beta reading for the purpose of providing feedback to the author? Do you accept that those mistakes will likely be cleaned up before the book is finalized? 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Writing Boom and the value of a good editor

When I made my appointment with the editor for my next book, she told me there has been a writing boom. Every author or would-be author has been taking advantage of the enforced downtime to be creative. Getting onto her schedule has required more planning than in the past. I'm delighted for her (she's an excellent editor). For me, that means working to a deadline more than I have in the past. Normally, I'm ahead of my deadlines anyway - a good position to be in. Now I actually have to figure out how long it will take me to write the next book and "book it" months in advance.

I have been with my editor through "sweet" sixteen books. I've tried other editors randomly, one at the beginning (we were NOT a good fit) and another one somewhere in the middle. The thing about editors is having a relationship where you trust their judgment and their industry knowledge. I have an excellent critique group that frequently catches my miscues and has helped me refine my craft, but we are a diverse group. We write different genres, so some of the comments I get don't "cross genres." As with any form of criticism, I often furrow my brow and grumble under my breath until I realize the value of what they're trying to tell me, but sometimes they're just flat out wrong. How much of that is arrogance on my part? That right there - that's where I value my editor the most. I've been writing long enough to know when a critique is spot on (whether I like it or not) and when to disregard the comment. Then there are times when I second-guess myself, and having an editor in my genre who knows "the rules" I'm supposed to abide by is invaluable. For those comments that make me grumbly and I disagree with, it's nice to have validation. 

Editors provide different services, and the other thing about finding "the right" editor is one who complements your skills. No one person is infallible. I have been known to make mistakes, as one of my former coworkers so kindly pointed out on one of my previous blog posts. Editors fall into that category, as well. As a proofreader at the day job, I often ran across instances where five different people overlooked the same mistake. It happens. For that reason, I proof my books several different ways - on screen, on paper, with a narrator. And when I'm done, I read it again. Almost every pass, another mistake will pop up. It happens. I like to believe the multiple passes with the varied ways to force myself to either see or hear the words instead of skimming (because I know what it's suppose to say) help to eliminate the majority of them. Proofreading is a strength of mine. I lean on my editor for different skills - developmental editing and industry knowledge. As a matter of course, she will point out the mechanical errors as well, as she runs across them, but I don't rely on her to catch that stuff. She becomes "the second set of eyes." 

With all that being said, I can say without any hesitation that my books are better for having a professional editor. Thanks, Kelly. And happy sweet sixteen.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Back in the Saddle Again

I've been taking a deliberate break from my Hillendale novels. It's similar to that feeling when you have house guests. You love to see them and spend time with them when they first arrive, but after a a period of time, you're ready to kick them out. While this isn't true in all cases, I think you get the idea.

The writing project I picked up to fill the void has been giving me fits, however. Reviewing my old work has been a lesson in passive voice and redundant words and phrases. I fix a boatload, then pass it to my critique group, and they find more. I'm relieved to note that my writing has matured in the last ten years and my new projects are much more "seasoned." At least I like to believe they are. Working with an editor has helped me learn what to look for and how to correct it. One of my critique partners is always saying not to edit bad writing but to start over. This eliminates a lot of the errors I've been overlooking, and she's probably right. There's an old saying about playing to the level of your competition, and I think that applies to editing to the level of the writing, but it's hard to dump a completed novel and start it over from scratch. Hopefully, after this editing pass, all the old rookie mistakes will be corrected. If not, my editor will certainly point them out! 

I'm hoping to release the Legend People story later this year. Which reminds me - I'd love beta readers. For a spot on my team, sign up for my newsletter and indicate you want to be a beta reader (or sign up as an ARC reader for future releases). If you're already signed up, you can update your information to include your interest. Here's the link to sign up. What's it about?

A young sprite gets lost on her way to ask the Coyote to release one of the Hoodoos from his stone prison. Nascha gets roped in as her guide, and capitalizes on the opportunity to find answers about her missing mother. On their way to the neighboring canyon, they hitch a ride with a plane that carries them off course to Illinois. Now they must enlist the help of the pilot to get back to Utah.

Devin Sike mistakes Nascha for an Indian Princess, except for the pinger beacon she seems to activate inside him after she touches him. The more he finds out about her, the more determined he is to come to terms with his own lost heritage.

Their journey enlightens them both to a destiny neither expected. 

As I wrap this one up, I've begun work on the fourth installment in the Hillendale series, and I'm finding renewed energy - the goal I was hoping to achieve by taking a break. It feels good to give the old writing horse its heads and gallop forward into a new story with my old friends!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Book Bibles

When you write a lot of books, details tend to get lost in the cracks. How do you keep track of all those details?

And then there's the concept of names. My hairdresser asked me once how I come up with names for all my characters. Well, I have a variety of sources, from sports figures to tombstones to actors. I still have to remember them all.

I have a database certification, which means I use my skills to track my book details with a program I've written. When I come across a name I might want to use, I add it. When I use it, I assign it to the book. More than names, I add the fictional places I create so I don't have to go back to look up "what was the name of that town I made up?" or "What was the name of the restaurant in town?" This is especially helpful when I'm writing a series. 

Character names should be varied. If all your characters' names start with the letter M, a reader is going to get confused very quickly. Which "M" was that? There are occasions when "like" first initials have a place, or homonyms, but that should be the exception rather than the rule. For instance, I have twin sisters named Molly and Polly in FAMILY ALCHEMY. Families often stick to an initial when naming kids. My stepson and his wife have named all their children (and they have many) using her first initial for their daughters and his first initial for their sons. I have Max and Marissa who are brother and sister in MIST ON THE MEADOW. But when it comes time to add a new character, I want to look for a different first letter. With my database, I can sort the "available" names I've collected alphabetically (names I haven't used in other books or "this" book).

My database is NOT like Scrivener, which is designed to organize your thoughts in addition to gathering this information. Mine is strictly for organizing books, characters and places--a quick reference point. Which brings me to a question. Is this something other authors might find useful? How do other authors track their series? I imagine for authors like me with an extensive backlist, it would require a lot of backtracking, but for newer authors, or authors who are looking for a way to get organized, it might be a useful tool to share. What do you think? 

(You can see a demo on my website... "For Authors" page.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Social Creatures

Man is classified as a social animal, some more than others, and that is readily apparent more today than in the past.

Me? I'm an introvert. That means I don't mind *not* being social most of the time. In fact, I generally prefer it. With that being said, I still Zoom and/or video chat with my friends and family. I live with The Big Guy, and while we stay out of each other's way a good portion of the day, when we have those rare moments of I-haven't-talked-to-anybody-in-days-and-I-have-diarrhea-of-the-mouth, we have each other to talk at in between regular interactions. I'm lucky. The extroverts I see and/or talk to are really struggling - and I completely understand that! Heck, if I'm getting stir crazy, I can only imagine what they're going through.

The thing I miss the most about the seclusion of the day is observing, and yet the people I AM observing are "different." They are interacting in new and different ways. With face coverings, I miss seeing expressions that make me wonder what people are thinking (but I wouldn't change that right now). People are at once more friendly and more reserved. Everybody waves, everybody says hello, but there's a hesitation to go beyond that, a wariness.

Still, while I'm out and about, I continue to look for a setting, an interaction between people, an expression, sometimes even a smell. Those are the things that activate my imagination. I certainly have a storehouse of things to draw on from "before." Even though I'm covering the same familiar territory when I go walking every day (you can see what I see on my Instagram), I miss exploring new places and seeing new things. With that being said, even everyday things can spark my imagination. Today I saw the underside of the leaves. There's an old wives' tale that tells you that's the harbinger of a storm. Storms often make for good stories, don't you think?

Counting my blessings instead of sheep, to coin a phrase.

Current music: Count my Blessings
Current mood: 🍀
Currently working on: Hillendale 4

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Heroes and villains

 So I was working on a thing. I call it my pandemic project. For those of you who are newsletter subscribers, you'll be getting news next week. For those of you who are not, now's your chance to sign up.

I've also been reading up a storm, books to distract and inspire. The last movie I saw in a theater was LITTLE WOMEN, and I appreciated how Jo was constantly writing, and how by the end of the movie she'd taken control of her career. It was also an illustration of how much the world has changed with time, and a reminder that it will continue to change. Through it all, we rely on the tales that are passed along, from the times of bards in the kings' courts to the dawn of the industrial revolution and continuing through today. We listen intently to stories of heroes and villains, both real and imagined.

With the crazy news cycles constantly vying for attention, my creative mind has been struggling. One of my friends nudged me to resurrect an old story I'd written several years ago, one that is a little out of my normal scope. It's more of a fantasy-type novel, about mythical beings and airline pilots that I wrote after a trip through canyon country. When I pulled it out to read it again, I decided it wasn't half bad, so I'm working on fine-tuning it before I take another trip to Hillendale. 

Antelope Canyon

One of my critique partners suggested I might be straying too far from the legend that inspired my fantasy novel, which got me to wondering how far is too far when you're making stuff up? How much is "appropriating" someone else's culture and how much is fair game for a vivid imagination? Then I started thinking about Bram Stoker's DRACULA, one of my favorite books (and movies - Bela Lugosi era). Fast forward a billion years and we have Twilight, which says vampires sparkle. Is that appropriating Transylvanian folklore? Is that twisting a legend to suit an author's vision? (Here's a Facebook link to the canyon legend.)
Bryce Canyon

Are you, my readers, interested in reading the fantasy novel I've written? (Inquiring minds want to know.)

Wherever the changes we're currently living through take us, we will have stories to pass along to the generations that follow, either as cautionary tales or as beacons of hope. While we wait to see how all this turns out, I'll do my best to give you something else to think about for a few hours. Thanks for sitting around the fire with me while I spin my yarns.

Current music: Tusk (Fleetwood Mac)
Current mood: 🤔
Currently working on: Hoodoo Awakening