My work

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Join The Boys’ Club
I really did have plans to blog more regularly, but I’ve been busy reading Angie Martin’s The Boys Club, so . . . In any event, I found out that Boys was [were? ;) ] voted Self-Published Book Worth Reading on and will be on sale for 99 cents for a limited time. So, I thought I’d use this venue to let you know, too! Pick it up and enjoy this rollicking read. [I wish I had a review to share, but alas, I’m not done it yet!]

Growing up a homeless juvenile delinquent left its mark on Gabriel Logan. He lived a throwaway existence until a former FBI agent recruited him for a fringe organization for boys like him, ones who could operate outside the law for the sake of justice. As an adult, he sets an example for the others and is slated to take over their group, until his work results in the murder of his pregnant wife.
Going through the motions of everyday life, Logan does only what’s required of him with one goal in mind: kill Hugh Langston, the man responsible for his wife’s death. When he’s handed the opportunity to bring Langston down, he jumps at the chance, but the job will challenge him more than anything in the past. Not only does he have to save Langston’s daughter from her father’s hit list, but the job seems to have come to them a little too easily. Logan must find a way to not only rescue the one woman who can take down his biggest enemy, but also look into the men he trusts most to discover which one of them is betraying The Boys Club.

Angie Martin’s bio:
I live in Overland Park, Kansas with my husband, two cats, and beloved dog. I have two sons off paving their own way in the world. I grew up in Wichita, Kansas and have lived all over the United States. My entire life has revolved around imaginary worlds contained within the covers of a book. My aunt introduced me to Stephen King and a little book called Christine in eighth grade, and my life was never the same.

My debut suspense novel, "False Security" (romantic suspense) was re-released in October 2013. "Conduit" (an award-winning psychological thriller with a paranormal twist) was released March 5, 2014. I also have a poetry collection that was released in April 2014. "The Boys Club" (romantic suspense) went live on 12-2-14.

I am hard at work on many projects that I cannot wait to share with all of you!

If you want to connect with Ms. Martin, here are some of her links:
Fan Group 

Twitter @zmbchica

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Errors? Not so much.

An article on got quite a buzz in the circles I follow – originally when it was posted on the virtual eve of the release of the Fifty Shades movie, and again yesterday, when it popped up a couple times in my Facebook feed. Authors and readers alike were posting it, commenting on it, and, well, squinting at it quite a bit.
For those who didn’t read the article, it was a numbered list of the most common grammatical errors [per Grammarly] found in E.L. James massively successful [“best-selling” doesn’t quite cut it] Fifty Shades of Grey. I read the book, but didn’t read the subsequent novels, as I rather liked the way the inaugural book ended.
Because most who know me are aware that I can be a bit pedantic in formal-style issues, I thought I’d share my thoughts on People’s list.
Disclaimer of sorts: I know the article was not intended as an attack on Ms. James' work. It was a topical piece at a topical moment. Even where inaccurate, the article has some decent advice that every writer and author should consider. For its part, Grammarly is a useful tool for flagging possible issues in one's writing. In light of those known facts, I, in turn, want to have fun with the results.

Remember – these are alleged grammatical errors. Period. So, let’s start with a definition, courtesy of my well-worn Oxford English Dictionary:

grammar The branch of language study or linguistics which deals with the means of showing the relation between words as used in speech or writing, traditionally divided into the study of inflection (or morphology) and of the structure of sentences (syntax), and often also including phonology (see also linguistics). [OED]

What doesn’t that definition cite as part of grammar? Punctuation, just for one [sort of a rough a priori: punctuation is not a part of speech, but grammar is, so punctuation is not part of grammar]. Mechanics, for another. I’m just noting that before we get into it.

Now, on to the list! [So excited! I'll tally a score at the end of each section – in a completely subjective fashion.] Grammatical Error #1: Punctuation Errors in Complex Sentences
Before we go further, this is not a grammatical error. It is an error in punctuation, as was indeed noted. So shouldn’t have been on the list. Let’s look at it, though. [Yes, Roberta! Let’s!]

FSoG sample citation: "Oh my. My heartbeat picks up again, this feels so... so good."

In fact, the error is a comma splice [not specified in the article], so named as it’s the splicing together of two independent clauses with a comma. The advice – which was correct – was that the comma should more appropriately be a semicolon [though they spelled it semi-colon; to each their own]. I used to use many semicolons, but I use fewer now [that last one in exemplum]. I prefer to have a full stop [period] or a conjunction. [In interests of fairness, comma splices drive me wild. I hate them. Probably used to use them.]

For identifying a grammatical error [punishment; no zeros awarded in this category]: -1
For identifying a [different sort of] error: 1
For good advice: 1
Score: 1
Running total: 1 Grammatical Error #2: Comma Misuse
Again, not a grammatical error. So shouldn’t have been on the list.

FSoG sample citation: "I open my eyes, and for a moment, I'm tranquil and serene, enjoying the strange unfamiliar surroundings. I have no idea where I am."
The advice – again correct – was that a comma should have followed “strange”. The reason for that [not given in the article] is that “strange” and “unfamiliar” are both adjectives modifying “surroundings”. Therefore, a comma separates the separate [haha! there's a mnemonic for you!] ideas. [For those who think “strange” and “unfamiliar” are synonymous and therefore redundant, you are wrong.]


For identifying a grammatical error: -1
For identifying a [different sort of] error: 1
For good advice: 1
Score: 1
Running total: 2 Grammatical Error #3: Wordiness
Again, not a grammatical error. So shouldn’t have been on the list. It is a matter of style, and style is a matter of taste. Whether you like it or loathe it, it is wholly discretionary. [Should you like excellent examples of wordiness, I highly recommend cracking the spine on anything written by Melville or Hugo.]
FSoG sample citation: "He's so passionate, mesmerizing. This is obviously his obsession, the way he is... I can't take my eyes off him. He really, really wants this. He stops talking and gazes at me."

The upshot of the advice [they didn't mention the comma splice!] was to remove one of the “really”s. While I don’t argue with that too hard, FSoG was written in first person, and the narrative voice is Ana’s. I really, really think the emphatic repetition suited the character.

For identifying a grammatical error: -1
For identifying a [different sort of] error: 0
For good advice [I'll give it to them]: 1
Score: 0
Running total: 2 Grammatical Error #4: Colloquialisms
Again, not a grammatical error. So shouldn’t have been on the list. It is a matter of style, and style is a matter of taste.

[Didn't I just write that a couple minutes ago? Could’ve sworn . . .]

The article concedes that it’s a style issue. My – well, not argument – but slight dismissiveness of it, is the sample chosen to represent this “error” [not an error, remember!].
FSoG sample citation: "I open my eyes, and I'm draped in Christian Grey. He's wrapped around me like a victory flag."

I thought the complaint was going to be “victory flag”. It wasn’t. It was “I’m”. A contraction. [Erm . . . *not sure where to look* . . . Um.]  For examples of real colloquialisms that can be problematic, might I suggest Joyce or Runyan? Or maybe this blog post?


For identifying a grammatical error: -1
For identifying a [different sort of] error: 0
For good advice: 0
Score: -1
Running total: 1 Grammatical Error #5: Accidentally Confused Words
Ah! An actual grammatical error! [*high-fives the Internet*] "Accidentally confused words" is indeed about syntax and how words relate to each other. Also known as malapropisms.

I love malapropisms! [Maybe "I hard malapropisms"? ;) ] They make me laugh. I work hard to keep them out of my writing [because they are really bad!], but recently a reader caught “illicit” where I meant “elicit”, and once upon a time, another reader caught “palatable” where I meant “palpable”. I laughed a lot at myself – but fixed those puppies right away.

My favourite and often-seen malapropisms:
elude/allude [avoid/imply]
affect/effect [verb: influence / noun: result]
consecutive/concurrent [successive/simultaneous]
bridle/bridal [noun: tack for horse / adjective: relating to a bride (okay, no snickering – or nickering)]
rein/rain/reign [part of a bridle (not "bridal") / water from the sky / rule]
regimen/regime/regiment [schedule/establishment / military unit]

But back to the article . . .
FSoG sample citation: "She doesn't think to question my explanation, because I am one of the most un-coordinated people in Washington State."

The “caught” error was the hyphenated “un-coordinated”. ... Huh? At worst, it’s a spelling error. It’s not an “accidentally confused word”. It's not 
a malapropism.

For examples of malapropisms at their best, I recommend Sheridan's The Rivals, wherein you'll find the archetypal Mrs. Malaprop [though her malapropisms are used to deliberate comedic effect]. Or select Yogi Berra quotes.

For identifying a grammatical error: -1
For identifying a [different sort of] error [I'm not giving it to them!]: 0
For good advice: 0
Score: -1
Running total: 0 Grammatical Error #6: Sentence Fragments
I’m going to concede that sentence fragments are grammatical errors, as they affect syntax and how words relate to each other. However, it is mostly a style choice many authors employ, and can be used to great effect [not affect! ;) ], at least in fiction. In a medical journal or poli-sci piece, you're going to want to avoid them. 
FSoG sample citation: "Do you really feel like this or do you think you ought to feel like this? Two very different things."

I have zero problems with that, structurally at least. Yes, it’s an error. Do I think it works? Yep. Sure do.

Best. Fragment. Ever! [Well, no, but . . .]

For identifying a grammatical error: 1
For identifying a [different sort of] error: 0
For good advice [I'm on the fence, but . . . nope]: 0
Score: 1
Running total: 1 Grammatical Error #7: Determiners
The word I would have chosen over “determiners” would have been “articles” – direct article “the”, and indirect articles “a” and “an”. Leaving articles out is not necessarily a grammatical error, depending on the context.
FSoG sample citation: "I still prefer my title to yours, in so many different ways. It is lucky that I am master of my own destiny and no one castigates me."

The [ ;) ] article suggested adding “the” before “master”. I’m assuming the writer hadn’t heard of a little ’90s sitcom called Seinfeld and the most famous episode of its – or any other TV show’s – run: The Contest.

That aside, dropping articles can make for far tighter and more compact narrative. Grammatical error? Only if the article is absolutely necessary for clarity.
For identifying a grammatical error [sure, okay]: 1
For identifying a [different sort of] error: 0
For good advice: 0
Score: 1
Running total: 2 Grammatical Error #8: Prepositions

Yep, preposition use is grammatical.
FSoG sample citation: "Please him! He wants me to please him! I think my mouth drops open. Please Christian Grey. And I realize, in that moment, that yes, that's exactly what I want to do. I want him to be damned delighted with me. It's a revelation."

The suggested edit was to change “in that moment” to “at that moment”. I concede that “at” specifies a particular time, and “in”, an unspecified time. But when I read the FSoG passage, I took it subtextually as Ana being “in the moment”. Should I care more about the grammar? Possibly. Maybe I’m not really in the moment at this moment.

For identifying a grammatical error: 1
For identifying a [different sort of] error: 0
For good advice [yes, they get it, for sheer subtly – kudos!]: 1

Score: 2
Running total: 4 Grammatical Error #9: Passive voice
Okay, that one made me laugh a bit. First, the article did concede that it is a style issue – not a grammatical error – to employ passive voice. [So shouldn’t have been on the list!] But wait! There's more!
Aside first: I do not like passive voice – even in casual conversation, I don’t use it. It’s a personality thing [or so my friends tell me]. While it has its uses [which I’ve likely exploited], I agree that it weakens drama and comedy alike, faster than anything else.

FSoG sample citation: "He is totally beguiling, and I'm bewitched. I place my hand in his."

So that was where I started laughing. That is not an example of passive voice. “I’m bewitched” is a simple declarative statement. [The suggested change: “he has bewitched me”. Um . . .] The cited sample does walk a thin line, though. Had it read, “I’m bewitched by him,” then it would have been passive voice. Since it began with “he” as the subject, changing it to “I” created a problem through the presumed “by him”. However, maybe there are other things at that moment that influenced Ana, and it is not solely the beguiling Christian who caused her bewitchery. Thus, it’s a simple declarative. For the sake of clarity, perhaps it should have been two separate sentences: “He is totally beguiling. I’m bewitched.” Or [presupposing Christian as sole cause], one sentence: “He is totally beguiling and bewitches me.” Or better: "He totally beguiles and bewitches me." [Tip! Just like my last example, removing forms of "to be", where used in conjunction with other verbs, tightens your prose. And if there's a preposition near your "to be", you're in passive territory, so step carefully!]

But still, not passive. Not an error.
For more about passive voice – and indeed, much helpful advice on writing – I recommend Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language, the text of which can be found here. It is marvellously relevant, though written 70 years ago. Also, Orwell’s conclusions are – or should be – at least vaguely familiar to every writer and author. I guarantee you've heard them, even if you didn't know the source.

For identifying a grammatical error [they should lose double for the incorrect example]: -1
For identifying a [different sort of] error: 0
For good advice: 0

Score: -1
Final total: 3 out of a possible 27

Yay! We're through it! \o/

All that written [or said, as many might write], the article entertained me. Started a whole whack of conversation. And reminded me that I should never read comments on controversial articles, since many of them were quite ugly, both for and against. Ms. James wrote a trilogy that changed much of how we view publishing, sex, and fandom. Whether a fan of her work or not, one must give her kudos. I, for one, wish her nothing but the best in all things, and offer my most sincere congratulations.
Should you wish to sample Ms. James’ books for yourself, they can be purchased on Amazon, and are listed on her Author Page.

Should you wish to sample my novels and find all my grammatical, punctuation, and mechanical errors [and report back with scathing criticism so that we can discuss], you can find them on Amazon or, for other retailer buy links, on my WordPress page.

My romantic-comedy suspense, Famous Penultimate Words, is now available in ebook format, and will be available in print soon. Look! Here's the PB cover [so you'll know I'm not lying]!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

5 things to do when rebranding – rebranding heaven and hell

Part Two: Hell

[For those of you tuning in late, check out Part One: Heaven]

+google banner
So, here I was with a pretty new brand and lots of places to show it off. It wasn’t going to take that! [imagine snapped fingers] to get it all up and running. I’d tweet and post and highlight my colourized self all over the place.
I’d created special detail images of my new covers – like little business-card thumbnails that I would throw onto Twitter with clever little tweets. I created collages for Facebook. I wrote a blog post to announce the rebrand [that started out just as the Heaven portion]. I had a detailed Excel file with a compiled list of all my social media places and things I’d signed up for over the last couple of years, so I knew where to update my art. I planned to use my languishing WordPress site to showcase my novels. So many well-made, well-laid plans. This rebrand thing was going to be a breeze! Right?
Well . . . no. I mean, it wasn’t impossible, and I never contemplated shooting myself or throwing in the towel on it all. But so many things became problematic. Don’t think that that list of preparations was useless. Without it, I might have given up. Or taken weeks to get things done and out there to cyber-world.

Despite those preparations, I ran into some things I wish I’d had on my list. I’m sharing them with you so you might avoid them.

Thing to Do #1

Get your timing right.

Timing is paramount. I’d estimated that it would take me about a day to get it done – and thought smugly how easy-peasy it would go and how few hours of that estimated day I would actually need.

What I’d forgotten was that Smashwords is my distributor to all retailers except Amazon. It usually takes a little longer for stuff to go live. [NB: This is in no way a complaint. I love Smashwords – they handle my distribution to so many retailers, I can’t even remember them all! Right there, I’m saved gazillions of hours, effort, and memory recall.]

In any event, my timing for going live was pushed back a few days [I think three] while I waited for Smashwords’ affiliates to get the new info. I checked every few hours, and once I saw the new covers appearing, moved ahead.

Everything went swimmingly.
But I’d forgotten something else. Goodreads. You can’t change your cover art in GR; you have to create new editions. Then you can combine them – I knew this from past experience when adding my Smashwords and Amazon editions of my books, and combining those editions so I didn’t have all of them showing up as individual works.

In retrospect, I could have handled this myself, but as my planned timing was getting away from me, stress levels were spiking, affecting clear thinking. In any event, I turned to Goodreads Author Program Support. The librarian who helped me [Cristián] was fantastic, and everything was done within a couple of days of my initial panicked email. I was really impressed. And grateful.
In short, push what’s done by others to the top of your to-do list, and base [ballpark] the rest of your timing around theirs. What you can DIY has predictable timing. What’s done by others, not so much.

Thing to Do #2

Don’t take on too much.

In the year since my last novel, The Value of Vulnerability, was released, I’d forgotten all the minutiae of what that entails. Promotion and announcements and coaxing people to accept ARCs, and myriad other things quite aside from the actual – you know – publishing.

So what did I idiotically do? I put my new novel, Famous Penultimate Words, up for pre-order in the same week as I released my new brand.
In short, don’t do this. Honestly, when it comes to your rebrand, focus on that. It took you how long to write your novel? It’ll wait a week or so longer. And your new brand will be there to embrace it lovingly.

Thing to Do #3

Don’t forget the big things.

Lots of places . . . lots and lots.

The list was long, and my journey through that list became a huge philosophical question: Who am I and where have I been?
And occasionally a question of behaviour: What was I doing there? Good god . . .  Or, Why haven’t I been back here? Awesome site.

I thought I got everything. And just as I was settling back in pleased triumph that I had conquered rebranding, I found I’d forgotten my Amazon UK page. And my Amazon France and Germany pages. These are important bits, sitting there with my old avatar in place.

In short, double-check everything. Don't assume you couldn't possibly have missed something big, because you will. Tip: Go through the bookmarks/favorites of your browser.

Thing to Do #4

Don’t forget the little things.

Twitter business cards
Oh, yes, I had my cover art, my site-specific banners, and my avatar. Even those cute little Twitter business cards I’d created specially. What didn’t I have? The favicon for my blog. Such a little thing, but believe me, I went almost apoplectic over it. After all, it’s always the little things that set you off, isn’t it?

In short, pay close attention. If you’re an SP author, especially, you’ve probably done everything pretty much on your own. That requires attention to detail. So, attention, everyone! Look at the little bits of branding dust you’ve left everywhere, and clean it up! [LOL; #Spotless]

Thing to Do #5

Be resigned that some things can't be changed.

My old book covers are out there on different sites, where my books have been reviewed, promoted, or nominated for something. There's nothing I can do about that. Sure, I could approach those sites and ask that they swap out the art, but that runs the risk that they would just take it down entirely. I'd rather leave things as they stand. [Aside: There's still the ghost of my very first [god-awful] placeholder/temp cover for my first novel, hovering out there in the wilderness. I cringe on the rare occasions it pops up.]

In short, relax. You have enough stresses in your life. You've done your best. Nil satis nisi optimum.

Confession: I know of one place a specialized version of my old avatar exists. But I’m not doing anything about it at the moment, even though I can. Right now, I need to catch up on my sleep and proceed with the next stage in my career: writing another novel.

As you set up your author platform, do you make note of all the places on the Internet where you splash your brand presence? Any experience finding it all again? 

Monday, 22 June 2015

9 Reasons Why Authors Need Betas

I know I promised Part Two of my rebranding story, Rebranding Heaven and Hell, but instead, I'm guest author/poster on Rosanna Leo's blog today! So exciting!

9 Reasons Why Authors Need Betas is the subject of my post.

For those of you who want to know more about Ms. Leo, check out her blog [obviously], visit her Amazon Page, find her on Twitter, or on her Facebook Page.

I'll be back tomorrow [I mean it this time!], with Part Two: Hell.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Rebranding heaven and hell.

Part One: Heaven.

The title should probably be “The Heaven and Hell of Rebranding”. I didn’t try to spin a new view of traditional archetypes or anything. Swear. Everybody stay calm.
No, it was I who was rebranded. Roberta Pearce of the black & white & grey & splashes-of-red covers decided she was bored with the flat look.
Reaching for the zenith of minimalism
Don't get me wrong - I loved the minimalism and starkness of the old brand. The covers popped when compared to busier covers out there. And the brand was something I had control over and could create myself.

So why did I change my brand?
It all started with the impending publication of my new novel, Famous Penultimate Words. It’s a comedy under the guise of romantic suspense, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make a “happy” cover with my old branding. Everything I came up with was dark [one example here.] After long conversations with several people, especially the talented Camilla Monk, I decided I had to change it all.
I played a bit with colour schemes and fonts, but while I’m pretty good at layout and simple graphics and being judgy of the work of others, colour defeats me.

. . . no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make a “happy” cover with my old branding.

Then there was Camilla Monk. There is Camilla Monk. She's the author of one of my new favourite books, Spotless. If you’re not familiar with her, get familiar fast on her site here. I met Camilla online early last year, and was immediately entranced with her writing and how she incorporated her wicked and rather twisted sense of humour into it. Easily one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever encountered, she’s also very nice, so her urging to brighten my brand was both gentle and subliminal. Clever girl.
At last, I caved, and begged for her assistance. She took time out of her crazy schedule and stepped up to the challenge. We agreed that I should keep my original art and I insisted that in any colour palette we went with, I got to keep my red shoes. We tried a couple of things – I loved everything she sent back to me, and was ready to leap. Following her instructions and suggestions to the best of my ability, I sent revised files back for her approval. [Yes. Yes, I was asking permission and seeking approval.]

A few days later, I got an email from her that ran essentially: Changed my mind. Ignore everything I said about the color palette. This is what we’re doing.

Attached were hotly coloured covers with a textured overlay and bang! I was in love. I tweaked some stuff on the layouts – just tiny changes – revamped my avatar to suit, and was ready to launch RobertaPearce 2.0.

New . . . Old

Ah, I was in heaven! These pretty new covers for my old books, a bright and quirky one for my new book, and even one for a WiP I’m looking to finish in the fall.
Then came the launch . . . I’ll tell you about that in Part Two: Hell . . . tomorrow.

Have you ever done a rebranding? Thought about one? Wonder if you’re too married to what you’re currently doing?
For more information on where to pre-order Famous Penultimate Words, visit here. It will be released in print and ebook format on July 24, 2015. [The print links are not up yet, so no yelling at me . . .!]