Tag Archives: authors

Dollar Store Vocabulary

The English language encompasses over a million words. Growing up we are taught that to improve our vocabulary we should read more. As an adult I still run into words now and then that are unfamiliar.  Either by the power of Google or context clues I  discover the meaning and attempt to eek out space in the “words” section of my brain’s hard drive. If I manage to shuttle said word from short-term into long-term memory without a physical memory dump, I have achieved an increased lexicon.

As a scientist I get to use long chemical or biological terms, but these belong to a specialized vocabulary. They do not elicit the same sense of satisfaction as finding that perfect word with all the proper nuances to convey precisely what you wish to say. Once in a great while I see a science editorial or review that doesn’t read like a boring list of redundant science-speak, but unfortunately, that’s rather what is expected. After all there’s only so many ways one can clearly state that you grew cell line A on flask type B without sounding ridiculous.

In fiction, the writer has the freedom to use the entire palette to create his or her masterpiece, or at least one would think. Over the past few years the advice I have heard over and over again is to use simple vocabulary. For the most part, my 64 crayon box gets the job done, but every once in a while there’s a color from the 96 set or maybe even the 152 ultimate collection that adds the hue I’m looking for.

I imagine with the dawn of the digital era and a thesaurus at writers’ fingertips, a few too many of them gave Shift+F7 chronic fatigue. There is a difference between regurgitating a thesaurus and picking the crayon of just the right color. Once upon a time writers assumed their audience possessed intelligence. Now, the subtext of the “simple words” advice is two-fold:

1) We think you looked this up b/c we don’t know what it means and don’t feel like googling it.

2) We aren’t sure the audience will know what _____ word means.

What happened to reading being a means to educate, even when that reading was for entertainment? What happened to reading expanding the mind? As a kid, when I read the classics, I could rarely go more than a page without having to use context clues or a dictionary to decipher a word’s meaning. We have endless information at our fingertips, and yet anything out of the ordinary gets flagged as “a five-dollar word”. As far as I’m aware, all e-readers have built in dictionaries. Are we destined for inane words like twerk and googling (Yes, I know I used it.) to fill our dictionaries and communal vocabularies to the detriment of other words? Adding new words need not kill off old words. I can use the word “google” without suddenly forgetting what “discombobulate”.

My stories are written to entertain. Some may have deeper meanings for readers to find if they wish, but at the end of the day I simply want to share these stories, and I think I owe it to you, my readers, not to settle for using a dollar store vocabulary when I can share words of a higher quality.

Readers, editor, and writers, share your opinions in the comments!

*This post is indicative of my writing style and vocabulary, so you be the judge. If you’re of a mind, click over and pick up a copy of my short story “What Autumn Leaves” or one of my novels available on Amazon.

What Autumn Leaves

Weekly Writers’ Ramble: October 10, 2014

I’m kicking off this round of Weekly Writers’ Ramble with a discussion of crafting characters. Stay tuned for next week when J.F. Lewis drops in to tell us about his new book “Grudgeberer” and how he came up with the hero.

In fiction there are generally two broad classifications of stories. One is action driven stories and the other is character driven stories. While there can be overlap, usually a story falls into one camp or another. A good example of the former that comes to mind would be Ray Bradbury’s short story, “There Will Come Soft Rains”. The story is more about the atmosphere and events than any specific character. It’s one I read in middle school and since it was still the Cold War era, it left an impression that has lasted to this day.

Character driven fiction involves the growth or change of characters and how events shape that change. When it comes to my own fiction, I write primarily character driven fiction. Stuff happens, but it is the characters which make the story.

Remember, there is no one right way to create a character. There are oodles of how-to books and whatever method that works for you is fine. Some people craft their characters as rough outlines of people they know. Others follow a D&D sort of approach. Some might sketch their character, or interview them.

My approach is a bit more nebulous than that and harks back to my fondness for make-believe as a child. As I think about a story idea, more often than not a character simply starts coalescing in my mind. Tala, from Fated Bonds, marched into my head, suited up in her police uniform and with a no-nonsense attitude. She’s “Law and Order” meets urban fantasy. Her past, present, and future got worked out as I went, the same as when I played space aliens with my siblings and I was the alien queen that had to  lead my army to victory.

So for me, finding my characters involves opening that door in my mind  and stepping back to my childhood. I suppose I can credit “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” for my fondness of make-believe and for teaching me that  it was not something that was just for little kids. While the stories I write are generally adult in nature, it’s that same “let’s pretend” state of mind. As such, some characters are harder to write. The farther outside of my experience, the darker, crueler, or more twisted, it takes more effort for me to put on their persona as I write them. I’ve found that the more I write and read, the easier this becomes.

Feel free to comment on how you craft your characters, or what it is about your favorite literary or genre characters that makes them so real to you.

If you’re interested in meeting my characters, wander over to Amazon and slip between the digital (or hard copy) pages of my books.

Daughter of Destiny Cover AMAZONcover

Tag, You’re it!: Blog Hop

So, my writer friend, Jeremy Hicks, tagged me in a blog hop.

jhAfter nearly dying at birth, Jeremy Hicks gave up his ghost during the sorrowful autumn of his twelfth year. The outsider that occupied his body from that point onward did the best it could to imitate him. However, this being’s bizarre sense of humor and inability to fully mimic human emotions kept it an outsider. After many unhappy years of trying to assimilate to this plane of existence and its daily doldrums, he turned to the cadre of demons in his life for other options. He teamed up with one of them inhabiting a ginger known as Barry Hayes and together they turned their nightmares into fiction. The writing team of Hicks & Hayes created an original horror-fantasy environment (Faltyr™;), wrote a screenplay (The Cycle of Ages Saga: Finders Keepers) to introduce it, and then adapted it into a novelization of the same name. As a result, their first novel was published by Dark Oak Press in August 2013. Jeremy co-owns Broke Guys Productions and served as Associate Producer on the independent horror film, “Curse of the Rougarou.” He is also a poet and short story writer

Meander over to his page or blog to check him out and see his answers to the questions below.

So, here’s how this blog hop thing works. I get tagged and answer the listed questions. In turn, I chase down three authors and they get to answer those questions as well. It’s an interesting way to discover new writers and books.

What are you working on?

My dissertation. It’ll be long, boring, and even I won’t want to read it. Yay science! What am I putting off to get that little thing called a PhD? I was hopping around among three works in progress: book 3 of Crossroads of Fate series, book 2 of Guardian series, and a stand alone science-fiction/fantasy novel, “Riding Time”.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I completely ignore genre lines and use whatever makes my story work. This often causes editors to scratch their head in puzzlement as they try to figure out exactly what genre they should put it in.

Why do you write what you do?

I want to have my cake and eat it too. Why can’t I have fantasy in a science fiction or science fiction elements in a fantasy story? Why can’t they both have romance? Why can’t there be intrigue and politics, and action? When I said as much to my sister years back, she laughed and said I’d probably have to write it. So, I did. By the time I finished that first draft, I was addicted to the process of creating characters and worlds. There’s nothing quite like it.

How does your writing process work?
  1. Random idea pops into my head at worst possible moment.
  2. Obsessively think about idea until a character emerges from the mists of my brain.
  3. With a vague plot outline rattling in the attic of my mind, I sit down to write… in between barking dogs, complaining kids, work, cooking, cleaning, etc. It comes in fits and starts.
  4. I’ve learned to keep editing to a minimum on the first draft.– Get the story down.
  5. 1 or 2 rounds of edits for plot, have a beta reader give me feedback, export to Word and do another round for spelling, formatting, etc. and address any issues beta readers bring up.
  6. Send to publisher where the merry-go-round of edits begins again.

While I rarely write a formal outline, I do come up with one in a way in my head. Sometimes, with a particularly tricky work, I will actually jot out plot points, conflict and motivations. For me, that stuff has to be done in old school pen and paper. There’s just something about that process that requires me writing long hand. When I type a story, it’s already in my head. I’m merely transcribing it onto the page.

If you’d like to see what this miraculous process produces, check out any of the following:

Reaper COverDaughter of Destiny Cover AMAZONcoverNow, for the fun part, I get to tag three authors and y’all can check them out next week.

First: Jimmy Gillentine, quite possibly the world’s biggest Godzilla fan.

JimmySecond: Ethan Nahte’

Ethan NahteThird: A. Christopher Drown

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In the immortal words of Porky Pig, th-th-that’s all folks!

Weekly Writer’s Ramble- Enough about me

Beginning next week, I will have the good fortune of hosting an author on Fridays for a guest post I shall henceforth call our “Weekly Writers’ Ramble”. Each month will feature a new topic, so we’ll hear a number of different viewpoints on each topic. In addition, it isn’t just little ol’ me sharing my fledgling author knowledge.

This month’s topic is “The Pros and Cons of Cons” and the calendar is already full! July will be “I heard that!: Audiobooks”, and there’s still some slots available, so if you are interested, shoot me an email through my Google+ or FB page!

Spread the word and feel free to ask questions!

So, check back next week, same bat time, same bat….errr, website.

Holy Internet, Batman! Everyone under 30 just went, "Huh?"
Holy Internet, Batman! Everyone under 30 just went, “Huh?”

 

Half past time flies

I registered the kids for school this week. They start on Monday. I’m not entirely sure where the summer went, but I think I should get a refund. Summers are supposed to be slow, and fun, and lazy. Okay, I didn’t once get up before 6 a.m., but I wouldn’t call that lazy, so much as normal. It’s a cruel and unusual punishment that school will start even earlier this year. 

I mentored a student this summer, possibly made a fluorescent nucleoside (I have to purify it to know for sure), cursed at cells as they once again decided to throw a tantrum and quit working, and started writing a paper. I’ve also reached level 32 on Star Trek Online. I’ve gotten adept enough to only walk my avatar into walls on occasion rather than every other move. I suppose that counts as fun, but it isn’t a beach vacation.

So as I prepare for battling hordes of desperate parents as they seek out new binders and new backpacks, boldly going to big box store after big box store to secure supplies, I also have exciting things of my own to prepare for.

I’m not sure if qualifying exams count as exciting, but I’ll be prepping like mad over the next couple of months. What is exciting is that I’ve got editors assigned to me for both books which are in the works.

On August 17th I’ll be participating in a local multi-author book signing and meet and greet event held the past couple of years at a local independent book store. My publisher will also be in attendance, both as an author in her own right and as a publisher. We’ll be revealing my cover and announcing the release date of my book, Fated Bonds, and taking pre-orders.

I’ll have a few freebies: copies of the issue of Midnight Screaming, a local magazine no longer in publication, in which my short story, “Hunted” appeared. While not in the same time period as the novel, it is part of the same universe.

Seeing as I started writing Fated Bonds roughly six years ago, this process seems to have taken forever, but this summer has flown by. I’m considering asking for a winter discount, since summer opted to have fun without me.

In the meantime, I’ll rely on weekend hikes and completed chapters for my dose of fun.

If you’re interested in checking out some local talent, feel free to check out the event details on my Facebook page.

Proof I’m nuts

I’m a writer. More than that, I’m an author, meaning I’m putting my writing out there for people to view.

What’s so crazy about that, you might ask.  Oh let us count the ways:

  1. Gone are the days of the reclusive writer. If you don’t promote your work in some form or fashion, it won’t sell. I began life as an introvert. I have learned to step out of that shell. The more I did, the easier it became, but it will never quite erase that momentary dread when I “put myself out there”.
  2. The internet is a rude and judgmental monster. Have I ever mentioned that nothing puts my back up quicker than someone pointing the finger and telling another person how lacking they are? If not, now you know. As an author, I’m voluntarily handing that monster my words and thoughts. It’s sort of like stepping in a fire ant hill. Sometimes you might jump away quick enough, but more often than not you will get bitten and damn does it hurt.
  3. The “public” is extremely opinionated. Voting season is a good example of this. Everyone thinks their opinions is right (see #2). There are some writers who choose to write stories that won’t trigger the parting of the Red Sea of opinion. I write stories. Some of mine are fairly innocuous and some I anticipate might make waves. I’m a crappy swimmer. Parting the sea seemed like a good idea at the time…
  4. We court rejection. Getting a story published is like going on blind dates. More often than not you have to deal with a fair amount of rejection before finding a suitable partner. Sometimes it’s awkward, sometimes down right painful, but we keep doing it.
  5. The voices in our head aren’t the ones that are the problem. Telling someone you want to be an author is more likely to earn you a patronizing smile than encouragement. The more time that passes in between that first declaration and any amount of “success” the more likely those voices will push you to do other things, or suggest that you aren’t good enough. Silence can be just as devastating. Even when there are voices supporting you, all it takes is one loud voice to make you doubt. (See #s 2-4)

For all the other authors out there, you aren’t alone. Let your voice sing loud and true. Relish in this insanity called creativity, because it’s way more fun than so-called sanity.

***This was written especially for a fellow author, my best friend, Anne.***

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop- Part 2

Welcome to the blog hop!

To recap: blog hopping does not require bouncing on one foot.  I’m much relieved, as I have an adversarial relationship with gravity.  I explained the concept in my post the other day. Basically, it’s a way to help readers discover new authors without having to play our favorite guessing game, “which brick and mortar bookstore hasn’t closed yet”.

In this particular hop, I and my fellow authors, in their respective blogs, are tasked with answering ten questions. We share a bit about our current work in progress as well as some insights into our process, from characters and inspirations to plotting and cover decisions. I hope you enjoy it!

Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and questions. Here is my Next Big Thing!

 1. What is the working title of your book?

 Daughter of Destiny. It’s the first in a speculative fiction series I’ve titled Crossroads of Fate

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Seven years ago I had a late-night, phone-battery-killing, meandering conversation with my sister on literature in which I babbled about all my favorite stories. I wondered aloud why a story couldn’t have all the things I liked: science-fiction, fantasy, action, adventure, and romance. My sister laughed and said maybe I could write one. I proceeded to do just that.

3. What genre does your book come under?

Well, the thing with cramming all those things into one book is it makes it hard to categorize. I did it on purpose, and a number of editors liked, some even loved the story. The elements all blend, so well in fact that deciding exactly which genre to put it in becomes tricky. I’ve settled on calling it speculative fiction.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I admit this question kind of threw me. I haven’t really thought that far ahead, and I’m not a die-hard Hollywood fan. I only began recalling a handful of actors’ names in recent years, mostly due to accidental repeated exposure to radio or television media. I think I’d want to cast unknowns. Sure, big names draw crowds and money, but if you want a character to really come to life without the shadow of past roles or real life persona of a big name, unknowns are better.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Katarina O’Brian, a brilliant scientist with untapped psychokinetic talents meets Zane Gratig, a telepath and undercover soldier from across the galaxy and together they set in motion events which will defend Earth from the perils it faces.

6. Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

This will be a self-publishing adventure. I’ve had more than one editor say they’d be happy to take it if only I shifted the story solidly into a specific genre. I tried. The novel and I had a long, involved argument. The novel won.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Four months. That’s a record for me, by the way. I have another finished novel that took upwards of two years to write, the rough draft for the sequel took me about a year. Of course, I then spent 7 years rewriting that very first draft.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I will openly admit that Sherrilyn Kenyon and Karen Marie Moning awed me in their use of mythology, but their work is entirely different, both from each other and from mine. Considering I wrote Daughter of Destiny with the intention of blending genres, I challenge readers to decide what stories mine most closely resembles.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I owe inspiration to every book I’ve ever read, reached the end, and loathed with all my being acknowledging that I had to rejoin the real world. I carried that spark of inspiration and we can all blame my sister for that joking challenge which fanned the ember into a flame.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

  • They say write what you know, so bits of my home town, Memphis, show up in the book.
  • The main character shares my love of chocolate, coffee, and science.
  • It’s a futuristic earth after a viral pandemic and there’s magic, telepathy, an alien invasion, faeries, but sorry no werewolves. That’s my other series.

Below you will find authors who will be joining me by blog in this hoppity adventure. Do be sure to bookmark and add them to your calendars for updates and exciting developments.

Happy Writing and Reading!

Robert Krog

http://krogfiction.yolasite.com/blog-of-robert-j-krog.php

I heard via smoke signal that evil crud had invaded his abode and that a vicious battle wages on. I’m sure he’ll win, and when he does, he’ll hop you along to some other authors, but for now take a peek at his GoodReads page.

Adam Lowe

I send you forth over across the pond, where they say things like flat and torch and lift but not the same way we do. Poet and writer, he’s also editor-in-chief at Doghorn Publishing.

Alethea Kontis

Not everyone can claim they know a princess. I do. Okay, it’s primarily through Facebook, but it counts. Turns out, she already has blog hopped, but she said I could point y’all her way. I hear Hero, her next book, should be released very soon.

Also, thanks again, A. Christopher Drown, for inviting me to the hop.