Beware: Head Hopping or P.O.V Shifting

Head Hopping is also known in certain circles as P.O.V (Point of view) shifting. These jumps can be overt or even jarring to a reader. Sometimes head hopping can be subtle and therefore difficult to spot in an editing pass. Can you spot the head hopping / P.O.V shifting instances in the following passage?

Of course I tossed in some changes in narration as well, just for “poops” and giggles.

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If done correctly, head hopping is perfectly fine. In the Game of Thrones series, George R.R. Martin titles his chapters after different characters. And that named character commands the P.O.V for that particular chapter. Also, you can use a page break, which is probably the technique most often used. Page breaks lend themselves well in third person narration. They are like flags which will prevent confusion between text and reader.

Which head hopping occurrence was the most difficult to spot? How about the shifts in narration?

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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Soul Breaker: City of Crows Book One by Clara Coulson

Soul Breaker by Clara Coulson, a.k.a. Therin Knite, is not only an Urban Fantasy, but also a fast-paced police procedural, only the police are a special division of paranormal detectives called DSI (Department of Supernatural Investigation). The expression “page-turner” comes to mind. Clara Coulson has a style and pacing which make for a quick read.

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In the magic users’ underworld of Aurora, DSI agents are referred to as Crows; hence the name of the series, City of Crows. Within the pages of this somewhat campy-supernatural-Urban Fantasy-whodunit, we meet Cal Kinsey, an entry-level investigator with the DSI. The man is rather cocky but not too sure of himself at the same time. He wears a confident face for the sake of other DSI agents. However, self-doubt, botched moments during an investigation and a haunting prologue experience make for a well-rounded character.

All in all, the main character’s inner thoughts, personality, et al are positives. The only “con” would be a bombshell about Cal Kinsey dropped into chapter 24. There was no previous reference or hints about a peculiar aspect of his personality. This information has no bearing on the rest of the book, either. Don’t fret, though, this little surprise quirk doesn’t take anything away from the overall entertaining aspects of Soul Breaker or its main character.

Although written in the first person, Soul Breaker doesn’t suffer from overusing “I.” In fact, Ms. Coulson seems quite adept at using beats and other body language to prevent large blocks of talking-head or speaker-tag-laden dialog. Except for two lesser characters, Riker and Delarosa, most of the DSI agents tend to speak in millennial voices. I would’ve preferred more professionalism in their speech. Perhaps it is my middle-aged eyes. Of course, the mannerisms of the agents do lend to the campy quality.

The complicated plot is properly paced and I didn’t spot any holes. Clara Coulson has created and delivered a story which could’ve gotten out of hand and drifted quite easily. There could’ve been a lot of info dumping concerning magic and the Eververse. However, the world-building information is properly presented in dribs and drabs, and woven into the text quite well.

Soul Breaker is the first in a trilogy. The good news is you won’t have to wait for the rest. The second book, Wraith Hunter, the third, Shade Chaser, and a novella, Dream Snatcher, are ready for purchase. I’m looking forward to another adventure with Cal Kinsey, the DSI, and interesting Eververse creatures invading our realm.

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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Luna the Krazy Kitty

The youngest feline addition to our household is Luna. As you may remember, my wife maintains a Harry Potter theme for our cats. Phoenix is the eldest, Minerva is second, and then comes Luna.

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Luna gets caught climbing on the baker’s rack

Luna is a rather rambunctious kitty. She’ll find any object that isn’t nailed down and turn it into a toy. Despite the amount of cat toys in the house, Luna loves to play with pens and pistachio nuts. Every time I move the couch to clean I find many stray objects.  

Small insects do not stand a chance against Luna, the kitty with the heart of a lion. The unwary tend to make their way through the back door frame only to run smack into Luna. Always vigilant, she tends to linger by the rear glass door to watch for birds and stray cats.

Of all three cats, Minerva is the most affectionate. Luna relishes play time with her humans, but only accepts affection on her own terms. She’ll approach and place her paws on my leg. That’s her signal that she wants to be either petted or rubbed.

Luna is quite the clever kitty. Sometimes she takes a chunk of dry cat food and dips it into the water dish to soften it up, but I don’t know why. She does eat both wet and dry cat food.

With the arrival of Little Frankie, we’ve had our share of cardboard boxes. Luna is adept at turning any box into a fort which she likes to defend from Minerva. At times, she’ll use a box as a hunting blind and make stealth attacks.

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In the beginning, Luna occupied to low rung of the totem pole as they say. However, she is asserting herself with the others. For example, a few months ago we purchased a deluxe four tier cat tree. Immediately, Luna claimed the top perch, and the other cats seem to have accepted her claim.

How are you kitties doing? Have you ever brought a kitten into a home where other older cats ruled?

Every Time You Reply Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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Review: Emotional Beats by Nicholas C. Rossis

I am not one of those authors with a veritable library of craft books, because I tend to be quite selective in my choices. However, Emotional Beats: How to Convert Your Writing into Palpable Feelings by Nicholas C. Rossis is a writing resource that I can heartily recommend.

First, there is the opening five-page essay on beats, how to use them, why they are necessary, etc.. I especially enjoyed Nick’s analogy of comparing writing to painting. Although short, the introduction should leave no doubt as to the importance of giving your characters a proper beating. 🙂

EBEatsThe rest of the book is divided into four parts, Feelings and Emotions, Body Parts, Other Beats, and Extras.

Part I: Feelings and Emotions

For me, this section comprises the genius of this book. The different beats used to convey emotions are fleshed out. However, unlike the famous emotion thesaurus, each emotion is sub-divided into the separate body parts.

For example, the first emotion is Anger. The many ways to describe Anger are broken down by eyes, face and head, hands, and voice. To make things even better, all emotions are presented as different from each other. The different ways to express Joy are feet, hands, laughter, and smile.  Joy is explored through a completely different subset of body language from Anger.

Part II: Body Parts

In this section you’ll find clever ways to describe the motion of body parts and facial expressions. There’s even a section on breath and the different ways to express hearing. The largest sub-section is dedicated to eyes, because so many different emotions can be conveyed. For me, the most interesting list concerns head motions for a nod. Whether the nod is emphatic or subtle, they also can be used to prevent repetitive wording.

Part III: Other Beats

Here is where one gains an appreciation for Nick Rossis’ attention to painstaking details. Besides using a beat to portray emotion, Mr. Rossis has delved through many other aspects of physical movement that occur while a character is interacting with the world around them.

Think about how many times a character walks, sits, stands, or fights. Even the act of opening doors, eating, drinking, and driving are explored. For fantasy or western authors, there’s a section for the movements of horses as well.

Part IV: Extras

As the name of the section implies, the final part is a hodgepodge of techniques to fine tune your writing. The main body of “Extras” contains a list of strong verbs options, aiding and advising humble authors. Picking through this list should add some extra polish to your manuscript. There’s also a section for Describing Death, Synonyms, Sensory Words (remember to let your character experience their five senses), Crying, Snoring, and Writing. Nick Rossis doesn’t take credit for everything. He acknowledges other authors who have contributed.

So far, I’ve referred to Emotional Beats several times in the course of editing my novels and short stories. However, at times, I’ve made changes to an existing manuscript simply because this book has sharpened my eyes. I was able to spot something dull and augment the quality without referring back to any lists.

Emotional Beats: How to Convert Your Writing into Palpable Feelings is a must have craft book for indie authors who have to do a lot of self-editing. I have to congratulate Nick Rossis. He has thrown down the gauntlet in the war against indie-author stigma by giving us this valuable tool.

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry 🙂francesco25

A Growing Manuscript

The editing and building of the beta manuscript for my fantasy novel “An Easterly Sojourn” (working title) is going well so far. I believe we (the Queen and I) have gotten through the most difficult chapter yet. The challenge stemmed from morphing two separate chapters into one. Apparently, chapter 17 (On the Edge of Jalken) had nothing happening, but it contained some wonderful scenes and clever dialog. We realized those snippets would serve to enhance chapter 15 (The Changing of the Guard).

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Inserting things here and there meant correcting the time and position of the characters. Of course the task turned out to be more complicated than I had imagined. For example, the character Cyril exits in order to speak with a Lieutenant. However, in some of the added scenes, he had returned.  Also, some characters start in the rear of a wagon, and then are suddenly either on the side of the road or in the driver’s seat. These continuity quirks had to be handled along with the regular editing process.

The original draft had 28 chapters. But now that we’ve blended two of them, that number is down to 27. Therefore, I can happily report that the beta manuscript has 15 of 27 chapters completed…almost home.

Tell me about your Works In Progress (WIP). Have you ever had to make continuity corrections from putting together pieces from different chapters?

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry 🙂francesco25

Call Me Crazy Because…

I started writing a Sci-Fi novel, the first of a series for Camp NaNo 2017. Why is that crazy? Because I have two #fantasy novels, one novelette, and eight short stories sitting on the editing pile.

Blame #CampNaNo 2017

During the last week of June, I decided to not participate in Camp NaNo 2017. The sight of my editing list (I’m staring at it right now. It looks like a hideous monster waiting to consume me) was beginning to get on my nerves. As I sat in front of my computer in my writing space ready to work on the dreaded editing backlist, a flash went through my mind like a lightning bolt, a special delivery from the writing muse herself.

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Suddenly I saw a series of Sci-Fi novels based upon a single main character. This is quite a different approach from my current novels. For my fantasy series, The Tales of Tyrennia, I can go anywhere within that world and write about something within a particular Kingdom.

I could’ve made some notes and put the Sci-Fi series on a back-burner for a rainy day, but no-ooooo. People, or should I say other authors made a few Facebook posts about Camp NaNo 2017. Then other authors chimed in about their projects and preparations; the temptations overwhelmed me.

Let The Insanity Begin

I can’t dedicate my usual time during this NaNo session on account of Little Frankie, but so far I’ve completed the first chapter. Also, I must say, the words are coming easier and my first draft quality is a giant stride away from the drafts of my first scribblings. Hopefully, as I hammer this one out, I won’t have to spend as much time on numerous editing passes.

Perhaps, the change has occurred because I haven’t written new material in a long time. I have kept my nose to the grindstone with minute editing details for an extended period of time; those long hours have honed my wordsmithing skills.

In The End

I’ll try to write a follow up post on August 1st and let you know how things turned out for the month. Of course, I’m going to ask the same of you.

What are you doing for Camp NaNo 2017? How many WIPs have you abandoned this month?

Sauce or Gravy?: A Plea for Italian Peace

An undercurrent of animosity, name-calling, swearing, and insult-laden discourse (Italians are very good at that skill) has been brewing on social media lately. Of course, Facebook and Twitter did not cause the dilemma, but rather, social media is the delivery system which has allowed Italian enclaves from coast to coast to have a verbose brawl over a simple question. Do you call it sauce or gravy? That succulent culinary companion for many different pasta dishes revered throughout the world. And sometimes, a family recipe guarded by Italian grandmothers (with wooden spoon weaponry) like a high level classified state secret. Hopefully, within this humble post, I will settle the sauce / gravy question, once and for all.

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In Medieval times, Italy was a peninsula of warring city states and principalities. I would hate to see this happen within the U.S. Therefore, in the words of San Francesco d’Assisi (St. Francis), “Make me an instrument of your peace…”

The Difference Between a Sauce and a Gravy

To make my claim plain and simple, Gravies contain meat drippings and sauces do not. The fat or oil for a sauce is usually butter, and the thickener in common is of course flour. Yes, I am completely aware of other sauce / gravy techniques from the table of world cuisine. A German chef may add crushed ginger snaps or farina to thicken, while an Asian chef will rely on cornstarch. And who can forget Greek Taztziki sauce, based upon yogurt.

Now let’s take a look at a sauce and gravy which are based upon the same main ingredient.

Béchamel sauce and Sawmill gravy are milk oriented. Béchamel is a mother sauce used in Lasanga, or making Bernaise and Mornay sauces. For a Béchamel sauce, milk is thickened by a butter and flour roux. Sawmill gravy is that wonderful concoction from the American South used on Country Fried Steak or for Biscuits and gravy. In Sawmill gravy, flour is sprinkled into crumbled breakfast sausage and its rendered drippings, then milk and seasonings are added.

Both are milk based, but one uses meat drippings and the other uses butter.

The words sauce and gravy are differentiated in the same way in Italian, sugo for gravy and salsa for sauce. For instance, beef gravy in Italian is sugo di manzo and the aforementioned Béchamel sauce is salsa besciamella. Therefore, if you didn’t use meat, it is a tomato sauce. If you add meat, it is a gravy.

On a Personal Note

Like my grandmother, mom, aunts, and sisters, I’ve always used both terms depending upon whether it was a tomato sauce (meatless), or gravy for big Sunday family meal with meatballs, sausage, and bracciole. It is simply a matter of applying the proper culinary terms.

Are you ready to make peace with your paesani? Let’s end this terrible bloody battle and usher in a modern Pax Romana.

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Why Do We Write?

What motivates someone to sit down at a keyboard and write 75K words? Then attend writer’s meetings for critiques, spend months editing, find beta readers, design a cover, and lastly, format and upload the aforementioned 75K words?

If your motivation for all of the above is to be famous, have book signings, or an interview with Oprah, then I heartily suggest you find something else to do.

We write because we have stories to tell. We also go through the whole grueling process because we want to see our name on something worthy. The final product brings a certain element of satisfaction and a sense rebellion. An unnamed fire burns within indie authors. Some may call it a muse, while others refer to it as inspiration. We write because of our collective love of literature.

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The satisfaction comes from completing your project, like painting a room or crocheting a sweater. The rebellion comes from being independent. After all, as an Indie Author, your story welled up from your soul, not from a marketing computer within a publishing house in Manhattan.

However, we market and advertise to sell. There’s no shame or “sellout” factor if you want to reach readers. I am not familiar with any artist working within any medium who does not seek an audience. Even if you don’t have an advertising budget, social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Snap Chat, et al are free. But that is the subject for a different post.

For a few years, I’ve been noticing a certain similarity between Indie ‘gurus’; those wise sages who dispense free self-help via social media. Just as people in real estate chant the mantra “location, location, location,” these folks cheer, “titles, titles, titles,” with equal enthusiasm. To be brief, they’re right. However, their advice should also include a caveat or at least an amendment to their cheer. The mantra should be… “quality titles, quality titles, quality titles.”

In a previous post concerning my random scan of samples on Amazon, I stated that the three most prevalent errors were echoing headwords, weak opening sentences, and overusing forms of ‘to be’. Perhaps rushing the writing process to amass titles is the cause.

I wonder why most Indie authors lack the extra layer of polish. After all, reading craft books, attending critique groups, and finding beta readers, are an essential part of churning out a quality product. Even if you can’t afford an editor, craft books and blogs are replete with editorial instructions and tips from plotting, character creation, dialog, show vs. tell, etc.

As I turn this problem over in my mind, I keep going back to the “titles, titles, titles” mantra as the influence. Well intentioned and true advice, but only loosely defined.

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Short Stories by Ernesto San Giacomo

 

 

 

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The Great Indie Author Twitter Challenge

I’ve seen some blogs and articles posted over the last few months that have referred to eBooks by Indie Authors as complete crap. Indie Author stigma is alive and well in the blogosphere and within the pages of The Huffington Compost. One blogger classified 98% of the eBooks written by Indie Authors as crap (her word, not mine). Can any of these opinions be true? Or are these negative purveyors just out for a “late-night-troll”?

In response to these naysayers, I’ve decided to offer myself a small challenge. Perhaps you may care to indulge in this experiment yourself.

Step1: Go into Twitter and start scrolling. Stop at the first eBook promo Tweet that has an Amazon link. Usually the Tweet is from the Indie-Author him/herself.

Step2: Follow the link and use the “Look Inside” feature.

Step 3: Jot down what you thought of preview.

Step 4: Go back to Twitter and keep scrolling until you find another eBook promo.

** I took a glance at 25 eBooks using the “Look Inside” feature. **

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The Results of the Twitter Challenge

In the final analysis, I did not find 98% crap, nor would I say that Indie Authored eBooks are an insult to the written word. Yes, I saw some stylistic problems. I have learned much about editing in the past few years, and can zero things down to three basic errors or should I say non-refinements. They are 1) Echoing Headwords 2) Weak opening line and/or paragraph 3) Overusing forms of “to be.” However, some readers probably wouldn’t spot those problems. They purchased a bargain book and were entertained.

For those of us who have published a few items and have spent hundreds of hours in critique circles; we know crap when we see it. Perhaps I’m being too harsh and wonder if I should give some people the benefit of the doubt. May be their definition of “crap” differs from mine.

Here are a few examples of my criteria for assessing the quality of an eBook with an excrement expression.

The writing is unreadable and unintelligible. If I see an endless stream of poor grammar, spelling errors, punctuation errors, p.o.v. shifting, or incomplete sentences, then I’ll agree it is crap. I can name a few more sins, but I think you get the picture.

Different “Yardsticks”?

There is no difference between 1 inch and 2.54 centimeters. The difference is the markings on the ruler. It is my belief that the insulters and naysayers are driven by one of two possibilities. Either they are paid trolls acting upon the behest of publishers*, or they are “setting the bar too high.”

*I am by no means a conspiracy theorist. However, I am all too aware of the dirty campaigns waged by different factions of certain industries. For example, the war between Edison’s DC vs. Tesla’s AC in the court of public opinion comes to mind.

The Relay Race Analogy

When I say “setting the bar too high,” I am not talking about giving everyone an award or a trophy for participating or a drastic lowering of standards. Rather, imagine a relay race between two teams of runners. Except, one team got food poisoning just 5 minutes before the race, and only one member of the sick team didn’t fall ill. Instead of quitting, the lone runner ran the whole race that was meant for five different athletes. And, he didn’t make it easy for the other team. He gave them a proverbial “run for their money.”

Even though he lost the race, is there any among you who wouldn’t give that runner a standing ovation?

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Well, that’s the difference between an eBook from an Indie Author and Traditionally published book. Too often, an Indie Author is simply one person doing the work of many hands. Therefore, when I say “setting the bar too high,” I mean passing judgment while not appreciating the lopsided nature of the comparison.

Indie Authors should not attempt to produce an end product as good as a traditionally published book. We should strive to be better.

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Living Baby Dinosaur Found!

Idaho 6/16/2017: Scientists conducting wildlife research on the Snake River between Grand View and Bruneau stumbled upon a Baby Francosaurus, long considered from other fossil evidence as a distant cousin of the Stegosaurus.

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“Unbelievable! I can’t wait to do some more research,” said Dr. Leeksy from the department of Cryptozooanthromorpharchaeology from Gem State Research University. Scientists from the department were universally agreed in their identification. “The tri-taloned green feet are better than a fingerprint,” said Dr. Piglet.

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When pressed for more information, the team informed us that the green feet, alternating banded striations, and retractable cranial ridge-plates, undeniably distinguish the Francosaurus from other dinosaur species of the late Jurassic period.

Not long after media outlets reported the story, protestors showed up and demanded that the scientists leave the creature alone and conduct their research from a safe distance. Jane Laimbrayne, a spokeswoman for the group Dinosaur Lives Matter, said “…the Francosaurus must be protected in its natural habitat at all costs.” Volunteers from the group and scientists set up cameras and vigils to protect the Francosaurus from poachers. In a show of conservational solidarity, both groups chanted “We adore the Francosaur.”

Governor Bruce Udder misunderstood the significance of the discovery. The Governor mistakenly thought that Francosauruses were a new French ethnic political action group. “It’s been my pleasure to be acquainted with Francosauruses for most of my life. Even some of my best friends in college were Francosauruses. I am proud of their contribution to the diverse cultural fabric of our great state.” After the true nature of the Francosaurus was explained to him, and the need for extra funding for research, the governor ran away declined to comment further.

Every Time You Reply – The Francosaurus Doesn’t Cry

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