Writing, promotion, tips, and opinion. Pour a cuppa your favorite poison and join in.

Friday, February 27, 2015

First Chapter - Deady Arts

Here is the final page of Shella's first chapter...

The rest of the meeting went as normal. We covered procedures, schedules, mandatory classes that we would have to take. All the boring stuff that needed to get said.
To end the meeting, Mr. Stock said, “One last thing and you can all get out of here, if anyone wants some volunteer help in their class this year, please let me know. OK everyone, enjoy the rest of your day.”
Everyone quickly got up and formed into their groups. Me, I was solo. Even Deven and Juliet got up and walked off together. I returned the wheel to the hamster and whispered to him an apology for taking it away. Then I picked up my binder and hamster and thought about the personal goal requirement and wondered where my life was going. At the moment nowhere. It was boring. Not mine. My mind was not liking where my thoughts were going and turned it's on switch off. 

My thoughts: Okay, I'm a little disappointed by the fact that nothing much happened in this chapter except that we met and got to know our narrator. Most first chapters need to have something happen in order to catch the attention of readers/agents/editors. Notice that I say most. Depending upon where this is going, this first chapter might work perfectly. But maybe there's a way to convey the character information that's here in a better way. Also notice that I said a little disappointed, because I really enjoyed trying to understand the narrator and where she was coming from. I think I know but I need to read more in order to confirm and thus the author succeeded - in getting me to want to read more to find out what happens next. 

A huge thanks to Shellah for submitting and readers, I hope you'll add your comments :)
Happy Friday!!!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

First Chapter - Deadly Arts

Here are the next two pages of Shella's manuscript...

Mr. Stock had been there ever since she started working here. He was the one who hired her. In the past three years, she watched his belly grow pressing his suit jacket open to where he could not even button it now. But the change in his looks this year was his mustache. Stock was the kind of guy who tried hard to be in style, but he was always just shy of the bullseye. Never quite hitting the trend. (this is an example of a great fragment used to effect) This mustache was waxed at the tips, and it liked to jump like a kid on a trampoline when he talked.
“Let's get this meeting done so you can all get your rooms ready.” Mr. Stock smiled and looked at each and everyone one of us, “I know you females here love that part.”
All the girl teachers giggled. That was one of the things we all looked forward to. Picking a theme to decorate the room in. Perusing catalogs; both paper and online; (I think commas instead of semi-colons here) trying to find just the right one to inspire all the minds that would be surrounded by it. To be honest, I enjoyed it as well. It would be the only bright part of this day.
Mr. Stock continued, ”In front of each of you is your information folder. Everything is pretty standard except for a couple of things. First, there is a form you guys need to fill out about yourselves. The district wants to put everyone's picture and bio onto the website.”
Great, I thought, (you need punctuation here) what is mine going to say? I wake up. Get a coffee. Go to work. Eat. Paint. Go to sleep. That was all there was to my life. (Does she want more? If so, what does she want?)
“Don’t over think the bio, we only need a paragraph and there are some tips on the form to guide you.” Mr. Stock looked down at his folder and flipped through some pages, “The other thing that is new...”
Screech. My hamster took this moment to start using his wheel. After he realized it was the hamster he continued on, “As I was saying, the other thing that is new is a personal goal worksheet. I went to a conference, and one of the talks was about focus.” He stopped and looked at the hamster again because the screeching was relentless. His eyebrows drew together, and he said, “Mary, can you please stop the hamster from making that noise?”
Everyone turned in their seats to look at me so I quickly opened the cage and yanked the wheel out. He nodded and continued on, “If the teacher's personal life is in focus it will transfer to their work lives. So this year we will give it a try.”
One of the teachers said out loud, “I’m not happy with sharing my personal goals.”
As I looked around, there were a couple of other teachers that were nodding their heads. I had to agree. I did not have any goals but if I did, I would not want to share it with my coworkers. 
“Sorry, I should have said you get to keep the worksheet all to yourself,” Mr. Stock answered. “This is something for you to work personally on. The joy you get out of making your life better rubs off on your work. You will become a better teacher if you are happier.” He looked around the room again nodding his head. “This is not required but I feel it might play a positive role on the staff. Please indulge me in this endeavor.” He tweaked his mustache.


My thoughts: Interestingly, the more I'm getting to know this character the less comments I seem to have, except...maybe that this has a sort of dreamy feel to it, like Twin Peaks, if that makes any sense. It feels like there's something going on beneath the surface, a mystery that's about to be revealed...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

First chapter - Deadly Arts

Here are the next two pages of Shella's manuscript...

“My name is Deven.” He stuck his hand out for me to shake it.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Mary,” I said as I shook his clammy hand.
“What grade do you teach?” Deven asked.
“I'm teaching fourth grade.” The moisture on his upper lip started to grow, daring him to wipe at it with his finger.
I glanced at the clock and said, “It’s almost time for the meeting to start. I should find a seat. It was nice to meet you.”
Hopefully, he would get the cue and go sit down and leave me to myself.
“Yeah, you too,” Deven replied.
I went to the table in the back and set the hamster cage on it. Deven followed and sat right by me. I sighed and resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to wear a mask (ah, but which mask? Or is there only one?) today even though it was exhausting.
I gave him a reassuring smile. The poor guy was obviously stressed out. I could at least try to be nice. But that was the hard part. I did not feel things the way others do and so sometimes I would say or do something that would come across as mean or rude and upset people. Ah, now this is an interesting tidbit of information!
The first year at the school. I tried hard. I tried to wear my mask every day, all day. But eventually the teachers realized that there was something not quite right about me, and they stopped including me. I became the outsider.
There was one teacher that never gave up though, Juliet. She was an older lady who had been teaching forever and looked like everyone's favorite grandma. She was the only one that still would try to talk to me.
“Mary!” Juliet said. She came over and gave me a hug, one that lasted a second too long. Juliet was the kind of person who could just not help being a mother hen. She knew I was not in the clique, and would try to make up for it. She was always an advocate for those who were outsiders. Even with the students. The shy, troubled, or picked on knew to go to her for help and comfort. When she let go, she said, “How was your summer? Do anything fun?”
There it was, the question I did not want to answer. I just needed to be quick and change the subject. No one wanted to know I did the same thing every day this summer.
“It was good. Juliet have you met Deven yet?” I said and motioned to him with my hand.
“No, how rude of me.” She looked right at him and continued, “My name is Juliet. I have been here forever if you need anything at all just ask OK?” She gave him a giant reassuring smile.
When that smile reached Deven, he instantly relaxed in his chair. That was one of those instances where I was different. It was not possible for me to make people relax. The whole time he was by me he was stiff like a fairy had come and locked him in place. But the second Juliet said hi that spell was broken.
Deven did not get a chance to say anything back to Juliet because Mr. Stock the principle cleared his throat to get everyone's attention. When the majority of the teachers settled down and turned to look at him, he said, “Hello everyone!” He was standing in front of the white board with a clipboard in his hand. “Glad to see everyone is back and smiling.”

My thoughts: Now things are getting interesting, in a subtle way. At first I was a little distracted by the lack of contractions, but now it's part of the narrator's voice, the way she (I'm assuming) talks, thinks. Formally. Impersonally. The only suggestion I might make is to try to tighten those first two pages so that the reader (or an agent/editor) gets to this point a little sooner. But I say might because I kind of liked the introduction to this person. 
Readers, what are your thoughts?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

First Chapter - Deadly Art

Okay, so this is a bit of a rush job because I'm having internet troubles and I'm not sure how long it will last. Here's the first two pages of Shellah's manuscript with some of my comments. I will add more (along with more info regarding this first page) as soon as I can, but I wanted to get this much up before I lose service again. As always your thoughts, dear reader, are welcome.

First day of school, well the first day for us teachers. (fragment) It always starts with a staff meeting. You know (comma) where all the teachers come together not just to get oriented for the coming year but to gossip about everyone else and what they did that summer. 
Did I do anything that summer? No. It was my same boring routine. All I did was stay home and work on my art. I did not go on any trips or do anything new. Just wake up, do some art, read and maybe watch TV. Maybe if I had a close friend or even a boyfriend, I might have the motivation to do something else. As it is, I don’t. So talking about my summer was something I wanted to avoid.
 I walked into the classroom where we were to have the meeting, holding the new (what happened to the old one?!) classroom hamster in a metal cage. The cute black and white hamster had his nose going. His nostrils were expanding at such a fast rate I thought he might pass out. I should have taken him to the classroom before I came to the meeting, but I would have been late and would have had to walk in front of everyone. Not wanting to do that I decided to take him with me to the meeting. I’m curious as to why doesn’t the narrator want to walk in front of everyone? If she's a teacher then she's used to being in front of a bunch of people, right?
I noticed all the same teachers from last year. They were huddled together in their cliques. The chatter was loud. So loud, no one noticed when I came through the door. This invisibility relieved me because I would not need to talk immediately. I wanted to dodge the other teachers, but then who am I kidding, everyone knew me and would just ignore me. The ones I really needed to avoid were the ones that were new. The ones that did not know what I was like. They were the ones that most likely would try to talk to me.
The classroom had those long tables set up for all the teachers to sit at. Someone had set them up in several rows facing the front desk. I wanted to find one that was in the back and not near the nosy people. But in my weaving through the standing teachers and trying not to bump the hamster too much, a new one approached me. Crap. Now I was going to have to talk. I was not nervous. I was not shy. I was not a recluse. I just wanted to not put on my mask. What mask? The mask that looked like the person I was talking too. The one that let me be an actor. The first social rule I learned growing up was how to mimic people.
This teacher looked nice, and most of them were. He was tall and nervous. His upper lip was glinting under the unflattering light. Even though the light was unflattering, it did not downplay the beauty of his eyes. The A crisp blue that betrayed his uneasiness.
“Hi,” He said with a shy smile not quite as big as it normally could be. If she hasn’t met him before how would she know how big his smile could normally be?
I put my new mask on and said, “Hi,” and gave him his smile back.
“Cute.” He said
The shock must have been showing on my face because he stammered and said, “Uh... the hamster.” To make me understand even more, he pointed to the hamster.
Looking down at the little guy I said, “Oh yeah. Right.”
We stood there for a couple seconds not saying anything. He was glancing around the room when his eyes jumped back to me.


My thoughts: I'm okay with with sentence fragments as long as they're used sparingly, but I don't think I'd start my first page with one.  I do wonder (second paragraph) why our narrator is uncomfortable being alone. This is a good insight into our narrator - makes me curious about what's come before. I'm also a little confused by the paragraph about putting on masks. The narrator says she's not shy, not a recluse, and not nervous, but if she doesn't want to talk to anyone then she's odd in some way. I want to know and understand more about this.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

First chapter crit available...

This week I'd like to critique someone's first chapter. And when I say like, I really mean I'd love to! So I hope you'll consider sending me something - early bird gets the worm - along with the genre and age group it's intended for to: unicornbellsubmissions@gmail.com

Friday, February 20, 2015


Ho boy. What a difference twenty-four hours makes.

I received word that my publisher, Musa, is shutting down.

They've always been completely above board with me, and I don't expect any trouble. Their contract and dealings with their authors were easily accessible, and I never a problem talking to them.

But now I find myself without a home.

I am glad that I dipped a toe into the self-pub waters with Out of Magic so I not totally naive about what road to take. I’m not wringing my hands wondering what I’ll do now. An agent requested one manuscript so the traditional route isn't off-limits. I have a most excellent editor, Angela Kelly, who is branching out. She is creating her own editing business, thank Heavens.

But I have formatting to consider, cover artists, and self-publishing to think about.

To the Musa family’s credit, they are quitting before financial reasons force them to quit. All rights to the books revert to the authors at the end of the month. I will need to buy the book cover image and place my books back with the venders.

It was a good start and my appreciation to Musa for giving me a chance and showing me the road to travel knows no bounds.

Recently, I joked with a blogger and dear friend about his publisher. I asked if they were taking urban fantasy since I was peeved with my publisher. He said, yes. ACK. Self-prophesying much?

So Indie or traditional? What shall it be?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Horn Tooting Time

I am not good at marketing. Grandstanding is as foreign to me as sailing a boat on the ocean. And since I’ve never been on the ocean, that’s like saying vacationing on Mars is my next goal.

But here I am, writing books and waving my arms and yelling, hey! Look at me.


Today Wilder Mage goes on-sale for $1.99 at all markets, including Amazon. Out of Magic, the prequel to The Magic Withheld series is free. And if you like all of the above, Mage Revealed is beckoning you on with a decent price of $4.99.

So have at it. Check out my series, and I’ll blow out my cheeks knowing this round of tooting my own horn is done. For now.

 Oh, the agony an introvert goes through.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tactics. Analogy, Simile, and Metaphors

Subtitle: “It’s alive.” – Young Frankenstein

Words take you to another realm if you let them. Using the paintbrush of mental images, you are transported to another planet, a different age, or into the world of the author’s own making. But what ticket makes this possible?

The breath of Life.      
What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet. – Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare

Metaphors, similes, and analogies are pretty much the same thing. All compare one to another. It’s mostly how they are put together.

  • When she stopped, the field of sunflowers beckoned to her like a buttery cake waiting to be tasted.
  • There are many speed bumps on the journey to Published Author.
  • The house waited for the next thrown rock, its broken windows in a silent stare of acceptance.

Take a scene out of your wip and put in a metaphor at some point. You don’t need to overdo it. Use a light touch, but create something that gives the scene Life. Especially practice comparing things that aren’t remotely related:
He’s as edgy as a hacky sack. – Greg Gutfeld, odd person who creates more similes in five seconds than an average writer can in five hours.
If you combine things out of left field, it forces the reader to look at Normal in a different way.
(the idea) came and went like an ice cream headache – Greg Gutfeld, strange man who mixes words like an eclectic interior designer.

If you let them, if you allow your imagination to roam free, your mind creates the picture. Words start you on the road. 

But it is up to you to arrive at the destination.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tactics. Misdirection

Magicians do it. Storytellers do it. Movies and TV shows plaster it across the screens.

The word today is misdirection, distracting the reader or viewer from the truth that is right in front of them. 

Pickpockets love this human blind spot.

While I am not a fan of magicians—go figure. I write about wizards and mages—their ability to misdirect is genius. I like knowing their secrets just as I enjoy how the special effects department pulls off the Jurassic Park T-rex and the lightning in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s.

A recent episode of The Walking Dead totally blew my mind. It employed a version of misdirection that caused a breathy ahh to slip out. It seemed clear. Backstory explained...or so I thought. A previous episode left me thinking I knew what was happening. It was emotional. Heartbreaking. But I didn’t know until the last few scenes that what I took for reality was not
so. The director, actors, scriptwriters, led me to the edge then pulled the curtain from the truth.


In my youth, Arthur C. Clarke gave me a sci-fi example of misdirection and molded my appreciation for the genre. In The Star, space travelers from Earth come upon a world blown apart, burned to a crisp by an exploding star. But what you think is truth might not be so.

Do you have other examples of misdirection that blew your mind? Share. And read The Star. Seriously, it is amazing.

Friday, February 13, 2015

One Good Catch Cover Reveal

One Good Catch 

A Maguire’s Corner novel

Title: One Good Catch
Author: Heather M. Gardner
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Publisher: InkSpell Publishing
Cover Design: Najla Qamber Designs
Release Date: March 13, 2015

Ignoring a recent trauma that is affecting her everyday life, ER Doctor Kate Maguire engages in some high risk activities, but putting herself in these dangerous situations isn’t enough to feed her edginess. She needs something more. When her brother’s high school best friend comes back to town, it’s her chance for a ‘no strings attached’ fling with the man who still headlines in all her best dreams.

Rhys MacGrath’s days of one-night-stands are long over. The pro-football player might be side-lined at rehab for a shoulder injury, but that doesn’t mean he can’t admire and desire the all-grown-up, so-damn-hot, version of the tomboy he once knew. His sudden interest in Kate might be aggravating his best friend, who doesn’t approve, but it’s her indifference that’s driving Rhys crazy.

Everything heats up when Kate’s nosy nature sets her in the line of fire of an arsonist forcing them to deal with more than just the sparks igniting between them.

Author Bio:
Heather M. Gardner's love of books began on the hand-woven rugs of her small town library where her mother worked. There she had a never-ending supply of stories to read at her fingertips. As a teen, her favorite genres to curl up with were romance and mysteries. When she started to create her own stories, they were the perfect fit.

Heather resides in New York with her best friend who is also her husband, plus her talented and handsome son. She is currently owned by four stray cats. Heather's a full-time mom, works part-time from home, a chocolate enthusiast, coffee junkie, cat addict, book hoarder and fluent in sarcasm. 

Blog: The Waiting is the Hardest Part 
Twitter: @hmgardner
Goodreads: HMGardner
Facebook: HeatherWritesRomance

Cover Art and Interior Design

What to say about covers that hasn't already been said?

Although you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, authors only get one first impression. And that's your cover. You want to make sure it grabs the reader's attention. It should leave an emotional impression on them. That cover should make them want to flip the book over and read the blurb.

A lot of self-publishers don't have the money to hire a professional cover artist. They'll open their art program, paste on a stock photo and add their title and name. The problem with this is most of the time it looks like that's what they did.

Covers require finesse. Let me give you an example.

I purchased the cover for Fade Into Me from SelfPubBookCovers. They had the perfect image. All I had to do was choose the font and color and place my title and name. I used what they suggested. It looked good, but something was slightly off. My wonderful editor is also a cover designer. Even though I wasn't paying her for a cover she made a suggestion about the font color. It was one little change that made everything "feel" right. I never would have figured it out.

Covers don't have to cost a fortune.

Here are a few places you can find great covers. Some will give you more control over the final cover, others are pre-made sites where you only get to add your information.

You can find covers as low as $69 here. Once you purchase the cover it's taken off the site so no one else can buy it. It's easy to use too.

Steven Novak (He designed the cover for The Magic Wakes!)

My prices for book covers are pretty straightforward:
$80 ebook
$140 ebook and print
That's it. Those are flat fees. If it takes two days or two weeks to settle on a design you never pay more. No money upfront. I invoice at the jobs completion and Paypal is the preferred method of payment.

Logo work is a slightly different animal and requires a bit more work upfront. Because of that, the cost would be $100.

Zak Whittington (He designed the cover for Stellar Cloud)
You can check out his portfolio HERE and on his Deviant Art page.
Really, go check out the variety of his skills. He can probably match almost any look you're going for between his photography, digital designs and illustrations.

His rates are $45/hour plus the cost of artwork if he has to buy stock photos.

And, Amie McCracken does it all.
Price dependent on project type and size.

Since I already purchased the front for Fade Into Me, she only charged $25 to design the whole jacket cover for the print copy. That might have been part of the package deal for editing and typesetting. Which brings us to the next topic for today...

Typesetting or the interior design of your book.

I'll be honest, before The Magic Wakes was published, I had no idea that you did special things to make the inside of the book look like a book. I mean, don't you just paste your document in and voila! Done!

Sadly, that's not the case. Although you can do that, and Amazon has some decent help pages to teach you, it requires a little more than saving your document as a pdf. A little know how and software! I decided it would be cheaper to just pay someone who already has the software to design the interior. Plus, it saved me valuable time learning how to use that software.

Let's look at some examples.

This first two photos are from Stellar Cloud. I spent countless hours going back and forth between word, the pdf file, and the reviewer on Createspace. I read all the help pages and followed them to a T. The result is not bad, but it doesn't "feel" like a traditionally published book. It's not even something I can put my finger on, but it's there. I couldn't figure out how to have individual pages NOT contain certain design elements that were through the entire book. And it was a major headache. Think a week of going back and forth and not knowing why my document didn't translate to Createspace correctly.

 I tried to make cute scene dividers, but every time I loaded them into Createspace they came across as broken images. So I went back to asterisks. Blah!

The next two photos are the inside of Fade Into Me. Also self-published, but this time I paid Amie McCracken to use her software and make it look oh so much better!
 Look, nice fonts for chapter headings. The first page of the chapter is different in design from the other pages as well, setting it apart even more. 
And pretty scene break elements!

These little photos might not do justice to the difference between the books. However, when you hold both of them in your hand and flip pages you notice it. They are slight, because I think I did a pretty good job myself with what I had to work with, but they are there. 

Interior design isn't a deal breaker with whether or not I buy or enjoy a book. Neither is the cover art. But lover's of books, those of us who still enjoy holding a physical paper and ink book, understand that it's all a part of the experience. The visual enjoyment is just as important as that disappearing book smell. (You can't smell a kindle!) *sigh*

I've rambled on and don't even know if I covered what you need to know. So, ask!

What are your thoughts about cover art?
Share your favorite cover artists, editors and typesetters with us!

Join us at noon for the cover reveal of One Good Catch by Heather M. Gardner!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Author Intrusion and Trust Issues

Author intrusion is one of my greatest pet peeves AND something I've struggled to correct as a writer.

What is author intrusion? Anything that pulls you out of the story and makes you remember that a person wrote the words you're reading. There are several ways this can happen, but there's one that's common in self published novels.

Meaning, the author doesn't trust the reader to make the connections and keeps beating them over the head with:
"Notice this!" 
"Pay attention because this is important." 
"Let me tell you in case you didn't understand what I just showed you in that last scene."

Have you ever done that? I wish I could find some of my early writing to show you what I mean. It was bad. I'd write a lovely showy bit and then ruin it by explaining what I'd just shown though action or good dialogue. Luckily, now that I've noticed it in other books, I'm getting better at cleaning up my own manuscripts.

We must remember that our readers are intelligent people. They're readers for crying out loud! I don't want someone to treat me like I'm stupid, and neither do my readers. 

Here are two other things I've seen that can be avoided. All of them fall under author intrusion because they can jolt me out of the story and remind me that I'm reading instead of living vicariously through the characters. 

1. Distant POV (I'm guilty here in my first drafts!) I want to see and feel right along with the hero. This means getting deep in their head, even in third person. When the writing is like a fly on the wall it's hard to really care. Make me laugh, make me cry, make me sit on the edge of the couch.

Here's a great review of the different kinds of POV.

2. Dropping in a phrase, technology, something that just doesn't fit the world. This happens in historical fiction sometimes. Modern slang or a reference to something that the character shouldn't know anything about. This could include something the reader knows from a different character that the main character shouldn't know about. 

Do your research and then comb through to make sure everything is accurate for the world or time period, as well as double checking your own facts and timeline. 

Best fix?

1. Spend more time on your novel. Don't write it and then hit distribute on Createspace. Let it sit, revise, let someone read it and listen to what they say. Revise it again! Get the picture. Self publishing is faster than traditional, but good publishing still takes time. 

2. When you think it's ready to share with the world, hire an editor. I can guarantee they will be able to help you make it better.

Helpful Links:

Close vs. Distant POV by Annette Lyon
A POV Footnote on SFWA (cause you know I love scifi) This talks about a lot of other things, POV drift, saying something a real person would say, show don't tell and have sufficient motivation. 
POV chart is from another great blog post--Who's story is this anyway?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Plot Holes and Predictability

Let's learn about plot holes and predictability through more fun google images.
And just so you know, those are three of my favorite movies. 

Now, I think movies can get away with plot holes a lot easier than books. We get caught up in the visual impact of the moment and don't catch them or think about them until later. And, sometimes, as in Harry Potter, there were so many things going on that I didn't think about the time turner dilemma until someone else pointed it out. What can we learn from that?

1. You can get away with one plot hole when the rest of the book is amazing. 
2. Sometimes the plot hole doesn't change the overall plot awesomeness because it's not the MAIN thread that has a hole in it.

A really great editor can help you find your plot holes and help you determine how to fix them. They can even help you decide if that little thing you put in (that doesn't make complete sense) because you needed to get your character to a certain physical, mental or emotion place is small enough to squeak by. Or if they're really good, they can help you come up with a more plausible way to achieve the same goal. 

Great beta readers and critique partners can help with those things too, but once again I'm a big fan of hiring an editor after the betas and crit partners get finished. 

So, if predictability is boring and the path to failure, how do we make sure our stories are NOT predictable? I mean, we hear all the time that there are no new stories. That means everyone is familiar with the pattern and will anticipate the end, right?

Come on, where's your imagination? Here are a few more things I'm sure you've heard before.

Put your character up a tree and throw rocks at him.
Here's where you get to make a story you're own. Those metaphorical rocks can be anything! Every person, and therefore every character, is different. Their life experience has given them a unique set of fears and strengths. As writer, you play to those. Find ways to challenge that individual regardless of the genre or conflict formula. 

Think of the absolute worst thing that could happen and do that.
Here's the trick. Don't do the first thing that comes to mind. Those are usually cliche and therefore predictable. 
Note for romance writers:
Readers of romance want want thing to happen EVERY time. You have to have a HEA (Happily Ever After). That's what makes it romance. Make the fact that they WILL get together and have a HEA the only thing that's predictable. Try to find unique ways to keep your lovebirds apart and make them fight for every step to being reunited. 

Questions for You

What are some stories with plot holes that bugged you?

What are some stories where the plot hole didn't bother you and why?

How do you feel when you know exactly what's going to happen in the end by the first third of the book?

Helpful Links:
How to fix a plot hole by Roz Morris

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bad Grammar and Typos

Some self-published books are so full of grammar mistakes and typos that you can't get into an otherwise great story.

This is perhaps the easiest thing to fix for self-publishers.

Hire an editor!

Not your mom. Not your best friend. A real life editor.

It's going to cost money, but will be so worth it in the end.

Let's look at some examples of bad grammar. See if you can catch the mistakes.

Verb Tense Mistakes--
1. I go to church and sang in the choir.
2. I love to drink mild and ate chocolate cake.

Subject/Verb Mistakes--
3. Jesse and Heather is going to the movies on Friday.
4. I likes my puppy.

Noun/Pronoun Mistakes--
5. Maddie and Kennedy forgot her lunch money.
6. Everyone forgot their jacket.

Double Negatives--
7. He couldn't hardly believe she left him.
8. I never wanted none of your lies.

Some people have problems with fragments and run-on sentences. Although I agree they should be used carefully, I'm a big fan of fragments for driving home something with punch. Plus, inside my mind are lots of fragments and tremendously long run-on sentences. :) It's natural...sometimes.

Okay, were those examples really easy to catch?

Of course they were. Those were not your sentences or part of the story that's been taking up room in your head for the last few months. You were looking for mistakes. Some people can train themselves to self edit their own work. I am NOT one of those. When I reread my story I often skim through. I'll never catch all the little mistakes or typos.

Quick word on typos:
Most of my typos come from moving paragraphs or sentences around by cut and paste. Sometimes a word is left behind and it makes for a weird sentence. Other typos are from using the wrong spelling of a word--they're, there, their or to, too, etc.

When you hire an editor, they are coming in with fresh eyes and they know their job is to find the little mistakes.

Why are those little things so important? 

Because they throw your reader out of the story. You want each person reading your book to become immersed in the world and the problems of your characters. They don't want to remember they're reading words someone wrote. I know I don't. I want to escape reality for a couple of hours.

One or two little mistakes are not a big deal. But page after page of them will frustrate your reader and prevent them from forming the emotional connection needed to get lost in your book.

Questions for You:

Have you ever given up on a book because of bad grammar or typos?

Have you worked with an editor that you've loved? Please share their name and website in the comments!

I don't think I've ever quit reading a book simply because of grammar or typos, but those books rarely get more than 3 stars when I rate or review.

Two of my books were edited by Amie McCracken. I love, LOVE, love her! She has an amazing website that details the different types of edits available (if this post weren't so long I'd go over them). She is a professed lover of Indie authors and willing to work out pricing deals.

And one more because I couldn't resist. (Go to google and look up images for bad grammar for lots of laughs)
Other Links:
Grammar Girl
Daily Writing Tips
The Elements of Style
Common Errors in English Usage
English Grammar
Guide to Grammar and Writing

Monday, February 9, 2015

Writing Tips Week!

This year I entered the world of Indie Authors. It's been a great ride so far, but I've had many conversations the past month that got me thinking.

Why do self-published authors still get a bad rap? 

Let's face it, although there are many out there who work hard and put in the time and effort to make their novels shine, many self-published authors are looking for a "quick fix."

They are too impatient to continue trying the agent or traditional publishing route. Maybe they just haven't learned how to accept constructive criticism to improve their story. Perhaps they don't have the money to hire an editor. Whatever the reason, you can pick up free and cheap books on Amazon all the time that scream SELF PUBLISHED! I've read some wonderful stories and some not so much.

This week we are going to talk about those tell-tail signs and how we can avoid them.

Because you know what?

Being an Indie author is something we should be proud of! It's a lot of work and when done right can produce amazing stories that readers wouldn't get other wise.

Here's what we will cover this week:
  • Bad grammar
  • Typos
  • Plot holes
  • Predictability
  • Author intrusion
  • Poor cover art or interior design
The first 5 are good for every author to work on no matter which publishing route you are working towards. So, come tomorrow ready to jump into a discussion on one of these topics and to share the websites that have helped you in the past. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Darkness Within

My bff Kelly Hashway has a new book coming out this month!

After dying of cancer at seventeen and being brought back to life by an evil witch who turned her into a monster, Samantha Thompson thinks she's finally gotten past all the tragedy in her life. Now she's part of a coven of good witches who are helping her and her boyfriend, Ethan Anderson, learn to use the powers they received from other witches. Aside from the fact that Sam and Ethan are still in hiding from their old lives--the ones they had before Sam was brought back to life--things couldn't be better. Sam and Ethan are inseparable. What could go wrong? Magic. Ethan's magic came from a witch who'd turned as evil as possible, and though his coven thought he'd be fine, the more he uses his magic, the stranger he starts acting. The magic inside him is changing who he is. One minute he's Sam's sweet, perfect Ethan and the next, he's a complete stranger. Even with all her witchy power, Sam is helpless against the magic corrupting Ethan. Can Sam find out what's wrong with him before she loses him to dark magic forever?" 

I'm looking forward to this. What are you looking forward to?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Kiss That Rejection Letter

You have mail, and you can't resist clicking that little icon. Your heart stops. You breathe out. It's from an agent--or it's from your agent, or a small press. This could be the one. But it's not. And you feel like sticking your head through your computer screen. I get it. This is #67 and that book is perfect. There is nothing more you could do to it. Right now. With your current skillset and point of view, there is nothing more you can do to it. In a year, you may feel differently. You probably will feel differently. Especially, if you spend the next twelve months writing other stuff, adding thousands of words of experince to your bank.
It's hard to see now. You've spent months or years of your life working on something. You've got up at four am after going to bed at midnight to finish this and no one appreciates your blood, sweat, and tears. But being allowed to--or even forced--to keep your baby isn't always a bad thing. When you traditionally publish something, you're basically putting that baby up for adoption. It's not yours to protect and provide for anynore, but it's still your creation. You want it to succeed and have no control over what happens outside of your home. Self publishing does allow you more control, but self publishing something before your read still splashes your name, the only thing a writer really has, across a subpar product for readers to remember.
So the next time you get a rejection letter, delete it. Don't make a decision about what to do with the project right away and breathe a sigh of relief. You're keeping your baby another day. Think carefully and critically about acceptance letters. What's in the contract? What kind of marketing and editorial support can the press offer? Baby needs a good home, because once it's placed, it's placed.