Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Peek at the Upcoming "Targeted", Book 3 in the Ray Schiller Series

     As promised, here's the opening chapter to Targeted, the soon-to-be-released third novel in the exciting Ray Schiller series. Ray has had his share of amazing ups and downs in Dear Crossing (Book 1) and Shadow Tag (Book 2), but never before has a case had the impact on him this one does. Ironically, the case isn't even officially his. 
     Until the upcoming release of Targeted, if you haven't already enjoyed Dear Crossing and Shadow Tag, now's your chance.
     As always, I'd love to get your comments.
Fear is pain arising from the anticipation of evil.


Minneapolis, Minnesota – Late October 

“Urgent you come home immediately. Please!” Hugh Conley read his wife’s frantic message a second time before slamming his laptop shut. Knowing he’d missed his flight to Jacksonville wasn’t sitting well. “This had better be good.” 
The cab driver squinted at his passenger’s dim reflection in the rearview mirror. “You say something?”
“Yeah, to myself. Just drive.” Conley cringed at the odor coming from the cabbie—a smell like rancid meat and stale beer. He cranked his window down another inch and checked his watch: 10:50 PM. According to the time stamp, Amy’s message had been sent nearly thirty-five minutes earlier. The email aroused more curiosity than concern when she didn’t answer the call he’d made before leaving the airport.
     With his cell phone MIA, he decided Amy was lucky he’d checked his laptop, luckier still he hadn’t ignored her damned email and boarded the plane. It was time the stupid bitch realized how fortunate she was to be married to him—to accept she’d never be able to manage on her own if she went through with the divorce. Whatever her problem was, he looked forward to gloating about it in person. It might even make missing his flight worthwhile.
The taxi rolled to a stop in front of their Edwardian-style house in the Elliot Park neighborhood of Minneapolis. Silence shrouded the street, and except for a light at the front door, the house stood dark and silent against the starless sky.
“It’s so damned urgent she didn’t even bother to wait up.” 
The cabbie cast a glance toward the back seat. “What?”
“I wasn’t talking to you.” Conley tossed several bills over the seat in the driver’s general direction and gathered up his laptop and single suitcase. “Listen up, pal. Here’s the best tip you’ll get all night: spend some of that money on a bar of soap and a bottle of mouthwash.” With that he slipped out of the cab into the chilly night and slammed the cab door as the driver sped away, the taxi’s tires squealing in protest. 
Hugh strode up the walk to the front door. The house’s lead glass windows, the wood trim and moldings, the pocket doors, the fireplaces, the claw foot tubs—all of it had captivated Amy from the start. She called the house a classic. He called it antiquated.
Brittle, wind-driven leaves swirled around his legs as he let himself in with his key. 
“Amy!” His voice bounced off the walls as he lowered his 6’1” frame and set the suitcase and laptop down in the foyer. “Amy, where are you?  Whatever your problem is, it had better be awfully damned important.”  His mood was as dark as his hair and eyes. He ambled from one downstairs room to another giving each a cursory glance before moving on. Cursing under his breath, he flung his tan, cashmere topcoat over the back of the couch. “Where the hell are you?” he shouted. 
Overhead, a floorboard creaked. 
Taking his time, he went to the liquor cabinet and filled a glass with three fingers of scotch. Tipping his face toward the ceiling, he hollered, “You’d better have one hell of a good excuse for screwing up my plans tonight.” The liquor burned a trail down his throat, reigniting the dying embers fueled by earlier drinks. “I had to reschedule my flight. Now I’ll have to track Larry down at the convention in the morning.” 
Another creak.  
Tossing the remainder of the scotch after the rest, he sauntered to the staircase and looked toward the second floor. “Are you going to get your damned ass down here and tell me what this is about?”  
Silence answered.
“Bitch,” he muttered. Ripping the tie from his neck, he draped it over the oak banister. “Larry makes me a partner, throws a party for me, and the first thing I do is bail out on him. You’ve made me look like a jackass.” 
Conley set his empty glass on a stair tread, started up the steps and flipped the light switch. He flicked the switch a second time, then a third, but the staircase remained dark.
“Frickin’ house,” he mumbled.
He climbed the stairs to the still-darker landing and felt for the hallway light switch. Like the other, it did no good. “You better not have called me back here to fix a blown fuse or I’m going to be beyond pissed.” The only sound was the faint echo of his voice coming off the hardwood floors. “What’s the matter, Amy? Are you afraid to come out and play in the dark?”  
His taunts faded and the house lapsed back into sullen silence. Using the wall, he felt his way to the door of the master bedroom. As he entered the unlit room, the dim glow of a streetlight backlit a silhouette midway between him and a bedroom window. He saw the outline of shoulder-length hair and recognized the subtle fragrance of Amy’s favorite perfume.      
“Okay, I’m here. Now what’s so damned important?” 
Light glinted off metal as an outstretched arm rose in his direction.
Beginning to comprehend, he watched in horror. “Amy, what are you doing?” 
The raised arm held steady, leveled at his chest. 
“What the hell? Amy, c’mon. Stop horsing around.” 
The sound of a gunshot reverberated through the room.
The bullet ripped through his flesh. He staggered back, stunned by the impact and searing pain, “Amy, don’t! Please, no!” 
Two more shots followed, and Hugh Conley slumped to the floor.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

"IT"-- To Be or Not To Be?

A lot of writers blog about important issues like how to create a story's atmosphere; how to develop characters; writing believable dialogue and the like. Not me, though! While I'm not out to become the trivial topic titleholder, some not-so-obvious matters have a way of capturing my attention now and then. When that happens, I like to share. Are you ready? Drumroll, please.

Today I'm taking issue with the word "it". WOW, right? While certainly not an earth-shattering subject, or even a blip on most people's "take notice" meters, that tiny, inconspicuous, two-letter word is capable of weakening your writing. That's true, I swear! 

In everyday conversation--no big deal. In print, however, both the overabundance and 'fuzzy' usage of "IT" can sabotage clarity and dull your writing's sharpness. You don't believe me? Hmmm. Let me see if I can give a quick example to illustrate those points.

It began as a note, then line by line, evolved into a three-page letter. Ethan folded it and tucked it into his jacket pocket. Once Kathleen read it, it would be too late. It would be over.  

Okay, six "ITs" is taking this example to the extreme, but shows how easily the word can pop up while making perfect (if unclear) sense and dooming the writing to "blahness".  

In the revised version below, the elimination of the "ITs" serves two purposes. Removing them breathes more life into the writing while providing more specificity. The changes make the intended meaning crystal clear. 

The message began as a note, then line by line, evolved into a three-page letter. Ethan folded the sheets and tucked them into his jacket pocket. Once Kathleen read his confession, there was no taking the admission back. Their relationship would be over.

Should "IT" be banned altogether? Pfft! Perish the thought. We need "IT"...just not plastered all over the place in lieu of more carefully chosen words and phrases. Doesn't that take a lot more effort? Darned right, but that effort will pay off in terrific results.

Try this. Go over your writing. Everywhere you find an "IT", check your options. See if another word, phrase, or whatever would result in bringing more life and/or clarity to the writing. Don't worry; not every "IT" will need replacing. Make it (See there?) a habit and, before long, using livelier, clearer replacements will become habit.

All right, I'm off to create more problems for my protagonist. Poor Ray Schiller! He's got no idea what's in store for him this time around.

Don't forget to leave your comments! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this or any other topic.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Proofreading and Editing

Proofreading and Editing - DIY?

If you’re a writer, you know the importance of proofing and editing your work…or should. Creating the very best story you can is your first task as a writer. Proofreading and editing are a secondary but essential part of that job.

Many think “proofreading” and “editing” are interchangeable terms. They’re not. While both are part of the revision process, each focuses on different aspects of writing.

Editing deals with content, clarity, style and structure. That sounds pretty straightforward, but given the same manuscript, editors often disagree on their recommendations—the result of personal taste and interpretation. Editing, therefore, is somewhat subjective.

So who should edit your work? You could certainly ask family members and friends for their opinions but, considering a relationship is at stake, are they more likely to be candid or kind? You may want to look for a professional editor to “kick you in the shins”, so to speak. Your ego might get bruised, but your writing will benefit, and your personal relationships will still be intact!

If you go with professional editing, don’t close your eyes and throw a dart at a list of editing services. Ask others about their experiences and make an informed decision before choosing your editor. Also, be aware that rates vary. Some editors charge per word, others may charge in some other fashion. Occasionally time constraints and other factors affect the cost as well. Do some checking.   

Compared to editing, proofreading is the more objective process. Proofreading consists of a methodical search for punctuation and grammar errors, misspellings, typos, and missing words. The process is tedious but crucial. Presenting a carefully proofed story, essay, or book says the writer takes pride in his/her work and respects the readers.  

If someone points out that 1 + 1 = 3 is incorrect, there should be no cause for hurt feelings. The same should be true of proofreading catches. For that reason, getting help from friends and family shouldn’t put those relationships at risk as editing does. But—and it’s a big butt (Ha!)—make sure the person you ask for help is qualified to do the job. (Yous guys don’t want no grammar mangler doing the job, know what I’m sayin’?) If you don’t have a qualified person tucked away somewhere, spending the money for a professional proofreader is a sound investment.

Like editing, the prices for proofreading services vary greatly. Some proofreaders charge per book, others per page and/or turnaround time. As in the case of editing, researching the cost and asking for recommendations is helpful.

Keep in mind that language and punctuation rules are continually evolving. What your proofreader calls an error may be your idea of “personal style”.  It’s your call, but remember that you’re paying for the professional input. Creeeak! (That’s the sound of the fence you’ll be straddling while you decide whether to go with their opinion or your own.)

It's been nice "talking" with you. If you’d like to add your thoughts or comments, please do!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ray's Back!

The process of publishing Detective Ray Schiller's newest case has been almost as harrowing as the case itself, but he's back! The stakes are high and they're getting still higher. In Shadow Tag, Ray's out to finish what he started, if it doesn't finish him first. 

I'm not sure if he got that characteristic from me, or if I got that from him, but doggone if I haven't felt the same way while trying to get Shadow Tag published. And, frankly, I'm not quite done yet. It's available in e-book format right now, but I'm still waiting to get the "print" file from my formatter.

With this novel, my first mistake, if you want to call it that, was deciding to use a few lines of song lyrics in the book, which I mentioned in another post. Since then I've learned that the fee for using the lyrics only covers "X" number of copies whether they're sold or downloaded for free. Beyond that number of "sales", the use of the lyrics must be re-licensed. Holy cow, Batman! Oh, well. But I offer that tidbit of information as a heads-up to other writers.

The licensing process itself, however, took me beyond my self-imposed Winter publication deadline.Okay, shooting for Spring didn't seem too bad, but then my computer went on the offensive, and my well-documented technophobia (a.k.a techno-ignorance) saw another season slip right through my fingers like a greased banana. Then...a virtual miracle--to me, anyway. I'll bet I'm the last person to know this, but someone else can actually fix your computer problems, and even download your files and "what-have-you" by remote control. And, almost by accident, I found one of those computer wizards. Thank you, God! (I'm not swearing; that's a genuine prayer of gratitude.) 

                 Book 1                           

                       Book 2

On another happy note, the actual downloading of this novel went more smoothly this time around than last. It gives me hope that the whole process will get easier with each new project. (Shhh. Don't rock my boat.)                   

So, now...with renewed faith in the universe and my place in it as a high-technology failure, I'm holding my head high, shoulders back, and working with enthusiasm on Ray Schiller's next case while I wait awhile longer on my final formatting file so I can publish the print version of Shadow Tag. I guess Ray can use a brief rest, because his next case promises to be the most difficult and personally trying of all.

If you have comments about your own experiences with publication, etc., I'd love to hear them. Please feel free to share. Maybe sharing stories will serve as sort of a mini support group. And, honestly, what Indie author can't benefit from that?

All the best, and take care!


Monday, April 1, 2013

  It's About Time! ...a heads-up to other writers                 

         Just a brief note today to say hello and thanks for stopping by. While my blog has been getting little or no attention from me of late, I hope to remedy that very soon.          

         Over the past months, I committed myself to forcing my protagonist, Detective Ray Schiller, into harrowing new situations in Shadow Tag, the second book of the series. Of course that means I was also committed to devising resolutions to the precarious situations thrust upon him by yours truly.
       Ray charged out of the starting blocks in Dear Crossing in April of 2012. My self-imposed deadline for the release of Shadow Tag was this past winter. (Yes, the one that officially ended only days ago.)  Am I disappointed? You bet!

      Still, I'm not too far behind schedule at this point. The writing has been completed, but much of what happens now is in the hands of someone else. That, my friends, is the subject of the "heads-up" portion of this blog.

       What's the hold-up? It's this: I chose to use a few lines of lyrics from an old song. In order to do that, an author needs permission. To get that "print license", you must furnish the necessary information: the exact title, composer/arranger/author name(s) and product code number, the complete copyright notice, your name, the number of copies, and a brief description of your intended use of the song.

Simple, right? Not exactly. After doing the necessary research, I contacted EMI, who sent me to Universal, who sent me to Hal Leonard--all music publishers. Hal Leonard sent me back to Universal, who sent me back to Hal Leonard. Nice folks...every last one who dealt with my request! I really mean that. They couldn't have been nicer.

The Independent Author Network As things stand now, though, I'm only several days into what could be up to a three-week waiting period. The cost, at this point, has been $100, and that doesn't guarantee permission. (Sigh) Am I sorry I chose to use the lyrics in my novel? Nope! For my purposes, they're perfect. I hope I get to use them.

The moral of the story is this: if you want to use lyrics, be prepared to spend some money, do the research, and have the patience of Jobe. Most of all, tackle the "permission" end of things early on.

With any luck, next time I hope to have the book cover of Shadow Tag to show you.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Friday, October 26, 2012

So Simple You'll Be Kicking Yourself!

It's clear I'm an inconsistent blogger at best. Not a good thing, I know. I'm just taking a short break from editing Shadow Tag, the second in my Ray Schiller mystery series, to share something I should have shared ages ago.
Short and sweet, it's the "I" vs. "me" issue.

a) Steve went to the store with Mary and I.
b) Steve went to the store with Mary and me.

a) He gave Mary and I cash and a list of items.
b) He gave Mary and me cash and a list of items.

a) Mary and me came back with no change.
b) Mary and I came back with no change.

If you're not sure, here's the solution: When deciding whether "I" or "me" is the right choice, forget nominative and objective case, prepositions and all the rest. All you really need to do is forget Mary! I don't care if Mary is "Miss Universe", or if the items are gold ingots, or even if they came back with a million dollars. Get rid of Mary ... or Tom, Dick and Harry or anyone else who might be tagging along.

It's the simplest solution to a too-frequent problem. Just take the other/others out of the equation temporarily. You'll see what I mean below.

a) Steve went to the store with I.
b) Steve went to the store with me.

a) He gave I cash and a list of items.
b) He gave me cash and a list of items.

a) Me came back with no change.
b) I came back with no change.

Could it get any easier? I don't think so!

Once you've callously ditched any and all companions and made the proper choice, go ahead and invite Mary and the whole Tabernacle Choir along again if you like, but you can finally move on with confidence. Don't you wish they'd have taught you that little trick back in school? Now that you know, you can either snicker at others still struggling with the I/me issue, send them here, or make a friend for life and share this tip yourself.

Thanks for stopping by!