Monday, April 24, 2017

Newest News in Grammarland

Grammar Updates
(Really...it'll be fun)

 Product Details
Although the Associated Press, or AP style of writing reserved for journalists and other types of news writing such as court reporting and captioning, adapts/adopts new rules at least yearly based on current trends and pop culture, literary style of writing changes more slowly.

How many of you understood rules are different? If you read the news much—used to be paper, by the way/BTW—you see things like numerical references, fewer punctuation marks, even the single quote titles, sometimes even with italics, oh, the horror. (Case in point: the Poynter.com article title referenced below.)

I see people getting the two formats mixed up quite often. Literary style tends to spell more words, almost all numbers and even to the quarter time references. We do not use single quotations for anything, almost always, but for quotes within quotes, and we use the Oxford comma with reverence and respect. We have the space, we don’t have to cram our stories, front loaded with objectivity and precision, into ten inches of column space.

IF YOU ARE A JOURNALIST www.APStylebook.com is a good place to find the latest news, take pop quizzes, join twitterworld, partake of quizzes, converse with other nerds or the clueless, even read blogs.

The newest edition of the AP Stylebook will be released on July 11, 2017 (Grammar Girl say May 31 which may refer to the online version, I'm not sure). It’s available for pre-order on Amazon. Certain people, like the American Society of Copy Editors, got to see the previews and announced some of the changes on March 24. Along with a running header on the AP website, the following awesome sites highlighted the main changes for this year.


Although I mentioned in an earlier column that the American Dialect Society had made “their/them/they” singular in 2015, it was not formally adopted. Well it is now in certain situations—mostly because of the need for more gender neutral terminology, which is also clarified.

As you may guess, the electronic universe has caused some ripples regarding how much of it to use that won’t shorten our lifespan in reference. I don’t know how many of you recall listening painfully to broadcasters say “world wide web,” then, “www-dot” in front of urls. Now we hardly even bother with the www. Anyway, email is officially hyphen-less, as is esports. That one is rather confusing, but I assume those involved get it. It's not a misspelling of exports. You still use the hyphen for everything else e-whatever. I mention this specifically—email—because this spelling and one other have officially been accepted by the Chicago Manual of Style, the Bible for LITERARY WRITERS. Yup—if it’s a book, it’s LITERATURE, not a piece of JOURNALISM. Anyway, lower case “internet” is acceptable too in literary writing.

For those who belong to Scribd, you can access the 2016 AP Style guide here.


And of course, you can always check the Chicago Manual of Style website to ask questions in a forum and access abbreviated information from the manual. There is also a list of new Questions and Answers, like we don’t have to use a comma after etc., anymore (except in this case when it’s the closing word of a parenthetical phrase) here.
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Monday, April 17, 2017

Keep At It


The mere habit of writing, of constantly keeping at it, of never giving up, ultimately teaches you how to write. — Gabriel Fielding
That’s one of my favorite quotes about writing. Pretty straightforward. Write.
I find that I spend a great deal of time trying to get the hang of social network/marketing, reading how-to articles and books, and then trying to apply it all to my work in progress.
My dream of becoming a published author has come true, and continues to come true. But sometimes it feels like I’m all about the next hopefully to be published project – the stress of that first sentence, the turn-ability of that first page. Will the publisher deem it worthy?
I remember when it was just about the joy of writing, practicing, rolling words around in my mouth and then translating to the page. I used to journal without the inner editor, wrote reams of letters, played around with how to use a newly learned word.
The more I write, the more these two things meld together – writing to publish and writing for my soul. The more time I spend writing just for practice, the more what I’ve learned leaks over into my submissions.
Just write.
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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Fast Track to Publication (A Modern-Day Myth)

All writers, particularly those who are published, are asked how they did it. "How'd you find the time?" "Do you have an agent?" "Who's your agent?" "Who's your publishing house?" "Is it a real book?" "Are you rich?" (That one always cracks me up.) Those are the easy ones. Inevitably, we also hear the dreaded, "Can you put in a good word for me with your publisher/agent/ editor?"

Now most times this is a simple, though naive, request by well-meaning writers who don't know where next to turn in their writing journey. I've been there. Believe me, I've been there. But there are others who mean, "Can you put me at the head of the line based on all the hard work you did to get to a place where you can help me skip all that pesky studying, learning, conferencing, actually writing, submitting, receiving rejections and then submitting again, looking for an agent, and taking advice? Please?"

The reason I dread that question is not because I resent the implication that it's a simple matter to get published. It's because there is no simple (or easy) answer, and no matter what I tell them, they won't be happy. But the truth is you can't get from the beginning of the publishing journey to the finish line (and there's never a true finish line) without working at it. Working hard. Working constantly. That's accompanied by learning, reading, studying, but most of all, writing. A lot. A whole lot. And that's not counting the "nots." Not watching television, not going to the movies, not hanging out with friends, nor sleeping, fishing, or whatever else you like to do in your spare time. That's not to say you can never again enjoy your favorite activities. But if you want to be a published writer, and unless you live under a rock with no job or other responsibilities to gobble up your time, you're going to have to make some serious adjustments to your life to accommodate your dream.

This is me being rejected time and time again, and realizing
I'd have to actually work at learning how to write. Wait, that's
not me. That's my granddaughter having a "I don't want to do
something or other" tantrum. Okay, okay. Same thing. 
In other words, there is no magic wand anyone can wave in our direction to assure we achieve success without doing what 99.99% of the rest of us have to do. Yes, there's that .01% of published writers who hit the jackpot the first time out. But for every one of those, there are hundreds, no, thousands upon thousands of others who have to do it the hard way. There's just no fast lane to publication. If there were, it would be an impossibly crowded, road rage-ridden bunch of desperate writers, I can tell you that.

Believe me, I know all this from firsthand experience. When I first started to write seriously, I too thought I could skip a few steps and cut into line. After a few months of absolutely no progress with that method, I realized I'd have to hunker down and do the work. So I did. I read every book I could find on the art of writing. Some were good, some weren't. But I learned to glean every bit of helpful information from even the worst of them and apply it to my journey. I signed up for the writing courses offered by the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild--first, the Apprentice, then the Journeyman, and finally the Craftsman class. It wasn't cheap and it wasn't easy. It took me four years to complete them all, but I did it, and I'll be everlastingly grateful to Jerry Jenkins and my mentors for introducing me to the real world of writing.

I wrote until I was blue in the face. Then I wrote some more. I picked my work apart, edited, rewrote, and edited again. I attended conferences, joined a writing group, wrote on my lunch hour, after the kids went to bed, and on weekends. When I felt it was good enough I submitted it, and more often than not, got a rejection letter in return. (In those days, it was done through the mail--and I don't mean email--and it took days or weeks and, in most cases, months before I heard back.) I was one with the mailbox during those years. The mailman fluctuated between being my best friend and my worst enemy. Once in a while, though, I'd receive an acceptance letter, and all the waiting and agonizing and praying paid off.

But there's a bright side to my discouraging answer to that question. Working hard simply works. Yes, it's slower than anyone wants it to be, but it gets the job done. It's harder than anyone expects it to be, but it's doable. Believe me, you won't miss that extra hour of sleep or that television episode, even that occasional evening spent hanging out with your friends when you take stock of your skills and realize your plan is working. I know I didn't. You're doing the hard work, and in return you're reaping the rewards. You will be published.

It might sound discouraging to any as-yet-unpublished writers to hear that my journey (and probably the journeys of many other writers) took twenty years. Yeah, twenty. While I had success with newspaper columns, anthologies, greeting cards, online writing, etc., along the way, my first book wasn't published until I'd written and studied and agonized and submitted for nearly two decades. I don't count those years as a loss, though, as it was through the passage of time that I realized what I truly wanted to do with my writing. It took me that long to become proficient enough and wise enough and to accrue sufficient life experiences to write inspirational, humorous books for both children and adults. God molded me into what He wanted me to be all along. He put the desire to write into my heart and provided me with the raw talent and perseverance to run the course. It wasn't easy, and there were times when I questioned my sanity, but in the end it paid off.

If you're reading this and you're a not-quite-published writer, please take heart. You will be. The work is hard, but rewarding. The journey is long, but will eventually end. You and I will never be able to stop learning, as no writer, published or not, is ever as good as he or she could be, and will never outgrow his or her need to learn more. Fortunately, there are many ways to learn, and reading is one of the best. I love to read books by the masters--both from the past and in today's world--and hope that a drop or two of their talent might spill out of their books and onto my keyboard. I may never reach their status (few of us do--that's why they're the masters!), but there's joy in knowing you and I are doing what we were created to do.

So what are we waiting for? Let's go do it!
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Monday, April 10, 2017

Scene Writing: Picture It

A couple of months ago, my writers group in The Woodlands, Texas, hosted Carla Hoch, an expert in weapons and self-defense. She was fascinating to watch and listen to, and she definitely knows her stuff. Her blog, FightWrite.net, is all about fights and fighting.
One of the things she talked about was how fight scenes are presented in novels---especially novels written by folks who've never been in a fight. She gave us some illustrations of things she'd read in others' manuscripts and asked us if we understood why what they'd written wouldn't work. Sometimes I couldn't see what was wrong until she explained; other times, the gaffs were glaringly obvious.
But with everything she said, she always came back to this: Picture in your mind what you're writing on the page.
Watch your characters act out their battle, moves and counter moves, actions and reactions. Take time through the scene to visualize everything going on. Just because something sounds cool doesn't mean it works.
This idea of visualizing what you write applies to virtually everything you put on the page, and it requires an alertness to what you've already written. If you've made it a point to tell your reader that the characters are standing ten feet apart, you can't afterward illustrate them in hand-to-hand combat or a loving embrace without first having them close the distance.
Picture what your characters are wearing and understand how the garments can limit motion. An example Carla gave was the 17th century barmaid with a knife strapped to her leg. If she has to scrounge through yards of skirt to find that knife, it's not going to be very useful to her.
Picture the setting. If you have your characters in Grand Central Station during rush hour, remember to move all the people out of the way before your characters break out in a polka.
When you're creating a scene, you have more to think about than just the characters. You also have to think about what would be in that scene if it were actually occurring in real life. Life doesn't occur in a vacuum. Remembering this can help you to add detail to a scene and enhance the sense of reality. It can also help prevent logistical problems that make your work an example editors and others use as how not to do things.
So, we have clothes, setting, others populating the scene. What else would you consider while you write? What would affect your character's actions and reactions?
Picture your scene. Watch it in action.
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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

New Christian FictionReleases!

April 2017 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

sandpiper-cove

Sandpiper Cove by Irene Hannon -- When a police chief and an ex-con join forces to keep a young man from falling into a life of crime, sparks fly. Given their backgrounds, it's not a promising match—but in Hope Harbor, anything is possible. (Contemporary Romance from Revell [Baker])

oh-baby

Oh Baby by Delia Latham -- Dawni Manors seeks peace in Angel Falls, Texas. What she finds is a cowboy, an abandoned infant, and emotional chaos. If the Heart's Haven angels really are there, what in the world are they thinking? (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

General:

a-fragile-hope

A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti -- Where does a relationship expert turn when his wife leaves him and carries a tiny heartbeat with her? (General from Abingdon Press)

waiting-for-butterflies

Waiting for Butterflies by Karen Sargent -- When tragedy strikes, Maggie discovers a mother's love never ends--not even when her life does. Longing for her family after her sudden death, she becomes a lingering spirit and returns home where she helplessly witnesses her family's downward spiral in the aftermath of her passing. Her husband is haunted by past mistakes and struggles to redeem himself. Her teenage daughter silently drowns in her own guilt, secretly believing she caused her mother's death. Only her five-year-old, full of innocence, can sense her presence. Although limited by her family's grief and lack of faith, Maggie is determined to keep a sacred promise and save her family before her second chance runs out. (General from Walrus Publishing [Amphorae Publishing Group])

Mystery:

sunset-in-old-savannahSunset in Old Savannah by Mary Ellis -- When a philandering husband turns up dead, two crack detectives find more suspects than moss-draped oaks in charming old Savannah, including a scheming business partner, a resentful mistress, and a ne'er-do-well brother. (Mystery from Harvest House Publishers)

Historical:

above-rubies
Above Rubies by Keely Brooke Keith -- In 1863, young teacher Olivia Owens establishes the first school in the remote settlement of Good Springs while finding love. (Historical, Independently Published)

Historical Romance:


a-rose-so-fair

A Rose So Fair by Myra Johnson -- Caleb Wieland would give anything to win farm girl Rose Linwood's heart, but Rose's stubborn independence is proving as thorny as the flower for which she's named. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)
under-the-same-sky

Under the Same Sky by Cynthia Roemer -- In 1854 Illinois, Becky Hollister wants nothing more than to live out her days on the prairie, building a life for herself alongside her future husband. But when a tornado rips through her parents' farm, killing her mother and sister, she must leave the only home she's ever known and the man she's begun to love to accompany her injured father to St. Louis.
Catapulted into a world of unknowns, Becky finds solace in corresponding with Matthew Brody, the handsome pastor back home. But when word comes that he is all but engaged to someone else, she must call upon her faith to decipher her future. (Historical Romance from Mantle Rock Publishing)
the-pony-express-collection

The Pony Express Romance Collection by Barbara Tifft Blakey, Mary Davis, Darlene Franklin, Cynthia Hickey, Maureen Lang, Debby Lee, Donna Schlachter, Connie Stevens and Pegg Thomas -- Nine historical romances revive the brief era of the Pony Express. Join the race from Missouri, across the plains and mountains to California and back again as brave Pony Express riders and their supporters along the route work to get mail across country in just ten days. It is an outstanding task in the years 1860 to 1861, and only a few are up to the job. Faced with challenges of terrain, weather, hostile natives, sickness, and more, can these adventurous pioneers hold fast, and can they also find lasting love in the midst of daily trials? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Romantic Suspense:

plain-targetPlain Target by Dana R. Lynn -- Horse trainer Jess McGrath only wants to clear her disgraced brother's name, but enemies keep coming out of the woodwork and danger only gets closer. Jess soon learns that no place is safe—and no one can be trusted…except for the last white knight she'd ever expect to ride to her rescue. Paramedic Seth Travis was the boy behind her high school humiliation, but he's also the man keeping her alive. When they find sanctuary in the Amish community, can they uncover answers in time to stop a killer—and resolve their past in time to build a future together? (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
dangerous-testimony

Dangerous Testimony by Dana Mentink -- Four weeks before she's set to testify at a gang murder trial, someone is determined to make sure that Candace Gallagher Andrews never takes the stand. When nowhere is safe for the private investigator or her little girl, Candace turns to the only person she can trust—longtime friend and former navy SEAL Marco Quidel. For Marco, protecting Candace is not just another duty. As the trial date nears and the killer stalks ever closer, Marco knows fear for the first time—the fear of losing Candace and her daughter. But while Marco begins seeing Candace as more than just a friend, her late husband's memory is never far from her mind. So he must keep Candace alive—and not get emotionally involved—long enough to put away a killer. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

deep-extractionDeep Extraction by DiAnn Mills -- Special Agent Tori Templeton is determined to find who killed her best friend's husband. Tori finds an unexpected ally in the newest member of the task force, recently reinstated Deputy US Marshal Cole Jeffers. As Tori and Cole dig deeper into Nathan's personal and business affairs, they uncover more than they bargained for. And the closer they get to finding the real killer?and to each other?the more intent someone is on silencing them for good. (Romantic Suspense from Tyndale House)

final-verdict

Final Verdict by Jessica R. Patch -- When Aurora Daniels becomes the target of someone seeking their own twisted justice, Sheriff Beckett Marsh is the only one who can rescue her. As a public defender, Aurora has angered plenty of people in town—and in her past. And while Beckett constantly clashes with the feisty lawyer professionally, it's his duty to protect and serve. Guarding her 24/7 is now his sole assignment. He may not have been able to save his fiancĂ©e from a dangerous felon, but he'll do whatever it takes to keep Aurora alive. Even if working with her to catch and convict this ruthless killer puts his heart in the crosshairs. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
guardian

Guardian by Terri Reed -- When a fellow FBI agent is kidnapped and a protected witness vanishes, Leo Gallagher will stop at nothing to find them both. So when he discovers a link between the case and a single mother in Wyoming, Leo and his trusty K-9 partner rush to question Alicia Duncan. Could she be the key to locating the missing persons? Not if a killer has anything to say about it. Someone is determined to keep Alicia from talking, so Leo and his chocolate Lab must keep her and her little boy safe on their family ranch. With danger lurking around every corner, Leo must work overtime to not lose another person who's important to him. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])
witch

Witch by Denise Weimer -- Having restored Michael Johnson's ancestors' house and apothecary shop and begun applying the lessons of family and forgiveness unearthed from the past, Jennifer Rushmore expects to complete her first preservation job with the simple relocation of a log home. But as her crew reconstructs the 1787 cabin, home to the first Dunham doctor, attacks on those involved throw suspicion on neighbors and friends alike. And while Jennifer has trusted God and Michael with the pain of her past, it appears Michael's been keeping his own secrets. Will she use a dream job offer from Savannah as an escape, or will a haunting tale from a Colonial diary convince her to rely on the faithfulness of his love? (Romantic Suspense from Canterbury House Publishing)

Speculative Romance/Fantasy:

the-fairetellings-series

The Fairetellings Series (Books 1 through 3) by Kristen Reed -- Discover a trio of enchanting novellas inspired by three beloved fairy tales: Cinderella, Snow White, and Beauty and the Beast. (Speculative Romance/Fantasy, Independently Published)
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