Friday, December 31, 2010

A Writer's Blessing

My final post for 2010 is my own version of a blessing for Writers. As the New Year is upon us and we all settle in for twelve months of writing, dreaming, and working for all that we want in our lives, I hope we all achieve what it is we seek.

May your pen be swift and your typing be smooth,
Your thoughts be concise and your words always groove,
May your queries be plucked from the mass of submissions,
And your agent of choice soon help with revisions,
May you see your dreams blossom, your book on the shelf,
Be it chick lit, romance and mysteries or books ‘bout an elf
Away with the angst, frustrations and writers block,
Just remember this always, in my books, you all rock!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Commenting on Blogs

Everyone that I've talked to the last few days have expressed their New Year's Resolution to me in one form or another. Most revolve around losing weight, a common theme. The other's I've heard : quiting smoking, being kinder, get education/better job, don't worry so much and so on.

I have a list of resolutions for myself a mile long, there are always improvements I could be working on, but one of the things in particular is blog comments. I read a lot of blogs, find myself laughing out loud, crying alongside and nodding in agreement. But I don't often make a comment. Which is weird because I LOVE comments on my blog, like I've mentioned to a few people, it makes me feel as if the blog is actually being read. And I think that others must feel the same way.

So, to all the blogs I follow now and will follow in the future I promise to make a comment when I read your blog. Even if it's just a nod of agreement. Or a cyber space knuckle bump. Or even just a happy face :D. Be prepared for the commenting to begin!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Polish and Shine with Liz Engstrom Part 2

Here’s the second part to Liz Engstrom’s workshop on your final polish of your manuscript.

16. Make sure the ending echoes the beginning.

17. For fiction, make sure your protagonist has an internal revelation separate from
his external problem solving.

18. Make sure ancillary (supporting ) characters don’t take over the show.

19. Take out clich├ęs.

20. Be interesting with every sentence.

21. Vary the rhythm of your sentences. Not all short, not all long.

22. Put a sensory image in every paragraph. Don’t forget that we currently have five.

23. Make sure that the only thing that slows the plot is a subplot complication and
not description.

24. Can you heighten the tension? Tighten the suspense? Do it. (Draw it out)

25. Have you answered all the questions your story posed to the reader? Double check.

26. Omit unnecessary words.

27. In the final read through it should read like the wind.

28. The ending MUST be satisfactory.

29. Memorable fiction has memorable character names. (Try to stay away from the

I truly hope this list of Liz’s helps all of you as much as it has me. Using her suggestions has helped me to make great strides in my work and I know for most of us there is at least one or two things on this extensive list we’re guilty of. ;) Best of luck in your revisions and polish and shine!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Polish & Shine with Liz Engstrom Part 1

This is for all of you out there working on revisions. Maybe you worked your tooshy off with Nanowrimo and are now trying to pull all the pieces together. Maybe you're working on a longstanding project you'd like to see completed before the end of the year. Or maybe you're like me and are working under a deadline. Either way, here are a few tips for spit polishing your MS from a workshop I attended run by author Liz Engstrom at the Surrey conference. She has a list of tips that is quite long but I'm putting half of them in today and half in tomorrow.

1. Take out all the side trips. If it doesn't further the plot, it doesn't belong no matter how well written.

2. Flesh out areas where you been telling and not showing. (You can use dialogue to help correct this.)

3. Take out every use of the words : very, causing, here, this, now, today, just.

4. Investigate every use of the word "it". There is usually a better word.

5. Investigate every sentence that begins with "There is" or "There are" This indicates a weird point of view.

6. Investigate every adverb. Try to pump up the verb instead.

7. Replay every conversation to make certain the person speaking is attributed correctly.

8. Take out all qualifiers : almost, kind of, nearly, sort of. Pump up the action, the drama.

9. Look for ANYTHING that might distract the reader and fix it. (Liz also called these shin busters, sentences and sections that literally stopped the flow of things.)

10. Make sure the reader is grounded in space and time with every jump.

11. Investigate every use of the verb "to be" (is, are, be, being, am, were) and gerunds. "He was running to the store" vs "He ran to the store."

12. Investigate every use of passive voice, looking for the telltale "by" construction. "The ball was hit by the boy." vs "The boy hit the ball."

13. Make sure every sentence furthers the story.

14. Make sure every chapter has a structure and is weighted at the end.

15. Make sure your opening grabs the reader and flows smoothly into the rest of the story.

Few, it's quite a list, but so helpful. If you get through all these tonight with your revisions and can't wait for tomorrow, you can always check out Liz's website as she has many teaching aids for writers there.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Twas the Night before Christmas - Urban Fantasy Style

I hope all you urban fantasy lovers enjoy this as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Twas the Night before Christmas - Urban Fantasy Style

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the grave
Every creature was stirring, invited to a rave.
The stockings were fish net, they had mighty flare,
In hopes that Laurell Hamilton soon would be there.

The vampires were stylin’, dressed mostly in reds,
While visions of blood donors danced in their heads.
Only one lonely zombie, a strange little chap,
Alongside the Werewolves who paced, ready to snap.

When one of the tombstones fell with a clatter,
All Supes sprang into action to see what was the matter.
The moved in a dark horde, quick as The Flash,
Surrounded the gravestone, fists ready to bash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to their blood lusting eyes should appear,
But a sharp wooden stake, and a note they all feared.

The words penned were harsh, they cut to the quick,
Even the vampires felt mildly sick.
A new Huntress was prowling, she sought only their pain,
She fully wrote her intentions, even signed with her name!

"I know what you are, that none in this cemetery are fake!
This Christmas Eve you die - by gun, flame or stake!
The invites I wrote, signed LKH so no Supe would stall.
Now I’ll kill you all surely, I’ll watch you all fall."

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
The Supes they all scattered – ran for their lives,
For the Huntress they feared was soon to arrive.

And then, in a twinkling, they heard a soft click
The sound of a gun loading smooth and real slick.
The zombie tucked its rotted head, and was turning around,
When the whistle of death, took said zombie down.

Next came the Were’s in fur, from their heads to their feet,
They dodged the bullets that came on like sleet.
But it was to no avail, the Huntress was trained well,
In moments the whole pack was sent off to Hell.

The vamps were now pissed and turned Huntress to prey.
They found her crouched amid tombstones, her eyes feral and fae.
Her mouth tightened hard as she drew up her crossbow,
And the first vamp to die was as white as the snow.

The stump of another soon littered the ground,
And the smoke from the flame thrower began to circle around.
The Huntress she laughed while she ran vamps through the belly,
That shook when she twisted the blade, like a bowlful of jelly!

The last vampire held in his teeth a cheroot,
He bowed to the Huntress, a mocking salute,
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave the impression of nothing but dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to the battle,
And even the Huntress was soon feeling rattled.
With one last mighty effort she laid him to rest,
Knowing she’d done all she could to give humans the best.

She sprang to her hummer, gave a sharp piercing whistle,
And away the remains flew like the down of a thistle.
In the night air she exclaimed, ‘ere she drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all humans, and to all Supes a good-night!"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Writing Excuses

The holidays are usually filled with sugarplums and eating too much, candy, new gadgets, blinking lights, sparkling tinsel and lots and lots of eggnog.

This year though I will be starting a new tradition, one that I'm sure many other writers have faced. I have time off through the holidays and during that time off I will be not only working on revisions for Book #2, I will also be working on revisions (hopefully minor) for Book #1. These said revisions need to be finished and polished for . . .wait for it . . .

January 5th.

That's three weeks on the button. Am I upset about this? Not in the least! This means I have the perfect excuse to get out of all the overeating, excessive drinking, having to talk with people and make nice even though I will probably NEVER meet them again, parties. Because now I can say,

"Nope, can't come. Must write."

Ahh. I am so looking forward to the next three weeks. :)

The question to all of you is, do you use your writing as an excuse to get out of things you don't want to do?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Interview with . . .editor CA Marshall

I'm very pleased to have CA Marshall, editor, writer, lit agent intern and blogger answer a few questions about being an editor, the good the bad and the cliched!

1. Other than the obvious reason of loving books, what made you want to become an editor?

This may sound odd, but I never actually planned or wanted to be an editor. I knew I liked books and words, but up until I got my MA, I had planned on being a midnight poet and working some other “normal” day job. During the last few years of undergrad though, I started editing papers for friends with Dyslexia and other writers who wanted a second set of eyes before turning something in. Those friends recommended me to their friends and so on until I had strangers asking me for help. When I learned that I could actually make a living as a freelance editor, it was like a light bulb clicked on. It was the perfect job for me and it just sort of fell into my lap. I’ve ever so grateful to those friends who recommended me way back when and set the whole thing in motion.

2. Being an editor, what is your #1 biggest pet peeve when reading a published book?

Endings. I hate being sucked into a really awesome book only to find out that it’s just a really long prologue for a second book or a series. It’s really, really annoying when that first book doesn’t do well (because the ending sucks) and then a second is never released. Be sure to wrap things up at the end, and make this book count.

3. What is your favourite part of the job? What is your least favourite?

Favorite: Spending all day in bed with my dog Mollie reading books and seeing those books go on to find agents and publishing contracts. Happy dancing is a favorite pastime.

Least favorite: Seeing a writer so clueless about everything in this business and having to sit down with them and basically destroy their world. I’m a teaching editor, not just a fixer, and it just kills me to have to give bad news but it’s got to be done.

But then another favorite is when those writers come back after revisions and research and learning and their work is phenomenally better. It might’ve stung at the time, but seeing writers grow and become better is amazing.

4. Approximately how many books/ms are you able to edit in a year?

This year I’ve tried to balance writing two books of my own, editing, and living a life, so I only did about twenty-five. I could do a few more next year now that I’ve found a good rhythm. I don’t like to schedule more than two edits at a time so that I can give the proper amount of attention to each though, so it won’t be a major jump in numbers.

5. As a writer and an editor, does this job leave you much time for your own writing?

If I make time for it, yes. Being an editor takes just as much time as any other full time job. Sometimes I have to say no to things in order to have time to do what I want. I don’t have a TV, so that helps. It’s all about deciding what is worth your time and what you’re willing to give up in order to do those things you love. For me, I want time to edit and work on my own stuff, and play with Mollie. That means giving up TV marathons and nights out and sometimes sleep to get things done. But it’s worth it.

6. Favourite all time book and character?

Oooh, that’s way hard… Um… Can I make a list instead?

Favorite books:
Harry Potter series
Anything by Jane Austen
Terry Prachett’s Tiffany Aching series
Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers series
CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia
Beth Revis’ Across The Universe

Favorite characters:
Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)
Fiver (Watership Down)
Catherine Moreland (Northanger Abbey)
Rob Anybody (Wee Free Men)
Calcifer (Howl’s Moving Castle)
[I seem to like the sidekicks!]

7. How long did it take you to become an editor between any schooling and apprenticeship time?

My training happened over the last five years or so, in classes at college and university. Last February though, I decided to make it official and got a paypal address and a website and put that training to use as a freelancer. All of my clients this year have come through word of mouth, I’ve been really lucky there.

8. What are the one (or two) cliches you see over and over in books, either ones you edit or ones you read?

Cliches, like overused plot devices? I see a lot of "locking eyes with hot boy and am instantly in love." There's a lot of strange goings-on, like sometimes the book doesn't match its description; a romance with too much action and not enough relationship building, etc. Audience expectations and what your book delivers can make or break you. It's important to take a step back and make sure that the story as a whole fits together.

9. What is your best piece of advice for those looking to find an editor?

Ask around before Googling. There are a lot of websites with flashy promises and very little feedback. Ask your writing friends if they’ve used an editor and how their experiences were. After you’ve rounded up a few names with good reputations, then Google them. Find others who praise them or give questionable reviews. Ask for sample edits. Ask them how they work (teaching, fix only, one-time contact, available afterwards for questions, etc) and make sure they are a good fit for you. Ask for CV’s and references. If you’re going to drop $500-$1000+ you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best value and that the two of you are going to work well together.

C.A. Marshall is a freelance editor, lit agent intern, YA writer, and loves to play with her dog Mollie. She dreams of one day owning a small house near the water, preferably in England, with a shelf full of books she has written and has helped others to write. She can be found in Emmett, MI and at

Thursday, December 09, 2010

An Honest Writer's Christmas List

Ah, the Christmas list. A serious bone of contention in our house, one that leads often to heated debates of to be surprised or not be surprised, which is better?

Regardless of the fact that yes, I do like surprises and prefer not to write an exhaustive Christmas list, I thought it might be interesting to write a list of the things that I and many other writers really do want.

1. Pens and paper aside as those always end up in a writer’s stocking, how about a laptop? Maybe a Mac, cause we all know that the better the laptop, the better the writing.

2. Don’t forget that just because we have a laptop, doesn’t mean an I Pad isn’t useful. In fact, we as writers could be writing and researching at the same time if these first two items were under the tree.

3. A nice big, fat substantial edit from someone like CA Marshall (who is holding a contest right now to win said edit). If only our loved ones knew how we’d squeal and jump to see this lit up by sparkling lights and tinsel.

4. To find the paper work to a major writer’s conference, like Pacific Northwest Writers or Surrey International would be enough for some writers to break out of their usual quiet, reclusive writer self and go screaming around the house scaring all the cats.

5. A writers retreat us something most writers only dream of, a place of solitude and inspiration where the only demand is to write is on my list. I prefer a beach side hut, or mountain chalet if I’m being really honest.

6. Here comes the big one. Have the loving spouse go and find you an agent. Surely at Best Buy there is an isle where you could pick and choose. Or maybe Bed Bath and Beyond would have a back room of agents.

7. And if an agent seems to difficult for the loved ones to find, perhaps they would have better luck going straight to the source and be able to procure a contract with a publisher. Hmm. That would be the best ever!

8. Our own personal marketer and PR director to run all the social media that is needed to get your name out there so you as a writer could focus on just the writing.

9. A dinner/lunch date with your favourite author and they didn’t mind when you peppered them with questions.

10. And the realist in me is going to put out there that if you are totally stumped on what to buy for your reclusive, cranky writer, get them a gift card for Chapters, Barnes and Noble or some other bookstore (e-book counts too).

There’s the list, hope it helps for all of you buying for a writer or two. As always, if you would like to add to the list, please do, I have a few writers I need to buy for and damn they are a hard bunch!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Giveaway Winners

A big thank you again to Zoe Archer for answering all my questions and also for giving away a signed copy of her book SCOUNDREL which coincidentally goes to Jesilea!

The copy of Zoe Archers book WARRIOR will be going to Tanya!

Congratulations to both ladies, who I'm sure will now be hooked on the series as much as I am!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Interview & Giveaway with . . . Zoe Archer

I would like to give a big welcome to Zoe Archer, author of five novels, most recently her phenomenal Blades of the Rose series of which 3 of the 4 titles are available, Warrior, Scoundrel, Rebel and the forthcoming Stranger. She took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about herself and her writing so make her feel welcome! (And buy her books!)

1. You spend a lot of time doing research for your books, how many hours do you think you actually put into each novel?

As far as research time, that's difficult to say. I do several days to a week or two of preliminary research, but even when I'm actually writing the book itself, I'm constantly looking things up either in books or online. I remember waaaay back in the day when the only source of information came from libraries. I still love libraries, and still use them, but if there's anything that the internet is good for (aside from shopping and Twitter), it's research. The other day, I needed to know about 18th century powder flasks. A few Google searches later, I had the information I needed. But I'm careful to double check information that I get online. It can be pretty dodgy.

2. How long does it take you to write your novel and get it to the point where you send it to your editor? And along that line, do you employ a free lance editor to look at your work prior to sending it to the publisher?

WARRIOR probably took me about seven or eight months, all told, but I was writing spec, so the time parameters were a little more open-ended. I wrote SCOUNDREL and REBEL in four months, per my contract. STRANGER took a little longer, because I wrote a novella ("The Undying Heart" in HALF PAST DEAD) in the middle of that, and also because my deadline wasn't as tight for it. For the first book in my new HELLRAISERS series, I have five months per book. My husband (sci-fi romance author Nico Rosso is my critique partner, so he reads and gives notes as I write, then he reads the completed first draft in its entirety. I do more revisions based on his notes, then give it to my agent for her feedback. After all these revisions, I send it to my editor. I definitely don't need to hire a free lance editor, since I already have several pairs of eyes looking at my stuff already!

3. Which of your books is your personal favourite? Can you tell us why?

That's such a tough question! They each have their special places in my heart. WARRIOR was my first foray into writing historical paranormal adventure romance, and it really was in many ways the "book of my heart," so it definitely means a lot to me. I loved writing SCOUNDREL because the hero, Bennett, was so much fun and the setting (Greece) was so rich and beautiful. REBEL has such a kick-ass heroine in Astrid, and that was great. And then with STRANGER, I was able to wrap up the whole storyline, plus I was finally writing Catullus's story. I love all my heroes, but seriously, I think Catullus is wonderful. Shy inventor genius hero! So awesome!

4. If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and why?

Oh, probably Catullus. I'm not scientifically minded, so it would be very interesting to watch him work. Plus, he's an intellectual and collects waistcoats. He's also a field operative for the Blades, so he's got some stories to tell, once he gets over his initial shyness.

5. What is the one thing in publishing or the publishing process that you find the most irritating?

I'm glad that there is finally more variety in terms of setting and storyline. For a while, it was getting pretty limited in terms of what publishers were buying--not mine, of course! It would be nice if there was a way to know sales information sooner, but accounting in publishing is a complex and sometimes baffling process. People ask me now how the Blades of the Rose series is doing, and I can only shrug. I really won't know a thing for at least six months, if not longer.

6. For us up and comers, do you have piece of advice that you wish you had when you were starting out?

I learned by doing, and that's what new writers need to know. The way to get better is to keep writing. Thinking about writing doesn't get the book written, and doesn't make you a stronger writer. Sit down and write.

7. Last question, if you could go back and re-do your writing career, what, if anything would you change?

Honestly, I'm pretty happy with the way everything has played out thus far. I started writing when I was a little kid, and always with the goal toward publication. There have been many hard knocks along the way, but it's made me wiser, stronger and grateful for any success. There were moments of hubris and moments of despair, and I managed to survive all of them. There's a reason why, when I sold my first book (LADY X'S COWBOY), I had the Japanese characters for "courage" tattooed on my ankle.

As an added bonus, Zoe has graciously offered a free SIGNED copy of Scoundrel and I will be adding to the goodies with a copy of Warrior to give out to two lucky commenters.

All you've got to do is tell us who your favorite hero/heroine couple is. The more badass the better!

You can get an extra entry by being a follower of my blog. Good luck to you all, and thank you again to Zoe.

P.S. This contest is only open to Canadian and US residents and will run until December 7th at midnight.

And the Contest Winners Are . . .

Thanks to all who entered, I'm always excited about new followers as well as my faithful long standing followers winning books, but this time around, it was all newbies!

3rd Place and winner of Witchling and a chocolate bar of their choice goes to -- Ebyss

2nd Place and winner if The Guardian and Purdy's chococlate goes to-- Deven Avila

1st Place and winner of the Mistborn Trilogy (one of my favorites of all time) and some scrumptious Lindor chocolate goes to ---Julie Okami

Thanks again to all who entered, couldn't have the contest without you! And to the winners, contact me at and send me your contact information so I can send you your goodies. :)

And don't forget to check out the blog later today for ANOTHER GIVEAWAY! I will have Zoe Archer, author supreme of Paranormal Adventure Romance books in a cool interview AND giving away a signed copy of one of her books.