Monday, December 22, 2008

I Love Google!

Yesterday I talked at another blog about Googling myself, and mentioned that I have Google set up to give me a daily digest of mentions of my books. Today's digest included a listing from a library in Estonia showing the circulation record for Salakaubavedaja pruut, aka Smuggler's Bride.

I don't get nearly enough email from fans in Estonia, but it's good to see they're reading my books.
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Manuscript of Image via WikipediaJenny Graman Meyer Bookwormed me, so I'll play along--to a point. I'm afraid I'm not going to pass this meme along to five other people because friends have gently told me in the past they wish they wouldn't get these little nudges. However, if you're reading this and you want to play along, feel free to copy the rules and credit me.

The Rules are:

1) Open the closest book- not a favorite or most intellectual book- but the book closest at the moment, to page 56
2) Write out the fifth sentence, as well as two to five sentences following
3) tag five innocents [or more]
4) do the same for your manuscript

I'm going to go first to my manuscript, Sea Change. Here's what's on page 56:

"He’s a bright fellow and enough time with us may change his loyalties.”
“You know best, Captain. As I said, it’s good for the men to have a surgeon aboard. Knowing he saved Henry’s life will help the men accept him as part of the crew.”
David too had heard the men chatting this morning at their tasks, discussing what ailments they wanted the young doctor to treat while he was aboard.
Bryant hesitated, then spoke again.
“Will Mr. Fletcher be returning to duty?”
“The doctor thinks so. Or perhaps he’s saying that to help Henry recover. Regardless, I want to continue this voyage as long as Henry is recovering, and when we return to Baltimore he can decide for himself.”

OK, now the nearest book at hand--It's Bleed, Blister and Purge--A History of Medicine on the American Frontier by Volney Steele, M.D. Page 56, five lines down:

"Even if the sergeant had been in a metropolis rather than the wilderness, he undoubtedly would have died, as appendectomy was an unknown surgical procedure at the time.

The Corps arrived in the Mandan villages, on the Missouri River in what is now North Dakota, in October 1804. There the men constructed a small circular fort of timber covered with sod and twigs. It was a remarkably dry and warm enclosure in which the expedition passed a comfortable winter."
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why Writing Is Good For You, Body and Soul

I've mentioned elsewhere that my treadmill finally broke down after 20+ years of excellent service. I'm anxious to get another, but haven't found a model I like that will fit through the doorways of my house. Seriously. So in the meantime, I do it the old fashioned way. I take a two mile brisk walk around out neighborhood each day.

I carry weights while I'm walking, to increase the benefit, burn more calories and help tone and strengthen my arms. I started with 2.5 lb. wrist weights, then increased to carrying a five pound weight one mile with a 2.5 lb. weight on the other hand, then switching off at the one mile mark.

I also carry a small notebook and a pen because as I mentioned in a previous post, rhythmic walking frees up my imagination. Today I was so caught up in thinking about my WIP, working title Castaway Dreams, that I was within sight of my house before I realized I was still carrying the heavy weight in my right hand. I'd never switched off at the one mile mark.

Now I know I can increase the weight I'm carrying, which will give me a more effective workout. And all because I was thinking about my writing. As I said, good for body and soul.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Illustration of a scribe writingImage via Wikipedia10 Practical Writing Tips

I did a talk last week to a group of high school students on the joys of writing. Given that most days I feel like my writing would best be accomplished by banging my head on the keyboard until blood flows onto the page, I wasn't sure I was the best person for the job. But I like to think I managed to say a couple things they could use.

To make it easy on myself and on them, I said I'd give them 10 completely practical tips they could use to become better writers, and I'll share them here as well:

1. Always remember my favorite quote: "You can fix anything but a blank page." Write something. Write anything. You can fix it later, but if you don't write it, you can't fix it.

2. Shower often. Good advice for high school boys under almost any circumstances (I know, I raised two of them), but in this case it was about writing breakthroughs. I know quite a few writers who say they get their best ideas while showering. I think it's because you're in a small space with featureless walls, going through repetitive motions.

3. Carry a notepad. OK, maybe not in the shower, but everywhere else you need to have some way to write or record your thoughts. Either store text in your phone/pda or do it the old fashioned way with a pen and pad. My notes for this speech, and I showed them the card, were written on a tiny Levenger's Circa pad I always have with me.

4. Take walks. Walking clears your head and again, is like the shower in that the rhythm of the walking can free up your mind to think creatively. I do recommend against taking a music device or talking on the phone while taking these walks, so that your mind is free to wander.

5. Find your writing music. Not everybody likes to write to music. Not everybody likes to write to the same kind of music. But when I turn on epic movie soundtracks while I'm sitting at my keyboard, it's a message to my brain that if we're listening to "Gladiator" or "Braveheart", it's time to write.

6. Read your work aloud. One of the best ways to catch typos, errors and sentence fragments. Too often your brain fills in what your eye thinks it sees. Reading aloud helps you catch mistakes, and gives you a feel for whether your dialog is working.

7. Change the font. This goes along with "read aloud". If you're used to always typing in Times Roman, change the font on your last read-through to Courier or, my favorite for this task, Comic San Serif. Typos you missed on the 20 other passes jump out at you.

8. Keep your mind open. I like to think that for a writer, all experiences are grist for the mill. A traffic stop, an overheard snippet of conversation, a drive through the country, all these things can be used to add color to your writing.

9. Try to make your own writing space. Not always easy to do, but when you have your own space for studying or writing, it can help you be more focused. But you shouldn't not write just because you don't have a cozy little office of your own. It just makes it easier when you can write undisturbed.

10. Avoid toxic people. People who say "Why do you write that kind of trash? When are you going to write a real book? I could write that crap! Aren't all those books the same?" That's when you go to your happy place and just listen to the waves lapping at the shore. I recommend not telling people you're writing a book until the book is finished. Far too many people share that they're writing a novel and only end up getting dumped on, or made so nervous they never finish.

I don't know if this helped these teens, but I felt I'd offered what I could. I recommended a couple of books, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and Stephen King's On Writing, to inspire them. I also recommended they consider getting a good thesaurus, The Elements of Style and The Deluxe Transitive Vampire as basic tools to help one be a more successful writer.

My dream is that years from now I see an author interview where someone says, "Yeah, this romance writer named Marshall spoke at our school one year and gave me advice that's stuck with me."

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Cover of Cover via AmazonI am not a doctor, nor do I play one on television. I am fascinated by the history of modern medicine. My most recent manuscript, Sea Change, featured a surgeon aboard an American privateer. My WIP (work in progress) features a secondary character from Sea Change, Dr. Alexander Murray. Dr. Murray is a phlegmatic (at least until he meets the heroine) scientist, a surgeon in the Royal Navy who's devoted his life to trying to keep people alive under the most trying of circumstances. Researching this new book has reminded me all over again why I find this study fascinating.

For example, I needed to know when the stethoscope was invented, and serendipitously, it's credited to Dr. Rene Laennec in 1816, putting it right into my era. I was also researching in the book Medical Firsts by Robert E. Adler and found this passage on the germ theory of disease:

"Germs cause disease. This simple idea is so much a part of our thinking that it seems as self-evident as gravity...the humdrum basics of medicine--...a quick swipe with an alcohol-soaked wad of cotton before an injection--can seem more like rituals than the lifesaving offspring of a profound concept."

He's right. There's so much we do now that we take for granted, it's good to refresh our memories as to why these "rituals" are important and why they made such a difference in our world.
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Monday, December 01, 2008

Kindle Editions

All three of my books in print, Captain Sinister's Lady, Pirate's Price and Smuggler's Bride, are now available in Kindle editions from Amazon.

And they're still available from Fictionwise and via my publisher, Amber Quill Press. So if this is the year Santa brings you an e-reader, you've got some great options for leisure reading available to you.
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