An Intense Discussion on Italicizing Thoughts

Barbara Custer loves her Mylar balloons and science fiction tales.One evening, I headed to a writers’ group meeting where of all things, we had a discussion on whether or not to italicize thoughts. Why are we talking about this, I wondered? My mind kept wandering back to my visit to the Giant earlier in the day, when a humongous Disney Princess Mylar balloon waylaid me. I still kept reliving the touch of the balloon against my hair as it blocked my view from the other balloons that wanted my attention.

Italicizing thoughts? Indeed. All of my writing life, I’ve been taught that anything in thoughts should be italicized in fiction manuscripts. Actually that’s not true. In the early days, when I submitted, I had to underline my characters’ thoughts, with the understanding that the editor would then know to italicize. That’s not required now unless you’re doing a college term paper. Mind you, people send me work with stuff underlined, and I’ll change it to italics without complaining.

Ah, but when I went to my trusty references, I found that while italics can make a useful tool, something too many is overkill. Italics might definitely work for thoughts that are especially significant. Otherwise, find an unobtrusive way to express thoughts.

Barbara Custer edits Night to Dawn magazine, featuring horror, zombies, and science fiction.So let’s figure this out with a scene describing my balloon purchase. Example 1: The Disney Princess balloon called to me as soon as I entered the Giant. Whoa, I thought, that looks like one pricey balloon. (Internal dialogue) Using “I thought” and italics serves to distance me (the character) from this internal dialogue. Example 2: I examined the balloon, smiling, holding it up to the light, wondering how it would look near the butterflies in my living room. This sentence gives a different way to word thoughts, without italics, along with body language to demonstrate my feelings. This technique brings the thought closer to me. Which way is best? Either will work. It depends on your story and the effect you’re trying to achieve through your character.

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We also had a debate on whether intent was an adjective, and that maybe intense should be the adjective, while intent is the noun. So I headed to my trusty references. Sometimes Google, but often times Chicago of Manual Style.  Here’s another one just to confuse y’all: intensive. So let’s clear up the mystery.

Intense is in fact an adjective, meaning exerting extreme force, or being having strong feelings. So … if you want your book to read well, it may need intense editing. I have an intense interest in Mylar balloons.

Intensive means focused on one topic. So an intensive edit might be focused on characterization.

Cross genre horror / science fiction book by Barbara CusterIntent can work as an adjective or a noun. Intent is synonymous with intention which means a general plan to get something done. Intent is stronger, meaning a firm resolution to get something done. Example: In spite of the distractions from the Mylar balloons, I was intent on finding every item on my grocery list.

As a noun, intent can mean aim or goal. Example: My intent was to get all of the groceries, but the Mylar balloons got the better of me.

So … I’d like to hear your thoughts on italicizing and the use of intent versus intense.

I’m offering two giveaways: A signed copy of Steel Rose and a copy of Night to Dawn 28, to be given to a random commenter during this blog hop.

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Does Geographical Therapy Help Writer’s Block?

Infinite Sight, a science-fiction tale by Barbara Custer, features a young woman waking from surgery with psychic powers.

Can traveling help with editing this book?

Someone once suggested that the best therapy for any stress is an old-fashioned vacation. I’d planned a few days at Ocean City, NJ months ago. Lately, I found myself having a tough time with the edits for Infinite Sight, soon to be going live. After whining about it on my Facebook posts, I asked my Mylar balloons whether geographical therapy, that is, a vacation would help me through this conundrum, for anything major I do always involves a discussion with my balloons.

Well, my balloonies, who have an answer for everything, replied, “Put a balloon lady on the bus in Franconia, a balloon lady gets off in Ocean City.”

Still, it had been years since I did something like this, back when Mike was healthy. So I went and spent the three days shopping, soaking up sun, reading, and socializing. I didn’t lift a finger to write or edit anything, not even so much as taking notes. I didn’t sleep my best – I never do in a strange bed, away from my balloonies – but the day I came home, I slept 10 hours that night.

40 Flash Fictions, written by Allan Heller, features zombie tales.I’m not going to say that geographicals work for everyone, but when I came home, I found myself better to handle the edits. I found a plot hole that no one had mentioned and fixed it. I’ve made a big dent in the editing mess that I had … enough with confidence that this winter could turn out to be a happy one as far as book releases go. Still, my Mylar balloons had a point. Once, I woke up, thinking that I was in my bed, and rubbed the back of my head against the pillows, searching for Mylar balloons until I remembered that I was in a hotel.

So … I’d like to hear your thoughts on geographicals and writer’s block. Have you tried traveling to wake your muse? I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

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As part of the October Frights Blog Hop, I’m offering giveaways to random commenters—a signed, print copy of Steel Rose and Night to Dawn Magazine’s 28th issue.

Show and Tell

Barbara Custer writes zombie fiction and science fiction / horror.Today, I planned a show-and-tell with my latest book covers, never realizing that the activities would begin with my trip to the supermarket. I headed to the Acme to buy two gift cards for an early start on holiday shipping. The gift cards would have earned me a $20 coupon, but then Mylar balloons swarmed me as I entered the store. I hied over to Baking Supplies and bought needed items, all the while hiding; but at the fruit stand, I had to face the music. Six strawberry Mylar balloons hovered over the bananas I wanted. The store may have had gift cards, but all that was lost on me when the Mylar balloons waylaid me.

Maybe I deserve a balloon treat since I’ve got some new releases forthcoming through the Night to Dawn imprint. Night to Dawn 28 is making an appearance on Amazon, and its cover has drawn many compliments from viewers. Sandy DeLuca has done awesome illustrations and poetry duets with Marge Simon for Night to Dawn magazine.

After reading Allan M. Heller’s 40 Frightful Flash Fictions, the lights will stay on long after bedtime, assuming you can fall asleep, for devastation is served with a smile. The anthology is going through the formatting stage. Stan Horwitz provided the images—real beauties; and for lettering and design, Teresa Tunaley pulled frightening birds out of her hat. Look for 40 Frightful Flash Fictions in the coming weeks.

In Infinite Sight, guilt over an infant’s death motivates protag Lilly into a rescue that catapults her into a war between two alien armies. Infinite Sight originally appeared in Fading Shadows’ Alien Worlds magazine as “The Good Samaritan Revisited.” It’s gone to Gemini Wordsmiths for a developmental edit, for no published book is complete without a healthy edit. At any rate, I’ve got a stunning front and back cover, thanks to Marge Simon. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Marge since I first took over Night to Dawn magazine as a spiral-bound book. I estimate a publication date during the holiday season or shortly afterwards.

What happens when the human brain spirals, cutting a swath between a masterpiece and monstrosity? You’ll find out in early winter (estimated) when L. M. Labat’s The Sanguinarian Id goes live. I anticipate a cover image shortly.

Ditto for When Blood Reigns, sequel to Steel Rose. I don’t have a publishing date or estimated time yet. It has gone through developmental editing and should be worth the wait.

Tomorrow I’m heading to the Giant supermarket for the remaining groceries still on my list. This week presented a heavy grocery list, and crunch time for budgeting. Will I remember that when the Mylar balloons come calling? I’m going to try, but when the Mylar “I gotta” bug bites, look out.

Barbara Custer's Night to Dawn features vampire and zombie fictions.Allan Heller's 40 Frightened Flash Fictions features creepy zombie tales.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barbara Custer's science fiction novel features a protag with "Infinite Sight."

Discussing Your WIP

science fiction tales by Barbara Custer

The writing pros advise us to write your next book while shopping your current book proposal. I did just that after I finished When Blood Reigns but I haven’t sought any critique on it. Nor have I discussed details in my blogs, FB pages, or at the writers’ meetings. Only my Mylar balloons know the details.

You might ask, whyyyy?

I never worked in a linear fashion with any tale. I tried writing out an outline first but couldn’t work with it because I’m a pantser. An outline can come after the draft but not before. But that’s not quite the reason for my silence either. A budding story idea will call to me the way the Mylar balloons do at the supermarket. In the developing stages of my first draft, I’ve found that if I start talking up the book too soon, I can wind up deflating the interest and motivation I had for the book. Why? Like the balloons, the creative process needs nurturing and motivation. Steel Rose. Ditto for The Forgotten People. If I feel strongly about a subject, the words will float as easily as the Mylar balloons do through my house. Once I’ve discussed it extensively, I’m talked out. The words then leave me the way air escapes a punctured balloon, and the manuscript goes into a drawer.

This actually happened with a book I attempted to write after Twilight Healer. Pennsylvania’s winters were getting brutal, and cold provides lots of grist for stories. I imagined glass-domed cities and a race of vampires that thrived in the cold, and proceeded to write another book. Trouble was, I discussed the plot with every Tom, Dick, Harry, Mary, and Sue, and the book motivation fizzled out. So when I began Steel Rose, I didn’t whisper a peep to anyone until the first draft was finished. By the time I reached the conclusion, I had enough material for two novels, so I made it a series. Since I already had a first draft in my pocket, I was peachy keen with discussing When Blood Reigns during interviews. I don’t have any first draft for the next book, so for now, what I do have written will stay between me and my Mylar balloons.

Does it sound superstitious? Maybe. But I’ve heard other authors express the same reluctance about discussing their budding work. I’ve learned not to ask other writers too many questions about the WIP. The book will come when it’s ready.

Your thoughts?

 

When Mylar Balloons and Manuscript Rejections Go Together

Night to Dawn features zombie fiction, vampire tales, and poetry.Night to Dawn has had to close to submissions again because a lot of folks responded, and I hate to make writers wait three years to see their work in print. A lot of acceptances went out, along with rejections.

How do I approach story submissions? When a story intrigues me, I take that work along with several others to the meeting room, where twenty-five Mylar balloons float around a long table, each with copies of the manuscripts, prepared for a go-no-go discussion on each tale. I ask every balloon for their thoughts on the first story, and a heated discussion follows. The heart-shaped balloon complains that the story needs more romance. The Smiley face might prefer a humorous piece. The flower points out that the story will need a lot of editing. The pink butterfly might holler, “Damn all edits, let the story fly!” With six stories on the table, the meeting might last three hours, and maybe three stories will make it to Night to Dawn. If I bring a novel manuscript to the table, I’d better pack a lunch. The ensuing meeting could take all day.

At least that’s how it works in my balloon world.

In the real world, like many other small publishers/editors, I read submissions borrowed from time needed for editorial and writing chores, not to mention my day job and life events. There is no editorial board or meeting room, though I might enlist the help of beta readers. I read each one, at least the first three pages. If the first pages keep me in suspense, I’ll continue to the end. The stories that spoke to me outright got an immediate acceptance, especially if they haunted me long after I closed the file. Some tales read mostly well, but something along the way stopped me. These went on my shortlist. Some folks haven’t heard from me yet because their story’s on the shortlist.

Several folks sent a cover letter addressed as “Dear Editor.” You don’t want to do that with any editor, balloon world or not. When you’re ready to submit, take the time to visit the website and find out the person’s name. Other publishers—and agents—have complained about “Dear Agent” or “Dear Editor” submissions on their blogs, too. My name is plastered all over my website, so a “Dear Barbara” cover letter would work. Heck, if someone sent me a letter addressed “Dear Balloon Lady,” I’d smile and think, this person sure did their homework.

On many of the rejections, the story doesn’t begin until page four or later. One story had a beautifully written setting that went four pages, describing the heat in the protag’s town. I imagined an egg frying on the pavement, but I couldn’t use the story. If you want to start with your setting, litter the ground with some dead bodies. Cleaning out a closet is backstory, but if the character stumbles into a corpse dangling by a rope, that will keep me reading. And, by the way, there’s no need to send “you’ll-love-this-work” cover letters. Like a Mylar balloon, a well-crafted horror tale will get my attention on its own merit.

Beware of typos. We’re all human, and no writer sees their own mistakes, but…a submission littered with typos would give any editor pause. Most authors review their submissions before sending, but folks who use their eyes a lot (like writers) can run into visual issues, especially as they get older. I know – I’ve dealt with cataracts and now, scarring. So if you’re straining to read the print, turn up the zoom feature. For editing, I magnify mine and use Word’s “search and find” feature.

Occasionally I get well-written work in a genre I don’t publish. Though I can’t use them, I might ask to see more work. Anytime I ask to see more work or offer a though critique, take heart. I never waste time picking dust off of battered balloons. And if I have nightmares after reading your Night to Dawn tale, you’ve done a great job. My Mylar balloons would agree.

Your thoughts?

Writer’s Trial: The Synopsis

Night to Dawn 27 features horror and zombie fiction by various authors.People have asked what I find most difficult about writing. Every job has an unpleasant aspect, and for me, writing the synopsis is the toughest. Basically, the synopsis is a summary of the story, or if you prefer, an outline in prose form. For a pantser like me, outlines and synopses can be particularly daunting. I’m getting to the end of reviewing the edits, making final tweaks, and putting together a synopsis for Blood Moon Rising. Meantime, another sequel is calling to me, pleading to be written, presenting an opportunity to write by the seat of my pants, suspended by Mylar balloons. Ah, but I’ve got to stick to the task at hand and quit daydreaming about balloons and what-might-be-next plots.

Why a synopsis? It gives a potential publisher an idea of what the story is about. Is it a story that interests the publisher enough to read the whole manuscript? Does it have a cohesive plot? The synopsis can answer those questions. I myself have requested synopses from authors before reading their books. The synopsis makes a handy-dandy tool when it comes to approaching reviewers. The shorter (maybe one to two pages) the better. It provides material that I might use to advertise the book on my website, or to send to people who are doing promos for the book. What’s more, it provides grist for a back cover blurb and later, a description which goes to Amazon and other distributors. These last pieces of wisdom were whispered to me by my Mylar balloons when I started grousing that the task was oh, so hard.

Writer’s Digest has some good articles on writing synopses. A writer buddy suggested I start with a short back cover blurb and highlight the scenes from there. I’ve gotten a few days off from work which I have in mind to make a serious dent in the synopsis project, among other things. First, I’m getting some fortification from my Mylar balloons. I’m hiring Gemini Wordsmiths for an edit. And after the deed is done, I’ll reward myself by reading Stephen King’s Revival.  Your thoughts?

Horror fiction by Kevin Doyle involving feral children

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