Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My issue with fragments

I'm putting on my editor's cap today so I can talk about sentence fragments and why they irk me.

Wait, I know - before you say it: Lots of authors use sentence fragments stylistically. That's their voice, and it's wrong to try to change them.

I agree. Lots of authors use sentence fragments. Some do it well. There are places where a fragment works because a complete sentence would actually be too wordy or too clunky. A few choice words arranged strategically can drive home a point, or evoke an image the way a full on explanation couldn't.

But sometimes fragments aren't art, they're just incomplete images. Fragments that are long-winded descriptions of things but that still don't contain a verb are not stylistic. They're puzzle pieces. Fragments that evoke a feeling or an image but don't give the reader a clear picture of what the author is talking about are not art, they're lacking a frame of reference.

When I edit, I tend to highlight fragments in an author's work not because I want to annoy them or change their voice, but because I want their descriptions to be fuller and more meaningful. I want to see the whole picture. Just like they do.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, why not use all the words you need to desribe the picture you see?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hats? Which ones do you wear?

I love hats and I just bought a new one this weekend (a black fedora with a jaunty little bow) and the moment I looked at it, I thought, "that's a writer's hat".

That got me to thinking about what kinds of hats I wear, literally and figuratively.

On the literal side: I have running hats (caps, visors, reflective) Fall hats (leather and tweed) Winter hats (warm and snowproof) and sun hats (the bigger the better!).

On the figurative side: I wear my family/friend relationship hats and my Chief Bottle Washer/Dog Walker/Food Preparer hats.

I also sometimes wear one of these:

And then there are the WRITER'S HATS: The Creative Thinking Cap, The Editor's Beret (because my editor might very well be a haughty French artist) and my Marketing Matador Hat (because I'm in the fight to get readers to focus on the bullseye of my books.

Tell me Killer Friends: What kinds of hats do you wear? Which do you like best? And which do you wish you could give away?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Art of Procrastination

My plan for today was to write about how I’ve been embracing procrastination for the past week or so.

Coming from a place of intense fear of wasting time, I have a habit of pushing myself to get work done even when everyone and everything around me is screaming that I should take a break. I always try to give it ‘a few more minutes’, ‘one more page’, ‘let me get this chapter done’. When faced with an unstructured block of time, like a long weekend for instance, I tend to become over-ambitious. I set the bar high for what I want to accomplish, and then I invariably fall short of those goals. Even though what I do accomplish might be impressive, since it’s not the bar I was shooting for, I look at it as a failure. I could have done more.

I have a history of looking back over those blocks of time and wondering why I didn’t make better use of them.

Overall, I’m a champ when it comes to finding ways to stress myself. I really don’t need anyone to do it for me - I can make myself utterly crazy all by myself.

So after starting a full time day job earlier this month, I realized I had to find a way to fit some good old-fashioned procrastination into my schedule or my head would explode.

At first I thought I would just cut back on my editing, which would free up all my non-work time for writing. It sounded like a great idea. But I realized pretty quickly that at the end of the day, the less I did, the less I wanted to do. So my writing has been sitting on the shelf along with my editing, and my down time has been taken up with lying on the couch complaining about how Daylight Savings time is kicking my butt all over the place.

I started to think maybe this wasn’t really so bad - not the Daylight Savings time stuff - I hate the time change. It screws up my internal clock big time, but the procrastinating… maybe…isn’t a mortal sin. Maybe I need a couple of weeks to veg out, rediscover the art of navel gazing and let my brain melt a little bit. My hope is that this new state of lethargy won’t be too permanent.

Unfortunately I made the mistake of searching ‘procrastination’ on the interwebs, and all I found out was about ways to avoid it, change it, beat it, end it and cure myself of it. This harshed my mellow, so I’m going to ignore all those hits and go back to lounging around for two more weeks until my brain catches up with me again and my internal clock rights itself.

How about you? Have you suffered from a period of procrastination that, looking back, you realize may actually have been good for you?

Monday, March 19, 2012

What's new?

It's Spring! (okay, after the mild winter most of us had, this whole Spring thing isn't as exciting as it usually is)
It's Monday! (Okay, Mondays don't deserve exclamation points)
What's new?

Autumn is my favorite season, but Spring comes in a close second. I like that the grey days of Winter are on their way to becoming a distant memory.  I love watching nature's renewal. I love the sense of possibility that lingers in the air.

Spring couldn't have come at a better time for me. I'm a bit overwhelmed at the moment (witness this short post, lol) and I needed the little jolt of energy the arrival of Spring provides.

Familiar and comfortable are good, but something new is invigorating. I'm making a conscious to try new things.

I read two new books this weekend in an attempt to feed my poor weathered muse (wasn't impressed by either, so I won't name them).

I've got a new exercise dvd: Jackie Warner's 30 Day Fast Start. I like the Upper Body Workout...Haven't made it thru the Lower Body Workout without giving up yet, lol, so I guess it's effective.

I've started making notes on an idea for a new novel.

I tried a new lipcolor. I'm pretty sure that I like Revlon's Just Bitten lip stain because it pleases my inner five-year-old....what kid wouldn't like to scribble on their face with the equivalent of a marker?

What's new with you? Have you seen a new movie? Read a "new to you" author? Tried a new recipe? Started a new diet/workout? Planned a trip to a new destination?

What's YOUR favorite season and why?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

So what is it about bad boys?

As I was racking my brain trying to think of a post this week, I kept coming back to the subject of the anti-hero. I knew I wanted to talk about anti-heroes but I really had no idea what to say other than I love them and I’m not sure why.

I decided that wouldn’t be quite enough to build a post around, so I sat at my computer ruminating and I looked back at some old Killer Chicks posts about villains in particular to get an idea of why we as writers/readers/viewers are so enamored of the bad guys. I don’t just mean the ‘bad boy’ who shows up in his leather jacket with his smoldering gaze and questionable reputation. I’m talking about the BAD boy, who may very well be public enemy number one.

I thought about the villains I love [okay most of them are vampires, but let’s get past that for a second] and it occurred to me that I harbor a deep seated need to redeem the bad guy – more so than to see him stopped/captured/killed etc.
Spike is my favorite anti-hero - but I have to admit, when he turned hero, he wasn't as interesting.

I love villains and anti-heroes because I’m in love with the idea that they can be turned around, that there’s someone [usually the heroine] who can bring out their humanity. Of course when I follow that thought out to the logical conclusion, I end up with a defanged villain whose not much fun to play with anymore. While part of me wants to see the anti-hero turn into a good boy with all the prerequisite traits that go along with that, part of me is also disappointed by that result.

Sawyer from LOST captured my imagination until the day he started playing house with Juliet.

Hellboy has a soft spot for kittens...can't blame him, but it makes him a bit less bad-ass.

Dexter is everyone's favorite serial killer - with a domestic side.

Which anti-heroes do you love the most? Have you ever been disappointed by the redemption of an anti-hero?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

JB on JUSTIFIED, Jennifer Colgan on Thursday

JB here: Just wanted to let everyone know that I'm blogging today about the importance of questions in suspense (and JUSTIFIED) at Not Your Usual Suspects.

Jennifer Colgan will be posting here tomorrow!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Just Do It...ESPECIALLY when you don't want to

I'm a TERRIBLE runner. I'm slow. I'm fat. I have terrible form. I have a collection of injuries that tend to flare up at inopportune moments. I sweat. I turn fuchsia (not plain, old, exertion-red, but freaking FUCHSIA). Oh, and I walk more than I run.

But for the past four or five years, I've tried to be a runner. I know that people look at me and wonder, "Why?". I'd love to say it's because I'm hooked on endorphins and "runner's high" but I've never experienced it. It certainly isn't because I enjoy lumbering along like a drunken ox. And, despite the fact I do enjoy it, I don't do it for the runner's "swag". (Swag may be defined as something a runner receives "for free" after they've PAID their entry fee for a race. This includes anything from band-aids to running shirts.)

So why do I torture myself with something I don't expect to ever be good at?

I like the challenge. I like pushing myself. I like that I'm slowly (ever sooooo slowly) getting just a little bit better at it.

This past weekend I was signed up to do a local 5k that I've done for the past few years. I REALLY didn't want to do it. I'd been in lousy mood for days AND I'd had a low-grade stomach bug that had left me feeling drained. I could have easily stayed in bed Saturday morning, but instead I forced myself to get to the start line (my stomach rumbling in protest for the entire hour before as though it was some sort of Harbinger of Doom).

The race started, my husband took off, and as if on cue, my stomach cramped painfully. I considered just returning to the car and waiting for Long Suffering to finish the race, but then I remembered my favorite t-shirt. It says:

I'd already managed to start, did I really want a Did Not Finish in my personal record book? No.

I've completed two half-marathons (13.1 miles). Was I really going to bail on a measly 3.1 miles? No.

So I  kept going. I started to pass a few people (sure they were in their 80s...literally, I looked them up when I got home) and I was pretty sure that as long as I kept moving, I wouldn't even come in fast.

But my stomach still hurt and I hadn't gotten to the killer hill I knew was part of the course. (Even real runners hate this hill, not just my slowpoke self.) I got to the top of the hill and for the first time in the six times I've done this course, I didn't feel like I was going to collapse. Sure, I was huffing and puffing, but I didn't think my heart was going to explode out of my chest. It felt like a victory.

I picked up my pace. I didn't take any walk breaks for the last 1.1 miles (another first for me) and passed a bunch of runners who'd gone out faster than me, but whose energy was lagging. Suddenly, as I rounded the last turn, I realized that if I sprinted to the finish line, I could beat my fastest time for this particular course. Yes, I, who NEVER sprint, sprinted.

I logged a Personal Best time in a race I didn't even want to do.

That's why I keep trying to run. For those moments when I do better than I ever thought I could.

It's also why, day-after-day, I sit at the keyboard and write. I just have to do it. Because, sometimes, when I least expect it, and when I'd rather do pretty much ANYTHING else, I surprise myself.

Tell me Killer Friends: What do you force yourself to do, even when you don't feel like, ESPECIALLY when you don't feel like it, that has netted you some surprising benefits?

Speaking of pleasant surprises, CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN was named a Recommended Read by Jennifer Porter at Romance Novel News!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How do you do it?

By 'it' I mean, everything.

I've always had a problem with balancing the different aspects of my life. Since I 'turned pro' as they say, with my writing, I've done the juggling act, trying to fit in family time, part time day job, blogging, promo, housework and every now and then some exercise. I've spent much of the last seven years feeling like I was on a treadmill [and yet not burning any calories].

I told myself that one day I would figure it all out, create a schedule that worked for me and be able to stick to it.

That never happened. Despite actually sitting down on several occasions to create schedules using spreadsheets and calendars and sticky notes, I was never able to nail down a fool proof way to fit everything I wanted to do reasonably into a day or a week.

Two days ago, I went back to 'work' full time. The reason for this change was quite simple really: Money. With two teenagers who will soon need cars and college educations, I could no longer rely on the capricious writing industry. I don't intend to stop writing, or to stop earning money from it, but writing has gone from being my full time job to being my part time job once again.

This means balancing everything just got harder.

So for those of you out there who work full time and write - and have anything else going on in your life, like kids, pets, the need to cook meals, clean house, sleep - you know, all that frivolous stuff that non-writers just take for granted, tell me how you manage it all?

Do you have a written schedule? Do you time everything? Do you pay family members to do things for you? Do you threaten family members with bodily harm if they don't do things for you?

Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, March 5, 2012

What Happens At Book Club...

I'll be discussing CONFESSIONS OF A SLIGHTLY NEUROTIC HITWOMAN with two different book clubs this month.

I admit I'm both nervous and excited about it, since these will be my first couple of "author appearances". One will be a phone-in chat and the other will be in-person.

So nervous I've been dreaming about them, lol.

I'm hoping YOU will help me prepare for them.

If you were attending a book club event where you'd get to ask the author questions about Confessions...or any other book, what do you think you'd ask?

In other exciting news, Confessions was just named a Recommended Read by Romance Novel News!