Sunday, April 19, 2015

Be the one who reads

Yes, be the one who reads. Choose books that are worth your time and brainpower, books that will make you smarter, more compassionate, more enlightened, a better person. Read books that spur you to deeper thought and worthwhile action.
(I suggest you start with mine at )

What if what you read is written by smart people? 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Seven interesting things about my writing and editing

© 2015 Christy K Robinson

I was tagged by an author colleague to post seven interesting things about my writing life.

1. I learned long ago that the things I find fascinating are not wildly popular with others. But if I’m a clever-enough writer, I hope to introduce them to my mania and garner new converts, I mean readers.

2. One of the traits I have as a Meyers-Briggs INFJ personality is that I often operate on an intuitive basis. From wide reading of history, comparing history with current events, and observation of timeless human behavior, I see connections between seemingly unrelated factoids that most other people don’t. From there, I research the connections for proof, and when I find it, it goes into my writing. I think that’s what gives me my signature “voice.”

3. Another cool thing about INFJs. I quote from a website: “INFJs may be attracted to writing as a profession, and often they use language which contains an unusual degree of imagery. They are masters of the metaphor, and both their verbal and written communications tend to be elegant and complex. Their great talent for language usually is directed toward people, describing people and writing to communicate with people in a personalized way. INFJs who write comment often that they write with a particular person in mind; writing to a faceless, abstract audience leaves them uninspired.” NAILED IT.

4. I enjoy taking technical, historical, or academic information, and making it come alive in easily-understandable prose. Whether it’s a scientific paper written by a dental professor, a thesis written by a grad student, an article by a person who really *can’t write for beans*, or a handwritten letter from 360 years ago, I can “translate” it into a piece anyone can understand. I will red-line the words “utilize,” “impactful,” “snuck,” and most business-speak clichés like “reaching out to” and “deliverables.” The bonus is that I get to research whatever I don’t understand, and file it away in my cranium for another project, another day. I love feeling those mental gears spinning up there. (Is that too low-tech?)

5. I’d much rather edit than write. I discovered this back in university. That above-mentioned talent makes my copy-editing stand out from other editors. I know what’s missing from a piece, and how to repair it. In philanthropic marketing terms, I can make an “ask” that seems reasonable to the reader. And I can visualize the finished product (book, magazine, website) as the market will see it, which is a valuable tool to use before it’s set in print for all eternity.

6. You may know that proofreaders and editors do not have the same job. Proofreaders check for spelling and grammatical errors according to a style manual, check headlines and captions, and for widows and orphans in the proofs. A copy editor does that, but looks at the content of a piece, evaluates it, and changes it to meet the objectives of the book or magazine (print or online). I’ve also been a managing editor, which involves managing the piece from concept to publication, on a timeline. When I manage a periodical, there are multiple deadlines and participants to keep ahead of, and I forget the current date because I’m operating at least four months into the future, and also on an annual basis. All of the above are in the back of my mind when I’m writing articles or books.

7. I’m a pianist and organist, and this comes through in my writing. No, I don’t write musicological commentary. (Ain’t no one got time for that.) But I use many elements of music—phrasing, legato and staccato, dynamics, rhythm, contrast, rubato (variable tempo), and expression—in my writing and editing. 

Do you have a book, thesis, website, or periodical (magazine, newsletter, email blast) that could benefit from proven experience, knowledge, and creativity? Contact Christy Robinson HERE.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Review--A Pledge of Better Times, by Margaret Porter

Find A Pledge of Better Times by clicking
the highlighted book title.
Review by Christy K Robinson

By starting the story in the teen years of Lady Diana de Vere, in 1684, readers are treated to the final scenes of the lives of King Charles II and his mistress, Nell Gwyn. They’re the parents of the illegitimate Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St. Albans, who later married Diana. The suspense started early for me, wondering if King Charles lusted after young Diana for himself, or if he simply admired her beauty and innocence. And Diana was beautiful, as you see from her portrait on the book cover. 

The author takes us behind the scenes of the royal succession of King James II and his daughter Mary Stuart, who married Prince William of Orange. Most of the royal characters are cousins, but only the girls were legitimate heirs to the throne—and they weren’t exactly forthcoming with heirs, perhaps because of the many cousin marriages in European royal houses of the time.

As a lover of both history and historical fiction, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began reading A Pledge of Better Times. The cover declares it’s a novel, and of course the narrative style means that scenes and conversations were invented by the author. But the wealth of detail, the large list of people who actually existed, the pull-quotes at the beginning of each chapter, the paintings discussed (which you can easily find in image searches), the architectural detail of the palaces—all point to the author’s deep research into and familiarity with the politics and events of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The map, character list, and end notes were fascinating history. Having researched similar sources to Margaret Porter’s for my own books, I saw the genius in her method: taking an event and working backward, sometimes for a few years or even a generation, unraveling faded and tarnished embroidery to discover what motives, attitudes, and quirks-you-can’t-make-up must have happened to lead the characters to act as they did. Then she found new, colorful silks to embroider the facts lost over the centuries into a cohesive story.

I was often confused as to which character was which: I lost track of which names match which titles: Hon. Henry Sidney=Lord Romney (and was he the father of Diana’s sister, or was he Charles’ friend, or both?); Sarah Churchill=Countess Marlborough=Duchess of Marlborough; and other people with surnames and titles that were used interchangeably. Queen Anne calls her son “Gloucester” instead of his Christian name. Once Diana starts having babies, they’re called by their titles: Lord Burford, Lord this, Lord that, or their baptized names. Am I the only person who finds this confusing? This happens in many books about English aristocracy, so no demerits to the author. And she does give a character list at the front of the book.

The stories of Diana de Vere and Charles Beauclerk, Duke and Duchess of St. Albans, are carried from 1684 to the first third of the 18th century. I appreciated the ease with which the author described a complicated royal succession and how she ably depicted the social climbers and the kind and dignified people who inhabited the same space. I could feel the embarrassment and grief of Queen Anne, and how the queen was trapped by her own past.

A Pledge of Better Times
is an outstanding pageant of passion and love, loyalty and betrayal, secrets and treason, service and sabotage, actual and imagined events, and is suitable reading for adults and older teens. There are discussion questions at the end to aid in book groups and classes.

I suggest that you read this book in hard copy rather than ebook, so you can easily navigate the notes at beginning and end, and study the cover art while you enjoy the story in between.

Disclosure: I received an advance uncorrected proof from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.