Sunday, June 30, 2013

Colima Public Health Spay/Neuter Campaign #TBSU

Control Canino y Felino del Municipio de Colima, the domestic animal control center for the city in Mexico where I live, is holding a five day free of cost spay/neuter clinic this week. I'll be there as a volunteer helping out mostly in the recovery area for dogs. Sorry cats, I like you but am seriously allergic!

I won't be here on the blog for those days, but you can picture me, knee deep in waking-up canines if you'd like! Here are three photos from a previous campaign.

Long lineups!
Skilled volunteer veterinarians!
Recovery teams keeping a close eye on all the patients.
Thank you all for your continuing support of this blog! You are the best readers, followers, and commenters ever, and I appreciate every single one of you!

Check out these related posts for more information on spay/neuter campaigns and other animal rescue activities in Colima:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Paranoia Strikes Deep...

Should we feel protected or outraged by government (and non-government) surveillance? Kristen Lamb wrote a brilliant post a few days ago, "Santa Claus Recruited to Improve NSA’s Public Image & Head Intelligence Operations." Stop right now and take a few minutes to read it. You'll be glad! 

Edward Snowden is all over the news. Is he still in the Moscow airport? Will Ecuador grant him asylum? Is he one of the heroes or one of the villains of the 21st century?

The US Supreme Court has nullified a major provision of the Voting Rights Act. States have already begun to enact changes to voting laws.

"For What It's Worth"

Maybe because I grew up in that era, this song by Buffalo Springfield sums up where my mind is about now.

''There's something happening here
But what it is ain't exactly clear...

All of the recent intrusions have confused, annoyed, worried, and unsettled me, but it took a more personal announcement to bring it all home.

The Catalyst

A friend of mine shared an email she had received.

Important Update to Adult Content Policy on Blogger

You are receiving this message because you are the admin of a blog hosted on Blogger which is identified to have Adult content.

Please be advised that on June 30th 2013, we will be updating our Content Policy to strictly prohibit the monetization of Adult content on Blogger. After June 30th 2013, we will be enforcing this policy and will remove blogs which are adult in nature and are displaying advertisements to adult websites.

If your adult blog currently has advertisements which are adult in nature, you should remove them as soon as possible as to avoid any potential Terms of Service violation and/or content removals.


The Blogger Team

The Questions...

Whew! Can you get any more ambiguous than this email? What exactly is adult content? What exactly is monetization?

Though I didn't receive this email directly, these questions socked me in the gut. Is adult content a cover word now for both erotica and pornography? This blog is PG 13, but my novels aren't. Is showing the covers of my novels with links to Amazon monetization of Adult content? The deeper question is, Why is adult content (not just exploitative pornography) being demonized?

What is Adult Content?

I support the prohibition of pornographic content, which to me includes depictions of victimization in any form, whether by drugs, violence, age disparity, power disparity, or even vampirism!

Google Blogger's own rules are clear, and I fully support them and might even add a few more.

  • No incest or bestiality content: We do not allow image, video or text content that depicts or encourages incest or bestiality.
  • Child safety: We have a zero tolerance policy towards content that exploits children. Some examples of this include:
  • Child pornography: We will terminate the accounts of any user we find publishing or distributing child pornography. We will also report that user to law enforcement.
  • Pedophilia: We do not allow content that encourages or promotes sexual attraction towards children. For example, do not create blogs with galleries of images of children where the collection of images or text accompanying the images is sexually suggestive.

All adult content isn't pornographic!

But slow down. The Blogger Team email nowhere mentions pornography. To me, there's a huge uncrossable line between pornography and erotica. In a word, the line is VICTIM. Erotica is the visual or verbal exploration of sexuality between consenting, fully conscious, adult individuals. Erotica doesn't include victims or exploitation. Google itself states that  

We do allow adult content on Blogger, including images or videos that contain nudity or sexual activity. 

So, is ALL adult content now a not-to-be-promoted evil?

What is monetization?

According to Google, we may not use Blogger as a way to make money on adult content. 

Many of my good friends own book blogs for erotica and erotic romance. Many of these blogs have hosted my novels over the last few months. All of them contain links to every site that sells each author's books. Is this monetization? Is Amazon now banned from Blogger links for being an adult-content-including website? It certainly sells adult content by Google's definition. Are many of my friends' blogs in danger of disappearing?

''Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
Step out of line, the men come and take you away

On my own blog, do I have to take down the links to Amazon for my own books? Kind of defeats the purpose of an author blog, yes? Daily, I thank people who host my books by sharing links to their blogs. Do I now need to remove all those links? If one of those blogs is eliminated, am I then guilty by association?

Thought police

What bothers me most about the Google email is that somebody, somewhere is going to decide, behind closed doors and probably with little recourse or explanation, whether or not the content of a blog breaks the rules. Google encouraged millions of people to use Blogger to make a living. Now Google has announced that it will modify its enforcement of standards with a few days' notice in a way that could put a lot of people out of business.

The fact that adult content is being cracked down on strikes me as way too close to extreme religious ideology. The choice of words is suggestive. Google isn't cracking down on pornography (something we'd probably all support), but on the amorphous, ill-defined adult content. Don't we have bigger problems, like global climate change, starvation, disease, and overpopulation? Seriously? Google is cracking down on monetization of adult content? 

To me, Google has always been one of the good guys. Call me naive. My conspiracy theory would run something like extreme pressure in a quid pro quo. No notion what the quo might be, but cracking down on adult content seems to be the quid.

I think it's time we stop
Children, what's that sound?
Everybody look - what's going down?

What do you think? Is the Google email a tempest in a teapot? A prank, a hoax, a late April Fools' joke, even? Do we sit back, and wait and see what June 30 brings? Or do you think something bigger is going on? Another adjustment in the grand compromise between freedom and protection? If we can't beat back gay marriage, let's attack adult content? Trot out your favorite theories in the comments, folks. Can't wait to start the conversation!

Hmmm... Think I'll wait until after June 30 to resume the #TBSU blog luv links. In the meantime, mega-hugs and gratitude for you all!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Five Great Reasons to Guest Blog! #TBSU

If you're a blogger, you probably pour a lot of time and attention into your blog. Just writing and formatting your own posts may seem daunting at times. Why on earth would you also want to write posts for other blogs?

Plenty of reasons come to mind!
Reason #1: Variety!

Your blog has an identity. For example, pretty much everything on this blog relates to publishing, supporting writer friends, and dog rescue. When I want to write about something else, I guest blog.

For example, the emotional/spiritual aspects of the Law of Attraction don't feel quite like a fit here. If you want to read about my spiritual journey, you can find eighteen of my guest posts on Deliberate Receiving, cataloged on the tab above. When my friend Nathalie Thompson started her new LOA blog Vibe Shifting, she invited me to guest there also. So far I've written two posts for her, Healing Lessons and LOA, and Money, Taoism, and the Law of Attraction.

Reason #2: Exposure!

About a month ago, I started contributing a weekly column to an awesome website, Skelations! The webmaster, Nathan H-C, is young, hard-working, inventive, creative, ambitious, and did I mention hard-working?! Nathan put out a call for How-To articles, and I thought, why not?

Nathan H-C, owner of Skelations.

The demographic for Nathan's website is quite different from my blog, but his readers are equally likely to want to read my novels. Win, Win, WIN!

Click to visit Skelations

Nathan recently redesigned his site, and I'm now a featured contributor. Thanks, Nathan! Please go by and visit. There's a permanent button on the left sidebar here. Skelations also has reviews of books and movies, interviews with interesting people, LGBTQ campaigns, and click-to-read fun facts. If you have a book trailer, send it to Nathan for great publicity in his new trailer database. You can contact him through his Twitter account @skelations.

Reason #3: Fresh Ideas!

Doing book blog tours with Bewitching Book Tours, I was challenged each month to come up with fresh interviews, unique guest posts, and entertaining tidbits from my novels. Doing the blog tours fulfilled all of the reasons for guest blogging, but most memorable for me are the wonderful ideas that blog hosts sometimes suggested. It hadn't occurred to me to write about The Wicked Fifties on Louisa Bacio's blog,  to come up with a list of 10 tips for sexy road trips on Shelley Munro's blog, or to realize that the heroes of my novels are all Taoists on 4 the Luv of SaNiTy. Thank you to all the host bloggers for inspiration!

Reason #4: New Friends!

I can't even count on two hands the number of new friends I've made guest blogging. Here's a list and a shout-out to some who have become an important part of my daily life. Huge thanks and many hugs to you all!

Please visit and join their blogs!

Reason #5: Fun!

Reason 5 sums up all the other reasons in one word: FUN! For me, meeting new people, finding new writing challenges, and making new blogger friends are all adventures that keep the writing game fun. Yes, we work on writing and editing our novels, we tweet and Facebook and Google+ all day. But there's something special about writing a guest post, knowing someone invites your words into their space, and chooses to share their readers with you. It's a wonderful feeling, and I'm honored by each invitation!


Let me close by inviting you to write a guest post for my blog! The feature, "Encouraging Words from _________," is designed for guest bloggers to offer their wisdom and inspiration. The guests so far have been beyond awesome, and their posts are some of the most popular on the blog. So if you'd like to expand your audience and to write about something that perhaps doesn't quite fit on your own blog, please send me your ideas!

And of course, if you'd like me to guest post on your blog, I'm always open to suggestions!

Thanks for joining me here today! I hope you've met some new friends, and perhaps been inspired to write a few guest blogs. What do you find are the advantages of guest blogging? Have you discovered any downsides? How many guest posts do you write, as compared to posts for your own site? Do you participate in book blog tours? Please join us for a lively conversation in the comments.

Check out these related guest posts! 

The list of blogs above are presented in the grand tradition of #TBSU, The Blog Scratcher's Union!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Encouraging Words from William Ogden Haynes #TBSU

I'm thrilled to present my friend and brilliant poet, William Ogden Haynes, as our guest blogger today!

Two of Bill's books are available on Amazon, in both print and Kindle versions. Here are the Kindle links.

Amazon US Kindle link

Amazon US Kindle link
Bill writes from experience, and offers advice and encouragement to those who may have struggled trying to be published by traditional presses. His article is mainly about poetry books, but I think everyone will find that his analysis of traditional and new venue publishing makes fascinating reading. Take it away, Bill!

More Than One Way to Publish a Book

First, let’s be clear. If you have a hot novel or nonfiction book that will have mass appeal, the way to go may be to get an agent, contact major publishing companies, and receive the best editorial support, layout assistance, and marketing campaign possible.

On the other hand, certain genres such as books of poetry, flash fiction and short stories have a limited readership. Therefore, they will have limited sales and produce only limited revenue for an author and publisher. In general, only the small, independent publisher will invest the money and time in such niche markets.

Most small publishers print books of poetry as a labor of love, to support the arts and heighten their profile in the literary community. Poetry books are considered highly successful if they sell 500 copies. The average number of poetry books sold per author is less than 50.

Traditional Publishing: Poetry Book Contests

Publishers of poetry books typically have hundreds of manuscripts to choose from to make their quota of publishing only a handful of poetry books per year. Many small publishers are run by a single person who makes all the decisions about what to publish and when.

Most publishers conduct “contests” to determine which books make their publishing list.  In order to enter the contest, authors must pay an entry fee, typically $25-$50.  These fees are accrued from all entrants and may be used to award a monetary “prize” to the winner of the contest (usually a few hundred dollars), who also will have their book published on a timeline determined by the publisher. Entrance fees can also be used to offset the printing costs of the winning book.

Winning these contests is extremely difficult because of the number of entrants, limited number of books to be published, and subjective biases of the editor(s) who make the selection. Many of these contests take six months or more to announce the winners. In many cases, even if you win, there are other projects in the queue ahead of yours and it may be a year or two before the book actually sees the light of day.

Traditional Publishing: Book Production

Most poetry books are small and typically sell for less than $20.00. From this, the publisher must recoup the costs of printing, layout and editorial work, and make some profit from the sale of the book. In many cases, the royalties granted to the author are less than ten percent.

Traditional Publishing: Marketing

Small publishers have limited resources to invest in marketing a new poetry book. They post the new book on their website and may send an announcement to people on their mailing list. Rarely will they attempt to market the work nationally and internationally. In most cases, they do not offer an electronic version of the book.

The main marketing tool has been, and will always be, the author. The publisher will ask the author to engage in readings, book signings and other appearances at the author's expense. In some cases the publisher will help arrange these events, but in other instances it is up to the author to book events.

Sound impossible? Hang tight. There's hope!

On-Demand Publishing: A Growing Trend 

A relatively new publishing model known as on-demand publishing is growing in popularity. While there are many on-demand publishing companies (Lulu, Blurb, Wordclay, CreateSpace), I will use CreateSpace as an example in this article, because I have had experience publishing with them.

Companies like CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon, work within a “publish on demand” model. Unlike traditional publishers they do not print hundreds of books and warehouse them until they are sold. CreateSpace simply publishes as many copies of the book as are requested by the author or demanded by customers. Using this model, the book will never go out of print and will always be in stock when demanded by the author or other consumers.

Most poetry books cost between $10-$20. Authors using CreateSpace set their own retail price for their book after being given a range of prices that are competitive on for the number of pages produced in the book. At CreateSpace, a book of poetry that has between 80-150 pages costs about $2.50 to produce.

As an author, you can order as many books as you like for that production cost and sell the books for the retail price. For instance, a poetry book that lists for $10 costs the author $2.50 and if he or she orders twenty copies it would cost the author $50.00. If the book sells for $10, the author makes $7.50 on each copy. If all twenty copies are sold, the author will net $150 (minus the original $50 paid for the books).

CreateSpace provides software for setting up the book layout and for designing a cover free of charge. If the author is comfortable with computers and technology, the free package is all that is necessary to produce a professional and visually attractive book. However, for those that are not technologically savvy, they also offer, for a substantial fee, several packages that include professional assistance in editing, layout and cover design. If you have to go that route, with a little online research, you can find a more affordable, still high quality alternative.

CreateSpace offers a marketing plan in which they make the title available on their parent web site They also provide the software free of charge to convert the manuscript to a format compatible with Kindle. For a one time fee of $25 CreateSpace will market your book world wide on Amazon. The book will also be advertised on every major book seller (e.g., Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, etc.) and made available to public and university libraries. Regarding royalties for any books that sell from the Amazon website, the author will receive $3.85 for a book that sells for $10.

Is Self-Publishing Legitimate?

Is self-publishing on a platform such as CreateSpace a “vanity” press? It is in the sense that one could publish anything he or she wants with essentially no review by other writers.

But let's look at the "traditional" alternative. In a publishing company, an author’s work may be judged by a single individual or several reviewers who work with the publisher. They may be highly qualified critics of poetry or not, but still, the publishing house usually offers a limited scope of reviews. And yet, even though the publisher may even be the only one to review the work, no one calls the book a product of a vanity press.

On the other hand, you can use CreateSpace to present mainly pieces that have already been published in literary journals. The competition to get a piece published in these journals is intense because hundreds of poems per week are reviewed by the editorial staffs of these magazines. Many have acceptance rates of less than ten or even one percent.

In my first poetry book, Points of Interest, 28 of the 50 poems were previously published in literary journals.  In my latest book, Uncommon Pursuits, 40 of the 55 poems and short stories had been previously published in literary reviews. A book gains credibility when the work has been screened and selected by journal editors. In a way, journal publication gives more credibility than a limited review by one publishing company.

Who Might Prefer the On-Demand Model? 

  • Authors who write books that appeal to small or limited markets (e.g. poetry, short stories, novellas, flash fiction.) 
  • Authors who want to take work that has been published in diverse literary journals and present it in a single collection without having to send it again through a review process conducted by a publishing company. 
  • Authors who do not have time to invest years in submitting and resubmitting manuscripts to small publishers with a limited chance of actually securing a contract.  
  • Authors who do not want to face minimal odds of getting a manuscript accepted. The chances of a particular manuscript being selected depends reviewer preference, the strength of the competition, the type of book the publisher is looking for and many other subjective factors.  The process grinds slowly and at the end you could once again come up dry. 
  • Authors who would like to keep the majority of the limited profits from selling their work and not split the proceeds to profit the publishing company.  
  • Authors who want to maintain control over when their work is published and not be at the mercy of a publisher in setting the timeline for when the book will appear. 
  • Authors who would like to avoid the pressure from a publisher to market their book in a short period of time to recoup publishing costs. With publishing on demand the author is free to invest as much or as little time in marketing as he/she might feel comfortable with. 

Thank you so much, Bill, for sharing your insights with us today. While there are many advantages to the traditional publishing model, it certainly is not the answer for all authors. The same is true for non-traditional routes.

What choices have you made in regard to publishing? Have you run into difficulties with traditional publishers? Has your experience been similar to Bill's? Can you contribute your experiences with books other than poetry collections?

As always, I look forward to a lively conversation in the comments, and Bill will be here to respond to your questions and observations as well.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Violin Man's Legacy by Seumas Gallacher is FREE! #TBSU

Seumas Gallacher's first novel, The Violin Man's Legacy, is FREE on Kindle! Woohoo!

Click here to download FREE on Amazon US.
Here's the Story

Thriller with bloody twists and turns as ruthless killers meet their match in a former SAS hit squad.

Jack Calder is an ex-SAS soldier working with former colleagues at ISP, a specialist security firm. He is sent to investigate a murderous diamond heist in Holland, but swiftly learns that there is a very strong Far East connection. He then travels to Hong Kong where he meets the glamorous chief of ISP's local bureau, May-Ling.

Together they begin to unravel a complex web of corruption. The twin spiders at the centre of this web are the Chan brothers, leaders of one of Hong Kong's most ruthless and powerful triad gangs.

The trail of death and mayhem coils across Europe, Hong Kong and South America until all the scores are settled.

Here's my Amazon review

Excellent Highly Detailed Crime Blaster Procedural 

I really enjoyed reading The Violin Man's Legacy. The story of Jack Calder's background growing up in Scotland initially caught my interest. The rest of the novel draws on the author's many years in international banking to detail the intricate footwork of finding and then tracking the tentacles of a series of triad-based robberies. Fascinating!

Each of the many international locations feels real, probably because Gallacher has visited or lived there, though I don't know that for a fact. The authenticity of the local detail was another highly enjoyable part of the novel.

If you enjoy police procedurals, you'll like The Violin Man's Legacy. It's advertised as a thriller, and it is one, with plenty of action and a smash-em-up finish that's sneaky and loud enough to satisfy die-hard black ops thriller fans. But for me the great strength of the novel is the wealth of insider detail as the ex-SAS team works with international law enforcement to track and expose the perpetrators of a series of brutal financially motivated crimes.

Buy The Violin Man's Legacy today, and enjoy a solid read immersed in a totally different and exciting world.

Download The Violin Man's Legacy FREE!

Amazon US

Vengeance Wears Black

Vengeance Wears Black is the second novel in the thriller series by Seumas Gallacher. When you download a free copy of the first book, why not buy the second? It's like a two-for-one deal! Woohoo!

Click here for the US Amazon link.

Here's the Story

Jack Calder and his former SAS colleagues at ISP, a specialist security firm, are saved from certain death when an ex-Gurkha is killed smothering a deadly grenade thrown into a lunchtime Chinese restaurant in the West End of London. They learn that murderous turf wars are raging between Asian Triads and Eastern European mobsters vying for control of international fiefdoms of drug smuggling, people trafficking, prostitution and money laundering.

An unexpected visit from the highest levels of international law enforcement offers Jack and the ISP team a means to use their black operations skills to wreak a ruthless retaliation against the drug lords. 
Unlikely partners emerge in their onslaught against the gangs as the warring criminal factions threaten an unholy alliance to repel them. The pursuit spins across Europe, Turkey and North Africa before a final reckoning.

Download Vengeance Wears Black

Amazon US

Give yourself a treat. Download The Violin Man's Legacy FREE! Buy Vengeance Wears Black. Pour yourself a beverage of choice. And settle in for a sojourn in the world of Seumas Gallacher's Jack Calder. 

Visit Seumas' amazing, funny, insightful blog, too! You'll be glad.

Have you read Seumas's books? Would you like to talk to the man himself? Or me? *smile* Grab that beverage of choice and join us for a chat!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Writing Pitfalls – Edit Them Out! #TBSU

We all learned our share of grammar in school, and I doubt it was anyone's favorite subject. Now that some of us have become writers, we may be wishing we'd paid a little more attention. Trouble is, we were taught to do this or that just because it was THE RULE. Actually, good reasons lurk behind some of the rules.

If we may, let's agree to shelve the discussion of dialogue for another post. Variations in grammar are a fantastic, maybe the best, way to make sure each of your characters sounds like a distinct individual. But that's a whole topic in itself.

I've included a fun exercise at the bottom of this post. Feel free to jump down there first and try it out.

The Much Maligned Adverb!

Did you know that adverbs have only been part of the English language for about 200 years? Everybody got along without them before that, and many modern languages contain few adverbs even today.

The workhorse of every language is the verb. Adverbs aren't evil, but they often are used to prop up a weak verb. For example, he walked slowly instead of he ambled. The quickest way to improve your writing is to spiff up your verbs. Each adverb is an awesome and useful red flag!!

Make sure every adverb is essential. Evaluate each one, and throw out as many as you can. I initially wrote absolutely necessary in the first sentence of this paragraph. Essential emphasizes my point more clearly. You don’t have to throw out every adverb. Just the weak ones. For example, I can't think of a better wording than more clearly, so it gets to stay! See if you can eliminate most adverbs by finding stronger verbs.

The Dreaded Gerund

The technical reason to avoid -ing verb forms is... technical. The gerund is designed to indicate simultaneity. In other words, two things happening at exactly the same time. A proper use of a gerund would be, His blood pounding, he walked toward the monument. The whole time he's walking toward the monument, his blood is pounding! Yes!

An incorrect use of a gerund would be, Going to the store, I saw a cat. The whole time you were going to the store? The logic doesn't work. Sometimes you can rework the sentence to include the word as or when and the simple past or present tense. When I went to the store, I saw a cat. 

Why do gerunds matter? For two reasons. One is that even though the distinctions are minor, the subconscious mind of the reader will pick up the errors. They may have no idea what's wrong, but they will sense that something is off. Without realizing why, the reader may well think, "Hmm, this person isn't such a hot writer."

The second reason is even more subtle! Language has sound, and sounds matter even when we aren't reading out loud. Repeated -ing, -ing, -ing, especially at the beginning of several sentences, gets annoying. Poets sometimes spend hours working on the sound qualities of a stanza! Novelists can also learn to pay attention to how their words sound.

The Misunderstood Vague Pronoun!

Technical definition: a vague pronoun has no direct antecedent.  For example, There were two men in the camp. Okay, the sentence isn't wrong, but what do the words there were contribute?? Nothing, nada, zip, diddly squat!

Two men sat by the campfire. Ahh… much better! Now we can picture them. Whew! As in this example, often you can just throw the problem words away.

When I was teaching journalism, if I saw any of the combinations there are, there was, there were, it is, it was, this is, this was, that is, that was,  these are, these were, etc, I handed the article back for revision. Don't take my word for this precept. Ask Stephen King. The all-powerful PACING of your novel depends on eliminating the junk, and every single time (except in dialogue), these combinations are junk words!

To Be or Not To Be?

Why is the verb to be frowned on by creative writing teachers? The simple answer is that is, was, were, are give a writer their best red flags for finding and eliminating weak sentences.

Every writer uses the verb to be all the time. Everyone. If you've already tried the exercise at the bottom of this post, you know what I'm saying. But, using to be seven times on a page is not the same as using it fifty times!

In almost every sentence, you can find a more vivid, lively verb than to be. The to be verb forms are also a great red flag for -ing verbs and for vague pronouns. They may also signal passive voice. Four at one blow!! Weak, -ing, vague, passive — kaboom! Gone!

Pathetic Little Anemic Verbs

Your English/creative writing teacher may never have mentioned this problem. Some verbs in English have been around for so long that they have lost all specific meaning. A few examples are have, do, go, and move. Think of all the ways we use the verb have: I have two daughters [gave birth to]. I had an egg for breakfast [ate]. I have a blue car [own]. He had a cow [what???].

When you find you've used one of these meaningless verbs, just substitute the more precise verb that says what you meant in the first place.

A Fun Exercise



  • Find a novel you like, preferably the same genre you write. Photocopy a double page from the middle of the book. This exercise is MUCH easier using a non-electronic, paper copy.
  • Gather three highlight pens of different colors. 
  • Highlight all the adverbs in one color, all the -ing words in another color, and to be verbs in yet another. 
  • Now look near the to be verbs and underline any vague pronouns you find. 
  • Count how many you find of each and record on a piece of paper the number of:

-ing words
to be verbs
vague pronouns

Your Turn!

  • Take about two pages of your manuscript. Turn them upside down! Try not to read the text. Often we glide over problems because we’re so used to them.
  • adverbs: Look for any word that ends in -ly and mark it with a highlight pen. Do you have a lot more color than the sample?? If you do, try to get rid of enough of yours to come close to the count in the sample.
  • -ing words: Highlight any word with -ing (some will be okay words, like spring, ignore these in counting). Compare with the sample. Remember, you can keep some, just not too many. Try to match or beat the number in the sample.
  • to be verbs: Highlight every form of the verb to be. Compare with the sample. Are you close, or even better? 
  • vague pronouns: Turn the page right side up and look carefully for vague pronouns near the to be verbs. Underline them. Now check your pages against the sample. How do you compare? You really don’t want ANY vague pronouns, and almost no to be verbs, so take a stab at eliminating ALL of them.

For the last step, you may want to start over with a fresh copy of your manuscript. Type in all the changes you’ve made from the above exercises, print out a new copy of the two pages, then try this last one:

  • weak verbs: Stay right side up. Underline EVERY VERB. Examine each one – say it out loud, listen to the sound; does it communicate an emotion? Does it create a vivid picture? Replace any verbs that have lost their oomph. Remember that the verb carries the sentence!

Whatever you are already doing to your own satisfaction, pat yourself on the back. If you have fewer gerunds than Stephen King, woohoo! Remember that each of these foibles persists in everyone's writing. You just want to eliminate enough weaker constructions that you fall in line with your own favorite authors. 


I can hear you screaming! "Who has time to do all this work? You can't mean for me to highlight every page of my manuscript like this!"

No, I don't suggest you spend the next three years highlighting and analyzing your manuscript page by page!

What you will find if you do this exercise even once is that you will develop a sensitivity to weaker writing. You'll be able to pace through your whole manuscript and eliminate many minor writing problems. As you edit the current manuscript, you'll internalize the red flags and the signals, and your next first draft will be closer to a third or fourth or even a final draft.

If you only want to write one book, you may prefer to pay someone else to edit it. If your goal is to produce many novels, putting in the time to fully edit the current manuscript will pay off for the rest of your writing career.

Did you try the exercise? Was it fun? Did you learn something about your own writing? This exercise is always a favorite at the Novel Writers Workshop. Even writers who are dismayed at first are also heartened to realize that fluent and powerful writing is within reach.

What writing hints can you share with fellow writers? Do you have tips and tricks that speed your manuscript along? Let's have a lively discussion in the comments! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Check out these related posts:

Three great blogs, presented in the grand tradition of The Blog Scratchers' Union! #TBSU

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

World War II in my Dad's Journals #TBSU

When my father died in 1982, we found the journals he kept through World War II. He wrote almost daily through the whole war, and included hundreds of sketches and photos. My sisters and I have always meant to publish his journals, but never seemed to get around to it. Now is the time!

My father, Louis Joseph Moran Jr., got a pass out of high school in order to enlist. He became a repairer of radios for fighter planes, and was stationed in England. Here he is with some of his fellow soldiers. Louie is on the left.

Dad included almost 200 sketches in his journal. I had the images photographed with a process camera to get the highest possible resolution. These are the unretouched originals. What do you think? Should I clean them up for publication, or do the lines, hole punches, and handwriting make them feel authentic?

One of the things I love best about my Dad's journal is that it presents such a different view of army life. A favorite pastime for him and his colleagues was collecting dictionaries! You can see the Webster's on the shelf in the upper left.

When they visited a town, they made a beeline straight to the... museums! Not the pubs, contrary to expectation. Remember that my Dad was an ordinary guy, not even really a high school graduate. In the boring times between fixing radios, he and his fellow soldiers took correspondence courses.

My Dad recounts some painful stories in the journal. Fighter pilots were a tough breed, sometimes bordering on crazy. Many didn't make it back to base. Commanders could be admired, indifferent, or a**holes. But in the middle of the boredom and the horror, my Dad also saw and recorded the beauty.

Louie recounts many funny stories in the pages of the journals. He remained in the army through the occupation, and he and his buddy asked to drive a command car, leading a convoy into Germany. Granted permission, they realized as they climbed in that each had thought the other knew how to drive!

Over the next few weeks, I hope to type up and assemble my Dad's journals for publication. I'll continue to share snippets, if people are interested. Were you or a family member in World War II? What stories have you heard? My Dad never talked about his army years, except to share the occasional funny anecdote. Only after he died did we learn about his journals. Do you have family treasures you are thinking about publishing? I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Imagine the World of 2043 #TBSU

What will the world look like in 30 years? I picked 2043 as a year when teenagers of today would be beginning to have teenage children themselves.

For many teens and young adults, the future hovers like a gray cloud. The popularity of apocalyptic visions like The Hunger Games attests to young adults' preoccupation and anxiety over their own personal future. In my years of teaching high school, environmental degradation was the topic of many discussions.

While in the interim of moving to Mexico almost three years ago, I did some research on climate change and the various predictions of futurists. Being a realistic novelist, I wanted to create a future world that was believable. Being a person who loves teenagers, I wanted to create a future world where the physical challenges did NOT create a dismal dystopia.

The result was the first draft of a novel which still doesn't even have a name. When it's published, it will be under my real name of Mary Carol Moran, to distinguish the YA from the erotica! So, what does my world of 2043 look like?

Imagined World of 2043

School is vastly different. Gas is so expensive that travel is extremely restricted. Private cars are banned from all cities. One electric taxi can transport as many as 1000 people in a 24 hours. Zea and her friends gather in one of their houses every day and study through remote interactive telecasts. Teachers broadcast lessons from their homes.

Pretty much everyone is mixed race, and Zea hates her blonde hair. In a personal wish fulfillment (I did create this universe!), dogs live much longer lives. One of the biggest world adaptations is that everyone is restricted to one child. Choosing who to have that child with is a huge preoccupation of young women.

Of course, it's hotter and weather is more extreme. Houses hug the earth, and built-in underground conduits bring in cool air. People sleep in two shifts, maximizing their awake time in the dawn hours.

Overpopulation has strained the food, living space, and water supplies. All food is grown locally. Houses share exterior walls, and a set amount of household water is piped into a rooftop cistern every night.

The cistern system is already in use in Mexico.
This tinaco is on the roof of the house next door to mine.

Zea's mother is a policewoman, one of the few occupations that still moves around the city. Almost everyone works from home, and social structures have evolved to give individuals and three-person-families chances to interact.

What is now considered paranormal has become simply extra-normal. Zea's giftedness attracts attention through the Internet, and soon her life changes dramatically. At the same time, a murderer begins to stalk the city, and Zea's mother is the prime investigator. How the two stories intertwine becomes the plot of the novel.

My personal belief is that human nature itself won't change much. We'll still have lots and lots of really good people, and a few who cause problems. We'll still have families who love each other. We'll still have dysfunction and compassion and everything else that makes us human.

But the world we inhabit will look very, very different.

What are Your Ideas?

What do you think the world will look like in thirty years? Is the United States in fragments? Are some cities and even whole nations under water? What is the new average daily high temperature where you now live? What is the world's population? Has religion changed, and if so how? Have super-storms evolved and perhaps gained new names?

How have government and politics changed, or have they? Is there a world governing body with a mission to protect the Earth? Is the United States in fragments? Is Europe smothered in glaciers? Do we still have polar icecaps? Has Greenland become a major food source for the world? What world will your children and grandchildren inhabit?

Please leave your thoughts in the comments. I'd love to explore this fascinating and deeply important topic with you all. Who knows? Your ideas may make it into the novel!

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

All My Fathers #TBSU

Happy Father's Day, Dad! My father, Louis Joseph Moran, Jr., died 31 years ago, on June 13, 1982. The proximity to Father's Day makes the day bittersweet.

Me and my Dad, in student housing in the fifties.

I idolized my Dad, and I'm pretty sure he's turned up, subconsciously or consciously, in the male characters in all my novels. I've written twice about fathers explicitly, in Ophélie and Twelve Nights. Both are complex men who embody aspects of my own Dad.

The father in Ophélie doesn't appear directly in the story, but his legacy shadows Ophélie's life. When she was a girl, he dove into a river in front of her, to try to save a woman from drowning. He died, and Ophélie feels abandoned. My father died of cancer when I was 30. Though the circumstances are different, in some primitive emotional core, I also felt abandoned.

Link to an essay on Sir Toby

Aggie and Angela's father, Gordon, in Twelve Nights is a comic character, modeled loosely on Sir Toby Belch in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Sir Toby marries Maria, and Gordon's girlfriend's name is Mary. Like Sir Toby, Gordon is a problem drinker. I indulged in some wish fulfillment in the novel, because Gordon joins Alcoholics Anonymous and begins to make amends. In real life, my mother was the drinker, and she didn't join AA. My Dad didn't drink much, but neither did he curb my mother. My Dad was also a prankster who loved to tell jokes. Families are complicated, both in real life and in fiction.

Other male characters also embody aspects of my Dad. Jimmy Buko in Twelve Nights and the Master in Beauty of the Beast are both powerful, hardworking, hard driving men. Both also retain their compassion and empathy, empowering those around them. My Dad rose from a high school dropout before World War II, to the Dean of Arts and Sciences of the University of British Columbia. He was beloved for his championship of students and university office workers.

Bran in Fantasy Impromptu is modeled directly from a beloved friend. Keith Ditto was a principal male dancer in ballet companies around the world. Before he died, he asked me to put him in a book, and I did. Along with Keith's love of music, Bran shares my father's love of learning. My Dad was a psychology professor for many years. Bran is also a wise teacher, always a step ahead but sensitive to the needs of Chantal.

These are some of the Dads and Dad-figures in my novels. Happy Father's Day to them all, and to all the Dads out there enjoying your special day! Would you like to share a story about your Dad? If you're a writer, do your male characters reflect pieces of your father? Fire up the barbecue and grab a beer. Let's have a lively conversation in the comments!

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Let's Not Be Twits on Twitter! #TBSU

Three friends recently and separately have mentioned that they don't get the point of Twitter, or that they aren't sure how to make the most of it. I've ended up emailing my approach to tweeting to them, and they've tried it and liked it. So here's the Handy Dandy Carole Remy Twitter Plan! Tested and approved by three (count 'em three!) non-empirical, non-scientist friends!

Warning, this takes a bit of time. I don't use any paid services, only TweetDeck to schedule tweets. I love doing it all myself! The people I meet are awesome and often turn into friends over time.

To Get New Followers

We all want Twitter friends who follow back, and who Retweet us every once in awhile. The best way to find them is to Retweet and follow them yourself first! BTW, 'retweet' looks strange, even with unlimited characters, so I'll switch to RT.

  • Go to 'Home' on your Twitter tab and start browsing. Or go to the profile of someone you know and find people who have RTed them. 
  • When you see someone interesting, click on the person until you get to their Profile page.
  • Check that they have recent tweets, and that they RT other people, not just send out tons of self-promotion.
  • Find something you want to RT of theirs, preferably one of their direct tweets and not just something they retweeted.
  • RT it and follow them. 
  • Send them a message (not a DM) that you just RTed and followed them. Add a personal note if you can. "I love your blog," if it's true. "Cute Dog!" if there's a dog! I always add, 'Nice to meet you!'
  • You now have about a 90% chance that they will follow you back. 
It does take awhile, but it's worth it. If I do this for 30 minutes a day, I can pick up 10-15 new followers, and they stick! They are real people, because I picked them carefully in the first place! Also, I try to find people from all over the world, and not only writers.

Click here to follow me, if you want. I'll follow back!
Woohoo! Have fun! I actually love doing this! I've met so many people who feel real to me, even if we only communicate on Twitter.

You Have Followers! What Now?

Now you get busy RTing. I have various Lists on Twitter. The Go To List for me is Frequent RTers! These are the 100 or so people who RT me consistently, and they get the royal treatment. At least once a day, I run down the list and RT everything that looks interesting. Yes, I do RT advertising of authors' books, but sparingly. I try to RT something from at least half of the people on the list every day. This part is pretty quick, maybe 20 minutes.

I'm also part of The Blog Scratchers Union, a group of bloggers who support each other. At least once a day, I search #TBSU on Twitter, and RT most of the tweets. You are welcome to join the group! Seumas Gallacher started it, and gives a full explanation here on his blog.

What to Tweet?

I have a simple rule for this. Tweet what you like to read.

  • I like quotes, so I look for fun quotes in Bartlett's and I tweet them. 
  • I appreciate when people give me a heads up for an interesting post they wrote awhile ago, that maybe I didn't catch at the time, so I tweet the posts from my archives that have enduring interest.
  • I appreciate hearing about free books on Kindle, so I RT and tweet those notices, though I try to check out the Amazon page first to make sure the book is a good read.

  • I LOVE it when someone spontaneously tweets one of my blog posts, so I try to find and tweet a few new blog posts every day.

  • When someone writes a post I really enjoy, it goes onto the list along with my own archives, for rotational tweeting.
  • Here's my sneaky way of slipping in a bit of advertising. When I send out an archive that relates to one of my books, I tack on the Amazon link. That's it. NO direct, "Buy this amazing book!" Just a little link added to something of general interest.

Organize It All Efficiently

All this could be a ton of work, so it pays to be super-organized. I keep a Google Drive document of "Tweets to Use Again" open all the time on my desktop. If I see something to put in rotation, boom, it gets copied into the document immediately. The document generally has 100-200 available tweets, including quotes, my archives, and other people's archives.

On to Tweetdeck... I schedule one tweet per hour, 24/7. Sometimes I don't schedule for a few hours or a day, and that's fine too. I just go to the Drive file of available tweets and copy and paste whatever strikes my fancy, an hour at a time, changing the wording just a bit each time. After I use a tweet, I highlight the background so I won't use it again too soon. If a tweet hasn't appealed to me for awhile, I bump it out of the rotation.

That's it. It's really pretty easy, and doesn't take more than a few minutes a day to schedule something for once an hour. Then I relax and only tweet stuff occasionally that appeals to me in the moment, usually something interesting that I've read or an RT from someone else.

Say Thank You!

This is the part that still bogs me down! I often get 20 or so new followers to thank every day, and another 40 or 50 RTs and mentions. Whew! I make lists, but haven't figured out a way to do that except by hand. I batch up the actual thank you tweets, but hand check each person's profile before I add their name. Sometimes I need to follow someone who has RTed me, or someone who has followed me first. Unfortunately, I can't remember all the names, so I always check!

My latest innovation is to print up an A to Z page with lines, to add @names of RTers and mentioners in alpha order. My hope is that I can keep track and thank people once or twice a week, and won't need to make a new list every day! Today with #FollowFriday is the first try for this. I'll let you know how it works.

If you have ideas about how to thank people personally, that don't involve being tied to the keyboard 24/7 or handing over control of following and unfollowing to a third party, PLEASE let me know!

Plea for Help!

That's the end of the Twitter post, folks! And the end of my limited social media tips, such as they are... Now, I'm asking for your help! I do NOT understand Goodreads—HELP! I kind of like Google+, but clearly haven't gotten the hang of using it—HELP!

My Facebook fan page, sigh...—HELP! There's a new Like-My-FB-Page button you can click on this page, right below the Skelat badge on the top right. Or, better yet,

Maybe if we all stick together, we can get the hang of this social media thing! What's your favorite medium? Have you written a blog post about it? Feel free to share links to your social-media-tips posts in the comments. Whew! And thank you again, both for reading this blog so faithfully, and for helping me figure out what the heck to do with the other media!

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