Archive | February, 2012

Being an Editor

27 Feb

Besides writing, I do a fair amount of editing and have found that I enjoy it almost as much as I do writing.

There is something about clarifying a piece of writing, while still retaining the writer’s voice and intent, that is enormously satisfying. I know from experience that a writer can read over a piece a hundred times, and still miss small errors. Even though as writers we know what we are saying, it takes a pair of new eyes to bring the piece into the beauty of the language. And a well-constructed sentence or paragraph is a thing of beauty.

I am a former English teacher, and have read through more student papers than I can count! At least now as an editor, the writers I work with are usually eager to see their writing at its best, and are not just looking for a good grade.

I have also taught many students whose first language was not English, and this is a great help with my editing. Two of my current clients are non-native English speakers. The first language of one is Farsi and the other Icelandic. I feel somewhat like a teacher as I read what they have written, and clarify the pieces into standard English.

If anyone is interested in having me edit your work, please contact me. My prices are reasonable!

Where do characters come from?

22 Feb

My characters are frequently based on real people, but as the story develops, they take on a life of their own and bear little more than a superficial resemblance to the person on whom it is based.

In the case of Nara, the main character in The Gate House, she is based on the daughter-in-law of a friend from my days in Costa Rica. Her name is Nara, a unique name, and she is petite with dark hair and grew up in a Caribbean island nation. But that is where the similarity ends.

From that basic description, I created Nara Blake, who lives in the Gate House with her father and aunt, and whose interest in art along with her innate curiosity leads her into trouble.

Elaine, the cathedral tour guide who becomes involved with Nara and her adventures, is based on a real guide I met at Lincoln Cathedral. But of course I know nothing about the real woman’s personal life. I created one for the character in my novel.

Next time you are in a public place, look around and imagine a character from someone you see. From that person, you can create a story, or invite him or her into a story you are writing.

Here are a couple of websites I like for help in creating characters:

How to Create Characters

Fiction Factor

Isla Tortuga, Costa Rica

Review of Racing the Devil

18 Feb

Since I am traveling this week-end, I am posting a review I wrote of Racing the Devil by Jaden Terrell. This review was published in the most recent issue of Suspense Magazine.

Carve out a chunk of free time to read this novel, because you won’t be able to put it down until you reach the end of this tale.

Set in Nashville, Tennessee, Racing the Devil is the first in the Jared McKean mystery series by Jaden Terrell. McKean is an ex-cop turned private detective who is framed for murder, in what looks like the perfect crime.

Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to create what looks like solid evidence of McKean’s guilt. But even as he works to untangle the strands of evidence that he knows is false, he still can’t budge a legal system that wants to believe in his guilt. McKean takes on himself as a client and sets out to investigate the connections to the murdered woman and her family, and runs afoul of the pastor of the Church of the Reclamation, a decidedly chauvinistic individual who just may have a criminal past.

Author Jaden Terrell has created a protagonist whose humanity emerges with each page. Besides clearing his own name of murder, he has a network of family and friends who help him when they can, but they all need Jared McKean, too.  McKean’s roommate is dying of AIDS, his seven year old son has Down’s Syndrome, and his  teenage nephew has joined a Goth sub-culture and is breaking his father’s heart. Jared McKean does it all, but he is no superman.

Author Terrell writes in a tight, concise style that maintains the suspenseful pace throughout the book. Terrell – and main character McKean – are able to deal with issues such as prostitution and sexual abuse of children without descending into ugliness. Jared McKean is still good, and there is hope for him, and hope in his world.

I look forward to reading the next book in the series, A Cup Full of Midnight, which is due to be published later this year.


Into the 21st Century — I Finally Bought a Kindle

14 Feb

I was ready to buy a Kindle almost two years ago. I liked the idea of such a light weight device to carry around my reading material. I travel quite a bit and read even more, so an e-reader seemed like the perfect solution.

Then Barnes & Noble announced the Nook. Wait and see, I thought. So I waited and couldn’t make up my mind. Eventually I decided I didn’t want an e-reader at all. I love the feel of traditional books. I love reading books and then passing them on to friends and relatives. “Here! I’ve got a copy you can have. You’ll love it!” The thought of spending money on an e-book, reading it, and having it just sit there on my device forever doing nothing just didn’t seem right. After all, my mother was a thrifty New Englander. We spend our money carefully.

But as a writer, I am aware of the growing popularity of e-books. And if I am writing for a medium, I want to be familiar with it. Somewhere along the line a radical thought occurred to me — it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I can read some books on a e-reader and some on traditional paper. Additionally, I can borrow e-books from the library for free.

All my reservations and arguments crumbled into dust, and I took myself off to my local big box store and bought a Kindle Touch. It seemed to have the features I want and is in the right price range for trying something new.

My daughter bought a Nook Tablet today and my husband bought an i-Pad last month, so we intend to have “device wars” this week-end.

Change is inevitable. Fighting it is futile. I am embracing change!

My new Kindle in its pretty purple cover.

Back to Lincolnshire

11 Feb

Back to Lincolnshire.

Back to Lincolnshire

11 Feb

Since my novel The Gate House is due out in May, I am thinking about the trip to England that inspired the novel. My husband and I stayed in a bed in breakfast in the market town of Spalding in Lincolnshire. We traveled to that part of England because his ancestors had come from their in the 1800s. The bed and breakfast where we stayed was, in fact, an old railroad gate house. In the early days of railroads, a gatekeeper would live in a cottage next to the crossing, and go out to raise and lower the gate as required when people needed to cross the track.

The building where we stayed had been added to and renovated over the years until it became the family home with two or three extra bedrooms upstairs for guests. Our host prepared a delicious full Scottish breakfast for us, and even took us out in his car to a nearby town to visit the church where my husband’s great-great-grandparents were married.

While he was learning about his family history, I was imagining the story that became The Gate House. After all, an old house like that must have a hidden staircase, a secret room or maybe even a ghost.

Check out the “real” Gate House, and maybe book a room on your next trip to England.

A full Scottish breakfast. That black lump is black pudding, a type of sausage made from pork blood and oatmeal.

Countdown to “The Gate House” Release

8 Feb

Are you journaling now? Try this journaling prompt: Write about a time when you feel you were treated unjustly. How did you handle it?

My novel The Gate House is coming out — again — in three months. It is wonderful to have it available again, but it puts me in the position of promoting a book that has been read and promoted before.

If you have read The Gate House, please bear with me. I hope to have some stories out to keep you interested. If you haven’t read it, I will be posting some fun stuff relating to the book soon.