Friday, July 29, 2011

Grammar Brigade: homonyms explained

What's a homonym?

Homonyms are two words which sound the same, but are spelled differently.

Let's look a few commonly misused homonyms:
It's vs. its; there vs. they're vs. their; let's vs. lets; you're vs. your; whose vs. who's; capital vs. capitol; principle vs. principal; passed vs. past

It's: A contraction of "it is."  Do not use anywhere you would not use "It is."
ex: It's purple.
Its: The possessive of "it."  Use when "it" owns something.
ex: Its hat is purple.

There: A place.  Should only be used when pointing at something, or in text when "there" has been clearly specified.
ex: It is over there. 
There: A way of starting a sentence in passive voice.  (Why are you using passive voice in your writing?  You'd better have a good reason.  No, really.)
ex: There is nothing worse than getting squashed by a falling toilet. 
They're:  A contraction of "They are." Use only when you would use "they are."
ex: They're in Georgia.
Their: The possessive form of "they." Use when they own something.
ex: Their car broke down in Georgia.

Let's: A contraction of "let us."  Use only as a substitute for "let us."
ex:  Let's go to Canada.
Lets: The present tense conjugation of "let" (as a synonym for "allow") for a singular person.
ex:  He lets me borrow his flour.

You're: A contraction of "you are."  Use only as substitute for "you are."
ex:  You're angry, aren't you?
Your:  The possessive of "you."  Use when you own something.
ex:  Your book bag is heavy.

Whose:  The possessive of "who."  Use when you are trying to determine the owner of something, or when you are using "who" as a pronoun.
ex:  Whose book bag is that?
ex:  I gave it to Jacob, whose book bag needed the extra space.
Who's:  The contraction of "who is."  Use only to replace "who is."
ex:  Who's responsible for the laundry this week?

Capital: A city that serves as the seat of government for an area, or an asset such as wealth, or a capital letter.
ex:  Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina.
Capitol: Only used to name a building; specifically, the building in which the legislature meets.
ex:  We were really bored during our tour of the Capitol Building.

Principle:  A moral purpose.
ex:  It's against my principles to eat raw steak.
Principal:  An adjective meaning most important, or the leader of a school, or the initial investment of money before interest is added.
ex:  The principal objective is to not get eaten by the dinosaurs; after that, you need to capture the flag.

Passed:  The past tense of the verb "to pass."  Use only if someone has physically moved from behind to ahead of something, or passed a test.
ex:  I passed the test with flying colors.
ex:  He passed me in the right-hand lane.
Past: A location; a time period; a preposition; an adverb; "past" locates something in time and space.
ex: I stuck my tongue out as I drove past him.
ex: One look at the funny breeches told him everything: he was stuck in the past, with no way home.
ex: In my past life, I was an osterich.
ex: The days for mourning are now past.
ex: It was half past three.
What are the most common homonym mistakes you see?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Grammar Brigade: Semicolons, the forgotten punctuation

I was going to do a lesson on using semicolons.  However, I cannot possibly outdo The Oatmeal's semicolon lesson.

I can, however, paraphrase it for those too lazy to follow the link, or those who fear being sucked into The Oatmeal's endless supply of ridiculously funny pages.  (Go ahead and bookmark the page for later.  You know you want to.)

Semicolons are usually used to connect two independent clauses together.
ex:  I love morning glories; my mother loves hydrangea.
This should only be done when the two independent clauses are actually related.
NO!: I love morning glories; Sister Anne drove the van to a conference in Italy. :NO!

They can also be used in sentences wherein there are already commas (for the purposes of clarity.)
ex:  I have visted Austin, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; Juneau, Alaska; and New York, New York.
ex:  My teacher, Mr. Norris, loved apples; and when finished eating, he would bury the cores under piles of nasty, steamy tar.

Questions, besides why Mr. Norris loves to bury apple cores beneath tar?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Grammar Brigade: Clauses, and why they matter

What's a clause?

A clause is a group of words which contains both a subject and a verb. 
ex: He walks.
ex: while I ran
ex: if you look under the couch

Sometimes, clauses have implied subjects.  That's okay, too - they still count as clauses.
ex: Don't do that!  (implied subject: person addressed)
ex: Run!  (implied subject: person addressed)
ex: don't worry (implied subject: someone who should probably be worried)

Note: Clauses with implied subjects are different from interjections.  Interjections are one-word expressions, usually showing emotion.  They can stand alone, or be added to a sentence.
ex: Oops.  (not a clause!)
ex: Wow!  (not a clause!)

Clauses come in two types: independent and dependent. 

An independent clause is a clause that is, in and of itself, a sentence.  It can stand on its own, although you might want to add more to it.
ex: He runs.
ex: He throws a Frisbee at Mike.
ex: Mike dodges the ninja star disguised as a Frisbee.

A dependent clause is a clause that cannot stand on its own.  By itself, it is just a sentence fragment.  It is preceded by a conjunction or a marker word.
ex: because Mick didn't move fast enough
ex: when Mick dodged
ex: if I do a cartwheel

Dependent clauses must be tacked on to independent clauses in order to be a full sentence (They're kind of needy that way.)  This usually requires punctuation, in the form of a comma, unless one of the clauses is particularly short.
ex: When Mick ran for president, I voted for the other guy.
ex: If I do a cartwheel, I will break my neck.
ex: I'll bake the cake, while you make the icing.
ex: I laughed when Susan dropped flour on Mick.  (I laughed/ when Susan dropped flour on Mick) ("I laughed" is short - no comma is needed in this case!)

Independent clauses may be joined together to form a full sentence, but they require either the addition of conjunctions (and, so, but, yet, for, nor, or), or the use of a semicolon.
ex: I walked to the store, but Mick ran.
ex: I walked to the store; Mick ran.
ex: I planted a gardenia outside, and now my yard smells nice.
ex: I planted a gardenia outside; now my yard smells nice.

Some common words can be added to independent clauses without removing their independent status.  Some of these are words like: however, moreover, also, nevertheless, furthermore.
ex: I walked to the store; however, Mick ran.  (Still need that semi-colon!)
ex: I planted a gardenia outside; nevertheless, my yard still smells like fish.

If you combine two independent clauses with a comma, then you have a comma splice.  This is a type of run-on sentence, and your paper will bleed red when your editor returns it to you.
NO!:  I walked to the store, Mick ran.  :NO!
NO!:  I planted a gardenia outside, now my yard smells nice.  :NO!
NO!: I planted a gardenia outside, nevertheless, my yard still smells like fish.  :NO!

Be supportive for your dependent clauses.  Give them the punctuation they need in order to survive an editor's brutal attack.

(Thanks to Purdue OWL for definitions!)

This Grammar Brigade attack is brought to you by... common comma errors!

Do you have a grammar question?  If I don't know the answer, I'll look it up!

Friday, July 22, 2011

In the Publishing World: Part Two

A two-part post today, because I'm covering a couple weeks' worth of links.

From BookEnds, LLC, Jessica gives us three short glimpses into her world: Don't say, "My book still needs editing,"  don't send a rude reply to a rejection, and find out Jessica's "red flags" that can turn a "yes" into a "no."

Getting worried that your novel has taken a while to sell?  Nathan Bransford has reposted an older blog on why you shouldn't worry if you haven't heard back within four months of getting an agent.  Selling books takes time - frequently, a lot of time.  If you don't want to wait, then self-publish.

If you haven't heard that Borders is closing, you've been on vacation without computers, phones, or television.  Hope you have a nice tan to show for it.

Eric Blank's Pimp My Novel gives an opinion on what this will do the writing market.

USA Today suggests who benefits from the loss of Borders (Obviously, Barnes and Nobles!), why Borders closed, and what that means for the market. (and I personally find the quote "I'm not going to buy another paperback in my life" to be horrifying on a fundamental level.)

On QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse, links to several major blogs worth checking out - including some on Google+.  The rest of the links are pulled from that page, so if you're planning to read everything, just skip to QueryTracker and read their list.

Marian Perera offers the pros and cons of blogging.

Getting onto Google+?  Here's some tips for using the site, courtesy of Robert Brewer.

A list of which literary folks happen to be on Google+, compiled by Debbi Ohi.

Mary Robinette offers advice on having a Writers' Hangout on Google+.

What do you think about the plight of Borders?  Is a death sentence for the physical book market?  Or is it the start of a new era?  How will it affect (or not) your choice of traditional vs. self-publishing?

In the publishing world

Here's another set of blogs worth checking out for the other prospective authors out there:

D.L. Orton guest posts on Eric Nathan's Pimp My Novel with a humorous reminder that even great authors get rejected - frequently, in fact.  Orton also gives us a numerical estimation on your debut manuscript's statistical chances of being published: Approximately 1 in 15,625.  I never knew, by the way, that agents only manage to sell about 60% of their agented manuscripts to publishers.  It's a tight market out there!  I don't know about you, but I'm not about to give up.  After all, someone has to be that 1.

Jessica Faust offers suggestions on getting through the spam filter if you're requerying an agent after making the revisions he or she suggested.

Agent Rachelle Gardner gives advice for pitching and offers a vlog on why agents don't say why they rejected queries.

Ingrid Sundberg (and I really love her hair) talks about alternative plot structures besides the typical Aristotelian story arch (you know, central conflict, obstacles, climax, zombies... all that jazz.  Okay, maybe Aristotle wasn't much for zombies.  His loss.)

Alan Rinzler talks about why, as an author, you should be tweeting.  He also offers tips on what to do on Twitter, in order to build your followers.  (I'm still not tweeting.  I'm afraid my cats might eat me if I do.  The tweet argument is raging - not every agent or editor requires you to get on Twitter.)

Twitter debate: Do you think Twitter is necessary as a writer? Why or why not?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Grammar Brigade: Commas and Addressing People

Look, Charlie, it's the Grammar Brigade!  That's right; we often forget the importance of grammar in our hurry to get the story across.  But good grammar does make a difference.  Bad grammar is one of my pet peeves (just ask anyone I've edited,) so I'll be putting up the occasional lesson for frequently forgotten rules.

Today's topic: Commas in addressing people.  I frequently see writers forget to set names off with commas.  This makes a difference.  Consider:

Fly to the North James.

Huh?  Where is "North James"? Is that a city?

Oh, you mean:  Fly to the North, James.  As in, James the character should be flying North.

When directly addressing a person, set off their name with a comma.

Nora, look out!  The Grammar Brigade is out to get you!

Don't worry, mom; it's not as bad as it looks.  (Note: "Don't worry" is a complete clause.  If you add anything else, you'll usually need a semi-colon.  This is another common mistake.)

In all of these cases, the name is a way to identify to whom the sentence is addressed.  "Luke walked to the store" does not need a comma, because you're not directly addressing Luke.  "Cherry, Luke walked to the store" does need a comma - you're informing Cherry that Luke walked to the store; thus, you are directly addressing her (and she probably just asked where Luke was, at the same time that Sally asked where her shoes were.)

Any questions?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Funny Conference Stories

Best conference story goes to Lady Arite gune Akasa, for her Dragon*Con costume stories!

          "I wear a Cortana costume at Dragon*Con and have gotten some interesting attention with it. I've been called everything from Blue Lady to Mystique to Lady of the Blue Lagoon to Na'vi to Tron. People seriously grasp at straws rather than just ask what you are.

My costume is a painted bodysuit, wig, makeup, and blue contacts. Once, a group of what, under normal circumstances, I would have assumed to be typical sorority girls came on the elevator with us. One rather brazen girl asked "Are you wearing a bra?" Her friends expressed shock and said you can't just ask people that! But it's a con, if you can't be weird and open, what can you be? I told her I was wearing nipple covers, but that only piqued her curiosity and she asked about underwear too. "Yes." "I can't see it!" "It's seamless microfiber so you can't see the lines under the body suit." Her friends were still chastising her and giggling when they stepped off.

A guy said something to me once- I couldn't hear, I assumed it was the usual "Can I take a picture with you?", so I said sure and found myself being swept off my feet and held in his arms. Oh. Okay...well I feel slightly awkward now, but I can laugh it off. Aaand my fiance is laughing at me now. His friend had gotten himself distracted by another costume and it took a while to get his attention, so I was in this random guy's arms for a couple minutes before he realized he was being asked to take pictures.
A drunk girl toddled up to me once and said "Can I have your picture? I need to take your picture 'cause you're really hot." I obliged and she said "Thank you, you're really hot." and toddled off.

Then there was the other drunk lady who wanted specific poses (standing back to back, facing away from the camera w/ arms over each others shoulder and looking back at the camera). One of the more unusual requests I've gotten, but I figured it was harmless. However, my friend and fiance were laughing heartily the entire time and I had no idea why. It was more laughter than warranted by mild amusement at the drunk lady. Turns out she had her tongue out in the most horrible porn star faces the entire time. One friend declared them blackmail pictures. I promptly posted them on the internet to thwart his plans. We saw her again the next day (still drunk). She complemented my outfit but obviously did not remember the day before."

Also worthy of note was the RWA flagpole rapper - apparently, a guy climbed one of the flagpoles and stopped traffic for a while as the police were trying to get him down.  Turns out he was a rapper, trying to advertise his songs!

Any more con hijinks?  I'd love to hear your stories!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

No Takebacks?

You've sent a batch of queries and a couple of manuscripts.  You've waited.

And now you've gotten a response.

But your response came from agent #3, and you really wanted to hear back from agent #1 before making a choice.  Can you tell agent #3 that you want to think about it, or is it first come, first serve?

Absolutely tell agent #3 that you need to think about the offer.  And then send a notification to everyone else who has your manuscript that you've gotten an offer - to those whom you think would work better with you than #3, tell them you've had an offer and would like to hear back from them.  To those whom you think agent #3 would be better than, tell them you've had an offer and thank them for their time, but let them know you're now off the market.

This is professional, this is polite, and this is acceptable.  Telling an agent that you've had a prior offer and you're still considering them gets them to take a deeper look at your manuscript - but, they will be rushed, so don't try using this as a ploy to get read.  A rushed agent is more likely to say "No" than one who has had enough time to mull. 

On the other hand, if you don't tell the other agents that you're now engaged in conversation with #3, you risk wasting everyone's time.  Agent #3 deserves to know that you've sent a batch of queries, and it's perfectly acceptable to take a little time to communicate with them.  But if you wait too long, you risk #3 starting to think that you're unreliable.  And if you don't e-mail #4 to tell them your manuscript already has an agent, then when #4 gives you a call and you say the manuscript is off the market, they'll be mad at you for wasting their time.  The industry isn't that big. It's not a good idea to irritate an agent, not even if you don't think you'll be working with them.  At the very least, that's unprofessional behavior.

So, yes, if you get the call - make a call (or e-mail.)  Let the other agents you've contacted know you've spoken with one agent and gotten an offer, and let them know if you're still considering them, or if you're now off the market.  And while "Nyah-nyah, they got me first!" might be satisfying, it really won't help your cause - a polite "Thanks for your time, but I've gotten an offer and am withdrawing my query/manuscript" will suffice.

Besides, next book might be more to Agent #4's taste.  And I know you're already working on the next one, right?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Not just red: Roses of many colors for the discerning hero

Your hero just told his leading lady that he thought her best friend was hotter than she was.
Or maybe he taped over their wedding video.
Or he lost the joust that he was supposed to win, in order to win her kiss, and she had to smooch some smelly, overweight jock-jerk.

Now it's time to apologize.  What does he do?  He brings her flowers.  And, being guys, "flowers" mean "roses."

But what if your heroine doesn't like red roses?  What if he's not far enough into the relationship to be comfortable offering her red roses?  What if the guy has commitment issues, and has a minor phobia of red roses?

Great news: Roses come in a million colors.  Every color, in fact, except for black and blue.  So here's some rose colors you can use if your hero isn't up with traditional red.

Pink rose: admiration, symbolizes sweetness and elegance

Yellow rose: Joy, happiness, friendship
'Sweetness' roses are some of my favorites.

White: Innocence and purity (when mixed with red, "pure and lasting love")

Orange: Passion, desire, enthusiasm

High & Magic Roses

Bicolor roses: My personal favorite, roses with two colors

There's also purple and green roses:

Purple roses: Enchantment, love at first sight

Green Roses: Rejuvination, energy, self-respect and well-being

Want more colors?  Check out one of my favorite sites: The Elite Flower, a flower wholesaler with tons of great pictures of the varieties they offer.  (I'll admit to wasting a few hours just browsing the flower colors...)

Or, if you'd like a flower beside a rose, try a website which offers premade flower arrangements.  Lilies, calla lilies, and orchids are nice higher-end flowers; gerbera daisies and sunflowers are also popular choices for gift flowers.   Accompany your main flower (or "focal flower") with baby's breath, wax flower, or statice ("filler flowers") to accent them, and throw in a little greenery.  You can also throw in other accent flowers, like delphinium, liatris, or hydrangea.

Note that carnations, unless they are your heroine's favorite flower, aren't really a great choice for a relationship: they're more often a gift for a family member or used as an accent in a bouquet of other flowers.

What's your favorite flower?  What's your favorite rose color?

(*edited 9/24/12; now all photos posted are my own. Permission granted to use photos as long as link is provided back to blog, or credit given for non-web uses. :)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Guest Blog: RWA Conference Review with Joanna McKethan

I was sad to miss the annual Romance Writers of America Conference this year.  It's a pretty major conference (the major conference, if you write romance!)  The conference lasted from June 29-July 1, this year held in New York, NY. 

But just because I wasn't there, doesn't mean I won't post a review - I called on the talented Joanna McKethan to write a review for me!

In addition to being a  PRO member of the RWA, and another member of the much-vaunted (by me, anyway) HCRW chapter, Joanna is also a member of the Gothic Writers and the North Carolina Writers Network.  You can pick up a copy of her novel Lady in White at Red Rose publishing, and keep an eye out for A Deadly Provenance, which won 3rd place in the 2007 Haunted Hearts Contest.  She's also a published author of over 60 poems in various literary journals and poetry anthologies (one in both English and Russian!)  Joanna published her first short fiction in Americal Girl at 16, and went on to work in the writing industry for 8 years, split between working as an assistant editor at Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Kentucky, and four years writing features and a newsletter at Vision Verlag in Starnberg, West Germany. 

And, because most writers also have a day job, Joanna is a professional artist who owns j'Originals Art Studio in Dunn, NC.  She paints watercolor and oil paintings on commission and has also taught art for 30 years.  As an award-winning artist, you might catch her exhibited on regional and national levels.  She's a member of the Portrait Society of America and of the Southern Watercolor Society, and has served as a board member of the Wathercolor Society of North Carolina for 12 years. 

So what did Joanna think about the RWA conference?  Here's her take:

Wow--about the conference itself--the keynote luncheon was simply incredible-- listening to Diana Gabaldon of Outlander fame, Steve Perry who writes thrillers, both NY Times best-selling authors, and Tess Gerritsen whose series detective inspired Rizzoli & Isles answer expertly placed questions. That in itself would have been enough for me. But then we got to hear Sherrily Kenyon and Madeline Hunter tell their stories, and what mind-boggling, stirring stories they were.

We got chances to pitch our own finished novels to major agents and editors, including those on the NY scene, rake in free books from top publishers, devour incredibly informative workshops and meet members of national interest groups (mine being Gothic Writers) that we had never seen before. I particularly liked Michael Hauge's workshop on character arc and plot/novel structure, but also those which encouraged us to get savvy with the marketing tools of the industry.  Plus, our published authors got a chance to sign books for their fans - the HCRW made a good showing at our panel!

For my own part, I got pitching sessions with 3 literary agents (all top choices for me personally), one a New York agent, and a request for a full from a top publisher. I am racing to get it off to them, now. I made some terrific new friends, got and gave some good pitching tips, made neat contacts, heard scuttlebutt insider tips you only get from conferences, new books I want to read and I had two or three "revelation" type ideas for presenting my WIP.

The total conference cost for me was around $1300, but this isn't all at once. You pay the conference fee first. My room for four nights, shared room, was $485, which was charged to my card last, my meals were $120-$150 of the $200 cash I took to spend. My flight, with insurance, with broker, was $230, and the optional shipping of my books home was $53 (their largest), for a grand total of (how much was the conference fee? 375 or 450?) 1300-1365. I have made a commitment to myself to afford myself one major conference a year in each of my expertise areas, which has more than elevated my craft in each area. Entrepreneurs ALWAYS know they have to put back into the business, often repeatedly, before they take much out.

Oh! And I bought a book from Michael Hauge, $20.

I recommend the conference to people in several phases: first of all, to beginners:  to get a notion of the scope of the industry which will inspire and light a fire under you, straight on. Secondly for those with a completed book to get opportunities to pitch novels to editors and agents who are otherwise closed to open queries. And thirdly, if you're needing fresh infusions or if you've won something, to bask in it a bit.

Okay, you want to know my crazy conference story? Get this. I made the mistake of returning to my room to get my evening earrings & returning to an overloaded elevator system. None of the elevators would take me down on this computerized elevator system. Our conference had overloaded the brain and I was told I "had to wait." I was on 42nd floor of the Marriott Marquis. You talk about a panic attack. Trapped? Moi? Alternate routes? The staircase! So I trotted known 36 double flights of stairs so as not to miss the award dessert banquet--my legs were trembling at the end when I got on the escalators at ninth floor. My thigh muscles clinched and didn't return to normal until Tuesday! But I did get to see the awards given, including Virginia Kantra from our own HCRW. I heard there were two finalists from my gothic group. Oh well. It was still one hundred percent worth it.

Go ahead and laugh! I wasn't laughing then, but I am now.

You can't have a conference without a crazy conference story!  I asked Joanna to share hers, and now I'd love to hear yours - add your story as a comment, and take a moment to laugh at everyone else's!  The five which make me laugh the hardest will be accumulated into a post for July 18th (Wow, I already know that I'll have a hard time choosing!)  Thanks again to Joanna McKethan for the terrific review!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A completely random and baseless prediction

It's dangerous when I think.

No, really.  Having a task which engages my hands but not my mind has led to antics such as the time I reenacted the French Revolution with tomatoes at work.  (Not my fault - the tomato slicer makes a sound exactly like a guillotine.  And I was on task the entire time... I just happened to be marching aristocrats from the Roma family to their beheadings as the masses lined up on the cutting board cheered.  See?  You wouldn't be able to resist, either.)

One of the things rolling around with the marbles in my head recently has been the concept of branding, as applied to e-publishing.

First of all, this is an idea based entirely out of the (il)logical confines of my head - there is absolutely no support for this that I've seen to date, no studies suggesting it, and nothing but my very basic grasp of marketing, American consumerism, and brand labeling driving it.

That said, I sincerely believe the concept of brand marketing is going to significantly impact the sales of e-published works within the next 2-3 years.


Because spamming in the self-publishing world is beginning to take off. Because, for every self-published writer who edits her works thoroughly and actually has a plot to her novel, three more do not.  Because a book bought through a traditional publishing house will always have had someone look at it and say, "this is worth reading" - meaning it's passed some minimal set of standards for readability and plot.

Therefore, I expect to see branding to become the next big thing on the e-bookshelves.  Publishers will start making their icon large enough to be seen on the cover art in a thumbnail, so that browsers will know the book has passed their inspection.  And browsers will probably begin creating brand loyalty such as formerly been absent in the literary world (Do you buy your regular books solely based on who published them - or do you buy them based on the pretty cover art and the intriguing blurb?)  If I know that Baen, for example, typically prints books with higher-quality plots and better editing, I'm going to be more likely to purchase from them online than a book from a publisher I've never heard of.

Obviously, this would be Bad News for small publishers and self-published authors.

As a writer, one of the things on my contract wishlist would therefore be that my ebooks include a visible publisher logo on the cover art (maybe discreetly in the corner, but still large enough to be seen on a thumbnail.)

Do you think this particular prediction has any basis in reality?  As an author, will you require a logo for your own ebook cover art, or do you think it's too soon to start the branding process?  Theoretically, what do you see this doing to the market?  Do you see a solution to help small publishers and self published authors stay in the game?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Industry Cliffsnotes

Just a quick rundown on some recent blogs by agents and authors.  That's right, Cliffsnotes for the writing industry!  Hopefully, you already follow some of these blogs, so you've probably already seen at least one or two of these already. 

On QueryTracker: Publishing Pulse runs through recent publishing news.  Highlights?  Updates on agents, including some closed for summer submissions.  (Updated: Chris Lotts, Janet Reid, Andrea Somberg)   (Kristin Lindstrom: no longer a lit agent. Chris Richman: closed for summer.  Joelle Delbourgo: closed for summer.  Scott Eagan: Closed for summer.)  Also, links on good writer pages, the effect of spoilers on writing, and a press release about JK Rowling's Pottermore.
Also on QueryTracker:  Why you need a Game Plan, an article explaining that writers, like businesspeople, need a game plan.  This is especially true if you're self-publishing, but also true even with traditional publishing.  Danyelle Leafty talks about developing a 5-year game plan.  Mostly, she points out that writers are now considered responsible for a lot of their own self-promotion.  She also points out that the point of social networking isn't to sell - it's to form a network of people to support you, make connections, and so forth.  If it doesn't work for you, don't do it.  Do, however, keep your website up-to-date. And find some way to connect to readers.  If you're self-publishing, you have to make sure you're professional, from your website to your book covers. 

On Eric Blank's Pimp My Novel:
Eric talks about why summer sales slow down.  Major points: Many publishing houses are connected to universities, so of course things slow down in summer.  Your agents will probably take longer to respond, and some agencies close to submissions in the summer. Use the extra time to write.
Also:  Eric talks about why the average advance is shrinking.  You know, that all-important cash advance that writers later have to wait for their royalties to earn out before making money off the royalties?  Yeah, it's getting smaller.  It's a lean market out there, and the original purpose of the advance was for authors to use to market their own books.  With the webculture growing, marketing is getting cheaper.  So publishing houses are shrinking their advances.

On BookEnds:
Jessica Faust points out that if you don't tell people about your facebook/website/blog/twitter accounts, nobody's going to follow you.  (I might be guilty of this one.  >.>   <.<   >.>  Oops.  Guess I'd better fix that!)

On Guide to Literary Agents:
If you don't follow BookEnds, then you might have missed that Lauren Ruth officially joined BookEnds as a new agent now accepting queries.
Also, an article on How to be a Click Magnet - getting higher on the search engine roll and getting more traffic.  Included amongst the 10 suggestions?  Use full names, specific (yes, even to the point of boring) titles, and keep the title under 65 characters (not words!)
Also: An interview with Deirdre Knight.  Always get to know the agents you're querying - if you plan on sending something to her, read the interview.  No cliffsnotes on this one, sorry: the homework doesn't help you if you don't do it yourself.  Well, maybe one note: apparently fanged unicorns win over zombies.

And on the close-to-home side of things (close to my home, anyway,) HCRW's own Virginia Kantra won the RITA award at the annual RWA conference!  Congratulations, Virginia! 
(Decoding the alphabet soup for my new readers: HCRW, is the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers' association, my local chapter of the Romance Writers of America.)

Just a happy little summer update on the industry!  Any news of note that I've missed?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Guest blog with Kathy Lane: Sexy Secondary Characters

Kathy Lane
 Joining me today is guest blogger and published author, Kathy Lane!  Kathy's first book, Bloodsworn: Bound by Magic, just won 1st place in the Fantasy catagory of the PRISM contest.  The PRISM contest is hosted by the Futuristic, Fantasy, and Paranormal chapter of the RWA, and her win was announced just yesterday!  Join me a quick congratulations! :) 
 Check out her website and her blog.  Also, her second novel comes out July 15, so keep an eye out!
ATTENTION READERS: Join me on my July Blog Tour and play my Scavenger Blog Game. Visit each of my blog/interview sites for the month of July and leave a comment. At the end of July, one lucky winner will receive a prize package which includes a copy of Bloodsworn I and II, a $25 Amazon gift card, and more! Happy July!

Strong, Sexy, Secondary Characters in a book are a delight to read. Yes, you’re rooting for the lead character, but it’s nice to have someone else to add a little spice to the story from time to time.

Depending on the type of story, secondary characters can also be essential in showcasing your Hero or Heroine. In books dealing with mystery or intrigue, of instance, it helps if the main character has someone they can bounce ideas off of. Internal dialogue is fine, but unless your Hero is omnipotent, there is a limit to his information. Put him in a conversation with his best buddy, and the possibilities for plausible deductions increase dramatically.

Conversations between a primary and secondary character serve a multitude of functions. They reveal secrets, create or relieve tension, and explore motives and conflicts without the dreaded ‘telling’. In some cases, especially when the author is great at writing dialogue, such interaction can set the tone for the whole book.

In addition to providing information, a secondary character can often develop into someone we love and want to know more about. In my first book, Bloodsworn: Bound by Magic, two secondary characters stood out according to my fans. One is Devlin Tragar’s best friend, Karess (who has yet to tell me his story, the rascal), and the other is Avera St. John’s First Blade and new best friend, Bracca Cu-Laurian.

True, Bracca isn’t your typical best friend, but he’ll do anything for Avera. And she definitely thinks he’s strong and sexy. So does a young widow named Sheren Ni-Annun who Bracca meets in Bloodsworn II: Linked by Blood. From the moment he sees Sheren, Bracca is drawn to her. Yet his life and loyalty is pledged to his Bloodsworn, Lady Avera. A man with his dark and violent past has nothing left to offer a gentle woman like Sheren. Or does he?

Kathy's up-and-coming second novel!

Duty vies with passion in book two of the Bloodsworn Series due out July 15th, 2011.

Now, here’s my question for those of you who are playing my Scavenger Blog Game.
(1) What three futuristic, fantasy, or paranormal authors do you think have the best cast of secondary characters?  My picks are Jeanine Frost, Patricia Briggs, and Ilona Andrews. There are lots more out there, so let us know. Happy Reading!