Quote of the Day

more Quotes

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Face Your Fears

Face your fears . . . because that is where the devil hid your success.

Denise Barker, author + freelance copy editor + blogger
Good Ole Boys, a love story at http://amzn.to/GoodOleBoys

Values Grid

There are two things I am looking for:  a full-page table of about eighty values that was a handout at a law firm luncheon/lecture and a sample of a novel opening paragraph--again a handout (I think) at a writing class.

I have yet to find either, but I'm still looking.

However, I have a good facsimile, although smaller in scope, of the values grid.  Here it is to share with you (and so I can at least find this abbreviated version later--grrr!):

Achievement – Sense of Success
Advancement – a move or a promotion
Love – soul mate, belonging, acceptance
Creativity – Imagination, inventive
Faith, God
Freedom / Independence
Financial security – steady income
Friends – belonging, sharing
Helpful - Service to Others
Health, mental and physical
Loyalty – duty and obedience
Order – tranquility, stability
Personal growth
Recognition – respect, status
Responsible – dependable, capable
Self-respect – pride, worthy
Wealth – riches

The purpose of this exercise was to weed out lesser desires from our higher ones.  Way back when at that staff luncheon, we had to knock out half of the chart, striking those in say three to five minutes.

Then our self-awareness speaker had us take out half of the remaining squares.  Again, with a short time limit from what I remember.  So you are hopefully going more with your gut than with what societal mores dictate, or worse, what your family wants to see on your business cards.

You keep cutting, increasingly harder items to give up.  Until you have the final one.

I know I was surprised at what was left on mine.  It wasn't wealth or fame.  Not even health--and that's a biggie.  What is that old saying?  What's wealth without your health?  Yeah, something like that.

Yet the end result is to name that "ultimate of ultimates" which you are seeking in this game we call life.  Then evaluate your job/career, your love life, your home, even which state/country you currently reside in, against this finding.  Quite illuminating.

Plus, you authors out there can use it for the internal conflict of your characters.  Mix and match to create the biggest clashing of values possible.

While you are doing all that, I'm on a mission.  To find that original grid.  And to find that "perfect" sample of a novel's opening chapter.  You know, where the Who, What, When, Where and Why are all addressed, like a journalist would, but still a necessary tool for us fiction writers as well.

PLEASE feel free to share your Values Grid or Perfect Opening Paragraph samples.  Otherwise, I might go mad . . . or just not get anything else done in the interim.

Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend, all!

Denise Barker, author + freelance copy editor + blogger
Good Ole Boys, a love story at http://amzn.to/GoodOleBoys

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Beauty of Bitly

Am I the last one on the planet to log in and make use of Bitly?  In case I'm not, here's the link:  https://bitly.com/.

From the site, a short description follows describing Bitly (sometimes Bit.ly):

About bitly

bitly is the easiest and most fun way to save, share and discover links from around the web. bitly is available via our website, browser extensions, mobile web, and numerous third-party tools integrated with our open public API. bitly also powers more than 10,000 custom short URLs and offers an enterprise analytics platform that helps web publishers and brands grow their social media traffic.
I had been putting this off for a couple months and, finally, today, I created an online signature which incorporates the much-shortened links to my e-books.

It took all of ten minutes to sign up, copy six Amazon links separately into the Bitly shorten box, then rename the numeric link to a more reader-friendly alpha title (the trick is NOT to use spaces), paste each link on my clipboard and drop into my Word doc serving as my docking point for my internet signature.  See its debut online usage below.

Tomorrow, when I receive my email copy of this newest post, I hope to see the signature links have survived.

I am dancingly happy.  This was almost as big of a glitch as my earlier B&N formatting issues for my novel, yet took one-twelfth of the time allocation.

Now I'll proceed to do the B&N links via Bitly.  This is so much fun . . . .

Hope this helps maybe that other individual out there in cyberland who has yet to implement the Bitly boon.

P.S.  Once my initial Bitly conversions were done, I found adding in my B&N e-books hid the Customize button, where you transform your alpha-numeric shortened link to a reader-friendly alpha link.

Here's how I found Customize again.  Go to Bitly Tools and copy then paste the "bitly Sidebar" link onto your toolbar header.  It comes up as a javascript for me but just remember it's Bitly.

Then go to B&N, pull up your book.  If you click on the Bitly/javascript button now resident on your toolbar, a sidebar pops up with your direct link already filled in to shorten.

Once a Bitly link is created (by clicking "Shorten"), then find the yellow-highlighted box with your new shorter link.  Beside it is a blue link Customize to the right.  Click it, type in your more title-oriented tag.

Click on another "Customize" button which appears below.  Done!

Repeat.  Just be sure to be on your product's page, not the search page, as ALL Bitly links are PERMANENT.

NOTE:  SHUT DOWN ALL PERSONAL ACCOUNTS THAT MAY BE OPEN ON YOUR COMPUTER--like your bank account page, your social security benefits page, anything of the like.  Bitly is pretty much a one-button process, so just close those windows of any private and personal pages you do not want public.  In fact, I've deleted my Bitly button on my tool bar to prevent those accidental clicks from even happening.  It's easy to reinstall as I put up other e-books.  FYI.

One more thing re B&N books--no "Barnes & Noble" designation is added to the Bitly name, like with Amazon selections.  So, to make it clear, I preceded all my e-book titles with a "BN."
Just like with my Amazon tips (NO spaces), for B&N my tip is this:  NO divider between "BN" and your title.  Like my novel link to B&N shows up below as "http://bit.ly/BNGoodOleBoys."

If you try to put spaces in Amazon-customized Bitly links or try to put dividers (periods, slashes, etc.) in B&N-customized Bitly links, they both come back as "invalid."  FYI.

P.P.S.  You can do this for your blog spot and Pinterest account, as well.

Denise Barker, author + freelance copy editor + blogger
Good Ole Boys, a love story at http://amzn.to/GoodOleBoys

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

We Bought a Zoo (2011)

We Bought a Zoo is a 2011 movie with heart.  If you are in a cry-baby mood, this is the movie for you.  Even if you are adverse to sobbing pretty much through the entire film, this is the movie for you.

If you are stepping out into the unknown, in life, in love, this movie is for you.

Also this flick reminds us to always have "circus money"--mad money, money to follow your dreams.

And, sometimes, your defense in an argument, or when asked to explain why you are chasing your "crazy" dream, is none other than:  "Why not?"

With Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson headlining, plus two wonderful actors playing the children:  Colin Ford as Dylan and the scene-stealing Maggie Elizabeth Jones as Rosie, we are blessed.

But we need comic relief in this sad story of losing a wife, a mother, so who better than Thomas Hayden Church as the brother to the recent widower and John Michael Higgins as the big, bad zoo inspector.

The cast is filled with quirky characters who serve as zookeepers and the stunningly beautiful Stephanie Szostak, a French-American actress who plays the deceased wife/mother. All mixed to a nice soundtrack.

Based on the memoir of Benjamin Mee (published 2009), here is the short story, straight off the real zoo's online site:  http://www.dartmoorzoo.org/your-visit/the-dzp-story.html.

Since I love movies and books and quotations, finding wisdom everywhere I look, just gotta share some from this movie.

~ ~ ~ 

Benjamin:  You seem really calm [pre-inspection]. . . . . Have you been drinking?
MacCready aka Mac:  All night long.
Benjamin:  Thanks for that [otherwise he'd attack and "kill" the zoo inspector].
Mac:  Any time.

Lily:  If you have to choose between people and animals, really quick, who would you choose?
Kelly:  [Thinking while looking at Benjamin and his kids.]
Lily:  Me, too.  People.  [My response would be:  People who love animals.]

Rosie [to her dad, when she can't sleep because of the neighbors partying]:  Their happy is too loud.

Benjamin [upon meeting who would become his wife]:  Why would an amazing woman like you even talk to someone like me?
Katherine:  Why not?

Benjamin [to his son]:  You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage, literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery and, I promise you, something great will come of it.

Benjamin:  Do you remember what you told me when I was a kid?
Duncan [brother]:  You only have to be courageous for twenty seconds.
Benjamin:  It has guided me my entire life.

~ ~ ~ 

Amen.  Go forth.  Be courageous.  Twenty seconds at a time.

Denise Barker, author + freelance copy editor
Good Ole Boys, a love story
A Copyediting Checklist for Novelists

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Neil Gaiman Commencement Speech

Courtesy of Tim Ferriss, here is Neil Gaiman's wonderful commencement speech to the University of The Arts Class of 2012.


Gaiman has a wonderful sense of humor and a special wisdom.  Plus I totally embrace his adage to make your own rules (see my previous post entitled "There Are No Rules to Creating Fiction").  So many well-written statements in this one twenty-minute spot that I need to view it again.

And one last thing.  He said the best advice he'd ever gotten (from Stephen King, no less, and about twenty years ago) was simply to enjoy his writing process.  Yet, he wasn't doing that.  I've been trying to do that myself, so I'm in good company. 


Denise Barker, Author + Freelance Copy Editor
Good Ole Boys, a love story
A Copyediting Checklist for Novelists

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Beautiful Author-Related Quote to Share, from Jane Austen to You

Quotes are my friends, my collaborators, my teachers, representing snippets of life in usually fifty words or less.  Be they funny outlooks or sage advice or relationship insight, they exist for all of us.
Here's one for us authors: 
It is only a novel... or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.
Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

I admire Jane Austen so much.  She and Nora Roberts are my mentors, having such a wonderful understanding of human interactions.

I aspire to be like them one day.

For now, I continue to create and hone my craft.  One day at a time.

Denise Barker, author + freelance copy editor
Good Ole Boys, a novel
A Copyediting Checklist for Novelists
WORDS Rule the World:  A Collection of Quotations ~ Volume One

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Exotic Locales and Unique Careers

As an author, we do not have to situate our stories in Paris, France or Zimbabwa, South Africa or Australia or England or any place geographically across the globe from us.  Unless we want to.  So, if your heart is leading you to write about your birthplace, go for it!

We can sit our series in New Jersey.  Like Janet Evanovich, with her Stephanie Plum collection.  The first, One for the Money, was recently made into a movie.  I loved it.  And New Jersey had an "exotic" style to me as I am a Deep South gal.

Even my fanatical obsession with GCB, although set in my backyard, still had an otherworldly feel to it.  It showed me how the richer Dallas folks lived.  And I ate it up!

Or, a la Nora Roberts, we can place our readers smack-dab in a forest fire like her mainstream Chasing Fire or into the arena of dog trainers via The Search.  I embrace her selection of unique jobs.  Who knows?  When we pen our next novel, we may encourage an undecided college graduate to go after the career of his dreams.  Or we could influence a high school senior in her choice of two colleges, going more with her heart.

I like the rare and interesting.  I'm a lifelong student at my core, so I love researching, finding info about an obscure fact, investigating the unknown or unusual.

Therefore, I, for one, will probably never write about a doctor or lawyer hero as that has been overdone in the romance industry, IMO.  Just like I won't put a half-naked man on my covers, either.  I prefer the Monet-like landscapes or Manga sketches, the starker comic-book drawings with the harsh black outlining.

That's my preference.  For my books.  It is a very individual choice.

But remember, just because a city/state or job seems "commonplace" to you, it may be exotic and unique to millions of others.

Go with your instincts.

Denise Barker, author + freelance copy editor
Good Ole Boys, a love story
A Copyediting Checklist for Novelists

There Are No Rules to Creating Fiction

Gasp!  Blasphemy coming out of the mouth of a freelance copy editor?

It is a fine line that I straddle.  So, here goes.

There is "fact" (circumstances, subject to change) and then there is "truth" (universal and invariable).

Yes, I concede that there are grammar and punctuation rules, those insightful keys to perfect our communication.  Well-established foundational tenements to effective writing.  Nouns, verbs, apostrophes, etc.  All in black on white.

If you have that, as a novelist, you can break some/most/all those ancillary idioms of supposed writing rules.  Like incomplete phrases in your work.  And starting a sentence with a conjunction.  Or ending one with a preposition.  Which I have done below.  At least twice.  Ha!

I love this quote and it finds a perfect place about now in this post, so I will share it:  "You are remembered for the rules you break."  Douglas MacArthur.

Actually I found several quotes that voice my viewpoint.  Regardless, even if I were the only one who thought this way, yet I felt convinced and had my supporting defenses, I would proceed.  After all, it is my writing.  My choices.  My decisions.  So we each need to choose our own path.

I'm a member of the stupid-rules-can-be-ignored club.  Like rules based on greed, for instance, should be replaced by those which serve the common good. 

I also believe there are rules, and then there are overriding rules. Like gravity may exist as a rule in nature, yet an airplane (or a bird) have both shown there is another law in nature that gravity succumbs to.

And certainly our genre dictates some degree of formality or another of casualness.  In a scientific textbook, I would think formality might serve you.  Still, some laypersonese would help get a convoluted theorum across, as well.  Just look at Charlie's examples for Don et al in Numb3rs.

As for my style, which this post evidences, I'm very much a conversationalist in my writing.  I write like I speak.  With stops and starts, and rabbit trails.  Yet I hope I've corralled all the ramblings more so when blogging, due to the shorter length involved.  [I know.  My blogs are longish.  But compared to a 400-page novel, not so much, right?  It's all relative, as they say.]

Maybe my opinion will free some frustrated authors out there trying to abide by the manifold sundry rules and being stifled in the process.

Again, I revert back to my love of NaNo.  Hang the rules, gag your internal editor and just get your story down.  You separate the creation part from the editing phase so your muse doesn't die an instant death.  That works for me anyway.

I wish for my thoughts and opinions to give hope to any struggling authors claiming writer's block affliction, when it is really too-many-rules-heaped-upon-the-author-spoil-the-creation syndrome.

You can even switch POVs in your story, such as first person becomes third person or vice versa.  If the reader is not confused, you have effectively and successfully changed your overall POV.  That's all we can ask for.  In support of this theory of mine, see this great post by the Snowflake guy, Randy Ingermanson, here:  http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/blog/2012/05/16/perfecting-that-pesky-point-of-view/.

As a romance author, I write in dual-third-person POV.  After all, a romance takes two and I give equal weight to both my hero and my heroine.  My main characters follow a separate character arc, each one growing.  For those of you who write in other genres, this POV may never be applicable to you.

But if you are following the welcoming light cast by Nora Roberts--who embraces (or started?) the dual-third-person POV--then you and I share a common mentor. Also consult Leigh Michaels' book which has a section on this romantic POV at http://www.amazon.com/On-Writing-Romance-Craft-Novel/dp/1582974365/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_4.

To summarize, I see my writing path somewhat like the inalienable truths I hold in my heart.  There's a hierarchy involved.  Yes, I do not believe in armed robbery.  But who knows what I am capable of if a kidnapped loved one were being ransomed with a ticking clock counting down the final two hours?

Wow, my internal movie theater just clicked on with some interesting clips and previews . . . .

And back to my original idea for this post.  Remember, the Bible says that God searches our heart, for our intent.  One of the liars in the Bible is memorialized in the Hall of Faith.  The harlot, yes, the harlot Rahab who lied on purpose to save the spies from certain death.  Check it out yourself in Hebrews 11:31.

That's the place where you create from.  Your true self.  The rules be slammed.  Isn't that more freeing and energizing than all the crippling folderol you may hear otherwise?

Now, take your newfound (or renewed) freedom and go tell that tale residing within.

Denise Barker, author + freelance copy editor
Good Ole Boys, a love store
A Copyediting Checklist for Novelists

Having Formatting Problems When Previewing Your E-Book Upload?

Want a wonderful formatting tip?   (Many thanks, Vickie!)  Check out the Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker, founder, available for free on the Smashwords site.  To get the book, go here:  http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52.

This one thing solved my recent yet long-standing "unfixable" design problems when previewing my PubIt! upload.


If the hidden MSWord codes are making your chapter styles erratic during upload, try this trick.  Copy your whole novel and paste it into Notepad (found in your Accessories folder within Programs).  BEWARE:  It is now stripped of all manual coding, like bold, italics, the other crazy hidden stuff we cannot see and swear we did not put there, etc.  Yet, in my case, the styles still survived.

Copy the Notepad version, paste it into a new MSWord document and give it a new name, like Novel.v2.  And here's the fun part (not):  Now put the bold and italics and other formatting back in.  Instead of reading the book in toto, I just searched the previous version for italicized wording to save me time.

I don't use bold in my novels, except for when a chapter style is applied, so that was one step I didn't have to fool with.

Then look for all your chapter headings.  Even though I used styles with automatic numbering, I was a little surprised they survived the "stripping" process.  So when I hit my preset chapter style, instead of the existing one being centered with a larger font, I ended up with two chapter headings.  Delete one, so long as the remaining header maintains all your elements:  center, consecutive numbering, bold, bigger font, whatever.

Then I applied my page-break styles for my back matter.

If you have charts, bullet points, indented quoted material, or other such whatnots, go fix it.

Yes, a little tedious.  But in my particular example, I had already spent forty-plus irritating hours fighting with my chapter headings to make them consistent after each "fix" and another upload--and I was using styles within MSWord.

So what's another two hours when my document is FINALLY acting like it should during Preview, after a successful upload?

And you just cannot appreciate the feeling of getting one recalcitrant collection of two-hundred-fifty pages under control again.

NOTE:  Oh, yeah.  Remember that PubIt! has both the regular Nook and the Color Nook now, so your previews can be seen in one or the other.  I opted for the regular Nook preview since I figured it would translate "up" better for any Color Nook user, IMO.

Good luck, formatters!

Denise Barker, author + freelance copy editor
Good Ole Boys, a love story
A Copyediting Checklist for Novelists

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

GCB Quotes from Episode Eight, “Pride Comes Before the Fall”

There have been very few outfits--like three that I can remember--which I did not like at all during the course of the full (and final, sob) Season One.  But the rest of the clothing choices for the gals were just perfect.

I am SO gonna miss this show.  Kim, thanks for the good times.

Now for the great quotes from this episode:

~ ~ ~

Heather:  I’m not a playwright; I’m a playwrote. . . .   You know how many eating disorders you left in your [head cheerleader] wake? . . . I love you but, as a leader, you were a manipulative tyrant.
Amanda:  . . . My way to publicly wipe my karma slate clean.
Heather: Write a check.  It’s so much easier.

Carlene:  Oh, silly Cricket.  You know I don’t audition.  I’m always just given the lead.  It’s tradition.
Cricket:  . . . Just like death and taxes. . . . Nothing could ever change how I feel about you.

[The “Let It Shine” scene with Cricket and Carlene dueling for the role of Holy Spirit is wonderful to hear and watch.  Two over-the-top and funny touches is Bozeman’s yawn from his seat in the audience and Carlene’s pop gun filled with confetti.  Too cute!]

Cricket (to Blake):  I will not play a supporting role to that squeaky little housewife [Carlene].

[Love the “Texas Excess” TV shopping channel!  What a hoot!]

Gigi (as image consultant to Sharon):  That outfit you’ve got on, looks like Tinkerbelle threw up on it.

Pastor Steve [to Pastor Tudor, Heather and Amanda]:  But, hey, less is more . . . sometimes.

Heather [to Amanda]:  You’re looking at your clean-slate-karma-coming-out party.

Cricket (to Amanda):  [niceties, then] Damn it, what do you want?  . . . Since I have been up, I have fired my West Coast legal team, bought a small mining village in Ghana, and rehired my West Coast legal team.  Do you really think I have time for a silly play?
Amanda:  . . . I am not a dream crusher.  I am a dream maker.

[If you want to be ROTFL, take in this whole scene with Gigi, in wide-eyed horror, watching Sharon as she previews her Texas Excess selling pitch for Losing It With Jesus.  HILARIOUS!  Sharon’s just great.  Her lower-octave voice comes out like a man’s.  Ha!  Those awkward hand moves of hers are crack-you-up funny!  Watch and laugh.]

Gigi:  Never say y’all.
Sharon:  Never?
Gigi:  . . . Losing twelve pounds is a stomach virus.  Losing sixty . . . is sexy.

[The musical rehearsals are fun.  Who knew Blake was so muscular all over, and can sing and dance?]

Pastor Tudor [to Amanda]:  My mom’s the biggest Fanilow there is.  Took me to every concert in the Southwest.

Carlene:  . . . . Burned her thumbs, poor thing [Carmelita].  But happy to do it for one of the Holy Trinity.

[Carlene is so great in her Holy Spirit costume, bouncing along with her wings.  Just really great acting.  Fully engaged.]

Carlene:  You cut me from the cheer squad because I had bad skin; now you’re making me play the leper?
Amanda:  Oh.  Oh, how did I miss the symmetry of that?

[I love, love, love Carlene’s hot-pink-and-black dress topped off by the black hat, complete with black netting and hot-pink flowers.  Beautiful!]

Technician:  This is specially calibrated to your body weight.  You can’t gain an ounce before opening night.
Cricket:  I’m on Day Four of an ice-cube-and-bamboo cleanse.  Not a problem.

[Sharon on Texas Excess is so great, in an awful sort of way.  Watch and enjoy.]

Gigi:  Go to your talking points, the Middle Eastern origin of your diet, why the pomegranate may have been the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and the antioxidant power of manna.
Sharon:  That’s an awful lot to remember

Cricket:  I’m not surprised.  Poor Heather, always handing out her muffin to anyone with butter.

Amanda:  . . . but you people have brought your own crazy to the party.

Pastor Tudor:  Not if it’s the way you feel. . . . Clearly you hurt people, Amanda, and that hurts you.  Deeply. . . . Destroyed?  I’m afraid those three [Cricket, Carlene and Heather] are tough enough to survive the apocalypse.  . . . You can’t control when someone forgives you.  You can only forgive yourself.  Be patient and hope they come around.  Old wounds are hard to heal.

Gigi [to Sharon]: Your best quality is something that I could never give you. Your heart.  You just go out there and you be yourself.

Carlene:  The Neiman’s secret warehouse sale is by invite only.

[Watch the trio when startled, come to their own defense:  Heather pulls out her pepper spray, Cricket strikes a tae kwon do pose, and Carlene puts a whistle on her key chain in her mouth.]
Carlene:  We’ve been hoodwinked.
Cricket:  By a delusional woman who thinks she can still fit into her old cheerleader uniform.
Amanda:  Um, excuse me.  I totally can, but that’s beside the point.
[The mud fight between the girls, Amanda, Carlene, Cricket and Heather, is truly rejuvenating.  Emotionally. WONDERFUL music clip here.]

Amanda:  . . . An eye for an eye.
Carlene:  Not our testament.  We turn the other cheek.
Amanda:  [taunting Carlene]
[Mud fight ensues.]
Cricket:  . . . I never liked this dress. . . .  [Makes up with Carlene.]  Don’t you make me cry in this parking lot.
Heather:  [standing up for herself with Carlene, and yet making up, about to get a hug from muddy Carlene.]  No.  You’re gross.
Carlene:  . . . I have Wet Ones.
Heather:  I think I’m gonna call a cab.

Ripp [to the four ladies, freshly cleaned up from their recent mud fight]:  You will behave like decent, honorable Christian women. Got it?  . . . Verbal confirmation is necessary.

[The “Jesus is Just Alright” song and dance is great—right up until Carlene pops through a stained-glass window.  But she finishes the song!]

~ ~ ~

Denise Barker, author + freelance copy editor
Good Ole Boys, a love story
A Copyediting Checklist for Novelists

GCB Not Renewed!?! No!

I am one dejected Dallas Christian, saddened by this report, which seems to have validation by several different sites online.

I will miss all the characters.  Each one.  They were becoming more and more human and we were bonding . . . sigh.

If making fun was such a bad thing, why has SNL survived for thirty-seven seasons? 

For now, I can console my grief by watching the remaining episodes up on Hulu, while I await the release of the DVD.

That's something, right?

Still . . .

Denise Barker, author + freelance copy editor
Good Ole Boys, a love story
A Copyediting Checklist for Novelists

More Musings From an Indie Author

I'm an eternal student.  I can see me with seven degrees--given the funds--which would have possibly detoured my career as a novelist. Therefore, I'm very happy that I was not swayed from my true purpose. But I can still study those seven main loves of mine.

In fact, as an author, research is very much a part of the job.  And I get to choose which topics.  Believe me, I will need multiple lifetimes to pursue my self-study of the many subjects that interest me.  And thoroughly enjoy the process with each project.

So, my recent readings have brought to focus two things that I keep feeling this insistent nudging to share with fellow authors.  Hope this helps someone out there.

Memorable Characters

Now, whether they are remembered for a lifetime or just a few haunting days after reading a novel to The End, I cannot guarantee.  But please share with us, if you have the "forever" formula!

My take here is more narrowed.  I am focusing on the "memorable" part.  From the get-go.  With the initial intro of your character to your reader.  I have based my inklings of it on my own law of three:  it takes three different elements to memorize a list (or make a character memorable).

I learned this from Daddy on long car trips to visit the grandparents each summer.  He and I would be the only ones awake at 4:00 a.m. while he drove and the others slept, so we'd play the memory game.

I'd make a list of about twenty items and tell Daddy number one was water and so on throughout number twenty.  With each pairing, he took about three minutes to memorize it.  Once completed, I'd randomly pick either numbers or nouns and he would give me the number for the noun or the noun for the number.  Quite amazing.

Come to find out, he had a "master" list memorized.  So he already had a number one item, but when I gave him my newly chosen number one item, he would match up the two into some unusual combination so his mind would remember the association.

This is a lame example but his master list may have the initial item as being "fork" and my first word on my list is "butterfly."  Maybe instead of pinning your butterfly to a board like a naturalist would, we would reach for one huge salad fork instead.  Therefore an absurd match has been made (both alpha and numeric, and quite visually too) and hopefully because of that, we can retrieve the vision later--whether via "one" or "butterfly."

Kind of weird to memorize one list to help with another, but still I see the advantages.  You can take all the time you want to memorize the master list--a year, a decade.  But when you play the memory game, you only have about three minutes to deeply seat that new word in your mind.  So it helps to have this "anchor" already there in your brain.

I relayed the above to make this point:  We all have anchors.  Say "Marilyn Monroe" and I bet the visual image of her in a white dress standing atop an air-shaft grate causing her skirt to rise flashes in our memories.

I'd much prefer a Marilyn Monroe lookalike as a description of my heroine since I am so adverse to the "police blotter" character descriptions--5'6", blonde/blue, Caucasian female--showing up in novels.  Unless it truly is from a police blotter in a whodunit.

So I'm always looking for ways to picture my character to my reader without the obvious, hackneyed rhetoric.  Back to Marilyn Monroe, we could always show our female lead as blonde bombshell pin-up material.  The only fault I find with that is it dates our writing.  With Marilyn, however, we are probably okay as she is "eternal" like the Mona Lisa or Eve in the Garden of Eden.

But if you are considering "linking" your main character (MC) to an actor now part of the latest and newest TV series--that may or may not make it to Season Two--you might want to rethink your association for one of your main characters.  Make it a more long-term character, like Scarlett O'Hara or Elizabeth Bennett over your fave daytime actress, IMO.

Or in another eventuality, what if you are writing a sweet romance novel (no sex, just kissing, and that at the very end), and you have your leading man associated with a well-known public figure.  Only to find out, two days after your book releases, that he is caught in a huge sex scandal, with X-rated photos all over the Net.

Just saying . . . 

Back to the law of three.  To make your hero or heroine "congeal" for your reader, give them three points of info right out of the starting gate.  Be judicious about your selection.  Besides their name (which is another post--but don't give a ditsy-sounding name to a librarian and vice versa), and some idea of their age/sex/looks, we need a third point.

I know in my online communities I usually go with "I'm a RomSus Indie-pubbed author, Denise from Dallas."  Yes, I know, there is that porn movie Debbie Does . . . and, although not my genre, if the humor (and absurdity) of it makes for a few laughs and gets me embedded in someone's mind, then it has served its purpose.

Just what we should do with our main characters in our books.

Not that we can't lavish this detail on our minor characters.  Think Serge in one of the Beverly Hills Cop movies.  Bronson Pinchot was priceless in this small, short scene.  And from what I understand, he found this obscure accent to incorporate that helped round out an otherwise two-dimensional bit part.

Plus, I'm among fellow authors here and we have been known to say more outrageous things than anything shared above.  You know what I am talking about.  You and your writing buddies are at an overflowing restaurant talking about your latest novel.  The dinner conversation could entail one or all of the following:  "Would a severed head float?" followed by "Why not just poison him?" with an added thought of "Make it a threesome in bed so you have more suspects."

See what I mean?

The nearby diners will probably remember y'all for a long time . . . .

The Eight Archetypes

I read in one rendition where we have all eight types within us, which is an intriguing thought.  For review, here they are with a corresponding example from Star Wars:

Protagonist (Luke Skywalker), Antagonist (the Empire), Contagonist (Darth Vader), Guardian/Mentor (Obi-Wan), Sidekicks (R2D2 + C3PO), Skeptic (Hans Solo), Emotion (Chewbacca), Reason (Princess Leia).

If we do house the complete range of types, then that explains why in one situation we act like Hans Solo while in another like Obi-Wan.  Maybe we should cut ourselves and others some slack just for this reason alone.

Plus this makes logical sense as to why authors write in many genres.  After all, we may have the complete set "in us."  Awesome, right?  

We could engage our Chewbacca and write an epic drama.  

We could channel our Luke Skywalker and create a rousing adventure story.  

We might imagine a book completely from the evil villain's POV.  A thriller, a horror, a black comedy/fantasy.  

If we are riding along with Hans Solo (put on your seat belt or, better yet, get him away from the controls!), it could encourage a humorous escapism book, an action/adventure.  

With our Guardian/Mentor on board, we might lean more toward instructional nonfiction, a How-To book, or a textbook, a resource manual.  There again, we could convert it to fiction and still use it as a teaching tool, whether for children or adults.

If we focus on our sidekicks, it could end up being a coming-of-age story, or a midlife crisis drama.

Oh, and the contagonist, such as Darth Vader.  What a red herring for our mysteries or police dramas.

Let's not forget Princess Leia.  "Bad things can happen to good people" comes to mind.  But she wins out in the end, right?  So a success story could be written in novel form, or a bio of a real-life person.  Or maybe Jane finds out "all work without play" makes her and her life boring.  So you pen a love story where the heroine grows and evolves and finds a man to spent eternity with.  

You may have your own plot variances, but that is just it.  Keep those minds churning and your imagination actively engaged.  

And have fun!  We are authors.  We chose this career as much as it chose us.  This is our goal in life.  So enjoy the process . . . as well as each completed book.  Not many people can say, "I finished a book.  A real one with a plot and interesting characters."  And even fewer individuals can honestly and proudly boast, "I've written my third/thirtieth/one-hundred-and-thirtieth novel."  

Go for it!

Denise Barker, author + freelance copy editor
Good Ole Boys, a love story
A Copyediting Checklist for Novelists

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Good Ole Boys, a love story, Coming to B&N

I just uploaded my debut e-novel to Barnes & Noble's PubIt! program.  Even though I have five other e-books on B&N's online site, this one was much longer and had formatting problems.  A new author friend gave me an invaluable tip and, with a couple more hours invested, I got my first novel uploaded via PubIt!

Should be live in twenty-four to seventy-two hours.  Can't wait!

Denise Barker, author
Good Ole Boys, a love story
A Copyediting Checklist for Novelists

Monday, May 14, 2012

Looking for a Photographer?

I ran across a wonderful photographer in my newest online author group.  Check out Elise VanCise photos here:  http://www.wix.com/fictionrulz/elise-vancise-photography and Elise VanCise the author here: http://gladiatorspen.blogspot.com/.


Denise Barker, author + freelance copy editor
Good Ole Boys, a love story
A Copyediting Checklist for Novelists

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Author as Mother-Creator

Happy Mother's Day!  And here's a holiday-appropriate blog post by Joan Koster, giving an eloquent description of how we authors birth our stories, just like real mothers birthing babes.  Enjoy!  Link follows.


Denise Barker, author + freelance copy editor
Good Ole Boys, a love story
A Copyediting Checklist for Novelists

Dreams DO Come True . . .

I made a major career move almost five years ago.  I had been a well-paid legal assistant for decades.  Felt very comfortable with my duties, very pleased with the manifold jobs completed, very self-satisfied with the fast pace.  No clock-watching at this job.  Yet . . .

I was not fulfilled.  Not so much with the legal environment as it was about the rigid work atmospheres:  driving to work in the dark and home again, in the dark; glass high-rises with windows that did not open; "dressing for success" but it was my brain earning a living;  any commute farther than five miles from my house, preferably none!  This is evidence how you can be really good at your job--productive, efficient, accurate--and all the while, in the wrong place for you.

Not only did I yearn to be an entrepreneur, but I demanded to be creatively unleashed.  To save "me"--the one inside, dying a slow death.

Freedom to work from 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m., take a nap, and resume again with a workout, breakfast, then charge into creating novels.  My own stories.  With gifts that served me well in my former career, but will let me soar into my second--fully engaging my soul, my heart and my mind.

My first dream-come-true was landing a freelance copy editor position four years ago with a big NYC publishing house.  THE publisher that I felt best matched me and my reading preferences.  In line with my own writing, whether short stories or novels, from years long ago, and not-yet-unpublished back then.  It still makes me smile and gives me goose bumps as I recount "falling" into this blessing.

My second dream-come-true was uploading the first of now six e-books.  Wow! I AM PUBLISHED!  You have no idea how fulfilling this is for me and my goals as an all-Indie author.  Plus with my book-reading love discovered long before I attended any formal school, it was an obvious direction for me.  Which gifts-encompassing talent the copyediting and the creating both utilize.

My third dream-come-true is one still-in-progress.  I wish to be a self-sustaining author.  Making enough money from just my e-books to pay all my bills--which have been pared down greatly since the inception of my author career.  Then my copyediting fees would become the extra monies that elevate me from paycheck-to-paycheck status to the enviable more-than-enough plateau.  Can't wait!

And in the spirit of that, I'm redoing my To Do list from a sad rendition of all the glitches that prevent me from uploading about six projects to date, to become a Research Reminder of the answers I am sure to find within the wonderful realm of the World Wide Web.  It's all in the mind-set, right?

Wish me good hunting!

Denise Barker, author + freelance copy editor
Good Ole Boys, a love story (e-book)
A Copyediting Checklist for Novelists (e-book)

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Need Help With Your Writing Discipline?

This week my radar's been tuned to the discipline of writing and, therefore, I found several good places for help.

1.  Margie Lawson's Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors (class notes packet @ $22/each) found here: http://www.margielawson.com/lecture-packets/defeat-self-defeating-behaviors.  I plan to invest in myself by purchasing it later this month.  From a recent recommendation on this ML course, it sounds a lot like the premises within FLYLady.net, so I'm on board.

2.  A wonderful blog by Rachel Aaron (sometimes "RA") about how she increased her daily writing from 2K to 10K, here is that link: http://thisblogisaploy.blogspot.com.au/2011/06/how-i-went-from-writing-2000-words-day.html.  A quick synopsis of her three-point process is to (a) prewrite, freehand, just for five minutes what you plan to write on today; (b) track your time investment and see what time of day/locales make for higher daily WC; and (c) enthusiasm--if your scene bores you, your readers will be bored too, so don't waste your time on it--write the scene you (and then your readers) love.

3.  I see another post by Rachel Aaron re editing for people who hate editing (which I have yet to read but based on the above article, I'm betting it's just great).  Her link is here:  http://thisblogisaploy.blogspot.com/2012/02/editing-for-people-who-hate-editing.html.

4.  Again, I've only read about this and have not participated, but there is a Twitter following re #1k1hr which seems to be a daily writing deadline that I will check out.

5.  Another not-yet-investigated avenue is a Yahoo! group that writes one hundred WC for one hundred days or you have to start over if you miss a day.  The link I wrote down doesn't work, so here's another link:  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/100WordsChallenge/.  From one posting I read about this procedure, you get a certificate in the mail for each one-hundred-day period you successfully complete.  Again, writing discipline.  I need more of that.

Of course, I'm a big NaNo proponent and it fulfills the Rachel Aaron "triangle" approach noted above in item #2.  Per NaNo, I can outline before November, prepare for my novel, just not write it until Day 1.  That's RA's point (a).  Within Nano, we track our time.  More loosely than RA's point (b), but we at least know we did fifty thousand words in thirty days--therefore, Rachel's spreadsheet idea is a good one for monitoring productivity.  Plus, NaNo participation is fully enthused with the energy of a massive amount of authors gathered together.  Not exactly RA's point (c) which is more on an individual basis, but enthusiasm makes NaNo ROCK, so why not use this element on our other projects?

Now I just need to translate that to the other months of the year.

With my freelance work, I keep daily records so I know how many hours each project took to complete.  Having worked decades with time-keeping attorneys, it comes instinctively to me.  Yet, I had not applied it to my novel creating.  Duh!

I love Rachel's honesty and humor and self-deprecating insight.  These were quite simple revelations, yet so elegant.  So wise.  I've noted in my own postings how my light-bulb moments seem so obvious--and yet, that is where they are hidden most times.

Thanks for sharing, Rachel!

Denise Barker, author
Good Ole Boys, a love story
Professional Freelance Copy Editor