Posts Tagged ‘The Creative Process’

On Inspiration, the Writing Process and My best Advice for New Writers

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Three Questions Answered for Sisters in Crime

Inspiration Point

Hello there!

My dear friend Eleanor Khuns, author of the fantastic historical mysteries Death of a Dyer, A Simple Death and Craddle to Grave tagged me to participate in the Sisters in Crime  blog hop by answering the questions below.

Enjoy!

D.

Which authors have inspired you?

I’m one of those people who think that the human mind is influenced by every contact and every read, no matter how casual or light. I learn from every word I read. Heck, even when I don’t enjoy a writer, I’m still learning from what him or her. As a young woman growing up in the Dominican Republic, I was exposed to many different influences. I thrived on young adult novels from Louisa May Alcott. I loved Enid Blyton and blazed through The Famous Five, The Seven Secrets and The Malory Towers series. I think I wanted to be a student at Malory Towers as much as my kids wanted to go to school at Hogwarts!

But, talk about being a hybrid of many worlds! At the same time I was reading Louisa May Alcott and Enid Blyton, I was also reading the Latin American classics. Books such as A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosas, and The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende left lasting impressions. I also tapped into my parents’ wonderful library, enjoying the Russians (I favored Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy), the French (Victor Hugo), the Germans (Eric Maria Remarque), the Spanish (Jose Maria Gironella), and the Americans (Hemingway, always Hemingway).

Later, when I came to the States, I discovered fantasy and was dazzled by J.R.R. Tolkien, Stephen Donaldson, Frank Herbert, Robert Jordan, and George R.R. Martin, way before he became popular, I should add. I also fell in love with commercial fiction. Diana Gabaldon, Bernard Cornwell and Anne Rice are some of my all-time favorites.

What’s the best part of the writing process for you? What’s the most challenging?

The best part of the writing process for me is the writing itself. I love working on a first draft, laying down the ideas, characters and structure of a novel for the first time, discovering the full story in my mind. There’s something liberating about a blank screen, about the sentences turning into paragraphs and the paragraphs into chapters. I love the evolution of a story, the transformation that occurs as the story progresses, the unforeseen twists and turns that defy the outline and provoke the imagination.

The most challenging part of the writing process comes at the end for me, after the manuscript is done. I’m not one for self-promotion and yet the current publishing environment requires a great deal of it. I love talking to readers about writing and books, getting to know them, listening to their ideas and reactions to the stories and reading and writing in general. But tooting my own horn? It doesn’t come naturally to me.

If you were to mentor new writers, what would you tell them about the writing business? 

I enjoy mentoring new writers. I always tell them to educate themselves in the totality of the process upfront. It saves time if you have the basics covered, if the writer is proficient in grammar, punctuation, formatting and so forth. It also helps enormously if the writer has a good idea of how the industry works and how the market for her genre behaves.

I would also tell a new writer to submit their work to the highest possible standards of critical review prior to shopping for publishers. There’s a lot of stuff clogging the pipeline and a polished, edited manuscript can make all the difference in the world. Editors, critique groups, other writers and beta readers who know the genre can be invaluable to the new writer.

Above all, I would tell the new writer to write, to complete the manuscript from beginning to end, to edit it, to trudge through the entire creative process and learn from it. Your first manuscript may never see the light of day. Maybe your second and third won’t either, but no one can take away the treasure trove of learning that you gain each time you complete the creative process from beginning to end and the joy that comes from writing.

Thank you Eleanor for inviting me to participate in the Sisters in Crime blog hop. Hop on to the next blog and meet Barb Caffrey, the talented author of the comic, YA urban fantasy, An Elfie on the Loose.

Links:

http://www.eleanor-kuhns.com/2014/09/19/sisters-in-crime-blog-hop/

Eleanor Kuhns books 2

https://elfyverse.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/right-under-the-wire-barb-does-the-sincbloghop/

AnElfyontheLoose_med

http://www.sistersincrime.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=134

Dora Machado's Books (640x237)

 

 

The Story Behind The Curse Giver

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Dear Readers.

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from you regarding how I came up with the original concept for The Curse Giver. In an effort to answer these questions, I’d like to share this essay that I wrote for The Curse Giver‘s release.

Enjoy!

D.

******

So, you’ve been wondering: How on earth did I come up with the concept for The Curse Giver?

The Curse Giver was an accident, a professional indiscretion, if you will, conceived during one of my little escapades, and born out of unchecked passion. Yep, I might as well come clean. Even the most disciplined writer can be unfaithful to her projects, and no matter how thoroughly taken one is with one’s current novel, the danger for a tangent is always there when venturing into the world of research.

So there I was, researching one book, working hard to finalize the Stonewiser series, when I came across this insidious little idea that kept disrupting my train of thought.

Now, to understand the story behind The Curse Giver, you must understand me and my writing habits. I’m not easily distracted. When I’m writing a novel, my brain goes into hyper mode. I’m disciplined, motivated and focused to the point of obsession, which is why The Curse Giver was such a surprise to me.

The subject of curses has always fascinated me, not only because curses are such a vital part of magic and fantasy, but also because they are so prevalent to the human experience. To be honest, I had always been intrigued by the subject, but didn’t delve into it, until one very late night—or was it very early morning?—when the wind rattled my window as a coastal storm blew in from the sea.

The clay tablets that popped up on my screen dated from 600 BC and were part of the library of Nineveh, also known as the library of Ashurbanipal, the oldest surviving library of cuneiform tablets. This is the same collection that gave us the famous Gilgamesh epic. Visually, the tablets weren’t much to look at, chicken scratches on clay. But the translated words had an impact on me.

May all these [gods] curse him with a curse that cannot be relieved, terrible and merciless, as long as he lives, may they let his name, his seed, be carried off from the land, may they put his flesh in a dog’s mouth.”

I know, hardly an inspiration for most. Me? I immediately thought of the man who had been thus cursed, of the pain and hardship such curse would bring upon him and his people, of the character that eventually became Bren, Lord of Laonia in The Curse Giver.

From there on, the curses flowed before my eyes, mysterious ones from ancient civilizations in Egypt, India and the Far East; thin lead tablets dating from the Greco-Roman world, judicial prayers, secret invocations, warnings and love spells that streamed into my consciousness. I knew I should get back to my original research, and yet I was smitten with the subject.

There were curses quoted from the Bible, medieval curses, real and forgeries, Viking, Celtic, Germanic, Visigoth, Mayan, Incan, Hopi, you name it. There were ancient curses but also modern curses, some associated with Santeria, voodoo and the 21 Divisions, religions that are common in the Dominican Republic where I grew up.

Who would cast these curses and why? What kind of creature could be capable of such powers? What would motivate a person to curse another one? As I explored these questions, a character profile began to emerge in my mind, someone whose understanding of good and evil was very different from my own.

Sorting through the research, I could see that some curses had practical applications to make sure people did what they were told. They served as alternate forms of law enforcement in lawless societies. Some were obviously malicious. They were meant to frighten and intimidate. Some were more like venting or wishful thinking. It turns out that mankind has been casting curses since the beginning of time and will probably continue for as long as we have the imagination and faith to do so.

A new question formed in my mind. Once cursed, what could a person do to defend himself? A third character emerged from this question, Lusielle, a common remedy mixer, a healer of hearts and bodies, someone who didn’t realize the scope of her own power until it began to transform her life.

Eventually, I wrestled myself out of the trance. I had a book to write and a series to complete. I had deadlines. But my little detour had made an impact. The concepts were at work in my subconscious, coalescing into a new novel, fashioning these powerful characters who demanded their own story. My encounter with curses had been but a slight detour from my research plan, a tiny deviation, an indiscretion to my schedule, but the seed had been planted and The Curse Giver thrived, even if I didn’t know it yet.

The Curse Giver from Amazon

The Writing Process

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

My dear friend, the talented Maria De Vivo, author of The Coal Elf, passed me the baton for the Writing Process Blog Tour. In turn, I passed the baton to three writers who I think you might enjoy meeting. This means all of us get to answer four questions about our work. Here are my answers:

What are you working on?

Oh, my! And I thought these would be easy questions. I have several projects going. I’m about halfway into a contemporary urban fantasy novel with a Latin twist. I’m also in the research stage of three different projects, one of them a fantasy/time travel adventure. And of course, I’m also in the process of writing the companion novel to The Curse Giver, a fantasy epic adventure with a hint of romance tentatively entitled The Soul Chaser.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

I think I bring a different perspective to the fantasy genre. I grew up in Latin America and I’ve seen and experienced the advantages and disadvantages of living in a developing nation. My stories are usually nuanced by issues of poverty, inequality, corruption and injustice. I like a complex plot with flawed, multidimensional characters engaged in passionate and meaningful relationships at many different levels. I write characters that are a product of changing environments and yet have to evolve with the circumstances.

I don’t mind a little length if it allows me the chance to ramp up the journey’s intensity and explore the richness of diverse and innovative worlds. My style is a little different too. I like to tell an epic story with lyrical flare. Finally, I bring some gritty realism to my fantasy worlds, a taste of the world we live in.

Why do you write what you write?

I straddle many worlds in real life, so fantasy is a perfect fit for me. I love the freedom of creating my own worlds. In many ways, fantasy is a reinterpretation of the human experience, as current and enduring as the world we live in. To me, fantasy is the most interactive of all the genres, the most flexible. I get to play and experiment with concepts, settings and ideas in all kinds of different frameworks. Who wouldn’t love that? I write fantasy because it’s fun.

What is your writing process?

It usually begins with an idea that gives birth to a character. Then that character takes over. I’m quite obsessive when I’m writing. I write all the time, wherever I am. The bulk of my writing takes place late at night. I write best during those uninterrupted times and I write for as long as I can. Sleep deprivation is usually a challenge. I can typically churn out a draft in three or four months. After that, I go into a compulsive editing phase, where I might be writing something new while editing the draft. It’s a grueling process and yet I love it. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

There you have it. My writing process in a nutshell. I’m passing the baton to:

Jerry Hatchett

My friend Jerry Hatchett writes thrillers you can’t put down. He’s the author of several Amazon bestsellers, includingSeven Unholy DaysThe Pawnbroker and the upcomingUnallocated Space.

Linda Au

My friend Linda Au is a novelist, a humor writer and the funniest woman I know. She’s the author of several humor books, including Head in the Sand and the award nominated Fork in the Road.

Eleanor Khuns

My friend Eleanor Khuns is a writer of historical mysteries, winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel competition and author of A Simple Murder, Death of a Dyer and Craddle to Grave.

Dora Machado's Books (640x237)

Off to Japan: My Writer’s Packing List

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

By

Dora Machado

Japan Rail Passes

If everything goes as planned, by this time you read this, I’ll be on a plane to Japan. Even though I’ve been to Asia Minor before, this will be my first trip to Asia proper. I’m so excited!

For this trip, I’ve had to make zero planning effort. That’s because I’m teaming up with one of my all-time favorite traveling companions, travel blogger Mariana Marshall of http://marianaonthemove.com/, with whom I walked the last 100 kilometers of the Camino of Santiago de Compostela. She is also my daughter.

The advantages of tagging along with a travel blogger can’t be understated. My traveling companion carefully researched and selected the itinerary and made all of the traveling arrangements, transportation and lodging reservations. I just get to come along for the ride!

We’ll be spending some time in Tokyo and then traveling on to explore Kyoto and its environs. We’ve got a very long list, but I’m looking forward to staying at a traditional Japanese guest house (ryokan), exploring the natural hot springs (onsens), and riding Japan’s fabulous bullet trains.

Packing for Japan in the winter had me asking a lot of questions, but travel bloggers are Girl Scouts at heart, and mine found this awesome packing list from a fellow blogger:  http://herpackinglist.com/2012/12/ultimate-female-packing-list-japan-winter/.

My writer’s packing list must, of course, include my computer, tablet and cell phone. We don’t speak the language, so we’ve uploaded some interesting apps that might help if all else fails. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Technology is a wonderful convenience, but I’ve learned that, when traveling, it isn’t always reliable. So in addition, I’m bringing a good, small, old-fashioned notebook to jot down my thoughts and observations, a few good pens, and my camera, all indispensable tools that will work with or without an Internet connection, and that are suitable to all environments.

But the most important elements for a successful trip are stowed not in my suitcase, but rather in my mind. They include flexibility, openness and imagination. Flexibility is key when traveling, the ability to roll with the punches, accept, adapt and adjust to the changes intrinsic to the traveling experience. From airports to hotels, from technology to people, traveling exposes us to new situations that test our comfort levels and push our boundaries.

An open mind is also vital to the traveling experience. It allows us to see the world for what it is, not for what we think it should be. It also teaches us to value the differences that make each place unique and each culture extraordinary.

And finally, I bring along my number-one writing tool, my imagination, to take in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes that I’ve never experienced before, to relish the emotions of the journey, to collect the odd, the common and the spectacular, to understand and process the experience of being human. For a gal into world building, the traveling experience is a rich trove indeed.

So, wish me luck.

Sayonara, kids!

Japan bound

Writing for writers

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Hi Folks!


I felt right at home the first time I visited a blog for writers called Murder By Four. It was like, “Honey, I’m home!” An instant sense of connection enveloped me as I read through this wonderful blog. I loved the way in which authors Aaron, Kim, Marta and S.W. approached the writing life—with wisdom, dedication and joy. I relished the discussions, the guest bloggers who found a platform here, and the clever readers’ comments. I was smitten. I had stumbled into a community of open arms willing to embrace my writer self.

http://murderby4.blogspot.com/ is an award-winning blog for writers by writers. It has been selected by Writer’s Digest Magazine as one of the Best Websites for Writers several years in a row. So I was thrilled when my friend and fellow Twilight Times Books author Aaron Lazar asked me if I would join Murder By 4. I love to hang out with my writer friends. We all benefit when we share information, promotion tips, support, thoughts, questions, aspirations and inspiration. Thank you Aaron for inviting me to join MB4!

My goal is to support MB4’s tradition of building community as we learn and grow together. In my posts, I plan to share whatever helpful tidbits I’ve picked up during my writer’s journey. I also plan to ask a lot of questions to other writers, publishers, editors, cover designers, publicists—anyone who works to support writers and promote writing, books and publishing. While I will continue to post all of my author news here, all about my books, reviews, interviews, and upcoming events, I’ll also be on MB4 every Wednesday talking about one of my favorite subjects—writing.

Stop by to check out the wealth of writer wisdom over at MB4, including my Wednesday posts, which today features my interview the irrepressible Barry Eva, the host of the popular radio show A Chat and a Book.

So if you love books and if you love to write, come on over to http://murderby4.blogspot.com/. We’d love to see you there.

D.


Murder by Four

The Power of Repetition: A Guest Blog by Scott Eder

Monday, October 14th, 2013

I’m delighted to introduce my friend and Twilight Times Books fellow author, Scott Eder, whose first contemporary fantasy novel, Knight of Flame, was just released to great praise and excellent reviews. In his blog today, Scott shares his search for an irresistible first chapter. So it’s only fitting that we should begin with a gift from this talented author, the first five chapters of Knight of Flames, free, right here, at your fingertips:

http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/KnightofFlame_ch1.html

Enjoy!

D.

***

The Power of Repetition

By

Scott Eder

I’m always looking for ways to take my writing to the next level. Classes, books, podcasts, conversations… the list goes on. As a perpetual student, I’m learning and practicing every single day. But some lessons are tougher than others and require multiple strikes of the hammer to drive a single point home. In my case, the single point I struggled with was grabbing the reader right out of the gate. It’s a simple concept, really. A story needs to grab the reader’s interest as soon as possible, and refuse to let him go. Compelling characters, barbed hooks, unique conflicts, scintillating writing, and a crisp, unique voice combine to clamp onto the reader’s imagination, tightening his interest with each turn of the page.

Easy, right? You’d think so, but it took listening to a panel of agents and editors at DragonCon for the meaning to really sink in.

When I first started writing, I thought I had time, story time that is. I opened at a soft, descriptive pace that gently introduced the reader to my setting and characters. After that, I stirred in the conflict, ratcheting up the stress and intensity, until eventually achieving resolution. I thought this approach meshed with the fantasy genre. I needed time for world building, and to introduce the uniqueness of my characters, right? So why didn’t I get any interest from the agents and editors I queried? The form rejection letters didn’t help, didn’t tell me what I needed to fix.

I realized that I was missing some critical piece to the story-telling puzzle, and made the decision to seek professional help. (Hehe. I felt a little crazy at this point.) After taking several classes where the instructors helped me understand that I needed to get to the conflict sooner, that I needed to hook the reader up front, I thought I had it. Instead of getting to the action within the first few chapters, I streamlined my writing, introduced setting, characters and conflict in a more compelling way by the end of chapter one.

Woohoo! With my newfound skills, I’d break into the biz in no time. My stories rocked. Or so I thought. But the growing collection of form rejections told a different story. If one of those editors or agents would take a minute and give me something, a hint, a bit of advice, anything to clue me in as to what was missing, I’d have a chance to fix it. Nope. Just a thanks for playing, and have a nice day.

Crap. Now what?

One of the things David Farland mentioned in his class was that you could meet editors and agents at certain conventions. I checked the Interwebs and found DragonCon. I’d heard about this fabled event, but never attended. Once I found several editors and agents on the guest list, I booked my travel plans.

DragonCon has an excellent writer’s track. Panels conducted by authors, publishers, agents, and editors, with topics ranging from writing basics to more advanced publishing concerns, run all day, every day. One of the most heavily attended is the combined editors and agents panel. I got there early, but by the time it started, it was standing room only. It turned out to be more of a question and answer session, than a formalized presentation, which was fine, because I had a lot of the same questions other aspiring writers in the throng dared to ask. And then it happened. The crowd disappeared, the lights dimmed, and the panelists turned to face me, metaphorically anyway. Their comments hit me hard.

One agent said, “Look, you need to draw me in right away. Like on the first page. With all the submissions I get, I don’t have time to read pages and pages, waiting for something interesting to happen.”

An editor chimed in. “Yeah. I’m rooting for you, but unless you hook me within the first page or two with something, and it doesn’t have to be your primary conflict, but something to make me keep reading, you’re done.”

“Hell, you need to grab me in the first paragraph or two,” said the agent at the far end of the table. “I’ll give you a little more time if you have a nifty voice, but not much.”

I blinked a few times as the import of their words sunk in. The first page or two? Hmm…The chatter continued, but I zoned out, churning over how make my first few pages addictive. I wanted the reader turning the pages of my book as if he’d just popped the top on a fresh can of Pringles.

After several iterations, and an enthusiastic thumbs-up from my critique group, I sent it back out. This time, it sold!

And all it took were several books, a few teachers, and one panel at a convention to make it stick. Never stop learning. Make it a part of your writing process to seek out new techniques and information. You never know which one will make the difference between rejection and acceptance.

Have fun,

Scott

Against the Shadow, burns a noble light.

***

Knight Of Flame

Fire. The most chaotic of the primal elements. When wielded properly by the Knight of Flame, it burns like the sun. Otherwise, it slowly consumes the Knight, burning away his control, driving him towards dark deeds.

KnightofFlame_med (1)

“In Knight of Flame Scott re-imagines traditional fantasy and forges something new from old metal–a fast-paced thriller that delivers a healthy dose of wonder. As enjoyable as it is engrossing.” – David Farland, International Best-Selling Author of The Runelords

Knight of Flame is available today for only $2.99!

Buy Links:

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/knight-of-flame-scott-eder/1116911291

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Knight-Flame-Knights-Elementalis-ebook/dp/B00F7SXQ8I/

About the Author

Since he was a kid, Scott wanted to be an author. Through the years, fantastic tales of nobility and strife, honor and chaos dominated his thoughts. After twenty years mired in the corporate machine, he broke free to bring those stories to life.

Scott lives with his wife and two children on the west coast of Florida.

Website: www.scotteder.net

Twitter: @Scotteder

Blog: https://madmuncleforge.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/knightselementalis

My Interview with Karen Swart

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Hi Folks,

Here’s my brand new interview with South African paranormal and urban fantasy author, Karen Swart, where she asked me all kinds of interesting questions, including whether my books had a hidden message. You know what? I had to think about that one.

Enjoy!

D.

****

Hi Dora! Did you always wanted to be a writer?

Hi Karen. Yes! I’ve wanted to be a writers since as far back as I can remember.

When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?

Good question! I think I only began to call myself a writer after my first book, Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone, was published.

How long did it take to get your first book published?

About a year from beginning to end. It felt like a century!

Do you do another job except for writing?

Not anymore! These days I’m lucky enough to write full time and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in fewer than 20 words what would you say?

My latest book is called The Curse Giver. Twenty words, eh? Why, let’s give the old logline a try: An innocent healer condemned to death must ally with the cursed lord pledged to kill her to defeat the curse giver who has already conjured their ends.

Who is your publisher?

I’m a very lucky gal. The Curse Giver was published by Twilight Times Books, an independent publisher based out of Kingsport, Tennessee, that specializes in publishingcritically acclaimed literary, mystery and SF/F books. A dynamic, top-of-the-line, quality-oriented publisher, TTB has more than 140 titles in the 2013 Spring Catalogue and is the home of a talented and friendly bunch of authors who have enriched my publishing experience. Check out TTB at http://twilighttimesbooks.com/

How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?

It takes me about four months, give or take a little. Keep in mind that the time invested is not always consecutive when you are working on a novel. Sometimes I’ll advance one project and then shift to another novel, before going back to complete the first one.

What can we expect from you in the future? More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?

You can expect more stories from me in the future, more dark fantasy romance, a dark contemporary fantasy with a Latin twist, and more about the world of The Curse Giver in its companion novel, The Soul Chaser.

What genre would you place your books into?

The Curse Giver falls into the fantasy genre and fits well in the subcategories of epic fantasy, dark fantasy, fantasy romance and romantic fantasy.

What made you decide to write that genre of book?

I’ve always been intrigued by the fantasy genre. I love the genre’s creative freedom, the opportunity to rethink, redesign and reinterpret the human experience, the creative challenges that that arise from world building, and the mysteries that magic brings to the human equation. I grew up in the Dominican Republic and my life always felt kind of magical in many ways. I’ve always straddled different worlds. Fantasy is a perfect fit for me.

Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?

I do. I think it’s a tossup between the main characters, Bren and Lusielle. I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog, the reluctant hero and the tortured soul. In The Curse Giver, Bren, Lord of Laonia, is all of those. He’s got the makings of a hero, but his circumstances make him an outcast and a villain in his own mind. He is weary, bitter and troubled, but he’s also dutiful and determined, and he will not betray his people. As the story begins, he rescues Lusielle from the pyre, but only because he’s hunting a birthmark she bears. To defeat the curse that has obliterated his family and is killing him, he has to murder the woman who bears the birthmark in the foulest possible way. But as he escapes with his prey in tow, she is not what he expected. He faces yet another dismal choice: Can he murder the only woman capable of healing more than his body, his soul?

Lusielle is also one of my favorite characters in The Curse Giver, but for a totally different reason. When the story begins, she’s been betrayed by her greedy husband and condemned to die for a crime she didn’t commit. After years of abuse and slavery, the false accusations destroy her bleak but orderly world. As she flees with the bitter lord who has rescued her, she finds herself in an impossible situation: If she’s going to survive, she must help the mysterious lord who is determined to kill her to defeat the curse giver who has already conjured their ends. What I like most about Lusielle is that she has to change; she has to muster the courage to free herself from her tragic past and find the strength within to thrive in a world she doesn’t understand.

How long have you been writing? And who or what inspired you to write?

I’ve been writing for publication for about seven years now. I’m inspired to write by many people and many experiences, but ultimately, I write because I can’t stop writing. I swear. I’ve tried. I just can’t. My mind is powered by this story generator that keeps on going and won’t quit.

Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? Do you listen to music, sit in a certain chair…?

I’m one of those people who prefer to write in silence. I guess my mind is way too noisy as it is! I have a writing studio in my home, a cozy little room that opens up to a veranda that overlooks a beautiful, spring-fed river. It’s quiet and peaceful, and it’s my favorite place to write. I like to sit on my favorite chair, a Scandinavian ergonomic design that offers excellent support for the long hours of writing.

Do you choose a title first, or write the book, then choose the title?

I usually discover the title of my novels at the very moment when I write it for the first time into the story. It can happen early on, during the opening paragraph or late in the process. It’s really neat. It’s always a “wow” moment.

Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals such as those in Aesop’s Fables: “The moral of this story is..”)

I don’t strive to preach any kind of morality in my stories, but I do write a lot about conflicting situations, injustice, opposing beliefs, and the meaning of concepts such as truth, faith and prejudice. Sometimes, the storyline leaves me and my readers thinking about things. For example, in The Curse Giver we join with the characters as they discover how reason, knowledge and awareness are the main components of our personal sense of strength. We don’t have to be magical to be strong. We just have to believe in ourselves.

Which format of book do you prefer, e-book, hardback, or paperback?

I’m partial to the indestructible, beach-proof, throw-it-in-your-bag, good old-fashioned paperback. I love the feel of a book between my hands. But I will confess—albeit reluctantly—that my latest e-reader has been growing on me. The idea that I can carry ALL of my favorite books around in my purse is irresistible.

Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is your favorite/worst book-to-movie transfer?

I think that books and movies are two different and distinct media. I usually approach them with different expectations. What makes a book great is not the same thing that will work for a movie. The translation is particularly challenging for science fiction and fantasy. There are an awful lot of great SF/F books that have been made into terrible movies. I used to say that I never wanted to see my books made into movies. That is, until I watched George R. Martin’s Game of Thrones on HBO. It might be time to rethink the old prejudices. . . .

Your favorite food is?

Cake. I know. Not a good one. I like carrots too. Does that help?

Your favorite singer/group is?

That would be a long list!

Your favorite color is?

Blue.

Remember to check out today’s spotlight to find out more about Dora and The Curse Giver.

http://authorkarenswart.blogspot.com/

http://authorkarenswart.blogspot.com/2013/10/book-blitz-curse-giver-by-dora-machado.html

Why Texting is a Tool of the Devil and Proofreading Your work Matters . . . A lot!

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Part Two of my Interview with Proofreader Extraordinaire Linda Au

By

Dora Machado

Please allow me to reintroduce my friend and proofreader extraordinaire, Linda Au, who shared her insights with us on my previous blog post, regarding the ins and outs of her profession and why an author wants a little OCD in his or her proofreader. With an incredible eye for detail, a questioning approach and an uncanny ability to find even the most cryptic of errors, Linda is an incredible asset to every project she tackles. I know. I’ve worked with her many times and benefited from her professional OCD, which as we’ve learned, doesn’t always extend to all other parts of her life, like cleaning the house.

In the second part of my interview with Linda, we tackle some of the hottest issues facing authors today. As the writing world changes and publishing gets both simpler and also more complicated, Linda shares her thoughts on what’s the real current state of spelling in the  world and why proofreading matters . . . more than ever!

Enjoy!

D.

Welcome back, Linda. Writers today face so many hurdles and expenses. Why should having a manuscript professionally proofed be a priority?

In this rapidly evolving publishing world, everyone can call themselves writers by simply typing in a Word document, finishing with “The End,” and uploading it to Kindle Direct Publishing. Bingo! You’re published. Offer your “book” for free and you might even skyrocket to an impressive sales ranking for the day. But you’ll soon realize that even readers who download e-books that didn’t cost them a dime have standards. Their time is worth something. The general reading public is a lot smarter than the general writer-wannabe gives them credit for. They might download your first freebie book, but if it’s riddled with errors, typos, and bad formatting, they won’t care how good the story is (if it’s any good—and you can bet I’m skeptical about that). They won’t bother to download your second one.

The publishing slush pile used to be on the publisher’s desk. Then it moved to the agent’s desk. Now the whole slush pile is right out there for sale on Amazon.com. How can a serious writer stand out with all that competition? I’m convinced that what’s going to separate the men from the boys in the new publishing world is professionalism. Good writing. Good content editing. Good typesetting for print books and formatting for e-books. Good copy editing and proofreading.

By the way, as a side note: I am sometimes vexed that readers expect e-books to all be free or ridiculously cheap. A good, professional book still costs money to produce. The writer, editor, copy editor, publisher, and proofreader all still charge money for their services (and it’s a lot less than you think it is—none of us are retiring to the Caribbean any time soon). The only cost savings with e-books are with actual physical production: printing, binding, distribution. So yes, e-books should be cheaper, but good stories still cost money.

You are a writer too. What kinds of books do you write? Do you proofread your own books?

The two books I have out now are collections of humor essays, written under my maiden name/pen name of Linda M. Au. Although the essays are fun to write, switching gears and being funny in so many different little “stories” can feel burdensome when I’m putting one of the humor books together. I’m collecting ideas and essays for a third book, but I’ve got no personal deadline for it. Next up instead are a few of my NaNoWriMo novels, some of which have won awards (in whole or in part). Fiction is really my first love.

And yes, I do proofread my own books. (I also typeset them.) But I also run them through beta readers when they get close to being finished. That’s as much for content as for spelling and error-checks. Any problem a beta reader can point out helps me be better. I often cringe if it’s a typo or a missing word, of course, since that’s been my bread and butter for decades, but I’m relieved they’ve helped me be as good as I can be when I go to print.

What’s the hardest thing about working with writers?

The extremes in my clientele. It’s tough to have two very different clients at the same time. For instance, one writer might think she’s being helpful by throwing all sorts of formatting into her Word document manuscript, treating it almost like a layout program (which it’s not), or by learning just enough publishing jargon to be dangerous. Manuscript formatting has to be basic, especially if the next step is page layout or e-book formatting, both of which do not play nicely with overly formatted Word documents.

At the other extreme is the writer who still doesn’t seem to care if he or she spells words right or punctuates sentences properly. I’m not talking about a writer who struggles with these issues—I can appreciate the struggle and I really love helping such writers. But I don’t have a lot of tolerance for writers who insist that they are too busy being “creative” to learn the boring, nitpicky details of how to punctuate or spell. To me, that would be like a carpenter saying he’s too busy trying to create a beautiful rocking chair to learn how to use a hammer and saw.

If you’re a writer, words and grammar and punctuation are your tools. You need to learn to use them properly if you want to be taken seriously. And, I guarantee you that, once you learn these things, the creativity will still be there. In fact, it will be freed up and much more accessible to your readers because the mechanics will have become second nature.

In your opinion, what’s the current state of spelling in the world?

I think texting is a tool of the devil.

Seriously, I think that text-messaging has its place but has greatly reduced the regard for spelling conventions. I do writing coach work for eighth graders, and I see a lot of them slipping into text-messaging language in their essays: “ur” or “u” … stuff like that. They don’t even realize they’ve done it until I point it out.

I realize that language is fluid, and it’s a living thing, blah blah blah. But, there’s a big difference between language changing for practical reasons (such as “Google” becoming a verb) and language changing because too many people got lazy and misspelled a word or phrase for so long that the powers that be gave up (such as “alright” instead of “all right” slowly becoming more acceptable, though it’s not actually correct yet). Language changes that come from a lazy, uneducated populace bother me. It’s not quite the downfall of civilization, but I bet every civilization that fell had already started mistaking “its” for “it’s.”

Why will proofreading matter in the future?

As indie publishing/self-publishing becomes the norm (and it’s careening headlong in that direction already), what’s going to set the professionals apart will be their continued attention to detail and their pride in their work. And that has to include the use of the language. Not just pretty words, but properly spelled, properly punctuated pretty words. After all, writers are selling their ideas, expressed through their words. Why wouldn’t they want them to go out into the world as polished as they can be?

What’s your best proofreading advice for authors everywhere?

If you have to get yourself a grammar textbook or a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style, do it. If your first experience with a proofreader turned up ongoing issues and concerns—words you habitually spell incorrectly or grammar or punctuation issues you still don’t get right—then study and learn. It’s difficult to learn creativity or imagination, but it’s relatively easy to learn grammar and punctuation.

But never think that referring to a textbook can replace actual proofreading. Your own eyes are too forgiving of those words you missed or misspelled. Someone else’s objective eyes just may catch them … and you’ll be a better writer for it.

Language is your only tool as a writer. Learn to use it properly, and you can write anything well.

Thank you so much for this interview, Linda. I really appreciate everything that you’ve shared with us. I had a lot of fun talking to you.

***

Linda’s short humor essays have garnered numerous awards. Two books of her humor essays, Head in the Sand…and other unpopular positions and Fork in the Road … and other pointless discussions, are currently available on Amazon.com and BN.com.

Linda has worked behind the scenes in publishing as a proofreader, copy editor, and typesetter since the late 1980s. She has worked with many independent authors, as well as publishers such as Carroll & Graf, Shoemaker & Hoard, Crown & Covenant Publications, Christian Publications (now WingSpread/Zur), Pegasus Books, and F+W Publications.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Linda-M-Au/119278508108217

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaMAu

Blog/Web site: The Other Side of the Desk

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/austruck/

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Dora Machado is the award winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats.

To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at www.doramachado.com or contact her at Dora@doramachado.com.

Subscribe to her blog at http://www.doramachado.com/blog/ and sign up for her at newsletter at http://doramachado.com/newsletter.php,

Facebook and Twitter.

For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit  http://twilighttimesbooks.com/TheCurseGiver_ch1.html.

The Curse Giver from Amazon

Amazon: : http://amzn.to/13oVu2P

What a Proofreader Can Do for You and Why OCD has a Role in the Profession

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

An Interview with Proofreader Extraordinaire Linda Au

By

Dora Machado

Linda Au has the distinction of being one of the funniest proofreaders in the business. I mean it. She divides her time between her passions, advancing the cause of clean writing and spotless manuscripts while also writing hilarious fiction. Over the years, she and I have worked on many projects together. She has always impressed me with her eye for detail and her uncanny ability to find even the most cryptic of errors, mistakes that often evade authors altogether, despite our  best efforts.

As the writing world changes and publishing gets both simpler and also more complicated, I wanted to get Linda’s take on the impact of her profession. Below is the first part of my two-part interview with Linda, where we talk about what she does and how she does it, the most common mistakes she finds when proofreading manuscripts, and why a touch of OCD might be a very desirable quality in a proofreader.

Enjoy!

D.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your background and how did you get started in the business of proofreading?

Should I mention that I have in my office a spelling trophy I got in fifth grade? That should have been the first tip-off that I was doomed to this life forever.

I realized I was good at proofreading while working as a secretary in a small publishing office in 1987. The editor asked me to look over a printout of that month’s issue to see if I could find any mistakes, and I handed back pages full of red ink. I’m still proofreading that magazine every month, in addition to work I do for various publishers and independent authors. My philosophy, strangely enough, is more like a theology. I rely on the doctrine of Original Sin. That’s how I know I’ll always have work. When I get a manuscript or book layout, I already know there are errors because nobody’s perfect. My job is to find those errors.

A good healthy dose of “Question everything” goes a long way, too.

What exactly do you do when you get a hold of a manuscript?

I grab a hard copy of one of my job sheets (something I created in PageMaker years ago to keep track of my hours, back when everything was hard copy), and I scribble all the details of the job on it: deadlines, special instructions, etc. I also add the project to my gargantuan white board. Then I look it over to make sure I don’t have any questions for the author, such as, “Why won’t this file open?” or “Why did you send me a file set completely in Brush Script?” or “You want this when?”

I keep a style sheet on the back of each job sheet—it’s where I jot down any author preferences I pick up along the way: Are we formatting this as “OK” or “okay”? Does the author prefer “toward” or “towards”? Those are things that don’t have a set grammar or spelling rule. It’s not hard to remember them individually, but once I’m working on multiple projects, it’s essential to keep track of what each author prefers.

These days, “digging right in” means either digital scribbling on a PDF or using Track Changes on a Word document. I leave that choice up to the author. Track Changes can look strange if you’re not used to it, though it saves an author time because there are no individual changes to input. PDF scribbles look a lot like hard copy used to: red arrows everywhere, notes in the margins. I even use rainbow color-coding for ongoing issues.

One helpful tip for those who use white boards: If you’re having trouble erasing a project from your white board—and you definitely used the dry erase markers—that means you’re WAY past your deadline.

What are the most common mistakes you find when proofreading novels?

I’m constantly surprised at how few writers really know the basics of punctuation and formatting. Quotation marks and dialogue seem to be a real sticking point. Also, I still encounter authors who don’t seem to like fact-checking. For instance, one novel had a scene set in the 1970s where the main character played a song on a CD player, long before CD players were in use. I might have expected this from a young writer, but this man was a multi-published author who’d been around for decades.

Beyond that, the big errors are the typical ones: they’re/their/there and to/too/two, loose/lose, your/you’re…. And sadly, those sorts of casual errors are way more common than they used to be.

What do you like the most about your job?

Aside from being an introverted night owl who can set her own hours and doesn’t have to interact with people around a water cooler, I get a strange kick out of getting a manuscript from an author who assures me it’s “really pretty clean already,” and then finding a lot of things wrong. The author’s gratitude (after he or she gets over the shock) is great feedback for someone whose work is essentially solitary and can feel perpetually negative. Don’t get me wrong: A lot of the authors I work with do send me tidy manuscripts, especially if they’ve worked with me before. But no writer should hand anything to a proofreader and mention that there aren’t any mistakes. You’re asking for trouble—and a huge dose of snarkiness if you keep mentioning it.

And, because I find words so powerful, and so essential, I enjoy helping people polish their words so that they communicate as clearly as they can. There’s nothing quite like the frustration of being misunderstood because you haven’t expressed yourself well. I like to think I help people avoid some of that.

What are the most important qualities that a writer should look for in a proofreader?

A writer needs someone who is easy to communicate with, someone who can clearly explain the reasons for any suggested changes, someone who can roll with the punches (and there will be punches). Despite having definite opinions about what’s right and wrong in print, I also know that the author (or publisher/editor if I’m working with a company) has the final say. My corrections are sometimes just suggestions, and I have to let it go if they decide not to incorporate some of my scribbles.

It also helps if a proofreader knows as much as possible about the changing trends in publishing. There’s a big difference between someone who can eagle-eye a manuscript and someone who can also nitpick a complete book layout in final form or who can look for glitches in an e-book format.

Beyond that, a proofreader has to be a stickler about the language but yet flexible enough to change with the times. I’m still learning how to do this. I hate to admit it, but I’m still getting over the fact that “anymore” is now one word. But, at least buying new dictionaries is a tax deduction for me.

Now, tell us the truth: Are all proofreaders OCD?

OCD? Ha ha ha! You should see my house! I think I am word-OCD or print-OCD, but not generally OCD. I like tidying things up in print. I like knowing words are in a better order, are being used properly, or are in a position to make a difference now. I confess that some of this OCD spills over into my daily life. I rearrange the throw pillows on the sofa a lot more often than I used to. But, I still don’t wash the baseboards, so there’s hope for me yet.

Don’t miss part two of my interview with Linda Au right here next Friday, where Linda talks about texting as the work of the devil and why proofreading your work matters now more than ever! D.

***

Linda’s short humor essays have garnered numerous awards. Two books of her humor essays, Head in the Sand…and other unpopular positions and Fork in the Road … and other pointless discussions, are currently available on Amazon.com and BN.com.

Linda has worked behind the scenes in publishing as a proofreader, copy editor, and typesetter since the late 1980s. She has worked with many independent authors, as well as publishers such as Carroll & Graf, Shoemaker & Hoard, Crown & Covenant Publications, Christian Publications (now WingSpread/Zur), Pegasus Books, and F+W Publications.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Linda-M-Au/119278508108217

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaMAu

Blog/Web site: The Other Side of the Desk

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/austruck/

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Dora Machado is the award winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats.

To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at www.doramachado.com or contact her at Dora@doramachado.com.

Subscribe to her blog at http://www.doramachado.com/blog/ and sign up for her at newsletter at http://doramachado.com/newsletter.php,

Facebook and Twitter.

For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit  http://twilighttimesbooks.com/TheCurseGiver_ch1.html.

The Curse Giver from Amazon

Amazon: : http://amzn.to/13oVu2P

Fantasy’s “Real” Heroines

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Have you ever wondered what makes fantasy heroines real?

I do. All the time. Perhaps it’s because I write fantasy. But I also read a lot of fantasy and I really appreciate a heroine who is powerful not because she’s magical but rather because she’s real.

Lusielle, the heroine in my latest novel, The Curse Giver from Twilight Times Books, turned out to be a remarkably “real” fantasy heroine. In hindsight, I really liked her and I wanted to learn more from the very character I created. I wondered what made her so compelling.

But first, let me tell you a little bit about Lusielle. In the novel, she’s a powerful healer, on the run, accused of a crime she didn’t commit. She’s about to be burned for her crimes when the Lord of Laonia saves her from the pyre. He’s not her savior. On the contrary, he’s deadly to her. A mysterious curse giver has cast a virulent curse that can’t be defused or defeated. The curse requires the Lord of Laonia to murder Lusielle in order to save his people from destruction. So this is how the story begins, with Lusielle wondering if she should help the bitter lord pledged to kill her and the Lord of Laonia set to kill the only woman who can heal more than his body—his soul.

One of the reasons Lusielle comes across so real in the story is that her passion for her occupation is very tangible. Practicing her craft lends her authority and, perhaps more importantly, many opportunities to grow and learn throughout the story. She takes her trade very seriously and so did I. All of the healing practices and ingredients that Lusielle uses in The Curse Giver are based on authentic medieval practices. Most of her potions’ components come from historical sources. I think that the concrete elements of her practice make her more real to the reader, more credible and therefore more compelling.

Another important aspect to Lusielle’s realism is that she’s not perfect and she knows it. She works hard but things don’t always go her way. She’s made mistakes—a marriage without love that led to years of abuse and slavery, years that, by her own admission, she won’t get back. And yet she’s also resilient, capable of looking forward, able to dream a different life and willing to pursue it even when it entails breaking the rules and loving someone who is ultimately pledged to kill her.

Along those lines, relationships bring a solid sense of reality to Lusielle’s story. Friendship is very important to her, and her often confusing feelings for the Lord of Laonia reflect the full gamut of the human emotions that are so familiar to all of us.

But I think that the elements that make Lusielle most real are her willingness to challenge her fears, her ability to learn from her experiences, and the confidence that she develops as she learns. Courage and learning go hand in hand. Sure, there’s some powerful magic in the story, but ultimately it’s Lusielle’s knowledge, reason and awareness that make all the difference. See, I think heroines who learn, change and adapt throughout a story are not just cool, they’re also real, because change is required of all of us in order to better our lives and we thrive only when we learn from our mistakes.

****

Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats. To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at www.doramachado.com or contact her at Dora@doramachado.com.

For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit  http://twilighttimesbooks.com/TheCurseGiver_ch1.html.

Subscribe to her blog at http://www.doramachado.com/blog/ or sign up for her at newsletter at http://doramachado.com/newsletter.php,

Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Amazon: http://amzn.to/12AOH3Z

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/16EbUzM

All Romance eBooks: http://bit.ly/14TXNbC