Friday, September 30, 2011

Silly Love Song and I'm Not Talking About the Paul McCartney Hit

I've been listening to a lot of Michael Buble lately. I like Michael Buble and it's because of him that I've embraced the kind of music my mother grew up with and the kind that I was first introduced to but became to cool to care about.

However there is one song that has got to be the epitome of really bad love songs. It's an old song. A classic that unfortunately has made a come back due in part not just to Michael but American Idol and Glee as well. And in spite of love being the most popular subject of all kinds of music, this song is probably the only valentine song. Nope, hold it. I just thought of another valentine song which is actually a good one.

So what is that bad love song. My Funny Valentine written by the talented Rogers and Hart. It was most likely written as a joke song yet so many took it seriously.

Let's take a look at the lyrics.

My funny valentine (okay, so far okay. Funny is good. Funny is sexy.)
Sweet comic valentine (hmm. Is valentine turning into a joke)
You make me smile with my heart (that's sweet)
Your looks are laughable (okay now that's just insulting)
Unphotographable (ugly. Great. Valentine is ugly)
Yet you're my favorite work of art (normally that would be nice but now I'm thinking that Valentine is just a painting of a clown)

Is your figure less than Greek (the Greeks were known for being athletic with tons of abs and muscle. So sounds like Valentine is fat)
Is your mouth a little weak (receding chin)
When you open it to speak
Are you smart? (Questioning the intelligence of Valentine. Well if Valentine thinks being called ugly, fat and stupid is romantic then maybe Valentine isn't smart)

The first time I had heard this song I was watching the Captain and Tenille on their variety show. Toni Tenille is actually a good singer and she had a big hit with "Love Will Keep Us Together" a decent song written by the talented Neil Sedaka. She also had a hit with "Muskrat Love" a song about two rats in love. Why anyone would think that rats in love is romantic I have no idea but it was a huge hit. Which is why they gave her and her silent husband a variety show that called for her to sing "My Funny Valentine" to her two bulldogs who panted heavily during the song because bulldogs are bred to not be able to breathel. The bulldog inspired the phrase "so ugly it's cute" which makes it entirely appropriate although gaggy to sing My Funny Valentine to one.

Maybe I'm wrong but shouldn't you find your valentine beautiful no matter what they really look like? Doesn't love make us deaf, blind and stupid? Isn't it supposed to otherwise no relationship would ever last?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Because I Won and I Want to Win More

I won! I won! I won! Yep, I won a copy of One Wish.

CJ Hill is having another giveaway. This time it's two books. My Unfair Godmother by Janette Rallison and CJ's own debut novel Slayers which is out now.

I haven't quite figured out what the cover of Slayers is. It looks like some kind of shark to me.

For a more detailed look and a chance to enter go to An Author Incognito.

Congrats to C.J. on her first novel.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Because I Like to Win Stuff

C.J. Hill over at Author Incognito is giving away a free copy of Just One Wish by Janette Rallison.

She's also announced the debut of her first novel. Slayers will be out on September 27.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mish Mash

Disney is re-releasing the Lion King in 3-D. Was this necessary? What now, all the past movies will be released in 3-D? It's not like 3-D is even new. It's been around since the 50's. Makes me wonder what other movies could be in 3-D. The Star Wars saga (if they add movable seats you really will feel like your in a star war) Indiana Jones (imagine having that stone rolling at you), Jaws (you will be afraid again of going in the water) and the Exorcist. Oh, please not the Exorcist. I don't want pea soup spit up on me.


I stumbled across some cartoons that express my feelings about writing papers for college.

Hello? Hello? Note to salespeople. If you don't answer me when I say Hello then I'm assuming that you're a stalker and will be forced to call the police and report a heavy breather. And it is not my fault when you finally answer my hello that I can't understand your heavy accent.

When I went looking for a picture I put into google telephone monster images. Most of the images that came up were of Lady Gaga.


Speech that annoys me. The word is ASK not AXE. I don't know of any dialect where the word ask is legitimately turned to AXE. I don't care if it's Ebonics. I speak English.  If you want to ask me something that's fine. If you want to axe me then I'll have to run because that is just too dangerous for my taste.

And to those who say "and what not". They add this to speech when they're listing things or supposed to be listing things. Paper boats, a rocket and what not. What does that exactly mean? Is a whatknot a hairstyle? Is it an alien? As a toast master judge I had to sit through a 4H speech by a girl who was supposed to be talking about an aspect of training horses. There were what nots littered throughout her speech. Does a what not have to do with a horse?


What to read a funny book written in 1917? Yes, they wrote funny books back then. This one actually reads like it was written today. Check out my review at Views from Hobbit Hole.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Review of The Key of Kilenya

For those of you who like light fantasy, read the review I wrote of:

Andrea was also kind enough to read the review and leave a comment. I'm surprised at the authors who know I'm reviewing their work who don't come and read the reviews and make a comment. When I had my book out I wanted to read whatever anyone said about it. Of course this isn't about authors who don't know I've reviewed them, but there are several who have known. So it's nice when an author takes time to acknowledge a review. It isn't just me. Many reviews from other bloggers on these virtual blog tours are not commented on by the authors. Andrea Pearson has taken time to say thank you to her reviewers and that is greatly appreciated.

I'm looking forward to reading more of her work.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Left to Write: The Information Dump

I'm sure you've all come across this. You're reading merrily away and then all of a sudden there's a whole bunch of background information told in a way that reads like a police report. The author has decided that you need to know absolutely everything about this character right now because there's no way that you'll be able to understand anything otherwise.

Even worse, sometimes this information is told to you in the middle of exciting action or intense dialogue. For some reason the author feels a need to take a break and let you in on why these two people are fighting or what led up to the action, or how come the hero is afraid of snakes or why the dog likes to turn around five times instead of three which is what normal dogs do. Whatever the reason, the author stops the action for no reason other than to fill in her audience.

Okay so your writing and you realize that maybe your reader needs to know something. There are ways to do this without doing the dreaded information dump.

First - Does the reader need to know that now? Can it wait for later? If there's action going on or an intense conversation the answer is yes it can wait for later. Do not interupt an exciting moment to reminisce. It's not the place. There are other moments in your novel for reminiscing. It's okay for your reader to wait for answers to questions they might have. It's good for your reader to have questions. It is not good for your reader to throw your book across the room in frustration.

Second - Is this information really important? Really? Does the entire background story of this character matter to this particular incident in his/her life? Does the fact that your character have a BA in French and has travelled the world matter right now when she's rushing her child to the hospital? Maybe it does. But if it doesn't just leave it in your personal files of character development. The info needed might come up later, but it might not. Just be careful that if it does come up later you're not pulling a rabbit out of a hat. You know "Oh, by the way, Sarah just happens to have a degree in French and it just happens to appear right at this particular moment when she's trapped in the lair of a half crazed mime in the middle of Paris." If this is a danger of happening then weave the information into the story somewhere else in a more natural way.

It is possible too that your reader never has to know why your hero hates snakes. Maybe the reader can just accept that about him and realize that there is a reason.

Third - Is there some other way to tell your reader this info. Maybe it can come up in dialogue. You have to be careful doing this. You don't want your characters telling other characters things they already should know. But maybe you can bring it up casually. Maybe Sarah mentions her ability to speak French to a new aquaintence, or maybe there's a place where she can naturally use this ability, like ordering coffee in a cafe in France or Quebec.

I'm also a fan of the flashback. Not everyone is, but I like them because it gives you an opportunity to show what happened instead of telling. Instead of your hero telling us how he met his wife, maybe you can turn back the clock and show what he remembers. It puts the reader right into the story and allows the author to give a more honest accounting - or not. It may allow the author to lie to us. Who knows. But it makes the telling more interesting.

You can also weave bits of information throughout your story. You don't have to explain everything at once. Little bits can come out at a time. Even within the same scene interupt the information with action or dialogue. Not exciting action and dialogue. Just normal actions and dialogue. Brushing teeth, driving a car, breakfast table conversation - "pass the milk" stuff.

Here's an exercise. Drag out one of your manuscripts and look it over. Is there a spot where there's an excess of information. Is there a better way of imparting it? Try several different ways of giving the information to your reader.

And now for a laugh. How not to impart information through dialogue.

"Susan, even though you're twenty-six and I'm twenty-seven when we were growing up in Regina Saskatchewan everyone thought that we were twins because you skipped a grade," Pamela frowned grumpily. "And now that we're both mothers and you have a two year old girl and I have a three year old boy, people still think we're twins because you colored your hair the same as me even though your skin doesn't look as good with deep brown hair as mine does."

"You're just jealous that I have longer legs than you and that I'm three inches taller and my dress size is two sizes smaller." Susan frowned deeper than Pamela. "And you're also jealous that I have a beautiful Cape Cod house while you're living in the trailer that our Grandmother Jessie from our Mother's side left to you when she died last November."

"Ah hah!" Pamela pointed at her younger sister. "You're jealous that our Grandmother Jessie left something to me. You've always been jealous of me. I bet it drove you crazy when Tom, your old boyfriend, married me instead of you."

Yeah, don't do that. Dialogue can be a great way to give out information, but try not to make your reader want to throw your book into the blender and hit puree.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Virtual Blog Tour

I've done another virtual blog tour review. For those who are not aware of what these are, it's a way for authors to go on tour while still in their pajamas and eating twinkies in front of their computer screens. They send out copies of their books to reviewers like me and wait in anticipation for the gushing raves they are fully expecting. The hope is that people will read these reviews and buy the book.

Now there is a risk involved. Although we're not supposed to gleefully annihalate the authors, neither are we expected to write such glowing reviews that readers will wonder if we fell into a toxi waste dump and became a superhero that blinds people with neon skin. It's about being positive and honest because no book is practically perfect in everyway.

As reviewers, we get paid in copies of the books. That's it. No other money or product changes hands. We also hope that someone will actually read our blogs.

So here's another virtual blog tour review.


Aunt Madge is all riled up. She had a reader write to her asking about advice on those baby beauty contests. You can read that letter and her response here. Ask Aunt Madge and while your at it, don't foreget to read her other pieces of wisdom - her word not mine.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Want to win an ipad?

In conjunction with the release of Pumpkin Roll the author, Josi S. Kilpack, and the publisher, Shadow Mountain, are sponsoring a contest for a new iPad. To enter, leave a comment in the comment section of this blog before November 1, 2011. Winners will be announced and notified November 3rd 2011.
For additional ways to enter, go to

Josi is a good writer. I've reviewed two of her books. To Have and Hold and Tempest Tossed. Plus she's been kind enough to read and comment on my reviews even when they were critical.

Pumpkin Roll is the sixth in the Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Series and it looks like a good one. They all look good. Don't those covers look yummy?

Books in the Series

Oh I wish I could get my hands on them, but I have to spend money on real food and rent.

About Pumpkin Roll

Sadie Hoffmiller is looking forward to spending her favorite baking season of the year making delicious New England recipes in Boston, Massachusetts, with her favorite leading man, Pete Cunningham, as they babysit his three young grandsons. But when the boys insist that Mrs. Wapple, the woman who lives across the street, is a witch, Sadie and Pete are anxious to distract the boys from such Halloween-induced ideas. However, it gets harder and harder to explain the strange things that keep happening, particularly after Sadie learns the eccentric Mrs. Wapple has been attacked in her home.

As the unexplained occurrences escalate, Sadie finds herself embroiled in yet another mystery with life-or-death consequences. Can Sadie discover whoever—or whatever—is behind the mystery before anyone else gets hurt? Or will this be Sadie’s last case?

You can read the first chapter here. Chapter 1 There's a recipe for pumpkin roll as well.

So now I hope I win an ipad. I could really use one.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Left to Write: Dialogue Tags

I don't claim to be an expert, however I have had some small success in publishing and I've learned what I like as a reader. Plus there have been a few that have reluctantly admitted that I'm a strong dialogue writer. So let's talk about those pesky little things called dialogue tags.

What exactly is a dialogue tag?

It's that he said/she said stuff you stick somewhere in your dialogue to let the reader know who is speaking. You wouldn't think writing Tom said or Susan said is hard. It isn't. But writers like to make things complicated.

Before we get started, first you have to erase from your memory everything that your grade six English teacher taught you about dialogue tags, unless your grade six English teacher was a best selling author, in which case he/she would have been in his/her vacation villa in Italy writing his/her next best selling novel and not teaching you grade six English.

Recently I was reading a conversation between two people, and it became the reason why I ended up writing this post. In this conversation she screeched, then he grumbled, then she harped, then he snarled, then she sneered, which made me groan and him to glare and then he reminisced for awhile to give the reader background information even though he was still in the middle of a fight, which caused me to scream.

Forget about snarling, screeching, and sneering. Just say said.

But said is boring and it doesn't tell the reader how they said it.

Exactly. Said is so boring that it becomes invisible. Your reader won't even notice the word said. And why do you want to tell the reader how the character says something? Shouldn't you show it?

What does a sneer look like? What does it feel like? Show your reader what your point of view character is seeing and feeling. Show us how the other characters are reacting.

But if I use said then whole lines of he said'/she said looks stilted and amateurish.

In a conversation between two characters you don't need to identify the speaker in very line. You just need a reminder every few lines. Readers can follow along quite well. However, this gets tricky when you have more than two people speaking.

In that case show us what's happening.

Tom brushed his hair from his eyes and adjusted the goggles over his face with his gloved fingers. “Race you down! Last one there buys dinner.”

In that sentence, the word said doesn't even appear. Yet we know Tom said something because the statement is connected with his actions. Not only do we know what Tom said, but how he said it without using any explanation. We get that he's excited and confident. We've probably discerned that he's skiing and if we haven't, the next couple of paragraphs will make it clear.

Now lets talk about those little ly adverbs that your English teacher taught you to tack onto the end of said to make your sentences more interesting. You probably spent a few hours with these guys and your teacher never told you that he sent out all kinds of work to publishers and doesn't understand why he's never been published.

“How are you?” she asked cheerily.

“I'm just fine,” he said grumpily.

“Well, you don't have to be sarcastic,” she said angrily.

"I'm not reading any more of this." The editor said pointedly.

Don't do them. Just don't. Not unless you want editors to use your manuscript for the paper plane contests that they have once a week in the cafeteria.

You need to trust your dialogue. Often the dialogue will automatically tell us how something is being said.

You need to trust your characters. If we know that he is generally a grumpy person we don't need to be told that he says something grumpily.

You need to trust your setting. If someone enters into a kitchen where bread is baking, and a character says “What's that smell?” then that's enough. We don't need to read “What's that smell?” she asked rapturously. You might want to show us how she's reacting. Maybe her eyes are closed and she takes a deep breath. Maybe she adds "it's marvelous". But don't tell us how she says it. Maybe the fact that she uses the word marvelous tells us something about her character that you don't have to explain.

You need to trust your audience. For the most part your audience can figure out without the sneering and the harping that a fight is going on and the characters are not getting along.

Aren't there exceptions to the rules?

There are always exceptions to the rules. “Stop! she said, doesn't work. It looks stupid. Not only that but it gives the reader opposing statements. You need to use yelled or shouted. It is redundant, but it supports the exclamation mark. The same with question marks. When someone is asking a question, you can use the word asked in place of said. In fact there are a few words that are almost as invisible as said  that are acceptable if not used too much- asked, stated, commented, added for example,. Y ou can even use an action word as a tag. “You're kidding,” he laughed. “I'm not going,” she pouted. Laughing and pouting are concrete words. Sneering isn't. Sneering is a perception word.

If you are going to insist on using an ly word as a tag even though I've told you not to, then use them sparingly. The same goes for words instead of said. Do not under any circumstances, unless you are deliberately writing a parody, use these words throughout a conversation. Even those concrete words need to be used sparingly, otherwise you've got people just pulling a bunch of faces which can get quite unattractive and distracting.

Here's a practical exercise. Get out a piece of dialogue that you've written, or write a new one. Now don't put in any tags at all. Just write it like two people talking. Or take out all the tags you've put in. Now read it over. Is it clear? What needs clarifying? Can you tell who's speaking? Now you can put in the tags. Just where they are needed. Put in said. How does it look? Can you do something different than “he said” without telling us how he said it? What is going on in the conversation? Put that in. Don't overdue it. The dialogue should sparkle on its own. It only needs a little support. Why encase it in an entire cast when it only needs a cane?

If you're writing a long piece such as a novel and you want to use that ly word because you don't know how else to convey it, put it in for now, highlight it in red, and after you're done writing and you're in the editing process, go back to those red words and ask yourself how you can show the reader how your character is saying things. If he's saying things sadly, then show us what he looks like. If he's the POV character then let us know how he feels. What does sad feel like? What does it look like? How is his statements and behaviors affecting others visually?

But what if the reader doesn't understand what I'm trying to convey?

Then the reader doesn't. She'll figure it out. She'll ask questions. Maybe she doesn't have to know everything right now. Not every question gets an answer.

For some fun there's something called a swifty. Years ago there was a series of books about Tom Swift, a boy detective. The writer was liberal with his ly words and as a result the term “swifty” was born. A swifty is a tag that is a pun of the statement. Here are some examples.

"I'll have a martini," said Tom, drily.

"Who left the toilet seat down?" Tom asked peevishly.

"Pass me the shellfish," said Tom crabbily.

"That's the last time I'll stick my arm in a lion's mouth," the lion-tamer said off-handedly.

"I might as well be dead," Tom croaked.

"We just struck oil!" Tom gushed.

"They had to amputate them both at the ankles," said Tom defeatedly.

"Who discovered radium?" asked Marie curiously.

"Hurry up and get to the back of the ship," Tom said sternly.

And that's why you don't use ly words.