Friday, August 31, 2012

Shy Writers and Big Girl Panties

Yesterday, I emailed a group that reviews books, asking them to consider reviewing Screwing Up Time. I’ve known about the group for a long time. I’d had them bookmarked for almost as long. But I never asked for a review. Not until I asked myself “why.”

Or a better question would be “why not.” Here’s my dialogue with myself:

Bold me: Why not ask for a review?

Shy me: Uh, I’m an introvert by nature. The idea of drawing attention to myself is anathema.

Bold me: As a writer, whether self or traditionally published, you don’t have that option anymore. Next excuse.

Shy me: What if they hate my book?

Bold me: The book has some great reviews. It was an ABNA quarterfinalist and a Publisher Weekly reviewer liked it.

Shy me: Someone might still hate it.

Bold me: So? Suck it up, girl.

Shy me: They might never even look at it. They have so many other books. They only review books they’re interested in.

Bold me: And your point is….

Shy me: I don’t know.

Bold me: Honey, “put on your big girl panties” and send that email. (You gotta love those Southern phrases.)

Shy me: Okay, I’m emailing right now.

BTW, if you'd like to find out the title for the sequel to Screwing Up Timeclick here to find a game that gives you the answer

Wednesday, August 29, 2012



It’s still way too hot to feel like summer is almost over. But autumn is on the way. I’ve seen a few leaves starting to turn color so it can’t be long.

Here are my favorite things about fall.

1.  How the afternoon light turns pink from all the colored leaves. It’s like wearing rose colored glasses.

2.  Life is back to a schedule. As much as I love the freedom of summer, it’s good to be back in a routine.

3. The weeds in my flower beds will soon be dead. (Of course, Round-up helped too.)

4. My sequel to Screwing Up Time will be out this fall!

5. Big bushes of chrysanthemums

6. Apple pie, mashes potatoes, gravy, and turkey

7. The crunch of fallen leaves under my shoes

8. The nip in the air that makes cheeks and noses pink

9. Taking wool sweaters out of the cedar chest and nestling in the scent

10. Hot spiced apple cider that’s mulled all day in the crockpot.

Can’t wait!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Stump a Grammar Snob

Product Details

I’m not much of a normal collector. I don’t have a hundred salt and pepper shaker sets. Or ceramic figurines. Or stuffed animals.

But I do like words and grammar. I have several thesauri, multiple dictionaries (even two that are identical—that particular dictionary is my favorite, so I have to have a backup), and I have scads of grammar books, everything from the Chicago Manual of Style to Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite.

And I read them for fun. (Okay, I see you out there—you read them for fun too. Raise your hands. Now we’ll all sing “Kumba Ya.” Just kidding.) I also read phone books for fun. But that’s another story.

Anyway, Grammar Snobs is a sort of layman’s guide book to zingers for dealing with grammar snobs. Okay, I’ll admit to being a grammar snob. But only in dealing with my kids when they were little. “May asks for permission. Can refers to native ability. Say ‘May I have a candy bar.’” (Though my kids will probably mutter that neither usage got them a candy bar.)

In any case, I found a delightful tidbit in Grammar Snobs. One that almost everyone gets wrong. Are you ready? What is the shortened form of the word until? Think.

Are you one hundred percent sure? Okay. The shortened form of the word until is till. Yeah, I know. No one uses it correctly. Go look it up in your dictionary. I did and was shocked. I thought it was ’til. I know the rule that says when you abbreviate something (anything), you use an apostrophe to mark the spot where the letters have been removed. I thought it was a carved-in-stone-never-to-be-altered rule. But there’s an exception. 

What makes it even weirder is that the abbreviation for until is the same as the word that means “to plow the soil.”

So now you have it. A new party game. Stump your grammar snob friends.

BTW, I’m now off to do a global search of my novel for the errant ’til. Just in case.

And here's a link to the book on Amazon if you can't wait to get your hands on another grammar book. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Inspiration and Teen-aged Boys

File:Supreme pizza.jpg

Last night, my husband asked the kids what they learned in school today. Matt said, “Nothing.” He typically says this. And since I’m his teacher I just roll my eyes and smile.

Then Cal asked Jake, who’s in his first year of college. Jacob said, “Well, in my engineering class, I had to write a two page paper on ‘What inspired me to study engineering.’” Everyone exchanged glances. And then laughter.

Then someone (I think it was me) asked Jacob, “Uh, is your prof a girl?”

Jacob: “Nope.”

Luke: “Did they specify font size?”

Jacob: “Yeah.”

Me: “So what did you write?”

Jacob: “I asked the girl next to me what I should write. She gave me some great suggestions.”

Me: I smile and say nothing. But I’m not entirely surprised. I’ve taught teenaged boys for years. They have no idea what inspires them. Except maybe food. That’s it—Jake was inspired to be an engineer so he could get a job and buy food for himself.

Cal: “So how long was your paper?”

Jake: “Almost a page and a half. I asked the professor if that was okay. He said, ‘Whatever.’ I got the impression that he thought the assignment was dumb too.”

Yep, that prof’s been teaching teen-aged boys for a long time. I’m guessing that paper is a departmental assignment much along the lines of elementary school’s obligatory “What did you do over the summer?” first day of school writing assignment. 

Next up, a quiz on the physics of engineering--that's much more to Jacob's liking.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Say It Ain't So

Lately, I’ve been getting lots of nudges about my sequel. Usually, the nudges involve throat clearing, pleasant smiles, and words like “So is the sequel almost done?” Those sweet questions encourage me on so many levels. One, it means you liked the first book. (Yay!) And two, it means you’re eager to read the second. (WooHoo!) The nudges help me finish the book when all I want to do is hit my head against a table or throw darts at the manuscript.

But as a reader, I’m sure you can’t imagine what’s taking so long! After all, I finished the first draft a long time ago. The only thing that’s left to do is editing. So here’s a peak behind the curtain at the three stages of editing.

Stage One: Substantive Editing (Also known as Rewriting)

After I finish the first draft and celebrate, I start editing everything that I know is wrong with the novel. Plot holes, increasing/decreasing the roles of certain characters, etc. A lot of writers, me included, leave notes for themselves in the first drafts. Stuff like: “This is horrible, fix it later.” “What happened to character X—he hasn’t shown up in six chapters?” “Set the groundwork for this plot twist in an earlier chapter.” “Does this even make sense?” So all that gets fixed first.

Once the major things are fixed, I work on voice. Making sure that each character’s speech and actions makes sense. Miranda’s words and actions can’t sound like Mark’s. In first drafts, I’m always tempted to use words that I like. But if they aren’t words that Mark would use, they have to change. Then, I check narrative voice (the voice that I choose to tell the story in) and work on consistency and tone.

After I’ve finished all of this, I send the novel to my beta readers. These sainted people are my writing friends who scour the text looking for all the big things that are wrong. This means several sets of experienced eyes are reading the text for plot holes, believability, etc. And guess what? One of my betas found a big issue. Something I couldn’t believe I’d overlooked. Thankfully, even though it was substantial (I was kicking myself that I missed it), it was contained. So I didn’t have to go through the entire text changing things. The problem was limited to a few chapters at the end, and a week of furious rewriting fixed the problem. End of stage one. Sort of.

Stage Two: Line Edits (also called copy edits)

I give my bright and shiny manuscript to my copy editor, who whips out her red pen. Gleefully. (Okay, she probably isn’t gleeful, but it seems that way to me as I hand her my baby.) She looks for smaller things—awkward phrasing, poor word choice, grammar, etc. And those are the only things she’s supposed to find. But they aren’t. She finds something more substantive.

My response? NO!! She must seriously be wrong. I finished the Sub Edits. I know that I if I have to do any more of those, I am going to die.

After I treat myself to a few consoling Haribo raspberries (the European kind that are tangy and not too sweet), I ponder the fact that the line editor might be right. She’s probably wrong, of course. But I should check up on the issue. So I email one of my betas and ask about the issue. Beta agrees with line editor! No! Say it ain’t so. Please!

Don’t get me wrong. I love this story. My betas love the story, even better than the first book. But I’m so tired of it. I want to move on to the shiny new story that’s seductively calling to me in my mind.

So this is where I am. The line edits are 2/3s done. And I’ve hit a snag. Honestly, it’s not that big. And it’s contained, so it should be an easy fix. It’s just that I hoped to be done with line edits by the end of the week. Sigh.

Now I’m sitting with my pages and my gummi raspberries, trying to decide where to begin.

After this, the final stage is proofreading. That’s its own special torture where I sit with the Chicago Manual of Style and obsessively look up things that probably don’t really matter. I’m trying really hard not to think about that. Time for more raspberries.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Library of Congress

One of my goals for vacation was to get a reader card for the Library of Congress. Guess what? I got one. And so did my daughter.

Here's the ceiling of the Reading Room.

Here's the Reading Room.

I'm perusing the second story stacks, which were amazing. I saw lots of books I could use in my novel research.

My daughter loved it and said, "I could live here."

This is one of the public areas of the Library of Congress.

After visiting, I have to say that the LoC is the most amazing library that I have ever visited. I thought it would be great, but it was better. 

If you're planning a visit, you don't have to have a reader card. You can get a lovely tour and even see into the reading room. If you do want a reading card, you have to apply at the James Madison building. And you have to give a reason for needing a card, they don't issue them for souvenir purposes. 

And now, back to real life.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Vacation, Part 2

More Washington, D. C., vacation fun.

A friend recommended that we go to the National Museum of the Marine Corps. I'd never heard of it, but the friend highly recommended it (it was free) so we went.

It was a fantastic museum. It told the history of the American Marine Corp. But it also taught us so much history. I learned so much more about World War I,WW2, the Korean War, Vietnam, etc. And I came away with a profound respect for those who gave their lives--yet the museum did so without glorifying war. The cost was evident.

The museum was amazingly interactive, plus they had real footage, maps, artifacts, etc.

If you're interested in visiting, it's in Quantico, VA.

Here are some photos.

                      The museum is modeled after the design of the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Here's a type of armored cannon. 

Here's one of the first machine guns.

Here we're learning about the Battle of Belleau Wood.

This is the first armored car.

This is an I-beam from the World Trade Center. I remember looking across Long Island Sound and watching the smoke rise from towers.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

National Zoo

Yesterday we had a great time at the National Zoo. Here are some photos. (If you get a chance to go, it's free and completely worth your time. Parking is pricey though.)

The lion was actually roaring. What an amazing sound! You can hear it all the way on the other side of the zoo.

Baby gorilla. His parents are just off photo, watching over him.

This was in the aviary. The bird was only inches from me.

Hot and tired after a long zoo trip

There's nothing like taking little ones to see wild animals for the first time.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

DIY Kitchen, part 3

On Monday, Cal and I painted the walls. Yesterday while Cal ran errands (including getting Jacob his driver's license, credit card, checking account, and registering to vote), I painted trim. Yeah, I know, we really know how to "vacation." Here's the result.

I took these photos with a flash, so the color looks a shade lighter--but during the afternoon, the light is so intense, the paint does look royal blue. In the morning and evening, the color looks navy blue. I love the fact that the character of the room changes based on the time of day and lighting.
 Thus far in our kitchen update.

1. Replace windows (they leaked).

2. Refinish cabinets.

3. Paint walls and trim.

Next up, tile behind the stove for a backsplash. Our plan is to use one real Delft tile and surround it with smaller white tiles.

I'm also going to repaint my office the same colors after the sequel to Screwing Up Time is published.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Shakespeare Photos

We're going to be on vacation for the next two weeks, so my posts might be sporadic. But here are some photos to enjoy from Shakespeare performances.

The Lovers: Benedick (Jacob) and Beatrice: "Come, come. Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably."

& Hero and Claudio (Matthew): "Silence is the perfectest herald of joy. If I were a little happy, I could say how much."

The Happy Couple. "Didst thou note the daughter of Signor Leonato?"

Benedick: "For which one of my bad parts did you first love me?"
Beatrice: "For all of them together. But for which of my good parts did you first suffer love for me?"
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"If we can do this, Cupid is no longer an archer: his glory can be ours, for we are the only love gods."

"For man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion! Come, let us have a dance 'ere we are married so we may lighten our own hearts and our wives' heels."

Friday, August 3, 2012

Editing for Modern Writers

I think most people know what writing looks like--an author stares into space, mutters/gestures, and types. But when the first draft is over, the editing begins. This is what editing is like. At least, this is what it's like for me. So if you’d like to look over my shoulder, here’s Editing 101.

Text:  “My heart pounded.”

Me: Ugh. Cliché. This needs to be deleted entirely. Oh, wait, I can’t. It’s a physiologic response to time travel. Some reader will remember this from book one and email me if I leave it out.

Text (unchanged): “My heart pounded.”

Me: Okay. Let’s expand it. This is a pivotal moment and a chapter ending. So I should stretch the sentence, make the reader linger over the sentence to give it gravitas. I should…add a simile.

Text: “My heart pounded like….”

Me: Like a what? A drum—cliché. A kettle drum—synonym cliché. Delete “like.” Let’s try a physical cue.

Text: “My heart pounded so fast it burned for oxygen.”

Me: Do people know that if your heart beats too fast, you get chest pain because it beats less efficiently? Better yet, would my main character know this? His dad’s a doctor…would they discuss this over dinner? No. His dad is a psychiatrist. More likely they’d discuss projection responses—and my MC would zone out anyway.

Text: “My heart…”

Me: Try a synonym for “pounded.”

Text: “My heart hammered/thumped/thrashed/beat.”

Me: YUCK! Time to clear my mind, feeling emptiness, listening to nothing, and waiting for the muse….clearly, the muse has been booked by other writers.

Text: “My heart…”

Me (Time for a new approach): I imagine my heart beating painfully fast in my chest, hoping that reverse biofeedback doesn’t work. I feel the pressure in my chest. The tingling in my fingers. The roar of blood in my ears. “My heart…nothing…

Me: At this point, if I were Hemingway or Fitzgerald, I’d down a shot of bourbon. But I’m not...Instead, I click a link to see if any of my friends have posted on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cone of Silence

Absolute quiet. (Except for the ticking of the clock and the click of our Lab Jezebel’s nails against the wood floor.) Never, ever is our house absolutely quiet. With six adults living here and their crazy schedules, someone is always in a hurry to go somewhere. But today after my husband went to work, everyone else went to Shakespeare rehearsals—two sons are acting, the other two kids are coaches/stage managers.

So I now have four, almost five hours of utter quiet. I’m going to edit. I’m working on the last changes to the sequel to Screwing Up Time. After I make these last few changes, I have one more read through and then a proofread.

I’ve never written/edited in quiet before. I’ve always been a snatch a minute here and there kind of person. I write during music lessons, while cooking dinner, etc. It’s strange to listen to the quiet. To notice that my laptop makes a quiet hum. That my nails tap against the keys. I can even hear myself swallow and breathe.

Will I hear my characters better in the quiet? I can’t wait to find out. My kids would say it doesn’t matter what the noise level is—once the writer’s bubble is engaged, I’m shut off from the world. (It’s kind of like the Cone of Silence in Get Smart.) Once I enter the world of make-believe, nothing else exists. They can ask for just about anything and my answer is “Uh-huh.” And I have no recollection of the conversation. In fact, I used to wonder if I was being scammed. For example, I’d emerge from the bubble when sweat began to roll down my face in February. I’d check the thermostat, and it read 94. My eyes would bulge and smoke would pour my ears and I’d find the culprit. Usually Jacob. I’d be ready to read him the Riot Act. But all four kids would say, “Mom, you said we could turn up the heater to 94 degrees.” (I keep the thermostat set at 67, which I think is generous. But since the circulation in our 70+ year old house is poor, our bedroom is known as the Ice Pit because you can see your breath during the winter. When we watch movies in our bedroom, the kids swathe themselves in blankets with only their eyes peeking out.)

So now, that’s all about to change. The question is can I write/edit in silence?

What about you? Do you prefer quiet or noise when you write?

Here’s the Cone of Silence from Get Smart.