Monday, September 1, 2014

Off the Bookshelf: LADY OF SPIRIT, by Shelley Adina

And so, we come to the end (wah!) of Shelley Adina's Steampunk adventures.

But only the "end" temporarily -- this is the most recent one. I'm waiting eagerly for the next installment of the adventures of Lady Claire and her gang of alley mice.

In LADY OF SPIRIT, we have Maggie's adventure into discovery of who she really is. In the previous book, we learned Maggie and Lizzie weren't twins, as everyone thought them (different hair and eyes, but otherwise identical) but rather cousins -- daughters of sisters, born within weeks of each other. Lizzie had some disappointment -- and danger -- when she met her father, but resolved the problem in true Lizzie fashion, with some help from Lady Claire. Now, the sister/cousins journey to meet their grandparents ... and things are definitely not what they seem. Poor Maggie is given several different stories of who her father might be, and finds her grandparents punishing her for a crime she didn't commit. And what's worse, her grandparents maintain a crime was committed by and against her mother, and they're punishing her for that, too. Villains from previous books show up with even more incredible gadgets -- submarines, anyone? -- and some sinister plots are foiled and lives nearly sacrificed before the satisfying ending.

Umm, excuse me, Shelley, but could you WRITE FASTER? More, please!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Spotlight Saturday: RIDING BABYFACE, by Wanda Snow Porter

Today's Spotlight is on a fellow author at Desert Breeze Publishing, with her newest release:

RIDING BABYFACE

More than anything, fourteen-year-old Winna Beckman wants a horse, unaware when she gets one, riding Babyface will teach her about life, love, and true friendship.

Wanda Snow Porter lives on California's beautiful central coast. She enjoys being a grandmother, volunteering at Rancho Nipomo's historic Dana Adobe, bird watching, and photography. She grew up in a small town riding horseback on land once part of an old Mexican rancho. An avid horsewoman, she has owned and trained horses all her life, learned the vaquero way of riding, and earned a Bronze Medal Rider's Award from the United States Dressage Federation. A life spent with horses inspired her to write stories. She has written and illustrated the Burro Picture Book Series published by the Dana Adobe Nipomo Amigos, and is the author of three YA novels: Riding Babyface,Spurs for Jose, and Remedy.

Look for her online:
Website page: http://www.wandasnowporter.com/ 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Letters to Kel: WHOSE RULES? MASTER THE RULES BEFORE YOU BREAK THEM.

I have a "co-worker" who is driving me nuts -- or at least, driving me to empty my chocolate stash.

"Co-worker" is in quotes because while we do work for the same self-publishing company, we've never met, and I don't even know his/her name. (I'm going to say "her" from this point on.) When I receive books to edit, her assessment of the book comes with it, including recommendations for the level of editing and what needs fixing.

GRRRRRRR! I just want to reach through the assessment and throttle her sometimes. She insists on rules that honestly make no sense. "Paragraphs should ALWAYS be between 7 and 10 lines." "NEVER start a sentence with a conjunction -- rewrite all sentences that start with 'and' and 'but' so they read properly." And more statements like that, which don't make any sense when I actually read the book and catch the rhythm and flavor and STYLE of the author's voice. See, that's the thing -- those "corrections" she demands will change the author's voice. And I just think that's wrong. (See? I started a sentence with a conjunction, and I solemnly swear no lightning bolt came down from the sky and hit my fingers on the keyboard.) I had a publisher who applied business rules of writing to fiction, and that just didn't work. She insisted ellipses were "illegal" and took them out of dialogue where "..." indicated someone was trailing off and hadn't finished the sentence/thought. ("I don't know," she said, "what if ..." turned into. "I don't know," she said, "what if." Huh???) It looked stupid and made no sense -- but she insisted ellipses were illegal. Yeah, in the business world, but not in fiction!

Paragraphs need to be as long -- or as short -- as necessary to suit the rhythm, the feel, the voice of the piece. Paragraphs need to be long enough to complete their purpose. Some paragraphs are only one sentence long -- they are short to put emphasis on a statement. Some paragraphs fill up the whole page, maybe two pages, until they convey the image the writer wants to create or the information the author needs to convey. Don't break a thought apart into multiple pieces just because you've reached the maximum number of sentences some self-appointed arbiter of "rightness" has declared.

Granted, when you're in school and your teacher gives you guidelines to follow, you DO follow them -- and when you're writing for a publisher, you follow their guidelines. I have a publisher who does not want sentences to start with "and" or "but," and I comply. But if I'm writing for my own purposes and for other publishers, I don't have to follow that publisher's rules.

Sentences start with conjunctions to put EMPHASIS on something. Starting the writing journey, you need to learn the rules until you figure out how words work together, what function they perform in the sentence, and how to modify them -- just like when you set out across country, you refer to a map or use a GPS so you reach your destination. BUT, once you learn how to make the words work together, then you can break those rules to make your point, just like you can discard the maps once you are familiar with the route and surrounding countryside.

You have to learn the rules and prove you have mastered them before you can break them. How do I know? Some of the biggest-selling authors break the rules all the time, but they keep selling. (And every time I insist on rules for beginning writers, they always point to those authors. "But Nora ... But Stephen ... But Amanda ..." Yeah, well, when you sell as well as they do, then you can write your way.) Figure skaters have compulsive routines -- specific sequences of moves they have to perform in competition. Then they have routines where they can make up the sequences, but still include all the moves required. If they do what they want and ignore the requirements, they get scored low and even penalized. They have to do the required routines to prove they know what they are doing. You have to know how to skate, what works and what doesn't and what will get you a broken leg, before you can start making up fancy moves and tricks, right?

Same with writing. Prove you know what you're doing, and then people will trust you to try tricks that nobody else is using.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Off the Bookshelf: LADY OF RESOURCES by Shelley Adina

The fifth book in Shelley Adina's Magnificent Devices series is just as much fun as the previous four -- even if she does shift the focus from Lady Claire to the Mopsies.

What can I say? Lots of fun, and opening lots of doors for more stories, and the ability to keep adventuring with characters you've come to love. What more could a reader want?

This time, Lizzie is the heroine. Five years have passed since Claire met and saved the life of Baron Zeppelin and had the opportunities of her dreams handed to her as a reward. The Mopsies, twin sisters Lizzie and Maggie, have profited as well. They are now well-rounded, educated young ladies, graduating from their form at school at the same time Claire is graduating from the university.

Into their life comes a somewhat shady, wealthy man who offers Lizzie answers to some rather large questions from her past: How did she and her sister, at age 5, end up in the Thames with no memories before that night? Where did they come from? Who are their parents? When Lizzie meets the man, strange and disturbing memories start haunting her dreams. She gains some answers and her true identity, but to her dismay she may be forced to leave Maggie behind.

Fear not, all is not lost. Lady Claire comes to the rescue, and the girls' resourcefulness and cleverness and common sense attitudes stand them in good stead. The next book is Maggie's adventure, as she also has a chance to learn who she really is, where she fits into the world and society. Keep reading!!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Spotlight Saturday: STRANGER ON MY LAND, by Sandra Merville Hart

Today's Spotlight is on a fellow member of ACFW Ohio: Sandra Merville Hart, and her new Civil War romance, A STRANGER ON MY LAND.

Carrie and her little brother, Jay, find a wounded soldier on their land after a battle which later became known as "The Battle Above the Clouds." Adam, a Union soldier, has been shot twice in the arm. Though Carrie is reluctant to take Adam to their cave where her family hides their livestock from both armies, she cannot turn her back on him. 

But her Aunt Lavinia, bitter over what Yankees have done to their land, urges Carrie to allow Adam to die. Carrie refuses, but cannot remove the bullets. Adam's friendship with Jay softens her heart toward him. It's not long until his gratitude and teasing manner spark a friendship between the young couple. Even though Carrie's father fights for the Confederacy in far-off Virginia, her feelings for the handsome young soldier begin to blossom into love.

When Adam's condition worsens, Carrie knows a Union surgeon is needed to save his life. How can she accomplish this and keep her family's hiding place a secret?

Sandra Merville Hart loves to find unusual facts in her historical research to use in her stories. She and her husband enjoy traveling to many of the sites in her books to explore the history. She serves as Assistant Editor for DevoKids.com where she contributes articles about history and holidays. She has written for several publications and websites including The Secret Place, Harpstring, Splickety Magazine, Pockets Magazine, Common Ground, Afictionado, and ChristianDevotions.us. Her inspirational Civil War novella, A Stranger on My Land, released on August 21.    

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Letters to Kel: PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH WHILE YOU'RE PREACHING

You know what really ticks me off?

Writing books or articles on writing where the authors make mistakes.

Honestly, how can I consider using their advice on solving my writing problems when they can't handle the simple things, like sticking with the subject, keeping verb tense consistent, keeping plurals consistent, and using proper grammar? Or what's worse -- because it's so visible -- being inconsistent with punctuation.

Who do we blame? The author, who made the original mistakes? Or can we pass it off on the copy editor or the typesetter, who thought there were errors and went in and made changes without permission, without checking with someone -- and then didn't make changes consistently throughout? The biggest ones (and they drive me NUTS!) come from this new fashion of putting punctuation OUTSIDE of quote marks. (I don't care if Jeopardy does it that way, it's still WRONG and SLOPPY!) Honestly, where did that come from? Sure, they use it in some countries in Europe, and my publisher in Australia insists on periods and commas being outside quote marks when I'm referring to titles of books and records and things like that, but seriously? Putting exclamation points and question marks outside of quote marks when it's DIALOGUE? And the copy editor let it go through.

Or an author says, "try and figure out ..." Excuse me, there is no "try and" there is only "try to." If you "try and do" something, then there are TWO verbs in that sentence. What are you trying, and what are you doing? NO, you are trying TO do something. Honestly, what is wrong with these people, that they think they can teach me to make my writing better when they're making mistakes that only beginners can get away with -- and hopefully, ideally, not for long?

Or people putting apostrophes in front of the s when they make something plural? Excuse me, but the last time I checked, an apostrophe-s combination meant POSSESSIVE, not plural. NO!! A thousand times (not time's) NO!

Or how about this? "The car full of balloons were flying around the corner." What is flying around the corner? The car, not the balloons. Do I have to diagram the sentence for you, so you know what is acting, and what word the verb is applied to? "The car (full of balloons) WAS flying around the corner." And yet I see gaffs like this in articles from writing teachers.

It's no wonder the books I edit come to me so full of stupid mistakes -- the examples the public sees every day teach them the wrong way to do it. Come on, writers -- we're the guardians of language. Do your job!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Off the Bookshelf: BRILLIANT DEVICES, by Shelley Adina

The fourth book in Shelley Adina's Steampunk adventures of Lady Claire starts off with a bang -- the ramshackle airship she is traveling in has major mechanical problems.

No fears. Lady Claire and her band of intrepid companions fix the problem with more ingenuity and brilliance and head off -- finally -- to civilization. There are chores to take care of, including that pesky problem of letting the world know, once again, that she isn't dead. In Edmonton, Claire and company are reunited with their noble, powerful friends and continue on their planned route -- which includes a trip far north to diamond mines and Eskimo (excuse me, Esquimaux) villages.

But all is not well. Sabotage and assassination attempts and social reform all congeal together into an explosive mess. Readers get to meet semi-historical characters, and Claire is caught between two young men determined to win her heart. Plus there's the fun and heartbreak of rough-and-ready Alice trying to learn to fit into high society while struggling to find her father, who vanished years ago.

The only downer in this story? The note from the author that she plans to start writing the adventures of Claire's alley mice companions. (Waaaah!) Never fear, the Lady is still in the stories, she just isn't on camera all the time. Let's hope that the Mopsies are just as clever, independent and full of adventure as their intrepid guardian. (Have I mentioned I really love this series?)