Saturday, May 30, 2020

An easier way to proofread

For a writer, proofreading and doing it thoroughly is essential, and the more efficiently, the better. I do not like to see typos in a book I’m reading, and I hate seeing them in my own work.

Proofreading your own work, particularly if it’s long, is a challenge. We know what we mean to say and so that’s what our eyes see.  It helps to let the piece sit for a couple of weeks or a month but most of us are impatient to get it done and submitted. Someone told me that reading it backwards would catch errors. 

Study says that meditation can help you stay stressfree
Truth in advertising: this is not me, although those might be the Sandia Mountains. I can't get my knees to do that, and my hair has lost all its color. Also, that green stuff would be goatheads (a/k/a puncture vine).
Maybe it does for some people. If I wanted to go into a trance, that’s the technique I’d use: after three or four lines, my mind had wondered off into the infinite.

There are dozens of helpful suggestions on Google, not all of which I’ve  read, perhaps because many belong to the “read it backwards” school of thought. Maybe my recent discovery is already a known technique. For what it may be worth, here it is:

Although I am a techno-dinosaur, even I was dimly aware it’s possible to put your documents on your Kindle. Why would you want to? you ask. A couple of days ago, it came to me. If I sent Portia & The Merchant of London (my recently completed, almost ready to send to my editor, sixth novel) to my Kindle, I could proofread it without having to drag a box of 300+ pages around with me.
18th century leather document box stamped with the George Rex "Royal Cipher and Crown"
So I did. 

No doubt those of you who send legal documents or “To Do” lists or whatever to your Kindle do it the high-tech way—which I was unable to figure out—but emailing it to my Kindle was easy and actually worked. Eureka! Who knew Kindles had their own email addresses? Not I.

There it was. Ninety-two thousand words, double-spaced, and not formatted as an e-book would be, but readable. I settled down with my Kindle, a notebook and a pen. When I came to a typo, I jotted a few words near it to search for in my Word document. Then I realized I could do it in my office and eliminate the notebook and pen. See a typo in the Kindle, find it in Word and poof!

I found lots of typos. In addition, reading it as if it were someone else’s novel, I noticed bad word choices, clunky phrases, superfluous sentences, things that should have been corrected the first two or three or four times I proofread it on my desktop screen and then in hard copy.

I am doing my proofreading this way from now on. Then it will only be a question of figuring out how to get the draft out of my Kindle…

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Review of Letters and Lies by Colleen L. Donnelly

Oh, what a tangled web we weave/When first we practice to deceive!
Letters and Lies by Colleen L. Donnelly is the third novel of Ms. Donnelly’s that I’ve read, and it won’t be the last. Unforeseeable outcomes spring from minor, apparently harmless decisions. It’s satisfying—and rare—to read an unpredictable story, one that makes the reader think about the consequences of the characters’ actions.    

Genteel, jilted spinster businesswoman Louise Archer marches onto a westbound train to reclaim the man who has jilted her. She uses a different name and poses as a widow for what seems like a good reason but almost immediately leads to complications. Getting off at an earlier stop to extricate herself from those, an impulsive act of kindness leads to more lies and further complications.

The characters are believably developed, the writing is excellent, and I never foresee all the plot twists in Ms. Donnelly’s books or how they will turn out. For me, that makes a five-star novel.

Letters and Lies will be released on May 25, 2020. Reviewed for

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Remembering my mother

My mother died at the age of ninety-two in 2006. I’ve pretty much ignored Mother’s Day since then (my cats don’t celebrate it), but this year I found myself remembering her. She was my best friend and a delightful human being, but I never thought we had much in common:
Helen D. Buckley 1914 - 2006

My mother was athletic and competitive. In high school, another player elbowed her in the nose, breaking it. I have photos of Mum bicycling, playing golf, and at the beach in her youth. While I don’t have a picture of her playing tennis, she admitted she and a friend used to sneak into a country club to play on their court, something I would never have done.

We went to the health club (her idea) several times a week until she was eighty-eight. She also did water aerobics, and most mornings walked around the lake adjoining Seattle’s Woodland Park, about three miles. I often went with her; at five a.m., we didn’t have to compete with a lot of other walkers, bicyclists, or skateboarders, and I still had time to go home and get ready for work. Without her influence, I am more of a couch potato.

I’ve been working on the yard recently, bringing back memories of her garden in Anchorage, where we lived until I was six. Dad grew the vegetables and she planted flowers: sweet peas, snapdragons, nasturtiums, and bachelor’s buttons between the house and the septic tank. The sweet peas were smaller than those you see today, and had a sweet scent (hence, “sweet peas”). I did not inherit her gardening ability (not that she ever used it again; it must have been a one-time project). Unless a plant is actually “invasive”, I can kill it.

One year, she mentioned she was getting a refund on her income tax. When I asked if she planned to apply it to her next year’s taxes, she said meditatively, “Oh, no. I think I’ll go to Reno.” Those cheap two day excursions to Reno or Las Vegas were a favorite treat. She allotted a certain amount of money she was willing to lose (not very much!), and once it was gone, she stopped gambling, Her game was Twenty-One, a/k/a Blackjack, and she almost always broke even for her trip. I can never remember the rules of card games.

It’s only in the last few years I’ve realized that I inherited more traits from her than I thought.  

Her great gift to me was her love of reading. We went to the library every Saturday, a ritual we continued almost until I was old enough to vote, and she read to me when I was pre-literate. She did not like children’s books; her opinion of one from her youth, Elsie Dinsmore, does not bear repeating. Instead she read me young adult books and sometimes adult books as well. Note: this was in the days when books meant for adults did not contain explicit sex (or even implicit sex). I think one of them was Lorna Doone; another was about whalers, and there was one about a juvenile delinquent.

When we moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, Mum went to work for the state police as a clerk/typist. She loved the job. Something interesting was always happening. Apart from the time she went to get her lunch out of the office refrigerator and found a jar of severed fingers in alcohol, there was always the prospect of bodies turning up at the spring thaw and the break-up of river ice. We lived near the Chena River. At the breakup, we used to walk down to the bank to see if we could spot one. Some people might have been appalled. It’s pretty clear where I got my bloody-minded streak.

She liked nice clothing. I have  receipts for things she bought before she married my father, at prices which seem surprisingly high for the 1940s. I think one of them was a beaver coat, which I recall from my toddler days. So soft! She also liked jewelry. Noticeable jewelry. It was always tasteful, but it was often…big. Come to think of it, I like those things, too. 

She was smart, fun-loving, spontaneous, and kind. This is the best illustration I can give:   

In her eighties, she hired a man who was going around the neighborhood looking for work. I think she had him wash the windows, as they required the use of a ladder. Afterward she asked him in for coffee and a snack. He was married, their house had burned, he was out of work, and he couldn’t afford to buy his wife a Christmas present. My mother had a Mr. Coffee she had bought on sale and put away in case hers died. She would not have cared to face morning without coffee. So she gave it to him.

Someone who heard this story at her memorial service thought she had been a patsy. But she reaped a benefit: the man’s wife wrote her a letter to thank her. It was the beginning of a correspondence that lasted after the couple moved back to the Midwest and until my mother died. There weren’t very many letters per year but each one was long and newsy. “Lola is the only person I know who writes a really good letter,” my mother said, “except me.” 
Her chocolate cookies summed up her attitude to life: when I asked her secret to making such incredibly good ones, she murmured vaguely, “I just put in more of everything.”

Words to live by. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

A Chat with Donna Ann Brown, author of Elizabeth Barrett and Cupid’s Brooch

The title of Donna Ann Brown’s novel caught my attention because I’m an old English major. It sounded like a fun read, so I thought I'd interview the author.   

Q.: Donna, how did you come up with the you studied in school, something you read, or something you experienced?
Elizabeth Barrett
by Henry William Pickersgill
idea for your novel? Was it influenced by something

A.: Sitting with a group of women you haven’t met before is always interesting. At one particular women’s group, a lady told us she wished time travel existed. She wanted to go back in time and change a few aspects of her business. 

Another person talked about celebrities nonstop. The oddness of their conversations stuck with me. What would happen if an actress went back in time before they were vetted and petted? I thought the idea sounded fun and started playing with a story in my mind. Suddenly Liz Barrett came alive. About halfway through her story I wondered what would happen if her doppelganger changed places with her? There have been so many changes in the last 100 years. What would one experience seeing automobiles, airplanes, cell phones, and scantily clad woman? Elizabeth showed up. She decided the only explanation for where she had landed was Purgatory.

Q.: Was there a particular influence in your life that led you to write? A teacher? A book you read that made you want to write? Did you tell your cat—or teddy bear—stories after bedtime?

A.: A new girl entered our classroom in sixth grade. I became a social outcast for a while because she loved to bully people. My teacher noticed her behavior and gave me a book that changed my life. Harriet The Spy had friends who stopped talking to her.

The story resonated with me and I started scribbling daily in a notebook. My mother noticed and, instead of asking why I suddenly wanted to become a writer, she told me “You can’t make any money doing that for a living. You’ll go broke and starve so stop wasting your time.”

I took typing in high school instead of creative writing because I didn’t want to disappoint her. Wrote for company newsletters while working in Corporate America and even published a few articles in magazines. Did a hypnosis session when I realized I couldn’t finish any book I ever started.  Now I write a blog for a client who pays me and have a critic partner who I meet with consistently. My journey into writing has only just begun.

Q.: Are you a plot-in-detail or a seat-of-the-pants writer? How long did it take you to write?

What books am I reading in 2019? - Martijn ScheijbelerI read four books at a time and I write the same way. Unfortunately, I can read faster than I write. My critique partner reminded me I had a few finished projects and challenged me to submit at least one.  This book has been sitting in a folder on my desktop since 2012. I polished it last year, sent the story to The Wild Rose Press, and I’m thrilled they accepted Elizabeth Barrett & Cupid’s Brooch.

Q.: Is Elizabeth Barrett & Cupid’s Brooch a stand-alone or the beginning of a series?

A.: This book is a stand-alone book, however, I am getting whispers for another Trade in Time story.

Q.: Anything you want to add?

A.: Last year I went to Costa Rica to become an Access Consciousness Facilitator. Fun for me is learning a skill while visiting a new city or country.  I attend classes and conventions all over the world.  My adult son thinks I’m crazy but here I sit, eagerly anticipating my next certification. Which reminds me, I’ve only been to one Writer’s Conference in my life. Maybe that will be a destination vacation once the Coronavirus allows us to travel again.

Q.: Tell us something about yourself.

A.: I am full time Hypnotist, helping everyday people with everyday problems. Hypnosis has helped me uncover so many blocks in my life that I am honored to have the skills to help others. Working for myself allows me to create time for writing. How could life get any better than this?

Q.:  What’s the blurb for your book?

 Legend has it Cupid's Brooch sends you to your one true love...

Actress Liz Barrett, adored by millions, wields Cupid's Brooch and trades places with Miss Elizabeth Barrett of 1812, a young lady without connections who fears having no choice in whom she must marry.

Either Liz's rabid fans have made up this crazy story, while Elizabeth suffers what is surely purgatory, or they've traded places in time and perhaps even fallen into the arms of their one true love.

But what will Lord Whittington and Dr. Demfry do if fate is determined to switch them back?

I suspect many of Donna's experiences will resonate with other authors, perhaps particularly the character coming to life in one's imagination. Elizabeth Barrett & Cupid’s Brooch is being released May 6, 2020 and I’ve ordered a copy because how could I resist?