Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Drowning in words

Words.  You gotta love them.  They can take you to magical lands, to the depths of the ocean or to the craters on the moon. 

But what about books that are bogged down with too many words?  I can think of several off the top of my head that I skip entire chapters each time I read them.  Unnecessary words aren’t just annoying, they’re tension killers.
This is really easy to do, especially as a new writer.  My first book was LOADED with unnecessary words.  But at the time, I thought each and every one of them had to be there.  Boy was I wrong.

When you’re writing a rough draft, it’s ok to be as wordy as you want to get your point across.  When you begin to edit you need to chop and dice like a world class chef.  But how do you do that?

Start by looking at which words are weak or cliché.  Replace them with strong, less common words.  Think outside of the box.  And if you struggle to come up with a new word grab your thesaurus.  It’s literally my best writing tool.

EX:  I was over the moon with excitement. (7 words)
          I was ecstatic. (3 words)

Here’s one I’ve used recently:
EX:  My mind goes haywire, struggling to focus, as he lies down behind me. (13 words)
                                      Vs what I wrote
My thoughts fragment as his length curls around me. (9 words)

Second, look at your descriptions.  Is there a more simplified way of saying the same thing?

EX:  The ugly old house is falling to pieces.  (8 words)
        The dilapidated house is crumbling. (5 words)   
        You’re saying the same exact thing only using less words. 

EX:  The yellowish white haired girl grabs a lot of attention from the boys at the party with her clear greenish blue eyes and deep red lips. (26 words) 
       With hair like the sun, sea foam eyes and crimson lips, the girl snatches the attention of every boy in the room. (22 words…and even this could probably be tightened up a bit if I took to the time to work on it.)

I struggled to capture a true picture of what the girl looked like until I read the second example.  We all know what the sun looks like, have seen a picture of the ocean or grabbed a sea foam crayon from our kids craft supplies.  And the lips…I’m setting a tone as to her personality by the choice in color.

Total word count saved by using edited examples: 15 words.  Times that by a 300 page novel and you’ve probably narrowed it down to 250 pages which is far more appropriate.

These are just a couple examples of ways that you can tighten your writing.  It’s hard.  I’ll be the first to admit that.  I really struggle with writing in a simplified format because it feels clipped to me.  BUT I’m getting better.  With each day that I write, every chapter I complete, every edit I endure and each book I publish, I improve.

Writing is not something you can master so stop trying.  Learn the rules of writing and let your muse run free.  Have fun.    

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Book Review: The Hunger Games

I have come to the conclusion that my experience with The Hunger Games has not been as amazing as everyone else's.  A ton of people "ooh" and "ahh" over it but I don't really get it.

Perhaps it's because this is not my usual genre.  Or because it took me 4 attempts to even make it through the first chapter.  But...after so many great reviews I decided to push through in the hopes that the book would get better.

Maybe it's just me, but pitting young kids up against each other in a fight till the death rubs me the wrong way, especially 12 year olds!  As a mom that is very disturbing.  I guess that's a good thing.  That means I'm not completely desensitized to violence.

I tend to like characters that I can relate to and Katniss was far from that.  Apart from her willingness to take her young sisters place in the games, there's little I can relate too.

She's fierce, cunning and emotionally detached to pretty much everyone in her life.  This detachment bugged me.  I get the need for that separation with her opponents, but other than her sister she was pretty much a recluse.  Even her relationship with her best friend Gale was awkward.

I must say the most disturbing part of the book for me was surrounded around the final death of the last opponent.  The entire scene made me feel sick.  Thank Ms. Collins for not going into GREAT detail on what was happening.  I don't think I could have handled it!

Knowing the essence of the book made me reluctant to invest my emotions into any character.  I didn't like this aspect because that's exactly how I like to read a book.  I want to care about them.  Sad thing was, because of this, I didn't shed a single tear over any of the deaths, which if any of you know me I'm a definitely a crier!

Overall, for my personal preferences, I would give The Hunger Games a 3.5 star rating.  It really didn't "wow" me like so many others.  I do have the second and third book on hold at the library so I plan to finish the series. I'm really hoping they redeem my standoffish view with the first one.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

When your Muse smacks you in the head...

As a writer, I've learned that what you want to happen, and what actually happens sometimes don't line up.  I had this happen a couple days ago. 

I wrote a homework assignment two months ago for my writers group that really piqued my interest.  I knew that it could some day turn into a really interesting book but I had no clue where I would go with it.  It's on my list of novels to get to at the END of the year.  After I finish the Arotas Trilogy and the Rising Trilogy.

Well my Muse decided to change my plans.  Here I am in the middle of writing my sequel to Forbidden and I am smacked up the side of the head with a brilliant book idea.  It's a continuation of my homework that I set aside!

Now I'm not just talking about only a name or maybe the first chapter. I have the ENTIRE book sorted out in my mind. 

That's insane!  And terrible inconvenient. 

I can't just drop everything to work on another book...or can I?  Should I?

This is the dilemma I have lived with the past couple days.  My head is swelling with so many ideas I can't sleep, can't focus and am pretty much zoned out half the time thinking about it.

My husband wants me to finish my trilogy, and I completely understand why.  I want it done too.  But when your Muse shoves something like this is your path I honestly think that you need listen.  Even if only for a couple days.

I have files upon files of ideas for the book.  Characters developed before my eyes.  A plot.  Book title.  Even a hint at something larger...perhaps another trilogy?  (Yikes!)

So my plan is to write as much of it down while I've got it and get back to work on Arotas.  Just because your Muse throws you a curve ball does not mean you let go of your goals.   

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer

As some of you know, if you've been reading my blog posts, that I read a lot of teen fiction to stay in tune with the market.  And one of my favorite reads has been Andrea Cremer's Nightshade trilogy.

When Bloodrose was released, the final installment in the trilogy, I was so anxious to read it.  Problem was, my library hadn't received it yet and my local Walmart didn't carry it yet.  I was stuck!  

But as luck would have it, my library ordered the book and I snagged a copy.  In and amongst my own writing, I finished Bloodrose.  Here's my view:

I'd heard several people say that they were happy with the book because Andrea wasn't afraid to kill off main characters.  That to me makes a good author!  

The storyline flowed well.  There was action, tension and release throughout the book...with a smattering of romances along the way.  The ending made me cry, no spoilers as to why, but I was satisfied with it.

My only qualm with the book....I hated how anti climatic the "final battle" was.  I truly expected more.  But...over all a very enjoyable book, and certainly a trilogy.

A must read for anyone who enjoys teen paranormal romance books!

Star rating: 4 stars.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book review: J.A. Konrath's Origin

Let me preface this by saying Horror is not my genre.  Apparently I should read between the lines when I download an ebook because J.A. Konrath's book gave me the creeps on several occasions.  Well done!  Now I have to sleep with my light on!

Origin is fascinating, disturbing and darn it I can't put it down!  Even though every part of me is screaming "This is not your genre.  You hate horror!" I can't stop reading it.  Which is truly annoying because with each scene Konrath amps up the tension.  Thank goodness my nails are painted cause otherwise they'd be gone!

A brief description of Origin:
A group of scientists unearth a being of unknown origin and is transported to a secret government lab for study.  After 100 years of study, the subject wakes up.  The question is...what is he?

Bub, named after Beelzebub, is a mystery to all.  Is he Satan?  A demon?  Or an alien to our planet?

He twists and turns the scientists, playing off their fears and emotions, as he tricks them into giving him everything he wants.  And then...everything goes terribly wrong.

Bodies reanimate, demons attack and the small group of scientists are racing against the ticking clock of a nuclear bomb, the governments solution to cleaning up any mistakes.

This fast paced, and vividly descriptive story definitely got my heart pumping. 

I give Origin a 5 our of 5 stars for being a perfect example on how to create tension and never let your readers go!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pj's and My Comfy Couch

A friend of mine, Danielle Bannister author of Pulled, wrote a blog this morning that made me chuckle.  It was about the perceptions that many people have of writers.  To be honest, I had some of those myself until I actually became an author.

First off:  Writing in your Pj's.
Heck yeah I do that!  Wouldn't you?  They're comfy, forgiving on overindulgence and just about my favorite type of clothing to wear.  Come on...be honest.  If you had the option of putting on those heels and a dress to head out to the office or staying home and working in Pj's, wouldn't you choose comfort clothes hands down? 

What do you think I'm wearing right now? Ha Ha!

Second: Pacing while wrestling with your muse.
Hmmm...this was an image I had when I was younger.  I used to picture a man sunk low in his chair, pinching the bridge of his nose as he mentally slammed his head against a brick wall.   To be honest, I'm sure this is true for many people.  Thankfully I've really never experienced this. Ideas come easily to me.  BUT...anytime I try to set a goal date to finish, things screech to a halt.  Not because the ideas fled, but because life seems to pile up around me, screaming for attention.

Third: A room filled with crumpled papers with scrawled notes written in haste that are tossed aside.  
In the virtual word this is no longer a sustainable visual image.  Although I do have some friends who still prefer a good old pen and paper.  For me, it's a delete key and a computer trash can.  Or a massive file of odds and ends that I'm convinced will help me at some point during my career.  

Fourth: Writing a big hit must be easy since my library is full of books.
If this is real, someone please tell me how! To be honest, maybe 1% of all writers actually land a publishing contract, and even that doesn't mean instant success.  Have you ever read the stories behind your favorite authors?  How many of them managed to land that amazing book deal on their first attempt.  *Forget about Stephenie Meyer.  That's not normal!*

Some of the best authors today fight for years to find an agent.  Did you catch the key word?  It's not years it's fight.  They didn't give in to the countless rejections.  They pushed through, persevered and improved their writing skills during that time. 

People think "hey, I could be a writer" without ever truly understanding how intense it can be.  Writing a book is not an easy thing to do and getting it published the traditional way is nearly impossible unless you can show you have supporters or you are willing to let the stack of rejection letters mount high while waiting for that yes.   

Fifth: I'm gonna make it big, sell millions of copies and retire to the Bahamas.
Sounds great doesn't it?  Sure it does.  It's certainly something I wouldn't snub my nose at.  But it's not as easy as it sounds.

Want a glimpse into my life as an author?  I spend a couple hours every day blogging, posting on my author page on Facebook, checking Linked In, emailing, responding to comments and checking book sales.  And that's only online.
That doesn't include phone calls, appointments, scheduling author meet and greets, passing out flyers, designing marketing items, talking to businesses about selling my book, typing letters to libraries to see if they would include my book, keeping up with the market or talking to people one on one about what I do for a living.

Have I mentioned anything yet about writing the actual books?  

What about rough drafts, editing, creating book covers, formatting ebooks, drafting print on demand files or storing away ideas for future books?
Still think it's easy to be an author?  

BUT...there's always a but.  For you to be successful with anything you do, you have to enjoy spending the time it takes to reach that level of success.  Spending 6 hours a day behind my laptop creating quirky characters is the best and only job I could ever truly do.  It's my passion...my obsession some might say.  

It's what gets me out of bed each morning.  Why?  For love of the written word?  Yes...but it's more than that.  I write not just for myself, or for my readers, but for my family.
I write for my husband.  He puts a lot of his time and effort into helping me succeed with my dream and I want to give back to him.  For my son, because he gives me the inspiration I need to be the best writer I can.  For my extended family who have supported me through every agonizing step of my journey so far. For my mother, whom I know would have been proud of me if she were still alive.

These people are the ones that motivate me.  That keep me pushing on even when I want to curl up in the corner and cry because I don't think I can do it all.  I'm not perfect, and to be honest, I've got a lot of growing as an author before I can consider myself to be "good" but I'm excited to learn something new with each day that passes.

So, how have your perceptions of the writing field changed? Or have they?

Book Reviews for Forbidden

By Lebari:
"I'm not normally one for reading this type of book but found I couldn't put it down once I had begun. The descriptions of the places and people are extremely well written so much so that I felt as if I was a fly on the wall taking part in everything that happened. I would easily recognise all the characters if I passed them in the street. It is one of those books you feel bereft of when it is finished like losing a friend. It would make an excellent film or TV series. When is the second and third book available!"

By Brandi Palmer:
"I loved this book. I became so swept up with the characters and the story. It was a wonderfully different story that keeps you enchanted throughout the story with unexpected twists and turns. I am so glad this is the first of a trilogy and cannot wait to read the coming books! I would say more about this wonderful book but the previous review was completely thorough."

By Danielle Bannister:
"In a world full of nothing but vampire books/movies and tv, it is refreshing to read a different take on the subject. The author promises a trilogy for these characters and I for one can't wait to read what mess they get into next. I found myself thinking about her characters long after I'd finished reading it; the true mark of a good story. Well done Mrs. Miles. Well done."

By Kelly: Roseline Enescue is just a 17-year-olg girl in Romania in 1689, when her father orders her to marry the wealthy Vladimir Enescue, brother to the equally wealthy and equally sadistic Lucien Enescue. Lured in by their wealth her father can't deny giving Roseline's hand, but he comes to regret it as he, along with all guests at the wedding are killed by the two monsters of brothers. Not even her little sister, Adela, isn't spared by their homicidal rampage and Roseline, having seen everyone she loves murdered in front of her eyes, has no choice but to comply to Vladimir's wishes, but not before she is killed and turned into a vampire like them.

This actually is the opening scene of the book and it is fast and exciting, really urging you to bond with the heroine in her struggle to save her loved ones and herself, alas you already know, just like she does, that there's no chance of that.

Then over 300 years later, Roseline, sees a way out, a chance to escape and she seizes it, knowing that if she fails to get away, she will suffer Vladimir's wrath once again, because she has tried this before, but it has never worked. Still, she gives it her whole and eventually she finds herself in the United States, posing as a 17-year-old girl (because that's the age she looks), going to a somewhat exclusive school, trying to go undetected, never attracting attention to herself. During her time there, though, she is befriended by the eccentric Sadie and her brother William, knowing very well that with her being Immortal, her looks are by default mesmerizing to humans causing them to be attracted to her. Consequently, she doesn't go as undetected as she would like to, but she tries. She is buried in some kind of comforting routine till Gabriel, the school's star student and athlete and most sought-out boyfriend is smitten by her, and an exchange student from Romania, Nicolae, comes to stay with Sadie and William. Nicolae keeps staring at her and it's not long before he reveals to Rose that he knows who she is and what she is, and that he is there to check up on her. Rose doesn't know in what capacity, but she is afraid that Vladimir knows where she is and Gabriel chasing after her all the time doesn't help one bit. 

Now, it sounds a little cliche or rather like something that's been described before, but the story finds ways to be original and refreshing. I really liked that the book started the way it did, because it was fast and it immediately drew you in and made your heart beat a little faster. It was told in a smart way in the sense that in the first chapter, you already know why Roseline was running, who and what she was and why it was instrumental that she get away, making you feel like you already knew her and really ready to become invested in the actual story to start in the following chapter. Actually, the majority of the book's most important characters was really introduced in the first chapter, although Sadie, William, Gabriel and Nicolae were introduced later on. 

The characters were quite diverse without coming off as caricatures, which was really good. Even Sadie, with her continuously changing wardrobe and make-up going through punk, goth, bad girl and Christian phases didn't come across as fake, while all characters were not good or bad, black or white. There were shades of gray which is the way it seems to me in real life. 
It is important that the characters seem real and plausible without being too saccharine or "perfect". Rose isn't perfect either. She has been through a lot, but she is not a little lamb, nor is she a hyena (as a vampire). She is a person with her faults and shortcomings, never, however giving up the attempt to become a better person. Gabriel isn't a jock or a perfect guy either. The characters get mad, yell, lose their patience, laugh, fall in love and act crazy just like they would in real life and that's the best aspect of the book.

The writing is not exactly factual, nor overly decorative. I think it's a nice balance between the two and it makes reading the book quite entertaining. I also liked the fact that even though there is an aspect of insta-love between Rose and Gabriel, it is not pursued in a rushed way and Roseline doesn't trip all over herself in order to avoid or chase the charming human boy. Throughout the chapters it feels like Rose really lives her life in a normal way not changing dramatically just because of Gabriel (although why she run away towards the end I'll never understand). Gabriel is more smitten than she appears to be and faster than her, but he is a teenage boy so hormones and their "bond" can quite explain that. 
I have to admit that I didn't see a few twists around the end coming and it was a welcome surprise as for the most part of the book we didn't see or hear from Lucien and Vladimir again, letting us enjoy Rose's new life but also making us wonder what was going to happen.

On the other hand, there were some aspects of book that left me wanting a little. 
For the most part we did get to see what Immortals were. They were more than humans. Stronger, faster, prettier and intellectually superior in certain ways as they lived history and did not just read about it.
I quite enjoyed the twist in the lore, where what we consider Vampires are just Immortals that have been addicted to the taste of blood. They don't need the blood to survive, they can live off human food, but they need blood to heal, as blood is a life giver, and if they consume it too much, it becomes like a drug clouding their judgment and affecting them physically and psychologically, turning them blood-thirsty and eventually sadistic monsters (like it happened with Lucien and Vladimir). Blood is like cocaine for vamps, then, but they do have a choice which is a nice difference from the usual lore that Vampires always feel the thirst.
However, I feel like it could have been explained a little more and in greater detail so the whole thing could have been made distinct and invested upon so that in the future books we could see how the whole addiction process happens and how easy it is for a vamp to go to "rehab". XD
I'd love to have seen that in relation to Rose, as I'm sure that Vladimir must have tried to get her addicted.

Another thing is that I felt that Nicolae's presence could have been explored more. In the beginning he comes across as a geeky, nerdy kid who had no sense of how life and people in America were and he recognized Roseline from Romania fearing her, but later on he is a hunter incognito and some of his actions don't sit right. At first it feels like he is afraid of Rose and he is determined not to bother her or come into contact with her, but a chapter later he stares at her intently even menacingly and warns her that he will be there if she decides to hurt anyone. So if he wanted to stay under the radar why come out to Roseline and if he was going to do that anyways, why act scared in the beginning? Maybe he wanted to draw his own conclusions about Rose and if she was evil, but it just felt awkward to me. I liked Nicolae's reactions to Sadie, though, and I think I will enjoy them if they are a couple in the next book.
To sum up, I think "Forbidden" was an entertaining read filled with excitement, mystery, (why yes) passion and enjoyable characters you felt for, causing it to be one of the books I'd read again, but it would rate even higher if some of the story's (evidently) distinct vampiric lore was explored and introduced more properly and extensively. Its lovable characters and plot make up for some inconsistencies and questions.

Anyone who enjoys books with vampires and romance will definitely enjoy this one. 

By Robert Luis Rabello: 
Overview: Rosaline Enescue escapes from the frightening brutality of her husband in Romania by running away to the United States. She begins a new life as a high school student, but meets a young man named Gabriel, to whom she finds herself irresistibly attracted. How can this be? Where did her self-control go? How can a mere human so captivate her attention? The answers trace back to her homeland and the life she left behind. 

Cover / Graphics / Maps : The cover is simple, evocative and looks professionally laid-out. The orange rose has significance to the story and is allegorical of the main character.

Interior Formatting: I read the Kindle version. There were no glaring format issues. The font was large enough to be legible, but small enough to permit speed reading without adjustment.

Readability: Sample paragraphs averaged a readability index of 5.8, which is appropriate for the target audience and most readers of this genre. I had no difficulty with any of the vocabulary or sentence structures in this novel.

Names: All of the names were easily pronounced and accessible. Since the story takes place in a modern context, place names are recognizable.

Hero / Heroine: Rosaline Enescue is a bit of an enigma. Given the terrible ordeal described in the prologue to this story, it's reasonable to expect a degree of hardness and an aloof attitude from this character. In general, people like their protagonists to be strong, and Rosaline certainly projects inner strength and mental toughness. She's described by other characters as kind and loving, but she acts more like a streetwise and vigorous force to be reckoned with, rather than a sweet, gentle female. The descriptions that characterized her as the latter grated against the former.

I'd expected Gabriel Marsten to be a dumb jock, mindlessly interested in conquering opponents on the football field and girls in the social arena. But he evolves as the story progresses, from the inaccurate caricature of an athlete into a decent, intelligent and caring young man. He becomes the type of boy that a father would be proud to call his son, only to transform further into something ELSE, entirely. It's both fascinating and disturbing to experience. Amy Miles has done a terrific job of defying expectations with this character. 

Supporting Characters: Sadie and William Hughes are siblings who live next door to Gabriel Marsten. They maintain an annoyed, teenaged tolerance for one another throughout the book, though the role that William plays in the story is less significant than that of his sister. Sadie befriends Rosaline, though the two appear to have very little in common. Nicolae, a mysterious exchange student, transforms from a creepy kid into something very different as the story progresses. I felt that a little platforming of his capabilities early in the story would have made for a smoother character arc near the end.

Villains: Rosaline's husband, Vladimir, occupies a menacing role that exists mostly on the periphery of the story, except for the very beginning and the very end. A lot of the conflict in this book is internal, with Rosaline, herself. The reader is effectively kept in suspense about the danger of her powers throughout the story. This is something that Amy Miles has done very well.

In addition, flat characters, like Claire Scofield--Gabriel's girlfriend--and Oliver--Gabriel's jock friend--serve as antagonists and provide the occasional comic relief. There's a scene involving Claire using Gabriel's leg as an erotic dancing prop that had me laughing.

Plausibility of Storyline: There's a degree of suspending disbelief that every fantasy story must be given. That's certainly true of this one, but there were scenes and behaviors, such as Rosaline's frequent disappearances, which did little to advance the plot and probably could have been cut or modified without impacting the overall story. High school students making travel arrangements and departing the country without parental approval raised my brows too, but this IS a story for young readers, and that audience would likely be unfazed by that detail.

Reviewer's Response: Amy Miles has written a vampire story that defies convention in many ways. Though I am not in the target market for this genre, the story retained my interest throughout, and I actually found myself enjoying the characters, particularly Rosaline and Gabriel, as they evolved. One of the strengths of the independent author movement is that it permits stories that depart from main stream, commercial themes and plot lines to be heard. I believe this story is a refreshing example of that trend. For young adult readers, in particular, this is likely to be a very enjoyable story.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Having the faith of a child

Have you ever watched the faith of a child?  I'm not just speaking of going to church but in all things with life.  They believe they can do it...so they do.  And when they fail they get up, brush themselves off, and jump right back into the fight.  If only we, as adults, could have the same faith that they do.

How many times have you given up before you even started?  Convinced yourself that following your dream was completely insane or too far out of reach?  How do you feel when you give up on yourself?

I know what failure feels like.  I lived with it for years, denying the desires of my heart because I listened to the little voices in my head telling me that I wasn't good enough.  But children don't seem to have those little voices.  Or if they do, their own shouts drown them out.
We can learn so much from our little ones.  My son, who has an imagination that I could only dream of, decided this morning that he wants to write a book with mommy.  He can't put together words yet, or color within the lines, but he has a dream. 

As a mother, I'd be remiss not to encourage this dream.  He sits for hours drawing his little pictures of dinosaurs, super heroes or sharks.  He's passionate about his pictures in the same way I am with words.  A perfect pair.

Yes, no one may buy his book, except the grandparents and big hearted family members, but that's not the point.  My son needs to know that if you have a dream you can find a way to achieve it.  So this afternoon, when we return home from pre-school, I plan on helping my little man write his first book.  It will be a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life.

How about you?  Did you have anyone special in your life that encouraged your dreams?  Did you reach them?

And if you didn't have anyone in your life spurring you on...let me be that person.  I may not know you or ever meet you, but I believe in you.  Why?  Because everyone has a gift.  I believe that each and every person on this planet was created for a specific reason and that reason is to be YOU! 

Not the you that you are told to be or the you that has been molded to fit your boss's extreme expectations.  I want you to be the person that daydreams of what life could be and makes a promise to try.  Even if it's nothing more than taking 5 minutes today to research your field. 

Do you need to go back to college?  Take a summer class?  Do an apprenticeship?  Speak to the leaders in your field?

Whatever it takes...do it. 

For those of you who want to follow the writing path:
·        Start writing each day.  Set aside a few minutes and write about anything.  Most people thinking a writing career is easy...it's not!  Discipline, dedication, long hours, brain overload, cramping fingers...am I making this sound enticing yet?  Haha.  The most important first step is to commit to writing something every day.  It's a routine.  Stick to it.
·        Write what you love not just what you know.  I'm a firm believer that your best writing will come from what you are passionate about.  Do you obsessive over fishing, knitting, fantasy books, comics, etc?  Think about the section in the library that you always visit.  That's your genre.  (If you're not spending any time in a bookstore or library and you want to be a writer then you need to start now.  The best writers are avid readers!)
·        Don't worry about being technical during your rough draft.  Just let the words flow out of you.  There will be plenty of time to edit later.
·        Begin to research publishing.  Do you want to try to find an agent and go with a traditional publisher or do you want to give ebooks a try?  Either way, you need to have a solid grasp on not only how to publish but also the market.  Do your research.
·        Have you managed to finish your manuscript rough draft?  Do a dance.  No seriously, do it!  That's a huge accomplishment.  Writing a full length book is nothing to belittle.  That takes a lot of hard work and dedication.  I'm proud of you!
·        This is where it can get tough.  You've written a book that you love and now it's time to start slicing and dicing.  Ouch!  I've been there.  Trust me, this step can get gruesome.  Strip your novel down to the bare bones without compromising it's integrity.  Word count is crucial if you are going to try to find an agent.  Do your research!
·        Think you've filleted your novel enough?  Now comes the real test.  Give your book to a few people that you trust and who will be brutally honest with you.  Hearing "oh that's lovely" or "that would be a hit" isn't helpful.  It's great to hear but you need to get to the nitty gritty.  What didn't flow?  What was confusing?  Where should you add more depth or pull back? 
·        Take all comments on board and decide how you want to adjust your novel.  My suggestion...adjust it to whatever degree makes you uncomfortable.  Huh?  Did that make sense?  Let me explain.  If you read through you're novel and don't take any of their comments on board AND you're perfectly happy with it...there is something very wrong.  What you think of your novel doesn't matter.  It's what your readers think.  Remember why you are writing.  Is it for you or to entertain your readers?
·        Once you're certain that everything is smooth and shiny set your novel aside.  Bury it in your bottom drawer and work on something else.  Uncover it a few weeks or months later and give it a read through.  Trust me...you will want to make some adjustments!  Before you were too close to it but now you have some perspective.
·        Are you done now?  Nope!  This is where the fun begins.  No matter which form of publishing you want to pursue, it's going to take a lot of hard work, dedication and thick skin, especially if you are going to look for an agent.  You will hear "no" more times than you ever care to.  You will get cold form letter responses that will leave you in a teary puddle on your floor.  Does that mean you give up?  Heck no!  Believe in yourself.  Persevere!

Perseverance for a writer means on thing.  Published. 
You have a dream.  Set your goals and reach them.  The only thing stopping you, especially with the introduction of self-publishing, is YOU!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Are you the best judge?

Is self-critiquing your own novel a good idea or bad?  In my opinion...it's a bit of both. 

After you've spent countless hours laboring over your manuscript, editing, slicing and dicing with a vengeance, you will eventually come to a point where you can happily say "I'm done."  But are you really?

Just because you think your novel is a New York Times best seller, others may not.  It's hard to separate pride in your work from honest criticism.  We want every person we meet on the streets to fall in love with our book, to adore our characters just as much as we do. 

But what happens when your opinion doesn't match up with your reviewers?  Taking other's critiques and incorporating them into your manuscript is a lot harder than it sounds.  You have to stuff your pride and consider every suggestion as a way to improve your writing career. 

It's painful.  It's terrifying.  And it can be deeply frustrating.  But without that little bit of suffering you can't grow as a writer. 

Some tips to help you while you are self-editing.

1. Never listen to praise.  Oh that is terribly difficult.  You write to make people happy and you want to celebrate their enjoyment...but it can also be destructive.  Don't allow yourself to wallow in praise.  You will grow lazy, self-absorbed and risk losing sight of why you became a writer in the first place.

No novel is perfect.  There is always something that needs adjusting, editing, slicing, or simply told in a different way.  If you ever become convinced that your novel is perfect then you've lost sight of your calling.

Negative reviews are the lifeline of an author.  Don't shy away from them.  Learn from them.  Ask questions.  Stretch yourself beyond the limits your mind has set.  Experiment with new concepts.  You can't please everyone, so don't try.  But you want to write the best novel that you possibly can...for your reader and yourself.  Be proud of your accomplishments but don't stop there.

2. Once you've done you're editing, read everything through out loud.  It is far easier to hear the hiccups in your novel than it is to see them on paper. 

As writers there are times when we fail to write what is in our minds.  We take things for granted, foolishly assuming that our readers have a magic mirror into our minds.  Reading out loud forces you to hear the story, focus on what's been written and gives you insight into where you've novel might fall short.

We all have favorite books and authors that we admire for their writing styles.  Mine is Sophie Jordan, author of the Firelight series and several historical romance novels.  Her books are so beautiful descriptive without out being wordy.  I made it my mission to read every book and take notes. 

So pick and author and read a section of their book.  Listen to the rhythm of their words and consider how you can adapt your own writing to a style similar to theirs.  You don't want to copy them word for word...but you can learn from their years of experience.

3. Finished your novel?  Now hide it!  No, I'm not joking.  Put it aside for a while.  The more time that passes between readings the more logical you can be when you do a read through.

This isn't always an easy thing to do.  Especially when you're a self-published author.  You want to polish it off, shine it up and get it out there for the whole world to see.  And of course sit back while the money starts rolling in.  But I can tell you from personal experience that's not always the best thing to do.

It's been about 5 months since I last read my debut novel, Defiance Rising.  This is a story that I worked on for over two years.  I adore the characters, love the plot and am excited to finish the rough draft for the sequel, Relinquish.  But here's the problem...I know I can write it better now! 

Does that make my book any less published?  Nope.  Have I sold copies of it since I released it?  Yes.  Was it the best I could do at the time I released it?  You bet.  But now I've grown.  I've expanded and improved my skills. 

There isn't a day goes by that I don't battle with myself about changing that book.  Not the essence of it.  Just the technical stuff.  Since it's my first book I've got a HUGE soft spot for it, and I want it to succeed. 

So do I take time out from new projects to "update" Defiance Rising, or do I push forward and chock that one up as a good learning experience.  I'm torn.

But it's a perfect example of why waiting is a good thing.  Every day you learn something new.  All of those things help you to change your writing style, to tighten in areas that are lax, become less wordy or simply understand character dialogue just a little more.

If you've written a novel...let it rest.  Even if it's only for a couple weeks or a month.  Trust me...it's worth the time investment!

4. Cut and Paste.  The best tools for a writer is your computer program.  I use Word 2003.  It's what I know.  Others use Scrivner, Word 2007/2010, Open Office or many others.  All are great.  My suggestion is to work with what you know.

When you're editing, and trust me this is harder than writing the actual book, you need to be brutal.  Cut your word count as low as possible.  There are always areas that you overemphasized, have over written or you flat out described it to death.  Give only enough info for your reader to imagine the scene and then let them run away with it.

Sometimes you write something that makes those tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand up and you know it's the best you've ever written...but it doesn't fit well.  Cut and paste!  Don't be afraid to rearrange sentences, paragraphs even whole chapters.  Play around until you are happy with it.

These tips are just the basics to get your started.  Each of us has our own style of editing.  Some need to print out the pages and scribble with a red pen.  Others use comment notes on a word doc.  And still others simply slice and dice right on the computer page. 

The point is...be honest with yourself and be willing to change.     

Happy editing!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Funny or in poor taste?

Have you ever noticed what makes you laugh?  Sometimes it's the cute things that children say, or a pet chasing it's tail, or a gurgling baby's coos.  But sometimes, and I'd wager far more than you'd like to admit, laughter comes from situations that make you uncomfortable.

BUT...NEVER EVER JOKE ABOUT SOMETHING THAT IS POOR TASTE!  If your topic is a cancer patient don't belittle their experience. Don't make fun of the downtrodden in a way that is done in poor taste.  Make your humor uplifting, not destructive.  There's a fine line.  DON'T CROSS IT or you will lose readers!

My all time favorite show to watch with my husband is the Office (the American version).  Don't ask me why...it's just something we did together.  And to be honest, it took me a while to get into the show.  Why?  Two words. Michael Scott.  Could that man get any more agonizing to watch?

Foot in mouth situations, awkward dialogue and moments of "oh my gosh you're not really going to do that, are you?" left me squirming in my seat.  I laughed, but it was almost painful.  And now...guess who I dearly miss from the show?  Michael!  He became my favorite character?  Why?

Humor in the face of unbearably difficult situations help us to cope with tension.  It's like that in life.  A comment made to break to the ice.  Sarcasm during an awkward silence.  Laughter to ease the pain of walking around the office all day with your skirt tucked into your underwear.  (This has never happened to me, but I've seen it!)

We laugh to relieve tension.  We laugh to sooth our nerves.  We laugh because we need that comic release.  Life is full of humerous things...and your book shouldn't be any different.

But how do you create humor in your book?  First off, let me say that you can laugh even in the middle of a horror novel.  Laughter is not concentrated to only comedic novels. 

Think about what makes you laugh.  Is it a witty joke?  A sarcastic comment?  A bumbling clown that tumbles into a pit of cream?  Whatever your humor style might be...be aware that your readers will all be different.  Try to incorporate several types.

My favorite, thanks to my English husband, is sarcasm.  I live with it and I've grown to love it.  I enjoy characters that are witty, full of snap sarcastic comments and willing to take as much as they dish out.  But that's just me.

So in my new teen fantasy novel, Forbidden, I created a brother and sister duo that are full of witty quips.  The sister, Sadie, is full of sarcasm and William powers right through them with his own snide comments.  I knew that my novel would be darker than anything I've written to date and I needed that comic relief mingled in.  Sadie's humerous remarks are her way of dealing with the revelation that there is an entire world of dark and dangerous beings that they never knew existed.  It's her self defense mechanism which makes her feel more realistic.

I watched a fantastic movie over the weeked with my family, Dolphin Tale, and there was one character that had my son nearly in tears with laughter.  A pelican.  That annoying bird was a menace to anyone who entered that hospital.  Which proves that your humor doesn't have to come from a human. 

Humor can spread among several characters, each taking a different form.  It's your choice how and when you create it, but in my opinion a little humor keeps the plot flowing, especially if I'm reading a horror novel and I'm too afraid to turn off my light to go to sleep!

Don't think you're funny?  That's ok...you might not be.  But that doesn't mean your character can't be.  Go to the mall and listen.  You'll hear all kinds of interesting conversations there.  Go online, research jokes.  Or simply call someone for a chat.  You might be funnier than you realize you are.

Creating a character that isn't afraid to laugh at themselves makes them more likeable and memorable.  Let them have some of your own insecurities and then laugh about it.  Create situations that will naturally involve humor.  Let it flow, and get out of the way! 

Before you publish your novel let some HONEST friends and family review your book.  Ask them what they liked and didn't, and why.  They may tell you that you're the funniest person to walk the face of the earth, or they may tell you that your jokes are wooden and unbearable.  Either way, you need their feedback.

And as always my favorite piece of advice to anyone wanting to become an author...write how you speak.  Read it out loud.  If it doesn't flow, cut it!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Book 2: Arotas Teaser


The Arotas Trilogy


“We'll only have one chance to get the girl, so make every shot count.”
Heads bobbed in the shadows, faces grim with fierce determination.  Each man knew the risks.  The consequences of failing their mission went beyond death.  Humanity’s survival depended on their success.
“The last one just left, sir.”
Hawk like eyes narrowed in on the shadow emerging from the tunnel.  Already they’d watched the monster escape, fleeing across the hills to the security of his castle.  Another fled towards the road, his blood staining the snow crimson.  Then two more emerged, a young girl leaning heavily on a boy as they headed up to the house. 
Finally the last appeared.   His head hung with a sorrow that Silas understood.  Death was never easy. 
“Let’s move,” Silas whispered, emerging from the darkened trees. 
They moved stealthily across the snow, unconcerned with covering their tracks in the storm.  Icy winds pierced through their cloaks, but they did not slow.  The snow did not matter.  The frost nipping at their toes did not matter.  Only the boy.
As they approached the tunnel entrance, Silas held up his hand.  The small group halted.  “Ready your darts.  She will be fast.  Do not underestimate her.”
Their feet whispered against the dirt floor, shuffling forward single file.  Silas prayed that Roseline would not hear their beating hearts over the howling winds funneling through the passage.  Perhaps luck would be on their side this night.
A dim light appeared at the end of the tunnel.  The group huddled closer, alert and cautious.  No one knew what they were walking into.  Obviously there had been a battle.  The blood stained snow and labored limping of the girl had been testimony to that. 
The tunnel widened out at the end.  Flickering candle light illuminated the war torn room.  Blood splattered the walls and floor, staining the ancient stones.  A body lay nearby, it’s head cut cleanly away.  Another body lay slain on the floor near the center of the room. 
Congealing blood oozed slowly from the man’s fatal wound.  Silas averted his eyes.  He did not fear death, but he was not fool enough to think himself unaffected by its presence.
As one the group moved forward, eyes scanning for a surprise attack that never came.  The room was eerily quiet.  Silas glanced back at his men, seeing his own doubt mirrored on their faces.  Something was very wrong.
And then it happened.  Screaming, blood curdling howls erupted through the room, echoed off the vaulted ceiling, curling their way up the winding staircase. 
Silas held up his hand in warning.  Something was moving in the small cell up ahead.  His eyes struggled to adjust to the dim light.  He crouched low and moved forward, as lithe as a lion.
He paused, cocking his head to the side.  A new sound approached his ear.  Crying.
Hurrying forward, Silas’ eye widened with horror.  What he saw before him made his blood run cold.  They were too late!
“Now!” he shouted, leaping into the cell, his dart already spiraling through the air.
Roseline turned, her surprise shifting to rage.  She threw herself sideways, dodging the dart at the last second.  It embedded in the wall’s mortar.
Shouts rose around the room as Silas’ brothers spilled through the open cell door.  Roseline snarled, her fingers clawing at her sides as she weaved in an out of the rain of darts. 
“Got her!” a robed figure crowed.  His hood fell away, revealing a face that still showed signs of baby fat.  The boy couldn’t have been more than seventeen years old!
Roseline wavered, her hand slowly rising to the dart sticking out of her neck.  Her aqua eyes glowed brightly as she gnashed her teeth at her attackers.  Silas stood his ground, but noted from the corner of his eye that most of his men struggled to remain in close proximity with her.
“We don’t want to hurt you.  We just want the boy.”
A feral growl erupted from Roseline’s lips as she lunged for the man closest to her.  Her hands wound around his neck as she yanked him over her shoulder.  She felt his spine snap in two as he passed over her head.  He fell to the ground in a broken pile of bones, lifeless.
Shouts of rage spurned Silas to action.  He raised his hands, roaring his command to hold the line.  But Odin was too far gone to obey.  The sight of his younger blood-brother’s death pushed him beyond reason.
Odin sprang up into the air, his leg poised to knock Roseline to the ground.  She waited, her brain calculating his immanent attack.  The instant his foot connected with her chest, Roseline’s hands wrapped around his knee and twisted, snapping his leg as she thrust him to the ground. 
Silas’ eyes could barely keep up with her blurred movements.  The instant he realized her intentions, Silas knew his warning would come too late.  Roseline slammed Odin’s dart launcher into his neck, releasing the toxic dart into his artery.  His legs jerked, foam bubbling from his lips as his eyes widened with horror.  Odin knew his fate but was helpless to change it. 
A single dart sailed through the air, slamming into Roseline’s heart.  She stared down in disbelief as her legs waivered, her vision fading to shadow as she slumped next to Gabriel’s writhing body.  Her hand reached for him, but fell limply away.
"Well done."  The sour faced man nearby patted Silas on the back.  The leader shook the man off as he approached Roseline cautiously.  Gabriel's screams continued to pierce the air, masking Roseline's labored breathing. Her glazed eyes stared up at him, marking his approach but unable to do anything to stop him.
“I’m truly sorry for this.  I never wanted to hurt you.”  Roseline snarled.
Silas's lip curled with amusement.  He stretched out his hand towards Gabriel but wrenched it back as Roseline dug her fingernails into the back of his hand.  "Don't touch him."
“I promise he will not be harmed.”
Roseline's eyes rolled back into her head as she succumbed to the toxins attacking her body.  Her lips struggled to form her final words.
Silas crouched next to Roseline, puzzling over her words.  How much did she really know about the boy?  Why had she been able to fight so long after the first dart hit her?  And how much did she know about the part that she would play in helping Gabriel fulfilling the prophecy?  
“Grab the boy,” Silas ordered as he rose to his feet.  “Leave the girl.  Destroy the evidence.”
“You’re just going to leave her?” The sour faced man didn't look pleased.  “She killed two of our brothers.”
Silas nodded sadly.  “It was unavoidable.  She was just protecting the man she loves.”
The man turned a critical eye on Roseline.  “Does she know?”
Silas shrugged.  “Only time will tell.  Let’s go.  We need to get Gabriel home before he wakes.”
The teenage boy approached, staring curiously down at Gabriel.  His cries faded as a tranquilizer dart pierced his neck.  His muscles relaxed as he fell into a deep sleep.  A strange longing crossed the young boy’s face.  “I don’t understand Silas.  Why did she turn Gabriel?  I thought she loved him…”
Patting the boy on his shoulder, Silas led him out of the cell.  “Perhaps this was her ultimate act of love.”