Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Always Read the Galleys

Often before publication, your editor will send you a copy of your story that's been edited and formatted for you to review. This is called a galley or galley proof, although most of the time my editors just call them "edits." This is usually your last chance to have feedback before publication.

Always read the galley.

You would think this should go without saying, but when you're busy, or you've already worked extensively with the editor, you think that, this once, you can skip the final read-through.


I had one story where the editor and I had worked long and hard over the manuscript. Among other things, she had removed every one of my explicit speech tags. I had left most of them out, but had put a few back in. Later, she emailed the group saying that the anthology was in layout and the editing was done, and did anyone want their finalized story sent to them for one last review? I declined since she had said she had made few changes to the edits as they came back to her. As it turned out, one of those few changes was to re-remove one of my explicit speech tags, replacing it with an implicit one…and spelling the main character's name wrong!

Another time I had a story go through editing, and a few days before release we got our electronic author copies. Reading through it, I discovered that I had forgotten a word in one sentence, and both the editor, the proofreader, and I had all missed it. Since it was an electronic anthology, it was able to be corrected before release.

No matter how many times you've read the piece, once more won't kill you. If you have the opportunity, read the galley and make sure it's as clean as it possibly can be.

Friday, April 23, 2010

100 Words About: Mini Vacation!

I'm on vacation! I got to sleep in, and I just got back from a morning walk with the doggie. The husband is still sleeping, but I plan to wake him in about 15 minutes so we can get some breakfast before heading to Milwaukee for the day. Tea and hot tubs! And probably gyros and bath stuff!

Road trips are probably our favorite mini vacations. Milwaukee or Chicago if we have a whole day (overnights are out of the question at the moment, due to the fact we don't have anyone who can let the dog out without her eating them), otherwise we tend to hit cheesesteak and soft serve in Fort Atkinson, or troll the surrounding small towns for diners we haven't yet tried.

What do you all like to do on mini vacations?

Image: dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Release of Taste Test: Rainy Days and Mondays

I'm pleased to announce the release of Taste Test: Rainy Days and Mondays from Torquere Press! This mini-anthology includes my short story, "Encore." In this story, all Derrick wants is a nice subby roadie girl, but when bandmate Nate is willing to give BDSM a try, the guys discover a new favorite rainy-day activity.

Read an excerpt below!

Derrick tried to rein in his frustration, but an edge crept into his voice. "You can be a moody bastard, but this is bad even for you." He got up and went to stand next to Nate, arms crossed over his chest, wearing his best not-putting-up-with-your-shit face. "What. The fuck. Is wrong?"

Nate spun around and kissed him.

Nate never did anything by half measures. He grabbed Derrick's face with both hands and all but attacked him, forcing Derrick to back up a step or fall over.

Derrick caught his balance, hands out to the sides halfway between a placating gesture and the first phase of an open-handed defense. His brain seemed frozen, spinning its wheels on a sheet of ice and getting nowhere. His lips parted out of sheer shock, but Nate took it as an invitation, kissing him deeper.

For one long, shocked moment Derrick couldn't think at all. Then he wondered what the hell his tongue was doing in Nate's mouth.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Speech Tags, Part Two

Example one: too many explicit speech tags.

"I want to go to the park," said Billy.
"Me too!" said Tommy.
"You can't go to the park until you finish your vegetables," said Mom.
"Awww!" said the boys.
"Don't make me say it again," said Mom.

As you can see, nothing but "said said said" gets very old. Swapping out "said" for other words like "asked" or "chorused" only helps a little. This exchange simply has too many explicit speech tags.

Example two: speech tags that are not explicit.

"But Jeffy and Mikey will be at the park at six!"
"They'll be alone at the park all week if this whining keeps up," Mom warned.
"Guess we'd better eat up," the sullen boy grumbled to his brother.

In this example, we don’t know which boy says the first sentence or the last sentence, even though the last sentence has a speech tag. These problems could be fixed by implicit or explicit speech tags; preferably, a combination of both, but the last speech tag needs to make clear which boy is speaking.

In a two person conversation, you can skip speech attributions with more confidence.

Example three: skipping speech tags.

As Mom left the room, Billy leaned over and whispered to Tommy, "Quick! Slip your veggies to Fido!"
"D'you think we should?"
His brother was already dropping carrots on the floor. "Why not?"
"Won't she know?"
Billy gave him a hard stare. "She won't if you don't tell her."

The middle three pieces of dialogue are technically unattributed, but since we know that there are only two people in the conversation, Billy and Tommy, it is easy to follow who says what. However, people usually start losing track of who said what after about three unattributed dialogue changes. Attributions can also be made within the dialogue, such as "I dunno, Billy, d'you think we should?" or "Why not, Tommy?" You may have noticed that written dialogue has a lot more of these included attributions that normal speech does. When you are talking to someone face-to-face, your eye contact and body posture indicate to whom you are speaking even if there are more than two people present. Writers have to make up for the lack of visual cues.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

New Release from Cleis Press!

Please Sir: Erotic Stories of Female Submission is now available from Cleis Press! The anthology includes my short story "The Sub Fairy," in which married bliss gets a kinky twist when one woman finds the courage to ask her husband to be her dom. Can dominance and submission find a place in their life?

The anthology has its very own blog, which you can find here, and make sure to check out editor Rachel Kramer Bussel's interview with yours truly!

Read a steamy excerpt of "The Sub Fairy" over at my website.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday Tip: Speech Tags

The subject of speech tags can be a polarizing one amongst writers. Few subjects elicit a faster, more rabid response than whether one should use "he said" after a piece of dialogue.

Speech tags and dialogue attribution are how writers let the reader know who is speaking. The simplest form is the aforementioned "he said," which comes just before or just after a quotation of dialogue. For example: "I never eat peanut butter on toast," John said.

There are two schools of thought regarding "said." One school believes that the word "said" has become all but invisible to the reader and should be the preferred explicit speech tag, along with tags like "asked," "whispered," "cried," etc. These folks believe that what needs to be avoided are those tags which are sometimes called "said bookisms," and tend to be used only to avoid repeating the word "said." Examples of these are words such as "interjected," "queried," and (to be avoided at all costs) "ejaculated." These tend to be a heckuva lot more distracting to your reader than the repetition of "said" would've been.

The other school believes that explicit speech tags of any sort are the devil and need to be burned out of your manuscript with hot pokers. For these folks there is no excuse for using "said." In order to let their readers know what is going on, they use implicit speech tags, as in the following example:

"I can too eat all the hot dogs in one sitting." John crossed his arms over his chest and glared.
Mary shook her head at him. "No, you can't!"

In this example, it's perfectly clear that John says the first bit of dialogue, and Mary says the second, all without an explicit speech tag.

When it comes to this touchy topic, I myself like to give my favorite piece of all-around-useful advice: All things in moderation.

Using implicit speech tags for every piece of dialogue becomes just as repetitive as using an explicit speech tag every time. Instead, vary your dialogue attributions. Skip attributions occasionally. You can usually skip every third or fourth attribution of a two-person conversation completely with no problems on the reader's end. Combine the more tell-y explicit speech tag with a show-y bit of action, such as: "You've got to be kidding," he gasped, backing up a step before he could stop himself.

And while yes, you could do that last example as an implicit tag purely by changing the comma to a period, I think the rhythm is better this way; less choppy, more fluid. But that's a matter of personal opinion and style. I prefer to use more implicit than explicit, but sometimes the rhythm really seems to call for that explicit speech tag. Why limit yourself?

Friday, April 9, 2010

100 Words About: Wisconsin and Alcohol

So recently my beloved home state has been in the news again because of our apparently extraordinary relationship with alcohol.

Now, I've heard from many non-Wisconsinites on this matter. Most amusing, of course, is Lewis Black, but I've never taken the drinking thing all that seriously. I mean, really, do we drink so much more than other people?

But then I read in the AP's article "Nearly one in four Wisconsin residents age 18 to 44 had four or more drinks in one sitting at least once within a month's time in 2008 - the latest year available - topping all other states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

And, blinking in confusion, my first thought was, "So?"

And then I thought, "Hmm, maybe we do have a little bit of a culture problem."

But seriously, four drinks in one sitting is nothing when a sitting can be several hours long. That's what we do here – sit around and drink, usually while watching sports of some kind. And who hasn't gotten together with friends at least once in a month's time? Here, if you're limiting yourself to one drink an hour you're either taking it easy or you're a lightweight. Is that really so unusual in other parts of the country? I'd love to hear your opinions.

Image: Nicholas Tarling / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuesday Tip: The Last Word

You don't always have to have the last word.

This is something that took me many years to learn. It's not something that I learned from the publishing industry, and thank goodness for that, or I shudder to think what my reputation would be like.

We all know people who have to have the last word. Some are only like that when they argue, and some are like that about everything, not content unless theirs is the last voice in every discussion.

Don't be one of these people. Start practicing now.

This will become important in your publishing career, because as an author you very often don't get to have the last word. You put your words out there, on paper or digital document, and then you give them to an editor. The editor will make changes, more than likely, and sometimes you won't agree with the changes. Yes, you get to express your opinion, but ultimately, the editor or the publisher will probably have the final say. This is a case where you don't get the last word. (See my post on working with your editor for more details.)

Then, once your work is published, you're done with it. That's pretty much the end of the discussion for you. Unfortunately, it's just the beginning of everyone else's discussion. Eventually someone is going to give you a bad review. It may be an anonymous commenter, or some guy with a blog, or the New York Times. It doesn't matter. Your part in the discussion is done. This is one instance where you really must not attempt to have the last word. (Read Nathan Bransford's excellent post on this subject here.)

I learned this valuable lesson when I worked at a company full of passive-aggressive people who always had to have the last snarky email in the email thread, no matter how right or wrong they were. Eventually I learned it just wasn't worth the argument. Sometimes they'd make me so angry I would type out a huge long snarky email reply…and then I would delete it. I felt better and the discussion, which was usually completely irrelevant and unproductive at this point, was over. (Note: if you plan to do this, do NOT put anyone's email address in the "To" field. "Delete" is so very close to "Send"…)

Friday, April 2, 2010

100 Words About: A Very Long Week

I don't know about y'all, but this has been one freaking long week for me. Nothing Earth-shattering or terrible, but very, very long.

I am really tired of feeling like crap.

Time is so very weird. All week I've kept thinking "Today is Friday." And for four days, I've been wrong. It makes the week seem to stretch out somehow. You would think time would be constant: a minute is always thirty seconds, after all. Numbers. The numbers should always add up right.

And maybe they do. But our perception of time is so wonky that it's almost a moot point. In my own personal timeline this week has felt like about two weeks, and yet it intersects perfectly with everyone else's weeks. It doesn't seem like it should work that way, somehow.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net