Friday, December 11, 2015

Can You Teach Someone to Write?

Early in the week, I was sick.  And the hubby was on a trip, so I had to suck it up and take care of myself.  But all I planned to do was sit on the couch and take medicine, so it wasn't that difficult.  I couldn't focus on a computer screen, so I watched the big screen instead.  I got caught up on my General Hospitals (oh the intrigue! oh the double-crosses! oh the passion!).  But then I pulled out the big guns: Hugh Grant.

I was cruising through the On-Demand section from our cable provider and saw Music and Lyrics listed.  I almost picked that one, but then remembered another movie of his I hadn't seen yet, so I kept going.  And once I found The Rewrite, I clicked Watch and spent the next few hours with Hugh and Marisa Tomei in Birmingham NY.  It features some of my other favorite actors - Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons.

Hugh's character is a screen writer in Hollywood, years after his success, trying to get any job he can.  And right now, the only job he can get is as a screenwriting professor at this college. He plans to go there, do as little as possible and spend time on his own project.  But as you can imagine, it doesn't go that way.  Especially with his attitude that you can't teach writing.

So I got thinking: can you teach writing? Some must think so, based on all the classes, workshops, books, forums, conferences, and blogs out there.  Maybe teach is the wrong word.  Or maybe the way we think about teaching, like it's only rote memorization, might give one pause about whether writing is teachable.

On the other side of the coin, is writing learnable? Maybe some people can't grasp the concepts of plotting or resolution or risk/reward and therefore can't learn to write.

I've recently talked to someone who is interested in writing a novel.  They've never written before, but they have this story inside them they want to tell.  And it's a pretty intriguing concept.  So I gave her the basic advice: Write. Read about writing. Join a writer's group. Find a critique group.  Use your library resources - whether that's for research, other writers, writing resources, or books in the same genre to see what works (and what doesn't) in other stories.

Today's Tweet (hey, are you following me on Twitter?  Why not?  Find me @FaithProofing) gives a resource that's been out of print for years, but the blog author has found invaluable for playwriting.  The author of the book (The Human Nature of Play Writing) wrote a thing or two: the play The Jazz Singer (the basis of the first movie with sound and music) and some scripts for  Alfred Hitchcock's Suspicion and Ernst Lubitsch's The Shop Around the Corner(one of my all its incarnations).  So if you are in the market for another book on writing, check it out and let me know what you think.

Vox Article:

For the first time in decades, the best book ever written about writing is back in print

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hello. old friends

Ouch.  I just looked at the date of the last blog post: August 23.

Where have I been since the end of the summer, you may ask?  Well, I've been in big cities, the wide-open ranches of Texas, the South right at the end of the Civil War, Las Vegas, Boston, the Canadian mountains, prison in California, planets out of our solar system, San Fransisco, small towns,  a world of zombie and alien invasions at once. I've been hanging out with lovers and fighters, losers and winners, people struggling to find themselves or find each other, people with a mission, and people searching for meaning.

In other words, I've been in books.  But I've also had some real-life stuff going on.  My son graduated from college, moved to DC for a few months, came home, moved to Denver. I worked on my annual Basket Bonanza fundraiser (thanks to everyone who donated!), as well as some other church projects. I've had some great fun with the hubby at a water park.  I've had some great results with a new workout/food program (lost almost 20 pounds!).  And I've started taking swimming lessons (no, I never learned to swim when I was kid.)

But I haven't blogged.  Why? Well, yes, all that other stuff kept me busy. But I've felt like I didn't have much to say, for some reason.  Not much motivation to write (thank goodness writing's not my job!). But I do hope that changes.  I like to write, when I have something to say.

So for now I'll say Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays...or maybe a simple hello and I'm thinking of you!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

If It Were Even Possible

I know, I's been practically forever and a day since I've last posted.  But as many of you may know, it's been a busy summer.  There was a college graduation, a wedding anniversary, a trip to move our son...and oh yeah, some awesome books to edit.

(And honestly, sometimes the best place to keep track of what I'm up to is on Facebook - so go ahead and like my page.  Go on, go like it: The Atwater Group _)

Yes, it's been a crazy busy summer, and it's not quite over - not the summer part and not the crazy busy part either.  I thought I'd have a week "off" to work on some professional development (classes, professional reading, etc.), but that week got swept up in last-minute projects.  I have small hopes I still might carve out some time before August is over, so it's still possible at this point.

And, as writing is NOT my strong suit (hey, that's what YOU guys do, not me!), it's gone to the bottom of the list of things to get done.  In other words, it hasn't gotten done.  But I've thought of a few things to share with you, so I'm hoping to get those thoughts down on paper, so to speak (or on the blog) and get back into a semi-regular posting schedule.

Awhile back, I ran a contest on a mystery phrase.  No one knew what it was until the year was over and I announced the "winner" of the contest.  I couldn't think of a good contest for 2015, but about by June, I was wishing I had picked another mystery phrase. I saw this particular phrase at least once per manuscript for about a month: if it were even possible.  It was getting to the point that it wasn't even possible for me to see this phrase without going a little crazy.  It wasn't so much that one author kept using it; it was that multiple authors were using it.

So, do you have phrases you think you overuse? Or just phrases that are overused in general?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Story 25 Years in the Making

Scooch closer, children, for a story.  Now, usually, I’m not the one writing the story; I’m typically the one proofing or editing the story.  

But there’s really only one other person who could tell this particular story, but I think I am beating him to the punch.

Apt A4 - Foothill Blvd. - Rancho Cucamonga, CA
A long, long time ago (1990, to be exact), in a state far way (all away across the country, in California), there lived a young woman and a young man.  They lived together, actually, which some people were not happy about (but knew enough to keep their opinions to themselves – mostly).  But the young woman and the young man were happy about it, because they fully intended to get married.  

But the young woman had particular ideas about the wedding, namely where it should be.  And that place was “back home”  - yes, all the way across country. She was starting the process of planning a wedding from 3,000 miles away and let’s just say it was a bit overwhelming and a bit challenging.  The young man, seeing his love become frustrated and irritated, suggested they could just run away to the magical land of Las Vegas and get married there.  The young woman didn’t like that idea, and stubbornly kept up her attempts to plan a wedding from miles and miles away.  

But reality continued on its merry way. That is to say, reality knocked the young woman around a bit.  One day, frustrated beyond reason, the young woman decided her young man just might be right: Las Vegas would be so much easier.  And they would be married so much more quickly.  

So one Friday night, after they both came home from work, the young woman asked a question, one so typical that even you might say it now: “What do you want to do this weekend?”

The young man’s response wasn’t anything out of the ordinary: maybe a movie, maybe go to the store.

The young woman’s response was out of the ordinary: Let’s go to Vegas and get married.  Only one condition: neither of us can call anyone before we get married. (And remember this was before everyone had cell phones and Facebook wasn’t even a thought in anyone’s brain.)

Excited plans were made: A local magazine promoted the Las Vegas Hilton’s wedding package.  After a phone call, reservations were made for the hotel, marriage license, and wedding chapel.  Once the bags were packed, it was a quick three-hour trip to the sandy oasis of Las Vegas.   

The hubby's wedding ring; my engagement ring and wedding band

Saturday was a blur of getting ready: finding a wedding ring to match the engagement ring, finding a man’s wedding ring, going to City Hall for the wedding license.  Finally, the limo driver took the young woman and young man to the wedding chapel.

Yes, we were married at the Candlelight Wedding Chapel, "where the stars wed." It's now a parking lot.

Vows were said; rings were exchanged.  There was no Elvis impersonator.

After the ceremony, relatives were called and given the news: the young woman and the young man were now man and wife.  Although surprised, most expressed joy that the couple had taken this step together.  One (the mother of the bride) advised that it was the marriage that counted, not the marriage ceremony.  Another (the mother of the groom) had not been looking forward to traveling for the ceremony and was happy to send her love (and not lose her luggage on a plane trip).

So now it is twenty-five years later, here in 2015.  The young woman and the young man are, alas, not quite as young but are still very much in love. 

They own a house (or maybe it owns them, or maybe the bank owns it…):

Our log home...not a log cabin

a dog:


a cat (who, come to think of it, maybe owns them too):


and have produced a son, who graduated from college this summer...

The his senior year SSDP conference

...and has a job (that he wants) in a field he's excited to be a part of.

And I'd like to think the next twenty-five years will be as wonderful and filled with laughter and love as the first twenty-five years. 

Happy Anniversary, Robert - I love you.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

To Use Italics or To Not Use Italics - That Is the Question

Well, it's not really a question...but I am starting to question why some authors are so in love with italics.  Specifically, italics for trademarked names or company names.

A few years ago, I downloaded a free book from Amazon.  The book wasn't particularly good (in fact, it may one of my Top Five Worst Books Ever) but the thing that struck me the most was the constant, overwhelming use of italics AND the constant, overwhelming overuse of company and trademarked names.  It went something like:

The UPS truck dropped off the box from Macy's.  The Tommy Hilfilger shirts had been on backorder; she'd almost thought about canceling the order and re-ordering something from Brooks Brothers.  She sipped her Pepsi and picked up the keys to her Mercedes.  It was time to head out to Saks Fifth Avenue and find the perfect pair of Louboutins.

And I recently read a really intriguing book.  I'd never read something with this particular premise and it really took me by surprise.  I truly felt invested in the characters and the author used character motivation in a way I'd never read before.  But...and this is a big but...every time there was a purchase, a mention of a brand name - it was in those dang italics!! I could overlook the occasional typo or missing punctuation, but every time I saw those italics, I practically shuddered in response. (If you are interested in the specific book, let me know and I'll email it to you.  I haven't contacted the author to ask why she has it like that, and I wouldn't want to put the title out there without having talked to the author first.  And maybe she's corrected the manuscript since I downloaded my copy.)

So, here are some guidelines from the Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition) in case you are wavering on what to do:

7.47  Italics for emphasis

Use italics for emphasis only as an occasional adjunct to efficient sentence structure. Overused, italics quickly lose their force. Seldom should as much as a sentence be italicized for emphasis, and never a whole passage. In the first example below, the last three words, though clearly emphatic, do not require italics because of their dramatic position at the end of the sentence.

The damaging evidence was offered not by the arresting officer, not by the injured plaintiff, but by the boy’s own mother.
On the other hand, the emphasis in the following example depends on the italics:

It was Leo! 

7.49  Italics for unfamiliar foreign words and phrases

Italics are used for isolated words and phrases in a foreign language if they are likely to be unfamiliar to readers. If a foreign word becomes familiar through repeated use throughout a work, it need be italicized only on its first occurrence. If it appears only rarely, however, italics may be retained.

The grève du zèle is not a true strike but a nitpicking obeying of work rules.
Honi soit qui mal y pense is the motto of the Order of the Garter.

8.152  Trademarks

Brand names that are trademarksoften so indicated in dictionariesshould be capitalized if they must be used. A better choice is to substitute a generic term when available.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Author Interview - Mallory Crowe

Let's chat with author Mallory Crowe, author of the Billionaire in the City series and the Cross Falls Saga.  Mallory, thanks for dropping by!  On to the questions:

What were your favorite books growing up? I’ve been addicted to romance since I learned that the genre wasn’t all wishy-washy heroines and bodice ripping (though a modest amount of bodice ripping is totally appreciated!).  In terms of literature, Pride and Prejudice is a longtime favorite. It’s the first book that taught me that humor and romance can be timeless. But in more current work, my favorite authors were Lisa Kleypas, Christine Feehan, and Jayne Ann Krentz.
      Now that you have, let’s say—some life experience, what would you tell your younger self? I’d tell her to stop planning her life out so much first of all. And then I’d let her know that even when things don’t go to plan (which still happens way more often than I’d like), they’ll still work out in the end.

      Describe your typical day. Lol…I don’t have a typical day really.  I have an aggressive publishing schedule, so my days are dictated by what I have to get done, so I usually have a word goal I need to reach or a certain number of pages I want to edit. Once that’s done, I can check off various items on my to-do list, respond to email, and get lots of dog cuddles spread in between there.
      Who is your favorite character in your books? That’s a super unfair question! I love all my characters so much. Usually whoever I’m writing about at the moment has my heart. I think Simon from TEASING THE BOSS might be the most fun to write. Who doesn’t love a cocky, smoking hot redhead? Jace from my upcoming release TRUSTING THE BOSS came from a military background and he has an edge I loved exploring.  Especially since he was paired with a sweet Southern girl who really had to work to figure out how to handle someone like him.
     What do you do when writer’s block shows up, settles in, and makes itself comfortable? I really have no choice but to power through. There’s nothing worse than having the stress from life press down until all I want to do is watch puppy videos on YouTube for ten hours straight, but at some point, I need to face reality and be productive. Sure, whatever I write while trying to power through might suck, but luckily that’s what edits are for.
     Do you find yourself pulling details from “real life” or does your imagination rule the roost? Real life hardly ever makes it into my books. The only thing that sneaks in there are the dogs.  I’m very involved in animal rescue, so lots of the dogs I write into the books are based off of dogs at the rescue.

  What was the first manuscript you wrote (even if it never saw the light of day)? I’ve actually just spent a big chunk of time cleaning up the first book I ever wrote and I’m hoping to release it next year. It started off as a very self-indulgent story. I had no idea what I was doing but wanted to tell a basic paranormal romance where  a human woman falls in love with a sexy, dark, mysterious vampire. Using that cliché as the basis, I crafted an intricate plot that played into the next five books I wrote before discovering the joy of writing contemporary romance.  Even though I made mistake after mistake after while writing it, the story has always stayed with me and holds a special place in my heart.

     Have you ever pursued traditional publishing? Or did you go straight for indie publishing? I did pursue traditional publishing, but never for very long. Usually by the time I’d start earnestly searching for an agent, I’d be well underway writing the next book in the series. And once I was well into a book, I’d realize I liked my current project much better than the one I was sending out (because I was growing as a writer). So after a week or two of waiting to hear back, I’d put the brakes on sending out queries and focus on my works in process.
That all changed when I went to my first writing conference and fell in love with the idea of self-publishing. I had seven different requests from agents and editors I met there, but I never sent anything out because I was so sure that self-publishing would work for me.
     What Works In Progress are brewing?  Any target dates for publication? I have lots of projects planned through the next year. The next book in the Billionaires in the City series, TRUSTING THE BOSS, is set to release on June 19th, 2015 and is kind of the start of a new chapter. The hero is a supporting character from Book 3 (Jace), but the heroine’s family (her and her three cousins) will be the focus of the next three books.  Book 5, TOUCHING THE BOSS, will be released in mid-September 2015.
      How can fans reach you? My newsletter is by far the best way to keep updated. I will let you know about new releases and I do lots of giveaways! AND readers can get a free book when they sign up. Check it out at 
     Twitter: @croweinke. Email:


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

RT Review – A Proofreader’s POV

Even though I went to Romantic Times to meet authors in person (especially “MY” authors: Tameri Etherton, Debra Kristi, J.S. Scott, Cali MacKay, MJ Pullen), I also went to Dallas as part of my professional development.  Most of my authors are self-publishing (or hybrid, or traditional), so some knowledge of what you guys are facing out there in the business of publishing helps both me and you.

So I have one word for you, and then a whole bunch more after that:


I spent about five hours listening to Mark Coker from Smashwords over several days.  One of the things he is most excited about is pre-orders.  He listed four benefits to pre-orders:

  • Early book buzz: promoting your book days, weeks, or months in advance of publication
    • Capture the order at the moment you have the reader’s interest and attention
  • Bestseller Magic: At Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo – all accumulated pre-orders credit toward the first day’s sales (but not at Amazon)
    • You can “pop” in the bestseller lists based on pre-orders
      • Remember: A bestseller …
        • is more visible to readers
        • is more desirable to readers
        • sparks a self-reinforcing flywheel of sales leading to more sales
  • Same Day Availability: Advance delivery to retailers … gives retailers time to receive, ingest, and list book
    • When retailers release on launch day, superfans can READ and REVIEW first
  • New merchandising opportunities
    • Preorders listed alongside your other books
    • Preorders can be merchandised inside your other books
    • Retailers do preorder-specific promotions
      • Long preorder runway gives merchandisers more opportunity and flexibility to plan promotions
      • “Sneak Peek” promotions (iBooks)
      • If the book is accumulating a lot of orders, it gives merch managers confidence to give the book extra front page promotion

Okay, there’s one more word Mark really brought home for me:


I didn’t realize this, but when you upload to Smashwords, you can sell your book in 200 countries.  Apple iBooks sells in 50+ countries; Kobo sells in 160+ countries; Amazon sells in about 14 countries.  

Out of all of Smashwords/iBooks sales, about 45% are GLOBAL sales.

I know some of my authors have been using the pre-orders (great job with those Facebook & Twitter posts!), but maybe some of you haven’t tried it out yet.  If you are interested in more details, check out the Smashwords Preorder page or Mark’s blog post on the subject (although it was published in 2014, I think he’s only gotten more excited about it!).