Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I'm A Freak

No, I haven't gone off the deep end or dyed my hair to look like a rainbow snow cone. The title of this post refers to my stubborn nature to control. I might as well admit it.

"My name is Melissa and I'm a control freak."
"Hi, Melissa," comes a rippled murmur from the audience. 

Okay. So there's really just a lone cricket. I can pretend, right?  :P

I thought I'd open it up for comments today about how our love for our stories combined with our personality determines the amount of control we like to have over our writing and how that control affects both the way we process critiques and the choices we make when it comes time to publish. 

I must admit, this mix of protectiveness and stubbornness has not only made it hard for me to see reason with negative comments from my critters at times, but it has also been one of the driving forces behind me viewing indie and self publishing as more desirable than the traditional route. I'll readily admit I don't know everything there is to know about writing and publishing fiction, but I'm scared to give up too much control.

Have you considered how these things affect you? 
Have you given in to them or continued on in spite of them? 
Tell us what you think and how you cope.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Grammar Police Monday - Say what?

After getting nabbed for a usage error recently, I decided to do a few GPM posts on specific homophones that are commonly confused words. When we speak, such misuse may go unnoticed; but when we write, it's there in print for all the world to see. 

Let's start with the one I goofed.

Which is correct?
The man's hands were (calloused / callused) from years of work.
He has a (callous / callus) attitude toward the homeless.

In the first sentence, callused is correct, because it specifically refers to hardened places on the skin. In the second, it's callous. Even though callous means 'to harden,' it refers to an emotional state, meaning to be insensitive. 

Another mistake I made for years before becoming enlightened to the error of my ways was using the verb pour when I meant pore. You pour water from a pitcher into a glass, but if you are studying something intently, you're poring over it.

A thirdand one I was glad I looked up the other day before hitting send on an emailis annunciate. Actually, the word I wanted was enunciate. Though these two are related, they are not interchangeable. Annunciate means to announce, while enunciate means to say your words clearly. (Be sure to enunciate when you annunciate. :P)  And by the way, annunciate is not used much anymore. The word announce works just fine.

I hope you found this little dose of grammar usage helpful. Thanks for stopping by. :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Welcome Author Elaine D. Walsh

Three friends, two secrets, one lie, and the summer that changed their lives. 

Debut novel Atomic Summer explodes onto this summer’s must read book list June 21, 2012

In 1953, three teenage girls’ innocent conversations about what each of them would do if the end of the world were imminent, coupled with a friend’s obsession, become the catalyst for a prank that spins wildly beyond control and draws in an entire town. Left behind in the wake of that summer’s events are their unrealized dreams and open wounds. In 1973, a reunion trip to the small town of their youths returns them to the summer of 1953 and the passion and betrayal that changed their lives.

The world is ripe for destruction in 1953. The Korean War drags on and the Rosenbergs are executed as spies. Senator Joseph McCarthy convinces the country communists are infiltrating the government, and the threat of nuclear war festered in the collective consciousness of the nation. While Americans constructed backyard bomb shelters, the government conducted nuclear tests in the desert.

Women’s Fiction Author, Elaine D. Walsh, captures the anxiety of the times and draws the reader in with rich characters that linger longer after the story ends.

Today I'm pleased to introduce Women’s Fiction Author Elaine D. Walsh. Elaine grew up in upstate New York. She earned a degree in English from the State University of New York at Geneseo and enjoys a successful business career at a Fortune 100 company where her practical application of human performance technology has earned her professional awards and accolades. She resides in Florida and has called the Tampa Bay area home for over 20 years.

I'll turn it over to Elaine.

What was your inspiration for Atomic Summer?
The story came together kind of like the nostalgic commercial where someone with chocolate bumps into a person with a jar of peanut butter.  In the commercial, each person tastes the chocolate-peanut butter collision, their light bulbs go off, and “Viola” Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are born.   

I was working on a short story set in a small town where a mysterious man who claims to be a preacher develops a hold over the community.  I was struggling with the story.  Filed away in my mind was a story my mother relayed to me about a conversation she had with two of her girlfriends when she was a teenager.  It centered around what they would do if it were the end of the world.  I was so amused by their answers.  I would tell friends about it and it was always good for a few laughs.  I wanted to do something with these girls and their conversation in a story.  In the creative part of my brain, the small town preacher story and these girls collided and “Viola” Atomic Summer was born.  It went from short story to full-length novel with the girls becoming the main characters. 

Do you have a favorite scene?
There is scene where the three main characters are at the house of Savannah Vaughn, one of the girl’s mother.  Savannah carries herself as if she were a southern belle, which is why she calls herself Savannah, named after the southern city.  She is instructing the three main characters in the parts they will play in the homecoming celebration she is orchestrating.  It is both playful and sad and gives the reader rich insight to the character’s motivations and their complex relationships.  

How does history influence your writing?
The three main characters have conversations about what they would do if the end of the world were imminent.  For the story to be believable, I needed to set it in a period in history where American’s were anxious.  As I researched, I settled on 1953 during the Korean War.  The Rosenbergs are executed as spies.  The “red scare” is in full swing courtesy of Senator Joseph McCarthy.  The government conducts nuclear tests.  American’s are genuinely fearful of nuclear war with the Soviets to the point many build bomb shelters in their backyards and basements.  June and July of 1953 is an “atomic summer”.

What do you like to read and why?
I love to read character driven and relationship-based stories and biographies.  I typically have two books I’m reading at one time, a fiction and non-fiction book.  Lately I find myself reading more works by Indie Authors.  There is such rich talent out there not sitting on the best sellers list, and you don’t have to look far to find it.

Why did you decide to publish via the Indie writer path?
I had an agent for a while who was very excited about the prospects for this book, but with scarce marketing dollars, publishing houses were hesitant to take on an unknown author.  I decided to walk away from the agent-to-publishing house route and learn from other successful Indie Authors.  They are a true community that is supportive and helpful, an incredible network.  I am humbled by their willingness to help their fellow writers.  I have learned so much from them and I want to “pay forward” so to speak, and help other writers who choose this path. 

Now for something fun... Name two things within arm’s reach.
My iPad and a glass of red wine.  Of course, my iPad has the books I am reading on it as well as the newspaper, Facebook, blogs, pictures, videos, email, and Twitter.  It is an amazing portal into the world best explored with a nice malbec, or syrah, or cabernet…oh heck, anything red.

Is there anything else about your book or yourself you would like people to know?
As a way to honor my mother, I am donating 100% of the profits from the book’s sale in 2012 to cancer related causes and charities.  This book is dedicated her memory.  She passed away in 2008 at the age of sixty-three after battling primary peritoneal cancer.  It is a rare and aggressive cancer with few warning signs.  She had already beat breast cancer when she was thirty-eight.  Facing cancer once is bad enough.  She faced it twice and each time with such grace.  

It was her story about her and her friends' conversations that was the creative spark for Atomic Summer.  I am thankful that before she passed, she was able to read it and enjoy it.  Shortly after she read it, her two girlfriends who were part of that conversation visited her and I had the chance to meet them.  When she introduced them to me, she called them “the atomic summer girls”.  She was a proud mother at that moment.  I will never forget it.

What does the future hold?  Do you have any other projects on the horizon?
Hopefully, I will be spending a great deal of time writing checks to charity.  In addition, I have another novel I will publish next summer.  It is also a women’s fiction novel.  I think the same readers who pick up a copy of Atomic Summer and enjoy it will enjoy my next novel too.  

Before we end this interview, I would like to say thank you to the many “teachers” out there in the Indie Author community and on Goodreads, Facebook, various bloghops and Twitter, just to name a few, and to you, Melissa, for hosting me.

You're quite welcome. I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you and learning about such an interesting book!

Nimitz Highway and River Street is an intersection on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. This is where she impatiently came out of the womb ready to start on her personal history. She grew up in upstate New York against the backdrop of the flowering women’s rights movement with different ideas from her mother as to what her life as a woman should be. In college, she majored in psychology with the intent of being a “death & dying” counselor. This would be her paying job while she wrote the next great American novel. Plan B kicked in and she graduated with a B.A. in English, packed her car, and upset her parents by moving to Florida in search of her destiny.

Without ever having taken one business course, she created her own brand and became a successful business executive by day and women’s fiction writer by night. So far, she has lived a Lifetime Movie Network life, a mixture of extraordinary, ordinary, mundane, and terrifying, providing her great inspiration and fanning her creative flame.

Her father imbued in her a strong sense of family. He brought to life the words unconditional love. From her mother, she gained an appreciation for the complexities of relationships and richness in life one finds exploring and experiencing everything from a recipe, to a historical site, to lunch with friends, or a glass of wine. Her mother was a collector of experiences. They journeyed together and grew as individuals and as mother-daughter. Elaine shared her mother’s journeys battling cancer, as her mother survived one and succumbed to another. In one of their last soulful conversations before her mother died, she told Elaine she was glad Elaine also had a daughter and hoped she would enjoy her own daughter as much as her mother enjoyed Elaine. 


You can find Elaine at her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter
To purchase Atomic Summer, click here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Grammar Police Monday - All Is Not Well & Good

Today I'm going to touch on a few misused adjectives and adverbs. Before I give you examples, let's review. Adjectives describe nouns and pronouns.  Adverbs modify anything else—verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Basically, adverbs tell us how, when or where.

Ex: The tall boy ran swiftly down the road.

In this example, tall is an adjective. It describes the noun boy
Swiftly is an adverb. It modifies the verb ranit tells us how he ran. 

(And don't give me grief about the -ly adverbs. LOL :P  I'm not suggesting you use these often, just teaching you the rule.)

Many words that function as adjectives can also function as adverbs. When using a word as an adverb, use the -ly form of the word. An exception to this would be the word fast. It doesn't have an -ly form.

Ex: I took a quick shower. becomes: I showered quickly

Two modifiers I often see misused are good and well. The word good is an adjective, and the word well is an adverb. Use good when you're describing nouns and pronouns, and use well when telling how something was done.*

Ex: (incorrect) He sang good tonight. vs (correct) He sang well tonight.
Ex: (incorrect) She ran good. vs (correct) She ran well. & (also correct) She is a good runner.

Did you catch the difference with the second examplewhy good was incorrect the first time and correct the second? In the first sentence, it was being used to modify the verb ran. It can't because good is not an adverb. In the last sentence, however, it modifies the noun runner. That works because good is an adjective and adjectives modify nouns.

*The exception to this rule is when one is speaking of someone's health. In that case, use well as the modifier. I feel well today.

Another common error is not using the -ly form of a modifier when using the comparative form as an adverb. (Remember studying comparative and superlative adjectives? -quick, quicker, quickest?) When using the comparative form as an adverb, ad -ly.

Let's start with the adjective form.
Ex: I am the quicker runner
(-comparative form of the adjective quick modifies runner)

Now the comparative form used as an adverb modifying the verb run.
(incorrect) I run quicker than you
(correct) I run more quickly than you.

A special rule applies when the senses (taste, smell, sound, look, feel) and other similar words are the verbs. Instead of asking the question how to determine if -ly should be attached, ask if the sense verb is being used actively. If so, use the -ly.

Ex: Sara's perfume smelled sweet
Since her perfume cannot actively do the smelling, sweet is correct.

The reason for this is that words like feel and smell are often used as linking verbs. Linking verbs suggest states of being, not actions.The most commonly used linking verb is be in its various forms such as am, is, was, were.  Some other verbs used as linking are seem, become, appear, prove, look, remain, feel, taste, smell, sound, turn, and grow. Look at how many of them refer to one of your five senses. If they can be replaced by a form of the infinitive 'to be,' they are being used as a linking verb and would be followed by an adjective, not an adverb.

Ex:  The detective looked cautious.
Now replace with a form of 'to be.'
The detective (was) cautious. Does that make sense?
Yes. Using an adjective is correct.

Ex: The detective looked cautiously for fingerprints.  
Now with 'to be.'
The detective (was) cautiously for fingerprints. Does that make sense?
No. In this sentence, the verb looked is not a linking verb, so use of the adverb cautiously is correct. 

A classic example:
Many people (myself included) make the mistake of saying, "I feel badly about your misfortune." But since the sentence uses the linking verb feel, we should instead use an adjective. I feel bad about your misfortune.

Even though use of -ly adverbs is discouraged in fiction writing, I hope you found this lesson helpful. It never hurts to know the rules.

Thanks for visiting. :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

No Wednesday Post This Week - Notice

I am currently experiencing internet connection problems. (I'm at McDonald's right now on guest wireless - LOL) I will have little to no internet access until my service is restored.

Thanks in advance for your patience if you try to contact me and I don't respond. I will catch up with all of you asap.
- Melissa 

PS - Monday's GPM post is set to fire off regardless.

3:25 pm CST
ETA: It's the wireless router, not the modem. Whew. Hopefully it'll be fixed soon. At least I have internet access. :)

Update 6/14: It's fixed. :)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Grammar Police Monday - Do Commas Give You Pause? Part II

This is part II of my lesson on comma rules. Today I'm going to focus on basic comma use within sentences.

Last week, I noted that in a series or list, the serial or 'Oxford' comma before the conjunction could often be left out. (Ex: Mary put money, lipstick, and mascara in her purse.) When joining two independent clauses, however, always put a comma before the conjunction.*

Ex: Roger drove into town, and Pam stayed home.

*There is and exception to this rule. You can omit the comma if the two phrases are short. I would advise against this, however, unless the phrases are very short and the sentence is very clear without the comma. Ex: Paul coughed and Ben laughed. I'm in favor of tightening prose, but not at the expense of stumbling the reader. What good is it to tighten your sentence, only to have the reader stop and re-read the line?

On the other hand, never place a comma between a subject and its verb.

Ex: Roger drove into town and went to the store

There is a compound verb above, and Roger is the subject of bothhe drove and went—so no comma. But in the case of 'and then' (see below), use a comma, even though Roger is the doer of both actions. The subject of the second clause is 'he.'

Ex: Roger drove into town, and then he visited his mom. 

This could be changed to: Roger drove into town and visited his mom., and still be correct. In fact, many writers construct such sentences this way to tighten their writing. Some will argue that a simple 'and' shouldn't be used when the actions didn't happen at the same time, but I'd venture that most readers would not be stumbled by this, nor care to split hairs over it.

Use a comma after an introductory phrase

Ex: After walking in the garden, the couple went inside and danced again.
Ex: Later that day, Paul found what he was looking for. **
Ex: When swimming, always bring a friend. **

**The rules say this comma is optional if the introductory phrase has three or fewer words, but (save few, usually one-word examples) the omitting of these commas stumbles me when I read, so I nearly always include them when I write. This is another case of tightening the prose at the expense of stumbling the reader. Why do it?

Another benefit of including this type of comma is: if the sentence is long, it helps break it up and give the reader a chance to take a breath. That may sound silly, but if you've ever read a really long lineeven silentlyand felt like you were starving for air by the end, you know what I mean.

Use a comma to set off parenthetical elements (aka 'added information'). 

Ex: Bluebell Road, which is paved with gravel, connects our street to the main highway.
Ex: My wife, Caroline, will be attending the party also.

One place you can cut commas is: when the information is essential to the sentence or the person's named is not added information. You may want to review my GPM post dealing with restrictive & nonrestrictive clauses. Since I've covered that before, I won't go into great detail here.

Ex: The road that is paved with gravel connects our street to the main highway
Ex: My friend Mary will be attending the party also.

Assuming the connecting road is the only one paved with gravel and Mary is not the person's only friend, these are correct.

Use a comma to set off phrases that express contrast.

Ex: The dress I finally chose was red, not blue.
Ex: It was John's personality, not his looks, that Marissa cared about.

Use a comma to separate a statement from a question.

Ex: He found her, didn't he?

Use a comma any time one is needed for clarity.

Ex: I ordered a burger and fries, and pizza was what I got.

And use a comma to set off some interjections. 

Ex: No, I will never do that.

However, be careful of sentences whose subject is an understood 'you.' Even when they only contain a single word, they are not set off with commas. The following example illustrates a common comma splice error I see.

Ex: (incorrect) Stop, don't go in there.  
vs (correct) Stop. Don't go in there.

'Stop.' is actually a complete sentence: (You) stop. The same is true for 'Don't go in there.' Though the 'you' is understood and not written, the sentence has a subject and a verb.

Most of all, remember: proper comma use saves lives. There's a big difference between "Let's eat, John." & "Let's eat John." :P

As always, I hope you found the lesson helpful. Feel free to comment, ask questions and make suggestions for future GPM topics. Thanks for visiting. :) 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Of WIPs, Melodies & Insecurities

Now that school's out, I'm reorganizing myself. I'm going to stomp, scream & threaten to move out if I don’t get plan some writing time for my WIP. I’m half way there, and if I could get a few days of uninterrupted time, I could finish the first draft of Come Back. I’ll probably barricade myself inside a hotel room for a couple of nights soon and do some marathon writing while hubby holds down the fort. (I soooo need a vacation! ...Can you tell? :P) Another goal I have is to make the blog rounds soon, and then visit more regularly in the future. I've failed miserably at that goal lately. *blushes and hangs head in shame*

I've also been dealing with some negative thinking about my writing. I go from feeling like I really have a handle on itthat it's goodto thinking I'm deluding myself and no one will like it. From believing my crit partners' compliments, to thinking they're just being 'nice' and not telling me how bad it really is. 

I did read a blog post on story structure by @KMWeiland the other day that helped a little...particularly this quote: "Many successful authors write without any knowledge of structure, and their stories still work because they’re instinctively following the tenets of structure without even realizing it." Although my first two MSs need work, I'm wondering if I'm one of these.  

Any time I read articles on story structure, plotting, etc., I'm reminded how little I've studied fiction. Heck. I've only been seriously reading it for two years, and only writing it for about a year and a half. I received credit by entrance exam for college Composition & Rhetoric I and II, the only Language Arts credits required for my nursing degree, and have never taken a formal writing course in my life. It's a legitimate question: How could I be good at this? 

I guess the beta reads of Come Back will let me know. Assuming they're honest... 

(Y'all know I'm speaking of the doubts that plague us, right? -not meaning any disrespect to my critters.)

Anyhow, I've decided to take part in Alex J Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group, a group of writers who post about their writing insecurities the first Wednesday of every month.  

You can find Alex on Twitter here. The support group uses the hashtag #IWSG. Click on the picture to find out more. There's a linky list you can use to hop around to the participating blogs. (I'm #288.)

On a positive note, I've been spending time on Twitter, interacting and gaining quite a few quality, mutual followers. I've also started using the free version of Hootsuite to schedule tweets and manage my Twitter feeds, or 'streams' as Hootsuite terms them. I even dabbled with Tweepi to purge the dead Twitter weight, catch follows I missed, and learn more about the folks on my list. I'm not sure how much I'll use Tweepi on a regular basis, but it is definitely a time saver when dealing with multiple followers at once.

One last thing...
I'm exploring the use of music to help set the mood pre-writing, and to listen to while writing. I've included a playlist for each of what I've compiled so far. And I might as well admit it. I stole some songs from Carrie's playlist. :P

While Writing

Music To Write To by Melissa Maygrove on Grooveshark

Now it's your turn to share:
  • Tell us about your WIPs & tell us about your insecurities.
  • Have you achieved any significant accomplishments lately? (awards, deals, pubs) 
  • What music do you listen to while writing or preparing to write? And do you prefer songs with vocals or instrumentals?

Feel free to post links in your commentseven links to your own site.  Oh! And if you're from Alex's support group, include your Linky List # in your post somewhere:)