Sunday, 16 February 2014

Grammarly: The World's Best Grammar Checker

Use Grammarly's online plagiarism checker because you don't want to be caught with someone else's words.

I have been following Grammarly on Facebook for a while, and their posts have brought me both laughs and enlightenment. Now, I am using their grammar checking service for my writing. To show everyone how it works, I've made some screenshots. The writing I used is some random word vomit that I typed in about three minutes that is about a character in She Came From the Sea. Here is what I used for an example:

Simone thrashed in the ocean with the violence of a Bedlamite. She was only up to her calves, and she screeched at the sunset through her clenched teeth. As she whipped around, slamming her fists into the water, creating a wave, a chunk of hair fell out of her head from the follicles.
Her beauty was already beginning to fade. Like the dying light, it was leaving her, slipping away to and place you cannot grasp. It was unbearable – she was the wilting wallflower before all this happened. Too quiet to attract attention, too modest to even try to be presentable. She was a shrinking violet until she grabbed her encounter and she never regretted it.
Eating the flesh and scales gave her the boost, the drive to live and thrive. She was able to pursue whatever she desired, and it was always for the good of the scholarly world. Sure, she went after men, but her passion was short-lived there.   
Soon, her vitality was going to drain away from her. Sanity was one thing to be overlooked if it hits you right, but to be a decaying skeleton? She wouldn’t die right away, she’d lose her energy first. She’d linger in her house and become bedridden. Then she’d decompose. Pieces of her would fall clean off the bone before she’d die. She would be begging for death and this is all because her supply has been depleted.
But what did she expect? One does not simply run into mermaids daily, or hunt them.
Open mouthed, she unleashed a primal scream at the sunset.   
It's far from perfect, but for three minutes of typing, I was good enough, and I didn't re-read what I had typed. Then, I ran it through Grammarly.

Copy and paste your text into the window and hover your mouse over the Start Review button. Select the type of writing. I choose Creative for this exercise.

Hit Start Review and let the processing commence.

And it found something! Oh, me and my pronoun usage.
Here's another correction for a sentence with a split infinitive. You are supplied with both Long explanations and Short explanations. I prefer the longer explanations, as I want to learn about what I'm doing wrong so I can avoid it in the future. 
In this screenshot, you can see where I have made a correction in blue font.
Clicking on an underlined word will give you synonyms.

Behind this active box, you can see that my score, at that point, was 100 of 100. I corrected all the issues that the tool identified for me. Now, I clicked the Plagiarism button that is right beside the Start Review button. I like this feature because I want don't want to unintentionally use phrases that have been used before.

After that, I am finished! My little bit of writing is much better because of this process. The mistakes that Grammarly identified were not caught by Microsoft Word 2010. This tool works as a second set of eyes. For me, it is highly valuable because I don't have a writing support group that I can hand off my writing to every week. Yes, one day I'll remember to use the right "wander" when people are strolling the halls, pronouns won't elude me, and I won't repeat the same word seven times on a page (it has happened). Grammarly is there to help me along and explain why something is incorrect. If you're like me, reading grammar books doesn't always cut it. I need to see the corrections in action from my own writing. 

Your high school English teacher was right - grammar is important in today's society, and it is one of the most difficult skills to master.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Thank You, Beta Readers of Wonder!

Hello everyone!

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who was a beta reader for my manuscript, She Came From the Sea. The feedback that I received is invaluable, and everyone put so much detail in their feedback. I am truly touched by the response and hard work that came to me.

I was thrilled to read the wide range of responses. How each person interpreted and responded to the text is fascinating. A few people couldn’t connect to the protagonist’s choices, and others understood his motivations and said they would do the same. One person really liked the mother (and no one complained about the one facet that I was worried about). The father needs more work, and I agree.

One issue was universal: the omniscient present tense has to go. I won’t go into the first person POV, but I am currently rewriting the text in the past tense. I thought the rewriting would go faster, and I was terribly wrong! I go paragraph by paragraph (or chunks of dialogue), and the time flies by, though I am left looking at my page count, asking myself, This is all I accomplished tonight?!

I am also adding more fuel to the inciting incident, and that required me to shift around the first few chapters. It was something that I had thought of when I was about halfway through the first draft, and I never ran with it before. It requires more work, but I’m going down this road. Unfortunately, with the next Writer’s Conference only a few months away, I have probably lost the agent’s interest. Whether or not she’ll still entertain my idea when I am done is something I am unsure of. All the practice pitch sessions are booked already, too. However, I am still soaring forward.

My next post is going to about a tool that I have started using called Grammarly. Even if you are a master of grammar, you probably won’t catch everything in your own work, especially if you’re in a rush. Grammarly is like a second set of eyes.

To my beta readers: my offer still stands. If you have something you would like help with, just let me know.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Tidal by Amanda Hocking

The Watersong Tetralogy Reviews
Published: St. Martin's Griffin
Publisher: April 16th 2013
Series: #3 Watersong
Website: Author’s Blog 

Gemma can’t cope with being a siren, so she is desperate to find a way out. She discovers that she needs to find the scroll with the siren curse written on it to put an end to it. Unfortunately, if Gemma returns to normal, it means the death of the other sirens. Therefore, the other sirens will not willingly hand over the scroll. On the other hand, Penn wants to replace the whining Gemma, and Penn also has her sights set on Daniel, a man who is immune to the siren’s seductions. Daniel is dating Harper, Gemma’s sister, and there is only so long before Penn will get what she wants.

This installment is more concerned with backstory and…talking. A lot of talking. There is some heart-crunching action at the end, and that is by far my favourite portion. Unfortunately, the characters are more concerned with talking, driving, whining, participating in a play, and doing some awful things to Gemma’s mother.  This series should be a trilogy, and all the useless talking in circles should have been cut from this book.
If you were interested in the backstory of the Sirens, then you’ll enjoy this book, or at least the parts that deliver a segment of their long lives. Although the reason why the tale of Bastian and the sirens was given to the reader was because Penn thinks about a descendent of Bastian may be in Capri. However, this is just dropped and forgotten.
The story is slow, yet there are some interesting concepts that are introduced, and I am sure they will be explored in the final book.

Gemma’s Siren Attributes
                The sirens have silky voices that are (generally) irresistible and they have an allure that gets them what they want. Perhaps Gemma hasn’t been a siren for long enough, but where is her charm? I find her dull. In this book she does seduce men, though the whole glamor isn’t there for her. Men just throw themselves at her, even when she is being the same dull wooden plank that she always is. The book would have been much more interesting if she exuded some sensual witchcraft, willingly or not.  

                In the other books, I liked Harper. She reminds me a bit of myself: I worry way too much about other people. However, in this book, it’s all Harper does. I get that she has a lot on her plate. At what point do you let you let a character do nothing but fret about other people? This is all she does. She worries about her boyfriend, the other sirens, her sister, her mom, the library, Marcy, and school. I know she has a nurturing complex, but I lost interest in her efforts because I wasn’t invested in her character anymore.

                I hope I’m not the only one who hates this cover. Showing a depiction of Daniel and Penn is bad enough, but look at Penn’s face! Now look at Daniel’s. He looks like a photo that has been imposed in some water and it looks fine. Now we all get to hear my theory about what happened to Penn’s face: Penn was like Daniel; a photograph. But to get the lighting correct from the lighthouse in the distance, they had to add some shadows onto her face, and the artist overdid it. Severely. Her eyes and eyebrows are unrealistic, and the shadow along her jawline kills me.
            The lighthouse in the distance also bothers me. Where is this lighthouse mentioned? I suppose it is just a standard nautical image, but it should have something to do with the story if it is on the cover.
The feathers in the splash behind Penn are a nice addition, though.

Final Verdict
                Because this is an installment in the Watersong series that is four books long, I have to say that if you enjoyed the first two, you should read this one. My hopes are that the fourth one will end with an amazing sense of satisfaction for the reader. This book, by itself, was a tad boring and simply too long for it to warrant its own installment. All this book did was eliminate characters and introduce new characters and concepts for the final book. I have high hopes for the finale of the Watersong trilogy, and if your library already has the first book, you kind of have to get this one too.