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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Is a Developmental Edit Worth the Money?

After submitting my second suspense manuscript Window of Guilt to over twenty agents/small publishers with no success, I finally broke down and hired a developmental editor to varnish my writing. Line editors, or copy editors, focus on grammar, punctuation, spelling, and syntax. Developmental editors, on the other hand, gauge pacing of the novel, intensity of plot, point of view characters, setting, and character development.

In Deadly Choices, my first suspense novel, Treble Heart Books provided me with Barb, a talented developmental editor. Can you imagine being in the heads of  two dozen characters? Barb helped me slim down to three point-of-view characters.   A former newspaper editor, Barb aided me in my quest for written perfection. Yet she never stepped in to feed me the answers.

This time around, I had to bite the Kiwi  - I'm allergic to that fruit - and pay for my own developmental edit. In this economy, coming up with the same amount of money it takes to feed a family of four for six weeks is no easy task. Fortunately my spouse was supportive in my endeavor and Charis, my new developmental editor, accepts partial payments.

I found Charis on Craig's list. A former contributing editor to Harper's Magazine, Engish professor, and developmental editor of mystery and literary fiction, Charis fed me a ten page report citing holes and redundancies in my story, along with misused words or phrases. Within those pages, she also pointed out the strong points of my manuscript. Two weeks into my developmental edit, I still find the corrections challenging to locate since neither chapter nor page numbers were provided. Yet I am coming along nicely, as they say. I'll let you know how I progress.

Go to to learn what developmental editing is all about.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Turning a Novel into a Script

It's no easy feat working with a scriptwriter, no matter how talented that person is, to turn your novel into a script. I'm finding that the young scriptwriter I chose from Craig's List has some great ideas on how to expand the sub-plot of Deadly Choices ( Yet his dialogue is stilted because he is not from Chicago and finds it challenging to relate to the mannerisms and culture I describe.

How does one describe a city's vitality/? Mayor Daley's goal to provide safe passage to school for kids living in crime invested areas? To rid the city of gangs through Neighborhood Watch Groups in which communities and police share information. To educate all children by holding teachers acountable. To crack down on corrupt cops. To acknowledge paramedics, firefighters, police officers,  and good samaritans who do so much for our city. To beautify our parks and lakefront, and offer terrific museums,, the Art Institute, dance and theatre performances , and musical events. To provide a multi-cultural setting in which people of all different races and religions comfortably co-exist.

Then there's the sleazy side of Chicago, with its homeless folks, drug addicts, alcoholics, gang members, killings, and corrupt politicians. Parts of the city where cops have no compunction about stopping a car because its driver or passengers are "driving while Black." How do you explain the dichotomy to someone from a more homogenous environment? 

I suspect that the only way my scriptwriter will learn our ways is the hard way, through trial and error. That's the breaks. For Chicago, authenticity is the only game in town....

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dumbest Obscene Phone Call!

A couple of days ago, I'm at the vet having my dog's anal glands expressed when I receive an obscene voicemail message. A professional-sounding man was seeking males or females interested in anal sex! I immediately turned the phone over to the receptionist who, unlike me, listened to the complete jaw-dropping message. On the way to the police station to file a report, I burst out laughing. The caller left his name and telephone number. I envisioned my response: "Only if you buy a house from me!" No such luck. The phone number had been cloned.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

September 21, 4pm ET: Join a Health Care Conference Call with President Obama - URJ

September 21, 4pm ET: Join a Health Care Conference Call with President Obama - URJ

We have a chance to influenece President Obama on Sept. 21 regarding affordable health care for all. If you  don't want to participate in  the conference call, send me your questions and I'll ask them!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

So Much for Psychics!

Turns out the psychic was wrong. The literary agent who wanted my second suspense novel was a quack, at least according to Absolute Write and Predators & Editors: two indispensible guides for authors seeking literary representation.

It's so difficult to know who to trust. Fiction is a striped cat. Authors get tired of sending out queries when the tantalizing aroma of self-publishing lies just around the corner. But just like pre-marital sex in the '50s, one must not give in until all other exploration has gone south.

All is not lost, however. Four scriptwriters of varying expertise currently compete to adapt my award-winning first suspense novel Deadly Choices, now five years old. And I shall continue to participate on mystery author panels at conferences throughout the country -- and tell myself: Get it together. Your time will come....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Psychic's Good News

I just started working with a real estate client who says he runs everything through his "prophet" before he decides which property to buy. Turns out his prophet is Grandma Rose. In my vocabulary, "prophet" equals "psychic." I decided to give her a call -- not regarding my success in the real estate business but as an author!

Grandma Rose, who now resides in Mississippi, originally hails from Chicago. Thus her comments or revelations, depending on your level of spirituality at the time, are drop-dead blunt tinged with smatterings of southern .

For my second suspense novel Window of Guilt, Rose sees a Jewish or Italian bearded man with a broad smile and a sharp scissors cutting the red ribbon that encases my manuscript! She says it's an agent I've recently sent to, although she knows not his name.

My third novel Fatal Reaction only needs a bit more editing, according to Rose. True enough, it needs to be elongated another thirty pages. Then it's ready to go! Rose says agents will attempt to talk me out of the school setting but I should stay true to my beliefs, i.e. keep it! That novel will also find a home with a publisher.

Lastly, my fourth novel Psychobabble. Rose says this manuscript should be the easiest to sell because it's got lots of fascinating characters.

If this psychic is clued in on any of the above, I can look forward to an exciting future! I'm sending Rose a carton of books -- not my own -- as a Thank You. If you're interested in talking to Rose, shoot me an e-mail and I'll act as the conduit!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Rocking Passover Sedar!

Last night was the second night, thus the second Passover sedar. The word "sedar" means "order." We read the Haggadah (spelling?) which describes Moses leading the Jewish slaves out of Egypt. They'd been building those pyramids for Pharoah for 400 years and were way tired!

Because we have a small extended family, we always invite friends over to celebrate. This time we blended several new friends from various walks of life with a few "old" friends. What was cool was that although each person was Jewish by heritage, their personal recollections of their childhood Passover sedar experiences were totally different.

In the 1960s and '70s, Reform Jews grew up reading from the free but boring Maxwell House Coffee Haggadahs. Today, those are still available but really dry. Over the years, our family was fortunate to accumulate some beautifully illustrated Haggadahs with insightful discussion questions printed in the margin of each page. For example, "In what ways are we slaves today?"

But the rocking part of the sedar was the naming of the ten plgues G-d visited upon the Egyptians when Pharoah refused to let the Jews go. We distributed plastic frogs, cows, lions, lice, hail, etc., along with masks my artist friend, Tobi Abrams, made to describe each plague! Each of the ten participants held up that particular item when it was named. It brought some levity to the sedar. Definitely a new custom for everyone in attendance!

To our family, the whole idea of the sedar is not something to rush through so we can eat, but rather an hour-long oasis in which to reflect about our lives through various discussion questions threaded through the service. COMMENTS

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Yesterday was Literary Agent Query Day

Yesterday I'm proud to report I e-mailed out five queries to literary agents regarding representation for my suspense novel Window of Guilt (87,000 wds.) My first published suspense novel, Deadly Choices, only ran 212 pages, but the new manuscript comes in at 367. While Deadly Choices is about a female paramedic on chicago's West Side who kidnaps the baby she just delivered and gives it to her best friend, a Born Again christian, to raise (See, the character-driven Window of Guilt is about a health insurance adjuster's wife who discovers a dead body on the front lawn of her summer home. While she runs in to phone the police, the body disappears. Her hubby says she's nutso. Unfortunately, so do the cops. So she hooks up with a female detective to solve the case.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Missing Purim

Yesterday I dressed up in a pencil lead gray sweater decorated with BLING! I fully intended on attending the Megillah reading at the temple and planned on playing the part. The Megillah is the Story of Queen Esther; she convinces King Akashvayros to prohibit Haman, his adviser, from slaying all the Jews in the land. We're talking biblical days here, but heck, that theme still prevails. Anyway, Esther's Uncle Mordechai is the conduit in this story. After learning about the scheduled destruction, he tells the Jewish queen to 1) confess to her husband that she, in fact, is Jewish, and 2) fulfill the above task without putting her own life in jeopardy. A daunting task for a girl probably under the legal drinking age.

Esther fears for her life, but her uncle insists the king loves her and would do nothing to shorten her life. He tells her to think beyond herself and do G-d's will, which is to save the Jewish people. To ease her way into the king's most loving graces, Esther throws a three-day dinner party. The king really loves to eat and drink!
Esther also invites Haman as the guest of honor. she asks him what one thing he would do to his nemesis -- except in those days, she said "one who plots against you." In this case, we're talking Uncle Mordechai.

Full of himself, as well as food and drink, Haman answers that he would ride in a golden chariot, dragging the hated person by rope through the streets. At that point, Queen Esther confides in the king what will befall herself and her people should he not intervene. King A. takes immediate action against Haman.

To this day, people gaily dress up in costume, listen to the reading of the Megillah, and engage in hearty food and drink. They also deliver Shalach Monos (sp.?); goodies to the poor. And they eat Homentaschen (sp.?); three-corner jelly-filled cookies reminiscent of the Haman's hat. They also drown out the evil man's name by shaking greggors during the Megillah reading. Kind of like "pooh, pooh" when you've swallowed an insect.

But I didn't want to attend because at this time of year, the temple is filled with little tykes and adults in Halloween-type costumes. I was coming straight from work, but more honestly, I just didn't want to engage in this play world. My kids are too old for this frivolity, too.

Instead I spent the whole day worrying about not attending. My guilty mind-set finally eased when a good friend dropped off some Shalach Monos of her own for me: a 1-ounce container of bubble water, two cookies, and a sprinkling of Hershey kisses in a colorful Chinese take-out container! The gift was supposed to be anonymous, but somehow she knew my soul needed that "lift." In a note, she assured me she'd already attended two Megillah readings, enough for both of us.

Better luck next year! Have you ever felt guilty about not attending a temple or church service? How did you handle it??

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My First Internet Book Interview

Last Sunday, I was interviewed for the first time on my first suspense novel Deadly Choices ( )via the Internet. Audrey Schaffer moderated the Writers Chatroom ( interview. Readers and authors "lined up" to pose their written question, then I responded in like.

It was a whole different sweet potato, responding in writing rather than shooting my mouth off at mystery author conferences. For one thing, I had to type almost as fast as I talk -- didn't want the question poser thinking I wasn't attentive. For another thing, I needed to completely focus on responding to a particular question instead of blossoming into another tangent. The tricky part was responding in an authentic, yet humorous vein to keep participants from logging off!

What helped was logging on to the Writers Chatroom the prior Wednesday night. Wednesday nights are open chats. It gets crazy in there with everybody chatting at breakneck speed on lots of trivial stuff. Needless to say, I was afraid to stick my hangnail into the discussion for fear of being trampled!

Finally, I dived into the conversation, asking what genre fit my second novel. Once I got people focused on answering my questions, I felt successful.  Check the website out for yourself on Wednesday nights from 7:00 to 9:00 CST and let me know what you think!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Promise of Writing Yet Another Chapter

When it comes to most aspects of my life, I'm an impatient sort. Yet when it comes to staring down an idea until it finally pops, I'm an absolute Buddah! Why the ego separation? For one thing, I love writing. Love plucking just the right word to complete a sentence.Love binding concepts so that one idea flows effortlessly into the next. Love allowing room for the plot to unfold without use of my midwife skills. (This I mean in the most general of terms since I've never been in the health care field!)

Although I can't read other mysteries when I'm flush into writing my own, I have no problem listening to suspense novels while I'm driving back and forth to work. In that environment, I can anonymously observe the twists and turns of a well-plotted story. Then, armed with the proper tools to employ in my own manuscript, I can go deeper, flow faster, and capture the essence of yet another chapter.