Author Wednesday – Staci Troilo

typewriterWelcome to Author Wednesday. Today I’m very excited to host a very special friend. Staci Troilo and I have been following each other’s blogs for more than a year. Not only is she the author of an awesome blog, but she’s also from the area where I now call home. Her love of Pittsburgh and her family permeates all of her posts. This past year she published Mystery, Ink.: Mystery Heir, obviously a mystery. mystery heir cover better copyMystery, Ink.: Mystery Heir is the story of a young woman who lives in a cursed town plagued by murders and mystery. However, the actions of the main character, Naomi Dotson, result in dire consequences for a young boy, a sick mother, and her own family.

Welcome, Staci. I’m very pleased that you could stop by today. Please tell us a little bit about the messages or themes  you try to convey to your readers.

Hi P.C. and P.C.’s readers. Thanks for inviting me to be part of your blog. I’m honored to be here, discussing the craft I love with a fellow Pittsburgher and a good friend. About my messages or themes… I think my author tagline says it all. It’s “Getting to the Heart of the Matter” because regardless of the genre I’m writing, I always default to the importance of love in a person’s life. Despite Mystery, Ink.: Mystery Heir belonging to the mystery genre (I know, with a title like that you were thinking sci-fi or western, right?), the overriding theme in the book is the strength love plays in family relationships. I most often write in the romance genre, where I still hold that family relationships are vital; I just pair them with blooming love between two people.

I’ve heard that love is the most powerful emotion of all, so it’s certainly a worthy topic for both your blog, where you often write about your family, and fiction, where there’s a multitude of opportunity for expressing the importance of all kinds of love. What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a four-book paranormal romance (alchemy, not vampires or werewolves). Book One, Bleeding Heart, is complete and with my agent. I’m now working on Book Two, Mind Control. Each book in the series has an overarching theme (heart, mind, body, and soul), but the entire series focuses on relationships. These are love stories, so of course there is a romantic element, but it goes beyond that, to the love between family members and the love between friends. This series is especially dear to me because the idea spawned from my grandfather’s ancestry. It’s changed and grown wildly since the beginning, but my grandfather’s roots are there.

I love your stories of your family on your blog, so I’m sure this series will be outstanding. What is it that intrigues you most about this theme of family and love?

In both Mystery, Ink.: Mystery Heir and my romance series, I focused on love because that’s what I feel is most important in the world. I know I wouldn’t be the person I am without my husband, my children, my extended family… even my dogs. I enjoy exploring lives where love is abundant, where it is absent, and all the permutations in between. St. Paul said it best, I think: “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

Beautiful and so true, Staci. Are you planning to continue writing in the same genre?

I have no definitive plans past my current WIP. I have a long list of ideas, so it’s just a matter of choosing the project that speaks to me the loudest. Mystery, Ink.: Mystery Heir spoke to me because the character was so darn spunky. The series I’m working on now has a hold on me because of its ties to my grandfather’s heritage. I can’t wait to see which of my many ideas grabs hold of me next. (But I have to finish this series first!)

How did you choose the title of your current work?

I didn’t choose this title; the editors did. The original title was Daddy Issues, because there is a strong father-child theme running through the book. I suppose Daddy Issues didn’t sound very mysterious, so the editors went a different way. And that’s fine; maybe the new title will make the book marketable to a more diverse reading audience. If I have the opportunity to reach more readers simply by changing the title, it’s worth it. So writers, be warned! Don’t grow attached to your title, because it might not be the title that gets published.

That’s very good advice. I don’t think I’ve ever had the original title go with the final published book. Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene in this book.

This is a hard question to answer, because I have several favorite scenes. So instead, I’ll choose one that exemplifies the relationship between the two sisters. Naomi gets into one scrape after another in the book, and her sister Penelope constantly tries to rein her in. Normally there is sarcastic banter, but sometimes things get serious. Too serious for Penelope. After one of Naomi’s harrowing escapes, Penelope breaks down, and they have an emotional discussion about their parents’ deaths. She confesses that she can’t lose Naomi, too. It’s a real eye-opening moment for Naomi.

That’s a great scenario. Those family relationships can be loaded with land mines, and it’s always a great jumping off point as an author. Do you listen to music when you write?

I go back and forth on the music thing. Sometimes I just need quiet, so I turn everything off. Sometimes I need to breathe life into a scene, and I find it’s helpful if I’m writing somewhere with a lot of activity, like a local coffee shop. But most times I need mood music. I play the Rocky soundtrack for fight scenes, love songs for romantic moments, or classic rock or classical music (yes, I know these aren’t similar styles) when I just want some sound in the house. It’s pretty easy for me to tell that music helped me get past a barrier, because I’ll realize I’ve moved on to a different scene but not notice that I need to change the music to something else.

That’s very interesting. Most of the time when I write, I need either silence or music without lyrics. I’m always curious about where authors write, so where do you write?

All of my prior homes (and there have been a lot of them over the course of four states) had private offices, but when we moved to Arkansas, that was one luxury I had to give up. I have a desk in the corner of my family room, which works fine when the kids are in school. When they’re home, I sometimes take my laptop to my bedroom, but I can sit on a bed and type for only so long. Sometimes I’ll take my laptop outside. We have a pool with a waterfall, so it can be quite soothing out there. And as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes nothing beats writing at a coffeehouse.

I agree about coffeehouses. Even though I do have a dedicated office for my writing, I also write in different places in the house or in a public place, such as a coffeehouse or library. It all depends on what I’m doing. I love to hear that you do the same. It’s been a pleasure to have you drop by today, Staci. You’re an inspiration because I know you have two growing children, but still manage to write thoughtful blog posts and create fiction with important themes. My best to you on your next endeavors.

Thanks, P.C. I had a great time visiting with you and your readers.

hastings alteredAbout Staci Troilo: After receiving creative and professional writing degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, Staci Troilo went on to get her Master’s Degree in Professional Writing, and she worked in corporate communications until she had her children. Now she is a freelance writer living in Arkansas with her husband, son, daughter, and two dogs. When writing fiction, she creates dark, dangerous heroes; strong, capable heroines; and complex, compelling villains, weaving their lives together into a contemporary tapestry of tantalizing romance.

Links to Staci’s books and social media sites
Blog: http://stacitroilo.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/stacitroilo
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorstacitroilo
Amazon link: http://amzn.to/17N83SE
B&N link: http://bit.ly/1f4NMuG

Author Wednesday – Jae Dansie

Sketch of P.C. Zick by Jae at Lit and Scribbles

Sketch of P.C. Zick by Jae at Lit and Scribbles

Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I’m delighted to host a guest post from Jae Dansie who writes one of my favorite blogs, Lit and Scribbles with Jae. Jae writes helpful posts about the writing process, and she always adds an element of whimsy to my morning blog reads. She’s also the artist of the only caricature (that I’m aware of) of myself as writer. One of the most surprising things about writing a blog has been the wealth of colleagues I’ve met and now call friend. Jae falls into that category. I hope you enjoy her post today on editing. She’s spot on with her advice.

Editing Smackdown

By Jae Dansie

A special thanks to P.C. for inviting me to post on Author Wednesday. She’s a person I always enjoy hearing from because she has much wisdom and experience to share when it comes to this writing business.

Editing. Is it a word you dread or embrace?

I thought editing meant finding typos and grammar errors. I didn’t realize that real editing and revising was about to smack me down, and smack me hard.

I’m making this sound a lot worse than it actually is — and yet at the same time, I’m not. Thick skin should be a requirement for a serious writer, but along with that, the humility to accept that gold liquid doesn’t drip out of our pens on the first draft.

SMACK #1

I got minor feedback from friends, worked hard on making my novel the best it could be, and queried it out. I received one or two partial requests, but in the end always rejection. I feared the idea of self-publishing, because I always thought traditional would be my path. But I had a few friends who self-published and had reasonable success. Maybe it was time to try that route.

I learned a coworker of mine did editing professionally and (thankfully) decided that if I was going to self-publish I should certainly put my novel through a professional edit. She definitely put me through the ringer, but I was hungry for improvement. Whatever it took to have the best story possible, I was determined to do it.

I learned a ton! I consider it one of the best experiences of my writing life.

When she and I were getting close to the end of my novel (at this point it was about 77,000 words) I made plans to attend the Backspace Writers Conference in NYC. I intended to give traditional publishing one more go and was especially eager to have a chance to interact with NY agents.

This brings me to…

SMACK #2

New York City. Bustling, beautiful, and big. A fantastic place to hold a conference! I felt confident, knowing I’d had my book edited, and I’d worked hard on polishing it. I was ready to dominate this conference. Dominate, I tell you!

Only I didn’t.

If you ever need an ego smackdown, go talk to NY agents about your book. They aren’t purposefully mean, just profusely honest. It hurt. I had to go into the ladies’ room immediately after the session to let tears fall I had desperately held in. I attended a couple more one-on-one sessions that pointed out the same mistakes. The bottom line: I wasn’t ready for publication, and I knew it.

I learned a lot from the conference. I took home many gold nuggets of wisdom. The problem was I still thought I was in control of my timeline. I wanted to be published. Yesterday, please! But my story just wasn’t ready. It took me a few weeks to come to terms with that. I played video games like crazy, leaving my novel locked in a drawer until I was ready.

SMACK #3

I know, you were hoping I only had two major smacks to endure. Remember what I said about thick skin and humility? The first two smacks gave me humility and I came to appreciate the feedback I received.

I spent the whole summer after the conference rewriting my novel. It got a serious makeover, with major changes in plot, character, and structure. It was still the story I wrote, and yet not. But it had evolved to something greater and it made all that pain from NYC worth it.

I heard about a contest called Pitch Wars. The “winner” would be mentored by either a published author or industry professional. The mentor would read the whole thing, give feedback, and work to help the entrant polish a pitch and the first 250 words for participating agents. Elation! I got selected!

Then came the feedback. Encouraging, but very thorough. My mentor is a particularly fantastic editor. She found weaknesses I’d been blind to and once I’d carefully considered her words, I realized I had a slightly ominous task before me. I had a month to make revisions before the contest deadline.

Did I get any agent requests? I did. A full. Ultimately she passed, but I still came home a winner. I had a much stronger story than I had both before the NYC conference and after. Success!

THE SMACK CONTINUES

A more naive version of me would love to tell you that you’ll outgrow this pesky need for editing. That at some point you won’t have to edit anymore, because your skill will be so great. But the more seasoned me knows that isn’t true — at least it shouldn’t be, not if you’re fully committed to your craft.

I’m currently in the midst of more revisions. I had a good friend critique my whole book and guess what? She found more weaknesses. But I’m not discouraged. In fact, I think this time will be the version ready for publication.

Instead of fearing feedback and change, I embrace it. I enjoy the editing process. I’ve enjoyed seeing what the story has become and how much stronger it now is. I could no more separate it from the writing process than I could cut all sleep from my life. It is necessary and the sooner I learned to embrace it, the happier my writing life became.

Embrace the editing. Do it for your readers, but above all, do it because your story deserves to be the best it can possibly be. After all, it chose you to tell it. Tell it well.

And that’s why I love Jae Dansie so much. She’s honest, and she understands what it takes to be an author. I can’t wait to see her final work  after all the smackdowns. Thank you, Jae, for sharing your experience with us today.

Jae

About Jae Dansie: Jae is a graphic designer, doodler, and writer.  Jae wrote her first novel when she was 14 and has probably written a dozen or so in between which she calls “practice.”  She’s in a love/hate relationship with her current novel SHADE but knows it’ll all be worth it in the end.  When Jae isn’t doodling (she calls it scribbling) and obsessing over her WIP, she likes to karaoke, travel, and tantalize her tastebuds with tasty new treats.  You can find Jae on her blog at Lit and Scribbles, or out patrolling the streets for truth, justice and the American way.

“I want to write a book.” Sigh . . .

Sketch of P.C. Zick by Jae at Lit and Scribbles

Sketch of P.C. Zick by Jae at Lit and Scribbles

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

People often say to me, “I or my [friend, cousin, father] want(s) to write a book.” The writer-in-waiting usually has no experience with writing. I also hear, “I told my [friend, cousin, father] that you might be able to help them get started.”

In the past, I’ve given either a weak two-cent reply or a lengthy discourse on writing and publishing. The last two requests I’ve ignored while I simmered on how to respond.

My hesitation comes from the frustration I feel when folks believe they are able to write a book just because they can put together a few sentences into a paragraph. It’s not fair for me to feel this way because fifteen years ago I might have asked a published author the same thing.

With that confession out of the way, I want to answer all those would-be-authors in this way:  I didn’t just wake up one morning and say, “I think I’ll write a book today.” I’ve been writing stories for most of my adult life. I’ve been a life-long reader. I have some training and experience with the English language. I’ve worked as an English teacher, journalist, publisher, editor, and communications specialist. I have nearly thirty years of experience with writing and being paid for my expertise. I’m not saying a person can’t write a book without my experience, but I am saying that writing a book requires a bit more than simply thinking you have a great story to tell.

I’ve spent years studying the craft of writing fiction and nonfiction. I don’t mean through formal training – although I have some of that – I mean through self-educating myself by reading other novels, seeking out conferences, studying books on craft, finding websites and blogs with writing information, and interacting with my fellow authors. When I entered the new world of e-publishing, I sought out every source I could to teach me how to proceed. I’m still doing that because I haven’t met my goals for success . . .yet.

I don’t want to discourage anyone, but I do want others to understand that it’s impossible for me to teach anyone else what I’ve learned. I can only point in the direction and the rest must be done through hard work. I stress that you just don’t sit down at the computer and write the instant best seller. Perhaps the Shades of Gray author did that, but I’m not interested in writing a poorly written smutty novel. If you are, then you don’t need to read any further. Open the cover on your laptop and begin.

Now for some more practical steps for beginning the journey to writing a book, if I haven’t discouraged you so far.

Why do you want to write the book? Are you interested in publishing for public consumption or do you want to provide a memoir for your relatives? If you want to publish for your family, that’s fine. You don’t need much more than desire. But you’ll still have to decide how you’re going to publish the book. That’s for another post.

What’s your ultimate goal for writing a book? If making money is at the top of your list, then I recommend you seek employment elsewhere. Most writers I know write because they have to write. The stories don’t leave them alone. They write because there is no other choice. Chances are you won’t make a whole lot of money from writing a book no matter which method of publishing you choose. I remain hopeful that my passion will one day pay the bills

Are you willing to bare your soul on the page no matter what type of writing you choose? If you’re afraid of honesty, then perhaps you’re not ready to write. I don’t mean you have to confess the time you stole a cookie out of the jar. I’m talking about the type of honesty about life and people that makes your writing universal and enduring. I don’t ever give specific details of my own life in my fiction, but I do write about the emotions an event might have elicited. I choose different details to express it.

Are you willing to work hard learning and perfecting your craft with only the intrinsic satisfaction writing gives you? For many years in my writing career, I pursued the golden apple of success that grows from the limbs of those who read my books. I thought that would make me successful. In the past few years, I’ve left that type of temporary satisfaction behind and enjoyed success in a different way. That type of satisfaction and pride lasts longer than the time between good reviews.

Are you ready to put your work into the world for anyone to scrutinize and criticize? Here’s one of the dichotomies of being a writer. Most writers I know are rather reclusive at times and just a little bit shy in public. I know that some folks who know me might shake their heads and say I am not in the least bit shy. Those folks would be wrong. I may be sociable and even be the life of the party at times, but that behavior comes at a great cost to me either before, during, or after a social event. I’m much more comfortable attending one of the parties thrown by a character in a novel. But here’s the two-sided trouble. As authors, we usually want to publish, which means we’ve opened a bit of ourselves to public view. Over the years, I’ve had to develop a tough hide. It’s harmful when I start believing both the good and bad reviews. By far, the bad reviews – very few in comparison to the good reviews – stay with me and haunt me. However, they are easier to take now. I also stopped preening every time a childhood friend or colleague wrote a glowing review of my work. Now, I know the legitimate reviews from strangers are important, but not as important as the confidence within me that I’ve written a book just the way I envisioned it.

If my questions didn’t quell your thirst to write, then you’re probably ready, not to write the next Great American Novel, but to get busy educating yourself on the business of writing a book. I’ll save that for the next installment.

Besides doing research and study, keep writing. Start a blog if you don’t have one and set deadlines for yourself. Write down any ideas that come to you. Sketch out characters. Write dialogue. You won’t be wasting time. Some of the stuff you might use one day; some of the stuff may just serve as practice .

What other questions or issues should someone address before seriously embarking on writing a book?

Florida's sea turtles saved from oil spill in Trails in the Sand

Florida’s sea turtles saved from oil spill in Trails in the Sand

Book Review Friday – Announcement

Good morning – Today rather than writing a review, I’d like to offer a press release announcing the release of Aggravated Circumstances, a new women’s fiction/legal saga by author Michele Shriver. Michele is a fellow Indie Author and blogger. She’s hosted me twice on her blog: February 13 author interview and March 8 with a guest blog, Every Writer Needs an Editor.

I’m pleased to share her good news about her new release. Michele will also be featured on this blog on Author Wednesday May 22.

Drum roll, please, for Aggravated Circumstances by Michele Shriver. . .MicheleShrivercover

A family can be torn apart in an instant. Putting it back together is a harder task.

A relapsed addict opens the door to find a cop with a search warrant, setting off a chain of events that will cause four lives to intersect.

Devin Lenox has already lost one child to the system, and this time she vows it will be different. If she’s going to make it, though, she’ll need something she’s never had before- someone on her side.

Her battle with depression behind her, Elisa Cahill looks forward to resuming her legal career. Devin’s case seems like the perfect opportunity to do that, and bury her own past demons in the process, at least if old grudges don’t prove to be her undoing.

Child protection worker Taylor Ross struggles to balance a social life with her demanding job and has little sympathy for people like Devin, at least at first. When Taylor starts to see Devin in a new light, she finds herself at odds with her superiors. Will she be willing to go to bat for Devin, and what price will she pay if she does?

Sarah Canfield is a compassionate judge who is not afraid to make difficult decisions, but will her past link to Devin undermine her objectivity and cause her to put her own family at risk?

A look inside the child welfare system, the people who work in it and the lives it impacts, Aggravated Circumstances is a story of despair, hope, and recovery.

Available now from:

Amazon/Kindle:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00C479UY4

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/16xlk23

Kobo: http://bit.ly/11uoVwy

Paperback: Availbable on Amazon

Add the book on Goodreads: http://bit.ly/12iptVn

About the author:

Michele Shriver lives in the Midwest U.S. where she maintains her law practice in addition to pursuing a writing career. In her free time, she enjoys Zumba fitness, bicycling and the NFL and NHL.

Contact:

http://www.micheleshriver.com

micheleshriver@gmail.com

Twitter: @micheleshriver

Facebook Page: Author Michele Shriver

All Writing is Opinion – So No Need to Shout

Hello – I’m changing my routine a bit with Writing Whims. On Mondays, I’ll post my tips and thoughts about writing. On Wednesdays, I’ll be featuring other writers – please see the note below about Author Wednesday. On Fridays, I’ll post book reviews. Sometimes I might be reviewing a book by Wednesday’s author, or I might review an old favorite, a new release, or the most recent book I’ve read. I’m hoping this will prod me into moving through my pile of hard copy and Kindle books.

Brother and Sister Having an Argument clipart

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

When I began working as a reporter, my whole concept of writing changed. Much to my chagrin, I realized what I taught as a high school English teacher mattered little to writing in the real world.

So I adjusted and formed my own style as I wrote articles and columns and dabbled in the world of fiction. My first newspaper editor always stressed objectivity in reporting as most real newspaper people do. Soon enough, I discovered objectivity is the ideal, but it’s not the reality.

I learned about journalism in the field under deadline. I covered the politics for a small yet growing town in north Florida. When Walmart set its eyes on a town willing to give incentives for building a super center within the city limits, the locals took sides. My job was to report on both sides objectively, even though I had a definite opinion about the monster stepping on the midgets. I wouldn’t have been able to write the preceding sentence in an article about the project, but I sure could decide how I presented my piece, even though it appeared to be objective.

For instance, if someone on the Walmart side yelled, “You’re a good for nothing tree hugger,” I could lead with that statement and continue with the rest of the meeting. But what if that comment was preceded by, “You’re a cheater and a liar out to destroy this town by bringing in Walmart,” and as the reporter, I chose not to include that in my article? As the reporter, I’ve suddenly become subjective, but no one is the wiser except the folks at the meeting. It happens all the time.

As writers, we have tremendous power in the simple presentation of words, sentences, and paragraphs. We choose the examples we use in both fiction and nonfiction. We design characters to suit our needs and opinion. We design scenes where our point is abundantly clear by what good or bad things might happen to the protagonist or antagonist.

We don’t need to shout. We only need to show. In my novel Trails in the Sand, I present the real life drama of BP’s oil spill and the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster. Even though I have a definite opinion about who’s responsible for the deaths of men and wildlife in both tragedies, I tried not to shout it from the rooftops. But I chose what news articles I quoted, and I presented the material from the perspective of an environmentalist through the main character, Caroline. I tried not to shout, but I certainly wasn’t writing an objective novel.

This week on my first Author Wednesday, author Rachelle Ayala writes a guest post about her newest novel Hidden Under Her Heart, which presents one view of abortion. I’ll review the book on Book Review Friday.

Ms. Ayala shows her opinion quite clearly in her novel, but she’s not shouting. And because she didn’t shout, I listened.

I also learned another lesson in those early years of my writing career. When folks on each side of the Walmart issue presented their position, they were usually shouting. No one heard a word because the other side was shouting just as loud. Even though I had my own opinion on the project, I soon discovered I didn’t want to be associated in any way with either side.

I stopped listening.

Do you believe there is such a thing as objective journalism or is it just a good example of an oxymoron?

NOTE: I’m looking for writers – published or not; Indie or not – to feature on Wednesdays in Writing Whims. Author Wednesday will include guest posts and interviews with authors in most genres and at most stages of their career. Please leave me a comment or email me at pczick@verizon.net, if you’d like to schedule a feature. I’m booked through the end of May, but I’m looking for authors for June, July, and August.

Editing – Smoothing the Cement

Trails in the Sand

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

This past week, I finished the edits on my third or fourth draft of my new novel Trails in the Sand. I sent it off to my editor, Kathleen Heady, so she can weave her magic on the manuscript. When she returns it, I’ll go through her suggestions and then ready it for publication. I want to thank Jae over at Lit and scribbles blog for suggesting I write this post. Check out her site – she’s always very clever and inspiring.

Most people who are not writers do not realize how little time is actually spent on the “writing” part of this gig. When I tell someone, “I’m writing today,” I could mean several things, but only about twenty percent of the time do I actually mean writing as they envision it.

However, when I’m editing my work, I’m still writing, and I love it. When I do a first draft of a novel, I liken it to pouring cement into a frame. When it’s first poured it does not resemble the finished product – it’s not smooth; it can’t be used; and it probably shouldn’t be seen by anyone.

It’s the next steps that bring it closer to a finished product – the smoothing of the cement, back and forth until it’s uniform, cohesive, and strong. That’s what editing is for me. Now as it goes through its final reviews, it’s curing and setting up. Soon enough I’ll know if it’s ready for public use.

During the process of editing, the book can change tremendously. I’ve changed point of view several times in this novel and now have alternating points of view between chapters. I’ve deepened the characters as I’ve gotten to know them better over the almost two years I’ve been creating this novel. They’ve changed and grown as the plot has also changed and developed. It’s all a process, which starts with the basic foundation of pouring the first load of “cement” upon the paper.

Everyone does it differently, but here’s the process I use for the smoothing of my cement.

  • When I know it’s time to go back over the manuscript for editing, I set aside a block of time to do it. It’s best to go through the book with few breaks. I can do 100-150 pages per day, if there aren’t any distractions (good luck with that!). Trails in 510 pages, so I was able to complete the edits in five days. But remember this is the final draft and the third or fourth time I’ve gone through the process.
  • I set goals for each day. One hundred pages is a worthy goal, but I found as I got into the process, I wanted to do more pages in one day. For me, setting that goal helps me stay on the task.
  • I print out pages, as wasteful as that may seem, but I’m helplessly old-fashioned this way. If you can do it all electronically that’s great (and I’d like to know any tricks for getting over this hard copy obsession I have). I read through the pages and mark them up, adding copy, deleting words, sections, making notes to check on later pages. Then I go to the electronic copy and begin making the changes from the hard copy. This process also means I’m reading the pages twice in one day.
  • I cut and paste throughout the whole writing process, so doing editing in one consecutive time block helps me find places where I might have misplaced or repeated sections. I’m looking for repetition, transitions, and gaps in the story. Also, I’m looking for inconsistencies in spelling and mechanics. I use the Chicago Manual of Style (and when in doubt Associated Press style) most of the time, but what’s most important is sticking to a particular style throughout. Decide how you’re going to handle numbers, abbreviations, and dates and stick with it throughout the manuscript. I had to decide on some spellings for this book. Microsoft Word uses “coalmine” and “oilrig” as one word. I don’t think these words have yet evolved to one word, and when I checked I found they can be used either way. I chose two words for each, and that’s the way (I hope) it is throughout the whole novel.
  • Doing the marathon session meant I was dreaming about my characters – which is good. I discovered I needed to increase the tension for one of the characters so I wrote a whole new scene where her shame is expressed, adding to the motivation for her despicable behavior toward her daughter.

That’s how I do it. And now I’m a little at loose ends because it’s over. But now it’s on to writing my one-sentence blurb and back-cover copy. Once that’s done (and edited), I’ll be ready to contact  cover artist Travis Pennington at ProBook Covers for his rendering of a vision I have in my head.

Do you like editing? How do you do it?

NOTE: I’m cutting back on my blog writing starting this week. I’ve been writing four blogs a week – two for Living Lightly Upon this Earth and two for Writing, Tips, Thoughts, and Whims. While I enjoy writing the blogs and interacting with followers, I need more time for writing novels and nonfiction books. From now on, I will post two times – one for each of my blogs. Thanks for reading my posts. I’m always thrilled when I see someone has left a comment.

Week 18: The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

I’m participating in my first blog hop, and I hope you’ll join me on this journey as we blog hop our way through some new reads. A blog hop gives readers an opportunity to find some wonderful authors you might have missed. Be sure to follow our blog hop and be introduced to some exciting reads as well as works in progress. Below you will be able to learn a little about me. You’ll also find links to Kathleen Heady’s, Phanessia Harrell’s, and Daniel Alexander’s blogs. They follow me on the blog hop in Week 19. Be sure to check out both Kathleen and Phanessia. You’ll be impressed.

Special thanks to S.I. Hayes for asking me to participate. Check her out at

Twitter:  @shannonihayes

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/S.I.Hayes.Author

Blog:  A Writer’s Mind, More or Less

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/s.i.hayes

P. C. Zick’s Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop:

 Q: What is the working title of your book?

Trails in the Sand

 Q:Where did the idea come from for the book?

During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, I worked for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Agency as a public relations director. I was very much involved in the wildlife response efforts during the crisis. I handled all the media relations for a project involving the relocation of hundreds of sea turtle nests from the Panhandle beaches of Florida to the Atlantic coast. Nothing of this magnitude had ever been attempted before, but the sea turtle experts were very concerned the hatchlings wouldn’t survive in oil-infested waters. I wanted to write a story that involved the horror of the event and the efforts to restore. The oil spill plays a background role in one family whose lives have been impacted by many “trails in the sand.”

 Q:What genre does your book fall under?

I refer to it as an environmental love story, but no one’s come up with that category of writing yet. It’s contemporary fiction and could be considered women’s literature.

Q: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Susan Sarandon as the matriarch, Gladdy; Owen Wilson and Kate Hudson as the main love characters (if they can go from age 18 to 50); Lindsay Lohan as the troubled young woman trying to figure it all out.

 Q:What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

As the oil spill threatens the coast of Florida, one family’s past secrets threaten their future, but the road to healing for both paves the way to recovering what was lost.

 Q: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I will self-publish this book, just as I did Live from the Road. The experience has been satisfying as it gives me more control over my work.

Q:How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It took me a year to complete the first draft. I began it sometime in 2011, although I was exploring the topic in late 2010. I finished the first draft in February 2012 and sent it out to two beta readers. During this past summer, I wrote the second draft based on their comments. I made quite a few changes the second time around. After another round of comments, I’m revising the second draft and hope to have it to my editor before Thanksgiving.

Q: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I’m not sure I’ve read anything like this. Karen White wrote about the Gulf coast after Katrina, but she didn’t really delve into environmental issues. Pat Conroy has written about sea turtles, using them as a way to bring a family together (Beach Music), and there are many novels depicting southern families and their dysfunction. Trails in the Sand is unique and should be taken as such with each reader.

Q: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As I was dealing in real life with the oil spill, I was also embarking on a new relationship. However, that “relationship” actually began forty years ago in Michigan when my husband and I were teenagers. We lost contact with each other for more than three decades. I wanted to write a story about the environment and about how love can survive even through separation.

Q: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The Stokley clan is an interesting conglomeration of folks from the sisters named Candy, Cookie, Sugar, Apple, and then finally the tortured Gladys, to their father, who went from coal miner to doctor. His past overshadows the present as his granddaughter and Gladdy’s daughter, Caroline, seeks the answers to the past to heal the present.

Next Wednesday, October 31, Kathleen Heady, Phanessia Harrell, and Daniel Alexander will join The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. Please visit their sites and join them on the blog hop as they answer questions about their work and introduce even more authors for you to discover.

Kathleen Heady:

Website: http://www.kathleenheady.com

Blog: http://headywriting.wordpress.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/headynovels

Phanessia Harrell:

Blog: WhileWaitingOnMyWings  http://wp.me/28t72

Blog: Expressions Of Me http://wp.me/2Cbac

Facebook: https://t.co/aUEZ4UI

Daniel Alexander

Blog: http://daniel-alexander-book.blogspot.com/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/daniel.alexander.book

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/danielalex_book

 

The Language of Doublespeak

By Patricia Zick @PCZick

The toolbox of the writer contains one major item: language. I respect the power of language and despise the devices of trickery involving its usage.

Doublespeak in particular represents the language of subterfuge. It hides, covers, and ignores the truth. Doublespeak rests in the toolbox of politicians, CEOs, and used car salesmen.

However, the military remains the winner of my doublespeak award, and none more false, deceiving, and confusing than the term “friendly fire.”

When used to describe the cause of death of a soldier, does it make the death any more acceptable than if it had been from enemy fire? The term “friendly fire” doesn’t even deserve recognition as an oxymoron. An oxymoron joins two opposites, which make a certain kind of sense, such as the term “jumbo shrimp.”

However, there is nothing friendly about the fire from a gun. If somehow the military hopes to soften the figures of war casualties by categorizing a death in this way, we must remain vigilant in not falling prey to gullibility. Friendly fire or not, in a war zone, it is still a casualty of war if those bullets hit a soldier.

Doublespeak deceives. When the military releases information to the press or when politicians make speeches, then the press — the Fourth Estate — must be vigilant as well. When we use benign language applied to horrific concepts, we bury our minds to atrocities.

For example, during Sudan’s horrific civil war, the deaths were referred to as “ethnic cleansing.” The perception is not of death but of purity and innocence. Using the word “genocide,” which is the dirty word for the euphemism, might have woken us up to the fact that we as a country allowed the killings of mothers and children to occur without our intervention.

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) gives out the Doublespeak Award each year. The award, established in 1972, is “an ironic tribute to public speakers who have perpetuated language that is grossly deceptive, evasive, euphemistic, confusing, or self-centered. In 2004, they recognized Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for describing the torture at Abu Ghraib as “the excesses of human nature that humanity suffers.” That does sound a whole lot better than “the U.S. soldiers tortured and beat prisoners.” This is not the first time the Pentagon received recognition for its doublespeak. Instead of using the term “body bags” during the Gulf War it was changed to “human remains pouches” to the current phrase, “transfer tubes.”

The NCTE’s 2012 award is still open for nominations until September 15, 2012. The nominations must have appeared or been published between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012.

This organization also gives out the Orwell Award each year to honor an “author, editor, or producer of a print or non-print work that contributes to honesty and clarity in public language.” The deadline and nomination periods are the same.

Michael Pollen received the 2010 Orwell Award for his book In Defense of Food. The NCTE cited him for doing the “most to raise public awareness about the environmental and ethical impacts of food choices.”

I urge us all to question what we read and hear. In this year of the politically charged doublespeak of partisan politics, we need to sift through the flotsam and jetsam of language to make an informed choice about who leads us into the next four years. They all use it; it’s up to us to lift the curtain on the fancy phrases meant to mask either lack of ideas or less than desirable actions.

 

An Appetite for Accuracy

I just finished reading An Appetite for Murder: A Key West Food Critic Mystery.

I rarely review other books because it’s such a subjective business, but I have to comment on this book. Signet published it in January 2012. The second in the series is scheduled for release in September 2012. The book is a fast read. I’ve visited Key West many times and loved all the references to my favorite places. The main character is quirky and borderline ridiculous as she never takes the time to think anything out. That didn’t bother me – I expected it to make the book funny. I found myself reading the book in the past two days when I needed to do other things so it managed to keep my attention, or rather, divert my attention from my work.

As I approached the last quarter of the book, something unforgivable occurred for me as a reader. The main character, Hayley, was involved in an accident on Saturday night. We are taken through her day on Sunday as she explains why she’s so beat up. Then the next chapter opens as someone is banging on her door to wake her on Monday. For the rest of the book, her accident is referred to as happening “the night before.” It drove me nuts, and I kept going back and forth to figure out if I missed something. I didn’t, but some folks who are paid a whole lot more than me to edit books did.
As an author, I can understand how this could happen.  I’m currently working on the second draft of a novel, and I’m cutting and pasting and rearranging days and months and years. I check my work constantly and keep a calendar at the ready for the year in question. But I still make mistakes. That’s why I have readers and pay an editor to find this type of error. In the five books I’ve published so far, I don’t think I’ve made an error of this type, but then again I’ve never been published by a big house such as Signet.

We can never be too careful or cautious in checking our plot over and over again for accuracy. The readers deserve no less.

These are just a few of the reference books I use.

Who Needs an Editor?

By P.C. Zick@PCZick

I only have one answer to the question of who needs an editor. Everyone who writes needs an editor.

Recently, two beginning writers expressed something that quite astounded me. They both said they didn’t think it mattered if they knew the rules of writing because when they were accepted by a publisher, an editor would take care of all the mechanical things they’d neglected.

Both writers were intelligent, mature, yet misinformed for whatever reason.

So many folks want to be published; millions are taking it into their own hands and publishing e-books because of the tight competitive field in traditional publishing.

The agents and editors in traditional publishing receive hundreds of queries every single day. There are whole seminars and classes just in the art of writing a stellar query letter. There are formats to follow; but first and foremost, the letter better be “letter perfect” or an agent, editor or publisher will simply toss you into the circular file or most likely into the recycling bin on the desktop. If somehow you manage to write a good enough query letter and the agent or editor requests pages, you are among the lucky small percentage that made it past the first barrier. Again, whatever you send them of your completed work, better stand out. If the mechanics are poor, your professional reader will not make it past the first paragraph.

It’s true if you’re accepted by a publisher, an editor will be assigned to you. However, those editors are looking for more than just a misplaced comma. They are looking for the commercial viability of the work, the length of the book, and the readability. They do not have time or an inclination to teach a grammar lesson.

Here’s my advice, if you’re stumbling with mechanics: First, purchase a good handbook on craft. The oldie but still standard reference book for any writer’s desk is Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. Use resources online such as Writers Market and Poynter News University. Spend money on a real editor if you are serious. Sites such as World Literary Cafe can lead you to sources for editing that won’t blast your budget.These are just a few of the reference books I use.

With Google searches just a few pecks away on your computer keyboard, finding resources is easy.

So you say, to heck with it. I’m just going to publish it myself and put it out there without worrying about petty things such as commas and sentence structure. Go ahead, but don’t expect anyone to read what you’ve written. Sure, you might sell a few copies initially, but who’s going to recommend a poorly written book. If you want to see what I mean, go to amazon.com and download a few bad books. Do you want to continue reading a book that is difficult to understand because of lack of technical technique?

I love to write, but it is sometimes a grueling, down in the dirt business when it comes to the mechanics. But it’s all worth it in the end to proudly publish a piece and then have someone say, “That moved me to tears” or “That made me laugh.”

Please share your resources for other writers, myself included! I would love to hear about your experiences.