Friday, October 9, 2015

Book Review: The Writer's Guide to Weapons

If you write crime or military fiction, then you generally need to know a thing or two about weapons, even if you're writing cozies. But if you're not one who has an interest in guns or knives, you may be making mistakes in how you write about them.

That's when having a good resource, written in understandable language, comes in handy. While there are plenty of gun and knife guides out there, they're written for aficionados, not for writers. But then there's The Writer's Guide to Weapons by Benjamin Sobieck.

As a mystery/science fiction writer, I mess with guns, and lately, knives in my stories on a weekly basis. And while I have friends I rely on for asking questions, it gets tiring going back to them time and again, especially when I have something basic I need to know. So picking up a copy of The Writer's Guide to Weapons seemed like a good idea.

I wasn't disappointed.

Mr. Sobieck is a lifetime enthusiast of guns and knives, and has written for many publications that I'm familiar with, such as Gun Digest and Modern Shooter, so he has instant credibility. He knows his stuff, and it comes out clearly in this guide.

This is the kind of book where one may be tempted--as I was--to pick it up and have it handy to flip through when you need an answer. But once I decided it wasn't just reference material, that I was actually going to read it, I was glad I did. With quick one-liners, and the occasional "right way" and "wrong way" scenarios featuring his own PI character Maynard Soloman, this was an informational and entertaining guide to the nuts and bolts behind weapons.

What I particularly appreciated was how everything is broken down into their own sections, so you learn about Firearms in one section, which is broken down into the various types of guns, and another on knives, and then you learn about those (I had no clue there were so many types of knives out there! But now I have a good idea about the type of knife my detective keeps concealed on her person.) Each section has a bit about legalities, which, even though this was  written in 2015, he strongly encourages you to learn about your locality and keep on top of changes to the law. In the back of the book, there's a section with a guide to specific weapons, which is oh-so-handy if you just need to get an idea of what a character might be carrying, pictures included!

The Writer's Guide to Weapons has a list price from Writer's Digest of $19.99, but you can get it on Amazon for $14.99 for a paperback (my choice!) or for Kindle for $9.99. If you write anything--ever--set in the last couple hundred years where weapons might be present, this is definitely a guide you need on your shelf.
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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Guest Post: 7 Tips for Proofreading

This post originally appeared on The Book Designer.
Reused with permission.
7 Tips for Proofreading Your Book
Do you proofread your book after it’s been laid out for print or formatted for e-reading? You should. Proofreading is the last stage of the editorial process and its goal is to catch any errors that the writer, editor, and book designer or formatter have missed.

Why Your Book Needs Proofreading

By this point in the publishing process, you might be thinking, “Wait a minute. What errors? There shouldn’t be any errors. I hired a copyeditor to take care of those!” While a copyeditor will catch most errors, they won’t catch them all. Most editors agree that 95 percent is the industry standard. What’s more, it’s not possible for a copyeditor to correct errors that haven’t yet been made.
Every time someone opens your book file—you, your copyeditor, the formatter or book designer, or your keyboard-curious cat—an error can potentially be introduced!
Have you ever inadvertently leaned on your space bar while reaching for your latte and inserted extra spaces between words? Copied and pasted a section of text and discovered you missed copying the last sentence? You know what we’re talking about, then. Because these things can happen to a book’s designers and formatters, and because they will receive your book after a copyeditor works his or her magic, any errors that occur in the design process will never be seen by your copyeditor.
All of this points to the importance of having a last look at your book, in its final environment, after it has been designed for print or formatted for e-reading devices. You need to be your book’s first reader.

Print or Ebook?

There are lots of ways to proofread a book. How you proofread it will depend on the publishing format you choose. If your book is headed for print, you’ll need to proofread the PDF that will be sent to the printer or print-on-demand service you’ve chosen. If your book will be an ebook, it makes sense to proofread it on an e-reader.
How to Proofread a Print Book
In the past, professional proofreaders proofread books on paper. Now, most proofreaders will proofread a book with software that allows them to mark errors on a PDF. Self-publishing authors can do the same, using these two free software options:
  • PDF XChange Editor
  • Adobe Reader XI
Both pieces of software have drawing tools and text tools that will allow you to circle errors, insert missing words, and make notes in the margins without disrupting the book designer’s layout. You can even mark errors with proofreading stamps, which is entirely too much fun.
7TipsForPR Image
Wiley Publishing’s proofreading stamps in PDF XChange Editor.
It’s also possible to proofread your book on a tablet with a stylus using iAnnotate. To learn more about proofreading tools for print books, read 8 Proofreading Tools for Beta Readers.
How to Proofread an Ebook
Proofreading an ebook requires a different strategy. You can’t mark up the text as you would in a print book. The text is not static, but flowable, so you need another method for keeping track of errors.
If your ebook has been formatted as an epub (for Apple, Nook, and Kobo), it’s best to proofread it using Adobe Digital Editions 3.0 (free). The ebook formatting and design company 52 Novels has created a proofreading procedure that works well for epubs.
If your ebook is in mobi format (Amazon), you have a couple of options. You can proofread your ebook using
After you’ve identified errors in your print book or ebook, you’ll need to have your book designer or formatter make corrections in your formatted or designed file.

Managing the Proofreading Process

There’s a lot to keep in mind while proofreading a book. The following proofreading management tips can help you organize the details.
  1. Decide what you’ll look for. 
    While proofreading, you’ll need to look for language errors and formatting errors. It helps to have a checklist to guide you. These two lists will give you a good idea of what look for:
    A Note About Word Breaks
    If you’re proofreading a print book, standard proofreading procedure involves checking that words at the end of lines are breaking in the right places. There are many do’s and don’ts surrounding word breaks—far too many to discuss here. The gist is that you want words to break in a way that won’t distract the reader or interrupt the flow of reading. Looking up words in a dictionary will help you to break them correctly.
    Having said that, controlling for word breaks in ebooks is time-consuming, so many formatters and traditional publishers don’t do it. Do readers notice? We’ll leave it to you to decide! If you’d like to know more about controlling word breaks and similar ebook formatting decisions you’ll need to make, see The Ebook Style Guide: Creating Ebooks That Work for Readers.
  2. Develop a plan. 
    There are many steps to proofreading a document. Decide the order in which you’ll do things. For example, we tend to run a book through a consistency checker like PerfectIt Pro* before we begin an initial read-through so we can preview any inconsistencies in the book. We then do a focused, beginning-to-end, word-by-word read-through, marking up errors as we go. We might do a separate pass, using the search function to look for recurring errors, and then we’ll do a “page-through” to ensure that we’ve addressed widows and orphans and word breaks (print books only). We then run PerfectIt Pro again, to catch any inconsistencies we may have missed or introduced.
    Every markup that we make or correction that we suggest is informed by the copyeditor’s style sheet, a list of decisions the copyeditor made to make the book as a consistent as possible. If your book has been copyedited, ask your copyeditor for the style sheet so you can use it to guide you while proofreading. By the way, it’s never a good idea to proofread a book before it has been copyedited, so always make sure your book is copyedited before it’s proofread.
    Every proofreader will handle the proofreading process differently. Your process will be different if you’re proofreading a print book or an ebook. Keep track of your process with each book, so you can find ways to make proofreading more efficient.
    *To improve accuracy and efficiency, some proofreaders will strip the text from the designer’s PDF and paste the text into Word. This allows them to use the Word add-in PerfectIt Pro to efficiently check for inconsistencies. Any inconsistencies are marked up on the designer’s PDF.
  3. Attend to details. 
    It’s easy to allow details to slip past you as your read your book. Try not to get sucked into your story! Proofreading is a different kind of reading. You’ll need to read every letter, every punctuation mark, and every space. For example, proofreaders will slow down enough to notice when a period should be italicized, or set in roman type! Proofreaders learn to search for inconsistencies, and to see the smallest details when they read.
  4. Read “aloud.” 
    In her handout Proofreading Secrets, proofreader Elizabeth Macfie explains that while reading, your brain will behave like the “autocorrect” function in a word processing program, meaning that it will tell you what should be on the page, instead of what is actually there. To bypass this tendency, read aloud or use a text-to-speech tool that can read the text aloud to you. (If you’re using Adobe Reader XI for PC, it has a text-speech function built in). Hearing the words will help to you to hear the errors that your eyes are not seeing.
    Tip: If you “whisper read” you’ll save your vocal cords from getting too tired.
  5. Read slowly. 
    Read at a steady “thinking” pace—not too slow and not too fast. Reading aloud or using a text-to-speech tool can help you to go more slowly than you normally would if you were reading silently. Some text-to-speech tools will even allow you to adjust your reading speed.
    Set a timer and keep track of your reading rate (number of pages per hour). You’ll be able to use that information to decide if this is how you want to spend your time for future book projects, or if hiring a proofreader is a more palatable option. Keep in mind that some kinds of books, such as dense and technical nonfiction books, will take you longer to proofread than others.
  6. Take frequent breaks. 
    Proofreading requires intense focus, and it can be difficult to sustain focus for long periods of time. Drink lots of water while proofreading to force yourself to take frequent breaks! Set goals to stay motivated. Decide how many pages or chapters you’ll proof before you’ll get up for a stretch.
  7. Be kind to yourself. 
    If you’re proofreading on a tablet or a Kindle, find a comfortable armchair to sit in. It’s nice to take a break from an office chair. Save your eyes from strain by positioning yourself near a window, so you have lots of natural light.

Summing it Up

There are many things to consider while proofreading. A plan, a few tricks from the pros, a handful of tools, and a little self-care will help to make the process easier and more enjoyable. If, in the end, you decide that DIY proofreading is not for you, that’s okay. I know at least two proofreaders who’d be happy to help you out!
Corina Koch MacLeod and Carla DouglasCorina Koch MacLeod and Carla Douglas of Beyond Paper Editing are Contributing Writers for The Book Designer. They are also authors, copyeditors and proofreaders who work with and instruct self-publishing authors.
You can learn more about Corina and Carla here.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

We Have Words. Let's Use Them.

After the horrible events of this past week and all the talk about gun control and supporting the treatment of mental health and targeting Christians and President Obama's reaction and the left vs. the right and all the other rhetoric that inevitably follows a hideous crime like the one in Oregon, I closed my eyes and ears to all that was being sent around the world via the internet, newspapers, magazines, radio, and television, and thought.

Just thought.

I let my mind wander around all the information thrown at us, all the arguments, the pleas, the sorrow, anger, bewilderment, lies, and truths, and I knew it would never change. Every time one of these tragedies occurs (and it will again, sooner or later), we start up. We take our frustrations out on each other, on those who see things differently than we do, and then ... eventually ... the furor dies down again to the slow simmer of a hearty stew of hatred, misinformation, facts, lies, half-truths, and full-out fears for ourselves, our loved ones, our communities, and nation.

Until it happens again. Until all the blustering starts up  again. Until someone turns up the heat and it roars into a full boil once more.

But what happens in-between? What happens when the horror abates and those of us who aren't left with the gaping hole in our families and hearts left by a madman go back to business as usual? Yes, I suppose there are people working behind the scenes to correct the way America deals with its mentally unstable population or continue the fight for or against gun control. In fact, I know so. But what of the rest of us? More specifically, what about writers?

That made me realize that we writers can play an important role in the plight of our nation. There's enough glory-, headline-, attention-grabbing going on among news outlets, so our role has to be something deeper, something more meaningful. But what?

Finally, it dawned on me that we don't have to do anything differently from what we're doing right now, i.e., writing about the kindnesses or injustices or love or hate or meaning of life without the inflammatory nature of senseless acts of violence and hatred. While we know we can't singlehandedly stop the atrocities happening around our country and world (and we certainly can't ignore it), we can add to the forces fighting them. We can do our jobs. We can realize just how important our work really is. Who better to spread the word than those who use words to express themselves every minute of every day and night? And who do so eloquently and with compassion and kindness and love and humility and humor and a healthy fear of what the enemy wants to do to us at every turn? While we don't espouse, as a whole, any one solution--we are, after all, individuals with different opinions--we can chip away at the root causes of our country's problems by chiming in with the "positives" and refusing to be one of the "negatives."

We are writers and our tools are words. We can use our tools to make others more aware of what goes on around us by entertaining, illuminating, and teaching. Whether we are journalists or limerick writers, humorists or gentle storytellers, whether we write for the very young or the very old or everyone in-between, we have a powerful means of delivering messages.

We have words. And we know how to use them. Let's use them for good, my friends.
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Friday, October 2, 2015

Book Review: Story Trumps Structure, by Steven James

Award winning novelist, Steven James, explains how to trust the narrative, organic, process to make your story believable, compelling, and engaging. He debunks the common myths that holds writers from creating their best works by focusing on what lies at the heart of the story  such as tension, desire, crisis, escalation, struggle, and discovery rather than being tied down to plot templates and formulas. Story Trumps Structure received the award for Best Storytelling Resource from Story Telling World. 

Story Trumps Structure is my writing Bible. Finally, someone validates organic writers, aka Pantsers, like me. This book hooked me from the very beginning with his Ceiling Fan Principle which improved my writing in nano seconds. James encourages his readers to break free of the rules that have been beaten into them at conferences and through writing books. He never says the rules are bad, but for some writers they are paralyzing.

I remember a lady who began her novel with her character in a basement. But because of the rules she kept rewriting the same scene over and over. Her character never got out of the basement and her novel was never finished. This kind of inertia is the problem James addresses and he gives tips on ways to let our stories flow from our innermost being without boundaries.

This is one of the most user friendly, practical, and enjoyable books on writing I've ever read. Have you ever been told novels are either character driven or plot driven? I have. James debunks these labels and states that all novels are tension driven. They may be character or plot centered but tension drives the story. That information alone made a huge difference in my writing. The chapter on characterization titled Status was also an amazing enlightenment. 

No matter how many times I read this book, I always see something new and wonderful. True, some things I already knew, but James' approach brings a fresh perspective. I highly recommend this book.

Steven James is a national bestselling novelist whose award-winning, pulse-pounding novels continue to gain aid critical acclaim. Suspense Magazine, who named James' book, The Bishop, their book of the year, says he "sets the new standard in suspense writing." Publishers Weekly calls him a master storyteller at the peak of his game. 

With a Master's Degree in Storytelling, James has taught writing and storytelling around the world and is one of the seven Master CraftFest instructors at ThrillerFest.

When Steven's not writing or speaking, you'll find him trail running, rock climbing, or drinking a dark roast coffee near his home in eastern Tennessee.

Note: Steven James will be the Keynote speaker at the Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc (OWFI) writer's conference May 12 - 14, 2016 in Oklahoma City, OK at the Oklahoma City Embassy Suites. More information will soon be available at:

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Creative Brainstorming

Google Free Images
The parent company of our local newspaper is producing a new lifestyle magazine for our city and surrounding areas. The editor of our paper extended an invitation to our writer's group to contribute to the planned quarterly release of Agave. 

I thought writers might be interested in the brainstorming/planning session held at our meeting with the editor of the Fort Stockton Pioneer, Pam Pepper Palileo. 

Pam gave us a handout titled Magazine Proposal with eight points to cover.
1. Choose a theme that you believe will work for you community. (Describe a little bit about your research.) 
2. What would the standing departments be?
3. List 50 potential advertisers.
4. List at least 12 story ideas that begin with a visual.
5. Plan four issues.
6. List three or four freelancers in your area, their specialty and contact information.
7. What are two events that this magazine could sponsor?
8. What other kinds of marketing ideas (including social media) would help this magazine?

We spent a very fast-paced, creative hour brainstorming our plans. At the end of the meeting we had our assignments, and left feeling excited. I'll admit to a little stunned, "deer in the headlights" sensation, but overall really looking forward to participating in this literary effort. Agave, the Sweeter Side of West Texas is conceived, and will be delivered January 2015.

I'm a fiction writer, and although I do use an outline that never stays in its original form, I was impressed by how the structure of this meeting accomplished so much in a short period of time. 

What structure do you use in your writing?
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Monday, September 28, 2015

GUEST POST: Creating Dynamic Characters with Contrasts

A flying dragon who is afraid of heights. An elephant who doesn’t want to drink the water because of potential bacteria. A brilliant doctor who saves lives, but doesn’t get along with people.

What do they all have in common? They use contrasting elements. They put two opposing elements together and then sit back and watch the conflict of those elements create compelling interactions with other characters and within the overall narrative.

Contrasts are a great way to spice up characters and plots. Not only do they create conflict, which is essential to any great story, but they are also quick fixes if a character gets boring or stuck in a rut.

The concept of using contrasts partly comes from the literary device of irony. Irony is one of those words that people often use, without really understanding what it is. It doesn’t really have to do with humor, although it’s often used in humorous ways.

The most common kind of irony, situational irony, relies on giving the audience something they don’t expect. As writers, creating this fresh twist that defies normal expectations is a great way to pull readers in. While there are certain conventions within genres that should be followed (most of the time), anything a writer can to offer a fresh, relatable tweak on material will often pull in more interest from readers, as well as agents and publishing houses.

Here’s three ways to use contrasts with characters:

1.) Internal contrast. Make the character want something or need something that is direct opposition to their own personality. Author Nadine Brandes does this well in her book A Time to Die, where the main character desperately wants to make a difference, but is naturally inclined to be shy, lazy, and self-doubting. This contrast creates a great inner conflict.

2.) Internal to external contrast. Make the character’s innate abilities clash with the realities of using those abilities in the outside world. This is used in the show House, where the main character is a brilliant doctor who craves the challenge of impossible cases, but has terrible people skills. This conflict of abilities versus practical realities can feed into great plot twists.

3.) External contrast. Make the character directly contrast with someone else or something else in their world. This is most often used in odd couple pairings in comedies: the slob and the neat freak or the workaholic and the laid-back dreamer. While these are obvious stereotypes, they can be scaled back in other genres to create compelling character interactions.

So what about you? Have any examples of great contrasts in your favorite fiction, whether it be novels, TV, or movies?

Janeen Ippolito is an English teacher by day, a sword-fighter by night and a writer by heart. She has a B.A. in Cross-Cultural Studies, Writing, and ESL and has a passion for using humor and cultures in speculative fiction. She is the author of Culture-Building From the Inside Out, an eBook how to write cultures in speculative fiction, and the upcoming Character-Building From the Inside Out, which features quick tips on solving common character issues. In her spare time she makes brownie batter, reads, and grades papers while watching speculative television shows. She loves connecting with, supporting, and promoting fantastical fiction on her blog, so feel free to visit and get in touch!
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Friday, September 25, 2015

The Ambassadors by Marcia Lee Laycock

Cover, PB

October 2014
Helping Hands Press
Paperback at Amazon,
list 14.99; other editions available in Kindle for .99
ISBN 978-1622085613

Buy the Book

From the publisher:
The Complete Series Book I 
Prince Eghan Lhin is terrified when he is abducted from his father’s castle but finds himself in a safe place nestled in a hidden valley high in the mountains not far from his father’s kingdom. He learns to trust the man who has brought him there and even begins to trust Nara, the heir to the throne of his family’s sworn enemies. But he cannot trust the God they follow. When they are led into the dangerous territory on the other side of the mountains, to restore Nara to the throne, Eghan must learn more than trust, more than courage. He must learn what faith really means.

My review:
The Ambassadors is a faith-based novel geared toward Young Adult as the hero and heroine are teens. Set in historical era with kings and castles and horses and swords, a young broody prince, Eghan, learns through physical labor and philosophical instruction what it truly means to be a leader. He has grown up in a household of angry grief with a king for a parent who has held him at arm’s length and a guardian who doesn’t have the authority to hold him to a higher standard. A mysterious legendary hermit saves Eghan after he’s abducted by the kingdom’s enemies to show him the way to true peace and a hopeful future reuniting enemy kingdoms to face a greater foe threatening them both.

I enjoyed the story, though agree with another review that found the intrusion of contemporary Scripture and citation inserted in the text to be a somewhat clunky contrivance. Other than that, the story of a princeling forced to grow up and charged with the restoration of the kingdom or surrendering his people to an evil force was often thrilling and somewhat romantic. The setting was nicely done, dialog good. Occasionally too convenient events such as providing an enemy faith-based prisoner in the dungeon made me read faster, but fiction is often built upon such behind-the-scenes workings.

The novel felt like it could have been an epic. I rarely think this, but this is a story that could have been much longer and richer, with more back story and detail; occasionally I felt it went too quickly and jumped over particulars I wanted to know, but overall the pacing was balanced as it moved between parallel events in the kingdom, Eghan’s current life, and that of his guardian who set out to find his abducted charge but discovered much more besides.

Other volumes in the series are available.

About the Author:
Laycock-MarciaFor the past 20+ years I've been a pastor's wife, mother of three girls, caretaker of two dogs, two cats and sundry fish, and oh, yes, a freelance writer. The writing began in the attic of my parent's house where I wrote stories for my dolls. None of them complained, so I kept it up. The Lord has abundantly blessed, challenged, rebuked, healed and restored me through the process of writing and being involved with writers.

Visit my website -

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Verbal Deprivation

Authors are depriving themselves. I don't know why, but for some reason, certain words and verb tenses have landed on someone's "hit list," and consequently have become taboo--to the detriment of clarity in our writing. I don't know who that "someone" is or why anyone should pay attention to his opinion, but editors who understand grammar wisely ignore him.
One of the words currently cloaked in shame is "was." To a certain extent, I understand this, but let's take a look at it. One of these two sentences below is a sure-fire example of lazy writing. Guess which:
A.  As I watched, I realized he was strong as an ox.
B. When I saw him, he was sitting by Sally.
Gold star to whoever said A.
Past Continuous 
"He was strong as an ox" is telling, and adding the simile--especially a cliche--doesn't help. That sentence is a sign of lazy writing. "As I watched, he lifted a one-ton Ford pickup with his bare hands" illustrates how strong he is and doesn't contain a single "was."
Example B, however, uses the past continuous (or past progressive) verb tense. It illustrates on-going action. To use simple past tense in this sentence changes the meaning: "When I saw him, he sat by Sally" means the main character watched him assume the seat beside Sally. "When I saw him, he was sitting by Sally" means he had already assumed the seat and was still there when the main character saw him.
Okay, granted, that seems like a fine line. The site describes it better:
The past continuous describes actions or events in a time before now, which began in the past and was still going on at the time of speaking. In other words, it expresses an unfinished or incomplete action in the past.
It is used:
often to describe the background in a story written in the past tense, e.g. "The sun was shining and the birds were singing as the elephant came out of the jungle. The other animals were relaxing in the shade of the trees, but the elephant moved very quickly."
to describe an unfinished action that was interrupted by another event or action: "I was having a beautiful dream when the alarm clock rang."
Does that help clarify?
Past continuous is a valid verb tense and can't help it if "was" is part of its make-up. Be discriminating about the "was" verbs you're trying to obliterate from your work.
Past Perfect
Authors frequently write in past tense, but when they want to illustrate something that is further past in their story's history than simple "past," they should use the "past perfect" tense--which, unfortunately, is also on the hit list. This is another one I can understand to a certain extent. Reading that a character "had" done this and "had" done that through several paragraphs can be cumbersome, but leaving it out entirely can confuse the timeline in the reader's mind.
If you're doing a brief history, a brief backstory, use past perfect:
When she first got there, she had expected five-star treatment since she was a movie star.  Instead, she'd been treated as if she were no one special. Now, she realized they had given her special treatment--they'd treated her as if she were family.
As short as this is, the past perfect tense isn't bothersome, and it helps to use contractions to cut down on the "hads." To stretch this into several paragraphs of backstory, however, the past perfect tense would be a pain.
The secret is to ground your reader in the backstory by using past perfect in the first several lines and revert to past tense until the last several lines. Toward the end of the backstory, use past perfect again to cue the reader that you're ending the backstory and preparing to re-enter "story present" (which, of course, is told in past tense. Can we get any more confusing?).
But the best thing to do with long backstory passages is to determine whether the reader really needs to know what you're about to dump on her and whether there is a better way to present it--a topic better left to another post.
Don't deprive yourself of the various verb tenses, which are some of the tools we authors have to present our stories, just because some nameless someone has declared war on certain words. "Had" and "was," used in combination with other verbs, help to provide clarity in your work, and shouldn't be shunned indiscriminately.
Two sites that can help tremendously with verbs are and edufind.comMake the most of 'em!

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Monday, September 21, 2015


I’m currently in the throes of a major rewrite. What started as tweaking has turned into an entirely different story. I didn't intend for this to happen but I wrote the manuscript years ago and I’ve grown as a writer.

As I worked, I noticed something about my manuscript. I had an affinity for certain phrases and they popped up on every few pages.  You’ve heard of purple prose? I had purple phrases. In other words, those irritating, repetitive phrases that make the reader roll her eyes until she has a headache.

This isn’t only a beginning writer’s problem. Purple phrases even happen to authors who are New York Times best sellers. I recently read a book by a well-known novelist who used a phrase repeatedly in reference to the heroine's eyes: Her eyes were cornflower blue. Tears welled in her cornflower blue eyes. She glared at him through cornflower blue eyes. 

All right! All right! I get it! Her eyes were cornflower blue! Geeze.

The phrases that kept finding their way in my novel were: A sigh escaped her. A sly grin stole over his face. She grabbed her throat. The throat thing was particularly noticeable to the point my editor asked why I felt it was necessary for the heroine to choke herself every time something upset her. When I read his comment I wanted to choke him, but he was right—sigh.

Another thing I noticed, my characters were constantly drinking coffee. Hmm, maybe because I’m usually drinking coffee while writing?

I knew I had to do something in order to keep from aggravating my reader, so I made a purple phrase list and taped it to my computer screen. This helps to remind me to keep escaping sighs and sly grins and throat grabbing heroins in check. And when I notice a new PP, I add it to the list.

What about you? Do you have any purple phrases? What are they? And what do you do to avoid them while writing?
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Friday, September 18, 2015

The Road to Terminus


Catherine Leggitt

In 1955, George Stanton—drug user, alcoholic, and embezzler—flees from Chicago when both the underworld and the law close in on him. Meanwhile in St. Louis, the aged widow Mabel Crowley takes in a street urchin, a little girl named Stryker. The reluctant Stryker holds on desperately to a stuffed monkey toy because the mother who abandoned her said never to let the monkey out of her sight. A medical exam shows that Stryker has acute leukemia, and only an experimental treatment at the UCLA Medical Center has any hope of a cure. So Mabel loads Stryker and the monkey into her aging Studebaker and sets out for California.

A few miles down Highway 66 they find a wreck. George Stanton, driving his Lincoln while drunk, has sped into sharp curve and crashed. Mabel and Stryker take the ungracious George in, and thus begins a long and troubled odyssey for the ill-matched and cross-motivated trio.

In author Catherine Leggitt's practiced handling, this conflicted situation becomes both a fascinating story and a character study of unusual depth. As the journey progresses, each of the three characters changes the other two and is changed by them. As a bonus for the reader, the author's detailed historical research on the geography of Highway 66 and its environs, together with her extensive knowledge of classic automobiles, add interest at each point along the way. The author weaves all of these threads into a narrative of increasing tension, leading to a climax in which the characters and the reader confront the stark reality of eternal truth. These factors make for an excellent book with a depth rarely found in commercial fiction.

Reviewed by Donn Taylor, author of Lightning on a Quiet Night, Deadly Additive, etc.

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