Archive | June, 2014
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My first ever guest author speaks!

25 Jun

One of my very best friends – ever!! – lives in England, from where she has crafted an enviable career as an author. Because she loves happy endings, her books have mostly been in the romance genre, specifically set during the English Regency period. She had become virtually a walking encyclopedia of all things Regency, and has been of enormous help to me as I struggle to produce a novella in the time it used to take her to craft a scintillating and sparkling full-length novel!  Recently, she has turned her attention to the Medieval years of 1480-1500 or thereabouts.

Someone else (not me, this time!) asked her for some helpful hints about writing, and she sent them on to me, as well. “Oh, joy!” I cried, a guest author for my blog! The first ever. Somehow that seems quite fitting, because I believe her to be a fabulous writer, and who better to share her wisdom with us than the multi-published SANDRA HEATH WILSON!!!  Here are her eleven commandments.

(1)    Always keep your story within its setting – if it is to be in the past, then choose your words accordingly. Modern anachronisms soon have a reader laughing instead of taking it seriously. Inappropriate speech will soon cause the reader to give up on it. For instance, someone from the Jacobean period would not use gangsta rap, and a Norman warlord would not take out his pocket watch and say, “Good lord, is that the time? Must fly. Byeee”. An agent of mine once told me that a manuscript was submitted to him that had Joseph, Christ’s earthly father, ploughing a field in the heat and taking out a red-and-white spotted handkerchief to mop his brow. A red-and-white spotted handkerchief? Really? The manuscript was not accepted, even by the agent, let alone a publisher. People of the past did not speak, behave, think as we do now. It is important to always bear this in mind.

(2)    Punctuation, grammar, spelling – all must be synchronised and correct. No jumping from tense to tense, and always use the same quotes for conversation, not curly or straight as you feel like it. Be consistent in everything. (Except being dull!)

(3)     Break your story into reasonable paragraphs. NEVER have long paragraphs that become difficult to read because the place can be lost by the eye. The eye will pick up again more easily with smaller paragraphs. L-O-N-G paragraphs = BORING. A whole page taken up by one paragraph is likely to be skipped in its entirety.

(4)    If you are writing non-fiction, the same rules apply regarding consistency, punctuation, paragraphs, etc. Never preach, but set out your case in an agreeable, reasoned way. If the subject matter is contentious, don’t make it worse by stating your view aggressively, as if you are right and everyone else is wrong. If the subject can be written about in an inviting and engaging way, do so. Brownie points are gained by being eminently readable. Plod along, and you won’t be particularly liked as a writer. Nor will your reasoning/arguments be as well absorbed.

(5)    In fiction, unless you intend your characters to be unpleasant, which doesn’t happen that often, always be sure to keep the reader on their side. It’s no good creating people for whom no one gives a tinker’s.

(6)    Describe your characters, fix them in the reader’s mind. Just giving names or writing he/she isn’t good enough. You want your readers to see what you see, so make sure they do.

(7)    To go back to setting, make sure you give at least a sensible inkling of where they all are. If it’s Greece, describe Greece. If it’s New York, make sure the look/feel of NY is almost tangible to your reader. The same with time of day, weather, seasons, and so on. One of the things my readers like about my books is that I obey the above rules. They like description and scene-setting, but don’t go on for page after page. Pick out salient details that will create a picture in the reader’s mind.

(8)    Remember to move your characters around with some sort of continuity. If someone has just been seated, don’t have them take a seat again a few sentences later. In your mind’s eye you are seeing it all as if it’s a film, so no bloopers, please, about who is doing what, to whom, where or when. What you see and feel, your reader must see and feel, too.

(9)    Keep the action flowing. No doldrums. You don’t want your reader nodding off because they—and you—have lost the plot. So – definitely do not be tedious. Don’t be tempted to dwell on something that is really immaterial to the plot or general story. Ask yourself, if I take all this out, will it make any different to the flow of the plot? If the answer is no, then ditch it. Keep finely focused on your story.

(10)    If writing anything historical, include some known background, but don’t go into too much detail. Fewer people these days know a great deal of our history, and their interest will only be held by just enough information—too much and they’re nodding off again. They want to open the pages and ‘see’ a rattling good costume drama, not the Close Rolls of the reign of Henry VIII. So entertain them, be a story-teller, not a historian. You want them to enjoy your writing and share your enthusiasm.

(11)    Respect your reader. It is no good if you think you are writing for fools. Being a writer does not make you superior. You need readers, but they might soon not need you. Never forget that.

Sandra’s newest book is the first of a trilogy about Cicely Plantagenet, second daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville.  Richard III is also a major character – thus the title of the book is Cicely’s King Richard. It is available now from Amazon.co.uk, and will soon be available in the US. It is a ravishing story that will not let you put it down, once you’ve begun to read it.

Thank you for this very helpful treatise, my friend!

Thank YOU for reading, and as always, if you have questions or comments, please write to me at: bookmechanicATgmail.com

 

What if — or Just in case . . .

11 Jun

Cover MockupWhat would you do if one of your loved ones was suddenly admitted to an Intensive Care Unit? Even folks with medical backgrounds don’t always know who is who and what is what in an ICU. Regardless of the kind of unit, generally, they all operate under similar rules and policies.

But, what if you need extra help – of whatever kind – and don’t know who to ask?  What do all those people do, anyway? Why are there so many people in there? Are they all necessary?

I’d like to tell you about the latest book of which I am a part.

I am fortunate to live in Cleveland (by choice!) where we have nationally-ranked hospitals. The Cleveland Clinic may be the best known of these, and perhaps ten or so years ago, the Clinic (as it’s known here in town) formed its own publishing company, with an expansive program of books to be co-authored by one (or more) of their physicians and a free-lance writer.

I was fortunate enough to be selected to work with a bright young man – J. Javier Provencio, a neurologist and intensive care specialist. We were to collaborate on a book about Intensive Care Units. Neither of us had a real clue as to what we wanted to do, or just how to approach the topic, which is much like an iceberg – 90% of it and what it does is mostly unknown or understood by non-medical personnel.

Javier took me on a tour of several of these units, and left me with so many unanswered questions, I hardly knew where to start finding answers. I made notes and by the time of our next meeting, two weeks later, I had a list of things to which I would want answers, under those circumstances.

I remembered when my Mom was in the hospital for the final time – in an ICU, as it happens, and I knew nothing, and they weren’t going to tell me anything, either. I was the only child, but she had married again, and so, her husband was the only one they really wanted to talk to. He was about as talkative as a rock, so I finally pitched enough tantrums to get some answers, even if they weren’t exactly the ones I wanted.  Five days after Mama died, my 11-year-old daughter ended up in an ICU with a ruptured appendix that had been untreated for several days. Kris nearly died, as well. However, being young and strong and stubborn, she refused to die, and set about proving the doctors all wrong. But that’s another story.

Still, these two episodes made a strong impression on me, and a few years later when I ended up in an ICU, Kris was there to badger the medical staff into telling her what was going on.  Once they reversed themselves and assured her I was probably not going to die – at least probably not then – she settled down, somewhat – and became a fabulous advocate for me. No one ever had a more staunch supporter than I had in my daughter. This last episode was in 1978. It might as well have been during the Flintstones’ era compared to the units Javier demonstrated to me in 2006.

Patiently, he explained the process and we worked out an outline of what we wanted our book to be. First and foremost, although the medical portions HAD to be accurate, we weren’t writing for medical personnel. We wanted our book to be a guidebook for the family of the patient – a non-medical family who would have no good idea what was happening or why, or by whom?  And so, over the next 18 months, we devised our book, with which we were well-pleased. We made a final version of the manuscript to be submitted to the Press.

A week later, the Press was closed down, and a week or so after that, it was sold to a small but well-known publisher in New York. They kept the ms. for about a year, finally deciding that although it was well-done, it wouldn’t fit in their catalogue, so they were returning it to us, with best wishes.

Over the next four years, that happened again. Twice. Two different publishers agreed it was a well-done book, but they didn’t think they’d be able to sell it, so, with regrets, they were returning it.

I had been in favor of publishing it on our own through Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle, and this time around Javier agreed with me, and we are pleased to announce that our book is now available to hopefully answer the myriad questions any family member might have when faced with an Intensive Care Unit.

Since we started the book, Javier and his wife have added a third child to their family. The charming picture at the top of the cover was a collaborative effort by the three of them!

The book is now available as a Kindle http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KIXZHS4

e-book, ($4.99) and in print for $9.99 at https://www.createspace.com/4822447

We now also have a web-site — http://www.intensivecareguidebook.com    In addition, you may send either of us an e-mail to:  intensivecareguidebook@gmail.com

Of course, the hope is that you’ll never need to have this information, but just in case . . .

Best regards,

Kelly Ferjutz  and J. Javier Provencio, MD

We would truly like to hear your questions or comments – at either location: intensivecareguidebook@gmail.com or bookmechanic@gmail.com  Thank you!