Saturday, December 31, 2011

SitRep Saturday: One Good Cowboy

So I didn't finish editing One Good Cowboy this week. Bad writer, no donut! I did make it through two pages, though, and those two pages saw some added backstory, some character development, and some voice development that the first and second draft were missing.

I also wrote the short summary:
Heather Wild has enough experience with cowboys to know that she doesn't want another one. Ty Youngblood is set on changing her mind.
I'm still working on the longer summary.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Self-Publishing: On Sales

There are places to check out sales data from traditionally-published and self-published authors. I've read many times that romance and erotica are regularly bestselling genres. You can see what that means, numbers-wise, at websites like Erotic Romance: Sales Data. The RWA has a page featuring romantic literature statistics. Erotic Romance reports traditionally-published sales information and while the RWA numbers may include self-published numbers, from what I can gather, that's mostly traditionally-published information, too.

J. A. Konrath dedicated an entire post to discussing his sales figures. The post is a couple of years old, but it's not a bad place to start. Norah Wilson even has a special tag for sharing her sales data. That information is more recent.

Here's my data.




I started in August with one erotic short story collection priced at $0.99. I added romance novelettes in September and November, both priced at $0.99, bringing my total number of books available at the end of November to three. For roughly a week after the release of each book, I offered coupon codes for Smashwords to Twitter followers, blog readers, and my friends and family on Facebook and through email. (Most Smashwords "sales" in August, September, and November were free downloads.) All of my books were approved for premium distribution through Smashwords, but as you can see, the vast majority of my sales came from Amazon.com and the vast majority of those sales are of a single book. (The Cowboy Next Door specifically. I don't have any explanation for it, either.) I don't do too much in the way of promotion: occasionally I tweet about my books and every time someone visits my blog they see the book covers on the right of the page. Mostly I chalk up those numbers to luck and to decent enough writing to grab a reader's attention.

With all of that said, I find those numbers more than satisfying. Okay, frankly, I find them downright exciting. They're encouraging. They give me hope that this self-publishing thing is going to work out. I honestly hoped for slower, steadier growth over a much longer period of time to start seeing numbers like the ones I saw in November.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Cover Reveal: One Good Cowboy

Monday Miscellany: Covers, Holidays & Birthday Shopping

Over the weekend, I came across this photographer and fell in love with his photos. Especially this portfolio. There was one photo in particular that caught my eye, so I emailed Rob Lang to ask about his stock prices for ebook covers up to 10,000 or 500,000 copies (vocabulary I learned from Dreamstime). Unfortunately, he was a bit outside of my price range for now, so I have him bookmarked for later use. I have another cowboy novel in the planning stages and I think I just may spring for one of his photos to use as a cover later this year when it's ready to go. He was quick to respond to email and his prices, despite being out of my range, were actually very reasonable. If you're looking for a good cowboy photo, he might be your man.

Anyway, I ended up finding a really excellent photo to use over on Dreamstime and the cover for the new cowboy WIP is ready to go. I'll post it later on today.

We celebrate Christmas in this house and we had a nice holiday. My daughter's gifts were all a huge hit. I'm really proud of keeping the number of them under control, too. She's one of two grandchildren on my side of the family and an only child in her own home, so the potential for things to get out of hand is really there. The adults here--my sister, my husband, and myself--seemed pretty pleased with their presents, too. I know I am. Do you want to know how boring I am? I was given the new Betty Crocker cookbook and I spent most of yesterday planning meals for the next two weeks featuring main dishes from it.

Today, I think we're venturing out for a bit. My husband's birthday is next week and so I think it's time to get his shopping out of the way since my mother will be here to visit in a few days and the rest of the week is full of doctor's appointments, airport runs, 24-hour-duty shifts, the New Year, finishing editing the new WIP, and lots of reading.

Oh, yes, lots of reading. Starting Wednesday, I'm giving up writing for however long it takes me to finish Witch in Wolf's Clothing by A. M. Belrose, and Supertech and Morgan's Choice by Greta van der Rol. Reading I can do with a house full of people. Writing I can't. I'm just dying to read Ms. van der Rol's other two books, too. I've held off long enough. I'm not looking forward to the empty feeling when I've finished them, but I am looking forward to starting To Die a Dry Death afterward. (Yep, still a fangirl.)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Blog Roundup: December 19 - 25, 2011

In the holiday spirit, Chuck Wendig posted 25 Ways for Writers to Help Other Writers. He also posted this thought-provoking article on branding.

I thought Greta van der Rol's post on the possibility of a "Star Wars-type" galaxy was pretty interesting.

This week, I discovered Roni Loren's Fiction Groupie blog.

Imran Siddiq wrote about character arcs needing change

James Killick wrote about four ways to kill narrative drive.

Keystrokes and Word Counts has this great post on writing through your emotions

I don't know how I missed this one. McQuestionable Musings has 10 tips for new bloggers.

Are you following Sierra Godfrey yet? I love her Google Reader Roundup.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

New E-Reader? Have some free books!

Until January 8, 2012 you can use the following coupon codes to download my books for FREE from Smashwords.com (where, by the way, there are thousands of other great books).

Better with You use code RC67V

Cass Gets Her Kicks use code QX84Y

The Cowboy Next Door use code MB63Y

Please, Sir use code XY84S

Looking for more bargain books? How about checking out my ebook posts Where To Buy Books For Your E-Reader and Free Books!

SitRep Saturday: One Good Cowboy

The new cowboy WIP has been drafted, the editing process has begun, and it now has a short title I'm very pleased with: One Good Cowboy. I have an email in to a professional photographer to ask about his stock photo rates because I think I found the perfect image for a book cover. If that doesn't work out, though, I'll find something else.

How about a sneak preview?

Justin Youngblood had a perfect ass.

Through darkness pierced by the glow of neon beer signs hung on the walls and the dance of colored light from the system set into the rafters over the dance floor, Heather Wild kept her eyes riveted on the curve of that perfect ass. Viewing it was a rare and special treat. She admired the shape of it under the slight sag of his designer jeans. Her eyes moved down the length of his thick, muscular thighs and then back up, over the nicely rounded contours of his buttocks and the fluid lines of his back as he bent over the edge of the pool table. His polo shirt rode up when he made his shot, exposing the pale skin and the dimples just above his low-riding belt. She sighed happily.

A skinny man in painted-on work jeans wandered through her line of sight. Heather wished for a dangerous, fleeting moment that Justin was more like the other men in the room. If he was a cowboy, he would wear the same Levi's or Wranglers as the rest of them. They would be skin tight. They would better show off that ass in all of its perfect glory.

And she wouldn't give a damn about it or him.

It was better that his jeans had come from an urban clothing store in the mall, that his shoes were clean sneakers and not dirty boots, and that his shirt was a textured cotton blend with a popped collar and three tiny open buttons that exposed the base of his throat. It made him different. She liked different. Different excited her.

Her eyes lingered on his biceps, where the snug sleeve only accentuated the bulge of gym-built muscle. Her fingers flexed. Justin was top-heavy, bulky from lifting weights; his strength was for show, not for work. He didn't rope cattle or bale hay or mend fences. He never had and his new MBA ensured that he never would.

She wanted him.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Resources: Publishing Part 2: Self-Publishing

Yesterday, we looked at traditional publishing and I pointed you in the direction of some resources you could use to learn about it. Even if you've already decided to self-publish, I strongly suggest learning everything you can about the traditional publishing industry. It affects self-publishing.

When I decided to self-publish, I read a lot. I read blogs and articles on and from traditional publishers and authors, and I read blogs and articles on and from self-published authors and independent presses. Just about everyone had something useful to share, some bit of information or advice I was able to add to what I'd already learned to deepen my understanding and better help me define my goals and set reasonable expectations.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: goals and reasonable expectations are musts if you go this route.


The Industry

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Resources: Publishing Part 1: Traditional Publishing

Chances are that if you write--and especially if you've come to this blog by way of search engines or Twitter--you want to be read and that means being published. If you're anything like I was eight months ago, your understanding of the publishing industry goes something like "write, submit to publisher, profit." There are a lot more question marks than that.

Traditional publishing, it can be argued, offers the best quality control and the highest prestige. Whenever I think about traditional publishing, I think about the Big Six, big box bookstores, and well-known periodicals. I think about agents, editors, lawyers, public relations managers, bestsellers, movie options, and merchandising rights.

When I started doing research into the possibility of self-publishing, I first did all the research I could on traditional publishing. That meant reading up on the largest publishing houses, on agents, on query letters, on copyright laws, on everything I could think of. I read blogs, I read Writer's Market, I read through publishers' websites.

If you're thinking about (or ready to start thinking about) publishing, the following list of links is for you. It's not complete, not by any means, but for me, the links were good places to start.



The Big Six

Agents

Query Letters

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Miscellany: A Mouthful of Title & Things To Do

Is Take a Chance on the Cowboy too long a title for a novelette-length story? It's the title that keeps popping up as "best," the title I keep circling in my notebook, the title that most efficiently captures the spirit of the story... but I hesitate because it seems like such a mouthful.

This week, I have a to-do list that fills an entire average-sized notebook page. I almost wish I could take a picture of it. Among things I need to take care of are blog posts on publishing resources and sales figures, finding a widget to help me track sales, and generating a tag cloud for this blog. So look for all of those things this week!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Blog Roundup: December 12 - 18, 2011

The Precarious Portentious Perils of Self-Publishing is a must-read for anyone considering taking this route. Chuck also posted 25 Things Writers Should Know About Rejection.

Imran Siddiq of Imran Writes posted What's in a Title? this week.

Aimee Salter asked: Are You Getting to the Heart of Your Characters?

Stella Deleuze shared a spam email she received. If you blog, it's worth reading so that you don't fall prey to the scam.

...and that's it. Wow, slow week. Most blogs are doing giveaways and Christmas-themed posts, which is cool, but not really relevant to my blog roundup posts.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

SitRep Saturday: Cowboys and Titles

The good news is that the new cowboy WIP is action-drafted. I'm cleaning it up in the other window and working out things like awkward conversations and characterization. I managed to finish it yesterday morning and I feel pretty good about it.

The bad news is that I spent most of the time writing it asking my muse and characters, "What the hell?" Originally, this story was supposed to be a relatively short one-shot featuring some psychological sadism and some awkward interpersonal interaction. While it still has those things, it has become a romance rather than the erotica I had planned. This is okay because I wanted to alternate erotica and romance, but... seriously, what? After the first fifteen hundred words, my plot went to hell and I was left with characters who decided that they ran the show. I had two choices: follow them, or scrap the whole thing. I chose to follow the characters.

As a result, it may (read: probably will) be getting a title change. It may also end up with a new book cover. I'm sure I'll have more to report on Monday and next Saturday.

Friday, December 16, 2011

For Readers: Three Reasons to Support Indie Authors

The other day, my husband came home from work and, after surveying the perpetual mess that is our kitchen, suggested that once "this writing thing works out" I should hire a housekeeper. I laughed. I had not already told him that it was my plan to do that as soon as we can afford it, partly because I hate cleaning the kitchen and partly because cleaning up after myself, our toddler, and him takes up so much of my time that writing sometimes takes a backseat. It got me thinking. I don't plan to give up writing anytime soon, and the very moderate success Cowboy has achieved has given me the hope that I could do this for real, I can be a solid midlister and make a living from home doing what I love. Like any author, I'd love to churn out bestsellers--but my real goals are just to offer readers solid entertainment and to do well enough to make the same salary I left behind at my receptionist job almost two years ago.

I've seen a lot of hate for indie authors and I've seen a lot of love for them. This post isn't about loving or hating. I'm looking at three top reasons to support independent (self-published and small publisher) authors.


We're creating a job out of nothing.
Most of us have been writing for years and some of us have been sharing our writing for free for almost as many years. I'm not doing anything--blogging, writing, designing book covers, Tweeting, reading, or reviewing--that I wouldn't be doing anyway. For fun. I have quite literally created a job for myself. Admittedly, it doesn't pay all that well... yet. But it has the potential to pay comfortably.


Supporting us creates more jobs.
As I mentioned up there, I plan to hire a housekeeper. I also plan to hire an editor, a book cover designer, a web designer, and--possibly--a part-time nanny. That's five jobs right there. If I meet my goal, if I start to make my old salary, I will have the income to do that, and that's what I want to do. So for the relatively lower prices of indie books (at the moment, mine are all $0.99 due to their length), consumers create more job opportunities.


We're small business.
Obviously, I'm not talking about retailers. I mean the authors themselves. Many of us are DIYers all the way. For several years, I worked for a small business owner. She had five small businesses and up to about twenty-five employees, but she did most of the work on her own (well, she and her husband). It was a lot of work. Even as her bookkeeper/personal assistant, there were months I ran myself ragged for her. Over this past summer, while I was writing and getting my blog going and making those first tenuous network connections, I barely slept. I did it all myself and I'm still doing it all myself. Being self-published is small business. We're writers, yes, but we have to be business managers, PR managers, salespeople... We do it all, with determination, because we want to be successful.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

On Writing: Blog Recs For Writers

The Internet is a great thing. It's just full of writers who are willing to share their advice, knowledge, and tips.  Today's short post is all about some of my favorite blogs for writers.

Chuck Wendig: Terrible Minds
I love his voice and I love his style. His "25 Things" lists are neat, well-organized, interesting presentations of information all writers can use (or discard at will, because that's what you do with advice).

Words By Stella Deleuze
Stella is an editor in addition to being a writer and so she offers tips from both perspectives. My favorite posts of hers so far have been Tip of the Week posts, which go up on Sundays.

Sirra
Like Stella, Sirra is an editor and a writer. Sirra uses the #stabbylove hashtag on Twitter and her advice tends toward the brutally honest and sometimes even the small things that are easy to overlook.

Only True Magic
The self-publishing tips and tricks posts on this blog are particularly useful. A recent article on the KDP Select program really examined the pros and cons of placing Kindle books into the Select lending program.

Rob On Writing
With articles on everything from specific advice and tips to suggested writing exercises, this is a must-have on my blogroll. The humor that touches every post certainly doesn't hurt, either.

Aimee Salter: Seeking the Write Life
Advice, tips, and editorializing from a writer who "never gave up." I appreciate the message of persistence.

The Bookshelf Muse
Specific elements of storytelling are identified, explained, and examples from the "bookshelf" are discussed. This is a really great blog, particularly if you're stuck on how to "show" something rather than tell it.

What about you? Do you have a blog for writers? Do you have any favorites?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Miscellany: On Seeing Family, Christmas & WIPs

My sister's flight got in at 8:00 this morning. I haven't seen her in 22 months, so this is a huge treat for both of us. She's here for at least three months and, if we can get the paperwork in order, maybe six months. It's wonderful. My daughter is being her cautious little self and my sister has crashed (jet lag), but it's already just wonderful to have her here and have them together.

Before I had my daughter, I wasn't a big fan of the Christmas. It was all right, and I have many wonderful childhood Christmas memories, but it just wasn't my cup of tea. Now that she's here, however, I have a whole new appreciation for it. I am ready. I can't wait to see her face Christmas morning when she wakes up to her new Cozy Coupe and dolls.

Hard to Hold has undergone a few changes, and I've padded the action draft by a few hundred words. I'm still on track to finish the first draft by the end of next week or so. Did I mention that I think I even have a book cover?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Blog Roundup: December 5 - 11, 2011

Chuck Wendig posted 25 Financial Fuck-Ups Writers Make, an article about the business of writing and how it can affect your bottom line. Romantic? No. Useful? Yes! He also wrote about The Seduction of Self-Publishing, which would be a helpful read for anyone on the fence about the subject.

Greta van der Rol hosted a guest post by Meredith Lopez on the subject of "clearing your throat" before you write. I confess that I thought all writers did something to get started. Ms. van der Rol also asked if "writing is like prospecting." After the last eight months I've spent learning about the publishing industry (and being well aware that I still have much to learn), I have to kind of chuckle and think... yeah.

James Killick wrote about creating great content for your blog. His "write the post you want to read" tip is basically my mantra and, if anyone where to ask, it would be the tip I would give. Write the blog you want to read.

Keystrokes and Word Counts had a post on formatting, a relevant topic for self-publishers in particular. If you're looking for information on a rough guide to the steps of self-publishing, there is also this post.

This post on improving your dialogue over at Rob On Writing is worth a read, mostly because I encourage all fiction writers to give the exercise a try. I once wrote a novel-length piece entirely in dialogue. It was actually pretty good, but it will never see the light of day. It was an exercise.

Sierra Godfrey wrote about why author websites matter. I think mine does and I encourage any other writer to create their own. It may not be fancy, but having a place where your readers can go to get just the facts is a good idea.

Sirra posted her seventh collection of writer tips from Twitter. I think all writers should constantly be looking for ways to improve their work. She also posted this collection of commonly misused words. I think we've established how I feel about the poor abused English language, so it's worth reading. (And bookmarking.) Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, even very careful writers, but education on the subject is always a good thing.

Stella Deleuze wrote about giving small and new publishers a chance. Risks can be good, but be aware whenever you take them.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

SitRep Saturday: New WIP, Personal Update

I "took the week off" to do housekeeping work. That wasn't really a success. I did get a lot done--but it wasn't enough. Today I'm scrambling to finish getting the house ready for my sister's arrival while I lament the fact that I've used up my pre-written blog posts.

It's okay, though. I have a few more blog posts started (I just need to sit down and write them), I should be done with my real-life housekeeping in a few hours, and starting Monday afternoon, life gets back to business as usual.

The new WIP has a tentative title: Hard to Hold. It's another erotic short story, but this one is about a cowboy, a bartender, and a closed bar beside the highway outside of Canyon, Texas. I've started the action draft and it's already about 1,500 words. It needs a lot of work. I'm hopeful I can have the action draft complete within the next few days and maybe even have the story drafted by the middle of next week.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Where To Buy Books For Your E-Reader

I've written before that I have a Kindle. My mom has one, my grandmother has one, my sister has one, one of my best friends has one, and one of my other best friends downloaded the software to her cell phone. I buy most of my books on Amazon, as I'm sure most Kindle owners do, but there are so many other places to buy ebooks.

Device-Specific Websites
eBookstores
  • Smashwords: Most books are available in all formats supported by various electronic readers, including the computer. Buy the book once and you have access to all formats.
  • Ebooks: Intuitively named, with an excellent selection. They even have a nice page explaining how to use the site.
  • Diesel: An independent ebook retailer. If a book meets premium catalogue requirements at Smashwords and the author is opted in, the book goes out and is listed on this website.
  • Ebook-Eros: "Burlesque for the brain," reads the tagline. This is where you'll find erotic romance and erotica. They include a "heat level" rating for each book and even offer shoppers incentives in the form of reward money for doing things like leaving a review.
  • OmniLit: Excellent selection with a nice mix of independently-published and traditionally-published work. 
  • All Romance: OmniLit's romance store.
Free eBooks
Happy reading!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On Writing: How To Talk

What your characters say is just as important as what they do. In fiction, dialogue is action. It reveals characterization, it moves the plot, it provides information. Well, it's supposed to.

Listen to people.
Listen to your family, your friends, people on the bus, people on the train, people at the zoo, people at the grocery store. Listen to what they say and how they say it, what words they use. Pay attention to your assumptions of them based on their speech, to how their words relate to their age, sex, and apparent economic position. Listen to how they interact with others. The absolute best way to learn how people speak is to just listen.

Learn how to properly format and punctuate dialogue.
Because it's action and because our eyes slide so smoothly over well-formatted and properly-punctuated dialogue, we as readers don't really notice it. This is a good thing. So learn the mechanics of it. Learn where to put action in relation to dialogue (admittedly, something I still struggle with). Learn when to start a new line, where to put commas and periods and quotations, learn how to use multiple sentence-ending punctuation (like ellipses and the interrobang).

Learn how to use dialogue tags.
He said. She said. He whispered. She hissed. Learn where and how to use these attributes and learn how to avoid "creative dialogue tag syndrome." (Stella Deleuze posted a series of excellent articles on the subject of dialogue attributes recently. Here's the first post.)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Miscellany: New Release & Housekeeping

Over the weekend, I released Please, Sir. (You can get it at Amazon or you can get it for free at Smashwords with coupon code NV22M until tomorrow.) I started pre-writing for the next project and realized that it's much bigger than I want to deal with right now. As in, it might possibly be a novel. So I set it aside and looked at the short story collection I wanted to write.

And then I realized that my sister will be here in a week and the house isn't ready for her and I have a professional to-do list that is several pages long. So I've decided to take the next few days--maybe even the whole week--off from "real" writing to do housekeeping things.

Things like rearranging my daughter's room so that it's more usable for a college student, doing the rest of the autumn deep clean, and hauling the toys the kid has outgrown down to my storage unit. Things like the website redesign I want to do, a bunch of blog posts for days I don't have time to write new ones, and cleaning up my currently-available work (including reworking summaries and tweaking covers as needed).

Today, I'm running errands and getting back into the habit of daily chores. I let the housework slip over the last few months while I worked so hard to reach my goal of four books available by Christmas. I have some paperwork to take care of, the mail to check, a friend to see... Real life stuff.

It's going to be weird to be out in the sunshine and breathe in fresh air, but I think I'll survive it.

Blog Roundup: November 28 - December 4, 2011

To recognize the end of National Novel Writing Month (and assuming you actually "won"), Chuck Wendig posted 25 Things You Should Know About Your Completed Novel.

Greta van der Rol asked if all critiques are useful.

Avery Olive wrote about the query letter.

Fonts and Fiction has a post on showing and not telling.

Rik Davnall wrote about "crushing feelings of inadequacy," something I suspect all writers are familiar with.

James Killick posted about writing even when it all seems pointless.

Pub Rants hosted a guest post about writing the book of your heart, not the book of the market.

This post on Seeking the Write life is about how critiquing someone else's work will make yours better.

Sirra wrote about the passive voice.

Stella Deleuze posted on vanity publishers and how to recognize them.

This article at The Sharp Angle is about author branding.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Release News: Please, Sir

Paige finally has her life together. Her boyfriend just proposed, she's set to complete her nursing certification, and they just moved to Kansas City--within an hour's drive of her fiancé's childhood home, where his widower father still lives.

But upon meeting John, Paige's newfound self-control slips. He is temptation she cannot resist.

Please, Sir is a short story of approximately 10,000 words featuring adult characters, explicit sex between an older man and a younger woman, and spanking.

***

Now available at Amazon.com and at Smashwords. At Smashwords, you can use coupon code NV22M until December 6 to download it for free.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

SitRep Saturday: Please, Sir

Please, Sir will be available on Smashwords today and it will be available on Amazon within the next few days. I'm putting the finishing touches on the formatting today. It has been edited, beta-read, ignored, and agonized over. It's ready.

I'm going to take a day or two off after this and maybe write up a few more blog posts (that's what I did while I ignored the story for the last half of the week), but I have already started work on the next project. It's another cowboy romance that looks to be longer than The Cowboy Next Door.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Resources: Devils In The Details

According to Wikipedia, "the devil is in the details" derives from an earlier phrase, "God is in the detail." I think that, when it comes to writing, though we may play God and an attention to detail is fundamental to our success in conveying the story, it's the devils in the details that can trip us up.

We're fortunate. These days, the entire human history of accumulated knowledge is at our fingertips. We don't have to be experts on everything we want to write before we set pen to paper--we can become experts. Why some writers choose to ignore this is beyond me.

Search engines.
Unless you know exactly what you're looking for, this is where you'll start. Google is great. But don't forget about Yahoo, Ask, HotBot, Excite, and MSN. Using difference search engines for each search is a good idea, since each will probably offer different results for the same phrase or keywords. This is research. You want as much information confirmed as independently as possible. (A personal rule is three sources that do not reference each other saying the same thing or similar things.)

Library websites.
Lots of libraries offer reference books online. You probably have to be a real-life patron in order to access the references (as with the University of Texas library), but there are some free sites (like Bibliomania). IPL.org seems to be an excellent resources site. Your local library probably has an online selection. I know that US Army Europe does.

Topic-specific websites.
When you search keywords, use as many of them in topic-specific language as possible in order to locate sites dedicated to what you want to know. Like how to make an obsidian projectile point (honestly not something I recommend even attempting for the first-time flintknapper). Maybe you're curious about vampire mythology. Maybe you need to know everything you can about how to clean an 1894 Winchester rifle. My point is that if you want to know something, all you have to do is find the website an expert already created. The site gets bonus points if it lists reference material that you can use, too.

Detail-oriented communities and picking the brains of loved ones.
I've pimped it before and I'll pimp it again: the Little Details community on LiveJournal is amazing. The benefit of communities like this one--full of people from all walks of life with all areas of expertise--is that someone probably has firsthand knowledge and knows how to point you in the direction of other resources. This can work in real life, too. Everyone you know is an expert on something. Maybe your dad knows everything there is to know about the 1959 Edsel. Maybe your niece knows everything about tea. My husband seems to know everything about high school wrestling (he was a wrestler in high school, is a current combatives champ, and refs for local high school wrestling matches on the weekends). Asking someone about something they love is a good way to spend some quality time with them, too.

Actual books and newspapers.
I know this is old technology, but stay with me. Newspapers offer a glimpse into community that websites just can't. Actual books--especially reference books--provide a snapshot of knowledge at the time of publication. Online, things change almost as fast as our knowledge does. What we know as true today may not be true tomorrow and it can be easy to lose the trail on the Internet. A reference book from the timeframe you're writing about will show you what people knew. A newspaper will show you what they cared about. Older, underfunded libraries may have those old books, or maybe your grandparents or older aunts and uncles have some in their homes. As for newspapers--that's what microfiche is for. (Or this website.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

On Writing: To E Or Not To E

In my current WIP, I've had to use the word "fiancé" at least twice. It got me thinking about the French origins of that word and two other specific words I regularly see misused. Today's short post is to clarify the correct spelling and use of those words.

blond/blonde
brunet/brunette
fiancé/fiancée

There is a difference. These are all examples of gendered words, and while they mean the same thing in each spelling, the spelling is significant. That "e" at the end of each word signifies the feminine.

A blond is a man with yellow hair; a blonde is a woman with yellow hair. A brunet is a man, a brunette is a woman. A fiancé is a man engaged to be married, a fiancée is a woman engaged to be married.

As with any other word: if you're going to use it, use it correctly.