Wednesday, June 29, 2011

WNW: Anaphora

Anaphora is a funky term that essentially refers to a stylistic effect with repetition at the beginning of sentences or phrases.

Before your brain starts spinning with "what the huh?" let's look at some examples you're probably already familiar with. Note the bolded sections:

One of the most famous examples in modern times is from Martin Luther King, Jr:
I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal." I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi a state, sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.

Then there's one of the most famous openings to a novel, where Charles Dickens used anaphora in A Tale of Two Cities:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair . . .

Or how about Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address:
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right . . .

A general writing rule is to avoid repetition. But as with any rule, there are exceptions, and this is one.

My critique group is great at catching weak repetition (so, not anaphora), whether it's when one of us gets redundant with concepts ("beating a dead horse; you already showed that . . . a lot") or words ("on these two pages, your characters looked twelve times").

When I find that kind of repetition, I cut it out and revise, and I suggest the same to editing clients. A great way to find repetition is to read you work aloud. Your ear will catch things your eyes don't.

But anaphora is a different animal; it's repetition with a purpose. It's used for a specific emphasis in meaning or to create a desired impact on the reader or listener.

In thinking about anaphora, I realized I used one in Lost Without You, my first published novel (*cough*now on Kindle for cheap*cough*cough*).

It's a minor moment, when Brooke falls into a lake. Greg and Russell worry at first that she's hurt herself, but
Brooke was only wet. Very wet.
I remember circling "Very wet" during revisions, wondering whether I should take it out. In the end, I kept it in for emphasis, even though I didn't realize that what I was doing had a name. In that case, I think it worked.

Once you 're aware of it, anaphora shows up a lot. Without resorting to Dr. Google, can you think of other examples of anaphora? Any favorites?

*Edited to add: In hindsight, the example from LWY technically isn't anaphora, but epistrophe, which is repetition at the end of a line.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Collaboration, Trail Mix, and Sleep Deprivation

Around a year and a half (or more) ago, Josi Kilpack and Julie Wright went on a fabulous book promotion trip together.

Somewhere along the way, on the open road, they were struck by brilliance. They asked me and Heather Moore to have breakfast with them one morning at a restaurant, where they laid out the idea:

What if we created a series that actual book clubs would enjoy reading?

What if we did that by coming up with four great characters, each with her own set of problems, and throwing them together?

What if the four of us each wrote one book in the series, which featured an actual book club?

What if the books could stand alone but had stories that intersected?

By the time I finished my omelet, we already had a general idea of who the four characters would be, which of us would write which character, and what their main problems would be.

Over the course of the next few months, we played around with time lines and story ideas. We all had other things we were working on, and we had to put those projects "to bed" before tackling our book club idea, but eventually we reached the point where it was time.

Since January, we've had several writing weekends, where we get together at a library, write most of the day, take a break around 3:00 for a late lunch/early dinner, check into a hotel, write our brains out (with snack food alongside so we don't have to leave) until we can't keep our eyes open any longer, go to bed, write in the morning, then check out.

During that time, we pause to pick one another's brains. We throw out ideas. We ask one another questions about characters, back story, and geography. We smooth out time lines (each book covers the exact same period, and each book features some scenes that show up in others). We do Internet research. We consult maps.

And . . . we get addicted to trail mix. Walk the halls of the hotel in pajamas to stretch our legs. Laugh. Lots. And go home with lots of new words on our laptops.

In between those weekends, we do a lot of emailing back and forth, sending one another scene clips, details we need from each other, corrections to scenes, and so on.

As of last Saturday, I finished drafting my contribution to The Newport Ladies Book Club series, called Paige. Each book is titled after that book's main character, and they're all written in first person.

The four books are all either drafted or almost so. We're entering the stage of swapping manuscripts for editing and revision (and for flow and accuracy between books) before submission.

It's an exciting project, something totally unlike anything I've done before, and something I couldn't have done with just anyone. The series works entirely because the four of us are friends and have already worked well together professionally. And because we get each other. I don't know how many other groups of women who hang out this much, working so hard, with so much give and take, and still love each other to pieces at the end. It's been an amazing ride.

I can't wait for the final result and for when readers, too, will get to learn about Athena, Paige, Livvy, and Daisy. I hope readers will come to love these fictional women like we do and discover how they impact one another's lives.

Each book will be able to stand on its own, but readers will only get the full braided story by reading all four, although you can do that in any order, so it's not a "series" in the typical sense.

In the meantime, I get to celebrate the completion of a shiny new draft with a little chocolate!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Flat Daddy Family #5

We've got another military family in need of my awesome readers' help to get a Flat Daddy.

Quick reminder for my newer readers:

A Flat Daddy is a life-sized image (often a cutout) of a deployed parent from the waist up. Flat Daddies are especially helpful for families with small children, as they ease the pain during a deployment by having a physical representation of their mom or dad with them.

Some families hang the Flat Daddy on the wall, while others tote him around everywhere they go, so Dad is "present" at his daughter's tea party, his son's field trip, at the grocery store, trick-or-treating, or attending a soccer game.

See THIS PAGE of my website to see a Flat Daddy in action and just how cool the program is.

Thanks to my research into the military for Band of Sisters, I've come to appreciate military families in ways I never could have otherwise. So periodically I spotlight military families who could really use a Flat Daddy (creating one yourself is rather cost-prohibitive). Readers can then donate to the current FD Family using the Donate button over in my side bar. When we have enough funds, I order the Flat Daddy, and then the people there make it and ship it directly to the family.

And now, today's Flat Daddy family, in the words of my friend Danyelle Ferguson:

The Bauman Family

Michael and Rachel Bauman have a military love story. The couple first met in Afghanistan in 2005 while Rachel was serving in the Air Force and Michael in the Army.

They were married in February 2006. Together, they have a yours, mine & ours family, which includes four kids between the ages of 1 1/2 and 10 years old.

Michael left for a tour in Iraq in March and will be there for a year. He joined the Army right out of high school in 1996 and has been stationed at Fort Knox, Fort Sill, and Fort Leavenworth. His family is currently at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

The Bauman family enjoys watching movies together, going for family walks, and playing with their two English Mastiffs, Sarge and Carmel. While Dad is serving our country, Mom plans to stay at home with their kids.

So far, the deployment has been met with mixed challenges. Rachel’s mother, who planned to help during the deployment, suddenly fell ill and passed away early in May. Michael was able to come home for two weeks to help with the funeral.

The family was grateful to be together during those first few weeks, but having Dad leave a second time was particularly difficult for the kids. They look at pictures of Dad and sleep with their military Dad dolls each night.

Receiving a big Flat Daddy will add more comfort to their days.

When asked about her husband’s service, Rachel said, “As a former active duty soldier, I am proud of my husband and his willingness to serve our country. I know the next year won't be easy for our family or for him to be away from us, but we are going to do our best to communicate together as often as possible and remind the kids Daddy loves them every day.”

Daddy Bauman

Okay, folks! Let's get the Baumans a Flat Daddy. Ready, go!

(Oh, and so you know: Daddy Bauman? That's Danyelle's brother!)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

WNW: Homophones the Sequel

I keep a running list of homophone blunders I come across, and when it gets long enough, we get another Word Nerd Wednesday featuring the latest fun.

7 more word pairs to keep straight:

  • If you're struggling to make ends meet, you eke out a living, meaning you get it with great difficulty.
  • When you open the pantry and a mouse scurries between your feet you shriek, "Eek!"

I'm going to be honest; this is a word pair I regularly pause to think over to make sure I get it right.
  • When I write a novel, it's discrete, individually distinct from any other.
  • If Sammy hears a juicy piece of gossip, she knows how to be discreet by using good judgment and not blabbering it about publicly.

  • In high school, I was generally too shy to speak up. I had to learn to be bolder in class.
  • I used to live on a street named after a huge gray boulder, a stone taller than my ten-year-old self.

I've seen this pair mixed up a lot lately, with the second word used as the first, even by highly educated folks. It has me scratching my head. A refresher:
  • Laura had to to decide between buying the red or green blouse and opted for the latter. In other words, she's now the proud owner of a green blouse, since it was listed second.
  • Had Laura arrived at the store an hour later, the green one might have already been sold, so she'd have bought the red one.
I address this pair in my grammar book, but it bears repeating. The first word here (passed) is a verb that already happened:
  • As Dave rode his bike to work, cars passed him awfully close.
The other word (past) could be either a noun or a preposition. (It can also be an adjective, but let's keep it simple for today.)
  • Noun: Tell me about your the last three years of your past.
  • Preposition: Scott walked right past Julie without recognizing her.

allot/a lot
Peeve, peeve, peeve. First of all, note that I didn't write alot. That would be because it's not a word. You need the space between the A and the LOT. TWO words. For the love.

The two words in action:
  • Pete planned to allot thirty minutes for his lunch break at work.
  • On second thought, make that forty-five. He was starving and knew he'd eat a lot.

This is a recent confused pair. I'm guessing it has something to do with the popularity of American Idol. (Although if that's true, wouldn't more people know the difference? It's a puzzler.)
  • Janice planned lots of activities for summer to keep her children from being idle.
  • Jenny's mother wished she'd find someone else to look up to instead of her idol, Lindsay Lohan.
The other day, I borrowed a book from my dad that will likely inspire future WNW posts and will definitely bring me lots of nerdy joy: Diction of Confusing Words and Meanings.

I'm salivating already.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Random Thoughts on Disneyland

I've been absent from my blog of late. I meant to schedule some posts for while I was gone, but obviously that didn't happen. I can say that in the interim, my writer brain was all a-flurry, and I couldn't help but think of funny Facebook status updates or tweets, stuff I wouldn't be posting during the trip.

This was my kids' second time to Disneyland. The last was four and a half years ago, long enough for them to have forgotten a lot and for the youngest to grow so tall that there was only one ride she couldn't go on. (To her dismay; she really wanted to ride Screamer. She's maybe an inch too short and might have slipped through with her shoes on, but Mom is paranoid and wouldn't let her try.)

Much like I did after spending weeks doing Costco book signings, I couldn't help but observe Disneyland and find several amusing things about our time there. A sampling:

I Can't Turn off My "What If" Button
In one shop, the kids made Disney-themed stamped pennies, where the coin is stretched out and pressed with an image. Glass encases the machine so you can watch it happen. As the cylinder rolled across one penny, I couldn't help but picture what would happen if a finger got caught in there and the cracking, oozing damage that would ensue.

I made the mistake of mentioning it to the kids. "Ew, Mom! Stop it with the writer imagining stuff already!"

Sticker Shock Is Relative
When I first passed a churros stand and later a cotton candy stand, I about choked at the $3.50 price tag. And we won't even discuss actual meals, whether in the park or out of it. If I wasn't careful, I could blink and spend a week's worth of groceries on a basic meal for our family of six. But by the third day in the park, spending forty bucks on a few ice cream cones (and on a brand found in our local grocery store) no longer fazed us.

Families that Laugh Together Have the Most Fun
Sure, we had our moments of groaning, eye rolling, and siblings vying for their own space ("She stepped on my toes!"), but for the most part, we had fun. Somehow we hit the Grizzly water rapids ride in California Adventure at just the right time two days in a row, riding it a total of five times. We laughed harder as a family during that one ride than any other.

Mom's a Child at Heart (And Sometimes Has Good Ideas)
I haven't been to Disneyland nearly as often as some people, but in the few times I had been there, I'd never attended the parade. This trip, I insisted we go to one. The announcement elicited eye rolling from the older kid crowd. I persisted. We got a decent spot and waited.

And it was awesome.

My youngest was tickled over and over again when princesses and other characters waved at her (or at least looked like they did). Ariel in particular did notice her, stroked her own red hair, then pointed at my daughter's matching red hair, smiled and waved. Made my girl's day.

When it was over, all four kids agreed that the parade was totally worth seeing.

Souvenir Choices Improve with Age
Last time we went, I cringed when the kids chose lame souvenirs like an electronic toy that mimicked a cell phone and had a calculator, a photo album (never used), and a squeezy plastic thing that oozed worms from a brain. This time, each child wanted to take home something meaningful, and in every case, that ended up being something they'd actually use that would last and they'd have fun memories from.

Dorothy Was Right
As fun as the trip was, when it was time to go home, we were ready. I drove the leg that went through Death Valley and eventually to St. George. Entering the gorgeous landscape of southern Utah sent a sweet surge through me. Home.

Part of the feeling could have been the fact that Death Valley is so dang ugly, but I have to say, southern Utah is gorgeous. (Oh, and I got to see the St. George Temple, which always brings me warm fuzzies for obvious reasons.)

SO MUCH happened on the trip; I could write post after post about it, including all the inside jokes that developed, but I'll end with this, my favorite "what the crap?" moment:

The Masochistic Woman
By day three, my hips, knees, and feet were killing me. (Note to self: call the chiropractor ASAP.) As we boarded the Jungle Cruise, I noticed a woman behind us that didn't seem to fit in. She wore a flowing, plum-colored dress. That alone seemed odd. Who wears flowing gowns in an amusement park?

Worse, the dress was held up by nothing more than a strap around her neck. Hm. Few rides are conducive to dresses, let alone fancy ones like this. And the California sun isn't particularly forgiving on backs and shoulders that are totally exposed to UV rays, which they were thanks to both the dress and her fancy up-do hair.

Huh. I thought. Odd.

Then the kicker: She wore four-inch heels.

My feet were protesting the seemingly endless miles I'd traversed (and the hours I'd waited in lines) in my comfy shoes. Why in the name of Dr. Scholl's was she wearing torture devices on her feet at Disneyland?

It wasn't until I noticed who she was with and how she behaved that the likely reality dawned on me. She and her daughter were with a man and his daughter. Both girls were about the same age. They looked so different from one another, it was clear whose child was whose. Based on body language, the couple didn't know one another that well. She flirted and cooed and at times looked unsure of what to say or do. And both had bare ring fingers.


I'm betting it was a date, and she was trying to impress the guy by looking hot. I'm curious: Did he buy into it? Or did he realize that she's a few Mickey ears short by wearing a get-up she could have attended a wedding in?

People-watching is research. It's a writer's excuse to spy, wonder, and, at times, walk away totally bewildered. It's fun to think of motivations and personalities and wonder why someone does what they're doing.

So I had to think: What if the location of the date was a surprise? Maybe the guy just told her a time, and she got gussied up, only to find out they were heading to the Magic Kingdom. Then the guy was the idiot for not telling her how to dress. So many options.

I was on the verge of blisters and tears with my good shoes. So her poor, poor feet! I'm wishing I could find her and ask if she was hobbling an hour later.

And, more importantly, whose brilliant idea it was to wear such a ridiculous get-up when it was bound to make her one of the most miserable people in the happiest place on earth.

I'm a writer . . . I'm sure I can use that somewhere.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Whoa. You're in THAT Group?

When writers (published or unpublished) ask who is part of my critique group, that's the response I usually get.

Yes, I'm in THAT group. I'm one of the members who's been there the longest.

The next reaction is: How did you get to be so lucky?

Before I go on, let's back up. Here are the seven members of my group:
And James Dashner is a past member. (The first chapters of The Maze Runner were read aloud around my kitchen table.)

So yes. Whoa. I'm in that group. How did I get in?

I certainly didn't just get lucky one day, managing to sneak into an amazing group with writers who'd all been published multiple times and won lots of awards.

That's not how we started out. That's who we became.

Below is a collage of our book covers and awards. (This doesn't count the books published by a couple of current members who joined after being published or since leaving the group. It's solely books published and awards received while in the group.)

I know. Amazing company.

So I'm am lucky, in one sense. I've been part of this great critique group for eleven and a half years.

Our group began with a bunch of aspiring writers who happened to live in the same general area. Our only publishing credits were a few articles here and there. We bumped along for a few years, trying to find our legs as we figured out what we were doing. The group morphed over time as members have moved in and out, as goals and priorities for some people changed.

Today, it's something else altogether, and we have the publications and awards to prove it. But that's not a result of sheer luck. It's a result of other things, like hard work and friendship and synergy.

Nearly two decades ago as I sat in a university class about the Romantic poets, I was amazed at the wild coincidence of how the most successful poets of the era all knew each other and were good friends. They hung out together, read one another's work, and offered suggestions.

What were the chances?

I get it now. It wasn't a coincidence at all. The Romantics were essentially an amazing critique group. Their friendship and support are the reasons they were all so successful and why, two hundred years later, we're still reading their words.

I can say without any hesitation that I wouldn't be where I am in my writing career (or skills or sanity) without my critique group.

At last night's meeting, we thought back to our beginnings and talked about where we've come from. We laughed a bit at the writers we were ten years ago, seeing how much we've all grown.

Granted, I doubt we're destined for the history books like the Romantics were. (Although a former member is already a NY Times bestseller, so who knows . . .)

But what I do know is that these people are like family to me. We're there to cheer one another on, to cry together when things don't go quite right. To laugh and giggle and crack jokes that help ease the tension of the writing life. (I think last night's meeting might have had more tweetable one-liners than any other. Too bad my computer and phone were in the other room.)

Our success is largely a result of that friendship and support.

They're ten shades of awesome, and I am, indeed, very lucky. If I have any say in the matter, I'll never, ever leave.


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