Mary and Rick Roberts

Happy Holidays from Written Dreams!

Written Dreams will be closed this week. We’ll be taking time to celebrate the holidays with family and friends. We hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday!

Writers, take this time to reflect on the year, your goals, and how much you accomplished. How did you fare? Is it time to raise your writing goal to 3000 words or more a day?

Write down the emotions you feel during the holidays, who you see, what you ate, the decor, and which gifts were the most fun to give or receive. And don’t forget to write down the reactions of family and friends of conversations, when opening the gifts, and the food! Set aside the notes in a safe place to use later when writing a story centered around the holiday season. All those feelings will come flooding back, and they will be invaluable to you. And most of all, enjoy yourself!

Mary and Rick Roberts

Reader’s Review: Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey

Title: Gentle Rogue

Author: Johanna Lindsey

Format: Paperback

Page Count: 426 pages

Publisher: Avon

Reviewer: Sabrena

Gentle Rogue is a journey over the seas in a love story between aristocrat James Malory, the blacksheep of the Malory family, and American Georgina Anderson, the youngest sister of five over-protective brothers. Lindsey keeps her readers enthralled with an arrogant ex-pirate who prefers to get his way using his wit or fists, and a well-bred lady disguised as a cabin boy. This romance between a devilish rogue and a stubborn young woman is filled with witty, humorous dialogue and unpredictable action.

WD’s Editorial Tip: This novel is part of a series, The Malory Novels. Lindsey shows the story of a different hero and heroine in each Malory novel, the one constant being an appearance by the handsome Malory brothers.  This is a great series to study characterization to learn how to: 1) age your characters, 2) write dialogue with multiple characters, and 3) interact well-loved characters with new characters.

Mary and Rick Roberts

Writer’s Wednesday: Thoughts on Writing by Author Jackie Griffey

Today, please help me welcome mystery author, Jackie Griffey! We’re so happy to have her with us here on The Editing Essentials!

Jackie Griffey’s family live in Arkansas on five acres that require keeping all the John Deere equipment (and their muscles) in good shape. Outside their home sharing the seed and feed but not the muscle strain, are wild bunnies, birds and other extremely independent beings. Inside, Jackie and her family are owned by two cats and a four inch high Chihuahua who thinks she’s a watch dog, has to keep the cats in line, and has a long list of things to bark at. Griffey writes in several fiction genres, her favorite being cozy mysteries.  Mardi Gras Murder and The Devil in Maryvale audio books will be out  Dec. 15, 2012. Visit her website: http://jackiegriffey.com/ or the links for her books here:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005FM7XGC  and http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004E3XH50

This is a great time to be a writer, and being an optimist, I hope it’s going to get even better. With all the opportunities now open to us, we have all kinds of opportunities to publish ourselves. These of course include in print but also digital books and audio books as well. Right now, it’s easy to get discouraged about the number of ebooks being published because there are so many free ones on the market and well, you know what shape the economy’s in. No wonder people are looking for free ones, and of course we authors are trying to get name recognition as well. I think my best sales tools are the books that people have read and liked so they bought others in the series of the novel they liked. (There’s a tip: to get your work out and keep in touch with other writers and groups, too. )

The first thing you need to write is the desire to write. So sit down and get started. If you don’t already have a basically optimistic attitude and the hide of a Rhino, you soon will have. I don’t think it’s a written requirement anywhere that you  have to have enough form letter refusals to paper a room, but everyone I know has them–don’t give up.

Right now I’ve managed to get nearly all my rights back and I’m still writing ebooks, still have some in print, and have had one audio for quite a while, plus there are three (yes, 3) audio books coming out Dec. 15 just in time for Christmas.

One of the brightest things in my days this week came from a fellow writer and reader. She was glad to hear about my audios coming out in December because she gets audios from the library and plays them as she does her housework. So know this, and rejoice–people like them and libraries do, too. Bless her heart for sharing that and making me feel good. Fellow readers and writers, audios are not only here to stay, people like them and listen to them. They are good improvements in publishing–so feel good, have fun, and write on. Good luck, good reading, and listening to all of us.

Thank you, Jackie, for being with us today. She’ll be with us all day if you have questions or comments for her. Thank you!

Mary and Rick Roberts

E. Tip of the Week: Keep It Simple

Using words that are used in every day language will keep it simple for your reader.

When using unfamiliar words, it’s important to clarify what it means for the reader so they don’t have to stop and look up the definition. Unusual words can easily pull readers out of the story, sometimes making them put the book down.

We want readers to enjoy the process of reading, not get confused or frustrated. So, have fun with words! And if you have questions, feel free to contact us. 🙂

 

Mary and Rick Roberts

Writer’s Wednesday: Look Who’s Talking With Nebula-Award Winning Author Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

I’m so excited to have Elizabeth Ann Scarborough at The Editing Essentials! I’ve admired her tenacity and determination to be a successful author for a long time. She never gives up, no matter what the circumstances. Back in 2004, I was thrilled when she wrote a story for my anthology, You Bet Your Planet. Please help me welcome her today!

Elizabeth Ann Scarborough is the author of 38 fantasy/science fiction books, 24 solo novels including the Nebula-award winning HEALER’S WAR and 16 in collaboration with Anne McCaffrey, including the two most recent, CATALYST and CATACOMBS, Tales of the Barque Cats. Her most recent novel is THE TOUR BUS OF DOOM, set in a town suspiciously like Port Townsend. It’s her third story featuring the heroic Spam the cat, and is a spoof on the zombie craze. The first book SPAM VS THE VAMPIRE is the first of the “purranormal” mysteries. Bridging the novels is the novelette, FATHER CHRISTMAS. Please visit her website at: http://www.eascarborough.com/

Look Who’s Talking

The most important thing I need to know when I write a story is whose story it is. In fact, sometimes the viewpoint is the story when the plot is a familiar or classic one and the usual cast of characters is as time-worn as the Velveteen Rabbit’s fur. There aren’t all that many plots, after all, and none of them are actually new–or haven’t been for a very long time. But the stories we want to tell, and the ones readers gravitate towards, have certain universal elements that make them familiar.

If the central viewpoint is enlightening and informative of an entirely different facet of a story, it can actually make it new, suggesting an entirely different series of events than the original. Reinventing the villain from the Wizard of Oz, Gregory MaGuire created Wicked, the Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wicked Years). As Elphaba’s thoroughly grown-up tale, it becomes not only one different Oz-ish story but a series of them almost as extensive as the original Oz books. Elphaba isn’t thoroughly wicked, and those characters we’ve previously seen as thoroughly good, turn out simply to have had good press.

On a less complex level, other fairytales are often retold from a different character’s viewpoint to try to shake up a stereotype and allow readers to rediscover the tale from a new angle. Cinderella has been written, acted and sung from the viewpoint, at least partially, of the wicked stepsisters and their mother. In the past year, two different movies were made about Snow White, who may have been the protagonist, but the wicked queen, her stepmother, was the interesting, glamorous one. The reinvention of her character for Julia Roberts was brilliant and put a modern, accessible twist on the role that it never would have had if told only from Snow White’s viewpoint.

The “villain” usually doesn’t see himself or herself as a bad person, and neither should the writer when telling their versions of the story. It’s very possible the hero and the villain simply have different goals in life, or different interests in certain outcomes. We probably all know someone who has a lot of “bad luck” although there is never, according to them, anything they did to bring it upon themselves. They were either justified, victimized by circumstances, or someone was plotting against them.

Your characters don’t have to be totally good or wicked to see things in such dramatically different ways as to set them at odds with each other.

I had a very nice mother, but her memory of certain events we both attended is so unlike mine that they might not have been the same occasions. If we were characters in one of my stories, I’d try to understand why she saw it her way as well as why I saw the same incident so differently.

That kind of conflict is certainly less dramatic than the fairytale kind and yet can be used to good effect if one bears in mind how annoying and baffling it can be to have people you thought you knew and even liked behave in ways you consider immoral or selfish, as in The Help, while they disapprove of you just as strongly.

I do admire an author who can capture the nuances of human nature accurately and use them to turn a plot at the same time. M.C. Beaton, aka Regency romance writer Marion Chesney, writes a series of contemporary mysteries that’s fun partially because it counters traditionally romantic stories while retaining a sense of reality.

The heroine, Agatha Raisin, a successful ad exec now a detective, is always falling madly for some good looking man, and at least two of them are interested in her only when she stops stalking them, and starts stalking murderers. There’s nothing remotely like a romantic novel romance in Agatha’s life, but there is friendship and admiration, unexpected emotional support when she least expects it and sometimes fleeting mutual lust. It isn’t done cynically but it seems very true.

The mysteries themselves aren’t nearly as involving as the characters. By now we all know that if the killer isn’t a psycho nut job it’s someone who stands to gain through love, or more probably money. But Agatha’s character makes it fun again, and ventilates scenarios that otherwise might be a bit stale.

Less specifically, but still of great practical benefit, understanding your characters and writing them as if they were real people with their own memories of events can be very helpful in submitting stories to theme anthologies. I edited four and published stories to about fifty more.

For instance, in an anthology about Warrior Princesses, which I proposed during a time when Xena was very popular, each contributing writer had a distinct idea about what a warrior princess was. I was particularly floored by a two page submission from a friend who hasn’t written another story before or since, about a retirement home for aging warrior princesses, as told through correspondence between the facility and Her Fierce Highness’s anxious adult daughter. Absolutely ridiculous and yet well enough grounded in familiar concerns that I felt that if there were real warrior princesses, of course they would need a specialized retirement home.

In Anne McCaffrey’s touching story, The Ship Who Sang, Helva, the heroine, is challenged about whether or not she has been trained to have a sense of humor. “We are directed to develop a sense of proportion, sir, which contributes the same effect.”

As writers, it’s up to us to find our characters’ perspectives.

One other thing. While it’s necessary to have speeches properly attributed in dialogue, if you can tell who’s speaking by what each character is saying and how he or she is saying it, it is very successful dialogue.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for your sharing your tips and being with us today! 🙂 If you have questions for her, please feel free to post. Thank you!

 

Essay by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, © 2012.

 

Mary and Rick Roberts

Don’t Stress The Small Stuff

E. Tip of the Week: Don’t stress the small stuff. It’s okay to ask for help.

                                Two Contest Drawings!

Writing a synopsis or query letter can be difficult. Instead of stressing about it, let us help you. This month, send us your query letter or synopsis that you’ve  been struggling with writing, and we’ll enter your name into a hat. On Dec. 21st, a winner will be chosen for a Query Letter Edit. That winner will receive a free edit on their query letter.

On Dec. 28th, we’ll choose another winner for a Synopsis Edit.

Emails can be sent to contest@writtendreams.com. One winner will be chosen randomly for each contest.

For more details about writing a great synopsis, read the blog post by Dorothy McFalls on The Editing Essentials from July 11th, 2012.

Mary and Rick Roberts

Reader Review: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Reader Review: Reading non-fiction can be just as entertaining as fiction.

Title:                 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Author:             Rebecca Skloot

Version:            Paperback

Genre:              Nonfiction

Publisher:         Crown Publishing

Reviewer:         Stewart

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a nonfiction book that engages the reader as grippingly as a good novel. Skloot was sixteen when she heard about HeLa cells, which in 1951 had been grown from the cancer of a woman named Henrietta Lacks. The cells had the unexplained ability to replicate in tissue culture “forever,” and they provided the basis for thousands of important scientific studies during the following decades. Yet nothing was known of Henrietta Lacks. This story stayed with Skloot through college and graduate school and led to her 10-year research for this book–the story not only of Henrietta and her family, but also of the doctors who treated her, the scientists who developed and used her cells, the journalists who, during the 1970’s, sensationalized her story without regard to the privacy or feelings of the family, and the impact of all of this on family members.

Henrietta and her family were poor and black, deprived of education, work, and other opportunities in Baltimore, where Jim Crow in the 1950’s was still strong. Most hospitals did not offer care to black patients, and Henrietta received “charity” care in the “colored” sections of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Medical care was primitive by today’s standards and medical research was even more so. Communication between doctors and patients was governed by the notion that the all-powerful doctor was obliged to tell patients only what he felt was in the patient’s interest. “Informed consent” did not cross the minds of early clinical researchers, who conducted many potentially harmful studies on patients without their knowledge. Henrietta received standard radiation treatment (with severe side effects) and died 6 months after her diagnosis. Her medical care was not unusual; it was an example of how bad care was for everyone, especially poor people.

But Skloot doesn’t stop there. She describes medical progress (through the lens of HeLa cellular research) during the following years, as well as the efforts to improve communication with patients and their families, including Henrietta’s family.

The stories are complicated, but Skloot writes with feeling and an eye for detail that keeps the different narratives lively and connected. For me the book was a page-turner.

WD’s Editorial Tip: This is a good example of a nice balance of medical research and storyline so the reader learns about the topic at hand, but can also take away the hard lessons learned about the people in the story.

Mary and Rick Roberts

Writer’s Wednesday: New Mystery Author, M.E. May

Today I’d like to introduce new author, M.E. May. I had the pleasure of editing her novel, Perfidy, published by True Grit Publishing, an imprint of Weaving Dreams Publishing, and I’m so excited to have her join us today! Please help me in welcoming M.E. May to The Editing Essentials.

M. E. May was born in Indianapolis, Indiana, and now lives near Chicago with her husband, Paul, and Husky, Iris. Her two children and four wonderful grandsons all live in central Indiana. She studied Social and Behavioral Sciences at Indiana University, where she learned about human nature and social influence on behavior as well as finding her talent for writing. Her first novel, Perfidy, is a crime thriller in which a young woman’s desperate search for her missing mother reveals long held secrets and lies that will change her life forever. This the first book in M. E. May’s Circle City Mystery Series. To learn more, visit her website at: http://www.memay-mysteries.com

WD:    Did you choose the genre, or did the genre choose you?

MEM: That’s an interesting question. I would say the latter. For many years, I told myself I had a book in me. At one point, I contemplated writing a comical piece about the dating world. Anyone who’s been out there knows what I mean.

One of my favorite genres is fantasy, but I believe it takes a special person to create a new world like in JRR Tolkein’s The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings.

The mystery genre chose me, because this is where my talents flourish. My interests in psychology, sociology, and criminal justice prevail. It’s been an interesting journey from reading and trying to solve a mystery to creating the clues that lead readers to a solution. Through this process, I’ve learned a great deal about police procedure, forensics, private investigation, and much more that I may not have taken the time to research had I not been creating these novels.

 

WD: What was your inspiration for Perfidy? A person, place, an event? How did you get started?

MEM: In 2008, my husband and I agreed I should leave my full-time job and take a year to get started on writing. I will admit, it took several months for me to really sink my teeth into it once I had the premise for Perfidy.

In 2007, Lisa Stebic and Stacy Peterson disappeared without a trace. These types of cases don’t generally stay in the news very long, but Stacy’s husband was quite verbal. As a police officer, he apparently didn’t feel a need for discretion. He continually proclaimed his innocence and claimed that Stacy took off with another man.

The situation of a police officer’s wife going missing was the spark which brought the idea behind Perfidy alive. Of course, my imagination took over and my story doesn’t end the way many feel Lisa and Stacy’s story end.

I used Indianapolis as my setting because it’s my hometown and I know it well. The police department there has been great about answering any questions regarding police procedure. The Indianapolis governmental website, www.indy.gov, carries a lot of good information about how the city governmental offices are structured and provide good contact information.

I try to keep it real. I want an Indianapolis police officer to read Perfidy and be able to tell others, “That M. E. May really knows her stuff.”

WD:    I understand Perfidy is the first novel in a series. Are you afraid the series will become dull or difficult to write after a while?

MEM: When I designed this series, I decided to create it so that there was a different protagonist in each subsequent book. You will see many of the predominate characters in each book, but the focus will be on someone different.

For example, Perfidy centers around Mandy Stevenson. She is the daughter of Captain Robert Stevenson, the Commander of the Homicide and Robbery Division. In Perfidy, you will meet several police officers from Homicide and from the Missing Persons Unit. One of the homicide detectives, Erica Barnes, will be the protagonist in book two of the Circle City Mystery Series, entitled Inconspicuous (to be released in September 2013).

WD:    If you could be any of the characters in your novel, who would you be?

MEM: The protagonist, Mandy Stevens. She is a mixture of my personality traits and beliefs. However, she also has a strength I wished I had possessed at her age. Although a bit naïve as are most twenty-two year olds, she has a confidence and determination I admire.

WD:    Is it more difficult for you to write: good characters or bad characters? And why?

MEM: “Good” characters are harder for me. Although they are the “good guys,” they are human and cannot be perfect or they will not be realistic. They must have flaws. As a reader, I like characters with depth. In order for me to relate or to decide how I feel about a character, I must have those elements which irritate me about them as well as those that endear them to me.

The “bad guy” is much easier. No one is supposed to like him/her. It also gives me the opportunity to look at the world through a different type of mind. That’s not to say the reader won’t feel some sympathy for the antagonist, depending upon what has led him/her to commit the crime. Someone who is having a psychotic break with reality would gain more sympathy than a sociopath who has no regret for what he/she has done.

WD:    How do you feel about writing short stories?

MEM:  When I started this venture, I entered several flash fiction contests. Many of those only allowed 500 words, some less. I found that very difficult. I believe I am just one of those people who cannot tell a story without going into a lot of detail.

Then I joined the Speed City Chapter of Sisters in Crime. They asked if I would write a short story for their upcoming anthology called Hoosier Hoops and Hijinx. I was hesitant at first as I lacked confidence in my ability to produce an adequate story in short form. However, they allowed me 7,500 words and somehow the story just flowed. They have accepted my story, “Uncle Vito and the Cheerleader” and the anthology will be released in October 2013. This may have been the boost I needed to give short stories another shot.

WD:    Have you thought about crossing genres, or writing a stand alone?

MEM: I think a stand-alone is a possibility, but I don’t have anything in mind at the moment. I’ve thought about another series about a private investigator, but that’s still in the planning stages. Crossing genres—at this point, I don’t see it happening. As I said earlier, my interests lie in areas that mesh with the mystery genre. I believe writing these stories is my destiny.

Thank you so much for sharing with us today! If you have questions for M.E., feel free to post comments for her. She’ll be with us all day. Thank you!

Mary and Rick Roberts

Take Action!

E. Tip of the Day: Take action!

It’s important to have a continuous flow of activity for your characters–whether they are renovating a house, cleaning their closet, or skydiving–readers want to read about what the characters are doing.

And action is the best way to do this. With their actions, show how the characters react to certain issues that in turn show who that character is by showing their emotional responses. I’m not saying have your character weep at the drop of a hat. I’m talking about action. Show the good deeds of the character, or their devious thoughts. Show how important it is to that character to have good will by donating their time around the holidays. Show your character actually at a food pantry, or homeless shelter interacting with people in their community. Show your characters doing things in every day situations readers can relate to. Do this, and your readers won’t be bored.

If you have questions on whether or not your plot needs a bit more action, feel free to contact us. We’ll help you improve your plot so your readers will be intrigued about your story. 🙂