Anaphora Paragraphing?

 

A dictionary definition of “Anaphora” would state, the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive verses, clauses, or paragraphs.

“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and on the streets, we shall fight in the hills.” – Winston Churchill

“This blessed plot, this Earth, this realm, this England.” – William Shakespeare

From the above examples, you can see how this technique is used for a heightened dramatic effect.


Try to refrain from over using anaphora as well. In “Storm of Divine Light,” I properly used the technique twice in 376 pages.

Excerpt: Patrons never suspected the humble servant Dagorat once had another name. A name he had tried to bury; an infamous name which struck terror into the hearts of travelers and merchants alike. Blackmond Moonshadow, the most notorious rogue who ever wreaked havoc upon the distant Kingdom of Easterly.



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The word “paragraph” in the definition poses a bit of a problem. Other language / writing guru’s like Hofmann referred to the paragraph as a natural barrier to anaphora. Creativity Hacker refers to starting paragraphs with the same word whether consecutively or just too often as “Echoing Headwords.” This concept seems to apply to both paragraphs and consecutive sentences.

Let’s say that your MC is named Lisa. Imagine the paragraphs on one page starting as follows.

Lisa grabbed…

Lisa looked…

She stepped on…

The dog barked…

Lisa hurried….

She opened…

Lisa went…

*Psst…I know that most of the sentence starters above seem like an assault of declarative sentences, but that is the subject for another blog post.

As you can see, beginning paragraphs with repeated words just doesn’t work very well. Unlike adverbs, where the usage rate is one for every five to seven pages, I couldn’t find the acceptable rate of repetition concerning echoing headwords.

It would be quite a daunting task to complete a novel with every paragraph starting with a different word. I went back into some drafts to find a rate of repetition in my own #writing. I found that you can repeat the start of a paragraph every other page, or at least eight to ten paragraphs apart, as long as they are not on the same page.

As for sentences, try not to use the same “headword” consecutively or bunched too close together.

Have you found evidence of this faux pas in some of your drafts?

***Check out Ernesto San Giacomo’s author page at AMAZON and choose a title today!***

Indie-Author Stigma Part III: Are 5-Star Reviews Meaningless?

Like many indie authors, I only sport small sales and a scant number of reviews. And like many indie authors, I’m fairly sure that’s not a reflection on the quality of my writing, but rather the state of the current market. Here’s the harsh reality: it’s difficult to sell a 12-20 page short story for 99 cents when others are selling full novels for that price, or even offering them up for free.

I used to chalk my low sales up to just that fact. Flooding the market with so many inexpensive books has muddied the waters, if you will.  But after a recent experience on Twitter, I’m seeing that there’s much more to it than numbers.  The water’s not just muddy, it’s outright toxic.

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Scanning Twitter one evening, I noticed quite a few author Tweets plugging their latest works and their 5-star reviews. Naturally, I clicked on their provided link, took a look at their glowing reviews and then used Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature (I think most quality indie-authors already know where I’m heading).

My first horror went something like this…

The prologue heading read “Many Millennium’s Ago.”

How can you call yourself an author when you don’t know the difference between a plural and a possessive? Of course, removing the apostrophe doesn’t correct the matter either, because the plural of “Millennium” is “Millennia.”

Then I read the first paragraph. The author used the tags, “I readily agreed,” and “I say,” within the first three lines. They’re not the standard “I said,” which is fine, but they’re also in two different tenses.

But this book had three 5-star reviews. Cough…gag!

And for my next horror…

I saw another author’s promo Tweet for a short story collection. I jumped at the chance to see this one and clicked over. This collection had about 110 pages and six mixed reviews.

There were five P.O.V. shifts in the first ten lines, including internal thoughts from different characters. I know that such a technique is possible, but it should only be done by the hand of a master. Like Dune, by Frank Herbert. If you’re not Frank Herbert and you don’t have a manuscript to match Dune, then don’t even try it.  This particular author was clearly not practiced in the art of P.O.V. shifts, as it was clunky and impossible to follow whose head I was in.

Yet the collection had one 5-star and nothing below 3-stars. Cough…gag!

If I’d purchased either of these, I would’ve shut off my Kindle and sent out a 1-star review. Does it make anyone else ill that shoddy works are being advertised with 5 stars? I have a very hard time believing that those reviews weren’t paid for, or solicited from friends and family.

I do not cajole, pester, arm-twist, guilt-trip, beg, plead, finagle, nag, or purchase reviews from anyone; what you see on my books is honest feedback from real readers. Between the poor workmanship and the misleading reviews running rampant on Amazon, is it any wonder that indie authors are stigmatized? Doesn’t that get under your skin?

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The Reality

While writing this post, I surfed the internet in an attempt to find others who feel the same way. After all, sometimes I second-guess myself and think I’m being a meanie. Sure enough, I did find a myriad of posts that confirm my sentiments.

This one from Catherine Hoover sums things up:

“When a self-published author doesn’t take pride in their work and just slaps a book up for sale that isn’t even close to being ready for publication…it reinforces the notion that self-published books are of a lower standard.”

I completely agree; poor quality is what has muddied the waters of indie publishing. Now that the “shoddy-ne’er-do-well-wannabee-hacks” are recruiting people to leave misleading glowing reviews, they have turned the water toxic.

In today’s market, being good just isn’t good enough, and if that is not a sad enough reality then consider the following:

Being meticulous, talented, artistic, and making a painstaking effort in order to turn out the finest quality product simply isn’t good enough either. Because through no fault of your own, you had a tainted reputation before you began.

For Readers and Authors

How do you deal with the stigma? Can anything be done? How do you think the community of quality indie authors can fight back?

***See all the titles from Ernesto San Giacomo on Amazon***

The Twilight Zone of Reviews #4

I’ve got a real whopper to tell you about. As most of you know, I’ve just released a new short story called Night Flights.

I went to Goodreads to notify the librarian to list Night Flights along with my other works. To my surprise, it was already there. Huh? Who did that? Then came the next surprise, or should I say horror. It was listed with a one star review. I gasped and my heart jumped into my mouth.

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Pixabay Public Domain Image

 

Who would do such a thing? I mean a one star review is something that you give to unreadable trash. Normally a piece of writing that has miss-spelled words, bad or no punctuation, incoherent and incomplete sentences, is the type of work that would receive a one star review.

Now I know Night Flights might not be appealing to everyone, but one star….get real!

The name associated with the review seemed vaguely familiar, and noticed someone that I know personally from the Boise Treasure Valley Writers Group was listed as a friend of my review troll. I also noticed that the person who left the review lives in Boise. Hmmm, perhaps they really know each other.

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***Put NIGHT FLIGHTS on your e-reader***

Like a flash I notified other author friends asking if they could help. I’ve learned early on from others that you never ever engage with someone who is obviously trolling. Never, ever open a dialog with a troll. Instead get others to leave reviews to negate the work of the lone trouble maker.

I found their Facebook pages and left messages requesting help. Then I decided to see if my review troll had a Facebook page. Sure enough, she had one. As I looked at her picture, I realized there was something familiar about her. Oh my God! I know her! I’ve had her over my house for a critique. I offered her hospitality, food, drink, and waited on her hand and foot.

Now, my mind raced. Did I do or say something inappropriate? Did I offend her in some way?

I get back a few messages. My author friends from Boise knew the individual and would speak to her privately. It was the sister of one of the authors from the group. Holy $hit Batman!

I took a break from the disturbance to make dinner for my wife. It would be better to calm down before doing or saying anything further.

A message comes back from my one star troll’s sister. They were unaware of the review. Apparently, the account was hacked. It must’ve been the same day that I made a promo post in the NaNo Treasure Valley FB page. My one-star-troll was certainly no troll at all.

They assured me that they were actively working on it and were going to make everything right again. Later that evening, the review was changed to 4****, and it lasted for a few days, then it reverted back to 1*. Our little hacker was at it again.

I notified the party concerned and now the review has been completely removed. The whole experience rattled me, but I’m glad it’s over.

And Now For Something (Not) Completely Different

On a happier note, I discovered a five star glowing review on Amazon that I absolutely wasn’t expecting for Night Flights so soon with just a handful of copies sold (which has nothing to do with the previous debacle). Then a second 5**** review appeared a few days later.

 

I wrote the other “Twilight Zone” blog posts because other reviewers have used the words Rod Serling, and / or The Twilight Zone in the same sentence. Well… it has happened once again.

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***Put RAGGED SOULS on your e-reader***

(***Important Note: Some of those Twilight Zone references were for short story singles that have since been taken down because they are now part of the Ragged Souls collection***)

Night Flights now has two five star reviews under its belt, one of them states “…surprise ending that is comparable to any script written for The Twilight Zone.”

Also of note, I haven’t been on Goodreads for a while, but when I logged in to discover the aforementioned catastrophe, I also discovered a 5 star review for Gematria‎².

So fellow Indie Author compañeros…got any juicy review stories to tell? Have you ever been trolled? Have you ever had a surprise slama-dama-ding-dong review?

Pasta e Fagioli (Italian Pasta & Bean Soup)

For me, nothing answers the call of comfort food better than a hot bowl of Pasta e Fagioli. The rich stock, tasty bites of beans and pasta, makes this soup hearty. Of course, like an authentic tomato sauce, there are many variations of this staple of the Italian kitchen. Therefore, you’ll find different recipes in every household.

I like to add small chunks of Genoa salami. After all, pork and beans go well together. Perhaps at a later date, I’ll ask mom for her “lighter” white bean recipe.

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There’s nothing like comfort food

 

Ingredients

1 – Small White Onion (Do a medium dice according to Onions 101)

2 – Teaspoons of Chopped Garlic

1 – Can of Red Kidney Beans (Reserve half of the liquid)

1 – Quarter inch thick slice of Genoa Salami (Go for two slices if you prefer an even heartier soup)

1 – Pinch of Sugar

1 – Beef Stock or Broth (Yes, I said stock not buillion)

2 – Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 – Ounces of White Wine (I prefer White Zinfandel)

8 – Ounces of Tomato Sauce or Plain Crushed Tomatoes

8 – Ounces of your favorite dried pasta (Elbows, Ditalini, Tubetini, or Small Shells)

Salt* & Pepper to taste

*The amount of salt depends on the brand of cooking stock and if it’s a low or non-sodium version.

Step 1: Dice the onion and cut the salami into small bite sized cubes

Step 2: Put the olive oil into a soup pot and heat

Step 3: Sauteé the onions until tender and limp, but not browned.

Step 4: Add the garlic (Remember garlic cooks very fast) Cook for 1 minute

Step 5: Add the wine (Let the alcohol cook out 1-2 mins.)

Step 6: Add the tomato sauce, beef stock, salami, and Kidney beans with reserved liquid

Step 7: Add one pinch of sugar*. Let simmer to allow flavors to mingle

*The nitrates in cured pork products can leave a nasty aftertaste. The sugar will cancel it out.

Step 8: In a separate pot, bring enough water to boil in order to cook the pasta according to box directions. You shouldn’t cook or store the soup and pasta together.

Step 9: Put one half ladle of cooked pasta into a bowl and add two ladles of the soup. Serve with a piece of crusty Italian bread for a hearty meal.

Step 10: Enjoy it! Mangia Bene!

Comment below if you attempt or plan on attempting this recipe.

Ragged SoulsBlog

Ernesto San Giacomo is the author of Ragged Souls

***Put Ragged Souls on your Kindle at Amazon U.S. or Amazon U.K.***

Give Your Blog a “Facelift”

Last week I cleaned up my Twitter account, and documented that process in a post called Twitter Litter. That experience prodded me to take a long hard look at my Welcome Page. I saw quite a few problems like empty space, links that didn’t stand out, a somewhat distanced and impersonal opening paragraph, and a ho-hum title.

After all, my blog is the center of my social media platform. Which also means that my (and your) welcome page become even more important.

The Title

Before, I had a one word title “Welcome!” Yawn. Then my wife and I (we’re big Mel Brooks fans, as evidenced by his presence on my fav movie lists*), thought about Madeline Kahn’s character Lili Von Shtupp in Blazing Saddles, remember how she responded to a knock on her door? We added an Italian greeting and felt like we had the job done. 🙂

*See how my list of favorite films from the ‘60s, ‘70s and, ‘80s compares to yours.

First Paragraph

Originally, my welcome message was incredibly mediocre. As I read through it, I realized that it wouldn’t inspire anyone to continue. Therefore, I doubled the size of my opening blurb, and added more personal information like some of my core beliefs that work their way into my writing. In a nutshell, I presented the ABC’s of me.

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Blog Ecosystem Diagram by I.A. Walsh used under CC License

Empty Space

My blog category list was down at the bottom of the page. It was a slender column with too much blank space. I put them in linear form with five spaces between each one. Now it looks like an abundant amount, mimicking a paragraph.

Link Color

Although the links were now more noticeable and moved toward the top, it may still be difficult for someone to notice them as links rather than underlined text. I customized a brick red color that wasn’t hard on the eyes.

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***Put Ragged Souls on your Kindle at Amazon U.S.***

A Personal Photo

I’m not an ego-maniac who needs to see his portrait prominently displayed everywhere. However, as an author’s welcome page, I thought it necessary. After all, you want people to see the front page; feel welcomed, and then are prompted to click, read, and hopefully comment. It’s all about creating a comfy zone. So, I posted my mugshot…um I mean thumbnail portrait and wrapped the text around it.

The Top Menu

We also changed the pages in the top menu bar. Now there’s a published page that lists everything with links to different sites, like Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble.

However, the most important change is the addition of a Free Short Stories page. I’ve uploaded one so far but have a few more “waiting in the wings” as they say.

***Notify me when the new Sci-Fi / Horror short story Night Flights is available***

Conclusion

It’s too early to assess the success of these changes as to the impact on blog traffic. But I’m keeping my fingers and eyes crossed. I guess my Facebook Author Page and my blog’s sidebar are next.

Quality Editing: People Will Notice

I have a very strict and grueling editing process. After my first draft is complete it goes to my wife (The Queen) for a cleaning. I’ll make any suggested changes for clarity, verb choice, descriptions et al and pass it back to her. She’ll make another pass and then it’s ready for a critique group (I’ll go into these processes in detail in later posts).

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After the critique group (about 4-7 readers) is done, I’ll address any changes that I deem necessary.

Then it goes back to “Queen-editor and chief” for any further corrections. I’m still not done.

Now it is time for the beta readers.  The piece is mostly “clean” for beta readers, so their concerns can be addressed with a few minor tweaks.

Finally the piece is ready for public consumption.

All of my Amazon and Goodreads reviewers have been impressed. They’ve mentioned that they love the quirky stories and characterizations. However, some have also called attention to the quality of the work, i.e., the quality of the prose, the lack of passive voice, or no grammatical errors. They recognized the time and trouble taken to create a quality product.

Therefore, do not ever skimp on your editing process, because people will notice.

Have others ever remarked about the process that you’ve put into something?

WordPress Stats: Seeing is Believing

In a previous post called “The Blog, the Tweet, and the Facebook Page,” I mentioned that creating a relationship with other bloggers is a must. I came to that conclusion based upon the behavior of those who followed me on various social media outlets. I also mentioned that I really didn’t push or spend a lot of time on #Facebook. Also, when it comes to blog stats, I usually only checked the “out-clicks” to see how many people were exiting my #blog by going to my Amazon, Nook, or Smashwords.

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My Social Network by Luc Legay used under CC License

But I had a jaw-dropping revelation when I looked into my WordPress stats the other day. Facebook was the source for the most referrers, i.e. where someone was when they decided to click into my blog. The second was Search Engines, then Google+ and Twitter. Why are these stats surprising? Because I usually spend the most time promoting my blog on Google+ and Twitter. When I thought about it, it didn’t take long to figure out why this happened. I use Facebook in the same way that I blog, taking the time to visit other pages and leave commentary rather than promoting my own stuff.

Let me be clear for a second, I am not a spammer (and never have been), on Google+ and Twitter. However, when I look back at all of my tweets and Google+ posts, most of them were promotional. I think it’s time to switch gears and use the rest of social media in the same way as I’ve been using Facebook and blogging.

You may experience the same if you go into your WordPress bar graph (site stats for last 48 hours), then look at the referrer’s box and click summaries. You can view your referrers for different time periods as well.

O.K. now that you’ve looked, what did you find out about your stats?

Ragged Souls

The title of my latest short story collection is Ragged Souls: 3 Tales of the Holy, the Strange, and the Bizarre. It was my editor, Ruth, who created the subtitle for this book. She read and pondered the three stories before having a flash of insight into a connecting theme.

Let’s take a look at “Holy” for a minute. In Martha’s Kitchen, one could discuss the concept of misguided piety. For A Purveyor of Odd Things, it would be a general lack of Holiness. Finally , in Cactus Valley, worldliness is the cause for impiety. However, we get to witness an attempt at Angelic intervention in this last story.

I can sum up the usage of “Strange”, and “Bizarre” quite readily. Within Ragged Souls you’ll meet Angels, Demons, Dopplegangers, Murderers, and Mummies. Need I say more?

Here are excerpts from the three stories that you’ll find within the pages of the Ragged Souls collection.

A Purveyor of Odd Things

Meet Detective Renner Branson, a man so enslaved to his work that he’s forgotten how to live. In his newest baffling case, he will discover secrets – not just about the world, but about himself. The terrors lurking within may shatter his grip on reality.  Or they may show him just how beautiful reality can be.

Excerpt:

Branson squeezed his eyes shut. His sense of real and unreal, of possible and impossible, was shredded by these apparitions. He wanted so badly to run, run anywhere, to the car, to the gate, anything to get away from this insanity. But he wouldn’t – couldn’t – leave Hannah. Through his panic he became aware of her clammy hand clutching his, and though he tugged on it, she seemed unable to move. Paralyzed by that cold stare. Fight or flight…or freeze.

Available for Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Smashwords for all other formats.  Free extended excerpt at Wattpad.

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Martha’s Kitchen

Martha and Jillian, two sisters from a dying town, cope with the hollowness of city life in a bloodcurdling way. Come explore this bizarre case of nostalgia gone horribly awry, but beware the secret recipe at Martha’s Kitchen!

Excerpt:

“His pants and suspenders are still on. I hope he didn’t soil himself,” Martha said.

“No, I heard the toilet flush.”

“It figures,” Martha said. “Mr. Jenkins always was a proper gentleman.”

Available for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Smashwords for all other formats.  Free extended excerpt at Wattpad.

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Cactus Valley

One New York couple’s vacation turns into a horrific nightmare. Ancient forces of good and evil do battle to win their souls – but which will be victorious?

Excerpt:

In a tense voice, Andrea said, “There’s still enough gas for thirty miles. Turn around.”

“We’ll never make it back that far. See if there’s another one ahead.”

Andrea studied the road atlas. “Okay. Get off at the next exit and make a right. There’s a service station about fifteen miles away.”

Available for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and on Smashwords for all other formatsFree extended excerpts on Wattpad.

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Cover Reveal for Gematria² – Breaking Convention

Announcing the cover reveal for my latest short story, Gematria²!

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The writing approach in this short can be summed up as breaking the conventional mold of formula writing. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve created a new style for other authors to emulate, because I’m doing the emulating.

I’ve always been enamored with the styles and conventions of South American authors, namely Julio Cortázar and Jorge Luís Borges. If you read anything from these short story masters you will immediately notice differences from the North American writers you may be used to. For one thing, these authors don’t describe or sometimes even name characters. They play with time, space, human consciousness, synchronicity, metaphysics, philosophy, and magical realism, to name a few themes.

The best way that I can describe the style is non-formulaic literature. With Gematria², I tried that approach as best as I could.  When I presented it to a critique group, some scoffed, although they couldn’t exactly say what was bothering them. Others embraced it as pure literature and eagerly volunteered to beta read future drafts.

Gematria² will be released on Smashwords as a FREE download on February 15th, 2014 on all e-reader formats. If you prefer getting your e-books from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, it will be listed there as well about one to two weeks later.  As a bonus, the release also contains extended excerpts from my other short stories.  Hope you enjoy!

Free Previews: A Double-Edged Sword?

If you’ve browsed for a novel or a short story at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords, then you’re probably familiar with the free preview feature. On Amazon you can view the first 10% of an e-book, and on Smashwords it varies by author preference.

Now many think that this is a positive feature for your work. After all, you’ve been through several revisions of the piece and you want prospective readers to see that you’re not contributing to the dreaded Indie Author Stigma. You want to show that your writing is clear and properly edited, with no amateur errors.

I suppose that’s a good thing, but here’s the problem. I’ve heard that most audiences today judge whether or not they like a film within the first five minutes, and I suspect that readers are no different. So what happens when the best parts of your work are in the middle or at the end?

I’m selling short stories right now, as a way to build up some readership before my novel is ready for the public. My own quirky story-telling manner never jumps at you in the first page or two. Instead, my style does quite the opposite. I like to lull a reader into a sense of security before everything begins to run amok. Therefore, the first page or two may not hook a potential reader and reel them in. But my beta readers tell me that the lulling makes for a real punch at the end, so I’m reluctant to change this style.

Now, we all know about the need for a first chapter to be powerful. However, I’m talking about a short story, which can be chapter length or less. So the online retailers only show the first few pages, which I generally use to establish characters and setting. Therefore that percentage-based preview often cuts off before the story really gets going.  And I really wonder if that is affecting my readership.

So I have two questions for the blogosphere:

Readers:  

Authors: