Sunday, July 26, 2015

To Three or Not to Three: The Coordination of the Series

The coordination of the series is a delicate, and almost controversial, subject; because it involves the ever sneaky use and placement of that dastardly little punctuation mark we call the comma. To coordinate the structure of a sentence using three or more components one must first use caution and become fully aware that there will be commas involved.
In academia, the rules are simple; a comma is always required when coordinating a series of three or more components. For example:
   There are five different types of lettuce: Butterhead, Crisphead, Looseleaf, Romaine, and Celtuce.
Note that due to the excessive number of lettuce types, it is impossible to avoid using a comma when creating the series. However, if one wishes to be more specific when mentioning the various kinds of lettuce, and some of their unique characteristics, one could avoid the use of commas completely.  
   Butterhead and Crisphead types of lettuce have crisp leaves that form compact hearts.
   Looseleaf and Romaine types grow best in cool weather and do not form significant hearts.
Although, commas are not as sneaky as they would have us think, they – unlike decent poker players – have a tell. The presence of an upcoming comma can be heard like an air raid siren if one knows what to listen for. In a series where three or more parallel coordinate elements are present, one can hear the slight change in pitch – the warning – that a comma is coming and then, there it is—the pause, the telltale sign that a comma has been used.
Nevertheless, beware the renegade! There are those who will omit the comma from the three-or-more rule in an attempt to dash those pesky smudges that dirty up a perfectly good piece of writing. They are the rebels of the literary world, the rule breakers, and the hoodlums, out to make a writer’s job even more complicated than it already is. But, do not be fooled lest your grades will suffer. Do not leave out the serial comma before the coordinating conjunction, it is but a trap.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

AUTHOR ADDICTION with LJ Cohen Author of Derelict and Ithaka Rising

Please welcome author of Derelict and Ithaka Rising, Miss LJ Cohen!

Lisa Janice (LJ) Cohen is a poet, novelist, blogger, local food enthusiast, Doctor Who fan, and relentless optimist. Lisa lives just outside of Boston with her family, two dogs (only one of which actually ever listens to her) and the occasional international student. When not doing battle with a stubborn Jack Russell Terrier mix, Lisa can be found writing, which looks a lot like daydreaming. She writes SF, Fantasy, and YA novels under the name LJ Cohen.

LJ has published books of poetry, anthologies with other authors and five novels:

Derelict: Halcyone Space, book 1
Ithaka Rising: Halcyone Space, book 2
The Between (Changeling's Choice Book 1)
Time and Tithe (Changeling's Choice Book 2)
Future Tense
Pen-Ultimate: A Speculative Fiction Anthology
Stranger Worlds Than These: Short Stories
Poets Gone Wild

Thank you LJ for joining us here at ADDICTED TO WORDS we’re so happy to have you.

Of your work:

Of your five novels, who is your favorite fictional character and why?
I’ve always struggled with ‘favorite’ questions – even ones that should be as simple as what’s my favorite iced cream flavor! Aargh! If I had to pick a favorite, it would probably be Aeon from the Changeling’s Choice books (The Between and Time and Tithe) Why? Because he wasn’t even supposed to be in these stories. He wasn’t in my initial planning for The Between at all; he simply showed up one day as I was writing. I still remember it clearly, even though it was in 2009! I had been writing a scene from early on in the story where my main character, Lydia, has chosen to return to Faerie. She is utterly confused by the politics and what she needs to do to survive, so she goes for a run to clear her head, only to get lost in a bewitched maze.  Stopping to reflect, she wonders who she has become and doesn’t realize she’s spoken aloud until a voice answers her.
That was Aeon, though at the time, I had no idea who was in the maze with her and why. Figuring out his connection to the story was a joy and creating a ‘trickster’ character made the story so much more interesting than it might have been. Furthermore, writing his dialogue was always fun, since he essentially had no ‘filters’.

Which of your books was your favorite to write?
Another ‘favorites’ question! Probably whatever book I’m currently writing. I’m a serial monogamist when it comes to my writing. I think I need to be totally in love with each project as I’m drafting it.

What is one of your characters most treasured possessions?
Matt Garrison from Future Tense is a 17 year old who has been in foster care since he was five. He saved up money from odd jobs until he was able to buy a basic used iPod. It’s the one thing he’s possessive of.

Which of your fictional characters do you love to hate and why?
I think the character who is the most irredeemable in all my stories is Alain Maldonado, Ro Maldonado’s (one of the main protagonists in the Halcyone Space series) father. I struggled to keep him from being a ‘mustache twirling’ bad guy even as he did reprehensible things in the story. I am almost ashamed to admit it was fun writing his scenes – it’s not often (ever?) I get the chance to act out utter, brutal self-interest in my day-to-day life!

If you could choose to be a character in one of your books, who would it be?
Wow – that’s a hard one. I put my characters through so much! I’m not sure I’d want to be in their positions. I’m probably more like Nomi Nakamura from the Halcyone Space books than any of my other characters. She’s pretty level headed and caring and while she doesn’t have the primary adventures, she is the emotional heart of the story, in many ways. That’s not such a bad thing to be.

How do you choose your character’s names? Which is your favorite?
I struggle with names. They have to feel right in relation to the setting of a novel and with all the other names. They also need to sound right. I page through baby name websites and look for names whose meaning reflect something in the character, or are from a particular culture, time and place. My favorite character name may be one that’s from a co-writing project I’m still in the planning stages of: Vito Nonce. He’s a Philadelphia-based hit man who was infected with a virus that renders him unremarkable and unable to be remembered. I like the play on words with the expression ‘for the nonce’ which means for right now, or for the present use.  

Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
I’m pretty much a magpie when it comes to ideas. Shiny, shiny ideas are everywhere. NPR is a great incubator of ideas, as are overheard conversations. I keep a ‘plot bunny’ folder where I write down scraps of ideas. Some make it into stories, others have not yet.

Of other authors:

Which book have you read the most in your lifetime? Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time
What is your favorite fictional journey? The trip to Mount Doom with Sam and Frodo from The Lord of the Rings
Which fictional character would you most like to be friends with? I’m going to cheat here and pick a character from a TV show: Sarah Jane Smith from Doctor Who.
What qualities do you most admire in an author? Perseverance, respectfulness, and creativity.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors? Develop your ability to listen to feedback, but to objectively assess it before blindly making changes. Develop a work ethic and work flow that doesn’t require waiting for inspiration or specific circumstances.
What are your top 5 books?
Some old favorites:
The Riddle Master Trilogy by Patricia McKillip. (Fantasy) Amazing, original world building, characters that still manage to make me cry, and drop-dead beautiful prose.
Shockwave Rider by John Brunner. (SF) I re-read this book every few years and it stuns me just how prescient it feels in the way it depicts our internet-centric way of life. Biting social commentary wrapped in a future with an increasingly mobile and unrooted society with characters who are willing to risk everything to help chance it.
The Time Traveller’s Wife by  Audrey Niffenegger. Not a genre book, per se, but one that uses time travel (and in an inventive way) as a metaphor for staying in relationship with someone. Also beautiful prose.

Some more recent reads that are on my favorite lists:
The Minus Faction – a serial novel by Rick Wayne. (SF/thriller/??) I’m pretty much salivating to get my hands on episode 4 after tearing my way through episodes 1-3. A different take on superheroes with a thriller/conspiracy story-line and characters that feel fully realized, fully human, despite the fantastical elements of their abilities.  Great action, crisp writing, genre twisting goodness that is a roller coaster ride.
Crooks and Straights by Masha du Toit. (Magical realism/fantasy) I just finished this book a few weeks ago and now I want everyone I know to read it. I describe it as A Wrinkle in Time meets Pan’s Labyrinth. An original take on a ‘magical creatures live in our world story’ for many reasons – first and foremost in that it takes place in South Africa and is not a rehashing of European mythology. (The author is from SA). It is beautifully written and beautifully illustrated by the author. I kept having to stop reading for fear of what was going to happen next. It’s that painfully beautiful.  

Of life and passion:

Besides being a beautiful poet and gifted author you’re also fantastic potter (I know this because I have the absolute best wonky Viking mug ever! Thank you!) How did you begin throwing pottery and does it correlate or contribute to your creativity as an author?
Thank you! I never, ever considered myself the least bit artistic growing up. Other than art class in elementary school, I never pursued drawing, painting, and the like. When my now college aged son was in middle school, he had wanted to sign up for a parent/teen ceramics class at a nearby studio, so I tagged along as his ‘plus one’. After that class, he got busy with his music and no longer had time for ceramics, but I had found that I really enjoyed it and kept taking classes. That was more than 7 years ago.
I find it a great counterpoint to the life of a writer. I spend so much time in my own thinking brain, that it’s a joy to spend time kinesthetically engaged in working with clay. It’s a very zen kind of task – first it takes your full attention. If the potter is not centered, neither will the clay be centered. Second, it is an immersive sensory experience where words aren’t the focus. And it’s taught me a lot about taking artistic risks, letting go of expectations, and impermanence. Plus it gives me a great excuse to give fun pieces to my writing friends! :)
May we see some of your latest pieces?

Thank you, LJ for joining us here at ADDICTED TO WORDS and sharing a behind-the-scenes glimpse into your literary addiction, we’ve loved having you!
Find LJ Cohen: 

Twitter: @lisajanicecohen

email LJ:

Monday, June 29, 2015

Digging up The Dead: The Tale of The Manuscript That Wouldn’t Die

You know those old manuscripts you have lying around? The ones that you wrote when you first started writing and you didn’t really know what you were doing? The manuscripts you’re supposed to stash away in some imaginary drawer (because, let’s face it, nobody writes on paper anymore), and pull out years down the road, after you’ve found success and have oodles of books in all major bookstores?

Yeah, that’s the one.

Have you ever considered rewriting/editing/revising one? Or maybe you’ve already done it?
I have a question for you, “Did it work?”

The reason I ask, is because I am not “a success,” at least not yet. I am still a floundering author who’s just doing her time writing and writing and writing etc… etc… etc…

I work hard at it. I write daily. I read everything, including how-to books. I’m finishing my English degree in creative writing (12 more credits woo-hoo-hoo!) and I’m preparing to begin my Masters program next spring. And I have the most awesome writing group (Love to my SFWG sisters!!!), no seriously, they are the best. 

With all of that writing I’ve accumulated close to fifty stories, all of which have great potential to become books. They have strong premises, vivid settings, and solid plots, but none of them move my pulse the way one of my very first stories did (a series of four books). 

I tried and tried to rewrite this old tale and though I had requests from editors and agents, all returned with polite rejections or revise and resubmit notes, I still couldn’t get these stories where they needed to be. Instead I buried them. Every dear character I loved so much, I just shoved down to the depths of my “writing” folder and just kept on writing. I haven’t touched them or looked at them for more than a year. 

Since then, I’ve written three other full manuscripts, all in various stages of rewriting disaster, and a few dozen more short stories (many have novel potential), but through each new manuscript came the cries of my ghostly protagonist from her lonesome, word-doc grave. “Don’t leave me, Candie. I’ll haunt you forever if you do,” she moans. 

I kept telling her, “There’s no hope for you. I can’t save you. You’re dead, so die already!”

But she won’t listen. 

And then, one day not long ago, I happened on an amazing photographer, Chris of CJC Photography, on Facebook and we got to chatting. He suggested I take a look at his portfolio to see if any of his photos might be a good match for one of my works. 

Just look at how delicious his works are...


Well surprise, surprise and who do you think I saw staring back at me? That’s right, my dead and buried protagonist. Only she wasn’t dead, she was very much alive and glaring at me with her willful eyes. I was mesmerized, caught under her spell and I couldn’t turn away. And when I finally did, I found even more pictures, pictures of her with her heartthrob hottie, pictures of her in her native world, and pictures of her with the sister (whom I also love!) she's trying to save. Four perfect pictures for four very-not-perfect manuscripts. 

It was a battle I couldn’t win. My protagonist would not let me walk away. And in that short little time span of maybe an hour, chatting with Chris and going over price and rights etc… I walked away (wallet considerably lighter) the proud owner of four amazing cover photos and a new plan.

See, my original idea for this series was to seek traditional publishing, and that actually encumbered me and my storytelling abilities. Because I knew, thanks to many knowledgeable friends, that in order for my series to be marketable and to acquire agent representation that these books had to have certain qualities and they had to be in a definite “hot right now” sub-genre. 

But I can’t work like that. I’ve learned that about myself. I can’t write (okay, I can but I don’t like to) what everyone else is writing this minute. In fact, I try really hard to write new and fresh stories (impossible, I know) but somehow every time I’m working on something it suddenly becomes a popular topic (Does this happen to you? WTF?). The only exception has been this one series. It has never been a mainstream subject (I’m pretty sure, at least not in my lifetime), and it’s had its claws in me for so long I have scars. 

How could I walk away?

As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now (from all of this rambling, maybe?), I have decided to dig it up and revive my old dusty four-part story and… wait for it… self-publish it. 


I know some of you might say, “That’s a bad idea. Just move on and write something new.” 

I’ve tried that remember. I have plenty of manuscripts I could be revising, polishing and sending out with laborsome queries, but this story won’t die. 

And besides, my friends, family, critique partners (who suffered through many rounds of revision madness with me), and beta readers are all saying, “Do it! Publish it!” 

And so, without further ado, I’m going to revise, edit and clean it the heck up (and OH what a mess it is!). Then I’m going to publish my gloriously chaotic series my way, the way I’ve always seen the story, messy and gritty, lovely and untainted, all of it, as it should be.

I have to let my girl have her day in the sun. She deserves to shine, even if it’s only for me. 

“So rise, my obnoxiously-loud dead protagonist, wake from your slumber and go be the awesome badass I always meant you to be!”

Now, you'll have to wait for my cover reveal to see my amazing photos, and I'll let you know when I get close to publishing what my title and release date are, but until then...

Have you self published? I’d love to hear from you, please talk to me! Tell me it’s all going to be okay. 

Or if you’re like me and have a story that wouldn’t die, I’d also love to know your experience, did it work? Are you still working on it? Or are you in corner talking to imaginary unicorns?

Ah! Either way, even if I go mad, I’m publishing this blasted thing. But it would sure be nice to have some company along the way. 

Find me on Twitter and Facebook – let’s talk!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Writer’s Maze: Hoedown with Words

I’ve always considered writing a dance between raw imagination and gained knowledge, but recently I’ve decided it’s a very specific type of dance. A hoedown.

Wait. Wait. Don’t go! This isn’t a sleazy post about women with loose morals or about rednecks partying down south. Here, listen to the most famous hoedown (so you’ll feel more comfortable with the subject) by Aaron Copland, it’s been completely commercialized.

Aaron Copland – Hoedown - Posted on YouTube by solutioncow

Now, you get it. You see where I’m going with this, right?
Writing is a journey (hence my URL) which takes the writer (unwillingly kicking and screaming sometimes) on the insane roundabout, duple time dance. The crazy, furious highs where the words flow so fast your fingers can hardly keep up…

…only to drop us off a cliffhanger and leave us dangling for hours, days, years (!) sometimes, just praying for the inspiration to return and spin us around the next corner.
 It’s maddening.
One moment we’re on this high, praising ourselves for our creative genius.

And the next we’re sniveling into our trough-sized wine glasses, convinced we’re phony, no-good writer hacks who will never again write anything worth reading.

Oh, but wait! Here comes the brilliance again, grabbing us by the hand and swinging our fingers around the keyboard in a firestorm of dosey-doe.  

Bugs Bunny's Square Dance 'Hillbilly Hare' - Posted on YouTube by Mickey Mouse

And round and round the rollercoaster takes us from high to low, again and again. But here’s the question, which is the truth? Are we a creative genius or a big fat phony? 

The answer is neither. As a writer YOU ARE, I’m sorry to say, like every one of us with our moments of incredible greatness and other times of brain-fart nothingness.
So, where do we go from here? How do we persevere during those dry spells when we can’t make even one word sound right in a simple sentence?
We write anyway.

That’s it. That’s the answer. Just write. It doesn’t matter that the words are prettier sometimes more than others. It doesn’t matter that on a good day we can write thousands of words and on others we can barely squeak out a couple hundred. The thing that makes us writers, is that it’s what we do…we write.
Let’s take at look at some people who’ve had moments in their lives, or careers, of truly amazing success.

“Today the word "Einstein" is synonymous with genius, but young Albert didn't speak fluently until he was nine-years-old, causing teachers to think he was slow. He was expelled from school for his rebellious nature and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. He went on to revolutionize science's understanding of the world, taking physics beyond its Newtonian view by developing the theory of General Relativity. He won the Nobel Prize, with his research leading the U.S. to build an atomic bomb, and influenced all aspects of culture, from religion, to art, to late-night television.” ~ CBS News
There’s a whole list of people who might have ended up as nobodies if they would’ve surrendered to the hoedown: Riches to Rags
Once in a while there’s an author who hits it big with a book or two, maybe an entire successful series, only to follow it up with a flop, or maybe they never publish anything ever again. If this is you, don’t settle. Get back to it, remember the magic and make those pages sing. Whoever you are, if writing is what you love, get at it!

Most likely (if you’re reading this blog) you’re just an average Joe, like me, trying to chase a dream and worrying that you’re never gonna make it.
So, here’s the secret. Ready for it?
Learn to dance. 

Don’t tell me you can’t dance, what do you think you’ve been doing thus far? You’ve written down those spurts of masterful prose and you’ve experienced those heart-suffocating moments when the words play hide-and-seek and THAT is what makes you writer. 

So what are you waiting for? This is it. THIS is what being a writer is all about, surviving the slow beats and hanging on to your britches when the tempo kicks in. Ya ready? Let’s do it.
It’s time for a hoedown, y’all!
Miley Cyrus - Hoedown Throwdown (Movie Scene) - DVD RIP - Posted by phanquanghieu on YouTube
And if you’re still not convinced you can do it. Here’s a little more Miley Cyrus to push you to the top.
Hannah Montana The Movie - The Climb - Posted by Disney IT on YouTube
 Now, get climbing! <3