Reckless Hearts Available for Pre-order

Reckless Hearts Available for Pre-order
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Friday, August 7, 2015

Why Spellcheck Sucks


I love writing in a program that indicates my spelling and grammar mistakes. It helps when I’m on my seventh read-through of my own book and have to get through it even though I’ve all but glazed over at the jumble of my own words.

Google Docs will give me spelling advice, and I love to use it when working on project pieces with Kate for Blogging Your Book. But my go-to program is MS Word.

In lieu of having an editor on staff (because, well, I’m an indie author so let’s get real about the level of income that’s happening in this office, huh?) I can rely on Word to give me similar suggestions as an editor when I’m doing my first read-through.

Or can I?

Take, for example, the following sentence that I wrote for a personal blog post about 3 years ago:

“Regardless that Stephanie Meyer is a Phoenix based Author.”

Notice the spelling mistake? Yeah, well neither did Word. Or my brain while I was typing it or when I did my read-through after pasting the text into my blog post.

Because that line should read:

“Regardless that Stephenie Meyer is a Phoenix based Author.”

If you aren’t familiar with her work you might have done something similar to what I did and just typed her first name the way that name is generally spelled. I wasn’t really thinking, I was lost in a Twilight haze and since it was spelled “correctly”, Word didn’t flag it.

People have spelled my name wrong too. The most common is Jen because that’s the usual way people spell it, not with 2 n’s. But I’ve also seen Jenn Flynn-Shonn – 2 n’s for everyone!

It wasn’t until the post came out that I noticed my error, then made the necessary edit. Luckily, my blog wasn’t super popular so I’m pretty sure nobody noticed except me. Still, I was partially mortified. I mean, I’m an author too and it makes me cringe when people spell my name wrong so how could I get the name of a famous local author wrong?!

But these things happen, right?

Sure, and it’s why, as fiction writers, we need an editor!

Editors and proofreaders will help you to ensure as few spelling and grammar mistakes as possible. But they leave your voice alone. They still let you tell your story in your way, just, better. More polished.

And proofreaders will help you reign in where you typed ‘an’ instead of ‘and’, where you missed the word ‘to’ in the narrative, or when your character is ‘charging if the front door’.

These pros are an invaluable asset, especially for an indie who has probably read their own book so many times the prose is blurring together in one big glob of letters.

However, I’m sure you’ve noticed the myriad of these pros scattered about the internet and social media sites. So how can you know if the pro really is a pro, not just a fly-by-nighter trying to make a quick buck with no real experience behind them?

Here’s my criteria when looking for someone to help polish my books:

  • They must be a reader (bonus if they read my specific genre).
  • They must have a website.
  • That website must look and feel professional, and be easy to navigate.
  • It also shouldn’t have any spelling mistakes (hello, red flag!).
  • They have to understand modern fiction (because sometimes we have to dangle participles or end a sentence with a preposition in order to stay true to a character’s voice, but we also shouldn’t make a habit of it.)
  • Their fees should be reasonable (we’re talking Goldilocks Zone here, people – one cent per 100 words isn’t realistic but neither is $50 per page, for a 500 page book, as a proofreader).
  • At least one book in their portfolio (I don’t care if it was written by their BFF, mom, brother, I want references and examples of the kind of work they can do before I fork over my “baby” and all that moolah!)
  • They get back to me in a reasonable amount of time (because I don’t expect a response in 10 minutes but it should be less than 72 hours or I’ll question how much attention they can give their clients – fostering a relationship is key to repeat business).


Bottom line, don’t rely on spellcheck and grammar checks in programs to bring that finished quality to your fiction. Hire the right people and your investment will pay off in the professionalism of your work!


Do you have an editor or proofer you use on the regular? I’ll be looking for a new one for my next book and would love suggestions. Leave their twitter ID in the comments or come on over and connect with me on twitter

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Planning by the Seat of my Pants


If you’ve spent any time reading the inner musings of novelists then you know there are essentially two types of writers – pantsers and planners.

To define each, a pantser is someone that flies by the seat of their pants and writes whatever comes to them in the moment their fingers hit keys while a planner meticulously details a full outline of each book and sticks to it through the end.

Which is better? As far as I’m concerned either way is terrific if it works to produce a quality piece of fiction.

Me?

To the tune of the Osmonds: I’m a little bit pantser, a little bit plan it out. But to fully understand how that’s possible, let me share a bit of my writing process.

Outline pantser

When I sit down to start working on a new book I think about the characters, the basic plot and some of the scenes. I’ll start writing and maybe come up with one or two gems that stick around but at the beginning all I really try to do is figure out what the characters are trying to say and why they do what they do.

In other words, I am an outline pantser.

An outline can be a great tool while working on a book. Consider how many characters there might be in a piece of fiction. Then how many personality traits each of those characters have. How many places they go, things they do, moments they have that push the story forward.

Those little nuances are what give a book a feeling of completion, fullness.

But I couldn’t possibly plan for those moments, sometimes spontaneity is crucial to a story so it feels organically birthed and not contrived.

The first 25 or so pages I write will work toward developing a story. One that isn’t real yet but is on its way. Meaning that I haven’t spent enough time with the characters yet to understand their motivations or background.

Think of it like this: you get invited to a dinner party but know no one other than the host. Could you tell me what will happen at the end of the night before you even arrive? (If you can then you might be a planner!)

Likely, the answer is no.

What might happen at the end of the night only becomes apparent after a glass of wine, some food and dialogue among your peers. A book is the same thing with the only difference being it all comes out of your head.

Planning plot points

That’s the point where things get interesting for me as a writer. After meeting and getting to know all my characters in a pantsy way, I start to dwell on the good and evil sides of their personalities.

After all, I write mystery fiction. Which means every character in the book will have something to hide as well as the face they put on for the general public around them. Good guys aren’t always 100% good people, just like killers aren’t always 100% evil.

But once I have a general idea about who those characters are, because of the handful of pages I write to work it out, that’s when I can get down to the planning phase.

In the past I mentioned my novel journal where I make notes of the various aspects in my book. That journal is a direct result of caution-to-the-wind pantsing (and yes, I’m using this as a verb, sue me). The cast is established, motivations of the killer/victim/observers are clear and the setting established.

Then I can take that info and start building scenes because, like a game of chess, I can now see three moves into the future.

The moments that make a book special are the ones that seem to spontaneously appear on the page though, the unexpected things that turn a corner or change a reader’s perception of a character.

All that stuff comes with pantsing an outline.

They surprise me in a good way and then I work hard to fit those surprises into the greater structure of the story as a whole.

Some make it, some don’t, but all of that early work has merit because it gets you closer to your character’s inner motivations.

But I don’t get bogged down

To be a pantser means writing stream of consciousness and not caring much about how it will fit. Because, to be a pantser also means you understand how much editing you’ll be doing later, regardless if there’s a solid outline or not.

For me, to embrace being a pantser means to just keep writing. Even when I encounter things that trip me up.

For example, a new character can be confusing at times. I’m just getting to know them so sometimes I can’t name them until more of their “self” shines through.

In that instance I use brackets and come back to the issue later. Sometimes not until the end of editing the first draft! Here’s how that might read as I pants my outline:

I looked out the driver’s side window at this twenty year old kid in front of me. He was average height and build and his fancy nametag read [VALET NAME] but all I could think of was that episode of Friends where Ross bleached his teeth. The kid’s smile had to glow in the dark.

How I do it:
  • Use the bracketed label in the story as I write
  • Immediately note down the character and bracketed info in my journal (for reference)
  • Use the same label throughout the book
  • Take advantage of Word find/replace when the name comes to me
  • Note the name in the journal (for future reference)


So, as you can see, I feel there’s a lot of merit in both styles of writing and I use both in the crafting of my books.

Which do you use? Do you do a little of both, like me, or does your writing tend to lean one way or the other?



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Friday, June 26, 2015

Excerpt from soon to be Released Reckless Hearts


For the past few months I’ve been writing, editing and creating a new adventure for Shaw McLeary, the main character from my first book, Reckless Abandon.

And I’m really excited to announce that my sassy leading female will be back for book 2 in The Shaw McLeary Mystery Series – Reckless Hearts.

My latest work of fiction is slated for novella length of about 25k words and a release in July. And I can. Not. Wait!

If you read Abandon you remember there were a few nagging questions that didn’t quite get answered. Things that could totally alter the direction of Shaw’s future. The wait is almost over for those answers. Hearts will answer them all!

Of course that begs a new question – what might Shaw have to work through this time and what decisions did she make after finding out the truth?

Want a little taste of what’s to come? Just go ahead and continue reading. Then don’t forget to sign up for my monthly newsletter so you’ll be the first to know when you can pre-order Reckless Hearts!

Excerpt from Reckless Hearts A Shaw McLeary Mystery #2**






**as of draft June 10, 2015

Due to a severe spike in spam, I no longer accept comments from Anonymous users. All comments made on posts 3 days or older will be moderated. Spam will be deleted (it is up to the blog administrator to determine if a comment is spam). A new window opens when you click to comment.