Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thoughts about Revising Fiction

I was in my twenties, working on a team that was preparing a report for top management of an organization, when the team leader said, "Every final becomes a new iteration."  

I did not know the definition of iteration, though the dictionary said it essentially meant  a new draft. Today's Oxford American College Dictionary gives one meaning as "a new version of a piece of computer hardware or software." When I first encountered the term iteration I did not yet own a computer and doubt the dictionary writers did either. Times change.

Hearing this phrase taught me two things. First, never use a three-dollar word when a one-dollar word will do. Second, don't have such pride in your work that you consider an early draft to be the one for public consumption.

As a technical writer for many years, I revised constantly.  I revise my fiction, too, but generally only before publication. In 2006, Author House issued my book Searching for Secrets.  It is a short mystery that puts almost as much emphasis on a potential romance between the two main characters, a teacher and police officer in Iowa City.

After a lot of thought, I issued a new version of the book as an e-pub. Why? I didn't like the earlier version. 
The romantic elements seemed forced and took away from the story. I liked the story itself, so I reworked parts of the book. The book is much the same, but with less focus on the characters' thoughts about one another. It flows better. 

Is this sacrilege? Maybe. Am I happy with the new version?  Definitely.  A friend's note confirmed that the revision was a good decision.  He had just finished reading Appraisal for Murder and said, "It is a good read; much better than your first effort Searching for Secrets."  Only a good friend will tell you something like that.

This will be the only time I publish a revised piece of fiction. My skills are at a level I'm happier with -- doesn't mean everyone will like my writing, but I will. And I may let some of it sit longer in a drawer before putting it out there. 
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Words to Write By" gets more interest

After editing nonfiction for a number of years I saw similar themes among a number of clients.  They knew their subject matter but either believed they "could not write" or were frustrated with not doing it as well as they wanted to.  I wrote Words to Write By: Getting Your Thoughts on Paper, with them in mind.  It is now on Kindle, but since portions are intended to be a workbook I want to reissue it as a paperback.  Years ago I did a spiral-bound version, but as I've refined segments I did not reprint.

If you go to the link on my web site (click here) you can see a more full description and then click a link to read the table of contents.  As I consider revisions for a new edition, I would appreciate it if you would take a look and offer comments.  If you can't wait a couple months for a paperback the Kindle edition is available.  Words to Write By: Getting Your Thoughts on Paper

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Updated my web site

I spent a fair bit of time working to create a sleeker look at  While you can still tell the site was designed by a novice, I like the look.  I had not been able to update the site because Yahoo (my host) stopped accepting updates from the Front Page software.  I can say that Yahoo's own Sitebuilder is simple to learn (which a couple others I tried were not) and there are people you can call any time -- and not one of them says, "You mean you can't figure that out for yourself?"

My e-book giveaway on Amazon is "Secrets of the Gap" and it has topped 9,000 downloads.  It has led to an uptick in sales of other books.  Cool.

Now, back to writing...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Learning to Blog for Book Publicity

That business of writing being easy ("you just open a vein...") does not hold a candle to blogging effectively.  Between trying to overcome the "who wants to hear from me every day?" handicap and learning the technical aspects of creating the posts, I'm considering a hut in the Andes.  Or maybe the Alps, I love the Alps. Now that I've learned the difference between posts and pages I better understand why some writers have abandoned web pages in favor of blogs.  This really is (sort of, kind of) easier. Today I created a page on the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series and am about to do one on my recent family history book, Orr Campbell, Mitchell, and Shirley Families in Ireland and America.  I thought about whether the fiction and family history blogs should be separate.  For now, both are here -- both kinds of writing inform the other.  And, this is me.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Jolie Gentil is involved in a new case...

...and she's not officially a detective.  When the Carny Comes to Town is well underway, with an e-book publication date of February 2012.  The challenge is to focus on writing and marketing the two previous books -- Appraisal for Murder and Rekindling Motives.  I did not anticipate what a juggling act the roles of writer and publicist would engender.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Environment as Character

Mysteries have so many subgenres.  Familiar ones are police procedurals, cozy mysteries (Murder She Wrote series), private eye (Robert Parker's series, such as "Spencer" or "Jesse Stone"), and more recently women sleuths (Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone).  

I've added another category to my mental list, and it's "environment as character" books.  Margaret Maron's Deborah Knott books make you feel as if you've lived in rural North Carolina all your life, and it's tempting to look up Colleton County on a map.  Not there, of course, but its tobacco fields and winding roads sure feel real when you put down a book. 

My book club picked Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter this month, and it introduced me to Tom Franklin.  I've seen his books and just not gotten to one -- so many books, so little time, as a cousin used to say.  Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is set in Mississippi, no surprise to those who used this expression to learn how to spell the state's name.  It's not just that the town of Chabot and its traditions and biases seem real.  It's that you can feel every bit of mud on your shoe and the thick humidity might as well surround you as the characters.  

There are books that give you the buzz of a city or roar of the shore, but there is something about the south, and Margaret Maron and Tom Franklin have nailed it.
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Check out Elaine's web page, look at online classes, or sign up for her newsletter.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Reviews Galore

I have been submitting "Appraisal for Murder" to a number of web sites that do book reviews.  It takes awhile.  In the meantime, I decided that I should also review some that I've read.  I usually just put a couple of sentences, but I'm now aiming for a few hundred words.  I'm posting on Amazon and (when I remember) on BN.  One of the reviews is of Garrison Keillor's Pontoon.  I loved it -- set in Lake Woebegone, which of course we hear about every week on Prairie Home Companion on NPR.  If you go to any review I've done you have the choice of seeing other reviews I've done.  I'm going to review a couple of the books in Laura Barrett's Booktown Mystery series.  Onward and upward.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

First time blogger at what age?!

I have long been a writer, but have never blogged.  It took me a couple years to get a Facebook account, and I still prefer email -- faster and fewer distractions.  Now that I have "retired" I am publishing more of what I write, and would love to have people read my books or articles.  Does that happen if you sit in a home office and keep the cat off the laptop keyboard (which kitty believes is her electric blanket)?  Nope. 

So, here I sit with not a clue about how to use a blog to my advantage and willing to learn.  Did I mention I can't update my web site because the host site (Yahoo) no longer allows Microsoft Front Page?  Learning new software for the web site and creating a blog?  Yikes.