Friday, March 22, 2013

Serving Time is on Goodreads!

As you might have heard on Critique Circle, Kindle Boards or Twitter (all the places I participate and/or lurk), I'm currently working on the final stages of my debut novel.

Serving Time will be available very, very soon!

For now, I'm pleased to announce that Serving Time has its own little spot on Goodreads

Follow the link to see the listing for it, and hey, why not put it on your to-read shelf? We could all use a dash more of sci-fantasy with a pinch of dystopia in our lives, right?

But that's not all! Soon...very soon, several awesome blogs across the Internet will host a Serving Time cover reveal hop. Get the details and sign up for the event here.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Homophones: Those Tricky Typos

A few days ago, I went on and on about the mistakes I found in a very successful fantasy series (*cough* A Game of Thrones *cough*). One of the mistakes I just can't get over is when the author refers to "egg yoke" instead of "egg yolk". Was no one there to stop that madness from being published? Okay, breathe, I already moaned about that in my last post... I got it out of my system... (not)

Although I like to complain a lot, I'm not free from sin. I, too, have made the homophone mistake.

But first, what are homophones? Simple: different words with different meanings that sound the same.

Notorious examples: "they're", "there", and "their".

Other notorious examples: "your" and "you're".

There are many more: which/ witch, steak/stake, way/weigh, band/banned, accept/except, bear/bare, pail/pale...

If you're interested in checking out the whole kit and caboodle, you can have a look at the website dedicated to their study and conservation (okay, maybe not that last one):

In my own novel, Serving Time, there are two embarrassing examples of homophones--but the novel hasn't been published yet so I was able to correct the mistakes in time!

Example 1: "The women lurched forward, advancing like a hoard of giant ants, crawling over the tables and benches toward her."

Example 2: "Her mummified black skin was taught around her outraged snarl."

Do you see the problem in these two sentences? The first one says "a hoard of giant ants", when it should be "horde".

Hoard = "A store of money or valued objects, typically one that is secret or carefully guarded." / "Amass (money or valued objects) and hide or store away."

Horde = "A large group of people."

Luckily, fellow CCer Rick Ellrod (who has a guest post here) caught that mistake before the manuscript ever reached my editor. Whew and thanks!

The second sentence says "her skin was taught", which means that somehow this woman's skin attended school... The correct word here is "taut", meaning "stretched or pulled tight; not slack" / "(esp. of muscles or nerves) Tense; not relaxed."

My editor caught that one. Thanks, Ashley!

Now, in my defense, I want to say that I know the difference between these words, and I was mortified when Rick and Ashley pointed out my mistakes. How could they slip by me? I had read the manuscript a gazillion times! I think two factors come into play here:

- While reading, I already knew what I wanted to say, so my eyes skipped right past the words.

- These mistakes aren't the kind of typos that show up in word processors because they are correctly spelled!

My advice to avoid these mistakes is pretty much the same as always:

1) Study vocabulary. God knows I do this! John, you're still making fun of my "penumbra", don't think I don't know! A rich vocabulary helps create a rich novel. If you have a doubt, go to the dictionary. Go to the thesaurus. Check out the list of homophones on the website mentioned above and try to be aware of what you write at all times.

2) Share your work with writing buddies. Join a critique group such as Critique Circle. With the help of other writers, you'll be able to polish your writing.

3) Finally, don't forget the editor! If I hadn't hired a professional editor, my villain's skin would be "taught" instead of "taut" (among several other issues I still have to tackle...).

Well, that's my recent experience with homophones. What about you? Have you ever had the heebie jeebies over words?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Game of Throes (or Those Little Things That Make Me Go Urg!)

As some of you might already know, I am currently reading the A Song of Ice and Fire series, also known by the title of its first book: A Game of Thrones.

So far, I am about halfway through A Storm of Swords, Part Two: Blood and Gold, and I can't take this any longer. I would like to--no, I need to--say something about this series. Not a review, more like a rant or a rave. You see, I need to point out something that's really been bugging me:


The unsurmountable errors.

The never-ending errors.

I was shocked when I read Game of Thrones--and not only thanks to the story or the characters.

Here's the cover for the edition I bought:

Oh, Ned!

Now, some of you might have noticed something above. In the first paragraph of this post, I mentioned A Game of Thrones, only to say Game of Thrones later on. "How's that?" you might ask. I'm complaining about errors when I just messed up the title of the book? Well, it turns out most covers contain the article "a", but the cover of the edition I bought managed to drop the "a" somewhere along the way. Oh well, back to business...

Here's a side view of the book:

Nearing the end, it's almost as if they just stopped caring.

Every single one of those dog-eared pages contains an error. What surprises me most is the variety of errors: from simple typos to confused words to formatting problems.

Here are the most notable examples:

Page 16: "They sooner, the better," Theon Greyjoy agreed. - I concur.

Page 326: They had only three dead; two of Lord Bracken's menat-arms [...] - You don't have enough with the old gods and the new that now you're mixing in pieces of Egyptian goddesses too?

Page 376: He nodded. "Mind you, Princess, if the lords of the Seven Kingdoms have the with the gods gave a goose, it will never come to that [...]" - Have the what now?

Page 451: "Ser Edmure has sent men to every village and holdfast withing a day's ride of the border," Ser Kary! explained. - Triple brownie points for two errors in the same sentence! Sure, I like my dose of Terry Pratchett-esque names, but substituting the name "Karyl" with "Kary!" is a bit over the top. As for "withing"...I don't think it means what you think it means...

Page 528: "But I love him," Sansa wailed, confused and fright-ened. - Welcome to a whole new level of fear: Game of Thrones fear!

Page 542: "[...] Gods knows, we need men of Lord Eddard's ability."

Page 542: It would be mon-strous to strip him of Winterfell and force him to take the black, and yet if it meant his life... - Another dash in the middle of a word. I have the feeling something went wrong during the formatting stage... Plus, double brownie points for two errors on the same page! (See above.)

Page 757: The raven was pecking at an egg, breaking the shell. Pushing his beak through the hole, he pulled out morsels of white and yoke. - This is too much. I have to stop here.

My brain! Needless to say, I was completely pulled out of the story. In case you don't see the last error, let me illustrate it for you:

This is a yoke:

This is also a yoke, found, for example, on flight simulators:

This is an egg yolk:

There's quite a difference! So after reading that sentence, I'm asking myself: did George RR Martin simply make an honest mistake, or does he really not know which is which? And what about the editor(s)? Could nobody avoid this? It might sound like I'm making too much of a fuss over this, but A Game of Thrones is a traditionally-published and widely acclaimed novel, and I was surprised to see the quality is much lower than I had expected.

But that's not all I've seen as I've plowed through the pages of this epic fantasy. Take A Storm of Swords, Part One: Steel and Snow. Here's the cover for the edition I bought:

Beautiful in its simplicity, isn't it? Well, it's anything but simple inside! Check it out! *Gasps!*

Can you see that bit right there? Yeah, there. In the middle. Page after page after page of errors! One right after another! Where was the editor when this was going on? Where was the proofreader? Wasn't there anybody on duty to stop this madness?

Here are some examples:

Page 80: A fire was crackling in the hearth, and sweet-swelling rushes had been scattered on the floor.

Page 211: If he should fall in the fight that must follow, the Wall would be safe for another hundred years, Jon judged. Andif not...

Page 262 -- This page marks the beginning of the folded middle section. The errors here are mainly formatting issues: incorrect paragraph indentation, and, above all, missing quotation marks. So many missing quotations marks!

Now here's where I stop, stare at the wall, and wonder.

As a soon-to-be indie author, I've done my homework. I've read Victorine Lieske's How to Find Success Selling Ebooks, and I'm currently reading Catherine Ryan Howard's Self-Printed: The Sane Person's Guide to Self-Publishing (excellent, by the way!). I've visited countless blogs owned by the most knowledgeable bloggers in the field. I've even (sort of) attended online conferences such as IndieReConI'm perfectly aware that I'm just starting out so I'm no writing--or publishing--wizard. I don't know much--but I do know this: every book that goes into print has to be the best it can be. Writers (especially if we're self publishing) have to:

Make the product stand out.
Make it worthwhile.
And for crying out loud, be professional.

This is why so many indie authors recommend hiring an editor to sort out any possible kinks in the manuscript. "Don't do it yourself" is our official mantra. "Check and double check" is our pre-publishing chant.

So what happened with George RR Martin's books? How come so many errors made it past all the pre-publishing stages?

I'm honestly wondering if anyone has the answer. After so many months of absorbing writing-related information like a sponge, it's surprising (at least for me) to find such a successful book...with so many mistakes. Or is the proportion of mistakes the same as other novels, and I just happened to catch them?

Is it okay to have these mistakes if the story is good? Are they forgivable and forgettable--even though they can pull several fickle readers (like me) out of the story? Are they easy to oversee because A Game of Thrones was traditionally published? Would the general public have a worse reaction if these same typos were in an indie book?

And finally: Is there someone I can write to and warn about the errors and maybe (in an idyllic world) have them proofread the books once more?

All comments are welcome. Happy writing!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Cool Tools for Writers: IVONA Recordings

WARNING: It turns out IVONA Recordings recently updated their website...and destroyed the wonderful free features I explain in this post. Instead of the online version, they now offer the free IVONA Minireader. You can save this program to your computer and download all the free voices. I still have to try it out, since the download is taking forever...

One of the best ways to check if your writing flows well is to hear your work out loud. You can read your own story out loud to yourself, or ask a friend or family member to do it for you.


You can grab a cup of tea, sit back, and have an online recording studio do the job!

Over the past two years, I've been searching and searching for the perfect (AKA: free) text to speech application. I found several, although the good ones were very limited. 

Many had natural-sounding voices, but only permitted up to a maximum of about one thousand words, while others managed any word count but only offered robotic and cringe-inducing voices.

Recently, thanks to a message on Critique Circle, I discovered IVONA Recordings. IVONA Recordings has no word limit whatsoever. You simply paste the text you want it to read, select the voice, and enjoy story time. It's absolutely free, although it does offer you the possibility to buy the recording for a not-so-modest fee.

I admit several voices are rather mechanical-sounding, but most are more than decent for a free program. What's more, you can use IVONA Recordings for different languages and accents: Castilian Spanish, British English, Welsh English, Welsh, American English, German, French, Canadian French, Italian, and several more. Each language option offers at least two speakers: one male and one female.

Overall, I believe IVONA Recordings is a reasonably good text to speech application--with a more than reasonable price! So if you'd like to know what your story sounds like, but are too tired to read it out loud, let IVONA Recordings do it for you!

This is probably the best text to speech application I've found, but I'm sure there are other great options out there. Do you have a favorite? Send me the name in the comments! Or maybe you don't think text to speech applications are a useful way to check the flow. You can also send me a comment! 
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