Pen Names

So the other night I looked at the Permanent Editor and said, “I’m going to write under an new pen name.”

He looked at me as though I had lost my mind.

So, here is the story.

Circa 2001 I started writing some freelance books for White Wolf Games. I did not have the foresight then to know that I would become Lynn Perretta, so I wrote as Lynn Davis. Fast forward to the future and connecting my work as Lynn Davis to Lynn Perretta is not that easy. Which is a shame because Mage, the game I wrote for, still has fans and with the resurgence in the Classic World of Darkness, I hold out hope that people will seek it out again.

So, you will probably notice if you pay attention that I have Harbin & Klai now under Lynn Davis and not Lynn Perretta. Yes, it is a pen-name thing, not marital changes. Sorry, not sorry, to all of my crushes.

So, I have a pen name for erotica.

I have Lynn Davis for paranormal and fantasy-type things.

Lynn Perretta I am going to save for “normal” things – that is stories that don’t involve vampires of varying types, angels, ghosts, and Nephilim.

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Indies, the World, and Anxiety

So, I love independent publishing. When it comes to publishing short works, I find it to be ideal. I like anthologies and magazines, and for any writer they certainly have their value. Both are exposure to a wider market and a way to test the mettle of your work. Will someone else find it worthy?

In the 21st Century, that does not have to be the only avenue of an author wanting to get short works into the hands of readers. It is one of the things I love about independent publishing.

That said … I noticed that the last month or so, I have had modest but steady sales. It has been nice to see and has left me wondering how to turn modest and steady into moderate and steady. Marketing and exposure, obviously, but finding the right way to go about that … affordable, of course, to an indie still coming into her own.

Then the last few days happened and anxiety sets in. The problem with being an indie, I don’t have a marketing arm looking at figures and the market and interpreting what they see so that I understand what is happening.

I can only play guessing games.

UK sales had been strong for me the past month or so. I am wondering with the current events on that side of the pond, if that is affecting my sales at all. I hope not. E-books are not very expensive. I think the highest price book that has been going recently is $1.99. If it is recent happenings in the UK driving sales down – I know how tough things are for me if I am not willing to spend a dollar or two on things.

As anxious as I am about sales, I can’t ignore the news that comes across my feed. Things are turbulent and insecure, maybe more than I had realized.

Everything surrounding Brexit is complex and convoluted. It is also heated and I don’t think it is going to be resolved quickly. In discussing it on this side of the pond, we look at geo-political impacts and lessons we can take as an electorate with our own upcoming election. As with the UK, in the US we have a lot of disillusioned voters. Polls may point one way, but in this environment that is no guarantee of outcome.

In all of that, though, I hope that we don’t forget that for all of the politicians, elections, trades, and regulations, that there is a human element to this. People’s lives are being affected by this in ways we cannot even see.

We can only guess at them through a dashboard.

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Strong Female Characters

I know, I just wrote about this, but I’m going to do so again. I’d like to do my small part in turning up the volume on this.

Disney has done done it again.

Star Wars Rogue One has a female lead. Hopefully, they remember that in the brand marketing. I mean really, did they forget when making the toys, cereal boxes, etc, that Rey was in the movie and, you know, central to the plot?

I digress.

I pretty much said everything I want to say about Rogue One. I love that there is another female lead. I love that my daughter will get to see that and will probably want her toy too. She got Rey for Christmas.

When Rogue One is successful – and it will be, oh it will be (it is Star Wars, after all) – we will probably see more and more female lead characters. Which got me thinking – what makes a good female lead?

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If You Don’t Like Female Leads in Sci-Fi/Fantasy, You May Want to Rethink the Fandoms You Are In

Bravo to Disney for another female lead in a science fiction movie. It is not the first that a franchise has seen a leading lady, and you would think after the awesome that is Ripley, fan boys would not be afraid of them.

Oh how silly.

The Good Ole Boys are at it again. What amazed me, though, were the handles … specifically the Robotech-inspired handle.

Now I will forgive you if you do not know what Robotech is, but only long enough for you to educate yourself. I know I am decades late in warning but … spoilers are ahead.

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An Experiment

I am going to try an experiment and see if this will work.

 

You should click on me and buy all of Lynn’s books right now.

(The Silence and Doctor Who are properties of BBC and their respective creators and are no way affiliated with The Writer’s Manifest, Lynn Perretta, or any of her books. Use of this picture is shameful self-promotion by a dedicated Whovian who is desperate to sell her books and should not be taken as an endorsement by the BBC, the creators of Doctor Who, or anyone with any kind of decency. In fact, when they find out I am doing this they will probably be pretty pissed (as in angry not drunk) at me for doing this. Sorry guys. I hope you understand.)

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Time to Start a Flame War

The Oxford Comma – Yes or No?

Yes to the Oxford Comma. It ensures you have no confusion if a list might be ambiguous. It is the difference between listing your greatest influences and being a megalomaniac. Screw rearranging the sentence when a simple punctuation point will fix the problem.

ex: I want to thank my greatest influences: my parents, Ayn Rand and God. or I want to thank my greatest influences: my parents, Ayn Rand, and God.

Save yourself and your editor time. If you’re the editor asking this question, save yourself time and just put in the stupid comma.

One Space, Two Space, Red Space, Blue Space?

For the love of all that is holy (or your typesetters if you are writing for publication – typesetters may or may not be holy) do not use two spaces after a period. Some people are going to argue about that and I will just tell you now, times they are a-changin’. They actually changed already, and if you go to the places where rules are, you will find it. Only one space after a period.

Two spaces is not needed anymore. Once upon a time you were taught to do it because you were using a typewriter with monospaced fonts. That’s a big word that means that all letters were the same size. So i and m and i and z were the same size on the page. Now, as you can see here, that is not the case. Fonts are sized proportional to the letter and punctuation. In the case of commas, colons, semi-colons, and periods and their ilk, it means that proper spacing is already added.

If you write for publication and you do the extra spacing, then your typesetter just has to take it out – and will probably be looking for where she put the voodoo doll of you. Back when I was editing, I had to constantly take out extra spaces. Just stop doing it.

But the platform I publish on will just take it out anyway.

Maybe. Some will. It depends on the coding language. HTML will definitely take it out because it just does not recognize extra spaces. However … let me ask you a question. The last time you put your e-book up on Amazon or Smashwords, did you have lots of problems with it coming out right? I bet you did, because I see it all the time in writing groups. “How do I format my book so that it renders correctly on X?” Well, you do two things. 1. You find their instructions for formatting and follow them. 2. You fix errors – like two spaces after a period. The more work you make the program do to format your book and make corrections to formatting, the more room you leave for program and code errors. Are two spaces why your book does not format right? Maybe, maybe not.

Look at it this way. If you are insisting on using 2 spaces after a period on anything electronic, then you are a Luddite who does not trust this new-fangled computin’ stuff. They screw up all the time and whatever. So why give some computer more room to screw up your magnum opus?

The Ellipses Complex

Bloggers are notorious for making ellipses a thing. We love to toss those little dots everywhere.

See?

So when and how ellipses should be used and what they should look like will vary depending on what format you are writing for. That is the great thing about writing (I’m being facetious): the rules depend. If you are doing academic writing, then hello MLA! If you are a journalist, hello APA! If you’re a writer, then hello the Chicago Manual of Style – and goodbye a shit-ton of money.

No seriously. Of all the style guides I’ve ever had to buy (or in the case of CMoS thought of buying), Chicago is really expensive. It makes me wonder why writers aren’t just using APA or MLA, both of which you can find good resources for online for free. Unless you’re Stephen friggin’ King, you’re not going to be able to afford the CMoS every year.

(I usually use this, which includes APA and MLA as well as a lot of other great resources … OWL).

I digress. I’m not going to get into the different times when it is okay to use the ellipses because that depends on the type of writing. I will get into when it is *not* okay to use them.

It is not okay to use them in place of another correct punctuation. Yes, according to some style guides it is okay to use them in situations where the train of thought (or dialogue) trails off. That means that yes, they will be closing punctuation sometimes when you are writing dialogue. However, only use it when you are supposed to. Do not use it when another form of punctuation is correct (like a period or a comma).

Yes, your editor will fix it. Yes, this is probably why your editor snaps at you, makes snide comments, and otherwise just plain pissy with you. He doesn’t like you.

If you misuse ellipses, I don’t like you either.

 

Holy Over-used Exclamation Points, Batman!

Okay, this one is going to be more about style and being pedantic than any rules.

Your character is yelling, excited, or wants to emphasize something. Do you use a period, a comma, or an exclamation mark?

Well, that depends.

Technically, it is correct to use the exclamation mark (that is what ! is called that you keep using all up in your draft before publishing it on Amazon without editing or proofreading it) any time that you are conveying strong emotion, giving a command, or indicating a raised voice.

Ever heard the saying “just because you can doesn’t mean you should?”

That goes infinity for exclamation points.

Here is the thing. You cannot over use a question mark (the ?). If you or your character are asking a question, even if a dialogue tag follows were you would use a comma, you use a question mark. Why? Because that cues our brains to hear a question when we are reading. If you use the question mark every time it is needed, nothing suffers in how your writing is read.

Sigh … this is going to hurt. Now read this:

Oh my god! This is just the most amazing thing! I love writing this way! It is just so … I need to just shout it from the mountain tops! I never knew exclamation points could be so liberating! I think that I’m in love!

Okay, we’re about to get back to the rest of the discussion. Let this paragraph bring you back down.

By the third or fourth sentence in the example above, I probably sounded like an 80’s valley girl. That is not okay. No one should ever sound that way, even 80’s valley girls. I mean, gag me with a spoon!

Here is the thing, exclamation points look and sound immature to the inner ear. They are fine in moderation. For example, the paragraph directly above. When I use it in the last sentence, it ensures you get the rise in emotion without tainting the other sentences around it and without messing up my voice in the text.

Sometimes, context clues will tell your reader what they need to “hear” when they read.

Mark ran down the block, chasing after Susan. He needed her to stop. He needed her to listen. She was everything to him and he did not want to loose her.

“Susan,” he called after her. “Let me explain!”

Vs

Mark ran down the block, chasing after Susan. He needed her to stop. He needed her to listen. She was everything to him and he did not want to loose her.

“Susan!” he called after her. “Let me explain!”

So both are technically correct. However, in the second example, the exclamation point is getting redundant. Once Mark catches up to Susan, yelling is going to very likely ensue. If I keep using exclamation points, well – the writing is going to suffer. Oh you’ll hear the shouts alright, but you will be annoyed by them. It starts to look like a ten year old is writing, not an adult.

In the first example, it is clear that he yells Susan’s name because I tell you in the dialogue tag that he does. This is one of the times it is okay to tell, by the way. When we read narrative writing, we are used to letting dialogue tags translate into whatever the tag says. Yes it is telling, and telling is bad (except when it is not because writing!), but that is okay because of the tool we are using when telling the reader something.

Now understand that how much you can use exclamation points in narrative writing really is well … a matter of taste. Some readers will be fine seeing multiple ones on a page. Others will be turned off after the first or second. Since you cannot predict this, it is best to use exclamation marks sparingly. Use them when they are absolutely needed to convey the rise in pitch, emotion, or volume. Do not use them when other context clues tell the reader what they will be “hearing.”

 

So I’m sure I have more, but this is enough to get some good flaming going on.

Enjoy!

And good writing.

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More Life … as in new life

So I have not been around for a while. I’m sorry. Life has been catching up. I have been working on some projects and trying to get them wrapped up ASAP.

Why is it important to get them wrapped up, you ask?

Simple.

I’m having a baby.

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Word Count

I started a conversation in a Writer’s Group that I participate in on Facebook. I don’t think, however, that I quite got across the point of what I was asking about.

Here is what I posted to the group:

Why is there a word-count competition?

We talk about word count a lot, as though it is a competition to get books as large as possible.

I have written everything from flash fiction (about 1k) to short stories (anything from 2k – 15k), novellas, and novels (my longest being about 130k words or so).

The storytelling style, the story development, even the enjoyment of the story itself varies between flash-fiction, short stories, novellas, and novels. Even with novels, the style of storytelling is going to vary if your book is 80k, 130k, 180k, the Stand, etc.

So, what do you think happened to the appreciation of both writing and reading the different types of stories?

Is there a way to fix this?

Now, people immediately decided to defend the need for things like:

  • authors monitoring word count
  • word count as a way to differentiate between types of stories
  • complaints against authors who list a 5k story as a “novel”

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Ur Shulim

 

The ruins of Ur-Shulim in present day Syria

The ruins of Ur-Shulim in present day Syria

The word Shulim means “center of the Four Regions”. The City of Ur-Shulim (not to be confused with the Ur-Shulim said to have become Jerusalem) is believed to have been a center of trade for the different diverse settlements in the Middle East in the pre-Sumerian era. It is the largest known city in this region during that time, dating back to between 11,000 and 16,000 BC, depending on dating methods used. The apparent age of the city makes it a very controversial site.While the age of the city falls within the accepted time-frame of human habitation, it pre-dates any known permanent settlements by about 10,000 years.

The city is also far more advanced than any known habitation of the time. It is a large city. The foundation structure, which is all that remains, indicates that the city was actually divided into two symmetrical halves. In mapping out the ruins, the layout of the city follows a pattern matching the symbol that became known as the Symbol of the Four Regions in Sumeria (which would come later).

The connection here is obvious. The settlers of this city would have been the ancestors of the Sumerians. What is interesting is the symmetry of the city. It is built perfectly. At the center of the city is a mound, the excavation of which is its own study.

The ruins themselves are amazing. All that remains of them are the foundations and a few items that may be pottery or parts of ancient weaponry. No archaeological study, however, can produce any evidence of the walls that would have stood above the foundations. The absence of these structures led earlier expeditions in the early 20th Century to conclude that the site was not a city, but merely a geographic anomaly. The understanding that this site was, in fact, a city is far more recent.

There are no histories that remain to tell us what became of this city, or why only the foundations remain. The condition of the site and the ruins rule out war and natural disaster. Some have suggested that the site was abandoned, however abandonment still does not explain the condition of the ruins themselves.

Whatever mysteries this location holds, the answers lie in what little has been found among the foundation and pottery and within the mound in the center of the city.

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