Bell’s Palsy and Romance By: Rose Lange

A new idea for a story hit me the other day, and while I won’t divulge too many details because it’s still so very fresh in my mind, but I will say the heroine in my story, will have Bell’s Palsy, a “temporary” facial paralysis. A facial paralysis that I’d never heard of until it happened to me. It is time to bring this little known ailment to light. Already, I get a sense that this book will be close to my heart, and it’s going to be messy, and knee-deep-in-the-mud emotional, but gosh I’m excited and cannot wait to begin.

This is the time for this story, because my emotions have had time to simmer, cure, and relax. As someone who has now lived with this for almost three years in June, back then, it was still too new, and I was too angry. I thought why me? Why did this happen to me? I was embarrassed, and wanted to hide in my house, never to come face to face with anyone again. When I did go in public, people would stare, and point. It was painful, but I eventually learned to ignore it.

Today, I’m a little more than half way healed, and have some symmetry to face. I have come to terms with my “new” face, and have not let it hinder my life in any way, shape, or form. And now I’m ready, excited, and willing to share my experience via this story, via this still nameless heroine, and her hero. I’m anxious to dive in, and write about a heroine who doesn’t feel pretty. Who every time she looks in the mirror to put her make up on, struggles to feel beautiful, and all she can do is morn her “old” face. Who goes through momentary bouts of anger, and cries in secret. Who still has to use eye drops on a daily basis, and envies people with symmetrical faces. Who doesn’t understand why the hero in my story finds her at all attractive, but oh yes, he does. It’s going to be a bumpy ride for everyone.

This story grew in my mind, and popped out of the blue. Of course it would come at a time when I’m currently wring another book, but that’s okay. I did what any writer would do, and wrote down anything, everything that came to me, no detail was spared. I sat down a couple days ago, and wrote six pages, long hand, an info dump so to speak. Anything from setting, possible names, situations, and how they meet. Even if I didn’t think it fit, or made sense, I wrote it down, because you just never know where that nugget of an idea will lead.

I’m honored that this idea has paid me a visit, and I can’t wait to pursue it.

Rose Lange

http://www.roselange.com

Facebook: Rose Lange, Author

Twitter: @writingdiva82

Posted in Rose In The Garden!, Soul Mate Publishing | 2 Comments

Maturing Your Darlings

I’m deep into final edits on Storm Watch.  schooner

Yes! The third book in the Unfinished Business series is scheduled for release on June 28. Right in time for beach season and my annual Novel Fun in the Summer Sun Tour.

Slaps cheeks. Now, back to the reality of being a writer. I believe that maturing as a writer made the completion of this series more difficult rather than easier, even though I know the world very well. And the characters are like family. In some cases, they are my family as the entire series is dedicated to the memory of my father, who died on June 18, 2011. Again, I digress, which gets back to those darlings again. The ones that commandeer you when writing and take you off on a tangent when the writer becomes the character instead of letting the character be herself.

I’m piggybacking onto the fantastic blog that Char Chaffin posted right here on the SMP Author’s Blog last week. Her expert editing advice outlines the hard learned lessons on how to take a finished manuscript and get it publication ready. I now rely on “my inner Laurie, ” the alter-ego I developed after working with developmental editor Laurie Sanders, without whom the Unfinished Business series would not have been published.

As a new fiction author, I wrote like a scientist and researcher (my day job), each page full of detail and research facts that were then checked by my crit partners. Since I was dabbling in historical content in Breakwater Beach (Book 1), there were plenty of errors of commission and omission. Like peerage titles. OMG. Paraphrasing Maggie Smith as the Dowager in Downtown Abbey, none of it makes any sense. And Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753, which impacted my plot line. That took an six week online class with the Beau Monde Academe and the input of several dedicated readers to sort out. And I wasn’t going to let any of it go to waste.

Over the last thirteen years, I’ve learned a lot from writers like Mary O’Gara, who tapped into my Feminine Journey to perfect that part of my characterization. And Mary Buckham, with her emphasis on plot, scene and sequel, and pacing. Margie Lawson’s Deep Editing system mirrors a lot of what Char suggests, including reading the entire manuscript out loud (multiple times) and color coded paper mark up to identify gaps in emotion, conflict, and white space, as well as the dreaded green monster-too much exposition. I owe a special note mention of the late Eugie Foster, the first editor to bridge the gap between my fiction and nonfiction writing as the editor at Tangent online and The Fix, for which I wrote several acclaimed reviews. Eugie edited with a gentle hand, always admonishing me to “focus on the fiction.”

All the fiction editors who I have worked with have been supportive as they helped me polish manuscripts and struggled to “kill my darlings.” (Unlike those for my peer reviewed, research articles where I felt like I was being drawn and quartered). Cutting and pasting sometimes entire chapters of a manuscript into another document (as I did when editing The Widow’s Walk) preserves the illusion that they’re  not really gone, just in another dimension. And if you don’t need to change anything on either side of the cut, it didn’t need to be there in the first place.

Conscious competence develops over  time. Storm Watch took more than my customary “year of a novel” to write. Close to two years, much of derailed by health and family issues, but the last six months was like climbing out of a bog of saggy middle–albeit lovely prose that positioned me as the character re living my own youthful days. The finished first draft was 113,000 words–a ridiculous number that I got down to 93,000 on my own after the second revision (using Char’s methods).

My long time crit partner,  ever-loyal Andrew Richardson (who writes exquisite female characters and always reminds me how blokes really think) diplomatically suggested where it “might be time for the plot to move on” and that I should look at the pacing overall. This was also echoed by Mike Clarke, a member of critters.org who signed on as a dedicated reader because the characters and the setting spoke to him. I took to the cursor and cut a good bit of two chapters that needed to be replaced with more conflict and immediacy, which filled a fundamental plot hole I’d left open.

It will be up to my editor Deborah Gilbert to have the final say on whether the anything else has to go, but I take comfort in knowing that I haven’t killed my darlings. I simply allowed them to mature.

From Storm Watch:

Before:

Trapped in their own slivers of time, Elisabeth and Jared’s ghosts never seemed to communicate with each other and wallowed in their solitary miseries.

They all shared a grief stricken beginning to a marriage of convenience. The love hadn’t had time to grow, and there had been no food to nourish deep roots, no water to keep it fresh and alive.

Liz fell to her knees and pressed her face against Desconsol, the prostrate marble statue that embodied all the bereft who sought solace here. Please help Edward, Elisabeth, and Jared move on to eternal rest. Please help Mike and I get through this storm, and this new crisis. And please help Mae recover so she and Kevin can enjoy many more years together.

She sobbed, her head pressed against the sculpture and cried years and years of tears, until her body hurt and her nose was snotty and she could barely breathe. Desconsol did not respond, her perpetual hurt a painful reminder that grief could only be assuaged, not eliminated. Some went quietly, and some remained, their unfinished business too undone to allow a peaceful passage.

The tinkling fountain suddenly seemed louder.

Eddie sleepy eyes, studied her with childlike concern etched on his face. “Ma?” He put out his arms.

Edward would love to see his son. Are you finally coming for us?

At that moment, the time melded into a single strand, she and Elisabeth were a body and soul united. Elisabeth had graciously allowed Liz to mother Eddie, while she relentlessly tried to get back into the same dimension as her long lost sea captain.

He’s seen him before, Elisabeth. And he has to stay here with Mike and I. Liz unbuckled her son and held him close. “Ma and Da love you Eddie.”

“Juze?” He cocked his head.

She put him down and retrieved a cup from the diaper bag. They walked the perimeter of the now deserted garden, admiring the yellow tea roses and dusty pink blooms. The tinkling fountain filled with cherubic statuary had Eddie transfixed. The cloud lifted, and warm sunlight bathed them in delicious warmth.

It took all her effort to turn her back and walk out of the oasis, the time capsule, the refuge of this place. She got Eddie back into the stroller, despite his loud protests.

After:

Liz stood and forced her gaze to the towering buildings surrounding the urban oasis. The diversion shocked Elisabeth into silence. She fell to her knees and pressed her face against Desconsol, the prostrate marble statue that embodied all the bereft who sought solace here.

She sobbed, her head pressed against the sculpture and cried years and years of tears, until her body hurt and her nose was snotty and she could barely breathe. Desconsol did not respond, her perpetual hurt a painful reminder that grief could only be assuaged, not eliminated. Some went quietly, and some remained, their unfinished business too undone to allow a peaceful passage.

Time melded into a single strand, she and Elisabeth were a body and soul united. Still paralyzed by their collective grief, Liz couldn’t make her arms and legs move.

Edward is coming for me, and our son. This is where our lives together began, and where our marriage ended. Boston was the last place his feet touched the earth. And where I was forced to marry Jared to avoid losing everything.

The tinkling fountain suddenly seemed louder. Liz raised her head, and her limbs came back to life. Edward has seen his son before, Elisabeth. And he has to stay with Mike and I.

Elisabeth had allowed Liz to mother Eddie while she relentlessly tried to get back into the same dimension as her long lost sea captain. Now that was about to happen, and the ghost seemed to have other plans.

Eddie sleepy eyes, studied Liz with childlike concern etched on his face. “Ma?” He put out his arms.

Liz crawled to the stroller, unbuckled her son. and held him close. “Ma and Da love you, Eddie. We’re not going to let anything bad happen.” She had to get out of here, and get him out of here to someplace that Elisabeth had no memories of.

Check out my webpages for more excerpts and details about the Unfinished Business series, the cover reveal and release of Storm Watch, and my upcoming summer tour.

Subscribe to my newsletter, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

.

thewidowswalk

Book Two

breakwaterbeach

Book One

 

 

Posted in Calling On Carole! | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Authors, Sparkle That Manuscript! by Char Chaffin

Hi Everyone!

With RWA National coming up fast, and folks rushing around trying to finish up current works in preparation for those nerve-wracking but vital pitching appointments during conference, I decided to post Part One of a two-part blog that covers a couple of vitals:

Editing For Querying Success, and Revising With Confidence.

We’ll start with editing. Ah, so near and dear to my heart!

I have posted parts of this blog before, but I think it bears repeating as National looms on the horizon. Over the years I’ve seen a lot of queries and manuscripts hit my desk, and the query might snag my attention but the manuscript is by no means ready to hold onto it. And that, in my opinion, is a shame. Because it’s not hard to make your work shine. It just takes planning and foresight.

Can you do it? Well, sure!

Do you want to do it? Well . . . that’s up to you.

As an Acquisitions Editor, I look for quality, passion, a story that will absolutely sweep me away. I want that alpha hero who isn’t perfect, the strong yet flawed woman who will complete him, and I want them to be brave enough and smart enough—and in love enough—to save each other. Along the way I expect a riveting tale I can’t set down, not even long enough to use the bathroom.

Piece of cake, right? Abso-tively. With the right author and the absolutely right manuscript, I always get my book. There’s a formula to editing, a pattern and a process. Once you figure it out, and then apply it to everything you write, you’re more than halfway there.

But one thing you can’t do is cut corners. That never bodes well for you or your manuscript. Whether you plan on querying a traditional publisher, an agent, or trying your hand at self-publishing, you have to do the work. You owe it to your book as its creator and you definitely owe it to yourself as a writer of talent who deserves to be heard in the published world. So . . .

You’ve just written ‘The End’ on a manuscript. Maybe it’s your first. Maybe your tenth. You’ve been toiling for weeks, months, searching for the words that tell the story you just know will be a bestseller. Your friends are in awe; your family can attest to your neglect of them while you closeted yourself away and typed your fingers raw. This is your dream, your destiny, your future. All you ever wanted, there on the pages of your literary ‘baby.’

Ready to send it to a publisher, or an agent? Ready to push that baby out into the world? Of course not!

Uh-oh, I’d wager your face fell as you read those three words (plus exclamation mark). Because you had the online dictionary open as well as a Thesaurus and possibly a Manual of Style as you created your story, right? Therefore, You Have Thought Of Everything.

But you’re still not ready.

Because you cannot final-edit as you write. It’s just about impossible. When your head is in create-mode, it’s creating. It looks for the blossom, not the stems, of that flowering bit of pretty on your keyboard. But pruning those stems will get you a publisher, right along with the flowers. Well, the stems, the flowers, a heavy dose of nourishing dirt (hard work and perseverance), and bright, fabulous sun (luck). You need it all to succeed. It’s not enough to plant the seed.

You’ve got to Weed to Succeed.

So, there you are, staring at a document packed with ‘The Pretty.’ Your sole job now is to polish, sharpen; improve what you already have. Does it seem like a daunting undertaking? It really isn’t, you know. But it does take forethought, common sense, and even more of that flowering creativity, to make your magic words pop. To properly achieve polish, you’ve got to be willing to understand your own weaknesses and find ways to kill them deader than dead. Then plant over the dead stuff to make what remains even better, more fascinating. More powerful.

And guess what? I’ve got some ideas for you. Cool, huh? Together we can make a knock-‘em-sideways Pretty that will sit up tall in its foundation and make a publisher take notice.

It all starts with restructuring your structure.

Once your work is completed and ‘The End’ in place, take a day or so to pat yourself on the back, go out for a celebratory dinner/drink, enjoy knowing you jumped a hurdle so many writers struggle with: actually finishing the story. It’s not always the easiest thing to do, for writer’s block is everywhere, waiting to pounce.

Having had my share of partials languishing on my keyboard, I can tell you typing ‘The End’ has its own measure of success. So, you’re already ahead of the game. My first bit of editing advice is always the same: give yourself time away from your work before you dive for the edits. Your eyes and your brain both need a break.

Once you’ve cleared out the happy, let’s go digging for weeds (that editing stuff). Your first tasks will be easy. I call this, “DIE, REPEAT WORDS! DIE!” They’re inside The Pretty, clogging it up, I promise you. Ask any author I have edited and they’ll most likely roll their eyes and tell you how I chased after them with a knife, threatening to stab every ‘that’ I saw unless they did it first. Okay, guilty. ::grins::

I’m pretty much murder on repeat words and phrases. Nothing flattens an author’s creative voice worse than those repeats. They need to be the first to go. Make a list, run a global search on each, see how they affect the structure, and get rid of every one you can. Biggest and most frequent offender: the dreaded ‘that.’ About 90% of the time the word isn’t necessary. Chop it out.

Other repeats to look for: so, was, little, bit, then, take, came, went, looked, stepped, moved, saw, watched, felt/feeling, rather, somewhat, large, but, small, up, down, over, under, just, though, however, because, very, really, truly.

Are you confused yet? Now you know how editors sometimes feel. But hey, look: easily 50% of repeat words already gone because you cleared out ‘that’ and its cohorts, plus ‘unneeded directional words!’

Excessive coolness.

Okay, you went through all those pesky repeats; now take out repeat phrases. Come on, you know they’re present and accounted for. When you’re creating, they are hard to avoid. Time to take them out. Many authors have what I call their ‘go to’ phrases, and there’s nothing wrong with it unless you overdo it. Like most things in life, overkill is worse than not enough, less is more. You get the picture.

So far editing has probably been on the boring side. Basic cleanup is never fun. Necessary, but fully un-fun. What comes after repeat words? Usually pickier items such as checking all your ellipses, EM dashes, etc., to assure they’re correctly represented. If you’re unsure, that’s where a manual of style comes in handy. Refer to one often in your editing routine and you’ll never go wrong.

Other editing such as basic punctuation typos can be a lot harder to find. Authors often become ‘punctuation-blind’ because they’re been staring at it for a very long time as they’ve crafted their WIP, and the analytical section of the creative mind can only soak in so much before the brain rebels. In which case, it’s a good time to step away again.

During the editing process you need to let your mind refresh itself, and there’s no better way than to do something else, non-writing-related. Never overload yourself in the editing biz, because it makes you sloppy and you’ll miss things.

Okay, let’s recap: repeat words are no more. Repeat phrases, ditto. You’ve gone over punctuation, EMs, ellipses, and other happy things. Feeling pretty good about the process overall? Fabulous. Because now it’s time to really dig.

Now you’re going to look at specifics, like POV. Always an exciting pastime, right? Right?

::crickets chirping in dead airspace::

I always lose them on the specifics, sigh.

This is vital, and you’re the only one who can do it. It’s your baby, your task, and responsibility. Who knows your story better than you, at this point? Nobody. Certainly not the editor/agent/publisher you’re trying to attract. Right now you’re pretty much an email address in some future query letter. Tough but true. If you want to be more, your manuscript has to BE more, first.

So here’s what you do. Make a list of specifics. Correct POV for the scene/chapter, consistent tense, tight characterization, scenes that end on an upswing, chapters that end with a little cliffhanger. Fixing run-on sentences; completing fragments. Plot points that don’t hang in the wind without resolution, showing instead of telling, active versus passive voice. Action, action, and more action! Strong interface between hero and heroine. A strong supporting/secondary cast of characters. Solid set-up if you’re plotting out a series, for that second and third (or however many) of your series.

Are you world-building? Now’s the time to make sure you didn’t forget anything. Did you set your story in a real place? Make sure you did your research. Did you write a historical? Same goes; make sure your research is spot-on and your wording is correct for the era. Did you write based on an established legend? Fabulous. Just assure any deviation to the original legend makes sense within the world you have created.

Most of all, does your story move along, or does it lag somewhere? Just because your entire critique group assured you it moves along at a nice clip, doesn’t mean someone didn’t miss something. Believe me, a critique group or critique partner can miss as much as anyone else.  And if the only ‘critique partner’ to see your work was your Aunt Martha or Cousin Trudy (or your mother/sister/hubby/son), then they don’t count. They love you too much to be objective. You need total and absolute objectivity right about now. Actually you needed it from Day One of the WIP process. Please don’t rob yourself of this vital process.

Dot those ‘Is’ and cross all the ‘Ts.’ Details, details. Don’t give a reader the opportunity to roll their eyes, huff impatiently, skip pages, find they have to hunt back through text they’ve read for extra details, or worse, toss the book in frustration across the room until it hits the nearest wall. Don’t give the reader a chance to do anything other than read with their jaw agape; so into your story they skip meals, forego sleep, miss an episode of their favorite TV show, drop the ball on getting to work on time, or possibly forget to change their undies, and all because they Couldn’t Put Your Book Down.

At this point you should know your manuscript inside and out, have entire chunks of it memorized, and find it difficult to differentiate between your hero/heroine and real people in your life, because you have read through it A LOT. If you don’t know it, then start reading and remembering. You’re going to be chatting up your work so it’s best to know what you’re talking about. Your manuscript is more than a story ‘about a man and woman who . . .’ In fact, I’m going to advise against ever describing it to another person as ‘about a man and woman who . . .’ Your story is far more than that. Figure out its true purpose, its full potential, and go from there.

No author in the world wants to chop off a section of their work in the editing round and dump it. We might as well chop off a finger or a toe. We do it because trimming the fat and clearing out the chaff makes us stronger as a storyteller and gives our words power. We do it because every story drags, every manuscript either has too much of ‘Saggy in the Middle,’ or too little of ‘The Good Stuff.’

If we can’t take the process seriously and do right by ourselves, then why should anyone else? We do it to learn, uppermost. Each time that light bulb goes off in your head and you figure, “Wait. If I do this, then . . .” you have instantly improved yourself and your craft. Never stop improving yourself and your craft. First book, three hundredth book. Doesn’t matter. There’s always a place to improve. Find it, then do it.

All righty, then! Here you are, in a decent place along the editing path. Look at how far you’ve come since you wrote ‘The End,’ grabbed that celebratory dinner/drink/wild party, cleansed your creative palate in preparation of the editing process, then cracked those knuckles and dug in. You’ve accomplished a heck of a lot. I bet you’re done, right?

Nope.  I’ll bet you knew I’d say that.

You’re not finished because you still have to read your entire work aloud. No, I’m not kidding. You wouldn’t believe how much superfluous stuff can be found when you read aloud. If somewhere in the process you have already read aloud, then you’re way ahead, and can use this time to indulge yourself in something that makes you happy, like chocolate. Or sex. Whatever.

The rest of you, stay where you are, and clear your throats. Grab some water.

Do you have to read aloud? Of course not. Nobody can make you do anything in the editing process, not even me, ‘Bossy and Demanding Editor Person.’ I can only suggest, advise, urge, etc., and the rest is up to you. I will tell you I read my own stuff aloud all the time, and I always find fun things to chop out even though I’m an anal editor on top of being the most anal writer in the world. It works, and it also freshens up the editing process like you wouldn’t believe.

Let’s assume you read aloud, found more stuff, cleared it out, and now we have The Pretty. You made a list of places to send it. Boxed yourself into that query letter we talked about earlier. Are you ready to send it? Three chapters (or fifty pages) along with the query and whatever else fulfills their submission requirements?

Know what my answer’s going to be?

Yep, that’s right. I’m going to give you more to do, because I’ll bet you haven’t written out a full synopsis yet. You might have created your blurb, I’ll give you that one. But most editors and agents will probably want a full synopsis. They’ll need to see where you’re going, how you get there; read how it ends.

I’ve yet to talk to an author who exclaims, “A full synopsis? Oh boy, OH BOY! Let me at it!” Nobody likes to do it but you need to work through the process. Many editors will not accept a submission without one.

And nothing beats a well-planned, full synopsis. If you already have one, then hugs to you. Just assure your full synopsis matches all the changes you just made in your manuscript, and you’re good to go. Ah, see? I can always find a hang-up or two. Sorry about that. But it’s for your own good, you know.

Another recap? Sure, why not? I just know, superb organizer that you are, you have been keeping a checklist of the process and have diligently crossed off each task as it’s completed. Are you finished yet? Gosh, I don’t know. Only you can answer that one. I suppose the question to pose is how you’re feeling about your work, its accompanying documents, and its readiness to submit.

If I could remind you of a single, final thing, I would say this: know your quarry! If you have done everything right and you query the wrong place for the genre you write, then what have you done except delay yourself? So double check. Make sure the list of editors/publishers/agents you want to query actually accepts what you write. Some editors might forward your work to another on their staff, but why take the chance? It’s easier to hit the ‘delete’ button on an email, than take the time to look up editorial staff and forward in a query to someone who deals with your genre.

If you adopt a Blanche DuBois attitude, and ‘always depend on the kindness of strangers,’ it’ll probably come back to bite you. Just a little step of extra detail makes sure you’re only querying those folks who actually look for what you write. Take the step. And if a publisher or agency is currently not accepting submissions, then heed the warning unless you have an ‘in’ with the company to begin with.

In my next SMP blog post (roughly about two months out from National), I’ll be talking about revising once you’ve Gotten The Contract. Stay tuned! I might have some ideas just for you.

Have a great week ahead!

Char Chaffin is a Senior Acquiring Editor with Soul Mate Publishing, and multi-published in several genres. She also co-writes under the pen name CiCi Cordelia, with fellow author/editor and BFF Cheryl Yeko.

You can find Char here:
Website: http://char.chaffin.com
Facebook: http://facebook.com/char.chaffin
Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/pvscu7w
Twitter: http://twitter.com/char_chaffin
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5337737.Char_Chaffin

Posted in Char's Thoughts, CiCi Cordelia, Writing career | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How to Hold Your Reader on the Ride with Dynamic Pacing

Thunderbolt

We are passing on this AutoCrit excellent blog, with permission from Jocelyn, for your perusal.

Ever watched a movie that was so packed full of non-stop action it left you feeling breathless? Exhilarated, maybe… but disconnected from the characters – unable to learn much about them amidst the constant stream of explosions, car chases and death-defying peril?

Or have you ever read a story where the author droned on for so long about their characters’ thoughts, feelings, family history, and childhood until you thought please… please just let something – anything – happen?

If so, you’ve more than likely encountered a problem with pacing.

Pacing refers to the momentum of a story. There are times we want the reader frantically turning pages because there’s so much high-energy action, and there are times when we want to slow down the story – to let the reader sink into the prose like they would a warm, soothing bath.

Keeping the brain engaged requires a consistent mixture of these – like a rollercoaster ride. Take the reader slowly up to the top and then slam them down the other side, through blinding loops and breakneck corners… and then slow them back down again in preparation for the next dose of action.

A good story has a mix of fast-paced and slow-paced sections. This variety helps us generate tension, build anticipation, develop our characters, insert descriptions, drive the plot forward, and — above all – maintain our reader’s interest.

Strategies for keeping your ride in tip-top shape

Introspection and back-story are better “sprinkled” than “dumped”

Be careful if you have too many paragraphs or pages of long-winded back-story. Sizeable chunks of this can kill your pacing stone dead – something the AutoCrit Pacing Report can highlight for you.

Back-story should be woven in throughout your manuscript, organically drip-fed amidst the action rather than taking up extended chunks of space in the book.

Match your pacing to your story

Action scenes should have few (if any) slow-paced paragraphs. Sure, you might want to occasionally pause for breath to keep things from flying off the rails, but save the slow-paced sections for your more reflective scenes.

Use more dialogue in fast-paced scenes and more narrative in slower scenes

The quick-fire nature of dialogue can speed up a scene. Likewise, narrative prose can slow it down. Play with both techniques to control the momentum of your story.

Experiment with sentence lengths

Shorter sentences speed up a paragraph, while lengthy sentences slow down the momentum. Variety throughout your manuscript is key, but be careful to ensure you’re employing the right kind of sentences in the right places to keep your reader firmly under your control.

The exception to the rule

Every chapter should have a balance between fast- and slow-paced sections – with one exception: The first chapter.

The first chapter should move quickly with only the sparest bit of back-story. A line or two to give the reader context is okay; even a short paragraph here and there might be okay. But for the most part, you want to start with a bang and save the slow-paced sections for later in the manuscript.

Why? Because the first chapter is the most critical. It’s the chapter that determines whether your reader will keep reading, whether an agent will offer you a contract, and whether a publisher will consider your book for print. (No pressure, right?)

As sad as it sounds, the first chapter represents the entire book. It tells the reader about much more than the characters and situation – it shows them how you write and what they can expect in terms of storytelling.

If you bog that chapter down with exposition, description, and excessive narrative, it sends the message that the whole book will be a cumbersome read. So keep it moving and save the slow-paced sections for chapter two and beyond.

Pacing is one of the most important elements in a story. Keep it dynamic, and balance fast- and slow-paced sections to keep your readers turning those pages.

So go on – give a few of your chapters a careful look over and see if there are any points where your pacing is running away from you or slowing you to a crawl.

If you’re unsure, why not become an AutoCrit member for just $29.97/mo and give the Pacing & Momentum reports a try – alongside the many others, of course…

All of which are uniquely designed to quickly and easily ensure your manuscript stacks up against proven published works of fiction across multiple genres – so your next draft gains a better chance of getting snapped up by publishers than any other editing tool on the market can give it.

Indigo Sky, historical romance! AmazonKindle http://amzn.to/2nWqbcq. Author page: http://amzn.to/1K4GVQA

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10 Tips for Those Tied to a Desk

Are you a desk jockey? Does your livelihood rely on your ability to stay seated for hours on end?

Spring has arrived (at least here in North America) and with it the urge to bolt from my desk and enjoy the bright light. The sunshine calls to me … begging me to come out to play!

sitting-flat-butt_featSo how does a writer, or any other desk-jockey profession, manage to keep their butt in the chair when there are so many things to distract? And, assuming we stay in our chairs, is that really good for us?

There are some definite “rules” for those who must spend an inordinate amount of time seated at a desk and tied to a computer. The following are just a few:

  • Invest in an ergonomic chair, comfy but not too plush. Your back, hips and legs need support. A couple of years ago I purchased a high-end office chair made by Serta®. It’s the best $250 (on sale) I ever spent.
  • Along that same vein, if your desk job involves a lot of keyboarding (e.g., a writer such myself), make sure you have your keyboard angled properly so that your wrists and hands remain in as straight a line as possible. A 90-95 degree angle is best for avoiding carpel tunnel.
  • Take breaks every hour or two. Even if it’s only to walk around the house. Avoid turning that hourly walk into a trek to the kitchen (coffee excepted, of course).
  • Do NOT eat at your desk. Studies show, people who consume their meals or snack at their desks tend to gain weight faster than those who are still sedentary but refrain from bringing food into their office area.
  • Keep a water bottle handy. Sip frequently rather than go without and then down an entire bottle at one time. This helps to reduce foot and ankle bloat by evenly distributing the intake of fluid.
  • Familiarize yourself with desk-ercises. I’ve including a handy chart for a few suggestions.

Desk Stretches

  • If you’re someone who can walk and type, consider a treadmill desk. However, WARNING: Studies have shown that a treadmill desk does not lead to weight loss or even weight management and has been shown to reduce overall productivity. Personally, I can’t picture being able to type complete chapters while walking. The treadmill desk works best for people whose jobs are phone-centric with only data entry (e.g., customer service call centers), rather than those who have to type expansive amounts of text.
  • Stationary pedalsSitting stepperUse of other forms of equipment (e.g., stationary pedals or sitting steppers) beneath the desk will also stimulate both energy and stave off swollen ankles. The under-desk pedal bikes can be found for under $75 at both Walmart and Amazon. The sitting steppers are under $20 from Amazon.
  • Vary your work to stave off boredom. Boredom leads to improper posture and slouching of hands/wrists. As a writer, I find breaking my work up into blocks for creating new work, attending to social media, or switching between works-in-progress helps to keep my brain active. When the brain is active, the body follows. Usually.
  • left-brain-right-brainEngage your brain. Stimulate your body’s energy by pushing the limits of your creativity. Think outside your normal genre. I’m currently in the final edits stages for a book so far out of my comfort zone it comes from outer space!

These are just a few suggestions for helping us survive our desk tether. Of course we still have to find a reasonable way to block out that enticing sunshine.

I’d love to hear what others do to keep themselves at their desk without tiring themselves out.

Until next month, keep writing, keep moving, keep engaged.

Nancy

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The Soul Mate Tree #4: “The Trail to Love”

TheTrailtoLoveThis month’s book is near and dear to my heart – since it’s mine. Book #4 in The Soul Mate Tree Collective, The Trail to Love, was released this past Wednesday, April 12th. I’ve been having so much fun the past few months telling everyone about this unique collective.

An ancient legend spanning eras, continents, and worlds. To some, it’s nothing more than a dream. To others, a pretty fairy tale handed down through the generations.

 

For those in critical need of their own happy ending, a gift.

Buy Link: http://a.co/hrYb0s5

First of all, I want to tell a little bit about how I got the idea for my first historical.

Last year I was approached by editors, Char Chaffin and Cheryl Yeko to be part of their new project with Soul Mate Publishing. Called “The Soul Mate Tree.” It involves an old, ancient tree that appears to someone who is at their deepest, darkest part of their life.

I was incredibly excited to be part of this adventure. They chose thirteen of their authors. Each of us could write in any time period, any genre. Each month from January, 2017 to January 2018, one book would be released. The Trail to Love is being released on April 12th.

A few days after being contacted by Char and Cheryl, I was watching my grandkids. I told them about this new project and how I needed to figure out what I wanted to write. I had never written a western or an historical, so I mentioned that to the girls, Alli, then eleven, and Emmi, then eight.

Alli was in sixth grade and yelled out: “The Oregon Trail. You need to have your characters go from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City, Oregon.” I figured they must have been studying the Oregon Trail in school for her to jump on this.

For the next few hours those two little stinkers decided on my characters, plotted the book, researched horses, dogs, and clothing – and took notes. Emmi researched the clothing and found all these beautiful dresses from the 1850’s. (The story is set in 1859). I had to explain to her what it was like for the people on the Oregon Trail. It only took her a few minutes to find other clothing.

Here is a note Emmi (third grade) wrote – and I’m writing it exactly as she wrote it: “Sarah’s ded husband, peter Nickelson, he died of rasing and the hores nockted him of and he brock his knek.” This was her idea and included her twisting her neck and making a broken neck sound. And – this is exactly how I had Sarah’s husband dies in the book.

I had so much fun listening to these two create my story. I have all their hand-written notes – which I’ll never, ever get rid of. At one point, I let Alli read some of the story and she said, “It reads just like a movie!” Man, I love that little girl.

I dedicated The Trail to Love to Alli and Emmi, but unfortunately, since they are now only thirteen and ten, they can’t read it because of the love scenes. Someday, I’d love to be a fly on the wall when they are old enough and realize what Grandma writes.

Blurb: Jack Billabard, mourning the loss of his wife and baby in childbirth, vows to never to love again. After their funeral at Fort Laramie, he rides into the Wyoming hills beyond the ranch he built for his wife. Through his grieving tears, an ancient tree appears, giving him the hope he doesn’t believe is possible. For the next four years, he acts as a guide on the Oregon Trail, taking families to a new life while his looms lonely and stagnant.

The night before her abusive husband’s death, an ancient tree appears in Sarah Nickelson’s yard as she agonizes over how to survive her marriage. The tree gives her hope she can’t help but reject. After all, a tree doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. After her husband ‘s death, and with no options as a widow in Independence, Missouri, Sarah decides to travel to Oregon City as a Mail Order Bride.

During their trek west on the Oregon Trail, Jack and Sarah encounter one another, each afraid of being hurt again. Can they survive dogs and puppies, wind and rainstorms, Indians and unfavorable fellow passengers, while their love blossoms? Will the tree fulfill its promise?

Excerpt: Cold seeped into his bones. Something warm blew across his face and ears. Jack swatted at his ears and peeled one gritty eye open.

“Papaya!” He pushed at the horse’s nose. “Go away.” Papaya continued prodding at him. “Damn horse.” He rubbed his cold hands together.

In the dim light, he wasn’t sure if it was morning or evening. The previous day’s events came back to him. He sat up and wiped a hand over his stubbly chin. Tears burned behind his eyes.

Papaya tugged at his sleeve until the only thing he could do was stand. “Dammit, horse, leave me alone.” He pushed the horse to the side. The sun rising behind the mountains from the east cast a shadow on a tree Jack swore hadn’t been there the night before.

Standing at least twenty feet high, the trunk was twisted and gnarled like the arthritic hands of his grandfather. Several roots rose from the ground making it look as if it would walk away. Some of its massive branches drooped close to the ground, like arms dragging across the grass.

As the sky lightened, he realized that, unlike the rough bark of the pines at this altitude, the tree’s light brown bark was smooth. Was it the lighting, or did some of the bark actually seem golden while in other places it was rough and dark brown? The surrounding trees paled in comparison.

Jack stepped closer. Pale green, oval leaves reminded him of an elm tree, only much smaller. When the wind blew, the undersides shimmered with a silvery glow.

Had he been so distraught yesterday he’d missed the massive structure? The tree seemed to beckon, calling him to its embrace. He dipped beneath its branches.

His hand shook as he reached out to touch the trunk. The instant he came in contact, his icy fingers warmed. Then his arm. He tried to pull away, but he couldn’t move.

Warmth spread through his body then settled in his aching heart. Was he hallucinating or was the tree humming? Had the tree actually whispered, “Love will come.”

A calmness settled over him and the darkness of the past few days diminished.

Between the hanging branches a person, surrounded by a foggy haze, appeared. Actually, two people. One tall, the other waist high, with a smaller version of Jack’s hat on its head. Suspenders held up too-short pants over the little one’s plaid shirt. A woman and a boy? They held hands, swinging them back and forth as if they hadn’t a care in the world. The woman’s bonnet hung down her back, loose hair flowing to her waist.

Was the tree showing him what Lily and his child would have been like if they’d lived? His heartbeat pounded in his ears, and he swore his heart cracked. As quickly as the despair washed over him, the tree hummed again and his heart warmed and peace settled through him.

Then the woman looked over her shoulder. This wasn’t Lily. The sun struck the vision. Instead of his wife’s dark hair, this woman’s shimmered like gold. Even from this distance, her sparkling blue eyes pierced through him.

Her smile beckoned him, and when she crooked her finger, all he could do was follow. The closer he came, the farther away they moved, until their bodies faded and nothing stood before him except the large boulder he’d slept against.

The tree. What if he touched the tree again? He pivoted on his foot, ready to run back and feel the twisted branches. What the hell? Maybe he’d lost his bearings while chasing the woman and boy. He spun in each direction. Nothing. The tree was gone. Poof. Was he losing his mind and dreaming the whole incident?

Something light brown on the ground caught his eye. Jack picked it up, his fingers warming at its touch. Bark from the disappearing tree? Had it all been real after all? If so, then where had the woman and boy gone?

Jack retraced the steps he’d taken to follow them. Only his own impressions in the dirt showed. He was going crazy. That was it. Crazy from grief. Maybe what he needed was to get away from the land and the memories it held.

Papaya pushed against Jack’s back, nearly knocking him to the ground.

“What do you think, old boy?” He ran his hand over the horse’s soft nose and recalled Samuel Hunt’s offer of a job from before he’d married Lily. “Should I see if Sam still needs someone to help take those crazy emigrants to Oregon?”

As if he understood what Jack was saying, Papaya nodded his large head.

“Well, since I’m already crazy, I might as well listen to you.”

After a quick breakfast of cold biscuits and hard tack, he swung onto Papaya’s back and headed back down the mountain. Back to his empty home and future.

Book Trailer for The Soul Mate Tree: https://youtu.be/VjxyyD3TVoA

Trailer for THE TRAIL TO LOVE:  https://youtu.be/WUm0whWw1Z0

Tina SusedikTina signed her first contract with Soul Mate Publishing in the fall of 2012. This is her sixth book with them. You can find her at:

Website: http://tinasusedik.wordpress.com./

Twitter: @tinasusedik

Website: TinaSusedik.com

Facebook: Tina Susedik, Author

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/tinasusedik/

 

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Glean History

I spent many a weekend next door at the San Remo where my best friends lived, also a fabled building. Brought back many a memory. Thanks.

Dakota tower

Architect Henry J Hardenbergh designed The Dakota in1884. A local chap, he was born in New Brunswick, NJ.  Schooled at Hasbrouck Institute in Jersey City, and apprenticed in New York from 1865-1870 under Detlef Lienau, architect of Lockwood-Mathews Mansion, Norwalk, CT. The Dakota apartments, a coop, is exclusive to the famous, movie stars, musicians and the wealthy.

The Dakota c. 1890

The Dakota got its name because the  area was remote in relation to the rest of the Island of Manhattan, and more like the remote Dakota Territory, so far west and so far north, as mentioned in Christopher Gray’s book, New York Streetscapes.

porte-cochère

The building’s high gables and deep roofs with a profusion of dormers, terracotta spandrels and panels, niches, balconies, and balustrades give it a North German Renaissance character, an echo of a Hanseatic town hall. Nevertheless, its layout and floor plan

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