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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Savvy Saturday: Writing Tips with Ron Voigts

Writing Tips: Some Rewrite Advice

So you’re done. Whew! You’ve finished writing the novel, the one you’ve been thinking about and talking about for years. Job well done! Now you can move on.

Not yet. Now the real work begins. This is the moment that defines writers and their work. You are now ready to begin the rewrite.

Suddenly your hands become shaky. Heart beats faster. Palms become sweaty. But you shake it off and plod ahead. To help you polish your dream, let me toss out a few tips.

Continuity

In the real world we have expectations how things happen and function unless we’re living in the “matrix” or some alternate universe. We anticipate continuity in our real life experiences and would not expect anything less in fiction. Reread for the continuity.

  • Time Continuity—things take place in real time. Assign dates and times to scenes. I usually add a first line in parenthesis and take out later. Review for conflicts and impossibilities. In my recent rewrite, two characters on a road trip could not arrive in time to meet up with the protagonist. I modified the scene to allow them to drive overnight rather than stay in a motel.
  • Character Continuity—a character has history, personality, appearance, and likes/dislikes. They better well be the same in chapter one and chapter twenty. The pretty girl’s brown eyes better not be blue later. The two year med student becoming squeamish at the sight of blood will raise an eyebrow, unless you’re prepared to introduce some conflict or problem in his life.
  • Plot continuity—plot needs to hold together from start to finish. Gaping holes are not permitted. Flaws will totally unnerve the reader. A dead grandmother in chapter one, making tea in chapter twelve will not do. The hero uses a hidden derringer strapped to his ankle better have been foreshadowed earlier.
  • Location continuity—draw maps of locales and plans for buildings and rooms. Messing up a location can be disconcerting. If the bad guys hide out is north of town, the hero should not be heading south on Hwy 57 to get to them. The Piggly Wiggly down the block cannot turn into a Winn Dixie the next day.
  • Object Continuity—changing the littles things can disrupt the reader’s experience. The hero driving a yellow Camaro in Chapter Two should not be cruising in a red Ferrari in Chapter Six. Grandma’s antique broach cannot magically become a vintage ring later on.
POV mistakes

The point-of-view character can see, feel, smell, hear, think and touch their environment. He or she cannot know what someone else is thinking. So when in Molly’s POV, she observes her boyfriend is angry, unless she is a mind reader, she cannot know that. She must have seen or heard something. He kicked the door, cussed, and shouted at her. The more obvious POV error is head hopping. Not recommended.

Scenes

Are the scenes well crafted? Do they move the plot along? If the scene lacks conflict and tension, it probably won’t hold a reader’s attention. Readers get bored when nothing is happening and page ahead or worse—put the book down. Also, a missing scene leaves things open and unexplained.

Ten More Things to Check

1. Show don’t tell. (This one gets beaten to death but still is important.)
2. Use active voice, not passive.
3. Use strong verbs.
4. Limit “-ing” words.
5. Eliminate excessive “-ly” words.
6. Replace overused words. (Examples: saw, heard, thought, little, looked, that, really, then, as, if, and so on.)
7. Use “said” and “asked” rather than fancier words. Eliminate if possible.
8. Avoid clichés. Find original ideas, metaphors, and similes.
9. Avoid word echoes. (Words repeated in short amount of time.)
10. Provide details instead of generalities.

Listen to Your Story

Finally, listen to your story. Word and Adobe have built in functions that read aloud the words. Some places offer free software for text to speech. Granted the voices are flat and tinny, but hearing your story makes it so much easier to find typos, wording issues, and sentence flow. If you have a friend who can read well that can work too. Just be cautious! The human brain is good at filling in missing words and making corrections on the fly. Someone reading your work may be editing it for you!

The most important tip on rewrites. Have fun! It’s not just the destination. It’s the journey.

About Ron
Ron D. Voigts, originally from the Midwest, now living in North Carolina since 1993, pens murder mysteries with a dark flair. He has authored eight books, including four in a middle-grade series. His latest mysteries, The Witch’s Daughter and The Fortune Teller’s Secret, lean toward the supernatural. Ideas for his stories comes from the rural areas where he has lived, places he has visited, his love of the paranormal, and an overactive imagination. When not plunking out a novel at the keyboard, he spends his time sharpening his culinary skills, watching gritty movies, and eating cookies with chocolate chips.

Check out Ron's website.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Excerpt from Summer Star

Summer Star
By DJ Davis
Romantic Suspense
$15.95
Champagne Books: https://goo.gl/fVvrfi
Lulu: https://goo.gl/ighG4o

A psychic with an attitude, a ghost from the old west, and lost Civil War gold. What could possibly go wrong? Just about everything.

Excerpt:

Sunrise came and, Holy Moses on a moped, it was one to write home about. Orange clouds sent deep purple shadows drifting across the snowcapped peaks. Troy followed the irresistible pull in his head through aspen trees boasting new spring green. A rock, dead center in a small clearing, drew him from the trail like a magnet. The tingling in his fingertips spread to his palms and grew into an itch. He dropped to his knees in the mud and melting snow. The gravestone was so eroded he could barely make it out. Emma Anders, September 18, 1865.

A familiar ache pulsed behind his left eye. “You’re going to be a real bitch about this, aren’t you, Emma?” No answer. He didn’t expect one, but who knew? Stranger things had happened in the mysterious void between the past and the present. The space his joker friend Eric called “The Troy Hart Zone”, and Troy called a pain in the ass.

He tented his fingers on the weathered chunk of granite and the vision flooded his senses.

Lightning, so close the ozone prickled the hairs in his nose. Thunder rolled off the mountain and echoed back. Icy rain hammered the oilskin duster and sluiced off the wide brimmed hat. Cold mud soaked his woolen pants and seeped through his broken-down boots.

He longed for the heat of his pistols but this part had to come first. First the shovel, then the guns. First Emma, then his brothers.

The pine box, mired in a puddle six feet down, gleamed bone white in the storm-light. Emma deserved better than a few rough-sawn boards and a rock he’d carve himself. The evening sky lacked the sunset colors she loved. There was only rain and churning clouds. He tossed a handful of wildflowers into her grave and took up the shovel. Dirt and stones covered the coffin with the dull thuds of ‘til death do us part.

A bearded, grizzled face swam out of the rain. Hate and grief burned in the man’s eyes. Troy yanked his hand from the stone. The vision dissipated, but slower than it should have. A voice thundered inside his head. “Find me!”

Troy kicked away from the grave. That was one hell of a vision, but that’s all it was. He’d had thousands of them and an occasional twist was nothing new. He pointed at the headstone. “I do not take orders from a dead dude with an attitude.”

He made it three steps toward the trail before pain burst like fireworks in the left side of his skull. He crumpled to his knees and elbows, crying out as a dead man clawed into his mind.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Excerpt from Smile and Walk Away

Smile and Walk Away
Shatter, Book 1
By Danielle Riedel
Suspense/Thriller
$3.99
Amazon: https://goo.gl/M1QVXH
Kobo: https://goo.gl/9gkeUe
Champagne Books: https://goo.gl/pJyfvd

Detective Duran thinks he’s searching for a missing woman. Little does he know he’s actually pursuing the last remaining evidence of a CIA cover up.

Excerpt:

January 1981

The agent sat in a comfortable chair facing a blank screen. He wore a cuff around his upper right arm and had plastic clips over the tips of his right index and ring fingers. Rubber tubes were wrapped around his chest and abdomen. His head was shaved, and his scalp was covered in small white sensors. Wires from everything attached to his body were connected to a tabletop machine.

The doctor situated himself behind the machine with a pencil, a notepad, and a cup of coffee. A third man stood off to the side next to a projector. The agent in the chair couldn’t see either of them. Plastic panels extended eight inches out from each of his temples so that he could only see what was right in front of him.

“If you’re ready, Agent Majors, we’re going to show you a series of images.”

“Ready when you are, doctor.”

“Excellent,” said the doctor. He nodded to the man at the projector. An image came up on the screen of a child on a swing set. “I’m using the same electroencephalograph as the last time you were here,” he continued. “If the results today match your baseline electroencephalogram, within a small range of course, we can move on to the next phase of testing.” The doctor fixed his eyes on the monitor screen in front of him. The image on the projector screen changed to one of a dog urinating on a tree.

The agent relaxed as he looked at pictures of dolphins swimming beside a fishing boat, butterflies flying over a meadow, and a puppy catching a Frisbee. Two minutes passed, and those images became interspersed with ones of car crashes, open-heart surgeries, and amputees. Each photograph lingered on the projector screen for about three or four seconds. The doctor remained focused on the screen of the electroencephalograph.

Agent Majors saw three seconds of a nude woman on horseback, then four seconds of a man attempting to crawl out of the wreckage of his home after an earthquake. He saw four seconds of a new mother nursing her baby, then three seconds of a lion tearing apart a dead gazelle. The man at the projector was silent as he performed his simple task, and the doctor periodically glanced away from the screen to make a note or to sip his coffee.

The images became more graphic, ranging from sexual to grotesque. Pleasant and relaxing pictures would show up in between, but the contrast became more dramatic. The doctor continued his notes and observations. He picked up his coffee mug as the image changed from two women caressing each other’s breasts to a child sobbing as a man prepared to strike him. The coffee mug shattered in the doctor’s hand before it reached his lips. He cursed, but gestured for the man at the projector to continue. With the tail of his lab coat, he managed to stop the coffee spill from reaching the machine.

“Everything okay, doctor?” Agent Majors asked.

“I just spilled my coffee; it’s fine. Focus, please.” The doctor sat down, ignoring the small brown puddle and mug shards at his feet. It was a cheap mug.

The agent focused as he was told. The doctor wrote notes without looking at his paper, determined not to take his eyes away from the monitor.

An image came up of three kittens nestled together in a basket. The doctor signaled to the man at the projector that he should pause on this. He signaled again for him to proceed, but only after almost ten seconds had passed. Next, a picture appeared of those same three kittens screaming in agony as two adolescent boys set them on fire.

The doctor made no move to write anything. Then his pencil snapped in half with a distinct, high-pitched crack. The doctor laid down his notepad and the two halves of his pencil with shaking hands. His eyes widened as he looked from his monitor to the now kaleidoscopic image on the agent’s screen.

“Stop the test.”

The lens of the projector had shattered.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Excerpt from Love on Longboat Key

Love on Longboat Key
Keys to His Heart, Book 1
By Meg West
Contemporary Romance
$2.99
Amazon: https://goo.gl/KFZMqb
Kobo: https://goo.gl/VJSceh
Champagne Books: https://goo.gl/wJJ3UT

Over Christmas break a sweet, but shy, copywriter is forced to fight off her aggressive boss to win the heart of his son.

Excerpt

Julie stretched out her long pale legs and flexed her even paler bare toes. She could hardly believe her good luck. Just yesterday she’d been bundled in a down coat and fur-lined boots, yet now she wore white cargo pants, a thin cotton T-shirt, and red rubber flip-flops. Basking in the warmth of the Florida sun took some of the sting off spending the holidays with her quarrelsome mother and father.

Sitting under the Bodhi fig tree on the outermost edge of the park was her favorite thing to do. Years ago, the Bodhi tree had been toppled in a hurricane, but thanks to conservation efforts, it had been replanted, taken root again, and thrived. Julie loved the idea of sitting beneath a tree that had overcome the odds. She thought of this bench under the Bodhi as her personal refuge, the spot where she always found all the peace and quiet she craved.

Until today.

The longer Julie sat there in delicious silence, the more she became aware of a voice. A male voice. A louder-than-necessary voice. She turned and glared at the tall, sandy-haired guy crunching down the shell-lined path. He was so busy half-shouting on his cell phone he didn’t even give her a glance as he walked to the edge of the railing that hemmed the water.

For all Julie knew he was yet another self-absorbed thirty-something guy, the kind she often saw in the hallways at work, who gathered his sense of self-importance from how tightly he was tethered to his iPhone. He sure was dressed the part of an insurance executive on casual Friday, in a crisp blue Oxford shirt, khaki pants, and leather deck shoes. He only lacked the socks. And he was taller than normal. In the halls of Pilgrim Mutual, his head probably would have grazed the tiles of the low ceiling.

In any case, he was disturbing the peace. Julie felt annoyance surge within her until she heard him say, “No, Mom, I don’t think that’s what Dad meant...it doesn’t matter, so give it a rest...come on, it’s Christmas, I’m here for all of a week, is it too much to ask for you to just get along with each other?”

His conversation came to an abrupt end. He pressed his thumb down on the phone and cussed the F-word under his breath. When he turned back, his forehead wrinkled and his jaw clenched, Julie recognized all too well his look of frustration, since whenever she had to deal with her mom and dad, she felt her own face tighten in exactly the same way.

He let out an exasperated breath when he saw her. “Sorry.”

“For what?” she said.

“Swearing. Arguing. And otherwise interrupting your Zen.” He gazed over his shoulder at the calm water of the bay. “I’ve been here less than twenty-four hours and already my parents are driving me crazy.”

“Join the club,” Julie said.

“You here for the holidays, too?”

Julie nodded. “It’s like being a teenager all over again.”

“Exactly. Only they’re the ones who crack up the car and need to be grounded for misbehaving.” He looked down the shell-lined path. “Are your parents here with you?”

“No, they’re home arguing about graham crackers.”

“Graham crackers?”

“Don’t ask and I won’t tell.”

“Fair enough.” He smiled. “Mind if I sit for a sec?”

Julie scooted over on the bench. Ordinarily she wasn’t drawn to guys who looked like they could have been college basketball players. And she wasn’t overly fond of the preppy look, but there was something endearing about the rolled sleeves on his pressed Oxford shirt, his creased khaki pants, and his boat shoes. He needed only to put on a navy blazer, a striped tie, and a pair of socks to look like an overgrown schoolboy.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Release Day Part 2!


Love on Longboat Key
Keys to His Heart, Book 1
By Meg West
Contemporary Romance
$2.99
Kobo: https://goo.gl/VJSceh
Champagne Books: https://goo.gl/wJJ3UT

Julie Joseph dreads spending Christmas in Florida with her cranky elderly parents. Yet that changes when she arrives at Sun Tower and meets the eligible bachelor whose equally quarrelsome parents have just moved into the penthouse.

Thomas Briggs IV is hardly the type Julie has dated in the past: he's tall, handsome, and out-of-this-world wealthy. He's also the son of the CEO of Pilgrim Mutual Insurance, where Julie works as a copywriter.

She has just a few days to date Thomas before they both have to return to the ice and snow blanketing the Northeast. There's one big problem: Julie's rival for Thomas's affection happens to be her gorgeous, but mean-spirited, CEO boss at Pilgrim Mutual.

Can Julie overcome the odds to win Thomas's heart?

Love on Longboat Key is a sweet holiday tale about finding romance on the beach.

Smile and Walk Away
Shatter, Book 1
By Danielle Riedel
Suspense/Thriller
$3.99
Kobo: https://goo.gl/9gkeUe
Champagne Books: https://goo.gl/pJyfvd

The police are looking for Velma Bloom, a young woman who has gone missing. All that’s left of her is her car parked in front of a house containing two dead Russian men.

Velma is a twenty-five year old woman who loves her life of booze, sex, and cigarettes. But this sassy, over-educated waitress has a secret—a strange ability she’s never been able to understand. Answers come unexpectedly and from an unexpected source. Armed with her new knowledge, she sees her way to forging a new future. She only has one obstacle—making sure she stays alive.

Now she has vanished, and rookie detective Jackson Duran is trying to find her. She hasn’t left many traces, and everything Duran discovers about her only complicates his search. What he does learn leads him to some sinister truths he never thought he’d know, and would rather not know.

Now in Print

Summer Star
By DJ Davis
Romantic Suspense
$15.95
Champagne Books: https://goo.gl/fVvrfi
Lulu: https://goo.gl/ighG4o

Loner and history buff Troy Hart’s visions of the old west are all fun and games until he gets more than he bargained for when his psychic connection to the past leads him to the mountains of Colorado. The legend of buried treasure is nothing new, but falling in love is—and that’s the last thing Troy wants.

When the ghost of an outlaw forces Troy to fulfill his dying wish, to save his own life, and the life of the woman he loves, Troy must follow a trail of greed, betrayal and revenge on a treasure hunt for lost Civil War gold.

Now the fun is over and the game is survival as Troy battles the elements, a dead man and his own heart deep in the remote high country.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Imagine by Jenna Greene Review from Bookish Coffee Blog


Imagine.jpg
Title: Imagine
Author: Jenna Greene
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
I was sent a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
This is a spoiler free review 🙂
 https://bookishcoffeeblog.wordpress.com/
Summary
One day, Kat Bowers and Becky Thatcher are taken from the home they have known their whole life and thrown into a new place full of strange creatures and large castles. There they meet Enalie, who claims the existence of magic and sends Kat and Becky on a quest to defeat the evil that is overtaking the realm, called Nandor. She tells them that to do this, they must find two other people with magical powers, like Kat, called the Elementals. They must also find the Unifier. Throughout their journey, they travel to places they only read about in books to fulfill their destiny and save the lives of many.

Review
“With imagination, anything is possible.” 
Ok, the first thing I want to say about this novel is the incredible story telling. There is so much thought put into the description of the world, characters, and events and this allows the reader to become immersed into the story. I was always able to develop a full image of what is occurring and what the setting looked like because of the author’s descriptions. The world is also very complicated in the best way possible because there was a lot of attention to the detail of all aspects of the story. The events that occur never come out of nowhere and they always make sense for the plot and characters. An example of the ability of the story to pull me in: I was reading one evening and looked outside my window and was shocked to find that it was not raining, like it was in the book.
One of my favorite things about this story is the relationship between Kat and Becky. They are both taken from the world they know and thrown into a confusing place. This leads them to develop an organic relationship that helps both of them throughout their journey. None of the relationships in the novel felt forced, which I appreciated. The characters are also incredibly relatable, especially Becky with her love of books!
“She twisted and turned, wishing for a book in her hand. Stories were her passion as well as her security blanket. There was nothing she wanted more than to hold one right now.”
This novel also deals with death and the first time experiencing it. The characters are facing many dangerous creatures and when people lose their lives, it is shocking and new for them. They notice the emotions they feel towards a person they see die, even though they did not know that person. Later in the story, Kat and Becky experience death on a more personal level and must learn to deal with this. I think this is really important, especially for the younger readers who may be experiencing these things for the first time as well.
An incredibly important aspect of this novel is imagination. This was also my favorite aspect of the novel. Becky comes from a life spent in fantasy. She spent most of her time at home reading books and imagining different worlds. This seemingly mundane aspect of Becky’s personality becomes incredibly important for the success of their journey. I don’t want to explain any more on this topic, for fear of spoilers, but this is such an important part of the story.
“She did feel slightly comforted. Imagination had that power sometimes.”
I highly recommend this book if you are looking for an escape from the real world. It definitely gave me a classic fairytale vibe. It made me laugh, it made me nervous, and it made me sad. I thoroughly enjoyed this fantasy story and I am looking forward to reading the sequel, Reality.

Savvy Saturday: Brantwijn Serrah with Show vs. Tell

If you're a writer, it's a fair bet you've heard this one:

"Show, don't tell."

For many writers, this proves to be a bit of a challenging lesson. For others, it comes fairly naturally. What many don't realize, however, is that whether or not you intend to do it, you are always showing something.

For me, one of the tricks to showing vs. telling comes with dialogue. It's easier to think of body language when we think about people actually communicating. Before I describe any action or statement with an adverb -- "He said angrily" -- I consider what sort of body language will communicate anger instead:
"He said with a scowl"
"He clenched his jaw"
"He shook his fist"
And etc.

While it's easy to remember body language when characters are actively communicating, we may not always think about it when they are not. However, as we rarely have a character who does nothing but sit in a corner and stare into space, we know that characters are always doing something. We have to remember, therefore, that whatever they are doing, it shows us something.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words
It's cliche, but it's true. Talk is cheap; actions often relay our true motivations and intent.

When it comes to storytelling, I'm a fan of saying "Just because you say something doesn't make it true". Quite often I see new and amateur writers in romance making this mistake: they give readers claims such as:
No one had ever made her feel this way before.
There was just something about him.
She was always such a klutz!
He'd never been good at finding the right words.

When you as the author make a claim like this, you have to back it up with action. If you tell me a character is a klutz and yet never show her stumbling or spilling a plate of food or tripping over a stair, I'm not going to believe you. If you tell me the love interest has some unnamed quality which sets him apart from everyone else and yet he never does anything to distinguish this quality, I'm going to call it lazy writing (and another cliche...don't tell me "something", tell me what!).

I've run into this problem recently with one of my lead characters, Sadira. I peppered her inner monologue with the phrase "She just couldn't find the words", or some variant thereof. The problem was that whenever Sadira got to talking, she turned out to be extremely eloquent...which made me a liar. You can't create a situation, feeling, personality, or anything else simply by stating it to be what you want it to be. If your character's actions run contrary to what you've claimed, it doesn't matter what you've said. The actions are where the real truth lies.

Actions are always there

Your characters are never "off the clock". Even in scenes where they may not be the focus or may not be present, if you describe them doing something, then guess what? They're doing something. And whatever it is they're doing, it communicates something to the readers.

A smart writer learns to use this to their advantage. Some even recognize that if their character is doing something, it could belie the character's natural inclination, and reveal something of that character's true intentions or personality. If you've got a gal sitting in the background of a shouting match between two of your leads, whatever she's doing back there shows us what she's thinking or feeling...even if we don't intend it to.

Another thing that shows a character's true nature is their habits. You don't want to give your character a habit that shows readers something you don't intend to communicate. A character biting her lip shows thoughtfulness or distraction; biting nails can show concentration or anxiety. Quirky characters ought to have a quirky habit: a non-smoker who keeps a cigarette behind his ear or a charming, witty rogue flipping a coin and catching it. If you're showing us that a character has a habit like this, you're communicating something about their personality. Be in control of this situation and be sure your characterization is consistent throughout.

You are always showing

If your characters are doing something, they are showing something. One of my pet peeves is a character who shows themselves to be manipulative and self-centered, when the author wants me to believe they are likeable and heroic.

Remember your characters are always showing us something. Be in control of what they show us, or else you allow them to tie you up in inconsistencies or confusion.



The most important thing to remember is that what your characters show us will always be more convincing and leave more of an impression than what you or they only tell us. A thoughtful writer goes a bit beyond this simple knowledge and uses showing to their advantage: remember that your characters are essentially always "onstage", even if they aren't in the spotlight, and use their actions to show us layers of your story. You don't ever have to tell you readers a character is a perfectionist if you simply show them consistently behaving like one. This is a stronger means of character development with your reader, and a surefire way to be sure you're living up to that good old rule, "show, don't tell."


About the Author

When she isn't visiting the worlds of immortals, demons, dragons and goblins, Brantwijn fills her time with artistic endeavors: sketching, painting, customizing My Little Ponies and sewing plushies for friends. She can't handle coffee unless there's enough cream and sugar to make it a milkshake, but try and sweeten her tea and she will never forgive you. She moonlights as a futon for four lazy cats, loves tabletop role-play games, and can spend hours watching Futurama, Claymore or Buffy the Vampire Slayer while she writes or draws.

In addition to her novels, Brantwijn has had several stories published in anthologies by Breathless Press, including the 2013 Crimson Anthology and 2014 Ravaged Anthology. She's also had a short story published in the Cleiss Press Big Book of Orgasm and the anthology Coming Together Through The Storm. She hopes to have several more tales to tell as time goes on. She has author pages on GoodReads and Amazon, and loves to see reader comments on her work. Her short stories occasionally pop up at Foreplay and Fangs, her blog at http://brantwijn.blogspot.com.