Category Archives: WRITING

Process, language, grammar

Following the Master

If you’re too young to know who Raymond Chandler or  Philip Marlowe are, be thankful you’re old enough to read.

“Raymond Chandler is a master.” —The New York Times

“[Chandler] wrote as if pain hurt and life mattered.” —The New Yorker

“Chandler seems to have created the culminating American hero: wised up, hopeful, thoughtful, adventurous, sentimental, cynical and rebellious.” –Robert B. Parker, The New York Times Book Review

“Philip Marlowe remains the quintessential urban private eye.” —Los Angeles Times

“Chandler wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence.” —Ross Macdonald

One of the things I’ve used as a writing guide is a list of Chandler’s Ten Commandments for writing a murder mystery:

1) It must be credibly motivated, both as to the original situation and the dénouement.
2) It must be technically sound as to the methods of murder and detection.
3) It must be realistic in character, setting and atmosphere. It must be about real people in a real world.
4) It must have a sound story value apart from the mystery element: i.e., the investigation itself must be an adventure worth reading.
5) It must have enough essential simplicity to be explained easily when the time comes.
6) It must baffle a reasonably intelligent reader.
7) The solution must seem inevitable once revealed.
8) It must not try to do everything at once. If it is a puzzle story operating in a rather cool, reasonable atmosphere, it cannot also be a violent adventure or a passionate romance.
9) It must punish the criminal in one way or another, not necessarily by operation of the law…. If the detective fails to resolve the consequences of the crime, the story is an unresolved chord and leaves irritation behind it.
10) It must be honest with the reader.


You see the blue one, of course. Sometimes I do a few things like Chandler did. Like write a 44 word sentence with a single comma. But I think he wouldn’t approve of Hunt&Cam. Their relationship is mercurial, passionate, sometimes fraught. Sometimes I think I should have left Hunter as I originally conceived him: a man alone and okay with that.

The “cool, reasonable atmosphere” exists only in Hunter’s mind. They are books that try to do everything at once. And I don’t seem to know any other way to do it. But I can, at least, introduce you to Raymond Chandler, whom you should 1-click asap. I have this excerpt from The Long Goodbye – tell me you don’t want to turn the page …

chandler text

Interviewing Addi:

 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing?
I’m an overeducated ex-hippie chick who ended up on the cops. I did a lot of things, but I always wrote. For money and for free.

How long have you been writing for, and what inspired you to start writing?
I was 8 years old when I wrote my first poem and book. The book was plagiarized! (Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty.) I write because I can’t figure out how not to. I once heard it called “the midnight disease.” The thing that has you scribbling away when you should be asleep because whatever is in your head won’t wait.

Can you tell us about your new release? What inspired you to write it?
Dancing Men is the 3rd in the Hunt and Cam 4Ever series that started with the short storyOn His Knees. Dancing the second police procedural murder mystery following Matchstick Men. Hunter Dane, bisexual switch and homicide detective teams up with Camden Snow, extreme Dom and Olympic champion, to solve a murder at the natural history museum involving a fresh body in a 3000-year old burial urn.

They also negotiate their relationship after the mess left at the end of Matchstick. I made sure to include quite enough backstory for this book to be read stand-alone. Most of my readers will be shouting “NO! Go back and read the first two!” But I promise, it’s not necessary.

New readers should know that the sex is explicit. I don’t think it’s dark, but it is at times pretty intense.

How did you come up with the title? 
It’s the title of a classic Sherlock Holmes story and originally, I’d intended to use elements from that story in this one. But—since I’m actually not in control here, the boys are—that went by the wayside. In this book, “Dancing” refers to the state of Hunt and Cam’s relationship. I don’t really write romance, I write love stories. And love can be incredibly challenging.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The multi-generational nature of the story. It’s all set in November of 2016, but to understand how things happened, they had to go back to the origin of the urn – who found it and how it got to America. It’s not a simple whodunnit, it’s twisty and turny and … okay, to me it’s all fascinating, but I’m a nerd girl, yanno? Still, a lot of readers seem to enjoy it.

Why M/M?
Hunter made me. He was a character in Desire for Bliss, an m/f bdsm, billionaire romance novel. It had a bit of mystery, also. Detective Sergeant Hunter Dane was introduced there. I wrote a series of short stories about peripheral characters in the Desire for … books. I knew Hunter was a Dom/sub switch and was going to write femdom.

I literally, in the old meaning of the word, had no idea it was going to be m/m until he got to the club and announced he was looking for Camden Snow. Who? Oh, man – a full metal Dom. They took me for a wild ride.

Are there any characters that you write, that are based on you, or people you know?
Sorta-kinda, but not really. The BDSM club Scene and Not Heard is based on a real place. Hunt and Cam are both physically based on real men I knew. But who they are, their complex personalities, I’m not sure where all that came from. I do use real people for peripheral characters, quite often, just for the physicality and voice, the cadence of speech.

Do you have a favourite character and/or book you’ve written? 
No. That’s like asking which of my children I love the most. I really like almost all my characters. They are so interesting and flawed and strong and wonderful. I write from 10 to 14 hours a day so they have to be people I enjoy spending time with.

Are there people in your life that annoy you, and you write into your books?
No. That would be bringing my personal life and feelings into the story. The stories belong to the characters. And they’d never let me get away with that. Hunter’s over here rolling his eyes at just the idea of it.

Do you write often? Is it on a schedule, or whenever you feel like it?
It’s my job. I get up, get dressed, get my coffee and go to work. But unlike a regular job, I take breaks as I wish, which is mostly about getting laundry done.

What are your writing goals for 2018?
I’m going to bring the different elements and characters in the RiverHart universe, including Hunt and Cam, together in the last Desire for … novel. I want to bridge the divide between m/f and m/m so all the characters move freely in and out of the stories.

I’d like to write more titles, get the Hunter Dane Investigation novels down to a standard 50k-ish. Write more relationship stories about other characters as well as Hunt and Cam.

TRADEMARKING WORDS

WHOPPER    BURGER KING    BK    JR

Those words are all trademarked. That doesn’t mean I can’t write “That fish he caught was a real whopper!” It means I can’t call my burger that if I own a restaurant. Here are some more presently trademarked words:  bubble wrap, dumpster, jet ski, memory stick, lava lamp.

No one gets a trademark by accident because a clerk in an office wasn’t paying attention.

There are so many. It’s not easy to get a trademark. It takes months or sometimes years.  There are a lot of legal hoops to jump through. You usually need a lawyer.

There’s actually nothing wrong with an author trademarking a word in a series title. In fact, it’s a standard thing to do in the industry. (See header image – source: http://www.sylviaday.com/best-selling-books/ ) Or trademarking the repeated word in the series titles. It’s similar to trademarking anything that identifies your product.  It isn’t immoral, illegal or unethical.

What is unethical, although not illegal, is copying a more successful author’s series title, using a similar font, naming your series the same thing as theirs in hope of getting their readers to read your books. The ones you can’t manage to sell on their own merit.

It’s cheating. It’s what makes authors trademark their series names and title words. Worse, it’s unprofessional, juvenile and simply the mark of a bad writer. But it’s not new.

Picking a pseudonym of KING is common for a newb horror writer. Putting it in all caps at the top of the cover, doing any of this tricky stuff that’s supposed to get you readers instead of just working hard to become a good writer, is all part of why indie authors get so little respect in the industry.

The author who trademarked “cocky” isn’t the problem.

You Write Your Books

I keep saying I don’t write romance because I don’t.

Fantasy is great. Romance or shifter or sci-fi or whatever, I’m down with fantasy.

I just don’t write it because I’m pretty sure I’d suck big time at it. I’m a person who reads nonfiction for pleasure. And we usually write best what we read most. When I did read fiction, I usually read mysteries. The author who influenced me the most was Truman Capote. He refined and popularized, some say invented, the “nonfiction novel” with the publication of In Cold Blood. It’s a kind of writing that is, by the fact of what it is, loosely-defined.

It’s what I write. Capote, whose literary shoes I’m not fit to tie, wrote mostly  fact that read like fiction.

I write fiction that insists on being true to reality. Not bound by it, but very much based in it. Camden Snow is physically based a real pro athlete. His accomplishments are mirrored in teen-aged Olympic medal winners. I write about BDSM clubs or sex from the experiences of my life and the lives of people I know. I write about being a cop as I was a cop and cops I knew. Hunter Dane poses for stock photos, nude or semi because a cop I knew did. You rarely find a lid with a Tamil burial jar. A clitoris is not a little nub. A comminuted femur fracture can take four months to heal well enough to bear weight.

Things are fictionalized or it would’t be fiction. Ben Hart makes sexual support devices that are about serving women instead of men. That’s wildly fictional, unfortunately.

My next book will be out …. soon. Not when I’d planned. Before Spring ends. It’s got graphic sex, as usual, because my boys can’t seem to keep their hands to themselves for more than five minutes. Like most of my stuff, it’s fact-based and a bit science-heavy.PSYCHIC2tohoAnd it has a really interesting list of research links.

I write love stories. But what’s inside the book is only what you find there.

“It is the theory which decides what we can observe.”
ALBERT EINSTEIN

 

NO SMUT ALLOWED

When I started my writer’s journey, I was briefly on a terrible Reddit board about writing “smut.” I was told my covers and blurbs were’t sexy enough. That I’d be a failure and make no money if I didn’t write to market and follow the formula of the wildly successful smut-writers trying to help me. None of them gave their author names. There was no evidence anyone was wildly successful. They were all about money and zero about writing.

I don’t write smut. I write erotica. And there is a difference. Dale Cameron Lowry, MM romace author and my first blog reviewer, described it thusly when he reviewed On His Knees in May of 2017, here:

This isn’t a romance. … It’s not stroke fiction, designed to get the average reader off as quickly and dramatically as possible while they hold the book with one hand. …

On His Knees is erotica in the most basic sense: “stories written about the sexual journey of the characters and how this impacts them as individuals.” (Thanks for that definition, Sylvia Day!)

Here’s the thing: readers get off reading my titles. I write explicitly. Maybe too explicitly for some, I guess. But I see them, I feel what they feel, want what they want, fear and love and suffer and triumph with them. In and out of bed—or car or van or BDSM club playroom. Or in a bathroom hearing the music you know will kill the man you love and knowing you don’t have time to save him. double1lighter

They make me feel them.

And while I have very literally never written anything to arouse a reader, my message to you is: You absolutely get to get off reading this stuff. You get to cry and laugh and be confused. They are. I was. Have a damned orgasm if you are so inclined. I made a sort of joke about it in one of my promos for Snowed In because it really is a lot of sex.

The reader experience is theirs. And readers get to have feelings about what they read, because if they don’t, WTF am I bothering to write for? But what happens between the men I love is not any word that implies there is something wrong or cheap or dirty about what they do or who they are. Or who a reader is and how they  respond.

My message to readers is: If you just read my books for the sex, to get off and that’s all, cool. There’s nothing cheap or wrong or dirty about you, either.

addi-


 

Comma Drama

coorelative conjunction,
restrictive clause,
nonessential appositives

So. You slept through English class. Starting when you were nine. Or you aced all your grammar tests and promptly forgot everything you learned. Or you’re a writer and while you’re writing all the commas and everything else is just part of a flow of creative semi-consciousness lost in your creative process which doesn’t bother with anything as objective as where a comma goes or which its to use.

But as an author, you have to deal with the reality of not having a damn clue what to do with a comma.

Learn.

I finally achieved pith!  Srsly, it’s time for all of us to stop whining and do this thing. I like Grammarly. GRAMMARLYSNIP

Grammarians have their own jargon, and learning all of that as well as a bunch of rules …. do you have time? I don’t. But we do need to take a couple of hours and just do this thing. We don’t need to memorize all those terms. We do need to know how things work and why.

Here’s an excerpt from the Grammarly Blog:

Comma Between Correlative Conjunctions

Correlative conjunctions are conjunctions that come in pairs (such as either/or, neither/nor, and not only/but also) and connect words or phrases in a sentence to form a complete thought. Typically, commas are unnecessary with correlative conjunctions.

Incorrect: Either the blue shirt, or the red sweater will look good with your jeans.
Correct: Either the blue shirt or the red sweater will look good with your jeans.
Incorrect: You can wear a pashmina not only for warmth, but also for fashion.
Correct: You can wear a pashmina not only for warmth but also for fashion.

Read, understand and make a note: DON’T USE COMMAS WHEN COMPARING STUFF. This works for two entries because above that rule is this one:

Comma Within a Comparison

Don’t use a comma before “than” when you’re making a comparison.

Incorrect: This box is lighter, than that box.
Correct: This box is lighter than that box.

No idea why these two are separate, but it’s the same deal: Don’t use commas when comparing stuff. I swear you do not have to know what a correlative conjunction is.

I can go through the whole thing, but that’s for you to do to make it make sense to yourself. Once you know and understand, you can incorporate the fact that style guides and grammar guides like Chicago Manual of Style are about formal writing. Themes and dissertations and journalism.

They are not about prose fiction and vernacular. Nor are they about writing for an international audience. Prose writers use frags as style. Punctuation marks have reasonable functions you can learn. BUT

We use commas for more. We use commas to pace the reader, to slow them slightly. Or not use a comma to speed them up. Dialogue is even looser. People don’t use “whom” when they should in speech. They pause and stumble and backtrack and all of that reveals character and emotion without having to resort to the dreaded adverbs.

Once you understand the rules, (such as they are in whatever source you’ve chosen, because they will vary) then you can DO WHATEVER THE FUCK SERVES YOUR STORY, STYLE AND READERS.

Stop giving a crap about the opinions of the anal-retentive grammar police. Give your work to a smart savvy person and if they say, “You gotta get better at this,” get better at it.

Do the work, but be the writer.

We are Gods 3: Italics, Underlines and CAPS, oh, my!

This is the traditional emphasis formatting caveat:

Limit [word emphasis] to the use of italics. … removing all underlines, bolds, and CAPS.

A page of print is a visual medium and we can convey a great deal of data through our use of emphasis formatting. That said, newb writers use way too many!!! <— ESP THOSE THINGS.

A wonderful ARC reader send me 41 total pages of corrections on Dancing Men. Most were comma use (another post) but some were about my use of italics and caps. I ignored most of those. Not because she was wrong, but grammar in ebooks is about delivering the story as clearly as possible.

Italics in dialogue can literally change the meaning of the sentence:

Don’t give him any money.” (Stop it!)
“Don’t give him any money.” (Lend it to him.)
“Don’t give him any money.” (Give it to someone else.)

Italicize any word in the sentence and the character says different things.

In my own case, I write a lot of thought and memory. My stuff already has a lot italics, so I look for options. Over-use of italics or any emphasis formatting, fatigues a reader.

I also use underline, though years ago I didn’t, it was way too heavy on screen. Today,  programs are subtler and underlining provides another way to communicate with my reader.

“Stop,” she said. “Stop. … Stop it!”

No dreaded adverbs needed to convey her increasing agitation. A character might be overhearing this, and that last underline prompts her to get off a bus bench and peer down an alley.

These are my personal emphasis parameters:

  • Italics for memory – indented.
  • Italics for thought – not indented, usually within the graph.
  • Italics for clarity – example above.
  • Underline strong emotion or more intense action. Whap-whap! Whap!

Here’s a rule that’s a rule for a reason regardless of paper or pixels:

Don’t underline punctuation like periods, commas, question marks. It’s confusing because it obscures spaces and ends. If you underline “straight-backed” for some reason I’m unable to imagine, do the whole thing. It’s one word.

Italics have traditionally been used for sounds. Bzzzzzzz. I write BDSM. There’re WHAPs and shwippping. I write cop stuff. There’s a lot of BAM! BANG! Comic book sounds. I like those, they deliver quick audio/visual to the reader.

Italics are visually softer. Underlining is stronger. I’m not italicizing pounding on the door unless it’s way escalated and it’s in addition to all caps and exclamation points and underlines.

Italics also imply softer sounds. They can be insidious. Stephen King is a master of the insidious italicized sound. tap-tap-tap

If you don’t overuse them so your reader becomes immune, they become strong in certain situations. Another King use, if memory quotes correctly, in a scene where a woman is completely alone, then studies a shadowed area. There was someone in the corner.

Emphasis formatting is a powerful writer’s tool. Italics and underlines and caps and indents, these are our tools. Bold is also, I suppose, I just avoid it unless absolutely necessary. We also have color

Font color – One: black

I agree, unless you are writing non-fiction (even then) or a children’s book, maybe? Use black. Why?

Because having the word

Blood

in red as if it will be what? Bloodier? This is the writer inserting themselves into the story: coming between the reader and the reality they’ve created.

IMO. Maybe I’m a traditionalist, too. Or a hypocrite. The puzzle in Matchstick Men is in color. It just showed up better. But that’s not font.

Back to color: I don’t believe it must be the same shade of black. You might have noticed the default font in this WordPress theme is not black. The chapter/section titles in the ebook of one very successful author used grayscale quite effectively for Section and Chapter headings.

TEXTS1

Overuse of emphasis formatting weakens the story and the reader ignores the  formatting after a while, assuming they keep reading. Don’t give your tools up, just use sparingly.