Grace's Mosaic Moments


Saturday, June 22, 2019

2019 Index to Grace's Writing & Editing Posts


Sharks' teeth & mammoth bones from a creek c.25 mi. south of Venice, FL
Fossilized sharks' teeth can be anywhere from 10,000 years old to 5-7 millions years old, 
depending on what sediment they're found in.

The fossil hunters

Family fossil hunters, now on the hunt in So. Carolina
Hailey, on the left, enjoying the trip, if not the fossil-hunting!

Tooth-hunting in SC looking very much like hunting in Florida

Fossils, So. Carolina (not the entire haul). Note the penny for size.
For my foreign readers: the U. S. penny is c. 15.87mm (5/8 inch).

Birds - Folly Beach, SC

The photos above are courtesy of the Reale family. Taken over the last two weeks since school let out here in Florida - the results of a trip to the Peace River area, south of Venice, FL, and a family excursion to South Carolina.


~ * ~


UPDATED INDEX TO GRACE'S WRITING & EDITING BLOGS
January 2011 - June 2019


Note: Topics with more than one post in the series are in Bold type.


WRITING

WRITING WORKSHOP (9 parts) - 12/6/14 - 6/28/15
[Ideas, Fresh Twists, Research, Title, Names, Opening & Hooks, Plot, Goals, Motivation, Conflict, Setting, Characters, Narration, Dialogue, Pacing, Point of View, Transitions, Mechanics, Self-editing, & Questions to ask yourself before declaring your work “finished.”]


Birth of a Book - 12/1/18 & 1/26 19
Formatting a Manuscript - 5/9/11
Nuts & Bolts, Part 1 (grammar, punctuation) - 5/16/11
Nuts & Bolts, Part 2 (punctuation, helpful books) - 6/16/11
Back to Basics - Punctuating Dialogue - 10/7/17 & 10/14/17
Tab conversion (from manual to auto) - 8/5/11
Using Italics - 2/15 & 2/22, 2014
Using Capitals - 4/12 & 4/19, 2014
Manuscript Format for the 21st Century - 5/6/12
Writing No-No’s - 5/28/12
Character Identification - 5/5/18
Creating a Hero - 7/21/18
Creating a Heroine - 7/28/18
Creating Secondary Characters - 9/8/18 & 9/22/18
Too Many Characters, Too Much Plot - 3/2/19
Point of View - 6/18/12, 12/9/17, 8/4/18, 8/25/28, 9/1/18 & 10/13/18
Dictionary for Writers (5 parts) - 2/4 - 4/7, 2013
Layering - 6/30/13
Layering, a Writing Technique - 7/16/16
Dangling Participles - 7/7/13
Misused Pronouns - 5/1/218
Show vs. Tell - 7/21 & 7/28, 2013; 2/16/19
Notes on Writing Dialogue - 2/10/18
Playing with Tags - 3/19/16
The Colon is Down but Not Out - 2/24/18
Writing Fragments - 3/10/18
Varying Sentence Structure - 3/24/18
Treacherous Words - 8/11/13
Examples of How Not to Write - 2/2/19
The Difference a Word Makes - 9/1/13
“Modern” Punctuation - 9/15/13
Questions to Ask Yourself - 10/13/13
Third Person vs. First (2 parts) - 5/31 & 6/8/14
Rules for Romance - 9/18/11 & 10/16, 2011
Rule-Breaking (3 parts) - 6/21 - 7/5/14
Don’t Be a “Rule” Slave (adverbs) - 5/6/17
Organizing the Out-of-the-Mist Author - 7/9/16
Out-of-the-Mist Oops - 8/9/17
Writing "Out of the Mist - Again" - 11/24/18
To Be or Not to Be (was & were) - 5/27/17
Attitudes Toward Point of View - 2/20/16
Point of View - 12/9/17
Synopsitis - 4/7/18
Mystery vs. Gothic - 10/22/16
When "Suspended Disbelief" Doesn't Work - 5/15/19
Telltale Signs of Amateur Writing - 10/1/16
How Not to Write a Book - 12/20/12
How Not to Write a Book - 4/4/15
How to Write a Bad Book - 3/12/17
A Rant & a Revamp - 6/23/28
Ranting on Subtleties - 5/4/19
What is Women’s Fiction? - 6/25/17 & 7/1/17
More on Women’s Fiction - 11/4/17
Shortcut Codes for Writers - 5/16/18

HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR CHARACTERS series:
What you need to discover about your characters - 10/15/2012
More questions about your characters - 10/29/12
The Rest of the Story - 11/5/12

Character Development (3 parts) - 11/7 & 12/5, 2015 & 2/6/16
Character Development - the Unexpected (2 parts) - 8/20 & 8/27, 2016
What’s in a Name? - 3/18/17
The Nitty Gritty of Names - 4/30/17


WORLD-BUILDING series (4 parts) - 12/28/13 - 2/1/14
   [a look at the problem of creating a whole new world]

WRITING A SERIES (5 parts) - 1/21/17 - 2/18/17. Why Write a Series? “Single Title,” “Cliff-Hangers,” “Mixed Approach” & Summary +
Update on Series - 12/30/17
The Problems of Wrapping Up a Series - 4/14/18


EDITING

EDIT THE BLASTED BOOK - 4/1/12, 4/28/12, 5/6/12, 5/28/12, 6/18/12, 8/5/12 & 8/19/12
Intro to Self-editing - 4/1/12
Should You Hire Help? - 4/28/12
Anatomy of an Edit - 8/5 & 8/19, 2012
I Ran Spell Check, I’m Done, Right? (self-editing) - 7/2/11
The Final Steps (self-editing) - 7/14/11
A Tale of Three Books - 9/24/16
The Difference a Word Makes - 10/15/16
More Thoughts on Final Edits - 11/5/16
Editing & Holiday Musing - 12/ 30/16
Editing Scold - 12/4/13
Misused Words (2 parts) - 10/4 & 10/25, 2014
More on Editing - 5/3/14
Editing Examples (4 parts) - 8/8, 8/23, 8/30 & 9/13, 2015
Editing Examples 2018 - 1/27/18
Editing Examples 2019 - 3/16/19 & 6/1/19
Copyediting Challenges (7 parts) - 8/29/15 - 10/31/15 + 4/3/16
The Tricks to Track Changes - 1/16/16
Track Changes Update - 9/15/18


SPECIAL TOPICS

Advice for Newbie Authors - 10/27/18
Advice - What's Next?- 11/10/18
Reminiscences of Controversies (3 parts) - 5/13 - 5/26, 2013
     [a look at writing controversies over the past 2 decades]
Guideposts for Critiquing - 1/28/11
Writing Mistakes, Near Misses & Just Plain Strange - 3/4/11
Shortcuts for Writers (ASCII codes) - 3/18/11
Branding - Bah, humbug [writing multi-genre] - 1/21/13
How Does Your Novel Grow? - 4/ 28/13
Word Perfect to Indie Pub - 11/27/13
Questions Fiction Writers Should Ask Themselves - 10/13/13
On Being a Writer - 8/22/15
Running Off at the Keyboard (rant) - 2/13/16
Why I Love E-books (2 parts) - 5/21 & 5/29, 2016
The Sound of Silence - 7/30/16
Transforming Truth Into Fiction - 9/4/16
What’s the Fascination with Fairy Tales? - 4/1/17
Cultural Confusion - 6/10/17
Twisted Times (the influence of today’s news) - 7/16/17
Random Thoughts - Making Changes to Published Works - 2/17/18
Why Writers Must Read! - 4/21/18 

~ * ~ 

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author page, 
with a whimsical Prequel to the Blue Moon Rising series,
click here.





For a link to Blair's website, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Tackling Major Edits

Singing a Mom & Daughter duet in church

 

On Thursday evening our Riley played a jazz solo after only two weeks on the trumpet in Band Camp—well, okay, I admit she's First Chair on the euphonium & also plays the trombone—but even Mom, Dad, and both Grammas were amazed. (Note: the oldest Jazz Band members just finished eighth grade - they will not start high school until mid-August.) To watch, click here.  (FYI, Riley's jazz trumpet solo is about 2 minutes in.)



 COME FROM AWAY

On the very same night as the band concert—Susie and I made a very rapid trip into the city!—we were privileged to see COME FROM AWAY (with gift tickets). Neither one of us could imagine how anyone could make a "musical" from the events of 9/11, but of course we were proved wrong. In truth, it's a lengthy one-act opera with the most amazing ensemble singing, writing, and staging I have ever seen. (And I have an Equity card to prove my long years associated with the theater.) Basically, it's the story of what happened on 9/11 when American airspace was shut down and all planes from Europe were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland. (I assume there's a very thoroughly researched book behind the script.) It was a performance as moving as it was professional in every sense of the word, prompting every person in the audience to jump to their feet with a standing ovation. If this so-called "musical" comes your way, don't miss it!


~ * ~

While editing the Examples section of my blogs on Writing and Editing into book form, I ran into a post from 2014 that I felt could bear repeating. In recounting my troubles with Sorcerer's Bride, I seem to have covered many of the things we all miss while rushing on to what happens next. So, from September 13, 2014 . . .


TACKLING MAJOR EDITS


In the spring of 2014 I finished the second of a three-book SciFi series contracted to Ellora's Cave, and after what I thought was my customary careful editing, I submitted it well before deadline. It was only several months later, when my Blue Moon Rising series was orphaned by EC shutting down its Blush line and I was forced to prepare my first query letter in years, that I discovered Sorcerer's Bride was 11,000 words shorter than Book 1, Rebel Princess. Surprise!

My first reaction was that the months directly before and after spending a week in the hospital were probably not the best time to write a worthy book. Sigh. So before I even looked at the manuscript, I sat down and made a list of things I suspected needed expansion. And, yes, I was amazed at how fast they hit me in the face when I stopped to think about it, even though I hadn't seen the manuscript in four months. 

Fortunately, when I settled down to yet another head-to-tail reading of Sorcerer's Bride, I discovered all was not lost. Most of the book read well, but, yes, I had missed emphasizing some important moments. And overall, there were quite a few places that needed more depth. These were not short revisions—many of them ran to a full page or more. Obviously, not something that can be shown here. But I will attempt to explain why—beyond simply increasing the word count—I added what I did.

Qualifying an absolute.
 

My son, the SciFi buff, was the first to notice that I had made the visions of a fey young teen who doesn't talk too absolute. I had left no room for suspense. Perhaps his graphic visions of the future were only wishful thinking, not unquestionable prognostications. And my son was right. There is no suspense if you have a character who is infallible.

Solution: I added three paragraphs near the beginning in which one of his sisters questions his visions. And added another bit of doubt near the end.

Failure to paint a complete picture.

In the pageantry of a court scene I concentrated so hard on the hero and heroine that I failed to describe some very important secondary characters in the hero's entourage.

Solution: I added a description of the hero's mistress in her disguise as a well-dressed but dull, middle-aged diplomat. I also mentioned the hero's two bodyguards. All three are important secondary characters and should not have been skipped when they made their initial appearance, no matter how well disguised they were at the time.

Another inadequate description.

The sentence, "She'd beg her mother not to go into the crystal shop . . .," left readers hanging, a true "Huh?" moment. Okay, maybe if readers remembered the heroine's first visit to the crystal shop and made the association, but really, that's a stretch.

Solution: Seven paragraphs that included the heroine's sharp introspection, doubts, and a better description of the shopping excursion.

A major moment sloughed off with a passive, after-the-fact description.

Evidently daunted by the task of describing what the heroine does the night she tries out her newly discovered psychic gift, I chickened out and described the aftermath, not the action. A true no-no.

Solution: I added sixteen paragraphs of not only what the heroine did, but I emphasized her growing loss of control, her eagerness to do something totally against the principles instilled in her since childhood. Creating a much stronger message, which was vital to the plot, as the dichotomy between her upbringing which treasures life and her part in a rebellion that is forced to take life is a constant problem.

Sex scene revisions.

Book 1 in the Blue Moon Rising series is a true love-at-first-sight story. Two people who dreamed of each other through four years of separation. The romance in Sorcerer's Bride was much harder to write. A hero and heroine forced to marry by royal edict. A heroine who must play third-fiddle to her husband's first love (her own sister) and to his long-time mistress. The hero, a sorcerer who has begun to realize why most of his kind stay celibate! None of which made the sex scenes easy to write.

Solution: I had already used the device of the h/h discovering they were physically attracted to each other in spite of all the drawbacks, but in this new revision I added more dialogue, more introspection, more of two childhood playmates becoming reacquainted. I also added more emphasis to the fact that the sorcerer has to change—grow up, if you will. That he has to become less self-centered, pay more attention to the people around him. Including his unwanted bride. Sometimes these additions ran to a page or two, sometimes only a paragraph. Added throughout the book, I hope they paint a better picture of two people struggling to become a happy couple.

Missed emotions.

I was so busy describing the h/h's wedding, followed by a major action scene in which they rescue hostages from a jail, that I totally missed the wedding night! Perhaps knowing they had already enjoyed each other, I happily skipped from the hostage rescue to the next morning. Oops!

Solution:  No, this wasn't the moment for a grand love scene. Our heroine, the pacifist, has just killed ten men while rescuing the hostages. The emotion she feels is anguish. And her brand new husband must deal with it. Two pages added, attempting to reveal the end of a most unusual wedding night.

Important point missed.

I had a scene in the court of the Emperor that I had not touched since the original. It simply seemed to work the first time around. On a fresh reading, I realized I left out something vital. We are in the Point of View of a five-star admiral who has just aided a battlecruiser and its crew to slip away from their home planet and join the rebellion. And I had him wondering why he has been summoned to court!

Solution:  I added the obvious. The admiral had cause to worry!

Hero's missed emotion.


As part of the hero's redemption, readers need to see that he is learning to control his temper.

Solution:  An added paragraph that describes him reining in his temper when he wants to tear his enemies limb from limb. (And he has a not-so-illusory dragon that can do just that!)

What to do about the hero's witch?


As the story progressed, I realized I couldn't just cast the hero's mistress out into the cold. So even in my initial version she took on a greater role in the story. But on this new reading, I realized she needed to have her Point of View revealed much earlier.

Solution:
I added an introspection scene in her Point of View just prior to a dramatic event that begins her escalation into a major character, and very likely the heroine of Book 3. (Grace note update: in a totally unintended move, she becomes a major player in the series—one of the many reasons I so enjoy being an “out of the mist” author.)

Better plot & action descriptions needed.

Although I scarcely touched the book's romantic ending on this last edit, the action scene preceding it needed work. There was a too-abrupt switch from the final rebel "rehearsal" to the actual execution of their plans. And insufficient details about the disaster that interrupts their joyous victory celebration.

Solution:  Two setting-the-stage scenes added just before the action scene. And an almost total re-write of the action itself.

SUMMARY.

With the above major edits, plus bits and pieces added throughout, I added c. 5,000 words. I'm going to put Sorcerer's Bride away for a few weeks before reading it through once again from first page to last to see how all those additions fit in. (I'm hopeful all will be well as the final chapters were so mangled, I had to type up those revisions right way to make sure I'd understood my own scribbles!)

Hopefully, my trials and tribulations, outlined above, will help you find places in your own work where more depth is needed, where you totally missed a reaction that should have been there, or any other of the myriad mistakes we make when we're rushing, rushing, rushing ahead so fast we forget to take a really good look at what we're doing right now.

The modern author must be able to edit his/her own work. And, no, not just because you're indie-publishing. Budgets are so tight and the competition is so stiff that even if you are submitting to one of the major New York print publishers, or to a major e-publisher, no company is going to want to shell out the time and money it takes to edit a badly presented manuscript. You have to be sure you submit a manuscript that is not only properly spelled and punctuated, but one with depth, all the descriptions, emotions, reactions, and evocative dialogue in the right place at the right time.

Moral of the Story. I downloaded a whole bunch of books to my Kindle before going on a week-long cruise—and ended up tossing two of them before the end of the first chapter. I plowed my way through a third because the author had potential—good plot, good characters—but the book was severely marred by multiple mistakes in both historical facts and presentation. And, no, the books weren't all indie-pubbed. One of the ones I chucked to Archives was from a major NY publisher—all "tell" and dull as dishwater. I couldn't believe anyone was still publishing work that reads like a fourth-grade language arts text. Ah well, I can't do much about that, I guess, except refuse to buy any more from that author. But for indie authors and those trying to break into the market, whether NY or e-pub, please, please, please! Don't just write your grand opus and send it off. I beg of you, EDIT THE BLASTED BOOK! Yes, it takes time and anguish, but you'll be glad you did.
                 
And don’t expect the first edit to be enough. It never is.

~ * ~

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author page, 
with a whimsical Prequel to the Blue Moon Rising series,
click here.





For a link to Blair's website, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Editing Examples

Next Mosaic Moments - June 15
(struggling with last chapters of The Abominable Major)




Three curly heads on the beach in Venice, Florida




Hailey - 2012






Then 

      &

         Now . . .









Hailey - 2019



















~ * ~


EDITING EXAMPLES

It's been awhile since I offered concrete examples of what I mean when I talk about editing—what I actually do when I sit down and go over my work, line by line. (As stated in previous blogs, my first two or three edits are done on hardcopy, because this is what works for me. Yes, it's more work to have to type in the scribbles I make on my peinted pages and on legal pad insertions, but I am convinced the changes I make to hardcopy are better than if I attempted to edit on screen. This is, of course, a matter of personal choice. Edit hardcopy, edit online—whatever works for you. Just as long as you DO IT!) 

One advantage of editing hardcopy is that I have a stack of pages with both original and revisions intact so that I can choose a few examples I feel will be most helpful. 😉

All examples are from my current work in progress, The Abominable Major, Book 6 in my Regency Warrior series.

Transitions can be tricky. So many times I find myself adding a few words, perhaps whole sentences to the beginning of a paragraph—because I was simply in too much of a rush the first time, leaping forward rather smoothing the way. Hopefully, the two versions below will demonstrate what I mean. The difference is small, but I felt those few words increased the impact of what I was trying to say.

Original:
   The clock ticked, measuring the moments of fraught silence. Coals crumbled, showering sparks as they tumbled through the grate. "Oddly enough . . ." Dasha steepled her hands before her face and offered in a far more deadly tone, "Oddly enough, your edict relates to what I was attempting to say to you."
   A shiver spiked up his spine. Swiftly Court reviewed the last few minutes. He'd been so intent on forbidding a return to 13 Bennett Street, he'd blunder his way into a crisis.

Revision:
   The clock ticked, measuring the moments of fraught silence. Coals crumbled, showering sparks as they tumbled through the grate. "Oddly enough . . ." Dasha steepled her hands before her face and offered in a far more deadly tone, "Oddly enough, your edict relates to what I was attempting to say to you." 
   Too late Court turned wary, a shiver spiking up his spine. Swiftly he reviewed the last few minutes. He'd been so intent on forbidding a return to 13 Bennett Street, he'd blunder his way into a crisis.

 *****

A bit farther down the same page, I have the hero respond with a single, decided "No!" But when I read it over, I realized this short response needed the "something more' every author must look for when editing, no matter how easy it might be to overlook something as simple as "No." With revision, the sentence read:

   "No!" The automatic protest of a gentleman, but of course she was right. Why else had he thought the scandal enough to obscure the sins of Prince Konstantin?

Grace note:  I also scribbled a note to myself to look up the word "automatic" in the Oxford English Dictionary, making sure it was in use during this period. (It was.)

****


 Editors often talk about "Less is more," but here's another example of "More" being clearer, more dramatic, of just a few additional words making your work better:

Original:
 "You cannot possibly mean what I think you mean." Cold. Disapproving. Not the slightest hint of interest. 


Revision:    
"You cannot possibly mean what I think you mean." Cold. Disapproving. Not the slightest hint of interest in what had cost her so much to say. 

****

Several pages later, my editing slowed to a halt. Oh no. I didn't, I hadn't . . . But I had. Not only had I not said what needed to be said, I'd fallen back on "Tell" mode, taken shortcuts, attempted to move ahead too fast. After considerable struggle, I ended up deleting the offending paragraph and replacing it with three lengthy insertions [c. five paragraphs over the next two pages (which I will not include)]. But here is the paragraph that made me groan and totally rewrite that section of the chapter. Hopefully, you will see why it needed to disappear forever.

   Rage built with every turn of the hackney's wheel from the Colonnade to Bennett Street. After a considerable battle between his sense of duty and his pride, Lord Halliwell had conceded that he owed the Countess Alexandrova an apology for his abrupt departure of the night before. Not only that, but his invitation to Lady Ormonde's musicale had arrived by special messenger, and he and Dasha must discuss the delicate matter of Dasha's return to society in great detail, lest they find themselves in worse case than they already were. Therefore, needs must when the devil rides.
 
****

Last example for this week—the importance of adding narrative color as well as clarity to your dialogue. I rewrote this revision even as I selected it as an example. In all, I probably went through four or five versions before I settled on the one below. (Which will likely be rewritten again the next time around, as I'm still not satisfied.) The problem? I showed her displeasure the first time around, but not enough. Not in comparison to what she'd suffered.

Original:  
   "I can be kidnapped, raped for hours on end," Dasha declared with some heat, "yet you can flaunt the law and all anyone sees is the Marquess of Halliwell, heir to a dukedom."

Revision:     
   The full force of the inequity of the situation burst over her. “When I was kidnapped and raped for hours on end, I was sure to be ruined, the subject of a great scandal,” Dasha declared with no little heat. “Yet the Marquess of Halliwell may flaunt the law—free a prisoner, declare a man dead—without so much as raising an eyebrow. And now you have accomplished your diversion without lifting a finger. I assure you, my lord, you put me in the shade. I sit here, a ghost at the feast.”

~ * ~

My sole venture into early Steampunk - c. 1840

In a peek at an alternate history, General Lord Wellington has taken over the government and our heroine's marriage of convenience has just tumbled her into a hotbed of rebellion. Available from Amazon, Smashwords, & most other online vendors.
~ * ~

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author page, 
with a whimsical Prequel to the Blue Moon Rising series,
click here.



For a link to Blair's website, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace

Saturday, May 25, 2019

When "Suspended Disbelief" Doesn't Work

FALCON HEAVY UPDATE

After promising myself I'd be sure to watch the launch at 10:30 p.m. on Thursday night, I watched a movie on TV and forgot. Am still grinding my teeth. But my daughter got several good photos from her front yard. (Two posted below.) This was the third Falcon Heavy launch, all with the same booster. It contained 60 "starlink" satellites intended to improve high-speed internet communication. 


The launch as seen from my daughter's front driveway

Streaking away over the Atlantic


Also a more mundane photo gallery:


For starters, another lovely, and complex, creation by a Crochet Club member:




Yet another addition to my Lousy Editing Collection. Sigh.



Gator stealing a watermelon in Hendry County, Florida


And for a video of an egret riding a gator, click here.



WHEN "SUSPENDED DISBELIEF" DOESN'T WORK

I read a contest entry this week which stunned me by how well it was done. (Believe me, I've seen a lot of clinkers over twenty years of being a judge.) And then, when I got down to the nitty gritty of judging, a horrid thought occurred to me:  there was an error in the manuscript so basic that it was impossible for "suspended disbelief" to work. No matter how well the manuscript was written, the author has missed a point so vital there was no way around it. And as I struggled to suggest a way to fix the problem, I also wondered how to convey this "no-no" to my blog readers. 

So, first of all, what is "Suspended Disbelief"?

I admit the first examples that came to mind were movies and television programs: the world of Storybrook in Once Upon a Time, the Whitewalkers and dragons in Games of Thrones, the entire Avengers movie series. In books, I vividly recall an Historical Romance about a London rat catcher who turned out to be duke—a genuine, legitimate duke. Every SciFi and Steampunk novel, every dystopian Young Adult requires Suspended Disbelief. In Lindsay Buroker's Chain of Honor series, a boy of eighteen becomes leader of his people, even though for the first three and three-quarters of the four books he has no idea he is courageous, compassionate, wise, or talented enough in magic to be selected as ruler of his war-torn country. Yet another example:  Susan Elizabeth Philips has a First Lady running away in a beat-up RV with some of society's lesser lights.

All the above are examples of Suspended Disbelief that works. The authors have written their stories in such a way that we swallow the most improbable events whole. You could also say, we "lap up the impossible and love it." 

So when does our inventiveness fail?

When you ask readers to accept something that is absolutely wrong. Something that cannot be justified by the author. The examples that most readily leap to mind are  anachronisms—a zipper in a gown in 1803; an illegitimate son inheriting an English title; a rifle in a Medieval romance, etc.

Even worse—situations where a blind person speculates about something he sees, a deaf person overhears a conversation. And then there's what was mentioned in my last blog: characters in an Historical Romance whose speech and attitudes are right out of the 21st century.

STOP, think! What did you just write? 

Yes, murderers can be redeemed, hate can turn to love, but some things are truly impossible. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by being so caught up in your story that you ignore reality. Suspended Disbelief only goes so far. 

~ * ~


For a link to Blair's Facebook Author page, 
with a whimsical Prequel to the Blue Moon Rising series,
click here.
For a link to Blair's website, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace


 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Few Words on Diversity

NEXT MOSAIC MOMENTS - May 25

 
My children, actually in the same place at the same time - NYC.

David, Becka, Susie, Mike & cousin Lionel
Mike & Lionel were in NY on business, Susie a tag-a-long.
 David & Becka in from Connecticut, 
meeting at the Jekyll & Hyde restaurant.


DIVERSITY

Years ago, I decided there was a limit to the emails I could handle, so I opted out of the two primary email loops sponsored by the Romance Writers of America. Therefore, when controversy erupted in more recent times, I was totally unaware of it until it spilled over onto Facebook (where so many of my FB friends are authors). Frankly, even though hate-mongering seems to have become so much more prevalent under the present administration, I could not believe what I was hearing about the Romance industry. I mean, ROMANCE, people. How can books about Love spark hatred?

But it seems that's exactly what's happening. And this time the shoe was on the other foot, so to speak. The hate-speech was coming from those who felt under-represented in the Romance market. An absolutely valid point. A just cause that needs warriors for change, but not warriors spouting vitriol at anyone who does not include Diversity in their books

There are many Historical authors, for example, who are writing about eras where society did not allow for diversity. And yet these authors are being vilified, even persecuted by those unwilling to accept the realities of the time period. One author even stated on Facebook that she had completely given up writing Historicals because of the vitriol on this subject.

Now, this is just plain sad. As well as wrong. All authors need to be faithful to the manners, mores, and events of the period of history they use for a setting. Just as contemporary authors need to reflect the attitudes of modern times. But wait! Are you writing a book set in 2019 or 1959? The change in attitudes over the period between those dates is mind-boggling. Even my own daughter (turned 50) is not old enough to remember the Civil Rights movement.And in 1959, just over a decade after WWII, considering Nazis role-models was tantamount to treason. As for LGBTQ . . . forgetaboutit. So . . . message to those who spout hate: "We've come a long way, baby." We're still in an era of transition, but a lot of people are trying hard to make improvements. Don't kick us in the teeth while we're doing it.

Naturally, all this controversy made me look at my own work. And, to my surprise, I discovered I'd been working in a bit of diversity here and there without really thinking about it. Firstly, I have to admit the most prominently "diverse" book I ever wrote is still tucked away on a disk somewhere. It featured a heroine who was half English, half Indian (from India, not the U. S.), and was written shortly after I moved to Orlando in 2007—a traumatic move after 25 years and a family of five in the same house, and the book simply didn't gel. I may take a look at it again one of these days . . . I may not. But I like to think my heart was in the right place, even if my head didn't follow through.

Thinking back, in my very first Romance, The Sometime Bride, I had a hero of mixed English-Spanish heritage, plus Spanish and Portuguese secondary characters. (And this was years before my daughter married an Argentinian!) In my first Regency Gothic, Brides of Falconfell, I included two secondary characters who were gay. In The Mists of Moorhead Manor, an important secondary character is a wheelchair-bound invalid. In The Welshman's Bride the heroine is the daughter of a merchant. And yes, that too is diversity. So many Regency novels portray the daughter of "cits" as nothing more than air-headed or vulgar social climbers. The Ghosts of Rushton Court brings the whole problem of race relations to the forefront, an important part of the plot. And in my current work-in-progress—tentatively titled The Abominable Major—I'm attempting to meet the biggest challenge of all, portraying a hero who lost a leg at Waterloo. And, believe me, I'm struggling. (Though reaching the age where I have to lever myself up out of a chair has helped!)

Am I militantly waving the flag for Diversity? I admit I'm not. But I applaud those who are, as long as they do not denigrate authors where diversity simply does not fit with history. I understand the latest thing is labeling the entire Medieval period "racist." Well, of course it was. To our eternal shame, the Crusades were not the glorious surge to "free" the Holy Land that we were taught in school but a religious nightmare that has come back to haunt us. But that does not condemn the entire of Age of Chivalry any more than it requires a blanket condemnation of the Catholic church.

Grace note:  Mentioning the Age of Chivalry reminds me that one of my ancestors wrote the first book on chivalry way back in the 13th century. In Catalan. I've always wondered if there's a translation somewhere.*

*I no sooner wrote the sentences above than I said to myself, "Do you suppose it's happened—a translation at long last? I zipped over to Amazon, and there it was. Ramon Llull's book on chivalry. In English. I'm stunned. Wow! Though far from cheap, this is a book I have to add to the family collection. (My grandmother Grace was a "Lull," from an English branch of the family, her father a Nebraska doctor, but his father before him was a "remittance" man—perhaps harking back to the days when Ramon Llull was more naughty knight than the religious leader he later became. He founded the University of Majorca and died at the hands of people he was trying to convert.)




To get back on topic:

To advance a very just cause, I urge you to add diversity when and if it fits your story. But I also beg the more militant advocates of Diversity to avoid becoming as hate-filled and prejudiced as the people who still subscribe to the seemingly endless cycle of "not us, so we hate you." We are changing—not as fast as many hope, but it is happening. Please do not plunge us back into darkness when we are struggling toward the light. 

~ * ~ 

If you think you might want to read The Abominable Major, I suggest reading The Lady Takes a Risk first. Each is a stand-alone book, but the Major features a lot of references to characters and events in Risk.



For a link to Amazon Kindle, click here.

For a link to Smashwords, click here.

~ * ~

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author page, 
with a whimsical Prequel to the Blue Moon Rising series,
click here.
For a link to Blair's website, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Ranting on Subtleties




Reminder: my Blue Moon Rising series is now available as a boxed set.

For a link to Amazon Kindle, click here.


RANTING ON SUBTLETIES

Most of my rants—as I've noted while compiling the long-promised compilation of my blogs on Writing and Editing—concern blatant mistakes authors make, but today's post is more of a challenge. I can't give examples as the problem usually ranges over the whole book, and also because I would never single out any author's work as a bad example! But two books I read this week (or in one case sent to Archives around page twenty) inspired me to attempt to describe how easily an author can shoot himself/herself in the foot. Myself included.

Let's call Problem One: 


Too Many Words (or Too Much Repetition)

This is something I've been accused of. For example, when I wrote my Blue Moon Rising series, I thought of it in a manner similar to my other books: at heart, it emphasized romance and was intended for a female audience. Imagine my surprise to discover reviews by males! And they, of course, were not charmed by all that female introspection, agony, etc. The emotions that Romance readers love. Sigh. Fortunately, most of the reviews were more favorable, but it made me more conscious of that basic need to carefully consider one's audience when sitting down to write!

On and off, as I created my latest Regency Historical (now tentatively titled The Abominable Major), I found myself wondering if I was once again indulging in that tendency to "emote." To wring all the nuances out of my main characters' heads while not having enough dialogue or action to keep things moving. This is certainly something I will have to keep in mind as I go back and edit from the top.

Regular readers may recall that I've blogged a bit on this topic before. That time, a well-known author completely ruined a book for me by dropping into a long, unbroken narrative of emotions that was not only boring and repetitious but stopped the book dead in its tracks.

So what set me off on this topic for a second time?  

This past week I read a book by a relatively new author whose work I admire. (It's so rare to find a name to add to my list of favorites!) She has the history, manners, and mores of the time down pat. Her characters are well drawn and different from run-of-the-mill heroes and heroines. She actually finds a unique take on the same old, same old, romance plots. She expresses herself in lovely sentences. But this time round . . . I wanted to take her h/h and knock their heads together. (The heroine was particularly annoying.) Yes, the conflict that kept them apart was genuine and cleverly thought out. But the same points were hammered at over and over and over again (reminiscent of that old expression - "Johnny One Note"). And even though the author made an attempt to justify the reasons for this stuck record, if I'd been reading a paperback instead of my Kindle, I might have thrown it at the wall. I truly could not like the heroine. Every time the author let us look inside her head, I was appalled by what I saw there. For me, her behavior was simply too aberrant.

As I read over what I just wrote, I realize I had two problems with the book: not only too many words saying the same thing, but I could not feel the heroine's attitude was well enough justified. Nonetheless, in most ways the writing was excellent, the research outstanding, the feel for the period good. So yes, I finished the book and read another by the same author, which I thoroughly enjoyed.



Moral of this small rant: ANY author, no matter how experienced, can slip up. No matter how many books you've written, you need to be constantly watchful for that fine line between revealing your h/h's emotions and droning on ad nauseum, not moving the book forward. You also need to make sure you adequately justify any behavior that goes beyond the norm.


Ignoring the "Flavor" of an Era

I confess I did not finish the second book that inspired this week's rant. It seemed to have an intriguing plot (both in the blurb and the opening pages). The heroine had a genuine problem (if mysterious), the hero was suitably rugged. So what went wrong?

As I got past the first few pages, I began to feel uneasy. The era was Regency England, yet the manners and the dialogue were more like a 21st century American female speaking to a very nasty pirate captain (instead of a lord). I kept going, becoming more and more queasy as the heroine, supposedly a well-brought-up 19th c. lady, used language totally inappropriate for her time and position in life. And then she was treated so badly by the so-called hero that that too rang false. In short, the situations, the speech, the characterizations were simply wrong for their time and place. I ended up disliking both main characters, as well as being offended by the lack of Regency "flavor," and soon consigned the book to Archives without finishing it.

WHY? I ask. Why would anyone set a book in an historical period they knew nothing about? Sheer laziness, I suppose. But it hurts, oh how it hurts when someone does this. If you want to write about modern characters, then choose a setting in the 20th or 21st centuries. Don't fly under false colors. It might be daring if you're a privateer in the 17th century, but as an author, it's just not nice. Please do not attempt to fool readers into thinking you know what you're writing about. Regency readers, including me, are very particular about what they read. This author is now on my DO NOT READ list and will remain so forever. 

After writing the above, I came across a paragraph I wrote a long time ago. I'm going to paste it below, as it covers the subject at hand so well.

From Writer's Dictionary - 3, March 3, 2013:

Please keep in mind that if you are tempted to have either one of your two main characters do something illegal or mean, make sure you have a very good reason for it. Readers want to love the hero and heroine; they don’t want them to have feet of clay. Yes, they can both be stupid, particularly in their relationship with each other, but they’re not supposed to do something that might hurt other people, show greed, prejudice, or other negative traits. And if they do, it has to be clear that they are destined to learn from these mistakes by the end of the book. In romance, readers want characters they can admire and identify with, not characters who are being mean to their spouses, their relatives, their children, etc. Then again, secondary characters can be as venal and downright nasty as you want!
 

Moral of this tale:
Do your research. Write about what you know, what you've learned (through plenty of hard work and attention to detail). Do not sit down at the keyboard and simply say, "I'm going to write a Medieval today." (A Regency, Victorian, Science Fiction, Medical, etc.) A serious author puts in hours and hours learning his/her subject matter before setting Word One to the page. Do not end up with egg on your face. Steep yourself in the "flavor" of the time period you're writing about. Do not go off "half cocked," as happened in the book mentioned above. 

~ * ~ 

This seems a good time to mention my other boxed set, The Aphrodite Academy series, four rather frank novellas about young women who did not have the easy lives of the young ladies we usually find in Regency novels. 


 
For a link to Amazon Kindle, click here.


For a link to Blair's Facebook Author page, 
with a whimsical Prequel to the Blue Moon Rising series,
click here.

For a link to Blair's website, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace