I’m so happy that spring is officially here. Now, I’m waiting for the thermometer to get with the program. Snowdrops are peeking their heads up, and I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing a rogue daffodil along the side of the road. But while March is going out like a lamb, I’m not looking forward to April showers – even if they do bring May flowers. (Do you know what May flowers bring? Pilgrims. You can thank my nine-year-old son for that joke.)
There are very few places that can bring me out of a funk, but one of them is a book store or a library. There’s just something about shelves and shelves of books that soothes my soul. I could get lost in the stacks for hours letting serendipity decide what I should look at next. That was how I discovered I have a deep love for cookbooks, even though I hate cooking. I could stare at pictures from the Civil War for hours and be transported back in time. I also like crawling on my hands and knees to check out the bottom shelves because you never know what hidden gem you’ll find there. My local library was also where I found out that non-fiction books aren’t all boring and dry. I’ve found new craft projects to try and have laughed along with a comedian’s biography. I have a couple of favorite book stores, some independent and one large chain. The independents have reading nooks. One has overstuffed chairs and a café. Another has a little bench and shelves just at children’s height.
My absolute favorite bookstore in Connecticut is the Book Barn in Niantic, CT http://www.bookbarnniantic.com/. It is on a large piece of property with many little houses and sheds. Each house/shed is devoted to a different genre. While you’re in the romance section, don’t be surprised if a cat crosses your path. The book barn is home to many tame cats, and the last time I was there some penned in goats and chickens as well. My favorite sign was the Beware of Dog one when I opened up the door to the main building. There, sprawled across the floor was an elderly, fluffy Labrador mix. I looked up at the clerk in puzzlement, “Is he friendly?” Because he really looked like he couldn’t care less. “Oh yes,” she said. “Watch out you don’t trip over him.”
More local to me is Barnes & Noble. I have always liked them, but I’m thrilled that they’re keeping merchandise fresh by offering toys and gifts. As much as I like the Dr. Who memorabilia and the Magic Cards, I’m drawn to their office supplies. Unlike Staples – which I love to be set loose in as well, Barnes & Noble has a more comfortable and inviting feel to their stationary section. I’m a sucker for journals and stationary, even though I have more than enough of both to last me several years. My fingers itch for a new journal when I’m feeling low. I always want to buy one and go into the Starbucks café and order something decadent and caffeinated and spend the rest of the day filling up my pretty new book with stories.
When you prepare your manuscript to submit to an agent or an editor, you want to have it in a standard format. Here is a common example:
Font: Times New Roman, 12 point, 1" margins
Top left of the page, put your real name, (If you're writing under a pen name, the next line put Writing As Pen Name), your address, phone number, e-mail.
Top right of the page, put word count.
Center Title a few lines down from that with your byline
Indent paragraphs (I just use the tab button)
Inner dialogue is in italics
Other dialogue is it's own paragraph, indented five spaces.
This blog might also help. Nathan used to be a literary agent and he's fun to read and really knowledgeable.
But before you submit the manuscript, make sure it shines. Some common things to watch out for are:
Avoid Repetitive words
Do a Find for all the throwaway words like "so" and "look". Do a search for "lY" and see if all the adverbs you have are necessary. A lot of times they can be deleted or replaced with a stronger verb.
Show, don't Tell
To bring your reader into your world, you have to let them figure out things by describing them. This website has a good example: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/show-dont-tell.aspx
Start the beginning off with a hook
This website has some good ideas, just click the ad so it goes away and you can read them. http://writeitsideways.com/6-ways-to-hook-your-readers-from-the-very-first-line/
Avoid cliches like the plague (grin)
You can get away with using one of these (maybe), but not all of them.
Make the Dialogue Count
Your dialogue has to add something to the story. Make sure it's not ho-hum throw away conversations like we have in real life: "Hi." "Hi." "What's up?" "Nothing. Hanging in. How about you?" "OK." etc. While that's how real people talk, you miss an opportunity to add to the story. Here's an essay by a hilarious funny man, Chuck Wendig, with a potty mouth about dialogue. Read with a grain of salt and If you're easily offended, don't read it.: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2010/02/08/characters-make-talky-talky-how-to-write-dialogue-that-doesnt-suck-moist-open-ass/
Another informative post is http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/crafttechnique/tp/dialogue.htm, but it's not as funny :D
That's all I saw on a quick pass. If you would like me to edit more in depth, I can. Reformat it and make some changes and I can go over it with a red pen and make it stronger and tighter.
There's a couple of websites that are great for beginning authors. My favorite site is:
Their Bewares and Backgrounds forum is invaluable for finding out which publishers aren't scam artists and making a good decision on where to send your work. The also cool part is once you've posted fifty times, you can post your work for critique. Their Query Letter Hell forum is both informative and brutal. You really need a thick skin to post their, but it's sooo worth it for the feedback you get out of it.
They also have market information and when you're ready you can use their site to track the manuscripts you send out.
If you don't think you can write a novel, go here! There's a lot of good information and a November challenge to get you started writing.
In Beach Happens, Michaela is on a mission to taste every malasada in Hawaii.
Malasadas are a fried doughnut made from a Portuguese recipe. They can be made just by being rolled in sugar or stuffed with cream or jam. In addition to some restaurants and shops, they're also sold as fundraisers and at the side of the road. Who doesn't like fried dough, right?
When my family went to Maui, we tried them from a restaurant named Zippy's. They were with choke sugar (choke is Hawaiian slang for a lot of!) The ones pictured above are the Italian version, called zeppoles from the Olive Garden. The dipping sauces are raspberry jelly and chocolate. YUM!. The Maui malasadas were gone before I could take a picture! But they looked like these only puffier.
One of the most famous recipes for malasadas comes from Leonard's Bakery in Hawaii. He very generously gave Saveur magazine the recipe and you can find it here.
Michaela has a deep reason why she is obsessed with the yummy doughnuts. You can read all about it in the second book of the Hawaii Heat series, Beach Happens.
Barnes & Noble
My son and husband enjoying a tasty beverage in San Diego during a dinner break from the RWA conference
Every restaurant we went to in Old Town, San Diego proclaimed they had the best margarita in San Diego. So naturally, my husband and I had to try them all. I found that one should never skimp on tequila. The bargain brand is never as good as the top shelf, but in the case of tequila it's worth the extra money not to have a cheap tequila hang over the next morning.
The best margarita we had came from a restaurant called El Agave, which was also a tequila museum. The best chips and dips came from the restaurant pictured above, Barra Barra Saloon.
My husband likes to mix drinks, so here's his version of . . .
The Perfect Margarita
2 ounces of Tres Generacions Anejo white tequila
4 ounces of Margaritaville margarita mix
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
Pour all the ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake it. Strain it. Pour it in a salted rim margarita ice.
Originally published at Fresh Fiction on