A Book of Clouds #199: through maelstrom

Here’s a verse from poet Frank Prem that I found quite inspiring. I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.

Seventeen Syllable Poetry

199

maelstrom
blue

a ray
of light
will still
finds the path

to right where
you stand

~

Poem #199 from a series of poems drawn from the imagination and collected as: A Book of Clouds.

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Writing Delights

Writing is a delightful pursuit. As some great author once said, “It’s easy. You just sit down at the typewriter and open a vein.”

And then there’s the joy of editing, which I’ve tried to capture in this senryu:

editor slings red ink
bloodied words fly here and there
novel shavings
🙂

Alas! Those days are long gone when writers handed their books to an editor and the editorial staff did the fixing. Now it’s up to the writer to have the manuscript error-free and print-ready. Which usually means hiring a freelance editor.

Self-Publishing Options:
Print-on-demand companies like Amazon make publishing a price-painless proposition. Download a pdf, hit publish, and you’re good to go.

Now comes the joy of marketing. If a traditional publishing company is selling your book, they expect hands-on involvement from you. If you’ve self-published with Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, or any similar company, your hands are the only ones working the Ads & Sales desk. Unless you have kin and friends who’ll help promote your book, you’re on your own.

Thankfully companies will help in small ways. I recently made a deal with PrairieView Press, the printer/seller of my children’s book, The Rescuing Day, to list it in a flyer they are sending out to bookstores.

Rescuing Day cover.jpg

Plus, I’ve just made an agreement with Amazon.com to do a special free book offer for my e-book, Silver Morning Song.

SMS Cover page
As you see in my side bar, my book will be free on Amazon.com this coming weekend, November 22 to 26. So if you enjoy my blog, with it’s mix of short fiction tales, poetry and micro-poetry, take this opportunity to get your free copy. Here’s the LINK.

NOTE: I wasn’t given the option to list this on Amazon.ca, so I’m not sure if you’ll find the FREE COPY listed there. If you’re a UK reader, I plan to make the same offer on Amazon.uk next month.

And of course, if you do pick up a copy, I’m really hoping you’ll leave an honest review on Amazon. Even a couple of sentences will help. Thanks much!

Books Galore!

WRITE-CLICK

I’ve decided on a new style, with a new heading, introducing my BOOKS-and-AUTHORS commentary. I’ve ready many books, and more are being offered to me every day. there are various sites offering free or super-cheap e-books on the basis of, “Here’s a low-cost book. The author REALLY wishes you’d read it and leave a review.”

In WRITE-CLICK I’m planning to share something about the books I’ve seen and/or read, and authors I think are really good.

Today one of the free books Reading Deals is offering sounds really interesting:
Jessie’s Song by Jeremy Williamson. I can’t vouch for it yet, but will put it on my Wish list.
“A powerful story of a childhood devastated by secrets and abuse. After years of wrestling with her true identity and running from her past, Jessie Jenkins runs headlong into her answer—a mysterious stranger who knows every detail of her life and offers the only thing she ever wanted—a love that can be trusted to heal and not harm.”
Click here for Amazon link.

Yesterday BookBub listed the freebie book Two Minutes to Noon by former Times correspondent Noel F Bush. (Amazon Link here.) Being interested in history and also natural disasters, this one caught my attention.
The Tokyo earthquake of 1923, with the huge fires and tidal waves that followed it, destroyed two of the largest cities in the world. Tokyo and Yokohama experienced a devastation that almost dwarfs the atomic damage at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Another site I’ve gotten a book from is Books2Read. Here’s my write-up about that book, to which I gave a five-star rating:

Loveday Brooke: Lady Detective
by Catherine Pirkis
© 2018 by Midwest Classics Press

Miss Brooke grew up in an upper class family in London, but hard times left her penniless. To support herself she went to work for Ebenezer Dyer, head of a detective agency on Fleet Street. Over time Mr Dyer developed a high regard for Loveday’s crime solving abilities and sends her off on various short assignments. This book is a collection of her adventures.
Her cases are not so much the murder and mayhem kind, rather something or someone has gone missing or was stolen. Ever prim and proper, plainly dressed and nondescript in appearance, she blends in with all classes and ferrets out the details of the crime. The deductive reasoning that brings her to a quick solution is much like that of fellow detective Sherlock Holmes.

British author Catherine Louisa Pirkis, 1841-1910, wrote numerous short stories and fourteen novels during the years 1887 to 1894. She’s best known for her lady detective, Loveday Brooke. Midwest Classics Press has republished Pirkis’ novel. See their website here.

Risks in Writing

My response to Fandango’s prompt for today: DANGER

Writing, as we all know can be fraught with hazards.
There are PLOT HOLES and SAGGING MIDDLES.
Our CHARACTERS may lack depth or interest.
The editor may say, “TOO MUCH LIKE one we just published.”
A reader may give us a BAD REVIEW even when we’ve done our best.

And there are editorial errors like
MUDDLED PHRASES and WANDERING MODIFIERS
that keep us from getting our message across.

I just finished a series of three cozy mystery books, written by A.G. Barnett. The series is subtitled, “A Brock & Poole Mystery.” Books in this series are:
#1. An Occupied Grave
#2. A Staged Death
#3. When the Party Died

These are police procedural mysteries, not so much danger and high tension like writer Charles Todd’s books, but quite satisfying in regard to plot and likable, believable characters. However, the editing in the first two books leaves something to be desired now and then. For example:
“He stood, looking down at the man that was waving his arms theatrically about him, arms folded.”

Edit #1: a person man is always a who.
Edit #2: Move that wandering modifier back where it belongs and snip a bit:
“He stood, arms folded, looking down (he was really tall) at the man who was waving his arms theatrically.”

The writer was quite inclined to switch to pronouns, so there were times during the first two books where I had to stop and think, “Who does he refer to?”

I’ve written an example to illustrate what I mean:
Roddy has a little monkey and he loves to climb trees. He calls him Timbucktu but he has a bad habit: he never comes when he’s called. When he’s being really stubborn he offers him a banana and he usually comes right away and grabs it.

I was happy to see that by the third book Mr Barnett, or his editor, had caught on to this problem and cleared up most of the confusion.

More Examples of Wandering Modifiers

We watched the avocets poking around in the pond with their long beaks through our binoculars.

Driving by in the car, the falling snow sifted down onto the shrubs around the abandoned house.

And one of my all-time favorites in the Muddled + Mystified Dept:
A social assistance recipient, providing information to her case worker about her two newest dependents, wrote, “According to your instructions, I have given birth to twins in the enclosed envelope.”

WHAT BRINGS THIS TOPIC TO MIND?

In the course of emptying book cases and moving books around, I came across a thin paperback written by Saskatoon columnist Bill Cameron. The title of this sort-of-memoir:
A Way With Words: A Light-hearted Look at the Agony of Writing.
©1979 by Bill Cameron
Published by Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon, SK
I really enjoyed reading it, though it may be out of print and unavailable now.

Mr Cameron points out to wannabe writers that the biggest danger is not saying what you mean. He gives a number of humorous examples showing how reporters and others have strayed from Say-what-you-mean clarity. (To keep things straight, I’ll post his comments in green.)

This snippet from a tourist brochure gives visitors to SK a curious picture of travel here:
“If you pull off the highway…and the first car to pass waves and the next one along stops and chats, you’re in Saskatchewan.”

“Cars that wave? Cars that stop and chat! And all this time, I thought it was the people of SK, not the automobiles, who are friendly.”

According to Cameron, this once-upon-a-time General Motors press release “set off chuckles and cackles all over the newsroom.”
“Some 800 employees…were furloughed for a short re-tooling period.”

“I presume furloughed is a weasel word for laid off. More important, I hope it was the factory which was re-tooled, not the workers.”

Even the universe is somewhat amiss, according to one news item:
“Ranging in size from dust particles to giant comets, interplanetary space is full of debris.”

“Nonsense. If space was full of debris there wouldn’t be any space, and Armstrong and Aldrin could have walked to the moon.”

An editor must read the news article carefully before committing it to the printer. As this Canadian Press headline from the 60s demonstrates:
“Alberta Catholic Women’s League delegates passed resolutions calling for tighter legislation against abortion and pornography at the group’s annual convention.”

“To suggest, as this does, that abortion and pornography go on at the annual convention…not only doesn’t say what the writer meant; it’s close to slander.”

Then there’s the famous one about Yogi Berra…a line that has been picked up by more than one gag writer since its original appearance.
“After he was hit on the head by the pitched ball, Berra was taken to hospital for X-rays, which showed nothing.”

I understand there are grammar checker programmes available now that will go over our writing and zero in on these zingers. Have any of you others bought one already? I’ll think I will be ordering one shortly. 🙂

The Scottish Lowlands

Fandango’s one-word challenge for today: GUEST
As my response I’ll tell you about a travel book I once read:

My Heart’s in the Lowlands – Ten days in Bonny Scotland
© 2007 by Liz Curtis Higgs, published by WaterBrook Press.

“Let’s go, shall we? Just the two of us?”

With this opening, Liz invites the reader to be her guest and travelling companion on a jaunt through the Scottish lowlands. This is the place Liz loves to visit, the setting for her novels.

Through her vivid descriptions, she allows us to experience the sights, the cuisine and the ambiance of Dumfries and Galloway. She tells of castle ruins, ancient churches, Bobby Burns’ favorite haunts,  local attractions, bed & breakfast accommodations, shops and customs.

Liz has written a number of historical romances set in the southwestern part of Scotland and has made a number of trips to the region in the course of researching her stories. This makes her a great tour guide; you’ll enjoy the role of  a good friend as she chauffeurs you around and explains the history behind the places you’re seeing.

I enjoyed this book very much when I read it the first time but when I discovered later that my Vance ancestors came from Galloway, the travelogue took on a whole new meaning for me. I’d love to visit the area from which my great-great grandfather, the widower Joseph Vance, set off to seek his fortune in the new world.

He left Scotland around 1835, traveling with his young son and his three brothers. En route to their future home in Ontario these four brothers passed through New York, where Joseph won the hand of Miss Sarah Allen, daughter of Samuel Allen, originally from Vermont. Joseph & Sarah settled in Oxford County and produced a family of six boys and one girl, Sarah Jane. My great-grandfather, Samuel was one of the youngest.

As I read Liz’s book, I realized what a contrast the tall maple forests of southern Ontario would have been from the windswept moors the Vances left. What brave souls they were!

Even if you have no family tree roots in this area, do take the tour with her if you can get your hands on a copy of her book. She’s such a pleasant travelling companion; I’m sure you’ll find it a pleasure to be her guest for a few hours of reading enjoyment.

 

When Two Adjectives Go Walking…

As I wrote in my last post, I’ve spent a fair bit of time this past week over at Critique Circle reading and commenting on various stories posted there. Of course this brings thoughts about improving one’s writing — which will now spill into this post.

I’ve posted my own story and gotten seven critiques. WONDERFUL! Being critiqued has been good for me. For one thing, I’ve had to go back to grammar books and other published authors to study up on the acceptable use of commas. Tricky little things. When it comes to separating clauses, there seems to be no uniform rule of, “Yes, one here,” or “No, none there.”

One of the things I often note in my critiques is the overuse and/or duplication of adjectives. Some genres tolerate more descriptive adjectives than others, but I do like the advice I once heard from some well known writer:
“Imagine you’re buying your story words for $1 each. You won’t want to buy more than you need.”

If you had to pay for words, you’d want to make sure each word is doing its job. You won’t want to pay for a bunch that need others to lean against because they don’t say enough on their own.

Mark Twain: “When you see an adjective, kill it.”

I’ve modified this bloodthirsty ink-thirsty version and adopted this maxim:
“When two adjectives go walking, flatten one.”
A little less gruesome, don’t you think?

Last year my husband enrolled in the Jerry Jenkins School of Writing and we both benefited from his lessons on “Becoming a Ferocious Self-Editor.” He gives demonstrations along with explanations, taking the first page of someone’s story and hacking it to pieces showing how it can be tightened.

When it comes to adjectives, he quotes another writing guru — sorry, I forget who — saying: “One plus one equals one-half.”
The idea being: when you use two adjectives, you weaken the effectiveness of both. Choose the most powerful and cut the other.

For example: The neat, tidy little cottage sat at the edge of a tenebrous, spooky forest.
I’d go with tidy, which means neat. A cottage is automatically little, so cut that, too.
Tenebrous means dark or murky — and dark murky places usually are spooky. Spooky places are usually dark and shadowy. Pick one or the other — preferably the one most people will understand.

Tom was a pompous, dictatorial boss who loved nothing better than ordering his cowering underlings around.
Dictatorial means ordering others around. Don’t throw this word away, though. Chances are, it will fit in nicely elsewhere.

Raiva was a loquacious chatterbox, always running on at the mouth.”
Here you have not only and adjective repeating the noun, but an adverb clause saying the same thing.
I’ve cut loquacious. Erudites like big, fancy words but the average reader may get a bit (cut qualifiers, too) ticked off if they have to stop and look up loquacious in the dictionary. A few fancies may be okay, but don’t make a practice of throwing in humongous, supposedly-impressive words.

I just read a piece which included the word pulchritudinous. My first thought was “ornery” but I decided to look it up and be sure. According to vocabulary.com:
“Even though it looks (and sounds) like it would describe a disease or a bad attitude, pulchritudinous actually describes a person of breathtaking, heartbreaking…beauty.”

Most readers will guess. They’ll read “Joe had a contentious nature.” And they’ll think, hmm… Sounds like content. Must be Joe’s easy-going.” If you do use an unusual word, give the reader a clue in the context.

But I digress. Let’s get back to Raiva the blab. Cutting the excess, all we have left is, She was a chatterbox. Or, Raiva was always running off at the mouth.

Instead of telling this fact, we could show it like so:
Pam and Bev sat in Bev’s living room drinking coffee when they saw Raiva coming to the door.
Pam nudged Bev’s arm and said, “Here comes Miss Mouthpiece.”
Bev rolled her eyes. “Gossip, her specialty.”
(Or, “Advice her specialty,” depending on which impression you want to convey. And check if it needs a comma after Advice. Or not?)