Humble brag: I’m honored and pleased to be featured today on the Prime Time section of News Works, the blog for WHYY, Philadelphia’s PBS station. My thanks to writer Stacia Friedman for doing such a good job distilling the essence of my ramblings. (And for introducing me to such a good veggie Chinese restaurant.) And to photographer Emma Lee for spending so much time trying to figure out how to make staring at a laptop monitor look dynamic.
Check out my new guest blog, hosted by Lesley Diehl, “author of cozy mysteries featuring sassy, country gals who enjoy snooping,” at http://www.lesleyadiehl.com/blog. Lesley asked, “What’s so funny about murder?” My answer: “Humor is subjective.”
Today’s guest blogger is fellow Oak Tree Press author Janet Greger, who writes as J. L. Greger. Although she is no longer a professor in biology at the University of Wisconsin, Janet likes to include tidbits of science in her medical thrillers/mysteries, Coming Flu, Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, Ignore the Pain, and Malignancy.
At the beginning Malignancy, men disguised as police officers shoot at Sara Almquist twice in one day. The real police suspect Jim Mazzone, a drug czar who has tangled with Sara before, will order more hits on Sara. Thus when colleagues in the State Department invite Sara to arrange scientific exchanges between the U.S. and Cuba, she jumps at the chance to get out of town and to see the mysterious Xave Zack, who rescued her in Bolivia. Maybe, she should question their motives.
Janet’s two great passions are Bug and travel. Bug is her Japanese Chin and the inspiration for the Bug in her novels. She’s included her travels to Bolivia and Cuba in Ignore the Pain and Malignancy. When she’s not traveling, Bug and she live in the American Southwest.
You can visit her website at www.jlgreger.com.
On Janet’s previous visit to my blog, April 17, 2013, her post was titled “Eat! Eat! Die! Die!” and discussed her then newly published book Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, not a new method way to slim down. On this, her return visit, she is discussing the process she uses to avoid “bad” words in her latest book to feature the sisters, Malignancy. And once again, her title “Avoid Ten ‘Bad’ Words” is a bit misleading.
I admit I use all ten of these words. But they’re not what you’re thinking. For the words you’re probably guessing, you’d have to check out Talk Dirty Yiddish. For Janet’s list of taboo words, read just about any novel.
Avoid Ten “Bad” Words
Get your mind out of the gutter! I’m not talking about curse words. I mean the words many of us use too much. These words add blandness and not clarity to our writing.
My thriller Malignancy was published in October. That means I’ve spent the summer and early fall editing the adventures of my heroine epidemiologist Sara Almquist as she tries to escape the clutches of a drug lord and accepts a precarious assignment arranging scientific exchanges in Cuba. I guess all Sara’s risky behaviors put me in the mood to be foolish enough to “give” advice on editing.
The “bad” words are: that, just, very, really, still, some, perhaps, maybe, which, and since. What words do you want to add to the list?
When I finish the first draft of a novel, I like to tidy the draft up a bit before I edit the text for gaps in logic, bungled time sequences, and unnecessary characters.
I do a “find and replace mission” that includes the following steps.
- Eliminate my “bad” words. I think the “Find” option in the Window’s Edit list is my best friend during this process.
- Convert sentences from a passive into an active voice.
- Replace weak verbs with action verbs.
- Change run on sentences spliced with a comma into two sentences or one sentence spliced appropriately.
- Find “-ing” words and evaluate their usage.
- Look for common misspellings missed by Spell Check, such as form for from.
This process is a humbling experience and keeps me from rhapsodizing about my “beautiful prose.” Then I look for gaps in logic.
I start with the easiest task first. I reduce the number of named characters. Any name, mentioned less than ten times in a manuscript, I delete completely or at least eliminate the character’s name. Now I’m a bit contrary on this point. Some authors reduce the number of named characters in their books so much, I know who the villain is after the first thirty pages because he or she is the only extraneous named character. In other words, I like a few “red herrings” in my books.
I check time sequences. I can’t be the only author who discovers Character A knows something before it occurs. At this point, I often delay or reduce clues to sharpen the suspense in my thrillers.
I repeat the find and replace mission (mentioned above) because gremlins creep in and reinsert problems.
As I do second, third, and fourth edits of the novel, I look at manuscript in different ways. My dog Bug thinks I’m being strange when I read dialog out loud, but it helps me smooth out conversations.
After I think the manuscript looks pretty good, I print it out. I always find hundreds of points that I didn’t notice on the computer screen.
Next I send the manuscript to a professional editor. Then I pray that together we’ll catch all the errors, but know I’ll probably catch more errors when I read the galley for my novel. Somehow errors not obvious in my typed manuscript glare at me from the printed galley.
Now it’s your turn. What do you look for when editing your work? I hope you’ll read Malignancy, and find I did a good job of editing it.
In honor of Chanukah (starting the evening of Dec. 16), CHANUKAH GUILT is only 99¢ on Kindle for 2 weeks (today to Dec. 23).
Now there’s no excuse for not buying the 2nd edition if you already have the 1st. And you get the bonus of a rewrite that allowed for appending an alternate solution.
When I first began to work as a spiritual support counselor for Samaritan Healthcare and Hospice, I was given a piece of advice that turned out to be all too accurate: When planning your visit schedule, figure on at least an hour more than you think you will need for each patient.
On October 20, I posted a blog here about a new/old book I planned to have up on Kindle, and possibly as a self-pubbed print book, by Chanukah. That’s Chanukah, 2014. That’s Chanukah, 2014, beginning on October 16, 2014. Not 2015.
The book is old in that a proposal for it, complete with outline and sample answers to sample questions, has been lurking on my laptop’s “ISS/Writing/Books” folder since around 2008. It’s new in that it has never been published in any format.
I figured I had plenty of time. The five weeks until December 1 should be enough time, I thought, even though I’d be spending two days with friends from my old neighborhood and another week in California. It’ll be easy and quick to finish the book, format it for Kindle and CreateSpace, do promo, and watch it shoot up in sales.
I was delusional, and not just about the sales projections. My self-imposed deadline was the worst miscalculation I’d made since I volunteered the end of last February to compile and edit Recipes by the Book: Oak Tree Authors Cook! “How long could it take to put together a cookbook?” I thought. “A couple of weeks?” Sure, that’s all it took, if “five months” is equal to “a couple of weeks.” And it’s still awaiting publication. (The formatting is more complicated than the publisher anticipated. At least, I’m guessing that’s the reason for the delay. Plus it’s probably at the bottom of the to-be-released list, below all the other terrific books OTP releases.)
The first problem became apparent as soon as I opened the file for the first time in six years. I discovered I had not answered as many sample questions as I had remembered.
Fortunately, I enjoy research. Unfortunately, I enjoy research. “That looks interesting,” I think as I click on a hyperlink. Which leads to another hyperlink. And another. Which leads to two hours of research that boils down to a two-sentence answer.
I subscribe to the philosophy of Matt Groening in School is Hell: “The simple way to avoid the stomach-churning agony of having to finish your thesis: read another book; repeat when necessary.” Substitute “book” for “thesis.” (Have I ever mentioned it took me ten years to finish my doctoral dissertation? Maybe I shouldn’t have had Groening’s “advice” taped to my computer monitor.)
So, when will the book, titled Why Nine Candles For Chanukah? Answers to Questions You NeverThought to Ask, be done? Maybe by next week. That will still give me a week until Chanukah starts. Or maybe in two weeks, during Chanukah.
Or there’s always 2015.
In the meantime, I just found another fascinating link. Ooh, and look at all the Chanukah songs on YouTube!
On the Oak Tree Press blog: some of my thoughts about Bouchercon.
I don’t know how Marilyn Meredith does it. She must be channeling the Energizer Bunny. She never stops. As an octogenarian, she’s still writing, publishing, promoting. And traveling (but not as much as before). And being an active participant in her church. And spending as much time as she can with her multi-generational family. I can barely post a blog entry monthly, but she goes on “blog tours” and posts one a day for a full month. Today her 28th stop is here, with a short piece about a legend that appears in her Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. (Did I mention that she writes two series?)
This is Marilyn’s third appearance here. On March 8, 2013, as F.M. Meredith, she wrote about why she uses a pen name for her Rocky Bluff P.D. series. (I told you she writes more than one series.) On her return visit on October 16, 2013, she asked “Where Is Bear Creek?” the setting of her Deputy Tempe Crabtree series.
Marilyn is the author of over thirty-five published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest of which is River Spirits, from Mundania Press, and the Rocky Bluff P. D. series. She is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/
See at the end for info. about how you win the chance to name a character in her next book or a free book. Also, there are links for purchasing River Spirits, and one for tomorrow’s blog tour stop.
I wish I knew how she does it.
THE HAIRY MAN
This is the third time the Hairy Man has made an appearance in a Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.
Like the real Painted Rock site which is located on the Tule River Indian Reservation, pictographs of the Hairy Man can be found in the Painted Rock site on my fictional Bear Creek Indian Reservation. The legend of the Hairy Man is popular with the local Yokut Indians. He is described as “a creature that is like a giant with long shaggy hair” similar to the description of Big Foot.
The Indians have many stories and legends that include the Hairy Man. The modern belief of the Hairy Man in the Tule River Indian’s culture is that he is a spiritual, physical and mental protector of the tribe. To see the Hairy Man is to be blessed. He is also considered to be the guide for the recently dead.
Though I’ve never seen the Hairy Man, I’ve heard tales about those who have. I’ve had the privilege to visit the Painted Rock site and to view the pictographs of the Hairy Man and his family.
When I write about events that happen on the fictional reservation, it only seems fitting that the Hairy Man just might make his presence known.
While filming a movie on the Bear Creek Indian Reservation, the film crew trespasses on sacred ground, threats are made against the female stars, a missing woman is found by the Hairy Man, an actor is murdered and Deputy Tempe Crabtree has no idea who is guilty. Once again, the elusive and legendary Hairy Man plays an important role in this newest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.
How to Purchase River Spirits:
From the publisher, all formats:
Contest: The winner will be the person who comments on the most blog posts during the tour.
He or she can either have a character in my next book named after them, or choose an earlier book in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series—either a paper book or e-book.
Tomorrow you can read a review of River Spirits at http://thebookconnection.blogspot.com/