Tran’zr series…coming soon

I’m currently working on the first book in a paranormal romance series. I’m finding it fun, and definitely different from any of the other books I’ve written.

Here’s a draft of the blurb that will go on the back of the book:

Changing dance partners can be dangerous. When a young lawyer waltzes into Terra’s life, she decides to give him a whirl. But when she tangoes with Death, someone she never expected dips into her life and steals her heart.

I’ve already gotten some book cover ideas from my pal at DL Design and Digital Art, which I’ve posted here. (If you like any of the designs, let me know. I always enjoy learning what appeals to folks.)

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The short synopsis is:

I’m Terra McGinley…Tran’zr and technical writer, and I’m dating-impaired. I’m okay at getting first dates (though my mom would say otherwise—she’s always trying to fix me up; if it’s male, single, and over the age of consent, she’ll drag it home for me to meet.) However, when it comes to follow-up dates…well, let’s just say that my mother shouldn’t expect to hear wedding bells any time soon.

Being a tran’zr is a part-time gig—which is a good thing, because the pay is non-existent and the hours are horrible; otherwise, it’s a great job. Tran’zrs help transition people from the physical world to the spiritual and vice versa. Some people call us Grim Reapers, while others refer to us as Death Escorts, but we prefer Transitioner, or Tran’zr for short.

Anyone for Pie?

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The pie that is chocolate is missing a piece.
The pie, which is chocolate, is missing a piece.

Besides making you hungry, the two sentences have a lot in common; however, they also have some important but subtle differences. It’s learning the subtle differences that can help you use the words that and which correctly. For example, the first sentence about the chocolate pie implies there is more than one flavor of pie, but only the chocolate pie is missing a piece. The second sentence states that there is only one pie and it has a piece missing. It also offers a side note to let you know that the pie is chocolate, but that fact is not considered as important as the fact that a piece is missing. (Obviously the second sentence wasn’t written by a chocoholic.)

The word that introduces restrictive clauses, or clauses that supply essential information to the intended meaning of the sentence. This is information that the reader needs to know to understand all that the sentence states and implies. However, the word which introduces non-restrictive clauses, or clauses that supply non-essential, supplemental information to the sentence, and if left out won’t change the sentence’s meaning (stated or implied). When trying to decide whether to use that or which, ask yourself these questions:

If I take out the clause, does my sentence’s meaning remain the same? If it does, you should use which; if it doesn’t, then use the word that.

Does the sentence feel as if it needs a comma? If so, this might indicate that you need to use the word which, because the clause it introduces is preceded by a comma. (The pie, which is chocolate, is missing a piece.)

So, when you’re putting together your sentence and wondering if you need to put in a that or a which, you need to think about what the point of the sentence is. What is it that you want the readers to know—do they need to know that a piece of pie is missing, or that a piece of chocolate pie is missing. Now, before you run out and get yourself a piece of chocolate pie, try the short quiz I’ve included below.

Quiz
The four sentences below need either the word that or which. Determine the word needed based on whether the adjoining information is necessary for the reader to understand the message or whether the information is just nice to know.
Note: Remember to place a comma before any clause introduced by which.

  • The user guide should only contain instructions [that/which] were verified.
  • The application requires a logon and password [that/which] prevents unauthorized access.
  • The report shows every account [that/which] has been closed in the past 30 days.
  • They canceled yesterday’s ABC project meeting [that/which] was already rescheduled twice.

The answers and explanations are below:

Answers:

  • The user guide should only contain instructions [that/which] were verified. The information “…that were verified” tells us exactly what type of instructions. You need the additional information to clarify the sentence; therefore, you need to use that.
  • The application requires a logon and password, [that/which] prevents unauthorized access. The information that the logon and password prevent unauthorized access is interesting, but it isn’t essential; therefore, you need to use a comma and the word which.
  • The report shows every account [that/which] has been closed in the past 30 days. Because the report is only showing accounts that were closed in the past 30 days, you need to use that; otherwise it would read as if the report were showing every account.
  • They canceled yesterday’s ABC project meeting, [that/which] was already rescheduled twice. The information about the meeting being rescheduled twice is not essential to understanding that the ABC project meeting was canceled; therefore, you need to put in a comma and use which.

So, now go ahead and get that piece of pie.

A review of “How to Self-Promote…”

BK_bookcover“How to Self-Promote Without Being a Jerk” by Bruce Kasanoff

Summary: This book purports to help you promote yourself and your service or product by showing you how to be the best you you can be.

Recommended: Yes

Review: the book is primarily a collection of insights based on common sense. Yet, even common sense isn’t always common or easily recognized when it pushes you to step outside your comfort zone.

This book holds your hand as you step beyond your self-doubts and venture into that world of “I am worth it.”

Unlike most similar books, Mr. Kasanoff actually explains how to take these baby steps. He doesn’t just tell you that you need to be generous, he explains some of the ways you can be generous and still end up promoting yourself. For instance, his first chapter (which is entitled, “Help This Person”) explains how you can help yourself by helping others (really helping others, not just going through the motions). He makes it seem so easy that you wonder why you hadn’t thought of it yourself. In fact, I found myself nodding along as I read, while thinking, “I can do that.” One of the examples he gives of helping others to help yourself is this: when the phone rings on a busy day, don’t get frustrated by the interruption. Instead, think about how you can help the person who is calling…really help them. When you help them, they remember you (in a positive way). Then when you need help, they want to return the favor.

All his chapters are like this. Each one helps you determine how to be the kind of person other people want to help, want to promote, and want to remember.

It’s a fast read, but one read-through isn’t enough. This is the type of book you will find yourself referring to over and over again.

 

 

Editing: it’s not just proofing

There are a multitude of articles bemoaning the lack of editing that goes into independently published books. (In fact, I wrote one myself.) However, I think the point that is missed in these articles is to identify the types of editing that are needed.

Book editing requires more than just having someone go through and check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation. To ensure that your book is truly the best it can be, you should also have structural, developmental, and content edits done. These types of edits ensure that your book and your story have a smooth flow, good pacing, no plot breaks or inconsistencies, consistent POV (point of view) or recognizable POV breaks, clarity, believability, and above all, readability.

That’s a lot to ask of one person, which is why you usually need several editors to go through your manuscript. Structural editing for fiction and non-fiction is a talent and a skill, honed by years of practice and a lot of knowledge about what makes a good story and a great book. These types of editors can identify where the plot drags or goes off course, explain why, and then give you suggestions as to how to fix it. It might be that you introduced a character that is flat or you took your story on a side-trip that was completely unnecessary. But unless someone points this out to you, you may never see it; because this is your ‘baby.’

Most authors fail to see the need for trimming storylines, eliminating characters, or swapping out chapters, and that’s why structural editors are so necessary and so helpful. Authors, like most artists, tend to be very protective of their creations, and the last thing we want to hear is that we need to “fix” it or change it. To us, our creations are perfect, and having someone point out the flaws in our creations hurts.

As an author of both fiction and non-fiction, I have to admit that I’ve seen my share of red and blue pencil marks on my manuscripts, and while it hurts, it hurts a lot less than having a reader tell me that they didn’t like my book, or that they liked it until page 110, where it rambled and the story got lost. I would definitely rather have an editor help me fix my manuscript than lose a reader because I didn’t want to change my perfect creation.

Once you have the structure and content set, then you need to bring someone in to check the spelling, grammar, and punctuation. And don’t think that running your system spell- and grammar-checker are enough to get you through. I can’t tell you how many times the spell- and grammar-checker has told me my manuscript was perfect, when, in fact, it had numerous egregious errors (such as homonyms or homophones that would, and should, be caught via context and content). Spell- and grammar-checkers are notoriously unreliable. While they might catch the double “the” that you accidently typed, they rarely seem to be able to use the content to determine correct word or punctuation choices.

So, if you want to ensure that your readers have an enjoyable time, you need to give them the best product you can. For most of us, that includes trading or paying for the services of a book editor who can help us perfect our creations.

Every Author Needs an Editor…not just independents

Starstone_Front_Cover_Only - 1I see so many posts admonishing independent authors to make sure they get their manuscripts edited. And while, I agree that editing is very important (probably as important as the story writing itself), I take offense at the implication that it is only independent authors who are lax about this step.

I just read the first two books in a 22-book series by a well-known author who is published by a well-known house (Harper Collins), and I have encountered approximately one misspelling or misused word per every ten to twelve pages. Now, I didn’t go into these books expecting errors, nor did I start reading them with the intention of keeping track of every little mistake I came across. But, I have to admit that after the first mistake interrupted the story rhythm, it sort of primed my instincts to be wary of others. (For instance, the character was fighting the urge to vomit, which was described as “…keeping her gore from rising…” when the term is gorge.)

As I continued with the story (which is really quite excellent and I do thank my friend for recommending the series), I found myself stumbling over other such instances of misplaced, misused, or misspelled words. With every stumble, I couldn’t help but wonder what the editors at this publishing house were thinking. These errors were obvious and easy to spot, so why didn’t they? While I can’t answer the question as to why the professionals didn’t catch the errors in this particular series , I can commiserate with them.

My bread-and-butter job is as a technical writer/editor and, trust me, when deadlines loom, and you’re working 50 or 60 hours, dead tired, and going at top speed, things can get overlooked…even obvious things (like gore for gorge). Is it right? No. Is it easy to fix…sometimes. Is it inevitable? Maybe…unless you’re Super Editor:  Able to scan 1000 pages a minute, edit 20,000 pages with a single blue pencil, and juggle ten manuscripts in a single night. However, since I don’t know any super heroes called Super Editor, I’m going with the assumption that most authors, writers, and editors are human beings, and human beings (unfortunately) make mistakes.

So, while I have no intention of publishing any of my books with mistakes, and I (and my editors) go over them several times for spelling, grammar, context, and content, I would still be surprised if someone reading through them didn’t find some flaw; some misspelled, misused, or just plain missing word. I’m human. My editors are human. And my readers are human (or at least most of them are).

Therefore, whether you’re an independent author or an author from a well-known publishing house, you need to understand that flaws happen. The key to getting and keeping readers despite the flaws is to ensure that 1) flaws don’t happen very often, and 2) the story is so good that your readers are willing to forgive the rare flaw.

(Coming soon:  “The Globe of Souls”  Book 2 of the Darkwind of Danaria series.)GOS Front Cover - 6x9 - 150 PPI

 

 

 

Today is the day…

The paperback is ready and available. (Just follow the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1481090569) The Kindle book will be available in a day or two (just waiting on Amazon to get it posted.)

So, hurra hurra hurra. Grab and copy and start reading. 😉

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