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

Friday, August 28, 2015

How to Take Critique

A while ago now, I stumbled upon the blog post of a writer who was concerned about having his/her work critiqued. This writer was worried. Would an honest critique of his/her work devastate him/her? Would he/she take it personally?

I thought it was an interesting question. It is kind of true. It does feel a little odd to ask someone to tear into that piece of writing you've been slaving over for a long time. And the first few times you put yourself out there it can sting. But in the end the whole idea is to make your writing better, and the only way you're going to get better is to hear the things that are wrong with your work.

The question itself is a good indicator of the willingness of the author to send his/her work out there and have it honestly reviewed. It is the authors who think their work is perfect as is who don't belong in critique groups. They'll be the ones to argue and defend their work when all that's being offered is a way to help make it better.

Then there are the people out there who feel like this writing thing is a competition, and they'll seek to "win" by denigrating the writing of others. These are not good people to work with. They're not going to be very helpful.

But so long as those who are critiquing your work are doing it for the right reasons, there are some ways to get through the critiquing process:

  1. Take a deep breath. This is going to be fine.
  2. Listen to what the person is saying. You don't have to react. You don't have to defend. Just listen.
  3. Keep in mind that this is not about who you are as a person. It's only about what was on the page. And sometimes, what you thought was on the page was not.
  4. Thank the person for taking the time to help you make your writing better.
  5. Don't do anything with the comments for at least a day. Let them sit in your subconscious before you tackle any revisions.
  6. You are the writer. While other suggestions might be offered, you are the final determiner of what goes on that page. 
This is something that does get easier the more you do it. Keep in mind that it's all about making the work better, and a polished piece of writing is worth the trouble.

How do you take critique of your work? What tips do you have to offer to someone who's never gone through the process?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

To Critique

© photosteve101
Joining a writing group is great. You get to submit your work to others who will read and give you the feedback you've been craving. The only catch: you must read and give feedback in return.

How does one critique someone else's work?

What if I have nothing to say? What if my opinion is wrong? What do I know about writing anyway? I can't help anybody. I should just sit quietly and let the real writers do the talking. After all, I have no idea what I'm talking about.

At least, that's what I was feeling.

When you ask others to read your work, you want honest feedback. We get to caught up in our little worlds that we have a hard time seeing what might be missing. Which is why we ask for others to critique our work.

And that's all you have to do. Read. Offer honest opinions.

When you read someone else's work, you can only read it from your perspective. Your opinion is just that. The great thing about being part of a group is that yours is not the only opinion offered. There are others there to agree or disagree with your opinion.

A few things to remember when reading for others:
  1. You are offering an opinion about the writer's work. Not about the writer personally. If you dislike the person you're reading for, keep that out of your critique.
  2. Be constructive. If something isn't working for you, say so, but if you have some idea on how to make that scene/section/chapter work, offer it. 
  3. Let the writer know what does work for you. Point out favorite lines. If something shocked you or made you laugh, make sure to include it in your critique.
  4. You may disagree with the group's assessment of something. If something doesn't work for you, but it worked for everyone else, say so. Conversely, if something does work for you that everyone else has an issue with, speak up. 
  5. You are not the author. You are only offering opinions on how the story as presented reads to you. If you disagree with the plot or viewpoint of the story, you are free to write something that works better for you. It's not your job to rewrite the whole story.
You are there to help the writer with his/her revision process. Presumably, before publication this writer will work with others, like a professional editor. It is not your job to catch every little mistake. So, enjoy what you're reading, and have fun with the process.

What do you look for when you critique someone else's work? What other tips can you offer?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Beware Of

You want to join a writing group, but you're kind of hesitant. What if they are awful?

Yes, this is a possibility. When you get a group of people together, they can either uplift you or they can be toxic. (Well, there is a lot of in between, too.) Just keep in mind that you're not signing some sort of contract that obligates you to be there (and if they're requiring one of you--run far, far away). If you find they don't work for you, leave and don't go back.

You're going to want a group that is open to the kind of writing you do. If you write sci-fi/fantasy and everyone else writes mysteries, they might not be the group for you. But if everyone writes something a little different, that can work, too. (In my group, we have two writing contemporary fiction, one writing a mystery/thriller, two writing fantasies, and one writing a memoir. And for some reason we work together just fine.)

Someone who knows a whole lot more about writing groups than me wrote a long post about some things to look out for when looking into writing groups: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

What do you look for in a writing group? What are some things that make you leave a group and never return?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Finding a Writing Group

"Stipula fountain pen" by Power_of_Words_by_Antonio_Litterio.jpg: Antonio Litterioderivative work: InverseHypercube - Power_of_Words_by_Antonio_Litterio.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.
So, you want to join a writers' group, but you have no idea where to start. That's what the Internet is for.

I had kind of wanted to join a writers' group for some time, but I didn't know where to find one. For me, it was as simple as joining Meetup.com. I did this on a lark. One of the interests I put down was writing, and a bunch of writing groups popped up.

Of course, this might not be the route you wish to take, but a simple Google search of "writing groups" might turn up some interesting local surprises. I found this post on finding writing groups just with that simple search.

Check out Yahoo Groups as well. Or Yelp. Check out your local paper, library, or bookstore. Once you start looking, you might be amazed at how many groups are out there.

You won't know if a writing group is right for you until you try it out. A couple members of my current group talk of previous groups they attended and how bad they could be. But, if you find a group that doesn't work for you, all you have to do is stop going.

What if you can't find a group that works for you? You could always start your own. If you know some writers, you could all start getting together. Or you could advertise (on Meetup or elsewhere) to find like-minded writers.

How did you find your writers' group? Did you have to try out many groups before you found one that worked for you?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Writing Groups

Writing is a solitary activity, done largely in a vacuum. We create scenes, dialog, and whole worlds in our heads. We craft them into stories that we put down on (virtual) paper. And one day we hope that someone will read our stories and hopefully enjoy them.

But writing is hard. It takes a long time (for most of us). And after a while we get so close to our work that we don't know if our story comes across the way we hope it does. We can't be sure if what we did say makes any sense. That is why writers seek feedback.

One way of getting feedback on our writing is to join a writing group.

There are as many types of writing groups as there are writers. But generally, it's a place where we can submit our work to the critique of the other members while offering our critiques of their work in return.

It's supposed to be a safe place to put our work out there so that we can improve it. The trick is to find that right fit. We all want that place where we can be our crazy writer selves and have others understand our particular neuroses.

This week I'm discussing writing groups. I'm no expert as I joined my first one not quite a year ago. I hear that I'm pretty lucky to have found a good group of writers, but I think that we can all be that lucky if we know what to look out for and are willing to get as much as we can out of the experience.

What's your experience? Do you belong to a writing group? Do you want to join one?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Tiamat's Nest by Ian S. Bott

Okay, I admit it. I like quirky people and blogs. And whether he likes it or not, Ian S. Bott caught my attention.

His blog is LOL-worthy. And Strange. And Informative. Doggone it, if you haven't checked it out, you need to. Now.

Tiamat's Nest

Weather forecasting is a life-or-death profession, and hard sciences and technology are all that keep people alive and fed. Anthropologists, soft and useless, rank slightly below politicians and telemarketers on the social scale.

This sucks for Charles Hawthorne, Professor of Anthropology. Worse yet, his research into human behavior has discovered how human history ended up on its current miserable course, and the perpetrator is hell-bent on keeping it hidden. Worst of all, with everything mechanical under computer control, the most innocuous device is a potential murder weapon to a well-connected villain. 

After a series of deadly near-misses Charles flees to the wilds of Greenland where the global network has yet to reach. But to deal with the threat, to save himself and his family, Charles has to confront technology full on and enter the even more hostile world online. Freeing humanity from a lifetime of slavery comes as an added bonus. 

Moonshadow’s shoulders sagged. “I know it sounds weird, but there’s a construct out there that gamers sometimes run into. It’s bad news.” 

“He saw it,” Tin Man said. “That?” 

The Samurai gestured, and a golden dragon filled the air between them. Pink shrieked and back-flipped to her feet, looking ready to run. Moonshadow grunted, but held his ground. The dragon, frozen mid-lunge, rotated slowly so they could all get a good look. A sinuous body rippled with power beneath iridescent scales. Individually, their color defied analysis, like a film of oil on amber, but overall the beast shone a lustrous reddish-gold. Translucent wings cupped virtual air, and razor-tipped talons stretched to snag invisible prey. So far, so dragonlike. 

But the eyes! As they swung into view, they appeared little more than flat black discs, vacant and lifeless. But as Tiamat faced Tin Man full on, for a moment, they seemed like portals to a limitless void, empty yet all-seeing. He felt them strip away the veneer of his avatar and pierce him in the darkness of his apartment. 

I know you! 

The sensation was overwhelming.

Release date August 29
Available for pre-order on AmazonAppleBarnes & NobleKobo.

Find out more about the author on his website: www.iansbott.com

Friday, August 21, 2015

Epic Fail Authors. A Beloved Book

So far, I’ve given four examples of books that I read and enjoyed despite the controversy swirling around the authors.

Today, two books that killed the ride. And the best book of the year.

Both books that IMHO failed are by established authors. I worshipped them. I couldn’t wait for their next book, counted the days until I had it in my hot little hands.

All that came to a screeching halt.

One author—unnamed—wrote a fantastic series that made it to the movies. It didn’t do too well there but who cares, her next series was out and flying. It was better than so-so but not by much. I still loved her books. But she ended a book so egregiously stupid that I nearly threw my Kindle across the room. Glad I didn’t of course.

I’ve tippy-toed around her stuff since but stopped following her every move like the lurker I was. Mostly don’t care.

The other author wrote good stuff, excellent stories. But, he plastered a controversial viewpoint in one of his books. And it wasn’t just an opinion expressed. He slopped it on many pages with a heavy brush, made it a theme. I mudded through it until I couldn't stand it any longer and yelled, “Just shut up and sing” at my Kindle. At least I didn't throw it.

I quit him too.

In both books, the writing turned me from Yay to shrug, not the author’s personal life.

Now...drum roll please...the best book of the year!!!


Book Review. Awesome Book, Great Read, Highly Recommend, Couldn’t Put it Down, are different ways to hail a good book.

None of those superlatives comes close to the next book.

Fool’s Quest is about the continuing adventures of FitzChivalry, bastard prince who stays in the shadows, and Fool, his elusive and highly secretive friend. Fitz saves Fool after he kills him. Loses his daughter after he believes she is safe.

FitzChivalry Farseer can’t do anything right it seems.

Fool’s Quest is the latest in the series, Fitz and Fool by Robin Hobb. Her magnificent Farseer trilogy started with Assassin’s Apprentice in 1995 and continued with The Tawny Man in 2001. In between the two series, she wrote The Liveship Traders trilogy and The Rainwild Chronicles

Quest surpasses them all.

Talk about my Spock moment after the Romulans destroyed Vulcan. Emotionally compromised that is. This is the kind of book that should be required reading, the rich scenes, the marvelous writing...truly amazing. 

And the emotions.

I highly, highly recommend this series and especially this book.

Have you read Fool's Quest? Are there authors that turned you to the Dark Side? 

* * * *

Huntress aka CD Coffelt, author of The Magic Withheld series 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Hated Authors, Beloved Books - Harper Lee

This week it’s about controversial authors and their books. Today, the controversy is about the release of a book. Warning, mild spoilers ahead.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee is sprinkled with similes like confetti after a parade. Sentences like:
“His wit was hatpin sharp.”
Jean Louise—Scout—has returned home. A tomboy who eschewed her femininity to climb trees, wonders at the differences between her home town and the life she has in New York City. Her visit brings back memories...and a revelation.

Go Set a Watchman was a hard book to review. Humorous, well written, it breathes with life. The storyline left me soaring and dropped me just as fast with the strangeness of it. It easily was a five-star review until the story ended so abruptly without much of a resolution. Passions grew, boiled over, and I wondered at the outcome. Then, it simply stopped and was over, as if a hole had opened and the story fell into its depths. It really made no sense that Scout was so totally oblivious of her home town.

Four stars for making me LOL, excellent writing, and a great story...until the last ten pages. Truly Cee Are A Pee after that.

Controversies erupted when news of Harper Lee’s new book was reported. What new book? She always told people she never wanted to publish again after To Kill a Mockingbird. So why now?

According to the news, her sister was lawyer and the
manager of Lee’s accounts. After she died, the author’s new lawyer suddenly found an unpublished manuscript. Cries erupted. Speculations that the author wasn’t in her right mind to authorize publishing Watchman. Some people agreed and said they’d never buy the book.

Others said, wait a second. Harper Lee IS aware and very happy with the results of her new book. A friend of hers is adamant that Lee knows about the publication of Watchman.

Should I read a book that may not be properly released? Since I don’t know the truth, I erred on the side of Want To Read It.

Would you?

* * * *

Huntress aka CD Coffelt, author of The Magic Withheld series 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Hated Authors, Beloved Books - Orson Scott Card

This week it’s about controversial authors and their books.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is a combination of coming of age, war, deceptions, and battle tactics.

Ender is a boy genius in simulated games of war, like a total Call of Duty geek. The authorities notice his talent and push him down a path of their choosing, and he isn’t aware until the end how far they’ll go to get what they want.

The movie adaption of the book was rather good. The CGI was realistic and I liked the actors who played the parts. It is a tale that makes you think and leaves the reader shocked, a characteristic of true sci-fi.

But after the movie came out, I read of people boycotting the movie and I became aware of Mr. Card’s strong views on gay rights and politics that pretty much offend both sides of the equation.

Some authors can afford to give their less-than-PC ’tudes. They are famous enough and rich enough to do this. But it is my policy to refrain from giving my political views and opinion (very strong) on divisive issues. Just not my style.

But Mr. Card can and does.

So, shall I never ever buy another book of his due to his opinions? Nope. I try to keep the subjects separate. If his books held the same viewpoint, that might be a different story.

What do you think?

* * * *

Huntress aka CD Coffelt, author of The Magic 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hated Authors, Beloved Books – Forrest Carter

This week it’s about controversial authors and their books.

This week's theme came to me after I read the book, Gone to Texas by Forrest Carter. For those who don't know the book, the film adaptation might be more familiar—The Outlaw Josey Wales starring Clint Eastwood.

Intrigued by the movie I bought the eBook and was enthralled by the writing...and surprised when I learned that Carter also wrote The Education of Little Tree, a wonderful book that I read first as the condensed version in Readers Digest.

Again, fantastic writing kept me in the scene and loving it.

But...I was confused. Some of the reviews of the books mentioned the author’s past, a despicable character. It seems—according to news accounts and magazine articles—Mr. Carter lived a double life as a member of the KKK and a speechwriter for Democratic Governor George Wallace.


The fact checkers say his real name was Asa Carter and advocated racial separation. According to them, he was an anti-Semite.

I’m not sure what the truth is about the author. All I know is what I read in his books. Example:

  • Carter portrayed one of his characters, a Jewish man, as wronged by the town folk. But loved and enjoyed by the protagonist and his family.
  • He gave a black character very sympathetic treatment as well without a hint of racism.
  • There wasn’t a bit of antisemitism, racism, or Ku Klux Klan ideals in his books.

Summary: Should I believe the news articles detailing his past sins? Or judge him by his books and characters?

I gotta go with the books and hope I’m right.

* * * *

Huntress aka CD Coffelt, author of The Magic Withheld series.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Hated Authors, Beloved Books - Bill O'Reilly

Great books sometimes brings out people who judge the book by the author. This week is about those authors and examples of their books.

Today, it's about political views or mannerisms of a certain author, Bill O’Reilly and his Killing books.

My review of Killing Jesus. Initially, I didn't intend to buy this book. I read and enjoyed the other books by this duo, Killing Lincoln and Killing Kennedy, but the title of this one made me squirm. Still, I was intrigued after reading the first chapter.

Killing Jesus is historical. Not a religious book. It gives
context and sensory texture to the background to the life of Christ, pulling eyewitness accounts from the Bible but also from sources of the day. Historian Josephus and Roman accounts of the times painted a rich scene. The authors used the dust of the roads, taste of the olives, and heat from the sun to give the reader a flavor of the world of Jesus. I learned about the harsh worlds of a soldier, the Roman Senate, and of treachery. The historical accounts of the deaths of the Disciples, of Pontius Pilate, and the high priests provided a satisfactory closure.

This book comes from the point of view of a man, his angers and fears. Insight into his emotion and possibly his thoughts caused me to consider the attributes of Jesus long after I read the last page. It is up to the individual's faith as to whether the man, Jesus, was also the Son of God. That conclusion is left up to the reader. The authors do not try to sway the reader one way or the other. Again, this is a historical accounting not religious.

Five stars. And put me in the column of Son of God.

Some comments/reviews for this book wasn’t about the contents or readability. Hordes of people commented about the author and what a POS they think he is, about his politics or mannerisms. 

Yeah, but...what do ya think about the book?

Now I can’t say that O’Reilly is one of my favorite humans either, but his books give facts and let the reader decide for themselves. 

Do you vet an author before reading their book? How about after?

* * * *

Huntress aka CD Coffelt, author of The Magic Withheld series 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Dear Writer Not Writing

Dear Writer Not Writing,

Sometimes we have the time to write and want to write, but we can’t. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like writer’s block because we’re writing blog posts, book reviews, journal entries, poems, etc. but we’re not working on the one thing that matters the most: our book.

What should you do when you’re not making any headway on your WIP? Try this:

1. Write one sentence every time you think about your story.

I got this one from Claudine and think it’s a fabulous way to get back into writing, because what writer doesn’t think about their story at least a dozen times a day? If you write one sentence the odds are you’ll write another one to go with it. And soon you may have a paragraph!

Image from Wikimedia

2. Change your scenery.

Writing in the same place can kill our creativity. Try writing outside, at the park or beach, in a book store or coffee shop, in bed or even in your car. Words may flow better if you have different surroundings.

3. Change your medium.

If you always work with a computer/laptop, try to hand write your WIP with a pen and paper. This can free your words just like changing your scenery.

4. Free Write

I admit to having trouble with this one because I tend to edit as I go (a nasty habit), but there have been times when I free wrote scenes and the outcomes was so much more raw and better than it would’ve been if I second guessed every sentence. Try to write freely by pouring every thought that pops into your head onto your paper. Don’t think about making anything flow or adding vivid prose. That can come later. Just write! 


Chrys Fey

QUESTION: What gets you writing when you’ve been struggling for a while?

Have a writing-related question? Leave a comment and I may turn it into a post right here!

Author of Hurricane Crimes, 30 Seconds, Ghost of Death, and Witch of Death. Blogger. Reader. Auntie. Vegetarian. Cat Lover.

Find Me:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Dear Scrambling Writer

Dear Chrys,

I love all of this [writing, blogging, critiquing, reviewing] but I seem to be scrambling to keep up. Does that ever happen to you?


Dear Scrambling Writer,

Yes, it does happen to me. This past April I was doing the A to Z Challenge, co-hosting here at Unicorn Bell, and preparing for two eBook releases and a blog tour. I had also just moved to another city and was celebrating a birthday. I was scrambling to keep up for a while there, but by planning ahead and taking care of my biggest responsibilities first, I was able to stay afloat.

Here are 4 strategies to help all scrambling authors out there:

1.  Cut back on your obligations.

You don’t have to critique, beta read, or review another’s work. I only beta read for writers who have helped me in the past, or if I really, really want to be part of someone’s project, even in this small way. And I only commit if I have the time.

I also never accept review requests and only review someone’s book when I get to it on my TBR list. Occasionally I sign up to review a new book before its release but that is only if I am a fan of the author and again...if I have the time.

If you don’t have the time, politely decline the requests you get to critique and review.

2. Schedule blog posts.

Brainstorm some blog post ideas. If you think about what you normally talking about on your blog (writing, publishing, gardening, parenting, etc.), you should be able to come up with several subjects. Then think about your book or WIP. Can you share a short excerpt or create an article around the theme, setting, or your characters?

Once you have some ideas, spend a day or two writing out several posts. When you’re done, schedule them to go on your blog. This allows you to stay current on your blog and not have to worry about coming up with something last minute.

Image from Wikimedia

3. Make a checklist.

You can do this for each day like I used to or for the week. Put the item that needs you attention first thing in the morning at the top and continue down to the item that could wait until later in the day/week. Then make sure to follow that checklist!
TIP: Get your blogging and social media out of the way first thing so you can focus on your writing for the rest of the day. Some say not to do this, but I find if I don’t check my blog, email, and social media and do the things I need to do with those, it’ll be on my mind, making writing impossible.
4. Ask for help.

If you are drowning and can’t find time to blog, open your blog to guests. You can schedule 1-3 guests a week. They can create an article about a topic you usually blog about or promote their work.

You can also ask your family to take some things off your hands around the house to open up more time for you.

For more tips on how to save time, if you feel as though you have very little of it: Dear Time-Strapped Writer 


Chrys Fey

QUESTIONS: Are you scrambling with all of your writing duties? How do you stay afloat?

Author of Hurricane Crimes, 30 Seconds, Ghost of Death, and Witch of Death. Blogger. Reader. Auntie. Vegetarian. Cat Lover.

Find Me:

Monday, August 10, 2015

Dear Confused Facebook Author

Dear Confused Facebook Author,

Many authors have a hard time deciding what they should share on their author Facebook pages and what they shouldn’t. I can only tell you what I do and give you some ideas. After that, you’ll have to decide what you feel you should share.

On my author page, which can be found HERE, I like to share ANYTHING that has to do with writing, which includes updates on my publishing and every once in a while a note about my editing. I always share my new blog posts. For the writers who follow me, I like to share writing tips. To create a balance, I’ve also been posting some of my (amateur) photography. You’ll also see pictures of my cats. For readers, I like to share fun facts they wouldn’t know about my books/character as well as quotes taken from my published works.
Now that you know what I do here’s a list of more ideas.

Facebook Post Ideas:

·        Share:
Writing tips
Writing quotes
New blog posts
Links to awesome reviews
Character dialogue
Fun facts about your stories/characters
Descriptive quotes from your published stories

·       Announce:
New Contracts

·        Talk about:
Your experiences with publishing
New books you’ve read and reviewed

·        Post updates about your:

Include these hashtags:

Image from Wikimedia

·        Take advantage of these hashtags too:
#WomanCrushWednesday (#WCW)
#ThrowbackThursday (#TBT)

*All of these can be used to highlight one of your books, characters, or just something fun about you.

·        Pictures of:
Your desk
Office/work space
Book Galleys
Cover Reveals
Book Signings/Events
Your pets
Your vacations

·        Videos:
Your book trailers

·        Music videos:
For songs you write to
Song that inspired stories/characters
A theme song for your story or for a character

·        Share things other authors post.


Chrys Fey

QUESTION: What do you share on your author Facebook page? 

Author of Hurricane Crimes, 30 Seconds, Ghost of Death, and Witch of Death. Blogger. Reader. Auntie. Vegetarian. Cat Lover.

Find Me: