Notes from writing class -Dialogue Tagging


Disclaimer: This is a recurring and random series of posts. I'm currently enrolled in a basic writing/editing class and felt that my notes might be helpful to others. Please note, I am not an editor. I'm just an author trying to learn more about the craft to improve my own work, while sharing the things I learn along the way.   Enjoy.

Dialogue Tagging

There are three basic dialogue tags: The “said” tag, the “action” tag, and the “non” tag.

The “said” tag is the most common tag and it works with any type of dialogue that tells you the character said something or how they said it.

“I can’t go out tomorrow, I’ve got to study,” she said.

With a said tag, the tag is considered part of the sentence. Notice how the, “she said” is in lower case?
It’s just an extension of what has been said, separated with a comma.

There are some cases where the tag and it’s punctuation gets confused. For instance, when a character says something with added emphasis.

“I told you not to call me anymore,” she yelled.

She yelled is considered a “said tag” because it tells you how the character said the dialogue. It is treated exactly the same way as a tag using the word, said.

“Get the hell out of my life!” she screamed.

In this instance, there is the addition of the exclamation point to show emphasis on the words.
Even though there is an exclamation point the tag is still lowercase. The exclamation point is used to show the emphasis on what is said but the tag remains the same.

Some things are not a said tag… Laughed, sighed, smiled, frowned, etc.. Ask yourself if you can laugh the words. Can you frown words? Can you sigh words? Those would be actions not ways of saying something.

Which brings us to the “action” tag.

This tag shows what the character is doing while they are speaking.

“I’ve got three meetings to prepare for, come back later.” Sally glanced down to her notes.

With “action” tags, the action is considered a separate sentence. A period is used to separate the dialogue and the action is capitalized as usual.

Pretty basic. Just remember they are two separate sentences and you’re all good.


And finally the “non” tag. This is the easiest one because you don’t have to do anything. A “non” tag is just that, nothing. If the characters are having back and forth speech, there is no need to tag each line. The speaker of the dialogue is implied.

“I’m busy. Go away,” sally said.
“But we really need to talk,” George replied.
“We can talk later.”
“No. If we don’t talk now, we never will.”
“Then we won’t talk. I’m done with this relationship anyway.”

You see how the dialogue flows and after each character is introduced, and you can easily follow the flow without specifying each speaker each time? That’s the beauty of a “non” tag.


Usage:

Now that you know what types of dialogue are out there, when do you use them?

Sometimes a “said” tag is all that is needed, but if that’s all you use it becomes a battle of he said, she said. The tags become intrusive. If there are actions with each dialogue it can bog down the flow of your writing. If you go with only “non” tags, then there is no visual representation of how the characters are reacting to the words.

Your goal is to come up with a careful balance of all three. Mix it up. If a character says something that would make a character react, show the reaction with the next dialogue tag. If you’ve shown us a lot of action, move to “non” tags for a little then work back into said tags. Play around with it so that the words flow with the action in a non-intrusive manner.

Stay tuned, later this week I'll be getting into the nitty gritty of "Creative Dialogue Tagging." 

Is that unreal, surreal, or for real? - Guest post by Bitten Twice


Today's guest post comes from the author of the hot new vampire book Blood Moon!

"It's a dark and stormy night..."

Your eyes roll off of the ereader glancing at the flickering candle you placed on the nearby side table to set the mood. The wind picks up like breath at the nape of your neck. Somewhere in the house a door closes. No one else is home. Snuggling deeper into your comfy armchair you, revert your focus to your ereader. The screen has gone dark.

You sigh perhaps and reach for your glass of Shiraz while fumbling for the button to remind your ereader you're ready to read. Your fingers grasp at the air. The thunder angrily bellows in the distance in response to the lightning that sliced through the clouds. You wonder if your glass had moved, hadn't you placed it just a notch closer. No one else is home.

A good book with help from Mother Nature can augment any mood. So much of reading is individual perception and relates not so much to the message the author intended but the state in which it is received.

Something about a Vampire (ooh that sounds like a good title) is so sexy. Is it the image of perfection; the chance for immortality; or their facile ability to look good in any ensemble or lack thereof?

I admit it sounds enticing.

But how enticing? I read an article in the newspaper recently about the bloodlust underground in Miami FL. Doesn't that sound cool? It could be a great name for a club or a bar. Well maybe not-so-cool after you read further into it. There are those are continue the practice of bloodletting and not in efforts to cure an ailment but rather for the purposes of drinking the blood. Granted, I don't believe pints are being consumed but still. Is this interesting or just plain creepy?

So what is it about the Vampire that has such an allure. Perhaps the supernatural powers that many vampires seem to possess helps to lull the senses into a different mental state?

When "A Blood Moon" opens Alexander hits a club for dinner. Alexander is a 2000 year old vampire who loves everything about life and his second life except for the solitary existence. There's something is the way that he moves through the club up the stairs towards the terrace to find the flavor that he's looking for. The seduction and foreplay that takes place before Alexander takes her blood is all mental. Although she is naught but a pint short she walks away satisfied.
Returning the focus to Club Underground being a little ignorant to the allure there I have to make some assumptions. The person doing the bloodletting does not possess any supernatural powers that lull or in this case dull the senses and perhaps there is some amount of pain involved and possible healing process afterwards? Our human bodies cannot be sustained by the consumption of another’s blood so for me this sounds like role playing to the nth degree.

Is that unreal, surreal, or for real?

Author Spotlight with Bitten Twice


K.S.  Hello and welcome to the blog. I am very excited to have you here. Why don’t we start off with a small introduction? Tell us a little about yourself. 

B2: Hello and thank you. I am very excited to be here.

My name is Bitten Twice. I love to read, write, and enjoy life to the fullest. I currently live in sunny south Florida with my boyfriend, two children, and two dogs. I can usually be found online, in one forum or another.

K.S.  Any interesting writing quirks or stories you would like to share with my readers?

B2: My two dog are a Pug and a Pit-bull. Now don’t tell that Pit she’s not a lapdog. I personally think she believes she’s a large pug. The space between me and the chair-back is coveted by the dogs. To increase my ability to get any writing done I have to position a second chair next to me for my Pitty and the Pug gets to sit behind me …and then we can write.

K.S.  When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? What sparked the desire to pen your first novel?

B2: I have scribbled poems and stories since I can remember. But I seriously began “A Blood Moon” in 2007 during the time of the writer’s strike. I must have been suffering from withdrawal not having my favourite shows like Moonlight and Blood Ties. Something just ignited within me and I tapped out the novel in a couple of months. I didn’t do anything with it immediately. As a matter of fact, nothing happened with it until almost two years later after when the death of my father pushed me into gear.

K.S.  What genre do you write?

B2: I love to write Paranormal Romance. My writings are rarely without a vampire, a shifter, or some other paranormal medium.

K.S.  What would you say has inspired you most in your writing career? Or, who is your favorite author and why?

BS: I believe my motivation to write stems from a dormant passion that awakened. Understanding the amount of time and effort that goes into developing a novel I had to make a decision as to whether this was something that I wanted to do as a hobby, or whether I had what it took to be successful at it.

K.S.  What does your family think of your writing?

B2: My family has quite a few published authors. I’m not sure very many of them have ever read anything I’ve written. They are all very supportive though. I’m grateful for my children and boyfriend; the amount of support they give me while I’m nursing my creations speaks volumes. I also have a cousin who has been a Godsend. I can always count on her to keep me on point. Fortunately though, the foundation for being a successful author is not built upon friends and family.

K.S.  What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating your book/s?

B2: I learned a lot about myself when I was writing. How far I could push myself, how much I wanted the result, and how little sleep I could tolerate. I still work a regular job so when I put my writing time in, I have to make it consistently count.

K.S.  What inspires you?

B2: People are my inspiration. We are such curious creatures.

K.S.  Can you tell us a little about any of your novels?

B2:“Marked” is a novel that is slated to be released in March 2011.
The Blurb:
Great legends tell of the pairing of souls
Two that would come together in an eternal bond yielding great power
Forever marked with a destiny waiting to unfold
The wielders of light in darkness’ final hour

Demonic forces threaten to tip the balance of power for all worlds. Xan, King of the Cats, is one of many called in by the Templar organization to eliminate the source of the trouble brewing in North America. Arriving in New York, Xan, a powerhouse of seduction, meets Katherine and begins to wonder whether he has met his soul-mate or fallen into a trap. The war with the underworld comes topside and Xan is in the midst of fighting an unfamiliar battle – rejection. Can Katherine accept their differences?

K.S.  Where can we buy your novel?

B2: “A Blood Moon” is available via Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and BN.com

K.S.  Do you have a website, fan site, or Blog that we can visit?
Website: http://www.bitten2ice.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/BittenTwice/295323473457
Twitter: @Bitten2ice
Blog: http://www.bitten2ice.com/TheFullFang

K.S.  Do you have any closing advice to aspiring writers?

B2: Writing is not just an art it is a business. If you are serious, hone your craft and learn everything there is to know about the industry at the time you opt to enter it. This is a time of flux where the industry is being redefined by the advances of technology.

Thank you so much for having me. It has been an honour.
B.

Author Spotlight with Julius Thompson


About Julius Thompson:
Julius Thompson grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York and attended Bushwick High School. The sixties in Brooklyn was an era that had a personality, a feel, and a life-force that changed a generation. Mr. Thompson felt this energy and experienced these fires of social change.

After high school, Mr. Thompson spent the next four years riding the "A" train to Harlem, in upper Manhattan, to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from the City College of New York. At CCNY, which was located just a few blocks from the famous Apollo Theater, Wednesday afternoons was hard on the undergraduates. The matinee performances of the major R&B groups of the times were more tempting than attending a boring college lecture. Most of the time Mr. Thompson succumbed to the temptation, but still earned a college degree from one of the best universities in the country.

At CCNY, literature instructors like Prof. Thomas Tashiro, fueled the fire in him to become a writer!  Brooklyn, New York and attended

Mr. Thompson’s journey to compose a trilogy began in 1995. The fourteen year fictional journey of character Andy Michael Pilgrim from Brooklyn, to Philadelphia and finally Atlanta is now complete. In this pilgrimage, readers experience places that are filled with hopes, dreams, challenges and fears that make us human.

The novels that make up the trilogy are A Brownstone in Brooklyn which was published in 2001, Philly Style and Philly Profile in 2007 and Ghost of Atlanta which will be published the first week of January 2011.
Mr. Thompson received the Georgia Author of the Year nomination for Philly Style and Philly Profile, from the Georgia Writers Association, in 2007.

Mr. Thompson is writing his fourth novel, Purple Phantoms, which is a story about the haunting of a mythical high school basketball team.
Mr. Thompson is currently a Creative Writing/Publishing Instructor at Atlanta’s Evening at Emory’s Writers Studio. For more information please visit him at www.ghostofatlanta.com.

K.S.  Hello and welcome to the blog. I am very excited to have you here. Why don’t we start off with a small introduction? Tell us a little about yourself.

Julius: I had a very unique upbringing, going from a small segregated town of 300 in Georgia to the integrated metropolis of Brooklyn, New York in the early sixties. This shaped my view of the world and later my writings.  I grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York and attended Bushwick High School. The sixties in Brooklyn was an era that had a personality, a feel, and a life-force that changed a generation. I felt this energy and experienced these fires of social change.  After high school, I spent the next four years riding the "A" train to Harlem, in upper Manhattan, to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from the City College of New York.

K.S.  Any interesting writing quirks or stories you would like to share with my readers?

Julius: I’m a late-night writer…I mean late night! I can work all day, feel tired in the early evenings and then around 11:00 p.m., my body feels as if a pint of adrenalin has been shot into my veins’. The words on the screen come alive as the visual images just flow. The bad thing is I have to shut down around midnight. I have to up at 5:45 a.m. to get ready to face my high school language classes.

K.S.  When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? What sparked the desire to pen your first novel?

 Julius: My high school language arts teacher, Ms. Egan was a tremendous influence on my writing career. I was a scared young sophomore coming to the big city. I walked into her office and I wanted an answer. This would give direction to my life. I knocked gently on the door and I heard a strong, “Come in.” I opened the door and walked into the room. I remember the moment vividly when I asked Ms. Egan could I be a writer. There was a long pause and then she said, “Do it!” I’ve never looked back. As a teacher, I try to give my students sound advice about their questions as well.

K.S.  What genre do you write?

Julius: I write mainstream fiction with a twist of mystery. I try to give the reader a word puzzle to solve as they read the storyline. In my third novel, Ghost of Atlanta, I created this character called Joe Boy. He seems real, but yet he can’t be defined as human or even a spirit. I’ve had readers who finished the novel and then went back over the book and try to find the places where Joe Boy appears to figure out if he’s a human being. One reader even suggested that I work on a book with the focus on Joe Boy. It’s an interesting concept.

K.S.  What would you say has inspired you most in your writing career? Or, who is your favorite author and why?

Julius: I feel that all the experiences I’ve encountered as a journalist, coach and teacher has influenced my writing style and the characters that populate my novels. My favorite author is Harper Lee and her novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee’s development of character and realistic setting of the events of the time are well developed. This is a technique I’m looking at mastering.


K.S.  What does your family think of your writing?

Julius: My sister, Rochelle, is my biggest fan and an influence on how I craft my novels. My mother, Goldie Parks, was able to read my first novel, A Brownstone In Brooklyn, and that means a lot to me. I wish my father, Marvin Parks, could have read my books, but he died long before I started writing novels.

K.S.  What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating your book?

Julius: It was the evolution of the characters in my books, but the creation of Joe Boy. He was just a very, very minor character in Ghost of Atlanta, but as the book progressed, he became a major catalyst in shaping events in the book. This character changed as I crafted the novel.

K.S.  What inspired you to write your novel?

Julius: I wanted to write a view of life in the Black American Community during the last thirty years of the twentieth century. People saw the sweeping changes, but I wanted to show the view of ordinary everyday people.
      A Brownstone in Brooklyn is the first of the series and deals with how ordinary people dealt with life in the turbulent sixties with the civil rights movement, Vietnam War and the college sit-ins.
     Philly Style and Philly Profile is set in the seventies in Philadelphia with drugs and gangs coming into the black neighborhoods wreaking havoc. How did the people most affected respond was the question I wanted to explore in the book.
    Ghost of Atlanta covers the eighties when Black Americans moved back to the new south and the consequences of going home again facing old demons that resurface.


K.S.  Can you tell us a little about your novel?

Julius: In The Ghost of Atlanta, Andy Michael Pilgrim faces demons from his youth that haunted his life. These are the ghosts in the crawl spaces of his life; some are real and some supernatural.
After landing a job with The Atlanta Defender, Andy returns home and visits the place where he finally faces remembrances of his deceased abusive father. While walking around the grounds, he meets his mysterious cousin, Joe Boy, and finds out that the property is going to be sold by unscrupulous cousins.
While Andy fights this battle, he must confront the personal demon of a possible drug addiction, meeting his old girl friend, breaking the color barrier at the south’s largest newspaper, The Atlanta Defender, and fighting the lingering effects of segregation in small-town Georgia life.
As the story unwinds, all these forces push Andy toward the breaking point, where he almost quits on life. Malevolent mortal deeds are committed and Andy could be next in line.
"The Ghost of Atlanta" is, overall, a superbly written book. 5 stars! ~Readers Favorite

K.S.  Where can we find your novel?

Julius: My book can be found at the following websites:
Amazon.com:
http://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Atlanta-Julius-Thompson/dp/098325950X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1297893183&sr=1-1

Barnes & Nobles. Com: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Ghost-of-Atlanta/Julius-Thompson/e/9780983259503/?itm=1&USRI=ghost+of+atlanta

Passionate Writer Publishing: http://www.passionatewriterpublishing.com/ghostofatl.htm


K.S.  Do you have a website, fan site, or Blog that we can visit?

Julius: Please visit one of my websites: www.jtwrites.com or www.ghostofatlanta.com to get the latest information about my writing career, upcoming events and latest news on my books.

K.S.  Do you have any closing advice to aspiring writers?

Julius: I want to tell all writers, who I refer to as authors, to “keep writing, keep believing and never give up on your dreams.” I wish you the best!

CAPTCHA, Oh how I hate you!!

Careful now, this could be a long rant!

A CAPTCHA is a program that protects websites against bots by generating and grading tests that humans can pass but current computer programs cannot. For example, humans can read distorted text as the one shown below, but current computer programs can't:



It started as a way to prevent spam, and it does help separate man from machine.


Copied from the CAPTCHA website


CAPTCHAs have several applications for practical security, including (but not limited to):

  • Protecting Website Registration. Several companies (Yahoo!, Microsoft, etc.) offer free email services. Up until a few years ago, most of these services suffered from a specific type of attack: "bots" that would sign up for thousands of email accounts every minute. The solution to this problem was to use CAPTCHAs to ensure that only humans obtain free accounts. In general, free services should be protected with a CAPTCHA in order to prevent abuse by automated scripts.
  • Protecting Email Addresses From Scrapers. Spammers crawl the Web in search of email addresses posted in clear text. CAPTCHAs provide an effective mechanism to hide your email address from Web scrapers. The idea is to require users to solve a CAPTCHA before showing your email address. A free and secure implementation that uses CAPTCHAs to obfuscate an email address can be found at reCAPTCHA MailHide.
  • Preventing Dictionary Attacks. CAPTCHAs can also be used to prevent dictionary attacks in password systems. The idea is simple: prevent a computer from being able to iterate through the entire space of passwords by requiring it to solve a CAPTCHA after a certain number of unsuccessful logins. This is better than the classic approach of locking an account after a sequence of unsuccessful logins, since doing so allows an attacker to lock accounts at will.
  • Search Engine Bots. It is sometimes desirable to keep webpages unindexed to prevent others from finding them easily. There is an html tag to prevent search engine bots from reading web pages. The tag, however, doesn't guarantee that bots won't read a web page; it only serves to say "no bots, please." Search engine bots, since they usually belong to large companies, respect web pages that don't want to allow them in. However, in order to truly guarantee that bots won't enter a web site, CAPTCHAs are needed.


Ok, yeah I get it, CAPTCHA can be very useful. But for those of us who practically live online, having to fill out hundreds of these on a daily basis is a HUGE annoyance. Especially when they look like this.






Seriously? Can you read what that says? Does it say anything at all? How is anyone expected to pass this little "test?"

How about this one?




This CAPTCHA crap is getting out of hand. But this rant isn't just me screaming about how much I hate CAPTCHA, or the fact that I can't translate about half of the ones I come across. No, dear reader, I do have an ulterior motive for posting this. 

Blogger by default enables CAPTCHA on every comment. It's an annoyance and will make readers, who would normally leave a comment on your blog, turn away in frustration. 

You don't need to have this enabled and it's really easy to remove. 

I can already hear the moaning. "But what about spammers?" 

I've had CAPTCHA disabled on my blog for a while now. Do I get a ton of spammers? Not really. And thanks to Blogger's semi-new "Anti-Spam feature", they have all but disappeared from my view. 
 
If you're really that worried about it, turn on comment moderation. That way you have 100% control over what shows up under your post. 
 
For my peace of mind, I use semi-moderation. Any comment on a post older than 10 days is moderated. Oddly enough, those were the post that would get spammed. Guess spammers think we wouldn't pay attention to what's been posted in the past. But again, thanks to Blogger's Anti-Spam feature, those are now caught even before I can moderate them. Muahahahaha. <--- my evil laugh. 

So, how do you disable the CAPTCHA? 
 
Simple. Go to "Settings" on your Blogger Dashboard and click on the link for "Comments." 
Scroll down the page until you see, "Show word verification for comments?" 
Now click No!
 
Then save your settings. Simple as that. 
Now your blog will be that much more user friendly.


Notes from Writing Class - The Apostrophe









Disclaimer: This is a recurring and random series of posts. I'm currently enrolled in a basic writing/editing class and felt that my notes might be helpful to others. Please note, I am not an editor. I'm just an author trying to learn more about the craft to improve my own work, while sharing the things I learn along the way.   Enjoy.

This week is all about punctuation so I couldn't forget our friend the Apostrophe.

Apostrophes give everyone a run for their money. Do I use them? When do I use them? How do I use them?

And not even the style guides all agree on some of their uses.

The basics
The apostrophe has three uses:

1. to form possessives of nouns
2. to show the omission of letters
3. to indicate certain plurals of lowercase letters


The possessive



The man's hat.

Technically speaking this sentence actually reads:

The man "his" hat

In the original usage the apostrophe is there to show the omitted letters "hi" in the possessive of his.

Screwy huh?

Why not just say the mans hat?

Because in most cases, it's considered incorrect. You use the apostrophe to show possession.It is his hat, him being "the man."

Let's look at another.

Add 's to the plural forms that do not end in -s


The children's game

Children is already a plural for child so we need to add the 's.

Let's look at another.

Add 's to the last noun to show joint possession of an object.

It's Jimmy and Anne's apartment.

Only the last person mentioned get's the 's.

Another

Add ' to the end of plural nouns that end in -s

Three weeks' of study.

In this case since the plural of week is weeks, we add the ' just at the end.


OK, but what about when a person's name already end in an s? Do we just at the ' at the end or do we have to add the 's?

That's where the style guides get funky.

They disagree on which is best.

James' hat

or

James's hat


Both can be technically correct and it really depends on your editor and which style guide to use.

My editor uses (CMOS) so for my stories, I'm being trained (Yes she is training me... =p )to use the added 's on the end of each name. You'll have to check with your editor to see which they prefer to use as it will make a slight difference in your stories. The best option of course is to pick one and always stick with it. This avoids inconsistencies in your manuscript like having half the James' end up as James's. Even the best editors won't catch them all.


to show the omission of letters

This bit is simple and most often used in contractions.

don't = do not
I'm = I am
he'll = he will
who's = who is
shouldn't = should not
didn't = did not

Don't think that's the only way to use them though. When writing out dialogue, these can be used to show the manner of speaking.

I'm goin' out huntin'.

See how the apostrophe is used here to show the missing letters and it give the reader an idea of how the word is said.


to indicate certain plurals of lowercase letters

Mind your p's and q's

In most cases, you just add in the 's on these little guys. Unless, of course, it's a symbol or number you're trying to add it too.

For example, dates:

the 1960s

or, symbols:

you use entirely too many !s (It's very rare to use this but it can happen, especially in note writing.)



When not to use an apostrophe?


With possessive pronouns. (They already show possession)

Is this his' book. = wrong
Is this his book. = correct

A friend of yours'. = wrong
A friend of yours. = correct

Who's dog is this? = wrong
Whose dog is this? = correct

She waited in the train station for three hours'. = Wrong
She waited in the train station for three hours. = correct

So there you have it, a very basic overview of the apostrophe and it's usage.

Notes from writing class - The Comma


Disclaimer: This is a recurring and random series of posts. I'm currently enrolled in a basic writing/editing class and felt that my notes might be helpful to others. Please note, I am not an editor. I'm just an author trying to learn more about the craft to improve my own work, and sharing the things I learn along the way.   Enjoy.

The comma is the bane of my existence. That pesky little punctuation mark causes me so much trouble. That’s one of the reasons I am giving it its own space. I need to hammer this information into my head as much as I want to share it with you.

So let’s dive in, shall we?

Commas are tricky because there are about a hundred different ways to use them.

Let’s try and start off with the simple stuff.

A comma separates two main clauses that are connected by a coordinating conjunction (aka the FANBOYS):

F = for
A = and
N = nor
B = but
O = or
Y = yet
S = so


Basically taking two sentences or ideas and connecting them.

My daughter wouldn't eat her veggies, so I finished the broccoli for her.

Sounds easy enough. If the two sentences are complete, you can use a comma to mash them together.

If the two sentences are not complete then no comma would be necessary.

The vegetables were hot and delicious.

See, no comma before the “and” because what comes after is not a complete sentence. Got it?

Don't be tempted to use a comma to splice a sentence without that coordination conjunction. That's a no-no.

My daughter wouldn't eat her veggies, I finished the broccoli for her.

See how that looks without the "so."

If you're going to squish your sentences, remember the FANBOYS.


Ok, on to the next…
 
The serial Comma.

This one is a bit of a wishy-washy rule and it is really up to the editor on what the end result will be. But you’re probably thinking, what the heck are you talking about.

The serial comma is the comma used in lists. Back to an earlier example I used.

I enjoy the variety of dishes at Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pie.

See all the commas separating the dishes? The last one before the conjunction is the serial comma. The question is, do you place a comma before that last “and,” “but,” or “or?”

Many editors will suggest you leave the serial comma out unless its omission will cause confusion. Honestly though, it really doesn’t hurt to leave it in.

Let’s look at an example with it.

I love making Christmas cookies: sugar, peanut butter and chocolate chip and oatmeal.

With the serial comma missing you cannot tell if we are talking about peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies as well as oatmeal, or peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip and oatmeal.

Here it is again.

I love making Christmas cookies: sugar, peanut butter and chocolate chip, and oatmeal.

I love making Christmas cookies: sugar, peanut butter, and chocolate chip and oatmeal.


You see how that pesky little comma can change the meaning? The safest bet is to ALWAYS use it and let your editor tell you if it needs to be moved.


I bet you think were done looking at the comma, aren't you? Nope!

Commas used in place of parenthesis.

Often times we want to add an aside to our sentence, for further clarification, and in this case a parenthesis is perfect. But a comma can also take its place. Did you catch the nifty example I just gave you?

Commas don't interrupt your sentence. They don't make you stop and think, so you can use them when the words you're enclosing are a natural part of the sentence. But please don't use them if your comment is out in left field. Parenthesis are better for that purpose.

Commas between Coordinate Adjectives

Commas are used occasionally between coordinating adjectives.

The city had several long, narrow, dark streets.

Notice all of the commas there?

Quick tip: Think of those commas as the word "and." If you can substitute the comma for the word and, as well as mix up the adjectives, then use that comma!

The city had several long and narrow and dark streets.

You could also say...

The city had several narrow and long and dark streets.

The order of the adjectives does not change the meaning of the sentence.

Now look at this sentence.

We had our picnic on a bright, warm spring day.

If you were to mix up the adjectives, the sentence would sound weird.

We had our picnic on a warm and bright and spring day.

Warm and bright can be swapped with little confusion but the “and” before spring makes no sense.

We had our picnic on a warm and bright spring day.

See? So use this to determine comma placement in your coordinating adjectives from now on.

Commas after Introductory Words

You've seen me start sentences with the word, however. That is considered an introductory word.

Accordingly, consequently, yes, no, however, therefore, otherwise, etc...

Introductory words can come either at the beginning of a sentence or somewhere in the middle as part of an independent clause within a sentence. They essentially introduce the next point. 

No, I have not seen the report; however, I would like to obtain a copy of it.

There are two introductory words here: one at the start of the sentence and one in the middle.
Notice the comma after each.

Commas also come after introductory phrases. Remember the post on participle phrases? There was always a comma.

While running through the forest, I spotted a deer.

"While running through the forest," introduces the action.

The same applies to infinitive phrases. (An infinitive will almost always begin with “to” followed by the simple form of the verb.)

To get there on time, we'll need to leave at 8:30.

"To get there on time" is the infinitive phrase.

The comma ALWAYS goes after the infinitive or participle phrase.

Commas with Names in Direct Address

Use commas to set off the name or title of a person being spoken to directly.

I told you George, I don’t want to go out tonight.

Marsha, do you have to be such a prude?

I very much appreciate your many helpful suggestions, Professor.




OK those are the most common uses of the comma. There are more, but these are the big ones to worry about.

For a good quick reference, check here.
http://www.wvup.edu/jcc/pam/commas.htm

Notes from writing class - A Primer on Punctuation


Disclaimer: This is a recurring and random series of posts. I'm currently enrolled in a basic writing/editing class and felt that my notes might be helpful to others. Please note, I am not an editor. I'm just an author trying to learn more about the craft to improve my own work, and sharing the things I learn along the way.   Enjoy.

This week is all about punctuation. Be sure to follow through to each day as I try and decipher my notes and give you an overview of the lessons I learned on the subject.


I’m not going to go in-depth here (I’ll save that for later). This post will be just the basics on common punctuation and usage.

The Period. This is the most straightforward of all the punctuation marks we use. It’s the full stop between sentences.  For the most part, there is no explanation necessary.  What you might be confused on is the correct amount of spaces that are supposed to go behind it.

Way back in the Stone Age, when people use to use typewriters (shudder) to crank out their manuscripts, two spaces was the rule. The reason for this is that the old typewriters use to use mono-spaced fonts (also called a fixed-pitch or non-proportional font). This is a font whose letters and characters each occupy the same amount of horizontal space.  To create a strong visual break between sentences, the double space was used.

Today however, most word processors use a proportional font (such as Times or Arial) where each character is different width. In a proportional font, the period is squished over to the left of its space. Therefore you don’t need to type two spaces after a period, and in fact you shouldn’t: this leads to too much space.

The Colon. The colon signals that what comes next is directly related to the previous sentence. It's an introductory mark that can stand for “namely” or “that is to say.”

Remember though, this should only be used after a complete sentence to further define an idea. For example, you could say, I enjoy the variety of dishes at Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pie.

I enjoy the variety of dishes at Thanksgiving dinner, is one complete sentence. The colon tells us that what comes next is a clarification of those "dishes."

Now, in fiction writing the colon is a grey area. It's considered more of a technical punctuation mark for list and such. You can easily replace the colon in your manuscript with an Em dash for the same effect.

Em Dash. Ok since I told you to swap out a colon for an em dash, let’s take a look at what it does.

An em dash is used to set something off in a sentence—such as an aside—or to indicate an abrupt interruption of speech. It can also take the place of a colon (as mentioned above), parenthesis  or, in some cases, a semi-colon. (see how I snuck the example in there?)

Semi-colon. For the most part, a semi-colon in fiction is meant to join to independent clauses (two sentences that could stand on their own), that have a connection that would make you want to link them together, instead of using a period in between.

I love to go to the Strip; however, the crowds make me nervous.

See both of those could be their own sentences but you joined them with the semi colon. (And yes, you can start a sentence with However. However, I wouldn’t get in the habit of it; some grammar Nazi’s might complain.) =p

Quotation marks. Quotation marks are another fairly self-explanatory piece of punctuation; however, there is some confusion between single and double.

Double quotation marks usually surround titles (depending on style guides this can be exchanged for italics), special words, and dialogue.

Single quotation marks usually surround quoted quotes. "When I spoke to George he said, ‘I don't ever want to talk to her again'."

Just remember that singe quotes are always used within double quotes, never alone.

On little punctuating quirk I learned about quotation marks is that there is a difference in the placement of the period between US and UK English. We in the US place our periods inside of the quote whereas UK English demands they be placed on the outside. I'm going to have to look for that in the next UK book I read.

If you’ll notice, I haven’t touched commas. That’s because it’s a punctuation mark I have so much trouble with. I want to take more time on it so it will get its very own post. Look for it next time.

Author Spotlight with BK Walker


K.S.  Hello and welcome to the blog. I am very excited to have you here. Why don’t we start off with a small introduction? Tell us a little about yourself. 

BK:  Hi Katie and thank you so much for having me.  Well,  my name is Brandi but I write under the pen name of BK Walker.  I work as a pediatric home care nurse which I enjoy so much,  the kids are just great.  I have three children,  Brittney age 20,  Hunter age 13,  and Daniel age 11,  who also does reviews for childrens books for me.  We all have a love for animals,  my daughter can't seem to stop bringing them home.  She even brought home a baby pig at one point,  but the lil' oinker has since gone back to the farm lol.  We now are down to a pit bull named Rancid,  a dachshund named Sadie,  a cat named Whiskers (who only answers to shitigan),  and a goldfish named Fat Albert.

K.S.  Any interesting writing quirks or stories you would like to share with my readers?

BK:  I don't know about a quirk,  but I love to have a cup of hot coffee,  (makes me feel all grown up lol) and I like to listen to my favorite bands,  Shot In The Dark 357 or Mia Mania while I write. 

K.S.  When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? What sparked the desire to pen your first novel?

BK:  I don't think I've ever realized it.  I've always had a niche for telling tales since I was a child.  I used to play school with my stuffed animals,  I wasn't much into dolls as I was more of a tomboy,  and I would write stories to tell to my "students".  I'm still not convinced I'm a "writer"  as much as just a story teller.  My first novel actually came to me as a surprise.  I was a nursing student and my muse decided that it was time to get some of the ideas out of my head and onto paper.  I guess they had been sitting dormant long enough lol.  Anyways,  I had this idea in my head of a very troubled girl that had to face many obstacles in her life.  So I developed the character and found we had quite a bit in common.  So I infused a lot of my own past experiences and added to what happened to "Kacey" and tada!  Death Upon Me was born.

K.S.  What genre do you write?

BK:  I don't really stick to one genre,  but right now I have written Romance,  Paranormal Romance,  and Young Adult Fantasy.

K.S.  What would you say has inspired you most in your writing career? Or, who is your favorite author and why?

BK:  Everything inspires me.  Everywhere you look you can find inspiration.  Sitting at a stop sign and seeing some girl bopping her head to music,  my kids saying the darndest things,  so much inspiration all around us that anything could be made into a story.  My favorite author though is Nora Roberts as JD Robb.  She has such a fantastic writing style and the characters are so developed,  she has inspired me most.

K.S.  What does your family think of your writing?

BK:  My kids love that I'm a story teller.  My daughter is always reading my work and hurrying me to write more or another book.  They all help me critique and edit,  and we have fun tossing ideas back and forth for whatever I'm working on at the time.

K.S.  What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating your book?

BK:  That I actually had it in me to finish an entire story.  I've always had these ideas and they would be short to put to paper,  but to develop an entire plot....well that is much more than just writing down an idea.

K.S.  What inspired you to write your novel?

BK:  Immortyl Kisses actually started out as a short story that I wanted to do for Halloween.  The characters had another idea though, and 200+ pages later,  after editing,  resizing fonts and reformatting lol,  Immortyl Kisses was published.  There were so many ideas to go with this book that it was hard to fit it all in,  but after reading some reviews and listening to feedback from others,  the one part that is missing is Raine's detailed background.  So I just want everyone to know to watch for the next installment,  you will get what you seek.

K.S.  Can you tell us a little about your novel?

BK:  Absolutely.  Here is the blurb.

"You are a Warrior, you just don't know it yet." ~Jin Cao

Raine was an average girl with an average teenage life. Always loving anything to do with vampires, she never expected they would be real. When a Rogue vampire hunts her, she not only learns that vampires are real, but that the two boys that her heart is caught between are in fact a vampire and a werewolf.

As both boys vow to keep her safe, Raine learns of her true destiny...she is a Shijin Warrior born to win the war against an evil Warlock named Fala. Fala is creating half vampire half shape shifting creatures to take out all of immortal kind.

Will Raine be able to fulfill her destiny and save immortals, or will her hearts desires make her lose everything in the end?

K.S.  Where can we find your novel?

BK:  It is available on Kindle at Amazon,  Lulu.com and of course you can get a signed copy from me or a signed interactive CD.

K.S.  Do you have a website, fan site, or Blog that we can visit?

BK:  The Book Website is http://immortylkisses.weebly.com ,  Fan Site is http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Immortyl-Kisses/152002154847846  My blog is Immortality and Beyond http://immortylcafe.blogspot.com and you will be able to follow my ebook tour that will be starting Jan. 23.

K.S.  Do you have any closing advice to aspiring writers?

Read,  read,  and read some more.  I think the best thing to do as a writer is read as much as you can so you can see the different writing styles out there.  Then develop your own style,  and write only for yourself.  If you write to please others you may not get any further than the first page.  If you write to please yourself,  the story will flow so smoothly and you will be surprised when you have a finished product.

Notes from writing class - Redundancy


Disclaimer: This is a recurring and random series of posts. I'm currently enrolled in a basic writing/editing class and felt that my notes might be helpful to others. Please note, I am not an editor. I'm just an author trying to learn more about the craft to improve my own work, and sharing the things I learn along the way.   Enjoy.


Redundancy

Let’s talk a little about redundancy. Redundancy occurs when you tell someone something twice in the same sentence or over explain an action.

Example:

He shrugged his shoulders.
Well, what else is he going to shrug? It’s a given if he shrugs that it is his shoulders moving.

I received the call at 12 midnight.
If it’s midnight, it’s a given that it is 12.

See what I mean?

There are a ton of redundancies in writing that happen without our even thinking of it or noticing it.

Her heart beat wildly in her chest.
Where else would her heart beat?

I’m probably more guilty of this than most. In fact, I don’t even think electroshock therapy would help me to curb my overabundances in first drafts. Thank God for critiquing buddies though. They tend to spot quite a few of them.

But, we all have to try and avoid them where we can, so here is a short list of common redundancies to look for. Put them in your word search and see if you can cut them out.

Exactly the same
heart beat/slammed/pounded in her/his chest
nodded his/her head
shrugged his/her shoulders
thought to himself/herself
thought in his/her head
sat down
stood up
biography of her life
circle around
close proximity
completely unanimous
each and every
basic essentials
personal opinion
repeat again
return again
revert back
summarize briefly
anonymous stranger
assembled together
bald-headed
blended together
brief summary
cacophony of sound

For a more complete list, try this link

http://grammar.about.com/od/words/a/redundancies.htm

Self-Publishing & Marketing Advice - What I've learned this past year.

I started with Immortalis Carpe Noctem in March of 2010.

When I first mentioned I would be self-publishing, I heard all of the standard comments:

“You’ll never sell more than 200 copies.” (I beg to differ!)

“Only friends and family will buy them.” (Actually friends and family often expect to get them for free.)

“You’ll kill your chances of ever being traditionally published.” (After seeing other Indies being discovered because of their success, I think this point is moot.)

“Self-publishing cost a fortune. You’ll never make your money back.” (True, it CAN cost a fortune, but it doesn't have to if you do it right.)

Hearing things like that will make just about anyone balk. It is a gamble, that’s for sure.  And I’m not going to say it’s easy or a way to “get rich quick,” but I think it was the right decision for me.

Since March, I've published 4 more titles and worked my butt off to market them as best I could.

It's been a crazy year full of stumbling blocks and learning experiences. Believe me, I have made plenty of mistakes along the way (and probably have many more to make) I'm not going to say I truly "know what I'm doing... yet," but I think I just might be heading down the right track now, and I'd like to share what I've learned with you.

As of right now,  Just on Kindle USA alone, I’ve sold:

Immortalis Carpe Noctem - (March 2010)    1734
House of Immortal Pleasures - (May 2010)   7086
Halloween Fantasies - (September 2010)      1359
Hunters & Prey - (December 2010)                210
Karma & Melodies - (February 2011)              32

                                            Grand total - 10,419!!!

Now, am I rich yet? Hell no! I’ve got a long way to go before I can actually “pay the rent” with book sales. Most of my titles are available on Kindle for the extremely affordable price of $0.99. That amounts to about $0.35 per book paid out over the course of about a years’ time. Needless to say, I’m still eating ramen noodles. =p

I do also sell through Smashwords.com (my titles are available for Nook, Sony ereader, Apple iPad, and Kobo) I also sell print copies of my novels but the numbers above are just Kindle USA sales (UK Kindle sales were not factored in for this post).

The biggest thing to take from the above numbers is that, as an indie and a relatively unknown author, I’ve been able to reach out to over 10,000 people, and they've taken a chance on my books!

That’s an amazing achievement.

And I hope to make that number grow.

It didn’t happen overnight. I’ve been plugging away at this for the last year. When I first published Immortalis Carpe Noctem, I sold a grand total of 37 books.

I had to learn how to market my books and reach out to readers who had no clue I existed.

That’s where I ran into my first stumbling block. I had no clue what to do.

I was a true novice and wasted money on paid review services (Do Not Do This!!), buying ad space on blogs, signed on for expensive blog tours, and spent more money than I should to set up a website for my books.

So, since I have made many-a-mistake, and hope to save another author the heartache, (or is it wallet ache?) I thought I’d give you some advice to help you avoid some pitfalls of marketing your book.

(For information on how to go about self-publishing, check my previous post my post on Self-Publishing.)


Book Reviews

Never, ever, ever, ever, ( I can’t say this enough) ever pay for a book review.

For starters, they are never truly unbiased. If you’re paying someone to review your book there is an expectation of a great review on your part. No one wants to pay for a 1-star review, right? And if you take a look at the review-for-pay services out there, you’ll notice a trend of nothing below 3 stars. Other people will notice this as well and they will recognize that your book is being misrepresented as “great,” when it might not be. (I’m not saying your book won’t be great.)

So, how do you get your book reviewed?

The single best resource I have found for this is a $0.99 book, listing over 50 sites willing to review indie authors.

Linky Linky http://www.stepbystepselfpublishing.net/book-reviewer-list.html
Step-by-step Self-Publishing

This listing includes tons of bloggers who devote their time to reading and reviewing books by indie authors. Will they ALL be right for your book? NO. But many MIGHT be and for only $0.99 it’s worth the investment to pick up this list.

Now this list is not the only resource for bloggers who might be willing to look at your books, but it’s a good start. Along with the list here, do some research and look for blogs geared toward your genre. Find out if they have any review guidelines and shoot them an email politely requesting they consider reviewing your book. Be sure to include your:

Genre
Publishing date and publisher name (if it’s you, say so. Be proud to be an indie)
Word Count
Synopsis
If there is any adult-related material in the book (Some sites will not review anything with sex or foul language. Best to state it upfront)
Format available (print or ebook)
Book Cover Image (People often judge a book by its cover so let yours help sell it.)


You’ll be surprised how many bloggers are out there, willing to look at your book. And it will only cost you at most, the book plus shipping. At the least, it could be as cheap as emailing a PDF.

Many of these bloggers don’t just publish their reviews on their blog. Often times they also publish them on well trafficked sites like Goodreads, Shelfari, Library Thing, and on occasion, right on your Amazon.com book page.


Blog Tours

Blog touring is an interesting concept. Instead of traveling the world for book signings with your print book, you can travel the blogosphere with your ebook. It gives you the potential to reach thousands upon thousands of people right from the comfort of your own home.

This is something you can set up yourself, using the resource I mentioned above (ask a blog reviewer if they offer interviews or giveaways). It is a time consuming process though, arranging all of the tour dates, and you may not have the time available to set it up. If that be the case, you can have someone help you. That’s where cost comes in.

Hiring a blog tour service can be extremely expensive or cost effective depending on who you go with. The choice is yours. You have to factor in how much it will cost vs how much interest it will gain for you and your book.

I’ve used a couple of tour services over the last year. My favorite by far is
Virtual Book Tour Café http://virtualbooktourcafe.weebly.com/

Some things to consider when choosing a blog tour service:

What blogs are they affiliated with?
Check out their links. They should provide a listing of blogs they regularly work with.

Do those blogs have a good following?
Most blogs have a “followers” widget on the side. You can see how many people publically follow them there. Along with that, take a look at the comments section and see if people are participating in the bloggers post. This will give you an idea of how active members are.

Do they offer reviews with your tour?
Reviews are really the biggest seller in these tours, people trust their bloggers opinion. An interview is great to introduce yourself, but a “thumbs up” from a blogger who has read your book can help people decide if they want to take a chance on you and your book.

Does the blog tour offer giveaways for your book?
Giveaways are another key to blog touring. People like to win things. If your tour includes giveaways of your book or Amazon gift cards, etc… it will attract more attention.

Spreading the word via Social Networking

I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, but you need to be active online. However there is a caveat. 

Active means being a participant, not a spammer.

It’s a good idea to have accounts at all of the standard social networking sites.
Facebook
Twitter
Linkedin
Myspace

Beyond those there are a few other book related ones you should join as well.
Goodreads
Library Thing
Shelfari
Authors Den
Amazon Author Central
Kindleboards  The single best resource I have found for Indie Authors. (Just spend an hour combing through the Writers Café and you will learn so much about writing, promoting, getting reviews, etc… I wish I had found this resource sooner. )


Consider these all as places to interact with your peers and readers. Notice I said interact.

Remember, Don’t Be A Spammer!!

It’s ok to mention your books and the good things happening with them, but don’t make that the only thing you talk about. No one wants to read a thousand lines of

“My book is out.”
“I just released this book.”
“I sold a copy of my new book.”
“Did you know I have a new book out?”
“Have you bought my book yet?”
“Buy my book.”

It gets old really quickly.

I was guilty of that in the beginning. And guess what, it didn’t help my sales at all. In fact, I lost followers when I did that.

I’m not saying you can’t mention your work, because you have to spread the word, but do it as part of your interaction with others, not as the intent of it.

If you’re on Facebook, before you even think to post something about your work, go through your friends list and make sure you have given their post time and consideration. You’re not the only one out there. 

The same applies to Myspace and LinkedIn. Look at your followers first and reach out to them. They are your audience and your readers. Keep them close. They are the ones who will (hopefully) buy your next book, you want them to know you care about them.

With Facebook, you have the ability to set up “Fan Pages.” This can be a great way for you to make a separate space just for your author persona and books. This would be the best place to post your book related news!

If you’re on Twitter, scroll down through the tweets and get involved in the interesting conversations going on, don’t just sign on to post your latest update.

Twitter is an interesting site which seems to have bred specific days where marketing and promoting are accepted. Take advantage of it. But again, Don’t be a Spammer!

#WW = Writer Wednesday (Don’t post your link, but link to other great writers. They might link you back and that helps you gain followers.)

Use #WW in front of a person’s @ name to tweet about them
Example
#WW @ihateuncleshady – awesome guy. Check out his work.
(this is actually my hubby. But he's not a writer. He loves to post random craziness though.)

#FF = Follow Friday (Similar to Writer Wednesday, this is where you can post links to your friends. Again, don’t post yourself; this is to share the love. Often times, the people you link will link back to you, and this may help you gain followers.
Example
#FF @ihateuncleshady – awesome guy. Check out his work.

#samplesunday (post a link to a FREE sample of your current work.)
Example
Read the first 2 chapters of Karma & Melodies #SampleSunday http://tinyurl.com/6bv9rhj
Remember not to be a spammer here. One or two post spread throughout the day is ok. One post every 10 minutes is BAD.

Also, while I'm on the subject of posting your promotions, I would also like to mention that it's good manners to share the love. Do a bit of Re-Tweeting for your fellow authors too. Don't just make it all about you. 

When I signed on to Twitter, I found an author group specifically geared to helping indie authors promote each other.

Independent Author Network http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/

Sign up here and be sure to help spread the word about your fellow indies, don’t just expect people to tweet about you. This is a collaborative effort.

Again though, I can't state it enough, don’t spend all day spamming twitter about yourself or other authors. The occasional post every so often is good. But ultimately you need to be interacting, not advertising.

It can be intimidating and overwhelming to think of all the Facebook-ing and Tweet-ing you might have to do to get your name and book out there.
One utility I’ve found to be helpful with this is

Social Oomph.
http://www.socialoomph.com/

This utility can help you track followers, set automatic updates, and much more. It’s free for basic use and cheap for the "added features." Start with free though and see where that gets you.

The best use of this I’ve found is to automate your promotional post. I set up my weekly #WW, #FF, # SampleSunday, and Book-related post and then let the utility make the scheduled posts.

Again!!! Remember, do not be a spammer!! (Are you sick of me saying that? Too bad. It's very important.)

Scheduling the promo stuff takes care of my marketing and leaves me free to interact with people while I'm actually there on the website.


Other ways to spread the word. Make a Press Release!

All of the traditionally published authors have the backup of a publishing house and a marketing team. One of the tools they use to help get the word out is a Press Release. It’s effectively a nice, simple to read, text advertisement that can be sent to news outlets to let them know about your book.

But you don’t have to fret because you’re an indie. There are ways for you to create and distribute a great Press Release too!

One of the places I use is PR Log
http://www.prlog.org/

It’s a free service that lets you create a nice looking Press Release that can be shared via a wide variety of social networks.

To make a nice, official Press Release, you will want to do a few things:

1)    Write a great eye-catching head line.
This should include your: title & genre

2)    Your first line should “announce” whatever you’re promoting. 
Be sure to include: Book title, Release date, & Author name.
Author releases the exciting sequel to Book Name, available at Book Store on Release date.

3)    Include your jacket cover/Synopsis.

4)    Include an image of the book (If the news site allows it).

5)    Include any quotes or review snippets you have for the book.

6)    Include a listing of previous works.

7)    Include contact info (email address) and link to purchase the book.


Websites & Blogging

An author needs a web presence. A place where people can find you.

When I started, I thought I had to have a professional-looking website, but I was also limited on funds. I compromised and paid for a Yahoo site and used one of their templates. It’s not hideous, but it’s not eye-catching either, and it doesn’t get enough hits per month to make it worthwhile. That made me realize I didn’t have to pay to have a web presence. I already had a Blog which gets a decent number of hits per day. Once my contract is up, I’ll be switching everything related to Rising Sign Books, over to a new blog and taking down the site I'm currently using.

Learn from my mistake. Rather than setting up a website that carries cost like: Webhosting, Domain registering, and often needs site designing, why not create a free place on the web via Blogger?

It cost nothing to set up a blog (no web hosting fees required), they have templates available (no need to pay a designer), and it gives you a place to talk about your work.

Also, with Blogger's easy to use design templates and additional widgets, you can add anything from PayPal buttons (to purchase print copies of your books), links to the various e-retailers carrying your book, or even reviews from sites like Goodreads.

Your blogger post can also be configured to link to all of the other social networking sites such as:
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Amazon Author Page
Myspace
LinkedIn


So, there you have it. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in this last year and learned very valuable lessons the hard way. Here’s hoping you can benefit from all I’ve learned.  And, good luck on your own self-publishing adventure.

Notes from writing class - Prepositions


Disclaimer: This is a recurring and random series of posts. I'm currently enrolled in a basic writing/editing class and felt that my notes might be helpful to others. Please note, I am not an editor. I'm just an author trying to learn more about the craft to improve my own work, and sharing the things I learn along the way.   Enjoy.

Ok, so what is a Preposition?

A preposition links nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a sentence. The word or phrase that the preposition introduces is called the object of the preposition.

A preposition usually indicates the temporal, spatial or logical relationship of its object to the rest of the sentence.

OK, so that’s the hoity-toity definition. Think of it this way, it’s the “where” of an object.

The book is behind the shelf. 
The jacket is hanging on the coatrack.
I read my book during lunch.

Check out this list of prepositions.

Easy enough.

On to the next quick segment.  I’m sure you’ve been told to never end a sentence with a preposition…right?

Well that rule doesn’t always stick in creative writing. 

Think of the way we speak modern English:

Can I go with?
Where you at?
He wants to ask her out.
These numbers just don’t add up.
What did you do that for?

Now, remember I said creative writing. If you’re writing a technical paper then you need to stick to the hard fast rules. The difference with creative writing is the fact that we want a “voice” to show through. Usually a “modern” voice.  With that in mind, it is OK to end your sentence in a preposition. Just be aware that it can sometimes be frowned upon so don’t use it to extremes.

One more quick segment on prepositions.

Sometimes (I’m so guilty of this) a preposition is not needed. “Of” is one of the biggest culprits of that.

Look at this sentence:

She jumped off of the bridge.

Is the “of” really necessary? Nope!

She jumped off the bridge. < - see, exact same meaning but no “of.”

She’s standing outside of the house.

Again, the “of” really doesn’t need to be there.

She’s standing outside the house.

Quick Tip: Do a word search and see how many you can find and remove in your manuscript.

Karma & Melodies

Just in time for Valentines Day, a Paranormal Romance to get the blood pumping.

Karma & Melodies is finally available! Get your copy today.

Kindle - http://www.amazon.com/Karma-Melodies-ebook/dp/B004MPRVBA/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1297221634&sr=8-11

Available in the UK too!
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Karma-Melodies/dp/B004MPRVBA/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1297657566&sr=8-6
Smashwords - http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/41390

Synopsis:

Kendra used to spend her days organizing events for Café Enigma while daydreaming about Marcus, the sexy lead singer of Normal Paradox. But all those dreams of becoming Mrs. Rock Star died, along with her mortality, the moment Hector entered her life and turned her into a vampire.

Ten torturous years later, Kendra finally escapes Hector and runs straight into Marcus. (Well, actually, he hit her with his car, but that's beside the point.) The accident leaves Marcus concussed and a few pints too low, forcing Kendra to share her blood to save him.

Sharing her blood doesn’t just heal Marcus’s wounds; it bonds him to Kendra in a magical “can’t live without you” sort of way. Now he’s professing his undying love to her, and Kendra’s not sure if he’s for real or just experiencing the side effects of their new blood bond. Either way, the two of them can’t be separated without suffering suicidal levels of depression, and the band needs to hit the road for the rest of their cross-country tour.

Kendra’s content to travel with the band and explore her new-found relationship, until whispered threats from her master, Hector, start invading her dreams. He’s tracking her down, and she can feel it. She knows the horrors he’s capable of, and if he finds out about Marcus, Hector will do everything in his power to destroy him.

If she stays, Marcus is doomed to Hector’s wrath. If she goes, the repercussions of their bond might kill Marcus. Both options will break Kendra’s heart. If they’re truly meant for each other, they’ll have to find another way....

Book Cover Design aka HELL!

Ok, that's probably a bit more melodramatic than I need to be, but this is a frustrating process. I was on Kindleboards the other day and posted the potential cover for my third Immortalis book, Pandora's Box. What caught my attention more than just the comments on the cover I was working on, were the comments about my original books, Immortalis Carpe Noctem & Hunters & Prey.



Many of the people posting comments stated that my other covers do not accurately depict the series as it should. They did not get the Urban Fantasy and Vampire "feel." Some even went as far as to say they wondered if the girl on the front wasn't a "Street Walker"  because that pretty (scantily clad) woman on the cover didn't jump right out and say vampire or paranormal, instead, she depicts "sexy." That of course is not a bad thing, but with Vegas in the background, I can see how easily the jump was made to "street walker."

Now, none of these comments were said in a mean or hurtful way. These were honest opinions from people who are in the same place as I am. We're all Indies trying to make our stamp on the market, so I was more than happy to hear their thoughts. Better to know I'm off track now than down the line, right? The book cover is the first thing people see. And yes, they do often judge by the cover.

So, with that in mind I've attempted to come up with some new ideas to re-imagine the series and try to capture that Urban Fantasy and Vampire "feel" a little better. Thankfully I also have a friend, the uber talented Mr. Willsin Rowe giving me pointers and suggestions. (If you need covers designed or book trailers made, he's your man!)

http://willsinrowe.blogspot.com/

Here is what we've come up with so far. Please note these are drafts, they are not complete covers (low-res, fonts are not final, and the pictures are still watermarked.). I want to see what direction to take before purchasing art and finalizing designs, so they will be rough around the edges (and that's putting it lightly).

Tell me which ones you think best capture the "feel" of the book, Immortalis Carpe Noctem.





Author Spotlight with Ashley Dawn



Ashley Dawn:
 Author Ashley Dawn was born and raised in rural Arkansas where she developed her love for writing while helping in her parent's office. She graduated with an accounting degree from the University of Central Arkansas. Ashley has been writing professionally for the past seven years. She and her family make their home in TX.
K.S.  Hello and welcome to the blog. I am very excited to have you here. Why don’t we start off with a small introduction? Tell us a little about yourself.

A.D. Hi Katie & thank you so much for having me!  My name is Ashley Dawn, I have two published books in the genera of romantic suspense, Shadows from the Past and Shadows of Suspicion.  I love my writing and I absolutely love being a working mother of two!

K.S.  Any interesting writing quirks or stories you would like to share with my readers?

A.D. I do have one strange thing I HAVE to do with each book, I hand write each word on a legal pad before I type the story at all.  I have a specific color legal pad and pen that I use while I write the story.  My first book was written on 5 blue legal pads and I think I went through a whole package of gel pens!

K.S.  When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? What sparked the desire to pen your first novel?

A.D. I have always loved making up stories so it just seemed natural to put pen to paper.  I actually started my first novel when I was 19.  I guess I actually considered myself a writer after my book was edited and I thought about getting it published.  Before that, the stories had always been just for my or my family’s benefit.

K.S.  What genre do you write?

A.D. Romantic Suspense with a Christian overtone.  That is the type of story I like to read the most and it just seemed natural to write what I liked to read.

K.S.  What would you say has inspired you most in your writing career? Or, who is your favorite author and why?

A.D. I would say my family has inspired me the most.  I use their personalities for the people in my books and it just gives my characters a solid presence in my mind.  I love Dee Henderson and Irene Hannon.  They both write Christian Suspense and their books are never boring or predictable and always a message of God in them!

K.S.  What does your family think of your writing?

A.D. They love it and are so supportive.  I couldn’t have gotten published if it hadn’t been for my family.  I really believe they mainly like the books because they like guessing which character was ‘modeled’ after them!

K.S.  What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating your book?

A.D. I was surprised at how much research actually needs to be done to make scenes realistic.  You use your imagination but if the scene only makes sense in your mind and isn’t realistic, people won’t take your work seriously.  Before I started writing I assumed authors just made everything up, but it isn’t that easy.  If you want realistic scenes they have to be based off real life.

K.S.  What inspired you to write your novel?

A.D. I was reading a book that was very predictable and none of the characters were catching my attention and started thinking of things the author could have done and my thoughts went from there to IF I wrote a story the characters I would use…I wrote the first chapter of my book that evening and gave it to my mother to read who encouraged me to finish and eventually publish my book.

K.S.  Can you tell us a little about your novel?

A.D.
Shadows From the Past:
“…It is the price you pay for choosing to be a cop.  Your brother’s life…”
Those words haunt her dreams, and her waking moments.  LAPD officer, Aurora Kavvan cannot rest until she finds her brothers killer.  Digging into the past always brings back unpleasant things:  memories, guilt…the hit man.  Now she is in a race against time to find the murderer before he finds her.
“Kill her.  I don’t care how, and I don’t care where, but I want her dead now!”
Someone was trying to kill his dead partner’s sister.  FBI agent, Jordan Reiley will stop at nothing to protect the woman he loves.  Even if it means going against her wishes; putting himself between her and the man who murdered her brother.  
Will God keep them alive long enough for them to find the truth?

Shadows of Suspicion:
Revenge is the agenda…
“Find my sister.”
Rick Reiley’s words were what drove Luke to search mercilessly for Kerry.  He is in a race against time to find her and will have to face more than a criminal mastermind to get close to her.  He is prepared to give his life for her, but what about his heart?
“…I would like you to meet….My wife.”
Those words from her enigmatic rescuer threw Kerry more than anything else that had happened to her in the last few days…and that was saying a lot!  Kerry’s simple life is turned upside down when she is kidnapped and dragged to the middle of nowhere by a madman.  She trusts Luke with her life, but can she trust him with her heart?
As Luke fights to keep Kerry safe, the chemistry ignites and the danger gets closer.
Will God protect them while Luke tries to sort out his heart….and capture Kerry’s?

K.S.  Where can we find your novel?

A.D.  Both are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and every other big retail store.  Hopefully within the next month, I will have both available on ebook!  Or if someone would rather you can email me at ashleywintters@gmail.com and get autographed copies.

K.S.  Do you have a website, fan site, or Blog that we can visit?

A.D. I do a review blog and I have my book information, about me etc on there:  http://ashleysbookshelf.blogspot.com

K.S.  Do you have any closing advice to aspiring writers?

A.D.  Write what you love and never give up.  If you aren’t passionate about what you write, others won’t be either…but if you are, passion is contagious!
Please include any promotional photos of you and/or your book.