Monthly Archives: May 2011

Books Read in 2011 – May

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Notice my count is dwindling….but it’ll pick back up when I finish my book. The rough draft is almost done so the count will grow soon!

Recap of the rating system:

Outstanding. You need to run out & get this NOW!
Great!
Good.
Meh. I was not much of a fan.
Under no circumstances should you waste your time with this.

Title
Author
Rating
The Warrior Heir
- Cinda Williams Chima
The Throne of Fire
-Rick Riordan
The Last Little Blue Envelope
- Maureen Johnson
Invincible Summer
- Hannah Moskowitz
Graveminder
- Melissa Marr
Dead Reckoning
- Charlaine Harris
In Leah’s Wake
- Terri Giuliano Long

TAG! How we know who’s it

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When I finally went back to re-read my first ever completed rough draft, I noticed there were a whole hell of a lot of he said, she said going on. Literally. Not to mention: she whispered, he grimaced, they yelled and we sang. Needless dialog tags were everywhere.

I guess the initial instinct when writing, is to label everything so there’s no confusion to your reader, but I think I discussed once before about trusting the reader to get it.  They don’t need everything spelled out. You’re able to let them know who’s doing the speaking by the actions and sentences before and after the line of dialog.

Tags, like adverbs, should be used sparingly. Sometimes they are a necessity, so go ahead and sprinkle them in, BUT try to stick with said and ask. All that gasping and whimpering and exclaiming should be shown by actions. We’re supposed to show, not tell, remember? Again, I don’t think it’s wrong to use them on occasion, but don’t be surprised if someone in editing tells you to ditch them.

Another way to help get across who’s doing the talking is by the character’s voice. Like real people, your characters should have different personalities and different quirks to their speech.  Those things will help the reader understand right away who’s speaking. If one of your characters is little Miss Prime and Proper, frequent church going virginal teen who thinks a blow job is when someone gets their hair straightened at the salon, you know the line of dialog chock full of cursing and sexual references will not be coming out of her pristine mouth.

Once again I’m going to suggest reading your dialog out loud to make sure it flows well.  If you’re constantly hearing yourself saying he said she said or stopping the flow of the conversation to read the tags, then you should probably edit some more of them out.  In this instance, you may want to bring in a friend to help portray the different characters. Exchanging lines of dialog aloud with another person makes the conversation that much more realistic.  It’s always helpful to have an additional set of eyes and ears going over your work as well.

Hey baby, what’s your genre?

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As a pick up line, for me anyhow, that one would suck. I’m not one of those people who sticks to one specific genre. A fellow aspiring writer recently blogged about how she was pretty much strictly a paranormal writer. That is awesome for her. She knows what she enjoys writing and what she’s good at, BUT that isn’t the way it has to be for everyone.

Personally, I stick to a category, Young Adult, because I enjoy writing about the coming of age. The teens growing through experiences and finding themselves and learning more about life.  While all my books have young adult main characters, they are definitely not all the same genre.

We recently discussed where you are when ideas strike. Well, mine all come at  inopportune times, but they often also come from far left field. Not that my ideas border on crazy, I mean in the sense that the ideas often are nothing like something I’ve written about before. To me, the genre doesn’t matter. It matters more if I’m excited about the idea. If I feel that push to hurry up and get it out.

I’ve had people say “if you get your stuff published, will you use a pen name for your works in different genres?”  More likely than not, I’m shaking my head.  I feel that by keeping in the same category, my fans will still be interested in reading my work whether it’s contemporary, paranormal or fantasy. I know there are people out there who will disagree and there may be statistical proof to back up their reasoning, but I think it depends on how far a departure you take from your norm.  If Stephen King put out a romance novel, I think most of his fans would probably laugh it off and not bother to pick it up. Personally, I’d be interested to see what his take on it would be. I already know he’s a great writer, so why wouldn’t I want to see how he handles a different genre?  Then again, to be fair, my reading tastes, much like my musical tastes, are broad.

There are several authors who have made the switch from writing adult to writing young adult and the other way around, James Patterson and Melissa Marr (I am loving Graveminder!) to name a few. They didn’t bother with a name change and both seem to be doing quite well.  I think what it comes down to is loyal fans and good writing.  I don’t plan on stifling my creativeness in order to stay “trapped” in one genre.  If I find it gets to a point where people aren’t biting because it seems to far removed from my other workss, then maybe I’ll consider a pen name, but for the time being, I’d rather write what I’m inspired to write and entice my (small) fan base to read a genre they wouldn’t have previously picked up. Maybe I’ll get them to explore books by other authors in that genre as well. That would be a double WIN in my opinion.

Rehashing Repetitiveness

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I wanted to take some time to revisit an issue I see many fledgling  writers having.  It’s the problem of repetitiveness.  In an earlier blog post I talked about my own issues of using the work OK constantly, as well as making my characters nod their heads.  In reading people’s beta works and chapters on Book Country I’m noticing a lot of repeats in different ways.

Sometimes they are describing an action, for example:

He needed to climb the mountain by hand. Placing one hand over the other hand, he began to climb. His hands were cramping and the hand and foot holds were not easy to find. The climb would be difficult.

That’s a whole lot of times to say hand and climb in four sentences, no?  It could be reworded as such:

He needed to climb the mountain by hand. Hunting for rocks he could grip or step on, he began his ascent . The holds were not easy to find and his fingers and palms were cramping from the exertion. It was going to be a difficult journey.

Better, right? While there are some repeats, he and his, it’s not excessive and I’ve kept the same general idea as the previous paragraph.

Another common repeat I notice is the use of he or she to start every sentence. Does this sound good to you?

She woke early. She walked to her closet to select what to wear for the day. She decided on jeans and a tight red sweater. It would be chilly that day. She would be warm and comfortable in a sweater.

Gah! She, she, she, she! So many times!  Let’s fix that mess:

She woke early. Needing to figure out what to wear that day, she walked to her closet. Jeans and a tight red sweater would be perfect for the chilly forecast. That choice would keep her warm and comfortable.

Since we already know from the first sentence that the paragraph would be about a girl, I didn’t need to keep repeating that she was doing something. Again, the idea was kept the same as the original paragraph. In some cases you can just rearrange the words in the sentence, rather than adding new words.

 I tend to think these repeats are not conscious choices of the author, but an occurrence of a common word coming to mind.  When writers are on a roll, they just want to get the ideas out before they disappear. Repetitiveness is not something one normally thinks about until they are doing a re-read or edit.  When you’re in edit mode, it helps to work a paragraph at a time. Read them aloud to yourself and make sure you’re not hearing the same word over and over.  Another idea is to record yourself as you read so you can listen to it later. Not only will hearing it help you to pick out those repeats but it will help you see if your dialog is smooth and believable. Kill two birds with one stone!

If you find you have a problem with repeating, go back to my Don’t Repeat! post from February and try the exercise mentioned. You might be surprised to find how difficult it can be, but your writing will be better for it.

Book Review – In Leah’s Wake

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It’s time for our next installment of author Q. & A. and reaction! Today’s post is special because it’s the first stop in Novel Publicity’s Blog Tour for debuting author Terri Giuliano Long and her contemporary-family/mainstream stream fiction novel In Leah’s Wake. She has given me some great responses to the questions I posed!
In addition to the question and answer and personal reaction, I’m also adding the synopsis from Amazon .  That way you will have everything you need to know about this great book.


Amazon synopsis:
Protecting their children comes naturally for Zoe and Will Tyler—until their daughter Leah decides to actively destroy her own future. 

Leah grew up in a privileged upper-middle class world. Her parents spared no expense for her happiness; she had all-but secured an Ivy League scholarship and a future as a star athlete. Then she met Todd.

Leah’s parents watch helplessly as their daughter falls into a world of drugs, sex, and wild parties. While Will attempts to control his daughter’s every move to prevent her from falling deeper into this dangerous new life, Zoe prefers to give Leah slack in the hope that she may learn from her mistakes. Their divided approach drives their daughter out of their home and a wedge into their marriage.

Twelve-year-old Justine observes Leah’s rebellion from the shadows of their fragmented family. She desperately seeks her big sister’s approval and will do whatever it takes to obtain it. Meanwhile she is left to question whether her parents love her and whether God even knows she exists.

What happens when love just isn’t enough? Who will pay the consequences of Leah’s vagrant lifestyle? Can this broken family survive the destruction left in Leah’s wake?
 
Personal Reaction:
When I first read the synopsis for In Leah’s Wake, it struck me as interesting, but I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to relate.  Being single and childless left me thinking it would be a good story but I might not walk away with the kind of reaction the author was hoping for.  That idea changed as I got further into the book. Perhaps I don’t have children of my own, but I do deal with kids on a daily basis and I hope that I am teaching them good life lessons.  Also, I found I knew variations of the story from real life experiences when I was younger.  The great thing about this novel is that it is shown from all sides of the experience: the parents, the children, even the cop who is involved.  There is someone in the story everyone can find a way to relate to.  It’s gritty, going into details of wild teen parties and drug use, infidelities, doubts and self discovery.  It shows how each character grows and learns. One thing I especially liked was there’s not a typical fairy tale ending, which makes it even more realistic and relatable.  I would recommend In Leah’s Wake to anyone who enjoys a story of struggles and realizations, a story of growth and discovery, a realistic story we can all relate to in some way.
 
Questions and Answers:
Q) Is In Leah’s Wake your first book?
Yes. And by first, I really mean first. There are no burned manuscripts or books stuffed in drawers. Of course, I revised so many times that I could have written several books. So maybe it’s actually my third.
Q) What prompted you to write In Leah’s Wake?
Years ago, I wrote a series of feature articles about families with drug and alcohol-addicted teens. The moms talked candidly about their children, their heartbreaking struggles. Those stories stayed with me. 
My husband and I have four daughters. When I began writing In Leah’s Wake, they were teens. Most families struggle in some way during their children’s teenage years. We’re no different – though, thank goodness, we experienced nothing remotely like the problems and challenges the Tylers face in the book.
As a parent, I knew how it felt to be scared, concerned for your children’s future. That, I think in retrospect, was the primary force that drove me to write this story. I also hated the way parents competed with and judged one another, and I felt, and still feel, strongly that zero tolerance policies, while the drive to enforce them comes from a place of love, are wrong-headed. In the book, Leah is kicked off the soccer team, for a host of reasons, but essentially for drinking. When she’s caught at a party, the high school principal forces the soccer coach to dismiss her from the team. I don’t understand this – why punish a troubled child by alienating him or her from the community, taking away this positive influence?
My work with families, my personal experiences and core beliefs – all these things played on my conscious and subconscious mind, and ultimately emerged as this book. 
Q) What preparation did you do prior to writing? Did you research?
I wrote the first draft very quickly – in three months – while I was finishing my MFA at Emerson College. Later, I researched various aspects of the book, mostly fact-checking for accuracy. I knew little about drugs and drug use/abuse in general, and next to nothing about hard drugs – opium-laced marijuana, for instance. I used the Internet for this. I also checked the FBI Website to be sure I’d accurately depicted the way the police and FBI handle situations with teen runaways. I looked at police vehicles online, and I checked drug laws. My sister Audrey, a nurse anesthetist, helped me with the medical details.
Q) Why did you decide to use multiple Points Of View, rather than stick to just one?
For me, this book isn’t about any one character. I wanted to tell the story of this family; to do that, I needed to give each person a voice. We tend to live and remember shared events differently, from our own perspective. By using multiple points of view – sometimes overlapping stories – I hoped to show this. Also, by telling their individual stories, I hoped give readers greater insight into the characters.
Q) Why did you decide to add the POV of Officer Johnson, a character outside of the family?
That’s a great question, MaryBeth! In the first draft, his voice just came in as I wrote. I didn’t give it much thought. In revision, themes of connection and responsibility emerged. The epigraph conveys those themes as I hope they come across: “everyone is really responsible to all men for all men and for everything . . .” I see Jerry as the connecting force in the novel and for this family. Although, like all of us, he’s flawed, he takes this responsibility for others to heart. So, for me, his voice is very important.
Q) What advice would you give to parents who may be going through a similar situation as Zoe and Will?
Try to believe in yourself; make decisions that feel right, for the right reasons, then trust your decisions. You’ve done your best, given your child strong values and character; these will prevail. In troubled times, it’s hard to believe you’ll ever see the light. But the challenges we face with teens don’t last forever. Someday, maybe sooner than you think, your child will find his or her way, and you’ll be close again.
I don’t mean to minimize very real problems or heartache, and, believe me, I understand how terrifying and painful it is to watch your child make mistakes or fall. But I’ve also, in addition to my own children, known and worked with so many young people over the years. Some kids take longer than others to grow up and mature, but eventually almost all turn out well. Parenting is the toughest job in the world. We don’t need to make it any harder by beating up on ourselves. Ironically, the qualities we value most as adults – creativity, leadership, independence – often lead teens to rebel. In the end, this pays off.
You love your child; your child loves you. Try to remember this, and remind yourself often!
Q) Any advice for a teen who may be feeling too pressured by family or friends to do things they don’t want to do?
Be true to yourself. I honestly believe that most teens want to please the people they care about. You want to connect with others, belong. That’s a beautiful part of who you are. But it shouldn’t dictate your behavior. People who love you want the best for you, but they don’t always get it right. You might ask what they’re thinking, where they’re coming from, consider and evaluate their response. At the end of the day, though, you know what’s right for you. Listen to yourself, stay in touch, and follow your heart.
Q) What is the lesson you hope readers come away with after finishing the story?
I have to go back to the epigraph again – we’re all responsible for all and for everything. Hillary Clinton said it takes a village to raise a child. I hope the book encourages people to be supportive members of the village.
The Tyler family is far from perfect, but they love one another. Our flaws make us human and that humanity connects us. I very much hope that readers feel this sense of connection—and hope.
Q) How would you describe In Leah’s Wake to entice a non-reader to want to pick it up?
In Leah’s Wake tells the story of a family in collapse. Sixteen-year-old Leah, a star soccer player, has led a perfect life. When she meets a sexy older guy, attracted to his independence, she begins to spread her wings. Drinking, ignoring curfew, dabbling in drugs—this feels like freedom to her; her terrified parents, thinking they’re losing their daughter, pull the reigns tighter. Unfortunately, they get it all wrong, pushing when they ought to be pulling, and communication breaks down. Soon, there’s no turning back. Twelve-year-old Justine caught between the parents she loves, and the big sister she adores, finds herself in the fight of her life, trying desperately to pull her family together.
I’ve heard from many people, friends, reviewers, readers I’ve never met, that the book feels real and complex. They understand this family because they’ve been there – as a parent or a teen. Readers feel like they know the characters, and they care about them. I’d love for people read In Leah’s Wake for enjoyment. I also hope the book offers a sense of hope and emotional connection.
Q) Who or what are your writing influences?
In grad school, I was blessed to study under wonderful teachers, particularly Christopher Tilghman and Jessica Treadway, who taught me the craft of fiction writing and, more important, taught me to believe in myself. For content, I’m indebted to the existential philosophers. I also love Flannery O’Connor, and I see ways that her work seeps into my writing. I’m also influenced by music, particularly Van Morrison and Robbie Robertson. Like most writers, I think, I’m influenced by what I read, listen to, and observe.
Q) What can we expect from you next?  Do you have any other projects we can look for?
I’m currently working on a contemporary psychological thriller with a historical twist. 
Nowhere to Run takes place in the White Mountains in northern New Hampshire. A year after the brutal murder of her six-year-old daughter, Abby Minot, once an award-winning writer, accepts her first assignment—a profile of the philanthropic Chase family, kin of the popular New Hampshire senator and presidential hopeful, Matthias Chase.
In her initial research, Abby glimpses darkness under the Chase family’s shiny veneer. Digging deeper, she uncovers a shocking web of lies and betrayal, dating back to the nineteenth century. Abby finds herself trapped—between an editor obsessed with uncovering the truth and the town and family who will stop at nothing to ensure it stays hidden.
I hope to complete the novel this fall. 
Q) How can fans follow and contact you?
I have a website, where readers can learn more about me. My blog, “The Art and Craft of Writing Creatively,” focuses on writing tips and inspiration. I’ve met terrific people through social networking, and love connecting on those sites. I also welcome email: terri@tglong.com
Website:  www.tglong.com
Q) Lastly, just for fun, if they were producing a new smash hit Broadway musical based on your writing journey, what would it be called?
I wish you could see me smiling. This is such a great question! How about – Long Night’s Journey Into Day. Seriously, it’s taken me a long time to get here, wherever “here” is. I’ve taught writing for 15 years, and this is my first book. There were many nights – and days – when I wondered what I was doing, and seriously considered giving up. As Dory, the little blue surgeon fish in the film Finding Nemo, advises, I just kept swimming. Maybe for a subtitle – Stubborn Crazy Girl or The Little Engine That Could.
For all you writers – hold onto your dream. You can – and will – make it happen. Don’t ever give up!
  
Tour Notes:

Please vote for my blog in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blogger with the most votes wins a free promotional twitterview and a special winner’s badge. I want that to be me! You can vote in the poll by visiting the official In Leah’s Wake blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the bottom.

The next word for the book give-away is:  TO. Learn more about the give-away and enter to win 1 of 3 copies on the official King Whisperers blog tour page. The other 2 copies are being given-away courtesy of the GoodReads author program, go here to enter. And don’t forget to stop by the Q&A with Terri Giuliano Long Group to discuss In Leah’s Wake (including questions from the official book club guide), the author, her writing process, and advice.

Book Trailer for In Leah’s Wake: