Shameless Self-Promotion . . . of a Limited Scope

Voilà—my “limited” wee bit of shameless self-promotion, which is nothing more than displaying my Amazon page.

To those of you who have time to post about ratings, update/upgrade blog visuals, stay on top of marketing and promotion, request votes, and do tours . . . God bless you.  Hats off! I envy you so very much.

In the meanwhile, this is all I can accomplish.  And that’s okay; it’s all good.  And for those of you who continue to follow me, thank you for doing so.  You truly mean a lot to this humble [time-challenged] soul.

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She Said that He Said that Me—uh—I Said

“Said” is a useful word—it tells readers who’s speaking and when.  It’s also an over-used word—it tells readers who’s speaking again … and again … and again.

Used too often, “said”—a dialogue tag—becomes tedious and contributes to glazed-eyes syndrome, which is usually preceded by the mouth opening into a large “O” shape.  The storyline/plot becomes flat and can discourage readers from continuing.  An overabundance of these puppies in your book will serve to distract and/or detract.  WPsaid2

Yes, now and again—particularly with lengthy dialogue/conversations—we should be reminded who’s speaking, but not with every piece of dialogue.  There’s no need to constantly advise readers that a character said something; this should be obvious via the conversation and/or action.

Dialogue / dialogue tags serve these purposes:

♦  distinguish who’s speaking    ♦  communicate who we should identify with (feel sympathy for, be angry with)    ♦  keep us from becoming bewildered (who’s talking, what’s being said)    ♦  break up lengthy dialogue    ♦  add friction / create ease / advance a scene    ♦  sound natural, and    ♦  offer new or fresh information (not repeat what we already know).

While the following identifies the speakers and tells us what’s transpiring, is it interesting?  Does it make us want to read further?

“Jim’s picked up dinner,” Leslie said.

“He usually does on Thursdays,” I said.  “I’d have been surprised if he hadn’t.”

“Maybe we should help him set the table,” said she, looking toward the kitchen.

“Nawww, he doesn’t like having people get in his way,” I said.

I don’t know about you, but I feel a yawn coming on.  Why don’t we aim for something a tad more descriptive and active?

“Jim’s picked up dinner,” Leslie advised softly, peering into the kitchen.

“He usually does on Thursdays,” I reminded her.  “I’d be surprised if he hadn’t.”

“Maybe we should help him set the table,” she suggested, waving me over.

“Nawww.”  I shook my head.  “He doesn’t like people getting in his way.”

A teensy-weensy better.  We have a little action.  Let’s give it more oomph; we can remove some of the descriptive prose/action or add extra wording to paint a more vivid picture.

“Jim’s picked up dinner.” Leslie hopped to her slippered feet and padded to the kitchen door.  Quietly, she peered inside.  “Oooh, we’re having Thai.”

“He usually does take-out on Thursdays,” I reminded her and, stepping up behind, gazed over her knobby shoulder. Our youngest brother was whistling happily as he unpacked two huge bags.  I was reminded of the days when my sister and I took over for our ailing mother; given the circumstances, we’d done a pretty decent job of raising the kid.

Her high brow furrowed like a plowed field. “Should we help?”

“He doesn’t like people getting in his way.” I chuckled, recalling Jeremy’s petulant pouts when things didn’t go his way.  “Let him do his thing.”

Add visuals (details, descriptions) wisely—more in moderation than in excess. Too much of anything can be overwhelming, just as too little can prove underwhelming; both approaches lead to huh-duh moments.  Think: balance.

Utilize adjectives and adverbs resourcefully. When strategically added to dialogue tags, they’ll not only provide specific information about the speaker or situation, they’ll make a story come alive.

Consider the different deliveries (and interpretations) of these:

“Challenges are part of life,” Jake said.

“Challenges are part of life,” Jake said flatly.

Jake sighed and smiled ruefully.  “Challenges are part of life.”

“Challenges are part of life,” Jake spat, flinging the phone across the room.

“Challenges are …” Jake struggled to find the right words and sighed loudly when he couldn’t. With a limp shrug, he murmured, “A part of life.”

. . . “Feel free to use ‘said’, but use it prudently,” the blogger said.  <wink>

Me Me Me

That’s me-me-me singing . . . with joy . . . because my friend, fellow blogger/writer/reviewer Jay (James J. Cudney IV) featured me on his blog.

I won’t cut and paste the extensive “Author Alert”, but perhaps you might find a few moments to check it out.  You’d make me a very happy gal, as Jay has.

https://thisismytruthnow.com/2019/07/22/author-alert-tyler-colins/

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Incidentally, New-York based Jay’s written some great books (in addition to posts and reviews).

Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies.

His Braxton Campus Mysteries will appeal to those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations … with a twist.

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Please check him out at https://thisismytruthnow.com!

 

Take a Look-See, but Don’t Keep Looking

Some writers like to detail every action conceivable, from looking at an item, to reaching for it, to doing something with it. This, my friends, is a newbie no-no.  Readers are amazing creatures; they can discern what’s transpiring in a book without being provided every teeny-weeny fact.

One action that seems to be a favorite is “look”.

Jeremy looked at her as he spoke.

I nodded as I looked at her and then continued.

We were looking at each other as we sat at the table.

They had been looking at each other for several minutes as they chatted.

The children looked at the candy as they ate it.

Then, there’s detail-action overload.

Roger looked at the device on the desk and moved over to it, picked it up with his hands and looked at it closely as he held it with both hands. Then, hearing sounds, he looked around, but didn’t see anything.  Sighting a door in the dim distance, he walked over and looked the plain door over, before opening it and looking inside.

Unless the action of “looking” is crucial to the scene/plot, don’t add it.  As readers, we can assume that’s what a character is doing—when he/she walks, runs, speaks, natters, chatters, kills or is killed.

Sure, you can use “look” if you’re describing something.

It looked like a storm was brewing beyond the hills.

Sally looked angry.

However, might this not work better?

A storm was brewing beyond the sun-kissed hills.

Sally’s cheeks reddened with anger.  /  Sally’s expression turned to anger.

Avoid newbie no-nos. Use as active a voice as possible to present details and descriptions, and keep them to a minimum.  Show, don’t tell.  Steer clear of pages and pages of dialogue, where your main character (or any other for that matter) drones on—and on—by explaining sequences as they transpired or offering the history of an event. WPLooking123RFDOTcom 1

You’re a writer with a story to tell.  Have at it!  Show us what that awesome story entails; paint pictures. Keep us in the [enjoyable] moment with well-executed actions, scenes, and storylines.

Thank You, Jay!

I had an editing-related post . . . and Jay (James J. Cudney IV) caught me off guard.  I knew there was a review coming, but time got the better of me . . . and I forgot.  <LOL>

I want to give a great big thank-you to Jay, not just for the awesome review, but for all that he’s done for me and other writers/bloggers.  He’s supportive and helpful, and a wonderful person (the world could do with more Jays).

♦ ♦

Coco’s Nuts by Tyler Colins
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Coco’s Nuts is the third book in the ‘Triple Threat Mysteries’ series written by Tyler Colins. I previously read the first two books in the series and noticed the author has signed on with a new publisher, updated the covers, and launched two more books in the series. It’s time to catch up before I fall behind, as these are full of witty characters, memorable stories, and tons of wonderful descriptions. Let’s chat about Coco’s Nuts and the random body parts we find with tattoos on them…

First off, the title and the cover. Can you get any more eye-catching? Are they bombs? Is the author playing with the word coconut? Is it about eating fruits and nuts, being crazy nuts, or leaning toward that all-too-familiar and funny euphemism? Before reading the book, I didn’t know… after reading it, I can say with hilarity, it’s all three! I love when an author can be both serious and amusing in his/her books. Tyler Colins has a great balance of delivering snappy dialog and natural conversation. At times, there are breaks in conversation and questions being ignored (to be later responded to), matching how people really engage with one another. I like the reality of this world.

It takes place in Hawaii, and let me tell you… Colins knows how to visually create a scene. Between the descriptions in the narrative and the add-ons when someone is speaking or physically doing something in a scene, you kinda feel transported to this fictional place. I like that immersive feeling, and it’s not always included in these genres of books. Often a mystery is entirely about the mystery, but Colins ensures there is just as much ambiance and background to make you feel part of the story.

Of the three private eyes, we tend to follow JJ the most. In this caper, she’s much stronger and more pushy than the last two. The girl knows how to solve a crime, even if the client only hired the agency to prove she wasn’t guilty of murder. The ladies know that in order to do that, they need to find the guilty party. And it isn’t easy! There are a few victims and a couple of different killers / lawbreakers in this edition. Buddy, the beautiful female truck driver who’s accused of murder, isn’t all we think she is, which makes the plot even murkier and layered. I like those types of stories, as you never know what you’re getting yourself into. In this one, each chapter unfolds like a clue… we think we have a lead only to find out it opens up another murder or subplot. Then, they all come back together. You have to really keep yourself focused to know who stole Coco’s Nuts!

Kudos to Colins for another splendid entry in the Triple Threat investigations. I look forward to getting to know our main characters even more, as Colins continues to drop details left and right, but we always wonder what they’re doing when they’re not present in the chapter. I suspect there is something big coming in the next book, which I’ll be reading next month. Thanks for the opportunity to get lost in another good book, Ms. Colins… 4.5 stars for this caper.

♦ ♦

Please check out Jay’s awesome site (he’s got some pretty amazing books himself): https://thisismytruthnow.com.

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Preamble to the Prologue

Some writers will present details, after details, after details.  And usually via one character.  Sometimes it works; most times it doesn’t. Why?  Readers get lost.  And bored.  Eyes acquire a when-do-we-arrive glaze—like someone who’s been drifting in an oarless canoe on a vast sea with un-viewable shorelines.

Yes, please, provide background, particularly if past events impact the present or it’s crucial we’re aware of certain pre-existing facts.  Look at it this way.  You’re sitting in a café or at work, and a colleague recounts his/her weekend or report-analyzing discoveries.  Do you truly want to hear every detail—what transpired in exhaustive succession, minute by minute?  If you do, kudos; that’s awesome.  Most of us, however, don’t have the time or fascination (attention) factor.  We want the nitty-gritty, the significant points.

One way to give readers that nitty-gritty: show, don’t tell.  Offer more action and less dialogue (“text-book narration”).  If there’s a lot of detailed (important) history to impart, consider a prologue.  This introduction sets us up for what’s to occur; it gives insight into why a plot twist might have occurred or why it happens when it does.  It supplies that little extra information that progresses the storyline and/or pivotal scenes.

A quick example.  Earth has been overtake by aliens and all humans are now slaves.  Jenkins, a slave overseer, decides to tell a young slave, new to the enclave, how the current state of the world came to exist.  He tells and he tells, and he tells.  For five pages … with lengthy paragraphs of dialogue (interspersed with “I said” or “I explained how”).  It might prove more interesting if a prologue does the detailing—of the tense action, bitter battle, and triumphant leaders.  Feel free to do it in five (even ten) pages.  Open the prologue with a simple heading, such as “Five-hundred years previous”.

Check out prologues to get a feel for them.  Try writing them from different perspectives.  You may even find the exercise fun, but if nothing else, you’ll learn what works (and what doesn’t).

Consider your book a map with a legend, which is the prologue.  Like a descriptive table, it provides context … it’s the key that makes that road [through the plot] easier to navigate. WPProlGISGeography

Hula-ing to Happiness

The cover of Can You Hula Like Hilo Hattie?, the second Triple Threat Investigation Agency book, has a new cover.  I couldn’t be happier.  Well, okay, if I won the big lottery pot, I’d likely be a bit happier, but I’m still pretty delighted.  Thanks Creativia; you do great work!

It’s in keeping, and as eye-catching, as the others.  Simple yet inviting.

And what do the private eyes think about this one?  JJ’s loves the “bobble” hula dancer (she has one in her Jeep).  Linda, as always, believes the colors, font, and design are outstanding.  And Rey’s swaying with praise, which is delightful, given her initial response when told their “pretty P.I. faces” would no longer be featured (which we won’t repeat here, as it may make some people’s ears curl). WPhula2B

Now I have to commit to that promise of getting things rolling promo-wise (something rather intimidating, if not overwhelming, for this ol’ gal).  Wish me luck.  <LOL>

The Rookie Writer & Please Don’t Dos

Rookie/newbie writers are still finding their voices.  There’s a major learning curve; we’ve all been there and it’s all good.

I’ve returned to the world of editing—on a part-time, freelance basis.  It’s always been a joy of mine and, hopefully, it will eventually become full-time. (Keeping the faith and holding hope.)  As such, I feel compelled to share a little editing advice though the next couple of posts.  Let’s start with two, hmm, let’s call them missteps.

These two “please don’t dos” seem to occur in blissful abundance (I feel the joy).  Please note, my enthusiastic friends, neither of the following lends itself to strengthening a plot or story if employed with said aforementioned bliss.

#1 – The Exclamation Mark/Point

This punctuation mark is used to demonstrate strong feelings or emotions,  to indicate yelling, or to present emphasis.  It shouldn’t end every second sentence.  Nor should it be used willy-nilly.

For example:

  “Not Jeremy again!” Marvin commented, strolling around the heap of debris on the kitchen floor.

  “He’s so clumsy!” Greta added, annoyed. “Some people just don’t do anything and get away with it!  It’s so not fair!”

  “It’s not fair, you are so right!” Marvin agreed. “It shouldn’t be us cleaning up his mess!”

Try something like this:

  “Not Jeremy again?” Marvin asked with a sour smile, avoiding the debris on the kitchen floor as he strolled to the cupboard.

  “He’s so clumsy,” Greta stated, her expression a cross between annoyance and anger.  “Some people won’t do a solitary thing to help.  And they get away with it.  It’s so unfair!”

  “You’re so right,” he agreed, cross.  “We shouldn’t be cleaning up his mess.”

Use an exclamation mark when appropriate, and preferably in dialogue.  Sure, it can be used in the narrative, be it first-person or third.  But keep it to a minimum.  Allow readers to react to—experience—the action (tension, friction, sentiment).  Don’t push them into it by tossing in countless exclamation marks.

Instead of:

  “We’d better tell them what we saw!” Lee said.

  Terry looked worried. “You tell them!  I don’t like the folks in blue!”

Try something like:

  “We’d better tell them what we saw,” Lee said anxiously, crossing her arms and peering into the darkness.

  Worried, Terry slipped behind the window curtain.  “You tell them.  I don’t like the folks in blue.”

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Augment.  Add appropriate verbs and augment with an adjective or adverb (if appropriate) to create—extract—that emotion you’re striving for.  Insert more description—not so much as to cause readers’ eyes to glaze over, but enough to paint vivid pictures.

#2 – CAPITAL LETTERS

A capital letter is used in various capacities—at the start of a new sentence, proper nouns (name, places, things), titles in the signature of a letter/email, specific regions, films and songs, and so forth.  DO NOT USE CAPITAL LETTERS LIKE THIS: IN A SENTENCE OR DIALOGUE TO CONVEY SHOUTING OR FEELING. WPediting2C1

Instead of:

  John grabbed Lidia’s hand.  “DON’T GO IN THERE!”

Try:

  John grabbed Lidia’s hand and urgently warned her not to enter.

  John grabbed Lidia’s hand and fretfully said, “Don’t go in there.”

A few extra words here and there can add much, and decrease redundancy or overkill.  Allow your story to swim like a dolphin—gracefully and effortlessly.

HAVE AN AWESOME WEEK! . . . er . . . Bask in the sun-splashed summer days to come.

Jumping on the Blog Tour Bandwagon

The Writer’s Grab-Bag isn’t a stop on the book tour, and the original plan was to wait until the end  . . .  but what the heck?  Let’s aim for sooner than later.

James J. Cudney IV—Jay—has a fourth book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries called Mistaken Identity Crisis.  I had an opportunity to read it a wee while back and thoroughly enjoyed it, as I did the others.  It has all the elements of a cozy— an affable protagonist [with adorable young daughter], likable regulars, a host of suspects, and the putting-together-the-pieces-of-the-puzzle mystery. WPJay3

Kellan is a Braxton professor and amateur sleuth.  He has a supportive family, love interest, and eccentric in-your-face grandmother you gotta love. The case officially begins when a missing ruby is found near an electrified dead body during the campus cable-car redesign project.  Not only must Kellan must locate the real killer to protect his brother, he has a delicate if not dangerous personal family matter to resolve.  Add a sundry of jewel thefts to the murder, feuding mobsters, and you have a thrilling, fun whodunit.

Come visit Wharton County.  Get to know the townspeople.  Learn how Nana D does as the new mayor.  Follow Kellan as he sorts through the suspect list . . . and solves the case.

A worthwhile read, my friends.  Enjoy!

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Learn more about Jay’s books at https://jamesjcudney.com.