Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Of Girls and Boys, Heroes, and Keeping Your Characters in Character

I have a son and a daughter, pre-teens, and they both love things like Star Wars and Doctor Who, playing video games, dressing up as superheroes and running around with toy Styrofoam Thor swords. They love comics and anime and Legos.

My daughter is drawn to strong female characters. Black Widow is her favorite Avenger. I try to find stories that have strong female characters for my daughter, because it’s not hard to find strong male characters written, but sometimes harder to find the girls. And while my daughter loves both, she relates to the girls.

I started watching an anime last week—and I’m not going to name it, because I don’t feel like getting into an argument about how and why these characters acted the way they did, and how it might have been rational or logical in some ways. It started out great. It was intriguing, the animation was gorgeous, and it seemed to have strong characters of both genders. At first. By the time I hit the second arc of the story, I felt like everything I had come to know about these characters was sucked out or flattened. Boy became the stereotypical hero off to save the damsel—and let me say, I don’t mind damsel in distress stories. They can be written well. Not all girls want to be the hero—some girls dream about a knight in shining armor coming to sweep them off their feet. But some girls want to be heroes. Some girls need to be heroes. Some girls want to see the heroes they can relate to. And when the writers take a girl who was shown—at first—as a strong, capable character and slowly tone that down and then flat-out rip the heroic rug right out from under her, it disappoints me at first—and then just makes me mad. Why would you do that to your character—just so the guy can become a white knight to a girl who shouldn't have needed it?

There was a line this female character said when she was basically being tortured that made me so, so mad, and I can’t say what it was without giving the anime name, but let me just say: it was not cool, because it made the girl’s pain all about the guy. It was not only an injustice to the girl, but also an injustice to the characterization of the guy, who had once had confidence that the girl could protect herself pretty darn well and that just…vanished. It was like watching Body Snatched versions of these characters.

I’m not saying the guy can’t rescue the girl. I’m not saying the girl can’t rescue the guy. I love a good story that has mutual rescuing where characters of both genders get to be the heroes. I love when the girl is able to escape on her own. I love it when the guy comes to help her or save her. I love when the girl gets to save the guy.  As long as it is well-written and in character. Look at Disney’s Tangled. Eugene and Rapunzel saved each other back and forth through that movie. Look at Frozen. Anna and Kristoff took turns saving each other and at the end, Anna gets to save herself, which is the best thing ever—but she wouldn't have gotten to the point where she could if she hadn't had friends to help her along the way. Everyone needs a leg up sometimes—boy or girl. Heroism comes in all sorts of forms. It’s not just physical strength. The shyest, quietest character might be the bravest one. Characters who some might see as weak could be the strongest.

I want stories that tell my son he can be the hero. But I also want the same for my daughter. I want stories that can tell both of them that it’s okay to rely on other people, male or female, and that they don’t always have to be the hero, but they also can be. They need strong characters of both genders in the things the read, the stuff they watch, what they listen to.

And when I’m watching something and it starts out with a strong female character who dissolves into an object of conquest, it frustrates me and makes me want to go sit down and write a book about a strong female character for my daughter. (Then I remind myself I’m already writing a series about a strong female character—but darn it, I want to write a brand new one. A book, not a series. Why can’t more of my books come in one-shots?)

I say again: We need strong characters of both genders. But please, fellow writers, please—do not taunt me with an awesome, strong, female character and then make her an almost completely helpless object. Don’t. Do. It. I wouldn't want to see that happen to a male character either. Keep your characters true to themselves. Characters are supposed to grow, and yes, characters change when they go on journeys, sometimes for the worse, but it should make sense.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I'm still alive!

Wow, it has been AGES since I posted on this, and now that I have some time and some energy to spare, I'd like to say a huge hello and thank you to anyone still reading this.

Let me take a minute to fill everyone in on my life the past five months.

Hubby, Kiddos, Cats, and I moved to the Gulf Coast in Texas at the end of last August.

I absolutely love it here--I love the warm winter (it's been in the 60s and 70s this week). I love the laid-back, small-beach-town atmosphere. I love getting to go to the beach, and I love all the activities there are to do around here. Hubby and Kiddos love it too, and Daughter is very happy because she adores all creatures great and small, and the seaside is flouring with all sorts of life. When we moved here, she got a tank and some land hermit crabs, and she's been taking excellent care of them.

Granted, there are some things I could do without--like the huge wolf spiders that race like speed demons across the floor when they get in the house, or the scorpions (fortunately, the scorpions here are not deadly, unless you happen to be allergic to them like some people are allergic to bees), or the giant cockroaches. But other things more than make up for that. Like the cute little tourist shops that sell mugs like this (which Hubby got for me because it was perfect for me):

But. The first few months after the move were really hard, because Hubby had to be gone most of the week for work. He transferred here to open a store, and the opening of that store got pushed back a lot further than anyone had expected, so for two and a half months, he had to work out of a store several hours away. This was hard on all of us, because even though he got to come home two days a week, we missed each other like crazy for the other five days. (My hat is off to all of you people who are separated for much longer than this for work or military duty.)

By the time November rolled around, I didn't have the mental energy to focus on anything writing-related. Actually, at that point, I couldn't even think about writing without working myself up into a giant mess of tension and panic--and my writing partners all reassured me I just really needed a break. I'd been going and going all year long on my editing jobs and writing, plus stuff like being a wife and mother and homeschooler, and then moving on top of it all, and I had barely stopped to breathe.

So I took half of November and all of December off from writing. I read some books. I did stuff with my family. My kids were in a Christmas play. My in-laws came to visit, and then took the Kiddos to Disney World. I did some editing, because I did still have some stuff on my plate. I watched movies. (I got to see Frozen in the theater twice, and it was just gorgeous. I've had the songs from it stuck in my head for weeks, probably in part because Daughter bought the soundtrack and we've played it a lot. A LOT.)

And I finally got to the point where I could think about my book again without wanting to curl up in a little ball, which is especially good, because last year, I wrote a YA fantasy novel. It was super fun to write, and then I put it through the beta-reader/CP gauntlet, and then I sent it to my agent, Natalie Lakosil. Natalie read it and got back to me in September, right after we'd moved, with a list of things to work on in the rewrite--which led to me realizing I need to pull it apart and rewrite about half the book. I got about 30,000 words of the rewrite done (original draft was about 84,000 words), and then took my break.

Not long after I got to the point where I could start thinking about my book again, I got one step further--I could look at the book with excitement! All of the words didn't look like a jumbled mess! It was like an after-Christmas miracle! Or, you know, a refreshed brain finally getting some clearer perspective.

So now I am back in the writing game, and it's just so nice to have words again. Hopefully I'll finish my rewrite before too long and I can send it back to Agent Natalie for further perusal.

And also, Hubby and I celebrated our twelfth anniversary this week. :D

There you have a very short summary of my life since August, and why I haven't been blogging. I'm going to try to be better about it. :)

I'm sure I've missed a million and one things on the blogosphere over the past months, so if anyone has any news to share, please let me hear it! :)

Oh, and on the EXCITING NEWS front, I'm celebrating with two of my writing partners.

First, Barbara Kloss's third book in her trilogy, Breath of Dragons, was released yesterday. The first book, Gaia's Secret, is available for free for a limited time on Kindle. Her writing is awesome and the series is beautiful and just gets better and better with each book. :D

Second, E.K. Johnston's debut novel, The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim, releases in less than two months and is receiving excellent reviews in the publishing world. I'm excited to read the published version, since I haven't read it since its early draft days.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Guest Post - Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone (Introducing "Waiting Fate" by W.B. Kinnette)

Today on my blog, I get to introduce "Waiting Fate" by W.B. Kinnette, who is one of the sweetest, loveliest people I know, and talk to her a bit about her experience in writing it.


Sometimes Fate hides in plain sight while you stumble through darkness.
Ivy escapes from an abusive husband, finding peace with her daughter in her childhood home. She’s determined to keep her past a secret to protect those she loves.
Archer has been in love with the same girl since seventh grade. When Ivy comes back into his life—bruised, broken, and haunted by secrets—he knows he can’t lose her again.
But Ivy made a promise to her daughter. No one would hurt them again. She’s afraid to trust, afraid to be wrong again, and afraid that the one man she’s loved forever will break her heart.
Fate might take its time, but it won’t wait forever.
Buy: Amazon
This was a difficult book for W.B. Kinnette to write, so here are her thoughts on it.
First of all, thank you Laura SO MUCH for letting me visit. Readers, Laura has been my guru since I took my first step into publishing and had no idea what I was doing. I would be so lost without her!
So Laura suggested I post about writing outside my comfort zone. Waiting Fate is about escaping from abuse and finding new love, and it was much harder to write than I thought it would be. Many tears were shed. Many nightmares were had and memories revisited – memories I would prefer to leave forgotten.
Did it make me stronger? Was it therapeutic? At the time, I thought no. I thought it was dragging me back to a place that I didn’t want to be and was making me that person again. But now, I see that it did make me stronger. Also, exploring that side and how to write about it made me a stronger writer, as well. It isn’t easy to write while IN your comfort zone. It’s mentally exhausting even when you’re having the time of your life. But writing outside your comfort zone is a whole different experience, and your writing changes a bit.
How did I do it? I relied on my adorable husband to tell me I could. I had awesome writer friends talking me through the hard parts. I had friends and family who had no idea what I was doing but offered their prayers and support. Basically, I wrote outside my comfort zone by leaning on the strength of others. I know that’s not how most do it. Maybe I’m an odd little duck, but it worked for me!
It doesn't make you sound odd to me, W.B.! I think a lot of writers lean on the strength of others when writing--I know I do, at least! What about the rest of you writers out there?

And now, a little bit about our lovely author and how to connect with her!
W.B. Kinnette was born and raised in Utah, the baby of the family and spoiled rotten. She lived briefly in Texas and Alaska before coming back to raise her family only a few miles from her childhood home. She’s loved writing since she was small, because daydreams demand to be written down. She believes that dreams must be chased, if only so she can tell her children honestly that dreams do come true if you work hard enough – and never give up! 
Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Website

Monday, June 3, 2013

Grammar Daze - Special Guest Post on Punctuation by Donna K. Weaver, Celebrating the Release of Her Book, "A Change of Plans"

Today, I'm super privileged to be hosting Donna K. Weaver on her blog tour for her debut novel, A Change of Plans. I had the honor of reading this book in one of its early versions, and I'm so happy for Donna that she can no celebrate its release. We also have a Rafflecopter entry for a giveaway at the end!

Before we get to the delicious details of the book, Donna has a post for us on the importance of punctuation.


So you don't think punctuation is important?
Version 1
Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy--will you let me be yours?

Version 2
Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
Donna makes a great point. Punctuation is so vital, don't you think?
Now, onto Donna's book!

When twenty-five-year-old Lyn sets off on her cruise vacation, all she wants is to forget that her dead fiancé was a cheating scumbag. What she plans is a diversion uncomplicated by romance. What she gets is Braedon, an intriguing young surgeon. He's everything her fiancé wasn't, and against the backdrop of the ship's make-believe world, her emotions come alive.

Unaware of the sensitive waters he navigates, Braedon moves to take their relationship beyond friendshipon the very anniversary Lyn came on the cruise to forget. Lyn's painful memories are too powerful, and she runs off in a panic.

But it's hard to get away from someone when you're stuck on the same ship. Things are bad enough when the pair finds themselves on one of the cruise's snorkeling excursions. Then paradise turns to piracy when their party is kidnapped, and Lyn's fear of a fairy tale turns grim.

About Donna K. Weaver:
Donna K. Weaver is a Navy brat who joined the Army and has lived in Asia and Europe.

Because she sailed the Pacific three times as a child, she loves cruising and wishes she could accrue enough vacation time to do more of it with her husband.

Donna and her husband have six children and eight grandchildren who live all over the world.
At fifty, Donna decided to study karate and earned her black belt in Shorei Kempo.

After recording city council minutes for twenty years, Donna decided to write something a little longer and with a lot more emotion--and kissing.
Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter   |  Website
There's also a giveaway going on, so check that out!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Grammar Daze - Formatting Tips Edition

Hi, everyone! It's been ages since I did a Grammar Daze post, and granted, this isn't really grammar, but it can really help clean up your manuscript, and I use it all the time in editing. Whether you're preparing a book for querying or getting it ready to self-publish, these quick tips can help make your manuscript be neater and in better order.

*Note that all of this works in Word on a PC, but some of these tips were tested on a Mac and didn't work with the Pages program on that system.

*EDIT: One of my friends knows how to do a lot of these in Pages, and she left her tips about how in the comments. :D  I would advise, though, that if you're going to attempt removal of paragraph spaces in Pages, you make a copy of your document and set it aside. Another of my friends had her story deleted when trying to remove paragraph spaces, and Pages wouldn't let her undo it. Having a back-up copy is always a good idea, even when you're not formatting.

Today, I'm going to walk you through how to quickly get rid of double spaces, spaces around paragraphs returns, and tabs. I'll show you how to quickly create paragraph indents so you don't have to use tabs, and as a bonus, if you're formatting a novel for self-publication for paperback, I'll tell you how to get the lines even at the bottom of the pages.

Okay, first of all, let me introduce you to the "show formatting" button. If you click on it, it will show you all of the invisible marks in your manuscript.

If you turn that on, you'll see a dot between each word. Those just represent spaces. But spaces are important! In today's manuscripts, the norm is to have only a single space between each sentence. Some people are used to double spacing, but that comes from back in the days of typerwiters. A super easy way to get rid of double spaces is by using your "find and replace box."

In the "find" box, simply enter two spaces using your space bar. You won't see the spaces, but they will be there. In the "replace" box, enter a single space with your space bar. Then hit "replace all". Hit it again and again until it comes back to tell you it had "0 items found."

Tada! You now have single spaces throughout your document!

There are two other things that are very important when it comes to formatting. First, if you have your "show formatting" button turned on, you'll see a paragraph mark all over the place--this mark just means that you've ended one paragraph and started another.

Now, in every single manuscript I've ever edited or written, there are always, always instances where there are spaces before or after some of the paragraph returns. This can apparently cause issues when you're trying to create an ebook, and they need to be fixed before publication. Fortunately, there's a super easy way to fix these. I recommend fixing the paragraph returns after you're finished with the whole book, once it's been through any edits and changes you want to make. When you're ready to query it, send it to your publisher, or self-publish, then go through these next steps.

First, open your "find and replace box." Then, in the "find" box, you're going to type a space, and then ^p

The ^ can be found on the number 6 of your keypad.

So it will have SPACE^p

In the "replace" box, you're going to type ^p without any spaces. So it will look like this:

Then hit "replace all." Hit it again, and again--you want to hit "replace all" until it tells you "0 items found."

Great! Now you've removed extra spaces in front of a paragraph mark. But, sometimes they also come after a paragraph mark, so you're going to repeat what you did above, but instead of having SPACE^p in the "find" box, you're going to have ^pSPACE in the find box. In the replace box, you will still want just ^p without any spaces.

You'll want to repeat the "replace all" over and over until you have zero items found.

You're almost finished with formatting the extra spaces around paragraph returns! The last thing to do is to put a space before and also a space after the ^p in the "find" box. So it would be SPACE^pSPACE while the "replace" box would still be simply ^p without any spaces.

Repeat, again, doing "replace all" until you get "0" left in the document.

Congratulations, your paragraph returns are as they should be!

Let's move on to tabs. Tabs are a big thing. Whenever you hit the "tab" button on your keyboard, it makes a big space, right? Quite a lot of writers will start a paragraph with a tab mark, and when you have your formatting button turned on, the tabs will look like an arrow every time you use one, like this:

Now, here's the thing about tab marks. If you try to format an ebook--or if your publisher wants to format an ebook--all of the tabs are going to have to go. They can really mess with formatting and publication. You want to get in the habit of not using tab marks. You want to set up your document so it will automatically create a new paragraph every time you hit "enter" on your keyboard. It's best to get used to using indents, not tabs, so you can start new novels by setting up indents and avoid tabs altogether.

However, there's a super fast way to get rid of tabs.

First, open up your "find and replace" box. Then, in the "Find" box, you're going to simply type ^t

In the replace box, you're going to do absolutely nothing. Leave it blank. No spaces, no marks, nothing.

Then hit "replace all." Hit it again, and again--you want to hit "replace all" until it tells you "0 items found." Your tabs are now gone.

Now, if you've used tabs to start new paragraphs, you'll notice that you have no paragraph indents! I'm borrowing the first few paragraphs from my Rising Book 1 novel to show you how this works. Here, we have no paragraph indents.

This is easily fixed. All I'm going to do now is "Select All" of my entire book. (I can push CTRL + A to achieve this.)

So I select all, and then I right click on the document. A box will pop up, and I'll click on "paragraph."

It will open a new box, wherein there will be a tab at the top that says "Indents and Spacing." Underneath that, I'll see something that says "indentation." I ignore the boxes that say "Left, Right, and Special" and focus on the box that says "By". I'll click the arrow up until I get to .3 or .4. I usually opt for .3. Then I'll click "OK" at the bottom.

Voila! Indents have been created, and now every time I hit "enter" to start a new paragraph, it will automatically indent the paragraph, so no tabs are necessary! This is how it will look now:

 *Note: The only problem with this is that in "selecting all", every chapter heading and every time I use *** to indicate a scene break, those chapter headings and scene breaks are also indented to .3. If it's supposed to be centered, it's now off center slightly. This will have to be fixed manually. I'll have to go to each chapter heading, click on it, and manually drag the indent arrow over so the chapter heading moves back to the center. See the next few pictures for demonstration.

There! Now there are proper indents!

Bonus tip for formatting for a self-published paperback novel: If you're planning to self-publish a paperback, there's something you can do to your manuscript to make sure that your pages are all perfectly even at the bottom. You just have to turn off the widow/orphan control in your manuscript. To accomplish this, Select All of your manuscript again. Then right click on your text, just like you did above, and once more open the "paragraph" box.

This time, however, you're going to click on the tab at the top that says "Line and Page Breaks."

You'll see some boxes that you can check or uncheck. What you want to do is to check the box that says "widow/orphan control" and the box that says "keep lines together". Then you want to immediately uncheck the boxes so they are blank. No checkmarks in them, no little squares, just empty white boxes. The only reason you want to check them in the first place is to make sure you can see that both boxes are absolutely unselected. It can be hard to tell if you've got all the boxes selected--sometimes they look shaded. So, once you make sure they are completely blank, then click "OK," and your pages should be even along the bottom.

I know it might seem overwhelming, but these tips can help make your manuscript much neater and prep it for beginning stages of publication! I hope you find these tips helpful. :)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Writing with a co-author

I've had people ask me before how writing with a co-author works. Well, today, my co-author, Faith King, posted all about it. :) (We've been writing together for over ten years.) You can check that out here: Collaboration

Monday, March 18, 2013

Top Ten Movie Countdown Blogfest

Alex J. Cavanaugh is hosting a blogfest today, and I actually had time to sign up for it! Last minute, but still. ;)

My top ten movies:

10. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children was a movie I picked up years ago and watched, and I loved it, but I realized it was part of a bigger story--and it is, but it was a movie made to continue a video game's story. This is the movie that got me into the big, wide world of Final Fantasy video games--each one different and unique, with some of the best characters and most intricate stories ever. The "Complete" version added new scenes and made the story even better. I've been a gamer since I was playing Mario and Zelda on the NES when I was five years old, and fantasy worlds have always been my favorite. The characters in Final Fantasy VII are some of the most intricate I've ever encountered anywhere, and I loved this movie for exploring them further.

9. Spirited Away

I love anime, and I love Miyazaki's anime. Spirited Away has some of the most gorgeous, detailed animation that I've ever seen--and that's normal for Miyazaki's films.

8. The Dark Crystal

I grew up watching this one, and I still love it. Prophecy, destiny, two people who are the last of their kind trying to save the world. I always think of this as Jim Henson's dark side to the Muppets.

7. Kung Fu Panda

This movie makes me laugh and it's just fabulous for showing that the least expected people can become heroes--and they'll do it in ways people might not always expect.

6. How to Train Your Dragon

One of the most gorgeous movies I've ever seen, period. The story is wonderful, the music is fantastic, the characters are so great--it would probably be closer to my favorite movie if other movies didn't hold a longer place in that position. ;)

5. Serenity

This is the conclusion to the fourteen-episode show "Firefly." I adore Firefly, and Serenity was just amazing. I can't even tell you how many times I've watched this film. It has everything I love about sci-fi and it's just perfect.

4. Galaxy Quest

One of the most quotable movies ever. This hilarious sci-fi spoof is one that I have never tired of watching--it makes me laugh ever single time.

3. Star Wars (original trilogy)

One of the best stories of all time. ALL TIME. The underdogs winning, redemption, snarkiness, space battles, awesome characters.

2. Lord of the Rings

Best. Fantasy. Ever.

1. Beauty and the Beast

Yes, a Disney cartoon still holds the place of my top favorite movie. I loved from the first time I saw it. Belle was a bookworm who didn't take any crap from anybody, not even a giant, raging beast. And it had an impact on me that she had brown hair and brown eyes, like I did. I think she was the first Disney "princess" to have that combination. (Snow White had black hair, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty were blonde, Ariel was a redhead...)