Tag Archives: characters

The Self-Publishing Editing Process


So you’ve typed “The End” after months of working on your novel. You sit back, smile, and sigh, thinking you are just a few clicks away from publication. Just another time through ought to do it, right?


Slow down, and let’s do this thing right, lest your first review calls you out for repetitive phrases, misspelled words, grammar errors and other typos. You can fix the book later and resubmit it, but that review will NEVER go away.

Here are the steps I go through in an attempt at perfection. (I doubt any manuscript is truly error free, but you can get darned close.)

!. Read again with an eye to your story. Does it make sense? Does it flow well in increasing hills and valleys of tension? Are story lines you started tied up somehow–even if that means hinting at more to come? Is the ending satisfying? Are your characters consistent? Do they grow and change in some way, and is that way realistic? Are there places you could tighten up so they don’t drag? If this is the 2nd or 3rd book in a series, have you put in short reminders for important plot points and characters?

2. Read again with an eye to description. Have you given the reader enough in each scene to imagine the setting? Are your characters described when each first appears?  Can the action be pictured easily from your descriptions?

3. Read again with an EAR to your words. Read it out loud, and really listen. This is where you will hear repetition you never noticed before and phrasing that sounds ridiculous or overwritten. Jot down descriptive words you are hearing a lot, so you can go back and analyze each instance to see if a different word would work just as well or better.

4. Do that word analysis on overused words and replace with alternatives.

5. Read it again with an eye toward punctuation. I think it is helpful to make your font larger for this read-through. You’ll be amazed at how many mistakes you’ll see just because it’s bigger. Force yourself to slow down and notice every bit of punctuation. Sometimes it’s even helpful to read it one sentence at a time BACKWARDS. That way, you can’t get caught up in the story.

6. Check for common mistakes. Do a search on every “there,” they’re,” and “their” to make sure you have the right one. I also check every “your” and “you’re”, “heal” and “heel”, “its” and “it’s”, “peel” and “peal”, “peek” and “peak”, “awhile” and “a while.” Yes, this is time consuming, but I ALWAYS catch mistakes this way. It’s worth your time.

7. Run your word processors spell check.

8. Turn on “non-printing characters” so you can find the extra spaces. (The new writing rule is one space between sentences, not two.)

9. Find 5-10 beta readers who will give you feed-back and check for mistakes and typos.

10. Fix those mistakes and typos, and any other story confusion they might find.

11. Format your book properly and order your proof copy. (I assume you already have a dynamite cover!)

12. Read that proof copy carefully. I GUARANTEE that even with all these read-throughs, you will still find mistakes.

13. After all this, are you happy with your book? NOW hit publish!


Meet the characters in JOLT: Dr. Jeremiah Fischer

Screenshot from 2016-01-23 18:15:46

“Are you sure you want to do that?”

Jeremiah Fischer looked at the chess board and saw immediately that his queen was in danger. “Ah, I see. Well, I concede the next move to you.”

Lalita took the opposing queen with her bishop. “Since I’ve never played with you before, Dr. Fischer, I don’t know whether to chalk that up to a lack of skill or a lack of mental focus.”

Fischer smiled. “Ah, I think the acceptable excuse in the presence of a lady would usually be distraction, but since I am happily married, I will have to concede to the lack of skill.”

She laughed. “You are slick. I think you left out one possibility. Distraction by vocation. I think you are trying to puzzle me out, and that leaves precious little brain power for chess.”

He couldn’t help but smile as he pondered his next move both on the chess board and in getting her to open up to him. He knew she was hiding something, but at the same time, it seemed obvious that she wasn’t used to hiding.

Her voice across the table brought his mind back to the game. “If you don’t hurry up, I’m going to fall asleep over here. Dr. Cavanaugh got me up rather early this morning.”

He moved a pawn forward. “Oh? Did you have plans other than jail today?”

Meet the characters in JOLT: Seth Dickson

Screenshot from 2016-01-22 17:01:27

Pulled off balance she stumbled sideways, watching Tate and Nellie heading out without her. She looked to the one who waylaid her, already suspecting whose hand was still wrapped around her arm. Seth Dickson grinned down at her, his blue eyes shining.

“I say, Miss Torres, you’re looking prettier than a picture this morning.”

Lalita swallowed. “Mr. Dickson, if you’ll excuse me, my ride is leaving.” She pulled her arm from his grip.

He put his bowler on his head. “Aw, the doc won’t leave you. You can talk a minute with me.”

The crowd had mostly gone out the door, and Lalita turned to follow. “I’m sorry, but—”

Dickson caught her arm again. “Now hold on, there’s no reason to be afraid. I don’t hold any grudges against your people.” He grinned again. “Especially when they’re as fine as you.”

Lalita’s brows knit together as she tried without success to pull away again. “My people?” Her volume was rising. “What are you talking about?”

“Seth, I don’t believe the lady appreciates your attention.” Lalita looked to the door, so relieved to see Tate striding toward them.

Seth let loose of her arm and backed up a step.

“Now, Doc, you said she wasn’t your woman, and I don’t mind if she’s a bit addled.”

Lalita’s jaw dropped. “I am not addled, you over-bearing asshat!”

Tate’s eyes grew wide as he tried to move her toward the door. “Lita, this is a church.”

Dickson just grinned as he followed them out of the building and down the steps. “She’s got spunk. That comes from the Injuns.”

Meet the characters in JOLT: Dr. Tate Cavanaugh

Screenshot from 2015-10-31 14:40:13

Tate watched his patient, wondering if he should take her to the hospital in Denver—a journey that would take him away from his practice for several days. She was still out after twenty-four hours, and he feared a full out coma. He and his housekeeper, Mrs. Kettler, had been monitoring her around the clock, and even little Nell had stayed with her, giving her droppers of water and broth at regular intervals.

After the discovery that “he” was a “she,” he’d sent the Hill brothers to fetch Mrs. Kettler but proceeded to undress her himself down to her underthings—the strangest, skimpiest underthings he’d ever seen. If she hadn’t been in desperate need of warming up, he would have waited for his housekeeper for the sake of propriety, but he’d told himself that the young woman’s health was more important, and he was, after all, a doctor.

Mrs. Kettler had arrived in time to remove the last of the girl’s wet clothes and get her dressed for bed in one of his late wife’s nightgowns.

As surprising as her underclothes had been, the colorful flowered tattoo that covered her right shoulder and upper arm had captured his attention the entire time he had been warming her in the bath, and even now his eyes drifted to the spot, even though he couldn’t see it through the long-sleeved gown.

He couldn’t help but appreciate the artistry—he’d never seen a tattoo like it—but was shocked that a woman would have such a thing permanently done to her body. Not to mention the piercings on her earlobes. One of her earrings was missing, but the hole was still plainly there. With such bodily decoration, he feared that she had spent time in a house of ill repute. The cross necklace she wore at least spoke to the possibility of redemption.

He sat back, letting his gaze rest on her peaceful face, her long dark lashes resting against her high cheek bones. Perhaps it’s all merely for tribal distinction.

Another curiosity was her hair. Not even the Ute men wore their hair so short. His eyes narrowed remembering the union suit she’d been wearing with the prospector’s slogan on the backside. Was she trying to pass for a miner? He smiled. Better remove the other earring, then, missy.


Meet the characters in JOLT: Lalita Torres

Manitou clock

“Excuse me, did you say the ‘time’ you come from?”

She nodded.

“The time. Not the place.”

“Well, the place is different, too, since I’m not from around here.”

“Where are you from?”

“Missouri. Close to Kansas City.”

He leaned in again. “When are you from?”

She spread her hands dramatically. “The early 21st century.”

Tate just stared.

Lalita nodded. “That’s right, man from the 19th century,” –she gave an exaggerated wink– “you’re looking at a 21st century woman.”

Suddenly she pushed back from the table, rose, and struck a pose with one hand in the air and one on her hip. Then she started to sing. “I can bring home the bacon”— she moved her hips a quick left and right– “fry it up in a pan”–she slinked toward him, spinning the cord tie at her waist—” and never ever let you forget you’re a man,” –she sat right on his lap, throwing her arms around his neck– “ ’cause I’m a woman.”

Tate was speechless, but Nellie clapped, and Lalita was biting her lip, trying to keep from laughing. She put a hand to the side of her mouth as she whispered, “I don’t know how much competition there is for airtime, but that should keep us off the editing room floor.”

Tate’s heart sank. This beautiful, young woman was absolutely off her chump.

My Top Ten Reads For 2015

I read just shy of thirty books this year, although I laid down and didn’t finish at least that many again. Since I set a goal in January to read fewer badly written books, I’m very proud of myself for laying these down and moving on. And still I only found ten books out of the list that I gave 5 stars to. Am I picky? Yep. I consider characters, dialogue, plot, over-all writing quality, and un-put-downability with every review I write. These were the cream of this year’s crop:

Okay, I admit to getting a bit stuck on Tamara Leigh this year, but this woman is a seriously great historical romance writer. She took five of the ten spots with her Age of Faith series.

Screenshot from 2015-12-25 20:29:59Screenshot from 2015-12-25 20:32:29Screenshot from 2015-12-25 20:33:51Screenshot from 2015-12-25 20:34:56Screenshot from 2015-12-25 20:35:31









For YA fantasy/sci-fi, you can’t beat Lia London’s Gypsy Pearl series. I read the first two at the end of last year and couldn’t wait for the exciting conclusion. Great characters and a well-written, imaginative storyline put this solidly in my top ten.

Screenshot from 2015-12-25 20:37:41

Kathy Clark was a newly discovered author for me, and this book has just the right amount of work-related details, suspense, and romance.

Screenshot from 2015-12-25 20:39:04


I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to discover this series by Lois McMaster Bujold since I’m a huge fan of her Vorkosigan series, but I’m certainly glad I tumbled upon it. Rich details of her medieval world and a very complicated and intriguing theology set the backdrop for a character-driven story that will keep you reading.

Screenshot from 2015-12-25 20:39:58

And now for a classic. For wit dished up with a dose of historical culture, you just can’t beat Mark Twain.

Screenshot from 2015-12-25 20:36:48

The last on my list isn’t fiction, but it was as intriguing and suspenseful as any story I’ve read this year. For any who have wondered if miraculous healings happen today, Robby Dawkins says, “Yes,”

Screenshot from 2015-12-25 20:40:48

So that’s my list for 2015. What books did you read this year that you loved?

Meet the Characters in Rocky Mountain Redemption.

RMR_Cover front


Ben was reluctant to move his arm away from her shoulder, but he straightened and immediately felt the loss. “So, you never answered my question. How’s Paris?”

She hesitated, and Ben tried to make eye contact, but she was looking down at James. “Paris is Paris. It’s beautiful and frustrating and delicious and… and nerve wracking. It’s the most exciting and terrifying place I’ve ever lived.”

Ben gave a little snort. “Good fodder for book writing, I guess, but wild horses couldn’t drag me there.”

Rhonda looked at him out of the corner of her eye, smiling. “Well, I don’t suppose they would, Rhodes, unless they were really good swimmers.”

He bumped his shoulder into hers. “You know what I mean.”

She bumped back. “Yeah, I know. You’re very happy in your little apartment in your little town, working in your little zoo.”

Hey, wait a minute! I’m only in a little apartment, because that’s what I can afford, and while Colorado Springs doesn’t compare to Paris size-wise, it’s not exactly a village. And who wants a zoo it takes you all day to see? I think it’s the perfect size.” He dropped his voice and crooned to the baby. “Someone’s become a high and mighty, Parisian, Marcus.”


So you like it there.”

Rhonda realized that she was chewing on a nail and forced her hand to her lap. “For the most part. It’s… it’s really different. I’ve made a lot of faux pas, but I’m learning.” She nervously ran her fingers through her hair, trying to think of a safe topic. “I don’t quite have the hang of the whole cheek kissing greeting yet, and sometimes I forget to say, ‘bonjour.’” She said it with a a very proper accent and a lilt in her voice. “You know, sometimes my mood just isn’t that perky. Sometimes I just say, ‘bonjour.’” She delivered the word rather flatly. “But that’s not acceptable, you know. Store owners have been known to close up their shops and weep for a ‘bonjour’ delivered without the proper feeling.”


She lowered herself to the cool tile floor. Lying on her back, she pointed her chin toward the ceiling, pinching the bridge of her nose. There wasn’t enough room for her to stretch out completely, so she ran her feet up the open door, the bright red shoes mocking her.

“Well, ma chatte, I thought we would have a romp after we went out,” —Louis appeared in the doorway, looking at her legs— “but I see that you can’t wait for—” He cut himself off as his gaze tracked her body to her face. “Mon dieu, Rhonda, what happened now? You are so maladroit!”

Rhonda still had a long ways to go to be fluent in French, but that was a word she knew. Clumsy. “Louis,” she mumbled behind her wad of tissues, her eyes closed, “it’s the shoes you buy me. I just can’t walk in them.”

She heard him sigh. “I believe that’s what I just said, mon cher.”


Tyler laid the fish in the skillet one by one. “And why do you suppose that is?”

Ben crouched down, feeling a lurch in his stomach. “You’re right, I was afraid. My last relationship took me a long time to get over. I was… hurt.”

Tyler rose and picked up the kettle of fish innards, shaking his head. “Not more than you are now, I bet.”

Ben watched him walk the trail to the river as the fish sizzled in the skillet. Ben yelled after him. “You said you changed careers. What did you do before?”

Tyler turned back, smiling. “Counseling,” he yelled. “I helped poor saps like you.” He returned his attention to the trail. “I’ll send you my bill.”


After a moment, Weston spoke again. “You’re not going to tell me, are you?”

Rhonda shifted uncomfortably, moving her shoulder bag from her arm to her lap. “Why do you want to know? It’s not a particularly interesting story.”

He lifted his eyebrows. “Now that I do not believe. You have been nothing but interesting from the moment you nearly crashed on the ice this morning.” When she didn’t respond, he waved a hand in acceptance. “I am sorry. I do not mean to pry. I mean, who am I? We just met, and even though I saved your ass today —both on the ice and on the beach— I would not want it to be said that Weston Murdock was a snoop.”


When she was finished, she packed up her case and followed Ben to the gate. “So now’s the part where I go back home and wait for you to call the male veterinarian you interviewed yesterday, because a woman couldn’t possibly do this job.”

Ben spun with eyebrows raised. “Miss Gatlin, I never said—”

You didn’t have to. It’s been in your eyes since I walked into your office.” She gestured back to the barn. “Sure, I can stitch up a little goat nose, but what about when something a bit larger needs treatment? What then?”

Ben looked into her sea green eyes and smiled. “Okay, I admit, the thought has crossed my mind that you are a bit of a light weight, and—” Before Ben knew what hit him, Bonnie had dropped her case, grabbed his hand, twisted under his arm, and flipped him over her shoulder. He lay on his back in a snow drift, trying to regain his breath.

She stepped over his waist and looked down. “If you know what you are doing and have a rapport with the animals, you never need to use your muscles.” She smiled. “But I do have a few, just in case.”

How to Review a Book

Screenshot from 2015-03-25 22:05:02There is a skill to reviewing a book. The point is not merely to like or dislike.  It is not to compare the writer’s perceived morals to your own. It’s a place for critical analysis. Since most reviews give you a chance to rate them with 1-5 stars, may I suggest 5 points to consider when rating.

Writing Quality. Is the description clear? Do the sentences flow? Are certain words or phrases overused? Does the writing pull you into the story or kick you out with weird words and stilted phrasing?

Dialogue. This is a specific type of writing quality. Does it sound natural? Does it fit each particular character? Is the inner dialogue tedious or goofy?

Characters. Are they interesting? Are at least some of them likeable?  Do they grow and change in some way over the course of the book? Are the bad guys realistic or merely caricatures? Are they consistent? Your job isn’t to judge their morality unless it’s inconsistent with what the writer has established. We expect the villains to behave badly. We hold our heroes to a higher standard. They can fail and fall and be tempted, but in the end, we expect some kind of honor.

Storyline. Is the story entertaining? Does it have a good flow? Do the plot points make sense? Does it drag at any point?

Un-put-down-ability. Does it keep your interest? Is it hard to put down? Did you stay up late reading it? Does it call you back to it, if you do have to put it down.

Sometimes, you might feel the writer deserves not a single star for writing quality, but other books might warrant, say, half a star. Go through each of the 5 points, assigning whole or parts of a star for each, then add them up. If you end up with 3 1/2 stars, then you must decide whether to round up or down based on your overall feeling about the book.

Remember, not every book is written for you. Just because it’s “not your kind of book,” does not mean it deserves 1 star. If it truly isn’t your kind of book, don’t read it, and let those rate and review it who are more in tune with this genre.

I don’t read BDSM books just so I can get grossed out in the first chapter and self-righteously give it 1 star. I’m not the audience for that book. I won’t read it, rate it, or review it.

Not every Christian book is written for the Baptist minister’s wife who has never been in a bar in her life. Sometimes Christian fiction is written for the teen on the edge. The one who wouldn’t read Amish fiction if it were the last reading option on earth. The one that has free ideas about sex even while she sits in the pew on Sundays. The one who needs to know that, yes, both men and women can be tempted in the area of sex. And that, yes, it can be a real struggle. And, yes, it’s a temptation that can be overcome.

If you find yourself judging the book’s storyline and language too harshly, you are probably not that book’s audience. Lay it down and walk away. Resist the urge to inflict your brand of judgement on it. Some messages are not for you.



Meet the Characters in Rocky Mountain Sunrise: Rhonda

Rhonda slipped an arm around her waist and stood looking out with her. She wore a pale pink, knee-length sheath and matching peep-toe pumps. Mari looked at her sideways. “What? No glib reassurances?”

Rhonda returned the look with eyebrows raised. “I don’t know this guy well enough for reassurances. For all I know, he won’t show.”

Mari turned her attention back out the window. “Thanks a lot, that helps.”

“With or without a groom, you are by far the prettiest bride I’ve ever seen.” She gave Mari’s waist a squeeze. “You didn’t mention that he was as dumb as a box of rocks, so I’m sure he’ll be here. This is just another exercise in faith.”

Mari turned away from the window. “I’ve exercised my faith more in the last week than the previous thirty-one years, but look at me now.” She held out a shaky hand.

Rhonda took it. “Remember to the last, that while there is life there is hope.”


Meet the Characters in Rocky Mountain Sunrise: Ben

Ben was singing Chanukah hymns with a light heart as he prepared latkes for their traditional Chanukah meal. As he grated the potatoes, he couldn’t keep from thinking about the pretty girl he had just met as he was leaving campus. With long, curly auburn hair past her shoulders and green eyes that flashed with irritation at her current car troubles, Ben had been captivated and more than happy to lend his assistance.

She had left an interior light on that had drained her car’s battery. Ben gave her car a jump and made sure he got her name before she left. ­Susie Minnet. Her name rolled around in his head as he pulled eggs out of the refrigerator and started breaking them into a bowl.

He remembered with satisfaction how she had lingered for a few minutes even after she had her car started, asking him about his jacket with the zoo logo on it. That jacket was far too lightweight for the sudden cold wind, but he would have stood out with her until he was frozen solid just to look into those eyes.