Writing

Examiner!

I’ve been accepted as the Seattle Writing Examiner! Here is my very first article: http://www.examiner.com/article/preconceptions-about-self-publishing-and-promotion

I’d really appreciate it if you’d check it out and maybe even subscribe to it! I’ll get credit for every view and I’d love to get established writing for Examiner.

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Writing Effective Posts

I’ve been learning a few things to include in posts that have really helped make my posts more interesting and get more views. They’re pretty easy to do and help turn an interesting post into a big success!

  1. Include pictures! I’ve been using http://www.sxc.hu/ to find photos. I grab the url directly from the page to cut down on storage for my blog. Be sure that the pictures you use are licensed or else you might have problems. Stock.Xchng has several types of photos, and some require that you notify or ask permission from the artist for any public work.
  2. Add links. Chances are that someone else has written a post about your subject or something like it. Adding links to their post (especially if you quote them) brings them in on the topic and increases your post’s visibility. Everybody likes to be quoted or have their work highlighted! Here are some other posts about better blogging: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2008/07/10/nine-signs-of-an-effective-blog-post/ , http://marketing.about.com/od/marketingmethods/tp/blogmarketing.htm
  3. Ask questions. Don’t you want to hear what your readers have to say about what you wrote? If your work is all info with no questions, they might not. To encourage replies and dialogue, ask some questions.
  4. Speak your own words. If you read your blog post out loud, do you sound like yourself or do you sound like a weirdo? Share your personality, not your writing proficiency. We visited your post to hear what you have to say. If we wanted cold, lifeless instructions we’d go to the airport.

I  know I missed some! What makes your blog posts sparkle? What about your posts reflects who you are?

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When You’re Stuck – How to Beat a Writer’s Block.

What do you do when that blog post or chapter or poem just won’t COME OUT of your head?! Writer’s block hits anyone who writes, whether for their own amusement or for more serious reasons. But what do you do?

  1. Talk to someone about it. Call them up or have a meeting, whatever gets it done. You can talk to another writer, your Mom, or your favorite Sci-fi nerd. Whoever you think knows something to help get you started. There are even message boards online to talk about writing.
  2. Take a break. Sometimes you just need a little time and perspective to figure out what to write next. Hopefully you don’t have an immediate deadline. Don’t agonize over your issue the whole time, either. Get completely away from it. You’ll find that sometimes your subconscious can accomplish things your conscious mind can’t manage. My breaks from my writing sometimes take weeks or months. Then suddenly I have the answer and my writing continues.
  3. Blow something up! Not for real. I mean with your writing. This can mean literally including an explosion in your story or just resorting to something outrageous to spice things up in your project.
  4. Input. I simply can’t write anything unless I have an “input”. It doesn’t even have to be the same genre as what I’m writing. I just need to read what others write to fuel my own inspiration. Sometimes a really good movie, television show, or even a song will also inspire me in my writing. Try being the audience for a while so you can continue to be the storyteller.
  5. Clear Distractions. Maybe your workspace is too chaotic for you to think well. I know that is frequently my problem with three active kids in the house. If you can block those out, you may be able to get the inspiration you need to going. Your computer can be a distraction, as you know. Pull out a pad and paper (old-fashioned, I know) or try a plain-text editor like JDarkRoom http://www.codealchemists.com/jdarkroom/
  6. Make it challenging. Sometimes it’s not the chaos that gets you but the tranquility. Plan some events, start another project, or something…and squeeze that writing out of yourself with pressure! That’s how I usually do it, so you can tell it works.
  7. Set goals. Sometimes a goal, especially one you’ve shared with someone else, can help you get going. You know what’s reasonable! Set a goal and keep yourself accountable to reach it!

Do you have any other ideas for beating writer’s block?

These bloggers do!

http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/writingroadblocks/tp/block.htm

http://storytellingnomad.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/top-10-writing-distractions/

http://www.webook.com/911writersblock A fun tool to help you get past it! Dial your solution.

**What did you think about the GIFs? Annoying? Fun? It was fun to make but I don’t want to give you seizures.

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You Might Be A Writer If….

Is it possible for you to be an author?

That is a question most people think they know. I know I did for fifteen years, and my answer was “no”. But I was WRONG! I had been an author all along but had dismissed that idea because I couldn’t see it. It would have been helpful for someone to ask me a few questions. One of my policies is, if I see a need for it but don’t see it online, I make it. So here you go!

  1. Do you write? This also seems like a dumb question. Of course you write. You write grocery lists, notes, emails, maybe even blog posts. But do you write for your own entertainment? When an idea hits you, are you compelled to write it down? Do you like to research things that won’t increase your paycheck? Then you just might be an author! Continue reading
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The Internet is Forever

Yes, this is the first picture ever posted online. I wonder if these ladies still hang out. They definitely don’t have the same hairdos or wear the same clothes. Does this picture embarrass them or are they proud to be the first?

Our culture is focused more and more through the internet. On my Facebook today I saw a friend’s current progress painting a robot figurine, the coffee another friend was drinking, and the political views of yet another friend. Will these photos and statements disappear into the cyberworld or will they live on there “forever”, just waiting for someone to dig them up?

Well, as scary as this feels, this phenomenon of media lasting virtually forever is really a bonus for me, an author. My works, nestled into their pages on the web, will live there forever. I will always be able to make money on them, or at least get  the credit for them if they become free. If someone claims them as their work, I can point to multiple places where my work lives and has lived for a long time. There is no “out of print” online. There is no time limit for my work to survive other than the time limit of how long it interests people.

Yes, in case of apocalyptic failure of everything technological, I do have paper copies of all of it, including the copyright certificates. But after we’ve recovered and have the internet back, provided the Giant Ant Overlords allow it, I’ll put them all back up.

What do you have online that will live forever? How do you feel about that?

Categories: Self-Publishing, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Finding Your Calling

What do you want to be when you grow up? How did you get to the place you are now? These are the opposite ends of one of the most important questions in our lives.

Some of us adults tell kids, “Get a good job in accounting and forget about that degree in art. It won’t pay the bills.” And to some extent, they’re right.

Other adults gush, “Reach for your dreams, little one! There is nothing you can’t do if you just believe!” And some butterflies fly out from behind their head.

I will tell you a profound truth: both of these people are right and both are also wrong. I’ll explain.

You can’t tell when you start if your dream of becoming a famous artist won’t pay all the bills and your mom’s with enough left over to sponsor fifteen children in Ecuador. The odds are against it and you can’t ignore that. You also can’t tell that your Accounting job will pay the bills. Maybe it won’t. (Especially if you hate it and don’t do it well.)

Sometimes, you think you know your calling and you really don’t. That happened to me. I learned shortly after starting college that I didn’t want to become a Psychologist or anything related to that profession. It was a crushing blow that I never bounced back from. I just worked jobs until the time came to stay home with my kids (which was a separate calling). But then, almost twenty years later, another calling appeared. I was unprepared to get a calling at this place in my life, but the writing bug had borrowed into my head and was now reaching maturity. Stupid late-blooming writing bug.

Let me tell you who I think has the ultimate answer. I think the people who know the right way to do it are the people who move with their passion, plunging into the thing they love wholeheartedly. They don’t worry about paying the bills. (You can get a random job to pay the bills.) And if their passion doesn’t pan out, they jump out of the water like a dolphin and plunge back in again at a different place. The people who live this way have amazing stories to tell. They know a lot and have enjoyed the journey as well as the transition.

Not everybody has passions about jobs. That’s what those weird tests are for where they ask you if you’d rather raise chickens, calibrate nuclear machinery, or eradicate dangerous pests. But that doesn’t mean you can’t plunge in. It’s not the love of the job that matters, but the love of the adventure and of expanding your horizons. This is your life. Don’t let your bad attitude ruin it for you.

As for me, I had a passion I was completely unaware of. (For those of you who know me this isn’t a surprise. Randomly Oblivious is my middle name.) Everything else had to burn off first before I could see it. Being a mom at home all day with the kids God gave me and all their laundry made it impossible for me to spend time with stained glass art, choral music, sewing, gardening, painting, and all the other art forms I loved. The thing was that I still had to read. I trained myself in the fine art of keeping a plot fresh in my head while being interrupted every five minutes in my reading. Also, fiction began to squish out of me. Journals I meant to fill with my actual life got covered in the fiction.

At last hubby bought me a laptop computer. I could pay our bills online and read emails in the same room as the kids with plenty of space to see who hit who over top of the monitor. Now instead of huddling in the back of the house hoping nobody was setting anything on fire, I could monitor my kids and let my fiction out. Did you notice how the passion had to have the right circumstances to bloom?

And now I’m a writer/housewife who does a bad job battling the laundry monster, but writes a lot of fiction, this time forming them into books fit for sale. When the kids grow up, I’ll either be a full-time writer (which I prefer) or be a writer/barista or a writer/Lowes employee, or whatever. We’ll see.

My advice as an adult who has (finally) found her calling: Reach for your dreams, little one! There is nothing you can’t do if you just believe…and also remember to get a good job if those dreams don’t pay your bills. And don’t listen to those unimaginative people who say you need to have a McMansion and a boat and all that junk. Those only make you happy on the weekends and holidays you don’t have to work. It’s your life and you should enjoy it in whatever form it becomes.

Did butterflies fly out from behind my head?

Categories: Self-Publishing, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Inner Dialogue and Book Promotion

Hmm, she thought. How am I going to promote my book?

In addition to my constant perplexity about promoting my book, I came upon a writing issue that is not resolved! In writing my short story Horarium for Wattpad, I wanted to write someone’s inner dialogue and realized I wasn’t sure how to do that. Neither is the writing world, it seems. You can choose to put quotes in or you can write in italics. But nobody has convinced me that either way is the right way.

Here is a link about it: http://theeditorsblog.net/2012/02/28/inner-dialogue-writing-character-thoughts/

I chose for myself. What do you think?

Also, I found a great link about book promotion from an author who feels pretty much the same way I do about book promotion. http://dreamnotion.zhollis.com/2011/10/25/how-to-find-readers-for-your-novel-actual-steps-honest-answer She has a timeline of her book there that I really appreciate seeing. She also found the best promotion was the free material she offered!

Categories: Publicity, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Public Apology for Overuse of the Word “Was”

Yes, I’m sorry. I had no idea how extreme my overuse had become. It took me 3 days to change all my “was” from abusive to proper use in How to Win Friends and Influence Magicians. (I tried to eliminate “was” except for when the subject truly was the adjective or object.)

I’m pretty happy with the result after all my “checking” (which I’ve almost finished). Here is a short example in the form of my book synopsis. Do you think it’s an improvement?

Here is the original synopsis:

I’m a normal girl. I am. I love shoes, fragranced body care, and hair products. I love all the “chick flicks” that have come out in the theaters in the last 2 years (and a lot of the old ones) and I obsess about my wardrobe.  I respond positively to most of the marketing directed at females in my age group.
My name is Colleen Underhill, and the only abnormal thing about me is that I just discovered I am (or I became, or I was turned into) a magician. Not the disappearing bunny kind, but the power-shooting-out-of-your-hands kind of magician.
My problem now is that I do NOT believe in magic. Well, I believe in it, as it I have seen it shooting out of my own hands, but I am morally against it. No hexes, no spells, no incantations, no potions, no amulets, no tomes, no casting circles, no eye of newt, none of that. I am specific because people are pushing me about it. Whatever they say about “how it’s done”, this is a morality issue for me and I am not going to cave in to their pressure.
 
But what do I do now?
 

And here is the “checked” synopsis:

I’m a normal girl. I am. I love shoes, fragranced body care, and hair products. I love all the chick flicks that have come out in the theaters in the last 2 years (and a lot of the old ones) and I obsess about my wardrobe.  I respond positively to most of the marketing directed at females in my age group.

My name is Colleen Underhill, and the only abnormal thing about me is that I just discovered I am, or I transformed into, a magician; not the disappearing bunny kind, but the power-shooting-out-of-your-hands kind of magician.

My problem now is that I do NOT believe in magic. Well, I believe in it. I have seen it shoot out of my own hands, but I oppose it in a moral sense; no hexes, no spells, no incantations, no potions, no amulets, no tomes, no casting circles, no eye of newt, none of that. I have to be very clear because people pressure me about it. Whatever they say about “how it’s done”, this is a morality issue for me and I will not cave in to their pressure.

But what do I do now?

Categories: My Books, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 17 Comments

More Things to Check!

Along the lines of the “Ly” check, here are some other writing exercises I  am currently inflicting on my novel:

  1. Weed out the “to-be-verbs”: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, and been.
  2. Turn ‘ing’ into ‘eds’ where possible.
  3. Avoid starting sentences with ‘as’ or ‘ing’ words
~Thanks to Tahlia Newland for the cool new tweak!~

Whee Doggies is it taking a long time! The end of the school year rush makes for slow work, but at least I don’t lose my place! (When I’ve changed the word, it doesn’t show up in the find anymore so I know right where I left off!)

In case your clicking finger is broken and you didn’t go to The “Ly” check, I use Word’s “Find” tool and input each word, combing through the entire manuscript for the offenders. I found with these teeny words it helps a lot to type a space before and after the word in the “find” box. That weeds out the combination of letters in other words such as “this“, “came”, and others.

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“I’m Confused,” She Said.

Because I’m confused. I am getting mixed messages about a tiny but important word: said. I even felt a little panicked about it at first.

I was taught in school to avoid too much “said”. But then again it was public school in Washington State, so the relevance to current thought is questionable.

Should we writers use “he/she/they said” after dialogue exclusively or should we find more interesting words. Who is right? What do you think?

These people think you need more interesting words:

These people think that anything other than “said” or maybe “asked” detracts from the story, calling them “said bookisms,”

“James Blish told me I had the worst case of “said bookism” (that is, using every word except said to indicate dialogue). He told me to limit the verbs to said, replied,asked, and answered and only when absolutely necessary.”

- Anne McCaffrey http://www.logicalcreativity.com/jon/quotes.html

These bloggers put it in a more comforting format, saying to limit them to 2 or 3 per page, and to use them sparingly when “said” is just not enough:

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Serious Humor

Wha? Serious Humor sounds like an oxymoron. Well, it is, but it’s also a legitimate technique that I love to use.

Serious humor is mostly situational. A character is engaging in activities that are not humorous, but something occurs to make them humorous, or the nature of the scene makes it funny. I used this type of humor a lot in How to Win Friends and Influence Magicians. You get all the laughs of a joke without ruining the serious messages of your book.

Example:

‘“Really?” I scolded the nearest building, showing it my most fierce expression of reproach. “Is this how you’re going to do it?” The building tried to pretend it didn’t hear me. I turned to a building on the other side that I know was in on the whole thing too. “Are you serious?” I demanded of the building. “Are you honestly going to set up some hocus-pocus barrier to keep me in like a trapped rat?” The building looked belligerent, knowing it was guilty. But it didn’t apologize. So I yelled at it for a while, though it didn’t help me get out.’

Everyone has yelled an inanimate objects. The character is serious and angry, but the situation is funny. Serious humor!

Another example would be a group of characters following another character in secret. The purpose is serious and the characters are serious about it, but you can make it really funny as they try not to get caught and have to react to the movements of the one they are following.

Face it, life is hilarious. If it doesn’t make you laugh, it makes you crazy. So laugh! It costs less than institutional care.

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Readability

I’m learning a lot more about what makes a book “readable” or not. This is completely unrelated to the plot, characters, and themes. You can excel in all of these things and still not have a readable book. What makes a book “readable” for you?

Here is what turns a book from a “nice read” to a “fantastic read”, for me:

  • The book begins by developing an emotional attachment in me to the character. Ways to do this: sympathy, mystery, thrills, a problem
  • The book stays on the story path of the main character and side characters without too many switch-offs and rabbit trails. Some are interesting, but too many are confusing.
  • There is balance between the time spent describing the inner emotions of the character and time spend on their actions. If the balance is off, you get cold, unlovable characters or you get sappy characters and a lagging story line.
  • There is mystery/suspense in the plot, but I am clued in subtly throughout. It is a tough balance between excitement and confusion, understanding and over-explanation.
  • The writing is done in uncomplicated style, but using correct grammar, punctuation, and word usage. It isn’t as vital in character dialogue, but in the story body it is absolutely necessary. The wrong use of a word or an awkward sentence snags my whole attention and I lose track of all the nougat-y goodness of the book.
  • There is a definite conflict going on that unfolds throughout the story. A simple series of events can occasionally draw me in but it takes some pretty fantastic writing for that to happen. Excitement generated by love, danger, rivalry, and/or tragedy helps draw me through the story.
  • Humor doesn’t work in every story, but when it does, it really enhances my enjoyment. I really enjoy “serious humor” in a story that might not have room for outright silliness. I define “serious humor” as passive humor that results from character circumstances that would otherwise not contain humor.

 

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The “ly” Check

Well, that’s what I call it anyway. This is a technique my first editor taught me. In Word, you type “ly” in the search box and it shows you every word ending in “ly” (or with “ly” in it) throughout your document. Words like “really” and “only” are a problem for me. I use them too much. Also, there is a lot of adverb abuse out there. The best way to avoid it is to replace every “ly” word with a different phrase. It makes your writing seem more intelligent too!

Oh! It also increases word count! I added around 1000 words! It really adds up.

Here is an example. This is my original excerpt from How to Win Friends and Influence Magicians, followed by the ly-free version. I kept some of the “ly” words, but can you see a difference?

Excerpt 1 (before “ly” check):

“Well, hello!” he purred, a little half-grin breaking across his amazing face just for me. “What are you doing here?” His voice was naughty and gorgeous. It was low and enticing with a purr to it, like a tiger who wasn’t going to eat me. The tiger even liked me a bit, but might choose to eat me in the future. Also, I would thoroughly enjoy it if he did.

Now, I was fully aware that I was sweaty, tear-stained, red-eyed, red-nosed, and totally disheveled. It was not an attractive moment. Naughty Hottie was messy in a completely planned way that was even better than being tidy and put-together. Every movement and line of him seemed naturally comfortable. And he was smiling at me as if he was the Wolf and I was Little Red Riding Hood with a giant basket of goodies for Grandmother.

“I….” I faltered, unable to think of any way to explain, “I can’t get out!” Naughty Hottie looked at me and the path, puzzled in an attractive way. “Honest! Whenever I go that way, off-campus, I somehow end up completely turned around and going in again.” Naughty Hottie gazed at me knowingly. Of course he knew all about Teimnydd restrictions and punishments, because he was so bad. He studied me in a leisurely, bold way that made me worry that some Teimnydduus might have x-ray vision. Then he turned and walked slowly down the path until he was “off campus”. He held out his arms gracefully in a gesture of completion. He could get out. So I followed, and then I didn’t and I was back where I started.

“Yep, that’s a Capio spell just for you, Kitten. You know, you don’t look like a bad girl.” He trod back to me, languid and sleek.

“Um, I’m not. I’m just…new.”

“New?”

“Yeah.”

“Care to elaborate?” he coaxed, his interest piqued, but in a languid, feline way that could evaporate at any moment.

I shook my head. I did not want to elaborate. Though at this moment I was desperately trying to break a “stay here” spell by The Drop herself, I couldn’t bring myself to cross the line to reveal information about my unique status. I wanted to keep the secret, even though Joel had just ruined it and the whole campus probably knew about the Baby Teimnydduus Freshman by now. Naughty Hottie did not appear to know and I didn’t want him to know.

“OK,” he replied, as if my refusing to enlighten him didn’t bother him in the slightest. Then he held out his hand. I stared. He moved his hand in a way that beckoned. He wanted me to take his hand. I reached out toward him, mesmerized somehow to obey. But then I hesitated, looking into his face for confirmation, explanation, or assurance that my hand would be returned to me at some point, whole and uninjured in any physical or spiritual way. He pulled that little gut-melting half-grin again and his eyes softened into a catastrophic mixture of beckoning and scolding. I slid my hand into his. He led me toward the “off campus” spot. And then he was there and I was not, looking back into campus again. Our hands had slipped apart in the blink of an eye.

He looked at me again, communicating with his eyes. (As I was quickly learning, he was Grand Master of Eye Communication.) This time, he approved of my impressive level of badness, seeing as even he was unable to thwart the “Capio” spell that was needed to contain naughty, naughty me. He was also ready to face the challenge again, because no spell designed to prevent rule-breaking was going to stop him.

A moment later he had returned to my enforced position and swept me up into his long, muscular arms. I rested in the “princess carry”, heart fluttering, as he walked me toward freedom. Then we were both back on campus, turned around.

“Who are you?” he asked in a sexy whisper. He didn’t put me down.

I was breathless and my brain had completely evaporated. “…Colleen,” I whispered. His eyes reprimanded me (sexy!) and demanded more. I didn’t want to tell him, but I couldn’t help myself. “Colleen Underhill.”

One eyebrow lifted. In a lot of popular books I have read, people can either do this or can’t and it is a point of pride or shame for them. I have never met anyone who has any deep feelings whatsoever on the raising of eyebrows. You can or you can’t. So what?

Naughty Hotty could and, of course, it was dangerously sexy. Even more dangerous and sexy, he looked me over like a tiger embracing a new kind of meat he might like to devour. “You’re the new one, aren’t you?” All I could do was nod (evaporated brain, remember?). “Mmmmm,” he said, which could be interpreted as “Mmmm, I see,” or as “Mmmmm, delicious.” My knees evaporated too, which was OK because he still held me in his arms.

“Well, Colleen Underhill, I’m London Vadoma.  Nice to meet you,” he purred. (Insert all previous sexy descriptions here.)

“Mmmmm,” I replied, which could be interpreted as “Mmmmm, your wish is my command,” or “Mmmmm, take me, London Vadoma, I’m yours.” That little half-smile evaporated my internal organs.

Then he set me down. Surprisingly I could still stand without my knees, but that must have worked because I was unburdened by the weight of my brain or internal organs.

“Yeah,” he decided, “I’m not really disappointed you’re stuck here. See ya!”  And with that, he sauntered away.

When he was out of my sight, my brain was the first to return, followed by my organs. That made me tipsy because the weight of my brain overset the hollowness of missing organs and no knees. Next, my heart appeared back inside my chest cavity fully chilled by the way-too-bad-for-Colleen-ness of London Vadoma. The appearance of my knees followed a little too far behind for comfort, but at least I didn’t fall down. Yes, Naughty Hottie London Vadoma was waaaaaay too dangerous for a little suburbanite Skupdyn like me. He was definitely a guy to adore from afar.

I was late for class.

Excerpt 2 (after “ly” check)

“Well, hello!” he purred, a little half-grin breaking across his amazing face just for me. “What are you doing here?” His voice was naughty and gorgeous. It was low and enticing with a purr to it, like a tiger who wasn’t going to eat me. The tiger even liked me a bit, but might choose to eat me in the future. Also, I would enjoy it very much if he did.

I was kind of surprised that the brother alarm hadn’t gone into overdrive already. I half-expected to see my burly older brother and scrappy younger brother punching their way through the magic to get to me. This was the third hot guy who had acknowledged my existence and I was unused to avoiding the bro-bomb considering the volume of flirting.

Now, I was hyper-aware that I was sweaty, tear-stained, red-eyed, red-nosed, and horribly disheveled. It was not an attractive moment. Naughty Hottie was messy in a planned way that was even better than being tidy and put-together. Every movement and line of him seemed natural and comfortable. And he was smiling at me as if he was the Wolf and I was Little Red Riding Hood with a giant basket of goodies for Grandmother.

“I….” I faltered, unable to think of any way to explain, “I can’t get out!” Naughty Hottie looked at me and the path, puzzled in an attractive way. “Honest! Whenever I go that way, off-campus, I somehow end up turned around and going in again.” Naughty Hottie gazed at me with knowing eyes. Of course he knew all about Teimnydd restrictions and punishments because he was so bad. He studied me at his leisure, in a bold way that made me worry that some Teimnydduus might have x-ray vision. Then he turned and walked with confidence down the path until he was “off campus”. He held out his arms in a graceful gesture of completion. He could get out. So I followed, and then I didn’t and I was back where I started.

“Yep, that’s a Capio spell just for you, Kitten. You know, you don’t look like a bad girl.” He trod back to me, languid and sleek.

“Um, I’m not. I’m just…new.”

“New?”

“Yeah.”

“Care to elaborate?” he coaxed, his interest piqued, but in a languid, feline way that could evaporate at any moment.

I shook my head. I did not want to elaborate. Though at this moment I was desperate to break a “stay here” spell by The Drop herself, I couldn’t bring myself to cross the line to reveal information about my unique status. I wanted to keep the secret, even though Joel had just ruined it and the whole campus probably knew about the Baby Teimnydduus Freshman by now. Naughty Hottie did not appear to know and I didn’t want him to know.

“OK,” he replied, as if my refusing to enlighten him didn’t bother him in the slightest. Then he held out his hand. I stared. He moved his hand in a way that beckoned. He wanted me to take his hand. I reached out toward him, mesmerized somehow to obey. But then I hesitated, looking into his face for confirmation, explanation, or assurance that my hand would be returned to me at some point, whole and uninjured in any physical or spiritual way. He pulled that little gut-melting half-grin again and his eyes softened into a catastrophic mixture of beckoning and scolding. I slid my hand into his. He led me toward the “off campus” spot. And then he was there and I was not, looking back into campus again. Our hands had slipped apart in the blink of an eye.

He looked at me again, communicating with his eyes. (As I was quickly learning, he was Grand Master of Eye Communication.) This time, he approved of my impressive level of badness, seeing as even he was unable to thwart the “Capio” spell that was needed to contain naughty, naughty me. He was also ready to face the challenge again, because no spell designed to prevent rule-breaking was going to stop him.

A moment later he had returned to my enforced position and swept me up into his long, muscular arms. I rested in the “princess carry”, heart fluttering, as he walked me toward freedom. Then we were both back on campus, turned around.

“Who are you?” he asked in a sexy whisper. He didn’t put me down.

I was breathless and my brain had completed its evaporation. “…Colleen,” I whispered. His eyes reprimanded me (sexy!) and demanded more. I didn’t want to tell him, but I couldn’t help myself. “Colleen Underhill.”

One eyebrow lifted. In a lot of popular books I have read, people can either do this or can’t and it is a point of pride or shame for them. I have never met anyone who has any deep feelings whatsoever on the raising of eyebrows. You can or you can’t. So what?

Naughty Hotty could and, of course, it was dangerous and sexy. Even more dangerous and sexy, he looked me over like a tiger embracing a new kind of meat he might like to devour. “You’re the new one, aren’t you?” All I could do was nod (evaporated brain, remember?). “Mmmmm,” he said, which could be interpreted as “Mmmm, I see,” or as “Mmmmm, delicious.” My knees evaporated too, which was OK because he still held me in his arms.

“Well, Colleen Underhill, I’m London Vadoma.  Nice to meet you,” he purred. (Insert all previous sexy descriptions here.) Tracy’s high school that she went on and on about during my “orientation” was called “Vadoma High”. Weird!

“Mmmmm,” I replied, which could be interpreted as “Mmmmm, your wish is my command,” or “Mmmmm, take me, London Vadoma, I’m yours.” That little half-smile evaporated my internal organs.

Then he set me down. I was surprised I could still stand without my knees, but that must have worked because I was unburdened by the weight of my brain or internal organs.

“Yeah,” he decided, “I’m not really disappointed you’re stuck here. See ya!”  And with that, he sauntered away.

When he was out of my sight, my brain was the first to return, followed by my organs. That made me tipsy because the weight of my brain overset the hollowness of missing organs and no knees. Next, my heart appeared back inside my chest cavity well-chilled by the way-too-bad-for-Colleen-ness of London Vadoma. The appearance of my knees followed a little too far behind for comfort, but at least I didn’t fall down. Yes, Naughty Hottie London Vadoma was waaaaaay too dangerous for a little suburbanite Skupdyn like me. He was a guy to adore from afar. My brothers would be kicking his butt, possibly with pal backup, if not for supernatural intervention and the lie that I was in Maine. My dad would re-sharpen his knife collection if he even smelled London’s cologne near me.

I was late for class.

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Things That Make a Book Hard to Read

Hard to read? Uh-oh. Why would anyone say that about my book?

I am a mom. I have three kids and a husband and can count on getting interrupted every five minutes unless someone is getting in trouble. Then there is silence. Yikes! But seriously, I had to hone my powers of remembering interrupted plotlines and ignoring pointless background noises. Still, I am an excellent judge of whether a book is easy to read or not.

Here are the things I find that make a book hard to read:

Lots of description. Don’t get me wrong. I love descriptions. But if your main reason for writing is that you like to describe things in writing, I am going to have a tough time with your book, or I will skim. It’s an evil word, I know, but it’s true.

Grammatical errors. I certainly wouldn’t accuse any of you of making grammatical errors in a book! But for all those other writers out there, they should know that nothing destroys the flow of a book like a misspelling, or one of those insidious proper spellings of the wrong word. If you misuse your, you’re or something else atrocious, which you wouldn’t do, I shake my head and make a disapproving mommy noise. But it ruins the love scene or the battle scene or whatever.

Creative word order. If you are a poet, I expect you to invert word order like Yoda to make it rhyme or to bring out the meaning of the word. You sometimes need that. But if you are writing prose, it just confuses me. You want me to see the images without bothering with the words. I should forget they are there. If entangled in your sentence, I am, then irritated with your story will I be. Hmmmmm. (Think of this in Yoda’s voice.)

Rabbit trails. Really, the point of a “rabbit trail” is to go off of the subject just for fun. I get it. But if you don’t get back to the actual point at the end of the trail, you are just stuck in a dirty hole. Yeah.

Odd reactions. Think about your character’s more emphatic reactions to things before you upload the book to Smashwords or whatever. If somebody tells your character a piece of information and they suddenly hurl something breakable across the room, there darn well better be a legitimate reason for them to do that–spiders maybe, but something. That is too violent a reaction when hearing sad things about someone’s past or not enough likes on a facebook post.

Missing information. You may not agree with me on what information needs to be added to a scene. That’s fine. But if I, the reader, am left with this gaping hole in your story, is that what you want? For instance: Bob is driving to work and thinking about his ex-girlfriend Pam who crushed his heart like a ball of tinfoil, but then he drives into the parking garage–that’s all. Pam is this giant thing that is mentioned but never explained. I feel like I have missed another entire book there. Maybe I have, but that has to be clear so I can go find and buy the book. See?

What else? I know I missed some. What else is there to destroy the flow of a book? Write!

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Fantastic Names

I love names in books. They shape the character and how the reader feels about them. Where do you get your names for your writng?

Believe it or not, my character name searches started out with baby name searches. Our church is famous for lots of kids and big families, and so it was a challenge finding names that every other parent hadn’t already used. I started combing the web and books and anything I could find to name my kids. I wanted names that meant something too, not just cool-sounding names that meant “A man” or “field of squash” or something like that. My kids names mean “One who rejoices”, “Behold how beautiful” and “A gift set aside for God”. That’s what I mean.

Well when we decided that we shouldn’t have any more kids, I had a giant list of names left over. My hubby was very picky and there were lots of names there I loved but he hated. (I also hated the names he loved so we were even.)

But he doesn’t get to name characters in my books! Nyah!

My go-to site for character names is now http://www.cool-baby-names.com/. All the names from The Lustre, I found here using the “enter a meaning” search. They have to sound like the character I am describing too, so often I spend quite a while searching.

How do you decide on your character names?

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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