Friday, April 30, 2010

Ten Days

Ten. That's all I have left if I'm going to make my self-imposed deadline for getting the murder mystery turned in.

Right now, I'm calling it Trigger Point.

We'll see if they
a) accept the thing and
b) if they keep the title.

To date, the only book they've kept my proposed title for is Band of Sisters. And my husband came up with that title (I stink at them).

Long-time readers might remember that I submitted Spires of Stone with a header description of, "My Salt Lake Temple Book," and that then an evaluator came back saying, "It needs a better title."

Um, YA THINK?!!! That wasn't a title.

After I submit Trigger Point, then I can (I hope!) move on to drafting again. Drafting is where I get my lifeblood. Drafting is when I'm happiest. It's when I'm not losing my mind . . . it's when I'm most ME.

Ten days.

But I don't write on Sundays. So really, nine days.

Scratch that. I also have two field trips between now and then (trying to spend time with the kidlets when I've been so busy). That effectively erases two more working days.

Can I do this in SEVEN? Time will tell.

The book is written. But I have about six inches' worth of critiques to go through, plus about 50 or so pages to revise that never did make it to critique group.

I'm motivated to make my deadline, mostly because I know what's on the other side: FUN.

It boils down to something pretty simple: If I do THIS, then I get to do THAT.

Drafting is my play time. It balances me in a way nothing else can. It's hanging out with people I love (fictional though they may be) and coming away with the rush that only creating something new can provide.

Be sure leave a comment on last Friday's post for a chance to win a prize:
  • one of my books if I fail to meet my deadline
  • chocolate (for both me and the winner!) if I do make it.
Count on someone winning the chocolate, because I'm seriously motivated. (It's scary what a little bribery can do for one's inner writer.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

WNW: Overheard

Still recuperating from the LDStorymakers Conference (short summary: BEST ONE EVER).

So in lieu of a regular Word Nerd Wednesday post, here's a video discussing, among other things, me as the Word Nerd.

The video was made by J. Scott Savage for the class he and James Dashner taught together at the conference. It supposedly shows how they came up with their topic.

(Pay close attention from 0:53 to 1:10. So. Awesome.)


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Mormon Writer Blogfest: Joseph Smith

Not long ago, blogger Krista V from Write. Mother. Repeat. approached me about participating in a blogfest with the aim at shedding some light on what Latter-day Saints believe.

My topic is one near and dear to my heart: The Prophet Joseph Smith.

But to talk about Joseph Smith, I have to back up a bit.

Latter-day Saints believe that following the Resurrection of Jesus Christ that His apostles had the required priesthood keys that granted authority to administer His church, perform ordinances, receive revelation from God, and more.

With the death of the original twelve apostles, that priesthood power was lost from the earth, and with it, authority from God.

Faithful Christians carried on as best they could, but inevitably, without priesthood keys in the hands of authorized leaders, things began to change over the centuries. Doctrine was interpreted differently by various groups, incorrect rituals and beliefs crept in, and so on. The truth was lost.

We call this period the Apostasy, prophesied by Paul and others, such as in Thessalonians 2:3.

We believe that God inspired many men to pave the way for a Restoration of His true church, which would bring back correct doctrine and full priesthood authority. Those men include Gutenberg, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and many others, including the Founders of the United States.

In 1820, a great fervor arose surrounding religion during what has been termed The Second Great Awakening. Joseph Smith, whose large family lived in poverty in Palmyra, New York, were very much a part of that religious excitement. His family read the Bible, prayed, and were devout Christians, yet like many in that time and place, they didn't know which denomination to join. Some of Joseph's family felt warmly toward the Methodists, but Joseph himself, then only 14 years old, was troubled and couldn't decide what to do.

One day, he read a scripture that changed his life and the course of history, James 1:5
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

In Joseph's own words:
Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.

At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God.

On an early spring day of 1820, Joseph went to a secluded grove near his home to pray, to ask God with real intent, with faith, what he should do:
I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being
Joseph held on, praying in his heart and mind for deliverance. And then it came:
just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
Joseph was told in answer to his burning question that none of the churches were correct, that he was to join none of them, and that Joseph himself had a mighty work to perform. He was taught other things as well in what we now refer to as "The First Vision."

Joseph grew into his role as prophet over the years, literally being tutored by a resurrected angel, Moroni. This angel had lived his mortal life in the Americas and buried a record of his people: scriptures his father Mormon had gathered and which they both knew would never be read by their own descendants but instead by future generations.

Through the power of God, Joseph received that record, which was engraved on gold plates. In spite of harsh persecution and multiple attempts by others to steal the plates, they were miraculously preserved until Joseph had translated the ancient record, after which he returned them to Moroni. That record was published as The Book of Mormon, named after the man whose life work was compiling records and words of the prophets who had lived on the Western Hemisphere.

Joseph and others were visited by other resurrected beings who conferred the priesthood upon them. With the official organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 6, 1830, the Restoration of Christ's church had finally occurred and the long Apostasy was over.

There was still more to be revealed, line upon line, but after centuries of darkness, the essentials were in place: Christ's power was again on the earth. Authority to act in His name had been brought back. Once again, needed ordinances could be performed. The heavens were finally open, and revelation for the Church at large was available through a living prophet, someone like Moses, Abraham, and Jacob.

Those same priesthood keys have been passed along through living Apostles from the time of Joseph's cruel martyrdom in 1844 to the present day. Our current prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, can trace his priesthood keys back to Jesus Christ Himself.

Thanks to Joseph Smith and his work, I, along with over 13 million other members of the Church worldwide, have the privilege of listening to a living prophet, his counselors and apostles, twice a year in general conference, which is broadcast across the world, streamed on the Internet, and printed later in magazine form as well as on the Church website. We learn and can later review what has been taught then try to incorporate teachings and characteristics that will bring us closer to becoming the servants Christ would have us be.

Tomes have literally been written about Joseph Smith, and a simple blog post can hardly touch the surface of the man and his legacy, but in summary, to quote Joseph F. Smith, the Prophet's nephew, who later led the Church as prophet:
Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.

Other Stops in Today's Blogfest:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Writing Journey: Lyon's Eleven

Lately when people ask if I'm working on anything, I almost laugh. I have a few too many pots in the fire and rarely know where to begin describing my current projects. (I'd appreciate it if the treadmill of my life slowed down just a tiny bit.)

As an update, a list:

1) Today and tomorrow, I'm at the LDStorymakers Writers Conference, in its 7th year. It's bigger and better than ever, and I'm thrilled to have been part of it since its inception. Saturday night at the Whitney Awards gala, I will be presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to Gerald N. Lund. (No pressure or anything.)

2) Turns out the final photo shoot for Chocolate Never Faileth, well, wasn't. We had two unanticipated holes (long story). In the middle of my conference prep, I had to make two more recipes. I could have really used a clone this week.

3) On the up side, this last Monday, I got to hang out at Covenant and work on one of their computers to make some of the anecdotes in the book fit properly. That was a ball. The layout for the book is awesome, and the photos turned out great. Basically, the book is going to be gorgeous. Margaret and Christina (the design gals) have gone above and beyond on this one. I LOVE those guys!

4) I have been meaning to finish revisions on that murder mystery for, oh, four months or so now. (Things have been a wee bit busy.) For the sake of accountability, I am going to state here that the book WILL be turned in no later than May 10th. (Now I have to do it or look like an idiot.)

5) OOOOH! IDEA!
If I don't make my personal deadline, I'll have Random.org select ONE commenter from this post to win a copy of one of my books, their choice. If I DO make the deadline, then I get to celebrate with chocolate, and one commenter gets to as well. So one commenter (again, from this post) will get a Utah Truffles chocolate bar. I'll buy two and enjoy the second one. (I'm always amazed at how well bribery works on the inner writer.)

6) The response to Band of Sisters has been phenomenal. Thanks to everyone who has dropped a note about it or written a review! I appreciate every single one so much. Here's the latest review, from the Association for Mormon Letters.

7) One question I'm getting a lot is whether there will be a sequel to Band of Sisters.

Short answer: I hope so. It would take place right after the men come home.

Long answer: Depends on sales. If it does well enough to warrant a sequel, I'll get the green light. (I've already written a couple of scenes for Jessie, and I really want to write the whole thing!) Tell your local Seagull or Deseret Book, whether in person or via e-mail, that you want a sequel so they'll pass on the word. You can even e-mail Covenant directly (info at covenant-lds dot com).

8) As promised, e-book versions of Lost Without You and At the Water's Edge will be available very soon. (Like, when I have time to get them done. Hahahahaa! No, seriously. It'll be soon. After I review the old manuscripts, my husband will do his technological magic and get them available for purchase.)

9) By next year's conference, I plan to have a second edition out of There, Their, They're. In the year since it came out, I've had readers shooting me more questions and topics. I've already amassed nearly 40 new things to address in the next edition. If you have a question that's not currently in the book, please let me know so I can add it to the list!

10) I've got several other really exciting potential projects in the works, but none are confirmed, so I can't talk about them yet. Just getting pumped for the possibilities!

11) And finally, today I'm the guest poster over at Mormon Mommy Blogs. Click over and check it out! (That's the main MMB link; I'm pre-posting this because I won't be online during the conference, so you'll have to find the actual post yourself. Sorry 'bout that.)

See you on the flip side!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

WNW: Capping Titles

I'll get into the crux of today's topic in a second.

Before that, I have to restate something I posted more than a year ago, before a lot of my readers found me . . . and became intimidated about commenting on my blog or FB status.

To quote myself in part:

There is no need for bloggy/writing/conversational paranoia.

I get a lot of, "I'm not an English major, and I don't know grammar. You'll totally freak out reading my blog . . ."

But here's the thing: I won't. And I don't.

When I say that certain gaffs make me twitch, it's almost always in professional publications or other places like that. Blogs and other casual settings, including daily conversation, aren't a big deal to me. Really, truly. There are places where the editor hat and the mental red pen go into a drawer and
stay there.

Rest assured, I don't freak out over typos or grammar errors on blogs. I know they're not perfect, and they're not supposed to be.

Which is why I reserve the right to have typos and grammar errors on my blog as well. I have them frequently, and I figure that's okay.

Got it? Good. No more comment paranoia.

Now for when to capitalize words in titles.
I'm talking about this and much more at one of my two conference workshops this weekend. (This post brought to you almost verbatim by There, Their, They're.)

What TO capitalize in a title:
  • The first and last words, no matter what they are.
  • All nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs.
  • All verbs. Even the really short ones, like BE and IS.
  • Coordinating conjunctions (AS, ALTHOUGH, BECAUSE, etc.)
  • Really long prepositions (BENEATH, THROUGH, WITHOUT)

What NOT to capitalize in a title:

  • Articles (the, a, an)
  • Conjunctions (and, or, for, nor, yet, but, so)
  • Prepositions (into, from, for, to, on, etc.)

Examples:

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (ON, THE, OF, AND too small/unimportant to cap.)

"A Rose for Emily" (FOR not capped, but A is because it's the first word, even though it's an article.)

Lost Without You (First and last words capped, of course. WITHOUT is a long preposition.)

All the Stars in Heaven (STARS and HEAVEN are the only "big" words, but ALL is first and needs caps too.)


See? It's really simple when you know the basics.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Kristina, I'm Playing


Kristina P posted a Glamor Shots photo of herself and invited her readers to post really awesome (read: laughable) pictures of ourselves from the same era.

I never did Glamor Shots (darn it!), but I did do a buddy picture with all three of us wearing the classic (cliche?) denim shirt and sporting the big, permed hair (with matching bows the size of rodents, no less).

Here I am around 1992. (Pardon the blur. It's a photo of a color photocopy. Lame, I know.)



Sheryl, in the middle, is the friend people have assumed is my sister, my twin, or even ME literally since kindergarten. More than three decades later, we still get it. (I don't see it, but whatever.)

Thora, on the left, is the one everyone in our large group of friends knew people (read: GUYS) meant when they asked who the "hot" one was. There was never any question; guys always meant her. (Great for the 'ol self-image, I tell ya.)

S & T, don't kill me for posting this, k?!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Cool Article and Play Dough Pictures

I found an online article today about Agatha Christie. It was fascinating to learn how totally disorganized and chaotic her writing method was and how often, even she didn't know who the murderer was at first.

My favorite part is near the end and is something that could be put into neon lights for all writers, referring to how some unpublished short stories didn't really sound like her because she hadn't had time to rework them before her death:

She understood that in order to sound like yourself, you have to get up every day and get it all down—the trunk in the hallway, the revolving bookcase on the landing, the old children's books in the library—and then, crucially, you have to edit it as if you are someone else, working through every possibility, before finally settling on the story and telling it as if it had been that way all along.

(Read the full article in Slate.)


And now for something totally random. You may recall how my youngest (currently seven AND A HALF . . . you're not all0wed to forget the half) has long been fascinated by how the human body and other things work.

There was THIS POST about snails and how they poop. THIS video about a brain bank (and sliced pieces of brain studied by scientists) is one of her favorite things to watch online. Santa totally scored points when she got The Human Body DVD from National Geographic for Christmas. Thanks to that DVD, she knows all about how babies' cartilage turns into bones. (How many first graders can even SAY "cartilage," let alone know what it means?!) She loves watching her siblings gross-out when you see the stomach churning food.

You also probably recall that we've been doing photo shoots for my upcoming cookbook, Chocolate Never Faileth! (These two topics are connected, I promise. Read on.)

Part of a shoot featured some non-edible recipes, one of which was chocolate play dough.

After the shoot, my daughter re-discovered play dough and had a party with it. She was SO PROUD of her creations. At first she made animals and fun shapes. But she was most proud of two particular gems:

A treadmill:


Note the stands on the bottom that support the treadmill and the complex control panel.

Then, in typical form, my anatomy-fascinated child made this:


Yes, folks. Those are chocolate play dough LUNGS.


Monday, April 12, 2010

The Changing Face of LDS Fiction

Last week a Deseret News reporters interviewed me about Band of Sisters and the Flat Daddy Project. I've done several interviews recently, but this particular reporter asked something no one had yet. (I'll link over when the piece runs.)

Her question, and my answer to it, have kept me thinking ever since. She'd read the book before the interview (a rare and rather pleasant occurrence), so she had a better idea of what to ask.

Among the questions I'd been asked already:
  • Are the wives in the book fictionalized versions of the ones I interviewed? (No. Not even close. I used the interview information to figure out how my characters would react. All of the interviewees were all pretty close in age (26-33 years old, I think). The wives in my book range from 20-55.
  • How did I learn about the Flat Daddy Project? (Through THIS blog.)
  • Am I a military wife? (Nope. No family members have even been deployed in my lifetime. Dad's a Vietnam vet, but he came home before I was born. My brother was in the Air Force but never deployed. The book was inspired by watching my friend's deployment.)
And so on.

Then came the interesting question:

Were some specific topics in the book things I had to fight with my publisher to keep in the story?

In other words, did Covenant, my conservative publisher, balk at a book that discussed sensitive, difficult subjects? (I won't include spoilers here, so let's just say that Marianne's daughter has more than one very serious issue. If you've read the book, you know what I'm talking about.)

I was thrilled to be able to say that none of those things ever came up. No one, not my editor, the committee, or anyone else at Covenant so much as mentioned those subjects.

To me, that says a few wonderful things:

1) LDS publishers (and Covenant, in my case) are more and more willing to publish stories that reflect reality. That includes stories with no easy, tie-it-in-a-tidy-bow answers. Their books can still have a Christian world view of problems and how to approach them, but the books also acknowledge that you won't avoid trials just because you're a good person. Bad stuff happens.

2) Likewise, readers are more and more accepting of that change; they WANT to read about real women facing real problems.

Then I thought about other novels recently published in the market and some upcoming ones, and I got even more excited about how this market is shifting. First off, the sheer quality of the literature is better than it has been, EVER. But that's not all.

Which leads us to another exciting change in the market:

3) More and more, I'm seeing books that don't necessarily have LDS themes, but that are simply clean alternatives to national genres that often contain material that Mormon readers would rather not have in their books, whether that means language, bedroom scenes, gore, or the like.


I know I've mentioned Sarah before, but she bears repeating. She writes books set in the Regency era, which was before the LDS Church was founded and therefore, by definition, cannot be LDS fiction. When she seeking publication nationally, Sarah got many, many encouraging letters from agents and editors, saying, "You're a great writer! We'll publish you if you add some steamy scenes into your books!"

See, the Regency Romance genre has veered into smut. (Jane Austen would be rolling in her grave at what's out there now.) Sarah refused to "smuttify" her books, effectively closing off the national publishing avenue. She was left with self-publishing until Seeking Persephone (which is currently out of print but likely to be reprinted) was a Whitney Award finalist. That's when Covenant took a chance on her, even though her new book, Courting Miss Lancaster, has no connection to Mormonism whatsoever.

In other words, Covenant is listening to their readers, who simply want great books they don't have to be on guard with. (Quick! Turn the page. And crap! That one, too! Skimming, skimming, skimming . . .)

Finally, Regency Romance fans have a fantastic, well-written and CLEAN alternative to the current stuff out there.

Rachel is one of the two top-selling female writers in the LDS market, and she's known for both romances and women's fiction. But Rachel also happens to love the paranormal genre, and she wanted to write some, especially since the current national paranormal market has veered the same direction as the national Regency market: toward the gutter.

Not knowing whether a paranormal novel would sell to readers used to LDS-themed fiction, Deseret Book took a risk in publishing Imprints, the first book of its kind in this market. But again: finally, a CLEAN alternative to having to skip passages and squint your eyes every few pages to avoid the bad stuff.

What started out as something fun and different write for Josi has turned into ragingly popular series. (Devil's Food Cake, the most recent book, has been #1 on Deseret Book's online bestsellers list for some time now.) But going in, Josi didn't expect Deseret Book to even want Lemon Tart. First off, she was known for her issue-driven women's fiction. But there was another element as well: Lemon Tart has absolutely zero Mormon anything in it. Sadie herself is clearly Christian, but there are hints that she's from some other denomination.

To her surprise, Deseret Book snatched it up. Then they requested more books in the series, to the tune of two a year (so far: Lemon Tart, English Trifle, and Devil's Food Cake. Later this year we'll see Key Lime Pie, and next year, Blueberry Crumble). Again, a fun, clean mystery series without any worry about running into questionable scenes, language, and more, and the books just so happen to have nothing Mormon-ish in them.

The Shandra Covingington Mystery Series, by Jeffrey S. Savage
Covenant's clean mystery series. Shandra makes an occasional Mormon joke, but beyond that, the Church isn't mentioned, and it certainly isn't the point. Shandra's murder-solving skills (and her obsession with food) are the focus.

For fans: yes, Jeff is finally giving us Shandra's next installment! Bobby's been lying on the floor bleeding for long enough. The next Shandra book is coming this summer.


One of the best romance writers I know, Michele manages to keep the chemistry alive without heading into either cliche or the gutter. But here's the fun part with this book: the main characters aren't LDS. There is one LDS connection: a police officer on the case is Mormon. But check it out: no one converts!

Dangerous Memories, by Jeffrey S. Savage
There's a good chance that this horror novel will be published by Covenant in the relatively near future. No joke. Covenant maybe soon releasing a HORROR novel. (Did you ever think you'd see the day?)



I could go on and on, but it's probably enough to simply say that the market is in an exciting place right now, with welcome changes coming around every bend.

If you haven't tried reading an LDS novel recently (or haven't tried a NEW author lately), give it another shot. No, not everything is stellar (and I can quietly point you away from what not to read, though I'll deny ever saying so :-). But there's so much more quality stuff on the shelves than there used to be.

If you don't know where to start, drop me a note saying what kinds of books you typically enjoy. I'm betting I can find a good-quality LDS counterpart.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Writing Journey: Pronunciation Guides

Up today: Answering a question L. T. Eliot (also known as Lexicon Luvr) posed some time ago:

[Writers creating pronunciation guides for audio recordings] is a new phenomenon to me, and I've only ever heard it mentioned once. How long has that been going on?

I can't speak for other writers and their experiences with their publishers, of course, so what comes below is based on my experience.

For my first five books, Covenant released an audio version on either cassettes or CDs (in one case, both). In each case, the book was abridged.

My first two novels (Lost Without You and At the Water's Edge) are my shortest ones. I had to cut them down to 48,000 words, but since they were each right around 70,000, that wasn't terrible to do. It wasn't fun by any means, but I could cut out descriptions, shorten dialogue, delete actions and tags, take showing portions and make them telling, and the like. Abridging took out a lot of the voice and personality of the book, but the basic story was left intact.

And then . . . well, THEN I had to cut House on the Hill. It clocked in at 102,000 words. Remember, it had to be hacked down to 48,000.

Yeah. Had to cut that puppy by more than half. The final version had entire scenes and subplots stripped out. For example, readers didn't see Abe's father or even know much of Abe's background. There just wasn't time for it.

At the Journey's End was even longer, by more than 10,000 words (I think it was around 114,000 words total). By that point, they were toying with whether they'd still do a cassette version. If not, I'd get to keep an additional 5,000 words because CDs hold more. But the final decision wasn't made early enough, so even though that book is only on CD, I still had to cut it to 48,000.

Spires of Stone was a bit shorter than At the Journey's End, and I got to cut it to 53,000, so it wasn't quite as miserable to cut, but I still hated it.

If memory serves, Spires was also the first book they requested a pronunciation guide for, but what they asked for was relatively minor. I had to clarify any names or terms that might be confusing. I remember writing character personality descriptions, but not much else. That book was released fall of 2007.

In hindsight, had my sister not been the one reading At the Water's Edge (2004), I probably would have needed to submit a guide, because it has Finnish names and words that would totally throw off your average American reader. That's why I requested that Mel read it: she knows Finnish pronunciation as well as I do, so she didn't need a guide.

By the time Tower of Strength came out, a new decision had been made: Covenant heard its customers asking for unabridged books and agreed to do them! (And there was much rejoicing in the land!)

However, there was a consequence to that decision: unabridged books are (obviously) longer. Therefore, they cost more to produce (both in actual CDs as well as in paying for a reader and other costs). Ergo, they couldn't afford to put every book onto audio.

So while they'd have fewer novels on audio, those that got audio versions would all be unabridged.

The result: Tower of Strength (2009) wasn't given audio. I was rather relieved: no butchering of my book! On the other hand, if it had gotten audio, there wouldn't have been a need to butcher it. But cutting it down wouldn't have been as painful, since Tower is my shortest historical.

I didn't have a 2008 release, so between the small guide for Spires in '07 and no audio for Tower in '09, the first "real" guide I've had to do was for Band of Sisters. (Did you catch that? It's on unabridged audio!)

The pronunciation guide for Band of Sisters was rather involved. I was surprised at how many names and terms they wanted me to explain. I had to include actual pronunciation symbols based on Merriam-Webster's style.

I also had to describe the characters, but this time it wasn't only their personalities. I had to describe their voices. Does Nora have a high or low voice? What about Kim? Does Marianne have a noticeable accent? Does Jessie have a unique tone? What about Brenda? Does she talk fast? And so on.

I had to go reread portions of the book to really listen to my characters talk so I could describe their voices. (That probably sounds bizarre to anyone who isn't a writer, but to me, these women are real, and I can hear their voices in my head. No, I don't need medication.)

Back to the question: How long have the pronunciation guides been going on?

Short answer: somewhere in the ballpark of three or four years, and in that time (at least in my experience) they've become more specific and detailed.

That's a good thing, I think. I don't mind spending a little extra time on a guide since I'm no longer sweating over abridgments. And the guides really benefit everyone. The final product is better, since the actor reading the book knows going in how every person should sound and how to say possibly confusing terms, and the listener has a better experience with the story.

The guide avoids problems like the actor finding out 2/3 of the way through the book that whoops, this character has a southern drawl or this one has a gravelly voice, and this one speaks low for a woman . . . and that they've been reading it wrong the entire time!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

WNW: Reflexives!!!

Thought that maybe if I put lots of exclamation points in the title, that reflexives would sound exciting!

Did it work? :-)

Lara from Overstuffed brought up a funky English quirk with reflexive pronouns. I tried to dig around and ferret out the reason for the quirk, to no avail. So instead of explaining the history of the quirk, we'll just discuss it!

Before we get to the quirk:

What the heck are we talking about?

Reflexive pronouns are ones where an action is being performed on the subject by the subject. For example:

Tommy can feed himself now.
While making dinner, Alicia accidentally cut herself with a knife.
They looked at themselves in the mirror.
You can help yourself to a drink.

And so on.

It's important to use reflexive pronouns when they're called for. Why? Because without them, you can create sentences that are grammatically correct but totally confusing.

The following sentence is from above but without the reflexive pronoun:

While making dinner, Alicia accidentally cut her with a knife.

See the confusion?

Did Alicia accidentally cut her sister or neighbor or some other female (her) in the kitchen? Or did Alicia cut Alicia? (Did she cut herself?)

Similarly:

They looked at them in the mirror.

We potentially have two groups. The groups that is looking and the group that is reflected in the mirror. Or are they the same group? If it's the same group, a reflexive pronoun takes away the ambiguity:

They looked at themselves in the mirror.

Are we clear on the basics of reflexive pronouns?
(I hope?)

Then let's talk about the funky quirk!

All reflexive pronouns add "self" or "selves" to the end of another pronoun.

Some tack self/selves to the possessive form:

I / my / myself
we / our / ourselves

But other reflexives take the objective form:

he / him/ himself
(possessive form would be hisself)

their / them/ themselves
(possessive form would be theirselves)

We all know that hisself and theirselves are INCORRECT.

(We all know that, right? Please tell me you aren't saying theirselves or hisself. My twitching eye thanks you.)

But I'd really like to know the reason behind it. Why do we say myself and ourselves but himself and themselves?

It's just one more of ten thousand or so ways that English makes no sense whatsoever.

But we love it anyway.

[In case you haven't heard: Be sure to participate in Precision Editing Group's Write-a-thon on Thursday! See THIS POST for details, including the prizes!]