Sunday, October 31, 2010

HALLOWEEN-HYPHEN

Last week, I received my first ever copy edits from my editor at Kensington. The good news? No rewrites, only minor tweaking. Whew! The bad news? I discovered I am hyphen challenged. As in every single time I hyphenated a word, the editor took it out.


Now, I knew I was comma challenged. I use too many of the pesky little suckers or not enough, or I put them in the wrong place. But hyphens I thought I understood. Uh uh. Bonk. Wrong.

So, figuring I can’t be the only one with the problem, I thought I’d set out the rules for how and when to use a hyphen. Er. (growling noise)


Here are seven rules for hyphens taken from an article by Heather Marie Kosur at http://www.suite101.com/:


1. Use a hyphen between certain prefixes and suffixes, i.e., all-inclusive, ex-husband, and president-elect.

2. Use a hyphen in some compound nouns, such as T-shirt and mother-in-law.

3. Use a hyphen to join two or more coequal nouns, i.e. pairs of nouns that are equal in function. For example, actor-director, singer-songwriter.

4. Use a hyphen to join compound noun phrase modifiers that precede a noun especially when (1) adverbs such as better, best or ill modify an adjective, (2) the second word is a present participle or past participle of a verb, and (3) the compound modifier contains a number. For example, ill-equipped mechanic, blue-collar worker, third-floor suite, self-fulfilling prophecy, ballet-hating husband.

5. Use a hyphen to separate words in a phrase that is functioning as a noun phrase modifier that precedes a noun. For example, all-you-can-eat seafood buffet, out-of-this-world experience, over-the-counter medication.

6. Use a hyphen in numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine, or to separate the numerator from the denominator in a fraction, as in one-half and two-thirds.

7. Use a hyphen to avoid confusion. For example, re-sign instead of resign, which have different meanings.


There, clear as mud? You can see why I remain a little confused on the subject.

So, it being Halloween and all, what grammar rules scare you?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Chosen by the Sheikh


My 4th book from Harlequin Presents officially releases on November 1st (though it's in stores now!). Chosen by the Sheikh is actually a Harlequin Presents 2-in-1 featuring stories by me and Kim Lawrence.

My story is called "Kept for the Sheikh's Pleasure." From the back cover: King Zafir bin Rashid al-Khalifa does not care for surprises like the reappearance of his ex, Dr Genie Gray! But now Zafir has the power to demand a willing Genie in his bed…

Zafir is my first sheikh. He’s as gorgeous and ruthless as you would expect a sheikh to be. But he’s also deeply emotional, and he’s been hurt before. When his ex-lover crashes into his life after ten years, he finds that he can’t quite let her go. Not without tasting her one more time.

Dr. Geneva Gray is an archaeologist who once loved a prince of the desert, but who walked away when she realized they could never be together in the way she wanted. Now, she’s been captured and given to Zafir as a gift—and the feelings she once pushed away are demanding to be dealt with before she can leave him a second time.

Naturally, nothing is as simple as either of them hope it will be. This is a reunion story -- and I love reunion stories! When two people have a passionate and emotional past, there's a lot of baggage to work through on the way to that happy end. It's never easy, but I promise it all works out in the end.

I'll be signing copies of Chosen by the Sheikh at Brooke's Book Stop in McCalla tomorrow, starting around 1PM! I hope to see some of you there!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Trial and Error

I'm in trial this week. It isn't nearly as glamorous as books and movies make it out.  There are no late night runs to follow a lead and find the witness that saves the day (because the court requires witnesses to be disclosed well in advance of trial and the trial schedule doesn't permit field trips). There isn't a smoking gun document that materializes at the ninth hour (again - the court requires exhibits to be disclosed well in advance of trial - a trial is more like a game of chess than poker). And there certainly isn't the Perry Mason moment where the witness collapses into a blob of gelatin and admits everything (I'm not saying witnesses lie, but I am saying there may be a few with a loose association with the truth). Being in a generally surly mood, this experience has me focusing on my literary pet peeves about the legal system:

1.  Counselor.  I am going to say this once and for all.  Lawyers do not call each other counselor.  Judges don't call us counselor.  I don't care what you hear Jack McCoy say on Law and Order, cut this word from your courtroom drama.  Everyone is referred to as Mr., Miss, Ms. or Mrs. So and So.  This is at the top of my list of things that will send a book flying toward the wall.  Be warned.

2.  The "Put Yourself in My Client's Shoes" Closing Argument.  I know you've seen the movie A Time To Kill.  That closing argument can be summed up in one word - Mistrial.  Or, if you are more verbose, we can can sum it up in two words - Reversible Error.  A lawyer is prohibited from asking a jury to put itself in the position of his or her client.  Can't do it.  If you write a closing argument with that in there, you will have an army of lawyers coming after you.  Considering that in most cities you can't swing a dead cat without five lawyers running up to you and threatening to sue for the dangerous condition you and your dearly departed feline are creating, avoid this error at all costs because a large portion of your audience will turn purple and start screaming.

3.  The "Rocket Docket."  Let me make this clear.  The wheels of justice move slowly.  Painfully so.  The case that has led to my trial was filed in early 2008.  It is now late 2010.  If your story deals with a civil case, this timing isn't unusual.  A lawyer with whom I am good friends has a simple employment termination case that has been in court for over fourteen years.  People don't walk into a lawyer's office with a claim and wind up in trial a few weeks or months later.  Remember, court clog exists and plagues many dockets.  Criminal cases tend to move a more quickly than civil cases due to the Constitutional promise of a fair and speedy trial, but do your research.  The more serious the crime, chances are, the time it will take to go to trial will be longer.  If you want your legal drama to be realistic, don't have a case going to trial within a month of a client walking in the door.

I will get off my soap box now and return to writing my closing argument which should have people weeping (considering my case focuses on the titillating topic of overtime payments, I am expecting stock in tissues to sky rocket).  As a self-absorbed attorney whose favorite subject is herself, I love reading stories that deal with the legal system.  It makes me feel more important.  A great character or story will excuse a few boo-boos, but if you plan on writing a courtroom drama, go watch a trial or two.  You can call your local court and find out the trial schedule.  Show up with a notepad in hand.  While the lawyers may seem like the best sources of information, you will get the best scoop from talking to the deputies, marshals, court reporters, and clerks.  They will have the best tidbits that will make your book shine.  Just today, one of the marshals told me about a juror coming back to the courthouse because he left his pants.  Now, that's a story!   

Monday, October 25, 2010

Overheard

One day, in an acceptance speech for some grand writing prize, I will express my gratitude to the many writing advisers who have licensed me to eavesdrop in the name of dialogue research.

Mid-morning in a coffee shop, two baristas and a customer discuss airport security hassles.

“Yeah, you can fly with a gun. You just have to pack it in a special case.”

Good to know.

Saturday afternoon at the airport, a man explains to a woman:

“You done a lot of time in school, but you ain’t learned all you need to know. What I’m saying is, there’s more than you know what you don’t know.”

Not that I could use this carefully recorded conversation verbatim, but there might be a place for a minor character whose way with words leaves the protagonist no more enlightened than she was before.

Friday morning before work, two guys in shirts and ties in a breakfast café reveal their plans:

“My wife’s going on a women’s retreat with the church.”

“All three kids all weekend? You’ll be exhausted.”

“They said I have to feed them, too.”

Unguarded conversation is a valuable aid to understanding the male perspective.

Sunday afternoon at the pet store check-out, a grandmother calls to her excited and bouncy elementary-age granddaughter:

“Get back here and carry your own damn hamster.”

Reality demonstrates how easy it is to create a villain.

At a public boat launch, three men wrestle a boat onto a trailer:

[Crash.]

“Whoa, Nelly!”

[Thud.]

Proving that not everyone uses expletives, even when landing on his. . .patootie.

When the characters in my head begin to sound alike, I go out for a listen. I call it a writing exercise--sometimes enlightening, sometimes alarming, and always worth a note or two. Also, a lot of fun.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Readerly Life

I went to a book club meeting last night. It was actually the first book club that I've ever been to, which is kind of strange, considering that I've spent pretty much my entire life reading, studying, and thinking about books.

A book club, it turns out, isn't that different than any of the college classes I've sat through. Everyone sits around trying to say just enough to look intelligent without saying so much that they look (gasp!) too intellectual. They talk about other books they've read--usually ones that are listed under the "Literature" section at the big box bookstores. Rarely things published in mass market sized paperbacks. Never, never romance.

It's okay to have a happy ending, but only if it's in a somewhat serious book. Otherwise, Nicholas Sparks is about as close as one should come to admitting that they read anything as low-brow as a bodice ripper. At least his books usually balance out the love story with an appropriate tragedy, because we all know that tragedy is serious writing.

I can understand that. For a while I was thankful for the self-checkout stations at the local library. No one needed to see that the piles of books I'd check out were all covered with couples in amorous embraces. My husband asked once, "Aren't you embarrassed to be seen reading those?"

And in truth, I was.

I came to romance novels fairly late in life. I pretty much refused to even consider them when I was younger, and then I majored in English and only wanted to read Important Literature. And then. . . I just got tired of all the "isn't it pretty to think so" endings. I read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander and was hooked.

I haven't looked back.

Or, if I have looked back, it's only because I can see now that while Toni Morrison and William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf may have taught me to love literature, Nora Roberts and Julia Quinn and Eloisa James and Karen Marie Moning and about a hundred others taught me to love reading again.

Who taught you?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

An Ending, a Beginning and NaNoWriMo

Earlier this week I typed my two favorite words: The End.

It was better than wild monkey sex with chocolate sauce. After many tears of frustration, many hours of hard work , the third revision of my completed manuscript was done. This time around I kept writing guru Donald Maass’ words in mind, “Revision is an opportunity to re-imagine your story.”

So that’s what I did. Yes, I looked for the easy fixes like grammar and word choices, yes I deleted entire sentences and paragraphs. But more than that I took a hard look at my characters and settings, each scene and thought about how could I make them more. More dimensional, more interesting, more functional to the story.

The basics were down and having the skeleton (the draft) really helped. I knew who the characters were, what the inciting incident was, what the central issue was and how the book ended. But now I explored what exactly I wanted from each scene. What emotions did I want to evoke in the reader. I started with the biggies: the beginning, the hero-heroine meet, the climax, the conclusion. I compared what I had on paper with what I had in my head. Took notes and worked to make the two merge.

Now, I have a longer, richer story. Thirty-two chapters and 86,700 words that I’m truly satisfied with. It’s not a story that’s going to change the world or win a Pulitzer, but it’s a good story. It’s the story that had been haunting me, it’s a story I can be proud of. Until now, I’d start on another project, but then get sucked back in by this completed manuscript. I fussed around, unsatisfied, fixing a sentence here and there, knowing it didn’t work, but not having the courage to take a closer look, go for true change. But this time, I’m happy. It’s done. I’m done with it.

I’ve already started a new notebook for my next project. Here I’m jotting down all kinds of ideas that come to me regarding the story, the characters, and the plot. I’ve closed my eyes and visualized the MC and the setting, done some rough drawings, added color. I’ve worked out a rough synopsis. The back cover blurb is written. As is the three sentence pitch and the elevator pitch. With my other story, I did all this after the story was written, but I decided to try and add a little bit of order this time around. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a pantser, but now I’ve some bones to work with, a sense of direction.

I’m gearing up for November. Notebook in hand I’m going to participate in NaNoWriMo and launch into my new WIP. Any of you NaNoing this year? Do you do a lot of prep work or start cold turkey? Any tips for having a good NaNo experience? Any and all help will be appreciated!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gray Can Be A Calming Color

Have you ever been in a two car crash or seen one happen? How much of the events leading up to it and the wreck itself do you remember? Even years later? Would the other person’s memories be different?

A few years ago, I wrote history tidbits for my chapter’s newsletter. It was a lot of fun and gave me a great excuse to buy all of the history books I wanted. At the time, Barnes and Noble even sent me the paperwork to fill out for a professor’s discount. That tickled me.

Anyway, during that period I received several responses from different readers – our chapter’s articles are sent out on an editors’ loop for other newsletters to use with credit given to the author – and several were good but there were a few who had objections to what I’d written.

One writer, who's a Native American in the mid-west, commented on my article about Plains Indians. She corrected me on family relationships in the tribes. Though she admitted customs varied from tribe to tribe.

Then a nice lady in Georgia caught me on a wrong word choice. I had said wife sales in England were legal up to 1850. She said they were never legal and there were recorded sales until 1919. How embarrassing. For me and the wives.

The biggy was a long email I receive from an enthusiast in the U.K. who said I was totally wrong about the death of a man-at-arms (long story). Anyway, she wasn’t an expert but her father loved history and knew I was wrong. I found her interesting and asked her a few questions and explained I had gotten the information out of a certain history book. She became upset with me and said no matter where I got it, I was wrong and I should correct it. Then I proceeded to explain even her father would know the contemporaries of that time would all have different opinions accordingly to their loyalties and how they heard it. Not everyone wrote back then and much of history was repeated from one person to another before someone wrote it down. Needless to say, she was not too happy with me. To her, history is black and white with no gray. Me? I believe history is all gray. Ten people can see the same thing happen and there will be ten different accounts with usually only one main string wiggling through it.

When it comes to reading historical romances I rarely pay attention to the historical accuracies as long as nuances of the period are there and the author can keep the picture rolling in my head, I’m okay.

So I would like to say to those out there who believe history is written in stone. Go read a rock. I prefer historical romance for entertainment and I don’t mind a little gray in it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Romance Magician Christine Glover

I'm a writer of sassy contemporary romances with emotional edge. I enjoy finding the silly in the serious. I like to give my characters unique ways to find each other and discover home. When I'm not writing, I'm usually exploring my world with my family and friends. You can learn all about my adventures at http://verandaview.blogspot.com.


Christine Glover
follow me! http://twitter.com/cjglover63
http://verandaview.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 15, 2010

Big Boy Rules

I’m reading BIG BOY RULES by Steve Fainaru, and it’s changing everything. In a good way. First of all, it’s a compelling read about private security contractors in Iraq, and the fact that unlike the military, the only rules they’re subject to are big boy rules (i.e. you’re a big boy now, you know right from wrong). It’s pretty scary, actually. And incredibly fascinating.

I’ve read several books about PSCs, and so far this is the most engaging. It sucked me right in because the author is embedded with these guys and the story itself is very personal. I’m having a hard time putting it down to work on my own book.

But there’s another reason it’s affecting my WIP. My hero—along with many of the secondary characters—is a mercenary just like those in Fainaru’s book, and the author is giving me such great insight into what makes them tick. Until now I was struggling to understand my hero, but I’m starting to see how he can be both Charmer and Warrior.

The only bad part is that I have some serious reworking to do in part one of my book, which I just finished this week. Part one, that is, not the book. In fact, since I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this year for the first time (last year I was in edit mode), I might try rewriting part one instead of revising it. Now that I’m getting a better handle on the character, I think I’ll have better results that way. It’ll keep me from trying to hold on to pretty words that should really get the axe.

That's my own big boy rule.

Has your research ever forced you to rethink your work or start over?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Silence of the Man

A real hero speaks less and acts more. True. But in our stories, our heroes have to talk a bit more than our dudes in real life. And that adds a layer of complication to writing if one is a female. Let's face it, I'm not a boy. I don't think like a boy or a man. I don't speak in one word sentences (okay, my darling husband would love it if that were true!). Yet, my heroes must say more than, "Honey, where's my last pair of clean underwear?" Or better yet, "Huh? Grunt? Pass the beer nuts. Cowboys are playing. Pass the beer."

My dudes have to be sensitive and strong. Alpha and beta rolled into one amazing, finely chiseled man who is ultra cool and looks great in jeans, tuxes, nothing at all.

As Austin Powers would say, "Yeah baby."

But this is fiction so I get to play a bit with my heroes. I can layer a bit of internal dialogue into their interactions with my heroines. So even if they aren't talking to my heroines, the reader knows that the guy really does like, want, care, have an "oh man, I am in love and now I am freaked" feeling for my heroine.

Hard to finesse. Hard to write. I usually have to run my "guy speak" through a male filter (which ironically is a female writer who knows how to write "guy speak"). I also like to sit around and listen to the dudes in the real world talk. Where can I hear what they have to say? Well, hang around a bunch of retired military men and you'll get some good intel on "guy speak." Or spend an hour at any male dominated event like a football game, a hockey game.

Go to a bar. Don't go alone. But go and sit and listen. I once spent an hour every Monday at the local Holiday Inn Express bar writing and listening. The bartenders knew me and left me alone. I was relatively safe cause the local regulars knew I was married and had shown up there with my darling husband on occasion. Why? Well, it was close to my darling daughter's dance studio. I'd rather sit in a bar filled with business travelers and grizzled construction workers than at a dance studio with a bunch of moms discussing their daughters' varying dance talents.

But that's just me. Plus, I got to drink a glass of wine. All good. And all in the name of "research."

Where do you go to understand "guy speak?" Books? Bars? Games? Did you have lots of brothers? A great father image? Are your real life heroes alpha or beta or a combo of both? And how do you limit the guy's talk without limiting the romance sizzle?

Monday, October 11, 2010

What's your true identity?

We've talked about this before, but something happened to me last week that made me want to talk about it again.

For the unpublished writers: Do you tell people you're a writer? And for the published writers: Do you tell people you write romance?

As many of you know, I work on the copy desk of a large regional magazine. Last week, I was working with one of our writers on a rather challenging story--the writing was exquisite, but the editor kept changing his mind about the concept. As we expressed our frustration about various things, she whispered to me "You know what has really helped me? I've started writing a novel..." (I was thrilled to hear this because she should. She's a brilliant writer.) Words spewed from my mouth: "Oh that's fantastic! What's it about? What publisher are you targeting? How far along are you? I'm going to send you some great agent blogs that contain a wealth of information. And here's my list of 'dream agents.' You know, you really have to be careful because there are so many scams..."

And then I saw the look on her face, a look that clearly said "What in the world are you talking about and how did you know all this stuff?" I got quiet and said "I've written a book too. Well, actually I've written six. I write romantic fiction. Nothing's been published, but I do have a manuscript with an editor at Avalon right now..."

The biggest smile broke out across her face. "JoAnn, that's WONDERFUL! I had no idea!" and we launched into a discussion of characters and writing habits and scenes and publishers and agents and all those other topics writers love to talk about.

The next day, on my desk, I found a card and little silk bag containing three tiny silver hearts. The card said "JoAnn, just remember your true identity is romance novelist. The copy desk is just your cover!"

What's something special someone's done for you that affirmed your true identity?

Saturday, October 09, 2010

WORDPLAY

"Easy reading is damn hard writing." Nathaniel Hawthorne

This past week, a friend read a sentence to me that they had written. It sounded very important, but, honestly, I didn't have a clue what it meant. I was unfamiliar with the words chosen; so, I completely missed the point that my friend wanted to make.

Why? Because each word matters. The words chosen by my friend, while they sounded important, meant nothing to me as a reader. Only after I stopped reading and looked up the words would I understand what the writer meant. As a storyteller, I don't want the reader to stop for any reason, let alone to look up a word I've written. Likewise, I don't want my reader to reread a sentence several times before they undedrstand it.

Obviously, revisions are crucial. But, are you conscious of your word choices as you write?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Author as Bartender or How NOT to Mix a Wall-Banger

A writer must be many things in the writing of a book – storyteller, psychoanalyst, matchmaker, scholar, treasure hunter, tour guide – you get the picture. It is only recently that I have come to think that sometimes in this business a writer has to be a really savvy bartender.

Drinks tend to come in trends. For a while “sex on the beach” was THE “in” drink. Then daiquiris of every flavor became all the rage. Next came margaritas in every size, color and flavor under the sun. A good bartender anticipates these trends and introduces their patrons to the drinks they think will suit them. A really great bartender comes up with a new and different drink before the patrons even know that is exactly what they wanted.

The publishing world is much the same. Trends and genres wax and wane. I still say if someone can come up with an Amish vampire YA model who runs a detective agency they have got it made! So as a writer each of us has a choice. We can read up on the latest trends and try to jump on the band wagon or we can march to the beat of our own drummer and have to walk the whole route to publication. Wear comfortable shoes. And be prepared to step in some potholes, get rained on and to have to find a spot to rest every now and again.

But here is a way we might be able to help each other along that long and dusty dirt road. We’ve probably all read books that we literally or figuratively wanted to throw against the wall – hence the title WALL- BANGER. My question for you is – WHAT MAKES A BOOK A WALL-BANGER FOR YOU?

Some writers believe that women read a romance because we want to be the heroine. We want her to be just like us, but with better hair, nice clothes and a hotter guy chasing after us. Some believe we read them because we want to live a life completely different from our own. We don’t want to read about ourselves. We want to read about the wild and crazy woman we would be if things like jobs, husbands, and kids didn’t get in the way. Do we want to read about the nice, sweet girl next door or do we want to read about her best friend who is always in trouble and having a ball?

For me, a romance that ends with either the hero or heroine dying is definitely a wall-banger. I don’t mind an unlikable hero or heroine IF they have some redeeming quality and grow into a likable person by the end of the book. A much touted historical romance not long ago presented me with a hero and heroine I couldn’t stand. I kept reading and hoping and while neither of them became people I would want to invite to a dinner party, by the end of the book I was screaming at the hero that he could do better! Not good!

So dish, ladies! What is a deal breaker in a romance novel in your eyes? What makes you want to walk all the way back to Walmart and demand your money back? What makes you want to call the author in the night and say “What were you thinking?” What is your standard for a great romance? And what is the thing that will have you dropping that sucker in a Salvation Army box faster than Aunt Ethel’s annual fruitcake?
And just out of idle curiosity, does anyone have strong objections to a Regency heroine who has large snakes as pets? Just asking.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Linda Howard Award of Excellence

The deadline to enter the Linda Howard Award of Excellence is just days away. October 11th to be exact. We still need more Single Title, Unique Genres (Paranormal & Sci-Fi), Young Adult and Historicals. Of course, we have room for more Romantic Suspense and Contemporary Series.

Tell your friends. Blog it. Tweet it. Face it...huh? You get the idea.

Click here to go to the website.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Addicted

I have finally acknowledged I am addicted to the internet. I am not a complete luddite.

I know Carla will find that hard to believe, but it is true. Without knowing how, or when, I have become a slave to the information highway. Is the first step in becoming a techno goddess? I didn't embrace this path easily, but the fact became undeniable this morning. I woke, raced to my desk to boot up my laptop before getting my first eye-opening jolt of caffeine. It was Saturday morning!

What makes Saturday morning special? Well, it's the same situation on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday mornings--the prospect of becoming an instant millionaire! That's right, I am addicted to the lottery results. Quit your snickering. Someone has to win and I believe it will be me. Who cares about the odds?

Along this path to total dependence, several things have happened. First, I became addicted to the online news. It didn't take me long to realize the information found there ended up in my newspaper the following day. Now I feel on top of things as they happen. I am just as impatient as the rest of the world so it is no wonder that I would feel superior to my newspaper reading friends. I heard it all sooner. Where else could I find out that David Kelley is bringing Wonder Woman back to TV, our government was involved in clandestine experiments in Guatemala and DWTS's judge, Bruno Tonlioni, wore revealing tights, leaving nothing to the imagination, in a 1980's music video? And, all of this life changing information was made known to me before 5 a.m.!

The best side benefit of my addiction is I find myself writing more. I am determined not to become one of those people addicted to the internet, to the exclusion of everything else. So, I really need to make time each day to sit down and write to prove I am not under its spell. Then, it's only natural I would reward my writing endeavors with a quick check of current events when I'm finished. Who knows? Maybe Face Book, Twitter and social networking are next on my horizon.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Moonlight and Magnolia

I am attending my first conference at Moonlight and Magnolia.

Here is what I have learned so far:

  • Everyone stays up late. (Not for the early to bed people)
  • No matter how comfortable the shoe, your feet still hurt.
  • Pitching can cause you to vapor-lock, but if you smile and keep going..it will work out.
  • You can always learn something.
  • Drink water (easy to forget)
  • Eat well (three squares for some of us...for others just eat something!)
  • Take a rest if you can. --(Like I am now, writing this blog)
  • Smile, smile, smile and say hi to everyone (I'd rather retreat, but I'm working on this)

So for all you veteran souls of conferences large and small, what is your best advice and what have you learned?