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A Few Lines from The Bookstore Lady by Diane Bator
When the hunched over, balding pharmacist next door called
out, “Good morning, Katie,” her hand flinched and her heart raced. It took her
nearly a full minute to remember she’d been Katie Mullins for two months and
she’d better answer before he got offended.
“Hi.” She nodded.
The drugstore opened at eight every morning and it was now
quarter to ten. Must have been a slow morning if he had time to stand in the
doorway with a large cup of coffee rather than hanging out behind the back
counter. “You’d best convince Ray to get some air-conditioning for that store
before your new books curl up and warp. It’s beyond me how he’s never lost half
his books every summer.”
“Dust absorbs the humidity.” She smiled wryly. “I don’t
think we can afford air-conditioning this year.”
“I know a guy who’ll give you a quote. He’s not bad looking
once you get past the bug eyes and scars. I can call him, if you’d like.”
“Maybe some other time.” Like when hell froze over.
He waved and went back into the drugstore.
Katie drew in a deep breath. The air was fresh from last
night’s rain and the hint of a breeze mussed her hair. In two months, the only
thing to find her was the sunshine and a case of withdrawals that made renovations
hell. Nate, bless his heart, had had more compassion while she fought “the flu”
than any man she’d ever met.
She blew a strand of stray copper hair out of her mouth and
jiggled the door lock. Another thing that needed to be fixed before winter. She
should have done it during renovations, but it hadn’t seemed as important as
books and workmen. Luckily, Nate worked cheap and she hadn’t had to dig into
the money from Dunnsforth. The money was tucked up in a box in the backroom,
fastened with half a roll of duct tape. She’d ask him to fix the lock when he
delivered her order later.
This is how I hope readers view my work. I want to make colors so vibrant, emotions so real, and characters so likeable, that people can connect with the storyline and experience my tale through the eyes of the hero or heroine. That's the sign of an author who knows their craft.
I have confidence that I've achieved my goal in most of my books. Short stories, not so much. I find reviewers comment about the length, wishing for more, so that tells me that I've connected in some way, but there is only so much you can pack into fewer words.
New rules crop up every day and make me question where they come from. As someone who has been writing for over ten years now, I wonder if they existed way back when, and my editors weren't versed enough in writing themselves to know about them. When I first started, a great majority of the editorial staff on board were authors with credentials and experience not much more than my own. My first editor was very knowledgeable about historical facts, and I learned a ton from her about showing my story to the reader, but passive voice, head hopping, and cause before effect didn't seem to matter to her, nor did the numerous times I used "that" which later was cause for a rejection from another house.
Now my latest quirk has become the use of identifying tags that are now deemed unnecessary. Evidently, in the characters' POV, the reader will assume that the person doing the knowing, seeing, hearing, etc, is the main character, so sentences starting with she heard, she knew, she watched, she saw, etc., add nothing but words to the story.
Speaking of words...I tend to see lots of the above sentences in mainstream writing...in fact in most books I've read lately, so I wonder are authors adding them to up their word count. I also wonder if readers notice the number of times we use a character's name in paragraphs...especially when forced to in order to help them decipher between characters. I recently received a critique where the critiquer had highlighted every instance of the heroine's name, which seemed excessive to her. I wrote back and explained that through various editing experiences, I'd learned pronouns reflect back on the last person named, so if I introduced another character into the scene, I had to name my heroine to differentiate. Confusing? Yes! Of course, when you use too many pronouns, editors take issue with that too. It all comes down to being able to reword sentences or use phrases that allow a breather from the norm. I'm learning still. Writing is one career or pastime where you never stop acquiring new knowledge. The problem is determining whether it's factual or fiction. Not everything passed along is true or worthy of time spent changing your writing habits.
Each writer has a voice unique to themselves. Some houses abhor "ing" starts to sentences, but I assume that's because all authors haven't figured out how to use them correctly. I critiqued a story a few days ago which was worded something like, Entering the room, her heart fluttered. If you read it quickly you may gloss over the fact that her heart entered the room. Where was the rest of her? I'm sure this is something I did in my earlier writing, but now I try to pay attention and send the whole body along with the heart.
Other publishers want us to avoid 'ly' words and use strong verbs. There are just some instances where you want to share with the reader that she spoke softly. She didn't whisper, but she wasn't speaking in her normal tone, so an 'ly' word is called for. In my opinion, the problem with rules is that we take them literally and don't apply them with rationale. I had one editor comment that I had removed so much passive voice from my story, my writing sounded stilted and had no flow. I was only trying to adhere to everything I'd learned.
The rule with rules is to apply what works. Take them with a grain of salt and try to avoid redundancies, find stronger verbs, send in the whole person and not just a body part, and remember that eyes don't roam the room, a gaze does. Someone doesn't fling their hands in the air, but they might lift their arms over their head. Leave out the amazing body tricks. You can't chuckle a response, but you can before or after your character speaks, so omit that comma. Even more annoying for me, are tags that describe a person's speech before they've even spoken. Which is better for you?
He whispered, "Are you okay?"
"Are you okay," he whispered.
A ton of rules are applied at the discretion of your editor. You may find one who is annoyed by something as simple as the above example, or you may have one assigned who is more concerned with how many times you use "was." Tomorrow, it may all be different. Just remember to check house rules when you submit. I'm finding a vast difference in requirements concerning punctuation, fonts, spacing, margins, indents, and whether to use "Chapter" or just a number. Oy vey....so much to absorb and so little brain cells left to work with. Writing is a challenge, so make sure you're up for it.
Feel free to comment on some of your pet peeves. I'd love to know that me and my internal editor are not the only ones finding some habits more annoying than others.
When it comes to branding, there are many different schools of thought for each form of branding.
INDIVIDUAL COVER ARTISTS:
Some artists might suggest always using the same fonts for all of an author’s covers. Others might want to keep the same style of images, colors, and so on. Some could prefer just keeping series the same, and letting the rest of the covers have their own unique style.
Each publisher might also have their own methods of branding. That can vary from a logo on all covers, to a band along the top, bottom, or side of covers.
As a cover artist, I focus on making sure series books match each other (see my post on the subject). Other than that, I tend to follow the authors lead on branding.
Some authors have requested a logo, image, or certain style to link all of their books.
As you can see here ... Rita has several different logo styles, depending upon the genre. But for all her books, there is a logo with her initials in it.
Other authors have requested the same general style of fonts, or image layout.
With Geeta's books, the first three are part of one series, but the last one is from another series. Yet they all share similar styles with image layout.
Still others have expressed no preference whatsoever, and so each cover is different from the others.
It does get more challenging the more genres an author writes in to help 'brand' the author's books with their covers … but as an author myself, I know sometimes I specific genre just calls to you.
As for how to brand yourself as an author, well, I am still trying to figure that out myself. So if anyone has an ideas - please share them.
Now … this brings my original Cover Art series of posts to an end. From here, I will be posting about whatever comes to mind, or addressing a specific topic I have been asked my opinion on. So feel free to leave a comment if you want me to give my personal take on a cover topic. I am certainly not lacking in opinions.