Grammar Woes: "Dash you to Hyphen!"

Grammar Woes: 

"Dash you to Hyphen!"

From a Twitter post a while back, a lot of authors were confused about dashes and hyphens and when to use them. I found that interesting since I can't remember when it was taught to me or if I organically figured it out. I'm a avid reader with a couple English degrees under my belt, so hard to figure out the when and where it entered my brain. I found this to be a finer point of grammar that most teachers probably wouldn't get to. So let's get to it, easy and quick.

Em Dash: The em dash looks like this—which happens to be the length of the letter M, hence its name. It can be used in place of some commas or parentheses. I suggest only using them where a comma won't work: too many elements, things are confusing, or it is an aside that could go in parentheses.

She was sure—almost positive—that he liked her back, but he was shy, and she wasn’t sure if he was over his ex.

Okay, not the best sentence off the top of my head, but it illustrates the use of the Em dash as a parenthetical. If we replaced them with commas, this would be a confusing, comma-happy sentence that the writer might need to revise to avoid them or simply slap in some em dashes to keep the tone. Parentheses could be used, yes, but that kind of downplays the idea enclosed and a lot of publishers don't favor them.

En Dash: The en dash is often confused with the em. I only really use it in dates and page numbers. It is shorter than em dash and longer than the hyphen, precisely the length of the letter N. It actually has a pretty forward definition: through.

Please read pages 198–210 in your textbook.

I would assume you'd rarely use this one in writing fiction, so put your efforts into differentiating the other two.

Hyphen: Not sure how poor hyphen gets thrown into this mess with such a different name, but it looks like a short dash. It's used to create compounds or combining two words to create adjectives. I love making my own compound adjectives.

You should see her I'm-going-to-murder-you glare firsthand.

Or more common ones:

The twelve-year-old kid was moody.

Note, it is the smallest and there is no extra spacing around them (also, you might see first-hand in places which is the British usage). The hardest part is figuring out whether or not it is a combined compound or if it is a hyphenated one. And there are a ton of hyphen rules, some strictly enforced and some pretty lax. Honestly, looking it up is the easiest thing to do if your not sure. And I might revisit it as it's own post.

Hope this helps a bit in differentiating dash punctuation!

YA Anthology Review: Summer Crush

YA Anthology 

Summer Crush

Being an author who was lucky enough to get published in Evernight Teen's anthology Kissed, I wanted to also read the anthology that came before ours: Summer Crush. Just like our anthology, the previous one had a stipulation centered around the setting needed to be during summer break.

Here's the breakdown of the six stories by six great authors:

Sutton Summer (by Sasha Hibbs): A grieving McKenzie gets a dose of regret after dissing Dylan who is now suddenly shed his ugly duck syndrome. Dylan exacts revenge on the girl who shattered his heart with a cross between leading her on and torturing her. What was great about this story were the character arcs. You love and hate them at times making them so relatably human. I felt at times the characters were too cruel and catty, but by the end I did end up liking them and felt they were almost fully redeemed.

Exquisite Torture (by S.D. Wasley): Ryan spends the summer at his grandmother's in the middle of no where, without any internet, fixing up her house. Soon the boredom is broken by a girl who isn't quite what she seems and he finds himself unraveling a mystery while falling in love with a girl who might not quite be alive. What was great about this one was a blend of genres. It felt paranormal, horror--in a ghost story way--but was predominantly a romance. These blends did work, not to mention a twist ending wowed me.

Forbidden (by Melissa Frost): Olivia, your typical well-behaved teen, falls for the new bad boy, Gavin. As their relationship blossoms, she learns that "bad" is a relative term and she starts breaking rules due to her rigid mother's judgmental rejection of Gavin. This one seemed like the same old plot seen often, but it was still worth reading. This one was cute, and the scenes where you see them falling in love were addictive. 
Taking the Plunge (by Diana Stager): Jessica is a teen mom raising her son all on her own while trying to finish high school. When she starts falling for Erik, a swim instructor of mom-baby swim class, and he pursues her, embracing the idea of her child rather than shying away, she is in too deep. This was a refreshingly different read showing the struggles young single mothers go through on many levels, not to mention a sweet love story of acceptance.

Boarderline Love (by Deanna Dee): Dayla is saved by Mason after almost drowning and is instantly drawn in by his hot factor, but hesitant due to his over protective attitude and shifts in moods. There's a reason Mason acts so odd: a past that he hasn't come to terms with. Enter an overprotective brother and it seems as if their romance is doomed from the start unless Dayla can get through to Mason. This one had a great plot but felt a tad melodramatic but I think only because a story with this much depth needed to be full-length. I'd like to see it as a full novel. 

An Ocean of their Own (by Birdie Hall): Lola, an artist, draws a girl while on the beach which sets off a romance between them. Lola struggles with her feelings but more about how others will react to her homosexuality. Not only is this a great love story, but a coming out tale that avoids the common cliched melodrama. It really is an internal struggle and how one needs to accept herself to truly be in love. I liked this story and wished there were more diverse tales like this one in Summer Crush.

Overall, Summer crush was adorable with a nice mix of different tales. It could use a little more diversity as there was only one LGBTQ tale which seemed an afterthought being at the end all alone, but one could argue the single mom story is a bit diverse in comparison of the other stories. I think the publishers realized this which might be why Kissed has eight stories, three involving LGBTQ characters. Either way, both anthologies have some great YA stories and can lead you to some new great authors, most of which have other full-length works as well.

If interested in Summer Crush, click here.
If interested in Kissed, click here.

Tales in Publishing: Trial and Error of Ad Making

Tales in Publishing: 

Trial and Error of 
Ad Making

Part of getting traditionally published means your publishing company markets for you, but if you think that gets you out of doing it yourself as well, you'll soon learn you're sadly mistaken. Unfortunately, marketing is part of being an author (unless you only write for yourself and don't want to sell many copies). If you are like me, published by a small press, you will need to do even more marketing to get sales as these presses do not have as many resources as the Big 5 conglomerates. After talking to many authors, I've learned that with the big 5 or small press, you are expected to and even sign contracts for your minimal marketing requirements. This means, if you don't try at all, you could get dropped. Sounds daunting, but usually it is simple like a social media account and website. I'm not trying to deter anyone from publishing traditionally, but stating the norm. Note, this is something you have to do as well if self-published but it will be all by yourself or you might need to pay a professional.

My publishers made ads, but I wanted to make my own as well. I felt like it would double the advertising effort. For my first novel, Apidae, I downloaded and altered a professional's book trailer he was offering free. It was through PowerPoint, so I learned quickly, I had to upload it elsewhere to add music (it's possible but difficult). It was a painful learning process and I should've known myself better. I never do well adjusting other's work or ideas to fit my own; I'm a do-it-from-scratch kind of person.

With my second book, Fyr, I decided to plan marketing early. You see, using ads from photos on the internet can be troublesome due to breaching copyright laws. There are a few websites where photographers donate their pictures to a database to be used for free, but they are a little limited. Notice how some indie books have similar covers? Plus my search yielded nothing useful for me as they had for my first book. One theme in Fyr is stone magic. I have an college friend who works with them, so made inquiries. She was willing to take some special photos of her stones for me in exchange for a free autographed copy of my novel. When I got the photos, I added excerpts in good ole reliable PowerPoint, which allows you to customize slide sizes. I made banners and social media ads without the need of cropping.

This all took a while because I'm a perfectionist and I kept toying with different effects for the wording. I also made a book trailer in PowerPoint but broke down and bought Windows Movie Maker to add music and better compatibility and sharing options. Next time, I plan on using Movie maker from the start to see if I prefer it over the multi-step process I went through.

So here's what I did for my ads and trailer:

  • Downloaded friend's photos on phone
  • Enhanced them using Instagram
  • Moved them to Google Drive app (to transfer to computer)
  • Went on computer and added words, transitions, and timing in PowerPoint
  • Saved as an MP4 file (for trailer) or JPEG (for ads)
For the ads, that's all. Due to having everything synced on Drive, I can post them from my phone and computer. 

The trailer had a few extra steps:
  • Uploaded trailer into Windows Movie Maker
  • Dowloaded copyright free music from YouTube's library and uploaded into Movie Maker
  • Save and export where you'd like it--to phone, YouTube, etc.
Having it on YouTube is great as I have easy access to it wherever. In fact, when I went to upload it onto my blog just now, there's an option for my video from the site. 

Sounds kind of simple, but honestly it took a while due to me trying to perfect things and my timings being off--when that happens, I had to go back to the editable form--PowerPoint. It's not as perfect as I wanted it to be, but I'm getting better.

If you are interesting in purchasing this novel, click here.

Grammar Woes: The Truth About Adverbs

Grammar Woes:
The Truth About

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they're like dandelions. If you have one in your lawn, it looks pretty and unique." --Stephen King

This is well meant advice but I've noticed as of late how the #WritingCommunity has run wild with it, taking it at times as an ultimatum. I'm weighing in here today to discuss the truth behind adverbs in creative writing.

Myth 1: King's quote means don't use adverbs
If you read the meme below, the quote is out of context and it does sound like he is telling writers to never use adverbs in their writing, but that is what happens when you read a snippet out of context. See the above quote as it was meant to be read: "To put it another way, they're like dandelions. If you have one in your lawn, it looks pretty and unique" (King). Here the quote is saying one here and there can be beautiful, but if they are all over, some should be weeded out. So King is not actually saying NEVER use them, but to do so sparingly.

Myth 2: Adverbs show inferior writing
If you use adverbs you are not a poor writer, but if you heavily rely on them, as King points out, you might want to look into rewording things to improve. The entire adverbs are evil mentality stems from them sometimes telling the reader something instead of showing. Some writers hate the "show don't tell" slogan, but as a reader picturing something is so much more enriching than being told.

Example: She said angrily, "I don't like you."    versus 
With her fists balled up and her eyes glimmering with fiery rage, she said, "I don't like you."

This is what King is referring to. By telling writers adverbs are bad, he was trying to get more out of them as writers.

Adverbs have a time and a place. Should we think about them and try to avoid them? Perhaps, it depends if you naturally over or under use them. I use them a lot just to get the mood down around dialogue, notoriously using them in dialogue tags which I know is a big no-no. I do make a note to go through and revise the passages. My publishers usually catch more that I miss. The point is, think about them, note your usage of them, but don't let it stifle your writing process. For me, this is a revision and editing concern.

What other well-meaning but abused advice should we discuss next?

YA Book Review: Head Case

YA Book Review:

Head Case

Despite not being a gamer or a fan of Alice in Wonderland (I'm weird), Niki Cluff still sucks me in and delights me with an intricate world full of surprises, action, and romance.

In Head Case, Allyson--gamer and hacker extraordinaire--is left in a coma after a terrible car accident. Able to hear sense everything going on around her, she discovers the doctors are forcing her coma for an experimental "treatment" that would give coma patients a virtual chance to live a full life. At first, the VR world seems great, but Ally misses her family, socialization, and real life. She hacks into the VR system and uses astral planing to communicate with the living in hopes to be woken up. A big no-no it seems, so she is thrown into another world where a mad queen rules, a boy with rabbit ears steals her heart, and another whom is half cat befriends her. The problem is the mad queen Aishwarya has her heart set on the bunny-boy Harrison as well. Soon Ally and her friends are racing to escape the mad queen and are fighting for their lives both virtually and in reality.

This book is definitely for teen and adult readers who are into technology. Some of the references were lost on me when it came to gaming, but Cluff does make and effort to slip in some old school titles us adults who don't play anymore would recognize. The world building is phenomenal. From describing the sensations of being in a coma without being able to see anything, to a Sims world, to a fantastical place inspired by Alice in Wonderland, Cluff shows a penchant for world building. I felt completely immersed in the game as if the imagery was projected right in front of me. The plot is refreshing and not predictable. The beginning sucks the reader in, then admittedly there is a lull before action resumes, but I felt it was necessary because the fantasy VR world and characters are so intricately detailed that a lot of the novel's strengths would be lost if the book was merely plot-centered.

Overall, the world building, descriptions, and plot make this a great read. If you'd like to check this book out, click here.

Publishing Tips: The Ever-Dreaded Query

Publishing Tips: 

The Ever-Dreaded 

Query time! As promised here is another query that worked and snagged me a publisher. The letter itself is in blue with read explaining the method to my madness. I hope it helps you craft your own.

Dear AGENT or REPRESENTATIVE (in response to #PitMad), (here, I had to tag the publishing rep to remind her she had requested my query during this Twitter pitch party)

The Selection meets Poison Study. Toury arrives in Fyr where magic is power, a prince’s love is deadly, and female autonomy is a dream. Prince Alex realizes Toury can break his curse and save his people, but Earth girls aren’t so easy. (This was my pitch I used during #PitMad. I have a post on this pitch itself here)

Let me introduce you to Fyr, book one of the YA fantasy romance trilogy Celestial Spheres, which is 86k words. (This is common to get to the point so the reader doesn't waste time or can pass it on to someone who works with that genre if he/she doesn't. You do need work count, genre, and title. Note how I warned them it would be a trilogy but said nothing about having written more than this one. Agents always say to never say you have more books lying around as it sounds like an inability to snag a deal). Toury, an unloved loner thrust into a new world, realizes this fire sphere is not all it’s cracked up to be, with its strict rules in propriety and young marriageable age. Then she makes the gravest mistake of all by offending an ogler who just happens to be the Prince. Alex, the Prince of Fyr, has many challenges to conquer such as his father’s ailing health, the pressure to marry soon, and the hidden necromancers trying to take over the realm with dark magic he is vulnerable to because he’s cursed. But there’s hope in a cheeky earth girl savior who deems her independence as more important than a suit from him. Together they can break the curse and save the world, but cooperation is difficult due to Alex robbing Toury of her freedom, her ignorance of their world and her own powers, and their enemies’ nefarious plans. And worst of all, Alex learns the only way to break the curse is through true love, not the kind of magic he can conjure but must earn. They must risk their lives, hearts, and futures to save the land from a darkness of apocalyptic proportions. (This is the synopsis portion and was one of the hardest I've had to write yet. As you can tell, it is a complicated plot and a dual point of view, each character having multiple conflicts to deal with. I started with something twice this length and then cut out words, combined ideas, regrouped them according to character to simplify and boil it down).

Transforming Renaissance astronomical theory into a fantastical world and love story seems an arduous task, but having BA’s in English, Dramatic Arts, and an MA in English, gives me a vast background of knowledge of character and world building. I’ve published the story “A Jaded Life” (Circumambulations literary journal), the novella “Dare” in the Kissed anthology (Evernight Teen) and have a novel Apidae (Evernight Teen) debuting this winter. I’m also a college Lecturer and strongly believe in the effectiveness of publicity through social media, and use a blog and other digital venues. However, living in the deep south, I am looking for official representation in the publishing world to champion my full-length manuscripts. It would be a pleasure to be a part of a start-up company, taking a lucrative journey together from the very beginning. (This section doesn't vary much in my queries since it is my credentials that do not really change. I did add a novel in this one that was coming out since that was new. In this section, you want to give them any relevant information that lends you credibility when it comes to writing. This is hard if you do not have any works or degrees in English, so you may have to get creative. My first ever query discussed my degrees only and how I taught the age group of my audience, and it did get a few responses but no contracts. The point is, put what you can. If there's nothing to put, think about trying to publish some shorter works or entering contests).

I look forward to hearing from you soon and humbly thank you for your time.(Here you might want to add some phrasing asking if you can send them your full-length manuscript or something in addition to whatever they asked for with this query. Pay attention to their submissions website. My publisher asked for the entire manuscript, so there was no need to ask. Some ask for first 3 chapters, 50 pages, a 2 page synopsis, etc. If they do not ask for the entire thing, then ask them if they want it.)


Lisa Borne Graves

(Social media accounts are necessary these days to prove you can market, your own website or blog looks even better. It only costs me $12/year for my own domain name. If you do have published books, having author accounts on Goodreads and Amazon are imperative too. All these show you are serious about selling your work and will work as hard as your publisher in doing so).

I hope this helps you craft your own and please comment with questions or suggestions about what you'd like me to tackle next when it comes to writing and publishing. In a few months, I will post another successful query--incidentally, my first query ever written. This will be my last query for a while as I'm now on a submission basis with my publisher without a need to query (which feels amazing).

If interested in reading book 1 of Celestial SpheresFyr, you can now purchase the book here.

Publishing Tips: Return to the Dreaded Pitch

Publishing Tips: 

Return to the 
Dreaded Pitch

Here's a sneak peek to my upcoming novel--out next week!

In a previous post on pitches, I explained the use and my process for writing pitches. I promised that once my books were safely out and protected under copyright, I'd share my path to getting them snagged by a publisher. As I've discussed before, I'm a fan of Twitter pitch parties and found success in the two I've entered: #pit2pub and #pitmad. Here is one of my pitches that successfully attracted the attention of a publisher, whom I queried, and they picked up the book:

The Selection meets Poison Study. Toury arrives in Fyr where magic is power, a prince’s love is deadly, and female autonomy is a dream. Prince Alex realizes Toury can break his curse and save his people, but Earth girls aren’t so easy.

This one was a struggle. It is a way more complex book than my first one, meaning the two characters have separate conflicts that come together and they are numerous. I still feel this could've been stronger but it got the job done. I started with a comparison to other novels. This gives the reader a taste of what to expect and shows you're well read in your genre. I introduce the female protagonist and her complications while also painting a picture of the world. I also insinuated my genres too, through particular word choices: a romance "love" and the fantasy genre "magic." The second sentence shows he is another protagonist, a dual POV novel, with his own problems. My pitch focuses equally on plot and romance because this is a romance driven novel. I never state "teen" or "YA" because in pitch days posts, you must label your category and genre with hashtag abbreviations; this novel had a #YA #F #R tagged onto it. Plus the comparisons should be of your category/genre and both are edgy romance novels with similar themes to my own.

Overall, I'm seeing a content pattern in my pitches which might be the recipe for success: genre, protagonist, complications, hook. These are essential to get in, but most importantly, it has to sound good. The best advice I have is to fully participate in these pitch parties, even if you're not pitching. Retweet authors' pitches you think are well written (do not like them--that is for the agents and publishers to mark their interest). This helps them and it'll go on your page where you can view them later and make a study of them. The only way I learned how to pitch was reading other authors. The same goes for queries, which I will post in a couple soon for you.

You can pre-order this book here


Tales in Publishing: Query example

Tales in Publishing:  Query example I'm sharing my successful query to others in hopes it exemplifies what to do and helps other au...