Saturday, January 29, 2011

Grammar Is Sexy Saturday: Find and Kill

This week's post isn't so much about what's grammatically correct, but what's considered correct when you're a writer. Writers understand that what would've earned you an A+ from your creative writing teacher will get you a big fat rejection from editors.

Yes, I'm talking about adverbs.

Some of you are whining. "Why does everyone hate adverbs? Come on."

The rest of you have already whipped out switchblades. "Adverb? Kill!"

Books could be written on this subject (maybe have been?), but I'm going to touch on a few examples, give a couple tips, and leave it at that.

I like adverbs. They sound pretty and, in my opinion, can be a great asset if used properly. But how does one know when the adverb they've used should stay or not? Here's how:

Click FIND in your Word.doc. Type in "ly" and click next. Every word that has the "ly" combination will pop up.

When an "ly" word is highlighted, examine the sentence closely.

Example: He whispered softly in her ear.

Using the above example, ask yourself if the adverb is telling us something we don't already know. Softly. Well, how else does one whisper? Sure, someone can whisper harshly, I suppose, but most people expect a whisper to be soft. Softly should be deleted. If it had been: He whispered harshly in her ear, we might need to keep the adverb because the reader wouldn't expect a harsh whisper. Harshly actually adds meaning to the verb.

Example: She was completely lost.

Completely is one I almost always erase. Same with probably. In the above sentence, completely seems redundant and, when you think about, dumb. Completely lost is like saying completely pregnant. You're either pregnant or not pregnant, lost or not lost. There's not a lot of room for gray area here. Again, by adding completely, you're not telling the reader anything more than if you had said: She was lost.

Once you've gone over your manuscript for "ly" words, you'll need to run individual searches on other pesky adverbs, like just.

Just is one of those words that get tricky. Again, examine the context and decide if it's needed.

Example: He stood just an inch away.

This is an actual line from one of my manuscripts. Upon careful examination, I realized "just" was redundant. An inch tells the readers how close he stands. It doesn't need help from "just" to make that clear.

Remember, adverbs should enhance the verb and tell the reader something new about the verb. A dimly lit room is an example of an adverb well-used because there are various ways which a room can be lit.

Final helpful hint: Commonly used adverbs that can almost always be eliminated are completely, probably, just, suddenly, and sometimes especially.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Speed Writer...not so much

Yesterday a friend tweeted that she'd finished a novella she'd been working on. At first, I was all YAY! Go You! Then, I realized she'd only been working on it for, maybe, two weeks.


I asked how she did it so I could emulate and be a speed writer, too.

Tip #1: Ignore everyone until they get it and go away.

That sounded easy enough. I set off right away to give it a whirl, rubbing my hands together with glee because my speed writer future looked gloriously bright.

I made sure my kids had everything they needed and put on my "Mommy's working and ignoring you" face. Here's what happened:

1. My son located a bottle of lotion in a bathroom drawer. He promptly squeezed out half the contents and rubbed it in his hair.

The lotion was just too much to simply wipe off so I had no choice but to proclaim ten in the morning bath time. Got that handled and resettled the kids.

2. Back to writing. Darling daughter calls me from the hallway, a hint of delight in her voice telling me her brother is being naughty and she can't wait to see him get in trouble. Darling son had, apparently, snatched the coffee container from kitchen counter and dumped all the grounds onto the carpet outside his bedroom. I found him tossing fistfuls gleefully into the air.

No choice but to pause writing again and vacuum. Also had to wipe son down to make sure no coffee grounds remained on him, scared that they'd somehow soak into his skin and he'd be awake for 4 1/2 days.

3. Back to writing. Son (yes, him again) breaks the rule of not opening sliding glass door. Sliding glass door does not shut/latch properly without extreme effort and it's Arctic-cold outside. Both kids are joyous--they're using their fingers to dig in the snow on the deck and slide mini icebergs into the house.

I have to put on my freak-out face because we'd gone over this sliding glass door nonsense not even 24 hours prior. After both kids have been sufficiently lectured and punished, I spend a frustrating amount of time attempting to latch the door while sliding on the wet floor. I almost killed myself at one point so I decided drying the floor first would be best.

4. Floor dry, sliding glass door latched, I sit back down. The next hour was full of the worst kind of mental torture a writer can endure. "Mommy, Bo hit me." "Mommy, I'm thirsty." "Mommy, I'm bored." "Mommy...!"

By this point my lips are unexplainably numb, I'm drooling, and I've developed a nervous twitch in my left eye. I give up on writing and announce to my children that Mommy is going to vacuum.

The vacuum cleaner is like performing an exorcism. I plug it in, flip the switch, and the precious little heathens sit on the couch in blissful silence as I electronically suck the sanity back into the house.

It took three hours to lose sight of my speed writing dream. Maybe I'll try again in a couple years. Until then, call me slow poke.

Lesson: What works for one writer does not necessarily work for another.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Grammar is Sexy Saturday: Naughty S

Welcome to the second week of Grammer Is Sexy Saturday. I'll share a helpful writing tip every weekend, so be sure to come back and visit. Better yet, "follow" me by clicking the button on the left side of the top toolbar.

As a writer who has done a massive amount of editing/beta reading, I've frequently encountered the "naughty s" problem. I'm here to solve it once and for all! You're welcome.

Toward versus Towards

If you are a writer in the US, use toward. No s. The other version--towards--is for our lovely British writers.

US- toward

Britain- towards

Backward versus Backwards

Same rule.

US- backward

Britain- backwards, unless being used as an adjective. Then, you drop the s.

Simple, right? American writers always leave the "s" off toward and backward. There's no guess work; the S is always naughty.

NOTE: There are some mixed opinions on this rule. Some say adding the s is fine, others disagree. All concur that toward/backward without the s is correct, which is why I suggest going with the version(s) always considered proper rather than submitting a towards/backwards riddled manuscript that might irritate a finicky editor.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Be Your Own Coach

I live in Wisconsin, home of the beloved Green Bay Packers--a team once coached by Vince Lombardi, the man after whom the Super Bowl trophy was named. So yes, we take football seriously 'round here.

And we're in the Playoffs.

No matter where I go, I catch scraps of conversations, almost all exclusively centered around our team and the next game. Because...if we win the next game, we're in the Super Bowl, and the Vince Lombardi trophy is coming home to Lambeau (where it belongs).

If you don't follow football (or care) I'll put this simply: the Super Bowl is what teams play all year for. At the end of a football season, it's the only the game that matters. As a woman, I get it. After all, it's the only game where winning means you get jewelry!

As a writer, I also get it. I've written quite a bit over the years--short stories, poems, partial manuscripts, etcetera. I wrote each work with all my heart and soul wrapped up into it and loved the finished product like a baby. With every stroke of the pen, I gave it my all, the very best I had at the time.

Like a lot of football teams out there right now, someone's personal best is not always good enough. Mine certainly wasn't for a while. That's when I became my own personal coach. Coaches believe in their team when no one else does, but they're also honest with their players. They hold them accountable and force them to reach their potential by using any means at that coach's disposal.

Are you your own personal coach? Are you being honest with yourself? Patting yourself on the back for your strengths is nice, but you have to remember that it's not your strengths that get you published. Instead, it's your weaknesses that get you rejected.

That sounds like a glass half-empty approach, I know. But keep in mind, a touchdown means nothing if you don't win the game. Acknowledging that which holds you back is the first step. Embrace your faults and commit yourself to changing them.

When I'm working on a manuscript, I'm constantly aware of my bad habits. I strive with every sentence to avoid passive phrasing and use strong, active verbs to intensify my action. I have a growing list of verbs and other words I find in books I read to increase my vocabulary. Every few chapters, I reevaluate my characters to make sure they're staying true to who they are. And I tweak my dialogue several times because I want to keep it real.

I'm tough on myself, and only allow myself to "love" my story when it's done, edited, and ready to send out. Before then, my gaze is critical and unconvinced.

I am my own personal coach. Are you?

**If you enjoyed this post, please follow my blog by clicking "follow" on the upper-left side of the tool bar. It's at the top of the page.**

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Release: Power Play by Xondra Day

Evernight Publishing releases Power Play, by Xondra Day, today! If what's in between the cover is as good as the cover itself, I can't wait to read this one!

Blurb: Daria Desmond is a woman hell bent on exploring not only herself, but also the boundaries of her marriage. With the firm belief that variety is the spice of life, she heads into the adventure of a lifetime with a most agreeable husband. Her life is an erotic journey of self discovery, and in the end, only one thing matters—her marriage and the bond that comes with it.

Visit Evernight Publishing's website to get your copy of Power Play.

You might remember the author of Power Play visiting Whispers before under another name, Vivian Kees. Find out more about her and her sexy books by friending her on Facebook.

Related posts: A Sordid Situation's author, Vivian Kees, tackles interview questions here. Quick! Happily Ever After Reviews is giving away a free copy of this fabulous historical romance here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lessons We Learn From Children's Books

My 5 year old and I are reading the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. We were in bed last night, reading book 8, when I noticed a few things:

Young children's "chapter books" don't use passive writing. Like, at all. There aren't many ing words. Almost all the verbs end in ed, making the action immediate and strong.

The author stays on point during an action sequence. She doesn't veer off into description or narrative--unless it's something simple like, "Jack was scared."

All the sentences are clear and concise. These are for early-ish readers so the language is meant to meet their reading level. This means it gets choppy at times, but I think that's normal for the age the books target. There's brilliance in the simplicity. I, and adult, don't feel bogged down by the repetition or the lack of fanciness.

A new idea is introduced once, then it is dropped until it becomes relevant later. This is interesting because a lot of adult fiction writers continuously repeat themselves to make sure the reader doesn't forget a key point.

There's no back story or info dump. When we open a new installment, we don't get pages and pages catching us up on what Jack and Annie have been doing since our last encounter. The most we get is something like, "Jack and Annie left their swimming class and headed to the tree house." The fact they take swimming lessons might come into play later if the plot calls for some intense swimming, but the information is dropped quickly and left alone.

The story always starts with the characters heading to their tree house, not days before, not hours before. We don't see them at school or having dinner with their parents. The books starts where the story does.

Writers are supposed to read in order to hone their craft. But it's easy to get lost in the language, complicated plot or depth of characters in adult fiction. Seeing the forest from the trees can be difficult when we're so deeply engrossed. I'm not suggesting writers quit reading novels, but if you're needing a refresher on the basics, pick up a children's "chapter book," like the Magic Tree House series, and pay attention to plot structure, the active writing, and the clear action/description.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Grammar is Sexy Saturday: Apostrophe

Grammar is Sexy Saturday is a new weekly feature here at Whispers. Every Saturday I'll share tips/rules that will, perhaps, help you when writing/polishing your manuscript. Despite the title, this isn't solely about grammar. Matter of fact, today's post is about punctuation.

1-- Use an apostrophe to form a contraction. Remember: The apostrophe in a contraction replaces the missing letter in the word.

Example: Don't is the contraction for do not. An apostrophe was put in place of the missing letter o.

Example: She's nice. She's is the contraction for she is. An apostrophe was put in place of the missing letter i.

2--Use an apostrophe to show possession. Remember: If the subject in question ends in s and is not plural, you will likely need an apostrophe.

Example: That is the dog's ball. Without the apostrophe in dog's the subject would be plural (dogs). Which brings me to the rule for plural possessive...

3--If the subject is plural and you're trying to show possession, place the apostrophe after the s.

Example: That is the dogs' ball. This shows there is more than one dog, and the ball belongs to both/all of them.

4--Special cases require a singular subject ending in "s" to have an apostrophe and an additional "s."

Example: This is Rhiannon Ellis's blog.

5--Names that do not end in "s" can do without the apostrophe when plural.

Example: We're hanging out with the Smiths.

6--Showing ownership with multiple people can be tricky. Use an apostrophe to show possession on the second person's name when two people own the same item.

Example: Mike and Susan's cars are fast. This shows Mike and Susan own the same fast cars. They own these cars together.

Example: Mike's and Susan's cars are fast. This indicates Mike and Susan own fast cars but not the same cars. Susan has her own fast car, and Mike has his own.

7--Some words already show possession and therefore do not need an apostrophe. His, hers, its, theirs, whose, ours and yours.

Example: It's actually means it is.

8--Use an apostrophe to replace missing numbers.

Example: I was born in the '80s. The apostrophe replaces the 19 in 1980s.

Notice I didn't add an apostrophe to '80s (like this--'80's). You also wouldn't add an apostrophe to these examples: I am working on multiple MSs. My son knows his ABCs.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Author Website

Like any other entrepreneur or artist, having a website is a must for writers. Not only does it provide a place where your work can be found, but it also provides an inside look at the person behind the product (book). People are naturally curious about other people, and they will seek you out. Give them someplace to find you.

Some suggest you create a website before you get an offer from a press--advice I didn't listen to. In my defense, I actively social networked and blogged. I made the decision to wait until I signed a contract before creating a website mainly because I had nothing to display--what good is empty webspace?

Once I had a contract in hand, I set out to get my very own site! I was going to get a professional! Woohoo! Reality check. Hiring a web-designer is NOT cheap. It's not even reasonable, in my opinion. Not saying the designers don't deserve or earn every penny they're paid, but let's face it--dishing out a $1000 when you haven't made $1 off what you're promoting is, well, not something I'm willing to do. Especially when there are so many DIY sites out there that are free or close to it. -- what I use

My website might not be a masterpiece, but it's functional, aesthetically pleasing, streamline, and personal. It cost me NOTHING. Zero. Zilch. Yes, that means it was free.

The total amount of money I've dished out for self-promotion is $50, which includes costs for a custom website header and a domain name. --custom headers

I further customized my page by digging up a fabulous background to coordinate with my nifty new header. Free background are everywhere. --where I found mine

Caveat: What I haven't spent in money, I've spent in time. Prepare yourself. DIY stuff doesn't happen fast. And anyone with a computer knows how frustrating those suckers can be. Keep Advil on hand.

Back to the professionals because there is a value in the service they provide. Hiring a GOOD one after you have a load of bestsellers on your resume means your website could look like one of these:

*Sigh* A few more years, a few more books...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Q & A: Jimmy Thomas--Romance Cover Model

When I stumbled upon Jimmy Thomas on Facebook, he was no stranger to me. I'd seen his handsome face and chiseled body gracing the covers of a multitude of romance novels. I was so pleased when he agreed to visit my blog today, even more pleased to discover what a positive, ambitious person he is.

Please welcome the inner and outer beauty of Jimmy Thomas!

How did your cover model career get started, and what types of modeling have you done in addition to book covers?

JT: I was invited to be a contestant in the RT2002 cover model contest in Kansas City. I wanted to be on novel covers after that, so I've made it happen :) Other than novel covers, I've always done fitness, commercial print, stock, catalog, music videos, TV commercials, you name it!

What is

JT: is a stock image website I created specifically for romance novel covers, designed to provide the romance novel industry with a vast selection of amazing and never before seen images.

What images can artists and publishers expect to find when they visit

JT: is being filled with new images almost daily, but currently has over 2,000 images shot specifically for novel covers of all romance novel genres, from Romantic, Sensual and Erotica to Historical, Paranormal and Suspense.

You're providing a unique service for writers by offering them a wide variety of cover possibilities. What made you decide to take the risk and have you been surprised by your success?

JT: Well I don't see many things as a risk to me, since I've always done things that I wanted to do anyway, and I don't pursue something unless I know it's a great idea. Since I've started modeling in 1998 I've always done romantic, sensual and erotica couple images and they always came out great. So when I learned that a large % of cover images are bought from stock websites, and I knew that I had enough images to start up my own stock website to provide the romance novel industry with higher quality, targeted images directly for the romance novel industry, I did so :)
You appear with some pretty sexy female models and often the clothing is minimal. Is it uncomfortable to pose with someone you hardly know in such seductive positions, or is it just another day at the office?

JT: Uncomfortable being next-to-naked/naked with sexy women? Are you serious? (looking over my shoulders for whomever it is you are asking this to ;))… heck no! I wouldn’t say it’s just another day at the office. I respect women and appreciate each and every one of them, especially those that I shoot with as they trust me, my judgment on the poses and the end resulting images to not make them look bad in any way. So it’s not like I’m some college kid or someone freshly out of prison and having a naked sexy woman in my arms, it’s complete respect, but I’m a heterosexual male, single, and a hopeless romantic Pisces, so I enjoy it of course, but more for a beautiful face looking at me with desire, than just a naked female body.

Have you ever been so turned on during a shoot you got an erection? How did you deal with it?!

JT: Only if/when a girl is um, groping my junk ;) Otherwise, my mind is so much on getting great images. I have to focus on us both being in our key lights, not shadowing each other. Our hand and arm placement being correct, our hair not being messed or blocking our faces, her hair length as well as mine always showing. Wardrobe not being wrinkled, twisted or messed up. Our expressions being together, while still staying in a romantic, sensual, seductive, sexy character. There's also stopping often as my photographer adjusts his lighting when we move into a different position. It's not like we turn on a few lights in our direction and he just clicks non-stop as we do whatever we want.

As for how did I deal with the times I have been aroused, I simply went with it and let her do what she wanted to do ;) I'm single, who am I to stop her... she's in character damnit! ;)

I'm impressed by the emotion you portray. Have you had acting training? How do you get in the mood?

JT: Thanks! I'm glad that shows well in my images! :) I took a few acting classes in the mid 90's, but I was already pretty good naturally at acting, so my emotions and expressions are from within, they aren't acting. When I'm with a woman (someone I'm dating), that is how I look at them, hold them, and how I am with them (I'm a VERY affectionate, romantic, loving Pisces ;)), so I just see the girl I'm shooting with as someone I'm dating and everything comes natural :)

Leave a comment for Jimmy and be sure to visit him on the web. Where to find information about Jimmy Thomas:

Websites: and

Jimmy Leaves us with some of his favorite quotes:
"A smile is a curve that sets everything straight" - Phyllis Diller
"Don't think you are, know you are" - Laurence Fishburne, The Matrix
"Nothing is real unless you believe in who you are" - Sylvester Stallone, Rocky III
"It's the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you" - Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby
"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience." - Theologian Pierre Tielhard de Chardin
"Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will learn." - Chinese proverb
"Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do." - Bruce Lee
"If you always do what you've always done, then you'll always be what you've always been." - T.J. Jakes
“It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” – Paolo Coelho, The Alchemist
"Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people." - Eleanor Roosevelt
"One who lacks courage to start has already finished" - Unknown Author

**Thanks to JT for providing me with a large selection of Q&As/images to choose from for our interview!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Winning Query

A good query is a must for writers. They also happen to be what writers dread most of all. A query is you and your book's first impression, and we all know what they say about those pesky first impressions!

My latest contract is for a novella which was too short for agent representation, which meant I was on my own. Lots of nail biting and hair pulling as I put together my first-ever query for editors. I guess it was a good one because it got my manuscript read and contracted...within a week, I might add/brag.

So, here it is. My query for Dark Wolf Protector, along with some notes:

Dear Editor, <--- personalize this!

My manuscript, DARK WOLF PROTECTOR, is a paranormal romance with a southern flare. The work is complete and edited at approximately 24,000 words. Dark Wolf Protector is the first in, what I hope to be, a mini-series set in the fictional town of Tall Oaks, Alabama, titled *series name here*. Some of my characters are pleasantly southern, while others are downright redneck. Per your guidelines, I've attached the full manuscript.

Yellow: Misspelled word. Should've been flair. See? It doesn't have to be perfect! Editors will overlook even the dumbest of mistakes (as long as there aren't too many of them)!

Purple: Essentials--title, genre and word count.

Green: Pitching the series, keeping it short.

Blue: Tone of the story, adds flavor to query.

Red: Shows I actually read their guidelines and tried to adhere.

JACI WATERS, orphan and devoted animal rescuer, has her hands full when a rogue wolf invades her small, backwoods town of Tall Oaks, Alabama. Her goal is to not only protect her neighbors and fellow townsfolk, but to capture and relocate the trouble-making canine who's worn out his welcome. Too bad no one else agrees with her save-the-wolf credo. Little does she know, the wolf is more than meets the eye. He's here, in Tall Oaks, for Jaci. But he's not the only one...

DOLTON FREYE has come to the speck-sized town with one goal in mind: kill the blood-thirsty bastard who's stalking and out to get the woman he's sworn to protect--the sexy, Native American Jaci Waters. But he's got competition in IAN KINGSLEY, ringleader of a group that calls themselves "the pride" of Tall Oaks.

Sparks fly between Jaci and Dolton but risk fading when she learns of his true nature--a nature that runs deep in her own blood. A nature she herself must come to terms with in order to accept the intense connection she shares with the darkly handsome man who makes his way into her panties and her heart.

Blue: Brief description of characters and plot.

My contemporary romance novel, Bonded In Brazil, was contracted through Camel Press via my literary agent in November 2010 and is coming out in March 2011 in print as well as e-book. My agent does not represent shorter works, which is why I am querying you myself. I am avid reader and researcher of all genres of romance. I maintain an active blog that is growing in popularity, complete with author interviews, guest blogs and my own personal thoughts on the writing business. In an attempt to create a strong online presence and promote myself, I also have a website, social network, and am ever-growing my associations with others in the industry.

Blue: Publishing experience.

Purple: Says I have an agent and why she isn't the one querying the book, so they don't assume she rejected it.

Green: Shows I promote myself and am getting my name out there.

Look forward to hearing from you,

Rhiannon Ellis <---- Share all necessary information within the query. Do not direct to website "for more information." Include website and/or blog in case editor is curious about how you present yourself.

To conclude, this query had all essential elements editors are looking for. It also fit onto one, single-spaced page. It's nothing special, not too exciting. But it served its purpose, which was to convince an editor to read some of my pages--because the pages are where the real magic happens! Good luck in query hell.