September 14, 2010

Guest Author Amy Gallow

Writers are not born

Forty years ago, I enrolled in a report-writing class in our Adult Education system and found it cancelled by lack of numbers. I was offered instead, a fiction writing class conducted by a writer of pulp detective stories and my sense of humor prompted me to accept the alternative. Other than it leading to my first published story in a long defunct men’s magazine, I remember only a few highlights of the course, none of which I use today.
It did prompt me to write my first novel, using a portable typewriter perched on my knee during engine room watches at sea, and led to me using fiction writing as a form of stress relief from a twenty-four/seven technical career in the offshore oil industry some years afterwards. I still have some of my early manuscripts and they are, quite frankly, atrocious.
I’m not sure what prompted me to put aside the dubious pleasure of writing for myself and start writing for other readers to enjoy, but the habits of success ensured that I began by a detailed analysis of the process and a plan to succeed. Fifteen published books and several magazine shorts later, I’m still working on it.
Its central tenet lies in the understanding that my task as a writer is to disappear from the reader’s consciousness, leaving them caught up in a smoothly advancing story “now”, unaware that they are reading as they experience the story unfolding around them. Supporting this tenet are twenty-three pillars of acquired skill, none of them original, but all functional.
(1)             Punctuation: Keep it simple, tailored to the needs of your targeted readers;
(2)             Use simple words vividly rather than trying to impress with your erudition;
(3)             Imprecise words: - “He picked up something heavy and hit the man on the head” is much better as “David snatched a fist-sized rock from the pile and slammed it into the back of John’s head.”;
(4)             Unnecessary words, phrases, adjectives: - The morning sun’s silent rays burned Julia’s skin as she walked from the grassy open field into the deeply forested woods. Immediately, the late spring air felt cooler. She sat down on a grey rock, took off her Cordura nylon backpack, pulled open the sticky Velcro fastener of the side pocket and took out a plastic bottle of soda water. She opened the blue screw-type top and drank thirstily. Her green and gold speckled kerchief felt scratchy against her sweaty skin, so she loosened it. Crows cackled wickedly from somewhere in the dark woods. A small ladybug with one wing torn off was crawling on the rock’s rough surface.;
(5)             Space fillers: About; Actually; Almost; Like; Already; Appears; Approximately; Basically; Close to; Even; Eventually; Exactly; Finally; Here; Just; Just Then; Kind of; Nearly; Now; Practically; Really; Seems; Simply; Somehow; Somewhat; Somewhat like; Sort of; Suddenly; Then; There; Truly; Utterly
(6)             Overuse of adverbs; A well chosen adverb can create vivid images, but many of them are simply unnecessary. Take “she slammed the door forcibly” and ask yourself how else do you slam a door? Add to this the repeated “ly” that most of them end in creates a clickerty-clack rhythm in your writing that palls very rapidly.
(7)             Overuse of past tense: - Differentiate between the immediate past of “Harold lied” and the more distant past of “Harold had lied.”;
(8)            Overuse of participle phrases: - “This is a really boring movie,” she said, fidgeting in her seat. “You said it,” he agreed, handing her the popcorn.” Considering for a moment, she took a handful. “I really shouldn’t be doing this,” she said, her voice dropping.;
(9)             Illogical use of “as” and “while”: - “Hey, Jim. How about another drink for this guy and give me a refill of my usual,” while she said this, Anna leaned forward and dropped one leg to the floor. Jennifer’s head shot up as she looked around.  “Damn coasters,” the barman said, as one fell to the floor. ;
(10)         Run on prepositional phrases: - “He won the race in the rain, under record time, with new shoes …… etc.;
(11)         Repetitious words or phrases; These sneak into our writing like thieves.  Consider the following: “By the time he reached the party, there were a collection of his friends there before him. Now the MC was there, it was time to start. There was an air of excitement already.”
(12)         Convoluted phrasing: - “The place turned out to be a Laundromat” is better as “It was a Laundromat.”  “She launched herself forward at him.” Is better as “She jumped at him.” And “He raised himself from his chair and came to stand by the bar.” Is better as “He stood and came to the bar.”;
(13)         Weak sentence structure: - “Harold clenched his fist outside Henderson’s door” is weaker than “At Henderson’s door, Harold’s fists clenched.” because the significant action comes at the end. Just as “Harold saw Henderson in the car park when he glanced out the window.”, is weaker than “Harold glanced out the window and saw Henderson in the car park.”;
(14)         Dialogue tags: Don’t leave them hanging out to dry at the end of speech. Use alternative attributions where possible;
(15)         Over-inflated imagery: - “His doubts assailed him, a swarm of wasps buzzing around inside his head, ready to sting in an instant.”, is patently ridiculous;
(16)         Unnecessary phrases of realisation or discernment: - “He saw there were three men coming over the hill” is better as “Three men came over the hill.”  “He discovered he was not alone in the room.” is better as “He was not alone.” and “Barbara realised a sound was coming from the closet.” is better as “A sound came from the closet.”;
(17)         Too much passive voice: “Harold found himself trembling.” is both passive and weaker than “Harold trembled.”;
(18)         Over-telling: - “Harold looked at Henderson’s door.  He could storm in there, expose Henderson as incompetent, as venal, as the womanizer he was … and Ruth need never know how their future had been threatened. He was fantasizing.”
(19)         Monotonous sentence rhythm: - “Harold looked at Henderson’s office. It was three o’clock. He looked around. The rest of the office was empty. It was very quiet. He rubbed his chin. An office girl returned. He sighed, bending over his work.”
(20)         Continuity: Don’t leave gaps in the action;
(21)         Reader orientation. Keep control of the way the reader experiences the story;
(22)         Show, not tell! Don’t say that you’re angry, sad, or happy. Prove it by your choice of words, the tempo of your sentences. Let the reader experience the events: and
(23)         Use effective images: 3000 people can die in Turkey as the result of an earthquake and few take notice unless it affects them directly, while the death of a beloved pet is heart-rending.

If you want to see how these are applied, check out my last two books as Amy Gallow, “A Fair Trader” at Whiskey Creek Press and “A Soldier’s Woman” at Eternal Press, and “The First-Born” a science fiction romantic adventure will be released by Eternal Press on October 7th.

June 1, 2010

Must-have Tools for Writers #writertips

How many of us want tools to make our writing easier? I’m the first to raise my hand and jump in line. Like many of you out there, I want to work smarter not harder! There are quite a few tools on the internet to help with any tasks. Here are a few of my favorites:
1.) You’re writing a historical romance and you’re stuck for a word in a certain language. Fear no more, all you need to so is pull up Google and type in English to French translation and voila! There’s a great place to start: http://webtranslation.paralink.com/
2.) If it’s one of those pesky books where your character must speak with a Scottish dialect and you can’t figure out how to write the dialogue. Do the same with any search again and voila! (can’t you tell I love this word!) you get a great result such as Wikipedia http://sco.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Scots-English-Scots_dictionar  OR http://tinyurl.com/ocuql
For the beginners out there, I do have a few goodies to share. First, I must say hats off to Karen Wiesner for writing such a fantastic book entitled FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS. This book should be a bible for any beginning writer. Karen walks you through each area step by step and teaches you how to write a best selling novel. I will testify that you can actually write a best seller in 30 days because I have using her methods and they DO WORK. Her follow up—FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED NOVEL is another phenomenal book because it’s the next chapter (pardon the pun!) to FIRST DRAFT. Both of my copies are so worn and ragged, they’re barely recognizable! I may have to get 2 new copies! Here’s the link to the FIRST DRAFT site: http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/FD2.html
Second, another amazing book is Break Into Fiction: 11 Steps to Building a Story that Sells by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love. It’s another great help to building that best selling story.
One bit of software that I do recommend to you is called WriteItNow Novel writing software. It has its own built in processor if you don’t have Word or any other word processing software. There’s a lot of great build in’s like Story Board and Notecards. A great piece of software.
Now I don’t want you to think I’m being paid to mention these products. I’m not. As an established writer, I know how tough it is getting started when you don’t know what you need. That’s why I’ve written this blog article for you today. When I started out, none of these books or software existed and I had to do a lot of things on my own without anyone’s guidance or help. I like passing along things I’ve learned that make my life a lot easier to someone else who may have the desire and talent but isn’t sure how to start.
To all the newbies out there that have stories inside of them dying to get out, take my advice and find out what you can from who you can. Many of us in the writing community are so willing to reach out to other authors so you should take advantage of their generosity and help to make your books better. To all the pros out there I say, you can never learn too much about what’s new.


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For your enjoyment -- here is an adult excerpt from the new Prince of Shadow. Happy Reading!

Prince of Shadows
Bloodborn book 2
Tracy L. Ranson
Genre: Erotic Historical, paranormal, vampires/werwolves
Buy HERE from Siren-Bookstrand

Entangled in a web of intrigue, Tatiana Gregorovich knows the only true ruler of Russia is Catherine I, a woman of strength and beauty. She ferries messages back and forth between Catherine and her generals, taking on the fa├žade of a simpleton at court.
She fools everyone except Nicholas Wetherington, a thousand year old vampire at the Russian court. She is drawn to his smoldering, exotic looks unaware that her attraction could cost her life.

Hope you enjoyed the tips!
Tracy L. Ranson

February 25, 2010

KyAnn Waters Interview

KyAnn, welcome to Romance Lives Forever. Tell us a little about yourself, please.

I live in Utah with my husband, two children, and two dogs. I spend my days writing and evenings with my family. I love sporting events on the television, thrillers on the big screen, and hot sex between the pages of my books.
How about a peek at your booklist?

Delicious Darkness - Paranormal - The Wild Rose Press
The Cougar Meets Her Master - Contemporary BDSM - The Wild Rose Press
Hot Blooded - Vampire - The Wild Rose Press
Executive Positions – Contemporary – The Wild Rose Press
Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down - Contemporary Cowboy BDSM - The Wild Rose Press
Johnny Loves Krissy - Contemporary - The Wild Rose Press (April 30, 2010)
Cinderella Undercover - Contemporary Romantic Suspense - Siren Publishing (June 2010)

KyAnn Waters - links
www.facebook.com/kyannwaters

What song would best describe your life?
Little Wonders by Rob Thomas. Everyone has to go through rough periods in order to appreciate the good times.

To quote
"Let it go,
Let it roll right off your shoulder
Don't you know
The hardest part is over..."

If you were a tool, what would people use you for?

I’d say I’m a widget. Widget = An unnamed device - a little device or mechanism, especially one whose name is unknown or forgotten. So either I’m a useless tool, or as I like to think I just haven’t figured out my purpose.

You can erase one embarrassing experience from your past. What will it be?

Just one? I’d need an eraser the size of Texas. However, I do regret forgetting the rings for my wedding. I should have known rings were going to be the bane of my marriage. Marriage yes, wearing rings, no.
16 years married - three lost rings
A husband who can find the humor in it – my real life hero. (but it’s strictly zirconium for me now)

If you came with a warning label, what would it say?
I’m told I’m distracted when I’m writing so….
Don’t buy her nice jewelry, she’ll lose it.
Don’t get her a cell phone, she’ll lose it.
Don’t let her have the remote or the cordless phone, she’ll misplace them. (I will say that after a 6 month MIA, the cordless phone has been recovered. I’ve given up hope on the pink cell phone.)

What genres and authors would we find you reading when taking a break from your own writing?

I read everything except YA and inspirational. I like adult books with sex. I love a good historical – Susan Johnson and Nicole Jordan are at the top of my list.
Paranormal – Sherrilyn Kenyon and I recently read Larissa Ione
Contemporary – Susan Johnson again. I love you, Susan.

When writing your description of your hero/ine what feature do you start with? Eyes, age, hair color, etc?

Physical traits come last for me. I see my hero and heroine and their conflict first. Then the sexual chemistry. Once I have the “feel” of who they are, I can finally “see” what they look like. Often times, I’m changing hair and eye color in the middle of a book. The other issue I have is naming my characters. I don’t think I’ve written a single story where at least one character didn’t get a name change.

If I was a first time reader of your books, which one would you recommend I start with and why?

Wow, great question. My personal favorite is Hard Ride Home but that might not be the right pick for everyone since it is m/m. A choice for a nice simple love story without a lot of kink is With or Without You. Rough Justice is kinky, funny and I think would appeal to most readers of erotic romance.

What do you hope readers take with them after reading one of your stories?

Hopefully I’ve penned a stories that titillate as well as entertain. But also that makes you laugh at the some of the situations of the characters.

You created a highly useful Yahoo Group, Promotion_Loop_Schedule to help authors track promotion days on the various loops. Tell us how it works and what inspired you to create it. (please provide the link as well)
 
I started it because I was going to each group when I’d want to do a promotion and that was very time consuming. Minutes spent on promotion take away from minutes that could be spent writing. I also know it’s frustrating for loops to have drive by promoters, especially on days when an author is a guest host. This loop makes it easy for me to hop from loop to loop, see what is happening, do a bit of chat and promotion and then get back to my stories. Once I’d started the loop, I invited my friends and critique partners to use it. Anyone who can benefit is welcome to join. There is no chatter, just calendar reminders. It was a crazy summer and I didn’t have a lot of time to do updates, but I do try to keep the information accurate. Here is the link.
www.groups.yahoo.com/group/Promotion_loop_Schedule

What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?

What’s for lunch? Today it is a big juicy cheeseburger and a Diet Pepsi.

Thank you, KyAnn, for being with us today!