Book Sale

Smashwords. com, the company that distributes my ebooks has a promotion coming on March 5 through March 11. I have enrolled all my books. Murderous Roots will be, as always, free, and the others 50% off. Coupon code, active only at Smashwords on those dates is RAE50.

As many of you know, my publisher, Arline Chase, of Write Words Inc., has retired from the business and I am in the process of revising and republishing under my new imprint From The River Publishing. The books will continue to be available at Smashwords in the meantime, but not at Amazon until the process is complete.

I’m excited to be working with gifted designer Karen Phillips on new covers for Murderous Roots and The Facepainter Murders. She designed the covers for No Motive for Murder and The Child on the Terrace.

 

Too long away

There are few excuses for neglecting a blog but here are mine.

2016 was a difficult year for us. My husband’s cousin, a youngish man of 64(young from our perspective) died in the late Spring, a shock to all his family. Late in the summer our beloved dog Charlie became ill and died of a small tumour in her great heart. Health issues, since partially resolved, both our own and those of close friends, occupied the rest of the year.

But we are in a new year, and the pain of those losses is receding. Not to say the world is comfortable with a man with a clear personality disorder in the White House, but one can carry on.

My plans to become a writer of non-fiction have faltered, mainly because I write fiction and that seems to be that. However, there is a good deal more to learn about writing fiction and I am looking forward to a retreat in April with the kind friends of Writescape. Before that, I  will travel to Bermuda to visit my sister and her family. One of my journeys there resulted in No Motive for Murder, the third in my Dangerous Journeys series.

Another book, currently titled Painting of Sorrow, is under consideration by an agent. Fingers crossed.

Bad news is that my long-time publisher, Arline Chase of Write Words Inc. has closed up shop. Soon I hope to republish the books under my own imprint. so many thanks due to Arline for taking a chance on a beginning writer when she published Murderous Roots. All best wishes to Arline going forward.

Because of Arline’s retirement, I’ve been studying self-publishing both at CreateSpace and at Smashwords, where my books currently have a home. When I’m ready, I’ll reissue all four plus in the fall, the fifth in the series.

Of course, I read. Today I finished a book by a writer friend, Crozier Green. His novel of the early days of the Cosa Nostra in Sicily, titled The Little Wagons, was a terrific read. Please see the review below.

Crozier Green has written an engrossing, action-filled novel of the beginnings of the Cosa Nostra in Italy, seen through the eyes of three men and the woman they all desired. Two of the men rose from sulphur mines, graduated to the prison of Palermo and battled for supremacy in the nascent crime families of nineteenth-century Sicily. The woman, a wild and wildly-intelligent daughter of one of the bosses, manipulates both men and the officer of the Carabinieri who loved her, to gain power of her own.

The Little Wagons is suspense-full, fast-paced, well-written book that deserves five stars for its vivid characterization. Even minor characters are well-described. I won’t forget any of them soon.

The plot, involving as it does the entwined lives of four different people, is handled well. The opening description of the sulphur mines brings the reader into a hellish, claustrophobic world. The setting alone is sufficient to explain why men would do anything, including murder to escape from it.

The Little Wagons is a great read and terrific history.

That’s about it for a sunny and warm Saturday in the Kawartha Lakes.

 

 

 

 

How to structure a novel

I’ve neglected the blog for many months, mostly because of the pressure of work on my now-completed novel, titled Painting of Sorrow. It has started its journey to various agents.

Several years ago, I wrote a (unpublished) book titled  Stolen Children. Three books later—No Motive for Murder, The Child on the Terrace and now Painting of Sorrow—and needing to begin again, I resurrected the manuscript. The major problem with it for now,  is structural.

An interesting article on structure from Randy Ingarmanson appeared in his website. You may know him as the Snowflake Guy, from his method of writing a structured novel, called, yes, The Snowflake Method.

The current article, Writing the perfect scene, gives a quick overview the structure of scenes and sequels,  covered however, in more extensive detail in Elements of Fiction: Scene and Structure, by Jack M. Bickham. Randy’s article is useful as a quick reminder and I store it under research in my Scrivener binder for Stolen Children.

Cheryl Freedman, writing to me about the Bony Blithe min-com this coming Friday, suggested the books by Karen Elizabeth Gordon as “grammar with a twist…or perhaps, twisted grammar”. I took a brief look and thought hers would be a sound (and fun) addition to my library of craft books.

That’s it for Monday, May 23, 2016. Forty-six years ago this afternoon, George and I married in Kingston, On. Forty-six years of love, partnership and friendship.

 

New Directions

WORK-IN-PROGRESS

My work-in-progress, a novel, occupies most of my time these days. I’m revising. Last fall, I won a prize at The Book Promoter: an editorial review by editor/agent Svetlana Pironko of the Author Rights Agency.

After talking with her and reviewing the changes she suggested, I began a revision, this time on paper. I’m eighty pages in.

BUSINESS WRITING

As well, I follow a course from Susan Anderson — Freelance Writers Bootcamp — on writing for business, either business to business or business to client. Some of the types of writing she teaches — blogging, content writing for web-sites, white papers — are interesting to me. Her course teaches how to do those and about 10 more.

WORDPRESS

Yes, I have a WordPress blog and even my own domain name at Wordpress —ginny200.com — but I set it all up with only rudimentary knowledge. An article on Mashable, 13 cheap(or free) online classes to boost your digital skills, led me to a course called WordPress for Beginners. I’m taking it now.

EDITING

I have an extensive library of books about editing, everything from Self-editing for Fiction Writers, by Rennie Browne and Dave King, to the most recent, The Frugal Editor by Carolyn  Howard-Johnson. A favourite is Revision and Self-Editing, by James Scott Bell.

All this to explain that I’ve been busy this winter.

Writing workshops and Contests

The first day of summer will arrive at today, bringing with it the longest day of the year. So far, the garden is happy although a little confused with roses—outstanding for the first time in years—blooming with the peonies. My favourite blue clematis, struggling up from the depths of fern garden, climbs over the rock wall and up a support.Peonies and Clematis I’m a bit behind in planting. My terrace pots, most of them, are still empty. If the rain holds off, maybe I’ll get to them today.

Good news from a contest in the UK: a piece of flash fiction that I have worked on from time to time for years, The Gulls Soared, placed third in the Winchester Writers’ Festival. The prize is a selection of books, but I don’t know which ones as yet.

Contests are a terrific way to get your name out, earn a little(sometimes) and receive feedback on your work. Aerogramme Writers Studio lists contests by closing date every two months.

June 6 and 7 I spent at Barbara Kyle’s workshop “The First Thirty Pages”. A terrific two days, sharing writing with only 8 others plus Barbara, allowing an in depth look at everyone’s work. A one on one with Barbara was the highlight for me although her advice has me working diligently on an outline for my all ready completed novel. That process is ongoing and should help me sharpen the focus. Check out Barbara’s website for news of a terrific Writer’s Symposium she’s organizing for the fall.

A tip for writers: A cheat sheet for writing body language can be found at Body Language, written by blogger Amanda Patterson.

That’s about it for this Sunday morning in June. I’m back to my outline.

Master Class

Spring in Ontario—from a humid 29C to a rainy 7C this am.

A Rainy SundayThe burst of growth in May astonishes me, every year. In April I despair of ever seeing the ground again, and here it is, sprouting hosta and Korean lilac and early leaves of daylilies. What a country. The long, ice-riven winter gives way to this glory.

I’ve been working on some technical aspects of my booklaunch.io page for The Child on the Terrace, including adding a trailer. You can check it out at the link above. The trailer was produced by The Book Promoter group in Dublin, Eire.

Next weekend takes me Barbara Kyle’s First Thirty Pages Master Class. Preparation includes reading and critiquing the first 30 pages of all 9 other participants. 80-90 thousand words all together, a good-sized novel. I’m looking forward to spending the weekend with all these talented people and Barbara, who is an excellent teacher.

That’s about it for today. No blog next Sunday as I shall be away.

3 tips for editing

Summer has almost arrived. One night of frost, but everything appears to have survived, including my tiny basil plants.

It’s 2 weeks until Barbary Kyle’s First 30 Pages workshop and I’ve sent off my partial and received those of the other participants. This week, I hope to review all 9 and leave next week for any second thoughts.

I submit short stories to contests, like the one hosted by Red Tuque Books. Occasionally a critique is offered with the fee, and if I can afford it I request one. It’s a great way to receive feedback from successful authors about my work. How to win is another question.

Dianna Thurban, in a guest post on Daily Writing Tips, details 20 ideas for winning contests. I quibble with #18. She advises choosing to send in paper if the contest gives a choice. I’ve read others who say that those that are sent on paper receive more favourable consideration than those that are sent via e-mail.

I think that is outdated advice. Most sites now are using Submittable or specifically request electronic submission. Paper requires the judge to receive, review and then shred or otherwise dispose of hundreds of pages. The environmental stress of all that paper and ink needs to be taken into account as well.

The Write Life published an editing tips checklist some time ago, that’s handy to have on your desk—yes, in paper—as you start the editing process. I use Autocrit, which identifies most of these problems, but I prefer to check as I go and use the programme nearer to the end of the process.

Another list appears on the Merriam-Webster site. Proofreaders’ marks were a mystery to me until I found this handy document.

Yesterday was our 45th wedding anniversary. The weather was much the same in Kingston that Saturday, a little cool, windy with gusts off the lake, but the tulips were blooming. We were twenty-four years old, a lifetime ago.

That’s about it for this Sunday in May.

Summer and Writing

Summer came this week: sunshine, temperatures in the low 20’sC, and neighbours emerging from winter hibernation. The daffodils are blooming.

It’s the month for me to canvass for Five Counties Children’s Centre, the facility for our area which helps children of varying abilities with physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and learning problems of all kinds. I started yesterday.

The official launch date for The Child on the Terrace-July- is fast approaching and I am doing a final read-through for typos, run-on sentences and so forth. A book trailer is next on my list.

I’ve been reading Syd Field’s Screenplay: The Fundamentals of Screenwriting, a book that is often recommended for its chapters from character to story-line. All useful for the novelist as well as the screenwriter. Thinking about Sequence, the linked actions that together form a section of the novel, with simple names like The Chase, or The Escape, helped me with developing a cohesive plot. This is my second time through the book, only one of many to come, I’m sure.

At some point, a novelist has to consider writing a synopsis which is a marketing tool. Jane Friedman wrote an interesting blog on the subject with a number of useful links added. Check out her number 1 pick,  How To Write a Book Now for a step-by-step guide to the synopsis. As well, Scrivener’s outline function can be very handy when it comes time to write it.

The Write Life is another site with unexpected resources, like this week’s 21 Places to find Blogging Jobs.

That’s about it for this Sunday in May.

21-Blogging-Jobs-for-TWL-square-300x300

Spring thoughts: Literary devices and Genre fiction

Spring has been creeping up, ambushing us with thunderstorms and lightning a week after a snowfall, with downpours that filled holding tanks and turned fields of clay to marshland, havens for the ducks. No flowers. Last spring at this time a solitary iris bloomed in the front garden. Spring Iris, 2014

It’s time to rake the leaves and twigs off the garden beds and plan a fresh covering of mulch. The chores of spring, a relief after a long winter of bone-breaking cold and ice and deep snow.

I’ve lost track of which draft of my work-in-progress I’m working on. It may be the 5th or 6th, but it’s growing closer to what I would like it to be.

That’s the problem, of course. What genre is it? Suspense, women’s fiction, commercial fiction, romantic suspense or my personal favourite: cross-genre.

My aim is a tightly-plotted page-turner that also says something about redemption and renewal in a woman’s life. Too lofty a goal, too literary for a novel that includes a brutal killer and guns?

In the U.K. newspaper, The Guardian,  Anita Mason, whose The Illusionist was shortlisted for the 1983 Booker prize, in an article that was adapted from an Oxford Literary Festival debate said:

So: of course there is a difference between literary and genre fiction. Our experience as readers tells us so, commercial practice says so. But it is not the difference between two continents separated by ocean. It is the difference between the two ends of a continuum. Between those two points is an infinity of fruitful positions.

In the Oxford Literary Festival debate, she spoke against the motion “Genre fiction is no different from literary fiction”. The article is worth the read and can be found here.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/apr/22/genre-fiction-literary-centre-anita-mason

That’s where I aim to be with this work-in-progress, on the continuum, moving a little closer to the hub where literary fiction lives.

Themes, symbols, literary devices of all types: all tools in crafting a novel.

Revision, Editing and Mark Twain

Easter Sunday Morning, and it snowed again overnight. A skiff of snow, my mother called it.

I’ve been searching my saved websites, blogs and so on, for advice on editing that I meant to read, I truly did, before starting the revision process again.

Today, I found a blog that Margaret Atwood wrote in 2009, Ten Editing tips for your Fiction Mss. Coincidently, I’m reading her book about the writing life, titled Negotiating with the Dead. Her teaching is always interesting and often funny. https://marg09.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/ten-editing-tips-for-your-fiction-mss

I liked her advice on dialogue, especially the use of contractions and cutting “that” from speech. I’m guilty of not doing the first and including the second far too often, which makes for a tedious revision.

Another difficult writing chore is producing the synopsis. One of the sites that I found to help with that is http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2012/04/17/how-to-write-a-1-page-synopsis/

The author of this section, Sooz, presents us with a template and three rules-of-thumb. The rules seem simple: Name only three characters in a short synopsis, tell the ending and stick to the main plot, only including subplots if space allows. The template creates a synopsis of Star Wars as an example.

A return to Mark Twain’s rules for writers is always amusing.

 

Twain’s Rules of Writing (from Mark Twain’s scathing essay on the Literary Offenses of James Fenimore Cooper)

 

  1. A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.
  2. The episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help develop it.
  3. The personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.
  4. The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.
  5. When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.
  6. When the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.
  7. When a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship’s Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a Negro minstrel at the end of it.
  8. Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale.
  9. The personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.
  10. The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.
  11. The characters in tale be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.

The author should:

Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.

Use the right word, not its second cousin.

Eschew surplusage.

Not omit necessary details.

Avoid slovenliness of form.

Use good grammar.

Employ a simple, straightforward style.

 

 

Today, I’m remembering my grandmother Jane Callahan and my friend Dan Wilmot, both of whom died on Easter Sunday.