Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Keeping Old Manuscripts

In my closet, beside the angst-ridden poetry I wrote in high school and my first fiction manuscripts, I've just found a stash of old essays from my undergrad. 

It was the early nineties when I wrote those... Ah, the memories... My dot matrix took hours to print on continuous fan-fold paper - I still remember the horror of ripping a page when removing the perforated edges - and my *great* academic works included such riveting titles as:
  • Fidelity, Infidelity and the Relationship of Penelope and Odysseus
  • A Critical Review of Masculinity in Macbeth
  • Anne's House of Dreams: A Historical Source?
  • The Importance of Setting in "Young Goodman Brown"
  • Mistress Pat: A Historical Source? (a recurring theme, I guess)
  • Characterizations of the Heroines in the Novels Emma and Pride and Prejudice

Will I ever read those papers again?  Probably not.  But I still keep them. 

I know many people throw them away, but to me they are reminders of fun times. (I loved my university experiences.)

My closet is full of old scribblers and manuscripts.


I've also heard of people tossing or burning their first manuscripts.  I don't know if I'll ever be able to do that.  The poor relative who has to clean out my office after I die will probably have to do the task.
do read my early attempts at fiction, though, for three four reasons. 
  1. It is inspiring to see how much my writing skills have developed and improved over the years. 
  2. They make me laugh, which keeps me humble.
  3. Sometimes I find a few gems, and I think - Wow, I wrote that?  Cool. 
   (4.) From time to time, I almost believe those early attempts could be salvaged.  Then I read them, and that fantasy fades.

What have you kept?  Do you still have your old papers from university?  Do you still have your first manuscript?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: Unavoidable Legacies #2

I participated in my first Six Sentence Sunday last weekend.  Wow!  What fun!  I can see how this might become addictive. 

Thank you to everyone for stopping by and commenting on my post last week!  I appreciate it!  I was grinning for two days.  :)

So, I'm back for another week. 

This is an excerpt from that same older Work in Progress, Unavoidable Legacies

These six sentences are also from the prologue.  Like I mentioned last week, this is a scene between two secondary characters, whose activities set the rest of the book in motion.  Last week, we had a six lines in Grace's point of view.  John and Grace were fighting. 

Unable to get the reaction she wants from John, Grace jumps into her car and speeds away.  A moment later, her car flies off the snowy road and into the lake.
Here are my six from John's POV:

*****
          He had killed her.  If he'd been driving Grace’s sports car when the useless thing had broken through the barrier and crashed into the icy lake, then no one would question his confession.   As it was, no one would listen to him. 
          John leaned against the silent ambulance and watched the grim-faced emergency crew try to find her in the murky depths.  Why was it taking so long?  
          With each passing moment, John's body grew increasingly numb until he was sure he could follow Grace, plunge into that same dark water, and not feel a bloody thing.  

 *****


What is Six Sentence Sunday?

  1. Pick six (6) sentences from anything you like (it can be from a Work in Progress (WIP), something you recently sold, something you hope to sell or even something already under contract and available for purchase).
  2. Sign up on the Six Sentence Sunday website.
  3. Then post your sentences on your blog on Sunday.
If you have a Twitter account, you can add the #sixsunday hashtag to your tweets when you link to your SSS post.

Check out the other fabulous writers and their sentences at http://www.sixsunday.com/. There are some great snippets!



*****

Thank you for stopping by and reading my post!

I'd love to hear from you about this excerpt! What do you think?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Lucky 7 Meme

Fun!  Kate Warren tagged me for a Lucky 7 meme.  Admittedly, I had no idea what that was at first, but, now that I know, I'm excited to participate. 

According to the rules, once you are tagged:
  • go to page 77 of your current WIP,
  • go to line 7,
  • copy down the next 7 lines/sentences as written and post them on your blog or website,
  • tag 7 other authors, and
  • let them know they've been tagged.
Following Kate's lead, I'm taking this literally and copying a full 7 lines, even though it leaves my last sentence incomplete.  

These lines are from my current WIP Secrets and Second Chances (Updated January 2013: I've changed the working title on this WIP to A Cowboy's Second Chance).  Claire, my heroine, has an appointment with a specialist and is currently in the doctor's waiting room.  The hero, Devin, has driven her to the hospital, but she lied and told him she was meeting a friend there rather than telling him she was worried about her health, so he did not accompany her to the appointment.

     Claire took a deep breath and tried to steady her racing pulse. 
     The jacket smelled of Devin.  Spicy.  Masculine.  And she was probably imagining it, but she was sure she could feel some remnant of his body heat lingering in the fabric. 
     Obviously her brain was playing tricks on her – imagining he was somehow there with her. 
     The office door opened.  Everyone in the waiting room looked.  It was true - misery did love company.  Another couple entered.  The man had his hand at the woman's lower...

The seven authors I'm tagging are all new friends who have recently commented on one of my blog posts:
  1. Chris Kelworth
  2. Donna Cummings
  3. Zee Monodee
  4. Skye Warren
  5. Jessica Knauss
  6. Sarah W
  7. Ursula Grey

And thank you again to Kate for tagging me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Research for my current WIP: Cowboys and Rodeos

Since Devin, the hero of my current WIP Secrets and Second Chances (Update as of January 2013: I've changed the working title on this WIP to A Cowboy's Second Chance), is a former pro-rodeo cowboy, it made sense to have a few scenes set at a local rodeo.  When I made that decision, I knew I'd have to do some research. (I love research!)

You see, my family is not rodeo folk - sure, we owned cows, my sister had a horse, and my dad wore cowboy boots - but that was the extent of it.  Rodeos weren't exactly a weekly occurrence for me, but, having grown up in southern Alberta, I suppose it was inevitable that I had some knowledge:
  • My grandparents loved the rodeo, and I can remember sitting in their living room watching the competitors.  
  • Oh, and then there was the time when, at the age of 10, I was smuggled into a small town rodeo in the back of a truck camper. (Ah, yes, I have such interesting memories from the early 80's).  Actually, that was the first time I'd heard Garry Lee and Showdown's Rodeo Song - some lyrics stay burned on your brain for a lifetime. 
  • Then my sister moved into the heart of cowboy country (at least by my standards it was).  The small town, with a regular population of about 500, probably doubled in size on their rodeo weekend every year.  So many sexy cowboys in one tiny community.  (Sigh.)
  • And, now I live in Calgary, home of the Calgary Stampede.  If ever there was a city enchanted with cowboys and rodeos, it is Calgary - at least for 10 days every July. 

Still, I thought a bit of research would be useful to trigger some memories and fill in a few details. 

I went to a few rodeo websites first:
But I wanted a bit more.

Then I found some videos on YouTube.  Brilliant! 

In particular, I found the video below (and a bunch more like it).  It shows the "Running of the Bulls", which is an annual event at the Strathmore rodeo.  I can't watch the video from start to finish without jumping, putting my hand over my mouth or shutting my eyes once or twice, but it still fascinates me.





After finding this footage, I had, albeit briefly, considered using an event like this in my story.  One of the things I learned in a Donald Maass writing workshop was to have characters do, say or think things that are out of character.  Having my heroine sign up for this event would certainly be out of character for her... but it was just a little too far out of what would be believable. 

So, like any writer, I'll squirrel away information about this event.  Who knows?  Maybe one of my future characters would like to be charged by a bull.


My next research step will be to confirm a few details with some real cowboys.  (Did I mention how much I enjoy research? *grin*)

Would you volunteer to run with the bulls?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday - Unavoidable Legacies #1

This is my first kick at Six Sentence Sunday. (Who knew participating in this would give me such sweaty palms?)  Anyway, here is an excerpt from one of my older Works in Progress called Unavoidable Legacies.  I pulled it out recently to see if I could rewrite, slash, and/or edit it into something better. 

These six sentences are from the prologue.  It is a scene between two secondary characters, whose activities set the rest of the book in motion.  I always enjoyed the prologue, but was never sure it'd make the final draft.

Here are my six:
*****
“Don’t lie to me!” Grace punctuated her point with a slap across John's face.  She had done it deliberately – some way to get a reaction from her suddenly stoic lover.  Her fingers tingled as she waited.  Normally he would have grabbed her arm before she made contact and they would be smothering their anger with a hot embrace by now. 
When he remained controlled and distant, her chest tightened, sending her breath and all of her hope rushing from her body. 
*****

What is Six Sentence Sunday
  1. Pick six (6) sentences from anything you like (it can be from a Work in Progress (WIP), something you recently sold, something you hope to sell or even something already under contract and available for purchase).
  2. Sign up on the Six Sentence Sunday website. 
  3. Then post your sentences on your blog on Sunday.
If you have a Twitter account, you can add the #sixsunday hashtag to your tweets when you link to your SSS post. 

Check out the other participating writers and their sentences at http://www.sixsunday.com/.  There are some great snippets! 

*****

Thank you for stopping by and reading my post! 

I'd love to hear from you about this excerpt!  What do you think?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Reading and Reviews: Lorraine Heath and Amanda Stevens

In January, I decided to set a reading goal. It was simple: I want to read more books in 2012 than I had in 2011.

According to Goodreads.com, I read 64 books in 2011, so I decided to strive for 80 books this year. As of today, I'm apparently 10 books ahead of schedule. (I can attribute that tally to the ease of buying books for my e-reader.)

This week I finished two books. I loved both of them.

*****
TEXAS DESTINY by Lorraine Heath
Category: Historical Romance

Hero: Houston Leigh

Heroine: Amelia Carson

Story: This is book one of Heath's Texas Trilogy series. Amelia Carson, a mail-order bride, arrives at a Fort Worth train station in 1876 expecting her fiancé, Dallas Leigh, to meet her and take her to his ranch. Dallas, however, breaks his leg before setting out and sends his emotionally and physically scarred brother Houston in his place. Amelia and Houston bond over their three-week journey to the ranch, and by the time they arrive at the ranch, where Dallas is waiting anxiously for his bride, they have fallen in love. Then they have to decide how to proceed, the importance of promises and the value of love.

My Thoughts: Goodreads.com recommended this book, and based on their last recommendation, which I loved, I thought I'd try it. I haven`t read a historical western in a long, long time, so I decided a change of reading focus might be a good thing. I enjoyed this book. Amelia and Houston both have emotional baggage to help one another overcome. Houston is a tortured and scarred hero, so this is another Beauty and the Beast story (I love those). I saw some of the other reviews on Goodreads were concerned about the plot and the way that Dallas` interruption plays out in the story, but for me it worked. The second half of the book was the test to the love that blossomed in the first half. Sure, the characters loved one another, but their emotional baggage hadn`t been resolved by the time they arrived at the ranch and they`d made promises they felt obliged to fulfill.  Both of those issues needed to be resolved for a satisifying happily-ever-after. Heath had me hooked from the first page, and I enjoyed the book right through to the end.

***** 

THE RESTORER by Amanda Stevens
Category: Contemporary Paranormal with Romantic Elements

Hero: Detective John Devlin (though this isn't a typical romance)

Heroine: Amelia Gray

Story: This is book one of Stevens' Graveyard Queen series. Amelia Gray, who is a graveyard restorer, sees ghosts, but she has been trained by her father to ignore the displaced spirits. Unfortunately, when a murder victim is discovered in one of her restoration projects, she is drawn into ghostly interactions, primarily through the intriguing and attractive detective, John Devlin, who is haunted by his dead wife and daughter.

My Thoughts: In early January, I read Amanda Steven's book Abandoned, which was free on the Kobo. Abandoned was the prequel for the Graveyard series. I enjoyed it, and had decided then to look for more books in the series: the stories are about cemeteries, which I enjoy; there is a paranormal element, which I enjoy; and, most importantly, Stevens' writing drew me into the story. In The Restorer, Stevens' writing is poetic and spooky, making it even more enchanting than the prequel. The attraction between John and Amelia is nicely integrated, but it was only one of the many layers of the novel. I knew that this book was part of a series from the beginning, which is important for me. (I like to know from the beginning if I should expect all of the questions to be answered by the end of the book. In a series that is less important.) Stevens integrated enough larger character questions to keep the story flowing into the next book in the series, but the major plot questions for this novel were resolved. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a spooky and intriguing ghost story / murder mystery. According to Amazon, the next book in the  Graveyard Queen series is to be release on March 27th!  Yay!


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Revisions: Clichés and Typos

Yep, I'm still revising and editing this week.

My favorite typo so far: "before it spread like wildlife through her body." 

Haha!  I laughed and laughed over this.  I don't know if everyone will find it as funny as I did, but this mistake had me imagining small herds of minature plastic animals stampeding over her body. (But maybe that is just me.

Imagine small herds of plastic toys stampeding over her.
(Image: © Sailorman | Dreamstime.com)
However, I can't just change the word from wildlife to wildfire and call that sentence fixed.  Nope.  That isn't going to work.  "Spread like wildfire" (unlike spread like wildlife) is one of those pesky clichés writers try to avoid. 

Finding clichés in my writing: One way I identify clichés in my writing is to read a passage aloud.  If the words roll off my tongue - do you see what I did there? - before I actually finish reading the text then I know I'm dealing with a cliché.

Identifying Clichés:

If you want to learn about clichés, check out these websites:
  • ClicheSite.com has a HUGE list of clichés.
  • Cliche Finder is a search engine, where you can type in words or phrases and find a cliché.
  • Cliches: Avoid Them Like the Plague is another alphabetized list of clichés. 
  • How to Avoid Cliches is a great post from Grammar Girl on how to deal with clichés. 
  • Cliche Finder has the same name as another site, but this one allows you to copy and paste your text into the site and it is supposed to highlight the clichés.  I tried this with a few clichés and it didn't work, but I might try it again with a different passage.
  • The Phrase Finder is a helpful site that also lets you know the history and meaning of "sayings, phrases, idioms and expressions." 

And so my editing continues. 

Thankfully, Christina Dodds shared some of her funny mistakes recently, so now I know even bestselling authors find awkward phrases and typos when they edit. ;)

Have you found any funny typos in your own writing?  Do you have a favorite cliché?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Darcy and Elizabeth at Theatre Calgary


I wonder if their Mr. Darcy will be as yummy as Colin Firth...
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is one of those books I enjoy re-reading.  At each stage in my life I find something new in the characters and the situations that I may not have appreciated previously. 

I also like some of the movie adaptations.  The BBC version is my favorite, but then I don't know many Austin fans who don't like Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy.  (Yummy)  I think Jennifer Ehle did a fantastic portrayal of Elizabeth too.

Now, I've just discovered Theatre Calgary is doing a production of Pride and Prejudice in October / November.  Excellent!  Tickets don't go on sale until summer, so I've scheduled reminders in all of my calendars. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Revising with Wordle.net

I've been editing all weekend.  I started with a revision checklist I'd made last year and things were progressing, but I wanted to do some "search and destroy" tasks to kick start the process.  So, I pasted my pages into Wordle.net and voila!  I had a visual representation of the 150 words I've used most often in my manuscript. 


This was my first wordle graphic yesterday.  I prefer to have the graphic in black and white, but there are several other color schemes and fonts.  The bigger words indicate high use.
(I bet you can't guess the names of my hero and heroine.)

With a quick glance at my wordle graphic, I can see the crap words I've used.  My second step is to use Word's "find" tool to search for the weak words and replace them with stronger ones.  It is a slow but rewarding process.  So far, I've addressed: looked, little, know, just, like, house, and hand. 


This is my latest wordle graphic.  You can see I still have some work to do.


Here is a wordle graphic for this blog post! 

Do you any other fun programs to help you when you are revising?