101 Names to Conjure With

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These are my published novels. Don’t you just love the covers?

I’m looking forward to showing you the cover to the next novel, called For What it’s Worth, which will be coming soon. I’ve done the writing, the rewriting, the editing, the proofreading, the polishing, the cover is underway, and it’s almost ready to go to the publisher. Yay!

So what’s next, you may well ask. And I’ll tell you.

My next WIP is called Gold Plated. I completed the first draft some time ago and am about to embark on the second draft. This is the time when my mind keeps going back to the story and the characters. I’ve let it marinate for a few months, since November actually. It was my November 2016 NaNoWriMo novel, so it has marinated for almost eight months and it’s started to bubble up into my consciousness again.

During the writing of the first draft, I became unhappy with the name I had chosen for one of my characters, and I am ready to think about what she should be called instead. She’s not a Rose or a Violet, nor is she a Tabitha or a Geraldine. Because she is my character, created in my imagination, I can call her whatever I want to, but I’d like it to be a name that fits her and the story.

She is a feisty, Scottish lady in her early fifties, but she was named by her much gentler, artistic mother. If you stop and think about it, a mother has no idea at all what her child will turn out like, so she can hardly choose a name that will describe that child’s nature as she grows and matures. It’s a fortunate coincidence when the name happens to fit in real life, an easier thing to pull off by the creator of fiction. So am I looking for a name a gentle, artistic soul might name her daughter, but that actually suits the daughter’s stronger, feisty nature? Or might it be fun if it turns out the mother chose a name that really doesn’t suit at all? Any thoughts?

I put this question to a group of FaceBook friends, and we had a lot of fun with their suggestions. I must have at least 101 names to conjure with, and a short list that’s not much shorter. I wondered if you’d care to join the fun and help me out at the same time.

Just tell me in the comments what you think would be a flowery, artistic name that a feisty, fiery lady would love or hate to be called. Either way, it will be fun to get your suggestions. They may add to my shortlist or help me whittle it down. Who knows, you may be the one who comes up with the name I settle on.

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To read more about, or buy any of  my published books:

Please click the link to

Christine Campbell Amazon Author page

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Is My Novel Ready for Proofreading? by Guest Author Wendy Janes @wendyproof

Excellent advice from Wendy Janes on getting the best value from your proofreader.

Lit World Interviews

Is My Novel Ready for Proofreading?

I love my job as a freelance proofreader, but sometimes authors make it very difficult for me to do my job effectively.

However brilliant your writing, however delicious your story, if there are too many errors and inconsistencies, you are asking too much of your proofreader to spot everything.

Here are a few examples of things that should have been removed by the author/developmental editor/copy editor prior to proofreading. Just in case you’re wondering, they are all products of my fevered imagination:

  • A tear-jerking family saga opens with Davina playing with her five-year-old brother, Oliver, on the sprawling lawns of their darling papa’s country estate. When our feisty heroine rescues sweet young Oliver from his evil kidnappers two years later, he is ten years old. The hapless Oliver dies in a fire soon after his rescue, and (miraculously) reappears at Davina’s sumptuous wedding to…

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What do We Know of Wendy Janes?

I had the great pleasure to meet up with Author Wendy Janes in London a few months ago. It was a real treat to get to know Wendy in person and I wish we lived nearer one another so we could meet often. However, we don’t, so we can’t, so there it is.

Next best thing, I’ve invited her to sit by my virtual fireside and have a chat with me about herself, her writing and her goals, and I’m inviting you to join us. So draw up a chair, help yourself to tea or coffee. Hot chocolate for me – plenty in the pot if that’s your pleasure too. Oh, and help yourself to the cup cakes.

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So, Wendy, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I live in London with my husband and youngest son. I feel very lucky that since my youngest son started school I’ve been able to work from home, running my freelance proofreading business and advising parents over the phone on The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service. While I’ve always written diaries, short stories and prose-poetry for myself, it’s only in the last few years that I’ve had the confidence to share my writing with an audience. Some of my short stories have appeared in anthologies, and in October 2015 I self-published my novel, What Jennifer Knows.

Now can you tell us something that might surprise us?

I’ve never learned how to drive. I did try when I was seventeen and gave up after the lesson when I nearly caused an accident by pulling out into a main road in front of a car. I simply didn’t see it coming. Thank goodness my instructor had dual-control. I can still feel that dart of hot-cold shock when I think about him slamming on the brakes that day.

1992 wendy the dancer

Something you haven’t told in an interview before — perhaps because you haven’t been asked:

I once performed at Wembley Arena. Over twenty years ago a group of us (including my mum) danced to The Trout by Schubert as part of a day of movement and dance. I think you can see how excited I was from this photo of me at the ‘Artists Entrance’!

Oh, my, look at those glasses. My only excuse is that it was 1992.

I love them! I wore glasses since I was four years old till I got contacts, and I can tell you, there are worse than yours of 1992!

And I love the ski pants. Loved wearing them back then too. And the dreamy long scarf…

I just love this photograph, Wendy. It really brings back the late 90s. And I wish I had seen you dance.

So, can you tell us something you are proud of about yourself?

At the end of the 1980s I started up a local branch of a support group for lonely and isolated new mums. We’d meet at each other’s houses, go on outings, and a small core of us would provide information and support where needed. When the group became too big to fit in each other’s houses, we raised funds to set up a mother-and-toddler group in a local community hall. I’m still close friends with five of the mums from the original group.

And something you feel you need to work on:

My husband’s untidiness.

He’s a wonderful man, but he genuinely doesn’t seem to see the piles of papers, clothes, tools and camera equipment that he leaves lying all over the place. After thirty years of tidying up after him, encouraging/cajoling/nagging, some people might say he’ll never change, but I’m still hopeful that one day we’ll live in a completely clutter-free house.

Hehe! I love that you think you have to work on your husband’s untidiness. All the best with that… 

What makes you smile, Wendy?

My granddaughters. At six years old and nine months old, the way they embrace all of life’s new experiences is a joy to see.

What makes you sad?

Unkindness.

I know you enjoy your work with The National Autistic Society. Can you tell us a bit about that please?

A small team of us help parents whose children have a diagnosis of autism to try and secure the right education for them. We each work from home offering a listening ear and giving advice via phone and email. Much of my time is spent ascertaining what the parent wants to achieve and then using law, regulations and guidance to empower the parent in reaching towards that goal. Sometimes we can come up with a way forward in a trice, other times it takes far longer, and sometimes things don’t work out as expected. Whatever the outcome, I always hope I’ve helped in some small way.

It’s an absolute privilege to do this work.

Has your work with The National Autistic Society influenced your writing?

Yes. Working on a daily basis with families has made me want to bring some of the issues into my writing. In my novel, What Jennifer Knows, Jennifer’s grandson is struggling at school and she suspects he’s on the spectrum. Here’s a link to a guest blog post I wrote which describes in more detail how my work and my writing dovetail: http://www.jerasjamboree.co.uk/2015/11/autism-and-sen-in-fiction-guest-post.html

And your work as a proofreader? How has that influenced your writing?

I’d say my nit-picky proofreading brain has meant I take an age to write anything. Not only am I prone to want to edit the words before they’ve even reached the page, but once the words are down, there’s the endless tinkering, re-working, double-checking, re-tinkering…

I’ve read books that annoyed me to the point where I wanted to throw them across the room. Sometimes because they have lacked a good editor and/or proofreader. Other times just because the story is weak or the telling of it poor. 
As a reader, rather than a proofreader, what do you think makes a good story?

Unfortunately many books are spoiled by poor editing and proofreading. A typo can completely jolt a reader out of a story, and when that happens over and over again, I’m not surprised you’ve wanted to throw a book across the room!

As a reader I think authenticity is at the heart of good writing. If a story is populated by two-dimensional characters or by characters that don’t ring true then the story won’t come alive.

What one thing has a ‘bad’ book taught you not to do in your own writing?

Telling the reader in the narrative that something is happening; telling it again in dialogue; and then, just in case readers haven’t got the point, telling them again in the narrative. I strive to avoid this mistake that turns stories into stodge.

As a writer, what elements do you find are the most crucial to include in your stories?

Believable characters
Purpose
A surprise or two
Some humour
Genuine heart

What are three things you have experienced as an author that have helped you during the writing stage?

Support of other authors. I’ve met some wonderful authors online, many are now very good friends.
Support of family. My husband and youngest son are particularly brilliant sounding boards, and excellent at reminding me that there is life outside of the PC.
Reading some wonderful fiction while writing helps me strive to improve my writing.

You said you think authenticity is at the heart of good writing, and I do agree. You also said, “If a story is populated by two-dimensional characters or by characters that don’t ring true then the story won’t come alive.” The goal of a writer is to give the readers characters they can connect with. The characters in your novel, What Jennifer Knows, are very engaging. 

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UK link : US link

What advice could you give other authors to help them find that authentic voice that speaks to readers?

Thank you. I’m so pleased you found Jennifer and her friends and family engaging.

I know some people suggest you read your work out loud, either to yourself or others. I think what can also help to hone your voice is to have someone else read your work back to you. That way, you can hear exactly how your words sound to someone else.

You have a gift of storytelling, and I know you have written many short stories, some of which appear in published anthologies, have you ever thought of publishing a compilation of your stories?

Again, thank you. Yes, in April I’m planning to self-publish a small collection of new short stories. While writing What Jennifer Knows some of the supporting characters had their own tales to tell that would have detracted from Jennifer’s story, so I’ve been working on six stories that reflect significant moments in their lives.

I hope people who haven’t read the novel will enjoy meeting Rollo, Cynthia, Sue, Gerald, Blythe and Tim, and will want to see them again in the pages of What Jennifer Knows. And for those who have read the novel, I hope they’ll enjoy their reunion with characters they met there, and be entertained by the glimpses of Jennifer as she matures from young student to grandmother.

Is there anything you wish you’d known before you started writing your first book, that you could share with eager, would-be writers?

If I’d known that a first draft of a book doesn’t have to be polished I could have saved myself a lot of early angst and self-doubt. So, my advice to would-be writers is to get the words on the page and let your ideas flow. No one else needs to see your first draft, stop thinking about your audience at this point and simply write what you want to. Then, once you have that first draft you can start to work on it.

Where should readers go to check out more about you and what you do?

Here are links to my presence on the web:

Goodreads

Facebook author page

Author Central Page, UK

Author Central Page, US

Website

Twitter

Facebook profile

Google+

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Well, I do hope you enjoyed getting to know Wendy a little better. Hope you can join me again soon. I’ll replenish the cup cakes, I promise.

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Christine Campbell is the author of six published novels: Family Matters, Making it Home, Flying Free, Here at the Gate, Searching for Summer, and Traces of Red.

You can find out more if you click here, on the sidebar of this blog, or if you click on ‘Books’ on the menu bar.

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We Are the Gatekeepers

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One of the accusations made about Independently Published books is that the quality of indie published books is poorer than traditionally published works because there are no ‘gatekeepers’: that the book does not have to go through an agent and the rigorous editing, copyediting, proofreading and all the rest that goes into Traditionally Published books.

Now, while it is true that it doesn’t have to go through all these processes, that does not have to mean that it won’t. Just that it won’t all happen ‘in house’ with one of the large publishing firms.

But it does still need to happen.

Indie Authors, we must become our own gatekeepers.

In order to refute the allegation, we must help one another achieve the highest standards of publication that we can. How?
Well, for one thing, we must make sure our own manuscript is absolutely as good as it can be, then we must be honest with our fellow Indie Authors.

I advocate honest reviews.

It is too easy to think that by ‘banding together’ and giving one another five star, great reviews, we are supporting one another. I don’t believe we are. I welcome the odd three star review if it gives me pointers as to how I could improve my writing – especially if the reviewer happens to PM me too with more of their reasoning. I want my work to be taken seriously. If it takes a few stinging reviews to help me improve, I’m up for that.

To give five star reviews just because it is a fellow Indie Author is not actually helpful. It perpetuates the accusation and it doesn’t help the author improve in the necessary areas. Yes, it may help them make a few sales of their book, but it won’t help them sell the next one.

If a book you are reviewing needs editing, why not PM the author and explain what the problem is. Is it the spelling and punctuation? Tell them. Is it the paragraphing? The plotting? The character development? Tell them. Offer helpful advice. Add some links to expert advice on the subject. Give them a second chance, an opportunity to put the problem right before posting the review, before deciding on the star rating.

What if you are on the receiving end of such a PM or a three-star, stinging review. Don’t feel hurt or annoyed. Look at the reasons. Be honest with yourself. Is there room for improvement? Every one of us can become a better writer. Try not to be daunted by the prospect of all that editing again. Your book is worth it. Your readers deserve it.

In short: if we want to compete with Traditionally Published books in the marketplace, if we want to hold our own or make our mark in this fiercely competitive business we are in, we must be our own gatekeepers.

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Does Punctuation Really Matter?

How often have you read a blog post a comment a letter a postcard a short story or some other piece of writing that totally lacks punctuation do you find it irritating frustrating or difficult to get the sense of especially if it is also gotten lots of ring spelling and mistamen about grammatic.thenwhetherein  a tad of punctinating its not rite either and you get rely lost and hav little or no idea why its about what your redding

Okay, so maybe that was an extreme example, but I did read a short story that was like that not so long ago. Almost impossible to make sense of and, at best, a lot of work for the reader. And that should not be the case. It is the writer who should do the work. There really is no excuse. If you know your spelling or punctuation is suspect, then it falls to you to find help before, before, letting the piece of writing meet the reader. Unless you have asked them to proofread for you or help you, no reader should be expected to struggle through a passage of your writing trying to sort out the spelling, punctuation or grammar. This is in your own interest.

If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, if you want anyone to read your work, it is up to you to make it as darn near perfect as you can. Perhaps they don’t like your style, perhaps they don’t like your story, but at least they will be able to decide that after having read it. There is no agent or editor out there who will plough through work that needs to be proofread and edited. Why should they? There is plenty good quality writing landing on their desks. Would you eat a half-cooked meal? Why should they waste their time on a half-finished story when they have plenty ready to digest?

Get the habit! 

Don’t be lazy. If you know how to punctuate, get into the habit of checking everything you write before you let anyone else read it, making sure it is punctuated correctly. Same with spelling and grammar. Even if it is only a comment on someone else’s blog. Respect your readers. Make the effort for them.

If these things are a problem for you, there are lots of good grammar books out there. Lots of good websites too. Go back to school, if you must. It will be worth it. If a joiner wants to build a cabinet, he gathers the tools and materials he needs before he starts. If you want to be a writer, words are your material, grammar and punctuation are your tools. It is well worth the effort to learn how to use them. It can save a lot of bruises.

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