I have a brand new blog site at https://www.innovativeediting.com/blog/, where I'll continue to post my crazy quirks and writing insights every Monday and Wednesday.
Starting next week, you'll also find posts specifically geared toward explaining writer-related jargon... challenging you to take your book-in-the-making seriously... and encouraging you that, yeah, you really can do this.
While you're checking all that out, feel free to download the special report "Writing Tips 101" or reach out for a free consultation about your the novel or non-fiction project you're working on. Wherever you are in the process, I'd love to hear about it.
Chief Executive Editor
Saturday, February 11, 2017
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Let’s talk about you guys for once. I know this blog is usually all about me, me and more me.
Blah blah blah, chirp chirp, beep beep.
But let’s face it… You lovely people deserve to be recognized too. So here goes…
I realized something about you the other day. Monday, to be precise. After publishing “The Single Trait Taylor Swift and I Have in Common” and seeing how many hits it got so early on, I came to the conclusion you all much prefer my posts about celebrities.
That’s not a very flattering deduction, and I’ll admit I did a bit of judging. I mean, there’s some intellectual stuff on Muses and Musings: history, philosophy, social commentary. And yet you prefer celebrities?
I was 95% certain I was right, but in an effort to be fair, I looked up my blog stats… only to find a delightfully different answer:
Not a single one of the Top 5 most-clicked on posts had anything to do with Hollywood.
Number 1 on that list was “Why I’m Telling Everyone I Possibly Can Not to Trust Their Business to Webs.com.”
“What Your Character Might Be Thinking If She Has to Attend a Really Boring Meeting” did pretty well too. So did “Let’s Start Out 2016 by Getting Real and Talking Trash!”, “I Can’t Take It Anymore: Here’s My Political Rant” and “I Am So Mad at Writers Right Now, I Want to Cry!”
Notice a theme? Because I definitely do.
You prefer the snarky, not-so-easily-impressed titles. The ones that declare, “You’re going to have to work a lot harder than that to get my good opinion, sweetheart.”
In my book, that makes you pretty darn awesome. I kinda love you right now.
Sure, you also seemed to really go for titles about relationship drama, which makes you pretty darn nosy. But hey, nobody’s perfect. And anything’s better than being obsessed with celebrities.
Monday, March 28, 2016
I realized something about myself the other day.
I’m kinda like the novelist version of Taylor Swift.
Don’t worry. I might write fantasy, but I do understand reality. So I’m not comparing myself to her in looks, fan-base adoration or success. I mean, let’s face it: She’s a blond-haired, blue-eyed, five-foot-ten-inch household name worth $280 million (or so my Bing search tells me).
Considering that I’m dark-haired, dark-eyed and shorter than the average American female, not to mention relatively unknown and I just drained my entire savings account to buy a 10-year-old car… There’s obviously not very much to liken there.
But when it comes to the proclivity to write about the people we think wronged us? Well, seems like we have something in common with after all.
Right now, I’m editing the getting-close-to-final version of Wing and Dagger after my beautiful, brutal editor took a red-pen chainsaw to it. And as I already shared, the main villain in this fourth Faerietales installment is a personal one, based on an old-college friend who turned out to be both too friendly and not friendly enough.
Nor is he the only one I take a literary stab at during this storyline.
There’s his wife, also a former friend who chose to cut me out of her life rather than acknowledge that her husband was hitting on other women (me, included).
There’s the red-headed trollop who left me at a British bus stop at 2 am after I couldn’t find my bus pass, knowing full well how bad I was with directions. She was mad at me for reasons I still don’t quite understand. Considering I could have been mugged, raped, and/or murdered on the trek back to campus, I think she rather deserves an honorable mention as a first-class jerk.
And then there’s the snob from my teen years who always yapped about being a boy magnet and made sure everyone knew who was worth her time. I got to sit by her a few years back at a birthday party, where she chose to stay silent for 15 minutes before deigning to acknowledge my existence, complete with theatrical sighs, as if she was a 19th-century lady and I a mere peasant.
That’s just Wing and Dagger, to say nothing about Maiden America and the upcoming Designing America, where I take on a total of seven current or former coworkers; or Not So Human and To Err Is Faerie, which involve an ex-boyfriend of mine.
I don’t think I targeted anyone specifically in the Dirty Politics series; but hey, Taylor Swift wrote a song or two about her general thoughts on life instead of her exes and enemies.
So there's my one and only claim to Taylor-Swift-like status. Go me!
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
I found an old copy of Not So Human the other day inside a bright red three-ring binder. In fact, it’s such an old copy that it was still being called The Tinker Bell Beginning at the time.
There’s no date on the printed computer pages, but I’m going to guess that they’re about six years old considering certain details in the book and the particular language I used.
Oh the language!
No, I’m not talking about swearing, although I will admit that I resorted to a bit of profanity in that draft. I’m talking about my word choice and word order.
The novice mistakes I made were appalling. I blush to even think about them (and yes, some of my sentences really did sound that archaic). So much so that I’m not sharing them here. I’ll just give you a general example.
Anyone who read the first three published copies of the Faerietales series knows that Dr. Clarence Stewart is a thoroughly rotten individual. He’s cruel. He’s calculating. He’s creepy.
Honestly, he’s a completely flat character with no non-wretched qualities until the very end of Up in the Air, where his guard finally drops. And even then, he’s not in any way, shape or form likable. He’s just a little less one-dimensional.
As villains go, I think I did a bang-up job on the jerk.
Again though, that’s in the published version. I don’t know what in the world I was thinking in Draft 3 or 4, or whatever I found the other day. But Stewart is a whole lot less convincing.
For example, he’s not consistent. One minute, the words coming out of his mouth and the expressions on his face indicate that he’s snide and smug and certain. Two lines of dialogue later though, and he’s becoming very austere and easily offended like he’s a stuffy old butler or something.
I suppose he’s a better-rounded character that way, but in the shoddiest way possible. If anything, I just found him confusing.
There were plenty of other areas of the manuscript that made me shake my head, close my eyes and groan. Moreover, I didn’t even recognize some of it, since it’s been so long since I cut those sections out. But the scenes with Stewart were probably the most perplexing parts I flipped through.
Monday, March 21, 2016
I’m not one of those people who thinks all change is good all the time.
To me, reality is pretty clear on the subject. Sometimes change is bad. Sometimes it’s downright awful. And even when it’s necessary or even desirable, it can be rather scary.
For example, let’s say you’re stuck in a job you really don’t like. Let’s even say you’ve been there for over eight years, during which time you’ve seen worthwhile workers get fired or otherwise driven out for the least professional reasons possible. You’ve also seen unethical behavior rewarded too many times to count, to say nothing about the sexualized atmosphere that makes for a disturbing and sometimes outright hostile work environment.
But let’s say a new job opportunity comes up. A job you think you’d enjoy and you’d be good at. Do you go for it?
If that sounds like a stupid-easy question, think hard about what that new job involves: all the questions and uncertainty…
Will you actually enjoy it? Or will it end up being worse than what you’ve already got? Because you’re very well aware that your current job with all of its drama could be worse.
What if you fail? What if you leave a guaranteed paycheck, only to find out you can’t hack it at the new place? What if they fire you and you’re left with nothing?
Or what if you submit that application, only to be rejected: reminded once again that you’re stuck working for a company that doesn’t know the definition of the word professional?
With all those negative possibilities, it’s disturbingly doable to turn down opportunities for advancement when they come around. It’s so simple to accept mediocrity when mediocrity is familiar. Even comfortable.
It’s rather sad put that way, but it’s true nonetheless, whether it’s about jobs or relationships, or working on that project – that manuscript – you’ve been putting off for fear of failing.
So here’s the thing. Yes, striving for positive change can be scary. Very much so. And yes, there’s no guarantee of success.
The only certainty you have is that you’ll never know if you can make it if you never try.
Just for the record, I applied for the job. I’ll probably have butterflies in my stomach until I hear back one way or the other, but I went for it nonetheless.
How about you?
What are you waiting for?
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
The Issue of Race During the Revolutionary War – Part 2 (Which Incidentally DOES Have Something to Do With the Revolutionary War This Time)
When I began my research for the upcoming Designing America, I was at a loss on how to handle the situation protagonist Abigail Carpenter would find herself in.
But insight into an African American war hero saved me and my plot. This historical figure – let’s call him Jal – fits into Designing America perfectly, as if he knew some history-obsessed novelist 230 years later would need him to be at this place at this time doing this thing.
Clearly, I was nowhere on Jal’s mind any more than Thomas Paine was contemplating Maiden America when he penned The American Crisis (though that combination worked out perfectly too). But I’m exceptionally grateful to him nonetheless for matching up so well.
Just as clearly, I also owe him for putting his life on the line, especially to liberate a country that didn’t recognize his own right to freedom. You see, Jal was a slave during his service to the United States. Moreover, he was a slave at a time when he could have just trotted over to the British ranks and pledged his services to them in order to gain his freedom.
Yet he still chose America, something I honestly don’t know I would have done in his shoes.
That’s obviously the biggest reason Jal deserves my gratitude, as well as that of every other American. But I’m also grateful because he gave me deeper insight into the nation’s complicated mass of prevailing prejudices, which I detail in Designing America’s “Historical Note” 14:
At the risk of being repetitive, since this was somewhat covered in Maiden America already, there were scores of black men, both free and slave, who served in the Continental Army. This included three quarters of at least one Rhode Island regiment, which was apparently noticeably better dressed and trained than its fellow units (Ketchum, 147). Moreover, the longer the war went on, the more the patriots needed every possible fighter, and so the more open-minded recruiters became (Ketchum, 218-219).
Ketchum does note that those soldiers never got the same compensation that their white counterparts received (219). Then again, according to Sergeant Martin, the white soldiers were thoroughly neglected too, with all of the well-meant promises of currency and land incentives they were promised falling by the wayside (243-244).
Some historians are also quick to make the case that darker-skinned soldiers were shunned by their white counterparts. And they’d be correct to say as much. But once again, the larger situation is fairly complex. The soldiers were ridiculously cliquish about everything else: The New Englanders and New Yorkers didn’t think much of each other (Martin, 61), and at least one Pennsylvanian mother tried threatening her unruly child into submission by telling her she’d “give her to the Yankees,” as if that was somehow a fate worse than death (Martin, 98).
Apparently, New Englanders and Pennsylvanians were “two setts of people as opposite in manners and customs as light and darkness, consequently there was not much cordiality subsisting between us; for, to tell the sober truth, I had in those days, as lief have been incorporated with a tribe of western Indians, as with any of the southern troops; especially of those which consisted mostly (as the Pennsylvanians did), of foreigners” (Martin, 117).
Those “foreigners,” by the way, were likely Irish and Scotsmen. Really, the number of prejudices everyone had against each other makes it difficult to understand how in the world the Americans won at all.
Monday, March 14, 2016
The Issue of Race During the Revolutionary War – Part 1 (Which Incidentally Has Nothing to Do With the Revolutionary War Because I Went Off on a Long-Winded Tangent)
But as I wrote it, I started wondering stuff. And as I started wondering stuff, I started researching. And before I knew it, I was discovering some really fascinating information that had nothing to do with the Revolutionary War.
Hence the addition I had to add to my title.
I won’t bore you with the exact bunny trail I took. I’ll just tell you where it ended: with George Washington Carver, so quite a while later down the historical road.
I already knew about Carver, of course. An African-American scientist and inventor, he’s a hero of mine for popularizing peanut production, allowing for the creation of… peanut butter!
Without him, we wouldn’t have Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs (which I may or may not have been eating too many of lately), an appalling thought through and through.
But I guess I always learned about Carver in some kind of educational box that set him apart from his political, social and even artistic background. Because my brain was blown when I wound up searching for him based solely on the time period he grew up in.
For example, did you know that right around the time he was beginning his groundbreaking (Ha! Groundbreaking!) agricultural studies, the nation was going through a horrible economic depression, second only to that of the 1930s?
I definitely didn’t. Nor did I have any idea that he and Henry Ford were really close friends. Which is so cool!
Admittedly, yes, I’m a history nerd. And not everyone else cares about such details as much as I do. But it still got me wondering how many other innovative individuals over time have been stuffed into neat, tidy, boring little boxes they never belonged in.
At least in George Washington Carver’s case, he was a truly amazing American who deserves to stand out for all of his nuances, not only as an inventor, but as a person.
And there ends my bunny trail, and perhaps my soap box as well.
I’ll be publishing Part 2 of “The Issue of Race During the Revolutionary War” on Wednesday.