Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Happy Birthday Giveaway

Hello, good people of the blogosphere! Happy Tuesday, and happy early birthday to me! Well, I'm a year older as of this coming Saturday. No, I'm not telling you how old I'll be. I got an awesome birthday gift already from The Best Husband in the World (TBHITW). So, because he's awesome, I'm giving you all a gift for my birthday. Exciting, huh?

What's up for grabs?

A couple of the e-books I've reviewed this year, and an e-copy of my novels: The Bird and I, Zombie.

Which books am I including? These (that I gave five brilliant stars to):




Check out the reviews for these books here on the blog:
Sanctuary
Falling for Autumn
Sir Edric's Temple
The Bestiarum Vocabulum
Chasing Shadows

So, get on your entry wagon and let your fingers do the clicking!

Rafflecopter will run until the Tuesday after my birthday (through 7/29/14).

Good luck to you all!

If you missed them, check out the great giveaways going over on INDIE Books Gone Wild this week. I'll have another one for you over there tomorrow, too! You'll want to enter this one and tomorrow's. There's a book in the other one that goes with one of the ones shown above.

Here's what you've been waiting for!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Did you enter? Are you super excited yet?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sleep - A Short Story

Happy Monday, good people of the blogosphere! Did you have an awesome weekend? I know I did. I'm rip-roaring and ready to go. Today, I'm gonna write you a short story. Keep in mind this is unedited and right out of my fingers onto the page (I'm just trying to entertain you today). So, grab a cup of something, cozy up, and let's get going!

Sleep

As my senses roused, I tried to force them back to the beautiful dreams I was enjoying a moment before.
Ping!
Ping!
I felt my skin tighten as my ears adjusted themselves on my head. That sound...
Giving my head a shake, I stretched my arms over my head and swayed my back as I pointed my toes. Energy flowed into me from either end of my body with the motion. No more pinging sounds assaulted my senses, and I lay there with my eyes closed for another moment.
I took a deep breath, letting the air flow in and out of my nose; cleansing me, and leaving me prepared to take on the world one more time.
One eye popped open.
Blue liquid filled my vision, and I could see a faint, distorted reflection of myself in what seemed like glass. Another round of oxygen passed through my lungs, and my other eye opened. I slammed my eyelids down against the harsh light emanating from the cerulean.
I flattened out my hands and ran them down my throat, over my torso, and around my thighs.
My skin was softer than I remembered.
Ping!
Ping!
Damn that sound. I knew what it was but couldn't place it. Where had I heard it before?
Again, I pushed it away, concentrating on the feel of my fingers on my belly. I traced small circles, sending chills down my arms. My toes curled until cramps began in my calves. Slowly, I forced my body to relax.
Mondays always felt like the beginning of the end of the world. I thought of Garfieldthe fat, orange, loveable cat from the comic stripand identified with his loathing. Yes, Mondays were bad news.
"What's she doing?" A man's voice interrupted my procrastination.
Smooth as silk on freshly shaven skin, a woman's tone met my ears in response to his question. "She always does this. Ever since we activated her. Dim her light."
Activated.
Who were those people?
What did she mean by "activated"?
My eyes popped open once again, the vivid color surrounding me causing me to blink rapidly while my pupils adjusted.
I moved my hands to cover my nakedness. Why were there people in my room?
Ping!
Ping!
And what the hell was that noise?
Once my eyes and the light adjusted, allowing me a full view of my room, I felt my jaw fall open and gagged on the warm water that swirled into my mouth.
Computer monitors winked back at me from every inch of the space. A low hum vibrated the viscous liquid surrounding me, causing miniscule waves to pass through my field of vision. Oatmeal with blueberries was the flavor on my tongue when the liquid poured in. There was no odor, only the blue gel filling my nose.
Brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, blue eyes, and the diminutive features of a doll appeared before me.
"Good morning, Layla. I hope you had a nice weekend. We gave you some beach dreams to keep you calm. Did you sleep well?"
Like a jackhammer pounding information into my head, memories returned full force.
Falling.
Duke...
The Cliffs of Insanity.
A million knives stabbed into my heart and sent pain all the way to my toes.
I remembered why I was there.
Inhaling, I stared back at Sherry. "I slept well, thank you. So well, I forgot where I was."
Her laughter filled my ears over the roar of anguish for my loss. "Monday's are a bitch, aren't they?"
"Yes, they are." My words echoed around the room from the speakers outside my box.
Ping!
Ping!
"Would you mind turning off my alarm clock?"
She smiled and waved a hand in that direction; her assistant running to do her bidding. "How are you feeling today?"
I wanted so badly to smile back, but the corners of my mouth refused to cooperate. Looking through Sherry at my reflection on the far wall, I felt and saw my traitorous lips turn down. My black hair swirled around my face, blending with the wires attached to my head. A sob caught in my throatwhat was left of it, anywayand I closed my eyes again. "I'm great. Thank you for asking." I pulled my eyes away from the mirror. "What's on our agenda for today?"
Her yellow legal pad snapped to attention in her hand, and she peered down at it. "It looks like we'll be hooking you up to another person. He should be here momentarily."
I wanted to scream at her and punch the glass. They shouldn't be allowed to do this to people. But, what the government wants, it gets. That doesn't make it humane.
"Ah! Here they are now." Shelly's heels sounded like tennis balls in a tournament of champions as she ran to the door and punched in her code.
My breath caught in my throat, and my eyes strained to see what the newcomers were bringing in.
Over the threshold came the most beautiful man I'd ever seen. His hair was short, his eyes were a brilliant sea-blue, and his wires were the perfect compliment of orange.
He stared, and we shared something for a stolen moment. Finally, his lips turned up and parted to reveal perfectly white, straight teeth.
Unable to contain my excitement, I felt my mouth copy his.
This was my eternal partner. Suddenly, being in my box didn't seem so bad.
My only regret was that I would never be able to touch him.

~ The End

What did you think? Did you get it?

Click here to see the image and find out if you were right.

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dialogue - Keeping it Fresh

Happy Friday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, I'm talking with you about dialogue again. I started writing this post yesterday, but life took over and killed it. Ha! Great how that works, isn't it? But! The kids go back to school soon, so things around the blog will settle down as they were before. Anyway, today we're gonna talk about keeping your dialogue fresh for readability and comprehension. I'll also give you a little exercise to do afterward. Grab those pens and notebooks and let's get going!

Let's start with things you shouldn't do.
  • Make every line of dialogue begin the same way.
  • Break several lines of dialogue in a row with an action.
  • Confuse your dialogue tags with action tags.
  • Make everyone sound the same.
In keeping your writing fresh, you want to use dialogue, action, and dialect in a way that keeps them harmonious.

Example time!

Shouldn't do:
Pat elbowed her way through the crowd. "Can you believe how many people are here?"
I grabbed her hand before leaning toward her ear. "It's always like this on Friday night!"
Lucy made her way to us and joined the circle. "I'm so excited to be here! I can't believe our parents let us come."
I put my free hand on her shoulder. "This is once in a lifetime, kid."
Music pumped through the speakers, and my insides rattled.

Better:
Pat elbowed her way through the crowd. "Can you believe how many people are here?"
"It's always" someone jostled me, and I grabbed Pat's hand to lean toward her ear "like this on Friday night!"
Lucy made her way to us. "I'm so excited to be here, y'all! I can't believe our parents let us come." Her eyes sparkled.
"This is once in a lifetime, kid," I said.
Music pumped through the speakers, and my insides rattled.

Frequent name restatement is often necessary when there are several people in a discussion. Watch your pronouns. Let's look at one more example; then I'll turn you loose with an exercise.

Shouldn't do:
"I wanted to go to the store with Mommy," Lisa whined.
Her father's mouth turned down. He said, "You didn't want to stay with me?"
She crossed her arms and shook her head.
"I thought maybe we could play your favorite," he said, pulling out Chutes and Ladders.
She clapped her hands and said, "Yay! Yes, Daddy. I want to play."
"But you wanted to go to the store with Mommy," he teased.
"I was just kidding," she said.
He roared with laughter.

Better:
"I wanted to go to the store with Mommy." Lisa threw her tiny figure face-down on the couch.
Her father frowned. "You don't want to stay with me?"
She rolled over, crossed her arms, and shook her head.
"I thought maybe we could play your favorite," he said.
When Lisa saw the Chutes and Ladders game in his hands, she clapped. "Yay! Yes, Daddy. I wanna play."
"But you wanted to go to the store with Mommy."
"I was just kidding."
He roared with laughter.

Not only is the second passage easier to read, it's correctly punctuated. Remember to ditch the dialogue tag when giving the character an action. If you use a dialogue tag, there should be no action. Change it up so it doesn't get stale. No one wants to read: he said, she said, he said, he said, she said over and over again.

Time for your exercises!

#1:
Write a few quick paragraphs of dialogue with four characters: Paul, Mike, Anna, and Frank. Start each sentence the same way, pay no attention to punctuation, and no attention to pronoun usage.

Use the tips above and this post to correct your writing. Feel free to send it to me if you want someone to check it.

#2:
Using the ideas above, craft one line of dialogue for each of the following:
  1. Starts with an action, ends with dialogue.
  2. Uses a dialogue tag at the beginning.
  3. Uses a dialogue tag at the end.
  4. Break the dialogue with an action.
  5. Stars with dialogue, ends with action.
  6. No dialogue tag; no action tag.
  7. Interrupted speech (remember your em-dash!)
  8. Trailing off of speech (don't forget the ellipsis!)
  9. Starts with action, then has dialogue, then another action
You may feel free to post your attempts in the comments below.

What do you think? Helpful?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Paperback Giveaway - Not Born Here: Stories from Marsden, NC

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I know you're all annoyed with me for missing posts lately. I promise, I'm working on getting my schedule in order. Kids go back to school at the beginning of August, and things will be a lot smoother around here. Not sure what I was thinking by moving, attending UtopYA Con 2014, and trying to keep my duties with IBGW up and running all at the same time, but I'll get there. Please bear with me through this difficult time.

Anywho, over on the IBGW blog, there's a giveaway going on for the book below:

Title: Not Born Here: Stories from Marsden, N.C.
Author: Dennis Sinar
Genre: Fiction/Short Stories
Length (print): 196 pages
Buy Links: Amazon Kindle $4.99  ~  Paperback $8.99

Synopsis:
A collection of short stories about a fictional Southern town, Marsden N.C. Humor, foibles and heartwarming stories make the town real and the inhabitants memorable characters. The characters move through their days in a small town a daughter learns a secret about her dead mother, women goes through the stages of love, hopeful, love found and just as quickly lost. Roger learns something new about his wife's Jimmylegs and offers fine points on judging a chili competition.

~

This giveaway is being sponsored by the fabulous Tia Silverthorne Bach of INDIE Books Gone Wild. If you want to enter to win a copy, do so here on the IBGW blog.

Sounds like a great collection. I'm off to grab a copy for myself!

If you haven't joined the IBGW mailing list, I urge you to do so. You'll get these great giveaways in your e-mail inbox. We don't spam, and you'll only be contacted by us when we have a promotion going on. Hey, you're guaranteed a well edited read if you win!

Sign up here.

What do you think? Did you enter?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Review - The Crossroads of Time

Happy Friday! Wow. Here we are again at the end of yet another week. I have a second book review for you today. This one I proofread a while back, and I think you're gonna enjoy the heck out of it. It was something new and different to sink my teeth into, and I found myself enjoying the story very much as I made comments and learned some new things. There's also a cool giveaway of this title after the review. Without further ado, let's get going!

As always, I'm gonna begin with information about the book up for review today.

Title: The Crossroads of Time
Author: Rhonda Denise Johnson
Genre: African American Urban and Historical Fiction
Length (print): 292 pages
Buy Links: Amazon Kindle $9.95   ~   Paperback $8.96

Synopsis:
Chloe loves to listen to music, but when the music starts listening to her, she begins to wonder. Try as she might, she can’t dismiss the strange things happening in her life as mere coincidence. Could some spirit be trying to send her a message? She tries to live a normal life as a student at California State University, but the more she tries, the more bizarre her life become. From the moment Chloe consults a Candombl√© priestess to find out what’s what, the events in her life spin from uncanny to numinous.

As her visions become more corporeal, Chloe gets literally swept out of her twenty-first century Los Angeles world in the stormy vortex of Oya, the African Orisha of the wind. Oya takes Chloe on a journey through time that throws her into the world of Ayodele, her ninteenth century ancestor on a Virginia tobacco plantation.

Both women share dreams of achieving more in life than is expected of them as women and as African Americans. At the Crossroads they must decide which costs more, struggling to fulfill their dreams or letting them die—and which price are they willing to pay?

**Will not appear in review elsewhere.  I have to say, the cover doesn't give you any glimpse of the awesome inside. You all know I'm a cover junkie, so I'd like to see this one meld more with the genre.**

Now on to the good stuff!

I proofread The Crossroads of Time and loved the heck out of it. Ms. Johnson brings her characters to life on the page, and showed me a world beyond the one I'd known my whole life. My Kindle now holds a copy for me, because I bought it when it went live. Getting the chance to look inside someone else is one of the reasons I read. How many lives can I live? Well, this novel didn't disappoint. Let's move on to the review so I can tell you what I mean.

From a Reader's Perspective:
I learned a lot reading this book. From the beliefs of the Candomblé religion, to the meaning of dance and drums in African religion. One of my favorite things about being a reader of fiction is picking up new facts or tidbits of information buried in the story. I got a lot of that in this book. Chloe is a modern day college student, struggling between what she wants and what her family wants for her. Ayodele is from Chloe's family history and is struggling with the threat of losing her identity as she's enslaved for hard labor. Both women were beautifully drawn, and I felt their indecision and desire to be more than those around them. I love strong female characters, and this story has plenty of those to whet my appetite. Sure, there are men, but they play supporting roles, fading into the background of the central plot. I liked that the author didn't feel a need to bring everyone to the forefront. World building and descriptions of the goings-on of the religious groups in the book were well drawn, sucking me right in.

From an Editor's Perspective:
I didn't like that the book walked through so many POVs. It didn't do anything for the plot, and I left the book not even remembering one of the names. Of course, grammar and punctuation should be spot on from the proofread, but there were some minor syntax errors (repetition of ideas) that I picked up on here and there. All in all, not too bad.

Rating:
1 Star for teaching me a lot of interesting things
1 Star for the strong female leads, Chloe and Ayodele
1 Star for world building
.5 Star for ease of reading
-.5 Star for repetitive phrases
.5 Star for flow
-.5 Star for so many POVs
Overall, 4 out of 5 stars. A book that will lock you in and keep you reading well into the night. Recommended to fans of both historical fiction and strong female leads.

Time for the Rafflecopter form!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck, everyone!

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Reversal Word

Happy Thursday, good people of the blogosphere! As you can probably tell, I'm going into word reversal in novels today. What the heck am I talking about? Well, I'm not gonna beat around the bush. Grab your pens and notebooks, slurp up that coffee, and let's get going!

When I say word reversal, what I mean is using the difficult path to convey an idea to your reader. One of the things I do when I'm editing is check readability. Your words should flow for the eyeballs moving over the page. One of the acronyms I love is:

K. I. S. S.

It means: Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Never speak over your reader's head (we know you're smart, but making someone feel stupid isn't a good idea), and try not to reverse your words. If you do, be on the lookout for awkward sentences in your first round of edits.

Time for some examples!

Rob looked at me, and I inwardly cringed.

First off, you don't need that adverb. Taking it out would simplify the sentence and make it more reader friendly. But let's say we want to leave it in there. As an editor, I try to apply a lighter hand when suggesting changes. I'll suggest a blanket change to remove most of the adverbs when I run across the first one. Mentioning it again becomes cumbersome. If the author enjoys adverbs and I leave this sentence alone (thinking it'll be fixed later), I'm doing them a disservice. Why? Because it will read/flow better if the action precedes the modifier. That's my job. There are two possible fixes if we leave in the adverb:

I cringed inwardly when Rob looked at me.
Rob looked at me, and I cringed inwardly.

Put the action first.

Here's another one that needs some rearranging:

I'd heard about the relationship being messed up between them, but I knew it wasn't also damaged on my side.

A small move will make a big difference. Like this:

I'd heard about the relationship being messed up between them, but I also knew it wasn't damaged on my side.

Make sense?

Yes, there's always more than one way to fix a sentence. Remember to KISS your reader, and you'll be fine.

When in doubt, read it out!

Do you ever catch yourself making those kinds of mistakes?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Book Review - happenstance

Happy Wednesday, good people of the blogosphere! Just two more days to grind through until we reach the start of the weekend. Awesomeness. I hope you all have big plans! Today, I'm bringing you another book review and a lovely giveaway in conjunction with IBGW. My review of the book in the giveaway will go live here next week. So, grab your coffee and a comfy chair, and let's get going!

As always, a little about the book I'm reviewing today:

Title: happenstance
Author: Jamie McGuire
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: About 100 pages
Buy Links: Amazon Kindle $2.99   ~   B&N $2.99

Synopsis:
#1 New York Times Bestseller Jamie McGuire returns to self-publishing with this page-turning YA account of Erin Easter, one of three Erins in the small senior class of rural Blackwell High School who not only share a first name, but also their birthday. Easter, raised by a neglectful single mom, keeps to herself and admires Weston Gates from afar. The other Erins, Erin "Alder" Alderman and Erin "Sonny" Masterson are the darlings of the community: daughters of the two wealthiest families in town, best friends, cheerleaders, and everything Easter isn't--and they never let her forget it. Alder has even claimed Weston since the 8th grade.

Weston is a well-liked star athlete, and the son of two prominent attorneys. He struggles daily with the pressures of living up to his family name and secretly empathizes with Easter's feeling that she belongs somewhere else; in a different life. Not until he begins sneaking nights out with Easter does he gain the courage to buck expectations and acknowledge his feelings ... both for his future, and for her.

A shocking tragedy rocks the tiny town, and Easter's life is turned upside down in the best way possible. But when the truth is revealed and everything she thinks she wanted falls into her lap, life only becomes more complicated.

**Will not appear in review elsewhere. I love the cover for this novella. It fits the story inside so well, I wanted to high-five Jamie for the awesomeness that calls out to lovers of the genre. Letter spacing, no caps, and the reflection of the flower are all explained in the pages.**

Let's get on to the good stuff, shall we?

I was perusing Jamie McGuire's Facebook page and saw she was releasing a new story. Novella. Right up my alley. I haven't had a lot of reading-for-pleasure time lately, but knew I'd be able to finish something this short in one sitting. Of course, I ran out to Amazon and one-clicked, curled up in my chair, and immersed myself in a great read for an hour or two. I'm not a huge lover of romance, but I was looking for something light and sweet, that wouldn't make me think too hard about the words on the page. Now you know why I picked it up, let's move to the review.

From a Reader's Perspective:
Okay, there are three girls named Erin. All were born on the same day (Easter). Because of this, the whole town gives them nicknames to tell them apart. Our MC is called Easter. Forget the nuttiness of the plot, and just go with it. Yeah, it's not reality, but we're reading fiction. Right? Okay, I'm all good with this. Cool setting/idea. At first, I wasn't sure I was going to like Easter. She grew on me as the story advanced. I'm reading about this girl who gets bullied in school (okay, typical, but all good, makes for a good plot), and I begin to see her strengths emerge as the tale winds around. Easter is an awesome chick. While she cries when bullied sometimes, she never lets her tormenters see it. By the end, I was fully in her corner and did a fist pump more than once as it all came to a head. You'll love the twist in this book if you take the story for what it is: A fun, light read that leaves fuzzy feelings in its wake.

From an Editor's Perspective:
Again, Ms. McGuire's editor gets a round of applause from me. I only found one error. Devil should have a capital first letter. Just like God, the Devil is a divine being. Other than that, it was a clean manuscript. Well done!

Rating:
1 Star for making Easter grow on me when I didn't think she would.
1 Star for making me despise the other Erins (the bullies)
1 Star for a truly feel-good story
1 Star for the twist I totally saw coming, but loved anyway
1 Star for lack of errors
Overall, 5 out of 5 stars! Highly recommended if you need a mental break and fluffy read sometime.

Now it's time for that Rafflecopter giveaway I told you about in the beginning!

This is for two Kindle copies of The Crossroads of Time by Rhonda Denise Johnson. Click here to read more about the book. Enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What do you think? Love Jamie McGuire? Gonna read this one?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo