Taking an Ax to My Old Flame—

While my subconscious works out a problem in my romantic comedy, I’ve been editing the first novel I completed—fourteen years ago. As I read, it became apparent I was a little too fond of the em dash. I think I used at least one on every page. So I decided to run a search for them.

emheartIn a manuscript of 89,000 words, I’d used 543 em dashes! Seriously. Five hundred forty-three. I wouldn’t have thought that possible.

Don’t get me wrong. The em dash is legitimate punctuation. I use it to indicate an interruption, add emphasis, or a sudden change of thought. For instance:

“If you’re asking me to—”

The man—swear to God—had giggled.

She would trust him again—in time.

The party lasted all night—where were you, by the way?

I could use parentheses, colons, and commas in place of some of the em dashes, but my fiction is usually informal, so the dashes fit.

In my defense, I’ve learned a thing or two about writing in fourteen years. I no longer have such a blatant crush on that bit of punctuation. I kept all the em dashes used to indicate interrupted dialogue, but many of the others were not used to good effect and bit the dust. The total now stands at a more reasonable 384, but I still have rounds of editing to do. And I haven’t checked the ellipsis count, yet.

Do you have a punctuation weakness?

 

Linda

Kindle Unlimited and Other News

If you haven’t heard, Amazon has started Kindle Unlimited, a new ebook subscription service that some are dubbing “Netflix for books.” Right now, they’re offering a free 30-day trial. I’m anxious to see how this works out for authors whose books are part of this new service. Since my books are enrolled in Kindle Select, they’re automatically available to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. So if you haven’t read The Brevity of Roses and the sequel An Illusion of Trust, take advantage of the free trial and download them now.

The Brevity of Roses: A man discovers himself through the two women he loves.    AIT_welcome_14

And speaking of those books …

You know those times when you think a task will be simple and quick to accomplish? Yeah, I don’t usually have those. It seems I operate under a different rule—Murphy’s Law maybe? About ten days ago, I got this bright idea to update the interior files for my published books. I wanted to update the cover designer’s name in one book and correct a typo and a punctuation error. No big deal … except.

Except that I can’t take the html that Word creates and upload it directly to KDP or even convert it as is to mobi or epub because I like to use my own CSS style sheet, which has to be fiddled with for each book. Except that I chose a new program to convert my customized html to epub, and I had to learn how to use it first. Except that I couldn’t get the table of contents to work the way I wanted in either ebook. Except that, after conversion, I decided to substitute a different scene break “ornament” in the ebook version of one book. Except that … nah, I’ll spare you the rest. Eventually, I completed the task.

Now that I’ve updated already published novels, it’s time to get back to work on the ones I’m writing now. I had hoped to have the first draft of my romantic comedy completed by the end of this month, but that would take a miracle to accomplish. This month has been more family-focused than usual. I don’t know about you, but I’m at my most productive when I have long stretches of time to settle into writing mode and then keep the story simmering on the back burner during breaks. My usual daily life supports that, but when my routine changes every few days, as it has this month, my creative side retreats.

And since we’re playing hoteliers to three dogs (plus our Maggie) this weekend, I doubt I’ll get much writing done, but for the last few days of July and on into August, I’ll be playing catch up. I believe I said in January that I wouldn’t publish anything this year, but that may not be the case. I might be ready to publish one book before the end of 2014 and then another (or two) in 2015. Maybe I’ll publish some short stories, too. It’s time for me to make a louder noise in this publishing game.

I hope your July has run smoother than mine.

Linda

7-7-7 times 3

Author Dana Mason tagged me for a 7-7-7 challenge on Facebook, but since I’d just posted another challenged concerning my WIP, I decided to post my response—tripled—here, instead. The challenge calls for you to go to page 7 of your WIP, count down 7 lines, and then share the next 7 lines. Since I have three Works-In-Progress, I’m giving you 7-7-7 of all three. Sorry, I’m not sharing titles, yet.

 Book #1 – Paranormal

Julie stared out across the yard. For a moment, the only sound was the clink of ice against glass as she stirred her tea with a fingertip. “Maybe we’ll resume the life we had before Megan was born.”

“Maybe,” he said, his tone so noncommittal it stripped the word of meaning. More than age had made them nearly unrecognizable as the same couple in the wedding portrait hanging in the foyer. He thought about that a lot lately. Had they actually changed or just moved apart? And, whichever had happened, was it too late to reverse it?

 ~~~~~

Book #2 – Romantic Comedy

“Do you require something more, Ms. Shaw?”

The arrogance in his voice snaps me back to earth. “Not from you, Mr. Hi— Pearce.” As I head toward the stairs, I’m aware his door hasn’t closed, and I figure since he’s watching my ass anyway, I might as well give him a better look, so I stop at the top of the steps, turn my back to him, and pull down my sweats to show him the cheetah print thong I’m wearing. His door clicks closed, but not before I hear him gasp.

Game tied.

~~~~~

Book #3 – Women’s Fiction

“We’ve had break-ins, Nicole. You know that.”

“Funny how those break-ins always occur in the middle of the day when I’m at work.”

Curtis kicked the duffle, but then he sat still. After a moment, he looked up at me like a child still hoping to talk his way out of punishment. “Where am I supposed to go?”

I took a deep breath. I could do this. “Why not move in with your scummy girlfriend?” Surprise lit his glance before it hardened to a glare. He thought he’d kept that secret from me. “Let her support your habit.”

 ~~~~~

There you go. I hope something sparked your interest.

I’m supposed to tag seven other writers to take up the 7-7-7 challenge, but I recently tagged writers on another FB challenge, so I won’t choose anyone here. But if you’d like to share seven lines of your work-in-progress, please do so in the comments or, if on your blog, leave a link for us.

Linda

Formula Writing

In certain genres, some successful authors appear to write to a formula. Certain, some, appear … could that sentence be any vaguer? But it also contains the word successful, though success can also be interpreted in many ways. In this case, I mean those authors sell a lot of books.

formula_m

Part of our goal as authors is to create fans of our work, readers who anticipate and buy our next books. So I imagine those successful authors who write to a formula are not selling each of their books to a new and separate set of readers. No, they have fans who buy all of their books and happily read them.

I’ve heard it said that some of these books are so formulaic that little more than the character names and the locations are changed. I expect that’s exaggeration, but I’m not going to waste my time searching for such books to find out. That’s not the kind of formula I’m seeking for my own writing, anyway.

The basic structure that most novels adhere to is a sort of formula. That structure is intuitive to many writers. Not to me. Knowing that I’m going to have to push, pull, squeeze, or stretch the story I’m writing into that 3-act (or whatever) structure haunts me during the first draft.

I probably shouldn’t be thinking about structure during first drafting, but I can’t help it. I haven’t even settled on an estimated word count for the WIP I’m currently working on. Will it be a novella or novel? That’s one of the reasons I love writing in Scrivener. I go ahead and write the disconnected scenes when they come to me and keep them in a designated folder. When I reach the point where they fit in, I’ll drag them into place.

But I write soooo slowly. I follow a few indie publishing blogs and forums and most of the authors hoping to establish their name (build a fan base), talk about releasing new books every six months—or less. I’ve been working steadily on this WIP for four months and have only 35,000 words written. At that rate, figuring in the writing, editing, revising time, I’ll be lucky to have this book completed in ten months. Add to that a couple of months to prepare for publishing and my start to finish schedule is one year.

I have no ‘day job’ or children under my care, so I can’t complain that I don’t have enough time to write. I do have a health problem that sets me back, but usually only for a day or three at a time. So why am I not more productive?

That’s why I’m wondering about formulas. But I think confidence in my storytelling ability is the formula I’m seeking. If I had that, I’d spend less time stuttering and stammering along in getting that first draft done. And I guess that confidence only comes with time and experience. Which means, I should get back to work. Now.

I wish for all you writers a river of words this week. For you non-writers, I wish for you a week full of whatever you need most.

Linda

Laughter and Love in the Writing Room

I’m struggling a bit with the first draft of one of the books I’m writing this year. The story is meant to be lighter in tone than those I’ve written previously, which means I have to stop myself from delving too deeply into the dark side of my characters. But I entertain myself exploring that off page.

The main character in this novel is Chelsea, who’s twenty-three but having a hard time moving into adulthood. I’m long past that age. At twenty-three, I was married and the mother of two. So even if I could remember my thoughts and feelings back then, they would bear little resemblance to hers.

New_Girl_Intertitle

But I know how to research. I’ve done a good portion of that by reading books and watching movies and TV series featuring characters who are young, single, and funny—and looking for love, of course. Life is all about our relationships.

You might recognize the photo accompanying this post. I’ve recently discovered New Girl. Yes, I know it’s been on the air for three seasons, but I don’t watch much TV and when I do it’s usually drama. Yes, I know the characters in New Girl are in their thirties, but they’re still single and immature and funny. And the show is many years more current than Friends.

Via Netflix, I watch a couple of episodes a night before I fall asleep. So far, that hasn’t inspired any dreams directly related to my book’s plot, but I’m sure my Muse is paying attention.  Plus, laughter is good medicine, which helps with my chronic pain.  And that describes what I’m writing—a little light pushing back the darkness.

I wish you a week filled with laughter and love.

Linda

Kudos to these top commenters!

In the golden age of personal blogging, each of my posts elicited numerous comments. Now, I’m happy to see three or four. I’ve fallen into that blog comment laziness myself, so I can’t complain. Today, because I appreciate their efforts immensely, I’m highlighting the three women who currently hold the top three comment totals on this blog.

Michelle D. Argyle#1 Michelle D. Argyle – Michelle is multi-talented. She’s the author of eight novels and one collection of short stories. Also, as Melissa Williams she’s a book cover artist and designed the beautiful cover for my novel The Brevity of Roses.

I appreciate Michelle for her support on this blog and privately, especially since often it seems we’re on the same wavelength and I know she really understands where I’m coming from.

Here’s Michelle’s author bio:

Michelle lives and writes in Utah, surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. She adores cheese, chocolate, sushi, and lots of ethnic food, and loves to read and write books in the time she grabs between her sword-wielding husband and energetic daughter. She believes a simple life is the best life. Michelle writes contemporary Young Adult and New Adult fiction (and other genres when she feels up to it).

~~~~~

Darlene Foster#2 Darlene Foster – I’m privileged to vicariously travel via Darlene’s photos of her adventures on Facebook and her blog. So I suppose it’s no surprise that her three children’s novels feature world-traveler Amanda. She has a fourth Amanda adventure due out soon, which is set in her own part of the world.

In addition to her comments on this blog, I appreciate Darlene for sharing her well described and photographed travels so I can feel as if I’ve left this valley once in a while and for her lovely smiles that add cheer to my Facebook feed.

Here’s Darlene’s author bio:

Darlene Foster is a writer, an employment counsellor, an ESL tutor for children, a wife, mother and grandmother. She loves travel, shoes, cooking, reading, sewing, chocolate, music, the beach and making new friends. Her 13 year old grandson called her “super-mega-as-woman-supreme”. She was brought up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, where she dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people. She currently lives on the west coast of Canada with her husband Paul and their black cat, Monkey.

~~~~~

Christa Polkinhorn#3 Christa Polkinhorn – Christa frequently encourages me when I need it. Recently she reminded me that when she wrote her (wonderful) review of my first novel it was not out of friendship because she had no idea who I was then.

Beyond her comments here, I appreciate Christa for sharing her knowledge of self-publishing with me and for trusting me to beta-read her manuscripts. As you can tell from her bio, Christa also travels, so I appreciate her sharing her photos and narratives, too.

Here’s Christa’s author bio:

Born and raised in Switzerland, Christa Polkinhorn has always had a desire to explore the world outside of her beautiful but tiny country. As a young woman, she traveled through Europe, came to the United States on an exchange program, and ended up staying. Her travels led her to China and Japan as well as South America. She studied literature and linguistics in Zurich and California. Now, she lives and works as writer and translator in southern California and divides her time between the United States and her native Switzerland. The tension and excitement this “double life” creates informs her literary work. Most of her novels take place in several countries. Aside from writing and traveling, Christa is an avid reader, a lover of the arts and dark chocolate.

~~~~~

And, of course, thank you to all who take the time to read this blog and comment. :-)

 

Linda