Thursday, March 31, 2011

Layering your writing

One thing I've learnt in the publishing industry is that you never stop learning and improving. If you think you've reached your apex, get off the boat now. You're not going to become a better author.

Something that I've been working on for a while has been layering. Some of the critique I received from a literary agent and some of my betas is that they wanted to care more about my characters, and that I need to find a way to get readers deeper into these characters' mindsets. But how?

Some of my fellow crit partners have also had similar feedback from their editors. I've struck on a method I'm going to try to see how it works for me but first I'm going to share a little secret.

We interact with our world in three main ways: emotionally, physically and intellectually. When you revise, show, don't tell your readers how your character feels about others, herself, her environment, her hopes... about the music she hears floating across the garden at night. Add colour by showing her world, the hues of the flowers, what the cocoa smells like, the way her lover's hair feels when she tugs her fingers through it... How does your character think about her past, present and future? She doesn't just stomp through life but she thinks about the world within and without. And these thoughts effect her actions.

Emotions, the physical and intellect ineract with each other to create a cohesive experience. Granted, you don't smoosh them all up in EVERY pargraph, and there are times when you need to trust your dialogue to progress the plot... but consider your layering and use these three aspects of Self to explore your world and your character.

Allow your story to flow through each method as a filter as such. As for how I'll be approaching my edits. I've decided to do an editing round with each aspect in mind for my next project, an urban fantasy novella entitled What Sweet Music They Make. And I'm quite looking forward to this as an exercise. **cracks knuckles**

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Endless Editing

I'm entrenched in the editing process for my forthcoming release DEATH SCENE. Currently working on the fourth set of edits. Or is it the fifth? To be honest, I'm starting to lose count.

With this, my second published novel, at least I know what to expect. When SUFFER THE CHILDREN was going through the editing process, everything was new and exciting. Even when I got to the point that I'd read my own manuscript so often I though my eyeballs would start to bleed.

When the final finished version of SUFFER THE CHILDREN dropped into my inbox, a zipped folder containing all six formats, I was so excited to see my first published e-book I tried to open all six formats at once. Of course this was more than my old laptop could cope with, and it promptly crashed.

But apart from skimming through the first few pages to read the dedication, and the acknowledgements, and the blurb, and basking in the glory of being a published novelist, I never actually read that final version. I had read it so many times during the editing process I just couldn't bring myself to read it once more.

SUFFER THE CHILDREN is now loaded on to my e-reader, but still I haven't read that final version. Part of the reason is because of the aforementioned 'reading fatigue'. But another part is because even up to the galley stage I was still finding mistakes. In spite of the endless editing process I am sure mistakes still made it through to the final version, and I'm not sure I could bear to find them, now, when I can't do anything to correct them.

I understand the need for many rounds of edits. Each one makes the novel better, and picks up errors that have been missed in previous rounds. But the process can be exhausting - I have read this manuscript so many times now the characters are appearing in my dreams at night.

I wonder how long it will be before I can revisit SUFFER THE CHILDREN and actually read it, without the editing reflex action kicking in? Perhaps it might be a good thing to do when I'm finally done with edits for DEATH SCENE and want to take a break from it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Expanding My Reading Horizons

Like many Goodreads members, I'm participating in their reading challenge. My goal: 100 books in 2011.

I'm also challenging myself to make sure at least 50 percent of those books are by authors I've never read before. Same goes for reading a variety of genres and sub-genres.

To help me reach my goal, I'm noting authors and/or books that pique my interest. For example, a review of a Sebastian St. Cyr mystery sent me to the local library to check out C. S. Harris's Where Serpents Sleep. Another site, devoted to steampunk, had me checking out a copy of Boneshaker (Cherie Priest) and The Iron Duke (Meljean Brook). A fellow writer recommended Jim Butcher's Dresden Files and the novels of Mike Carey.

Fellow writers are also added to this list. After all, supporting each other is a win-win situation. :-)


Thursday, March 24, 2011

On agents

There’s a growing attitude that authors don’t need agents now that electronic publishing’s starting to take the world by storm. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While it’s quite possible for an author to navigate their career without the help of an agent, especially among the small presses where publishers are more hands-on, agents are, in my opinion, still going to be playing a role in the publishing industry in the future.

Yes it’s true that the industry is experiencing a massive revolution at the moment, with a shift in emphasis toward electronic publishing. I’m excited to see not only the emergence of so many small presses but also some of the bigger players showing a greater interest in electronic publishing and opening their doors to unsolicited queries.

This is good. It means authors are getting more opportunities to prove themselves and get a foot in the door. It means authors will be able to build a readership and a proven track record in sales based on a start in electronic and print on demand publishing.

These are good things. Those authors who rise to the top will be marketable assets to savvy publishers who know a good thing when they see it. And, in my mind, that’s where agents will prove their weight in gold.

Agents do so much more than read queries and sell books. They are valuable negotiators who are not only qualified to offer advice about where to sell your book but also decipher the often cryptic details in contracts. Trust me, nothing makes my eyes glaze over faster than those pages with all the fine print.

And, if you’re hot property, it means you’re going to need an ally by your side to make sure that no one gets you into a bind with a bum contract. A good agent will have her finger on the pulse, negotiate a better deal for you and will be well connected to put you in a position where you can concentrate on what’s important to you: crafting stories.

So, if you’re still on the query-mill with regard to agents, don’t give up. Query often. Work on your writing to make it better with each story you publish, even if it’s “only” with the small presses. Don’t despair if you don’t have an agent just yet. As I’ve learnt in the past, no agent is better than a bad agent. Be patient. Work hard. And enjoy your writing.

* * * *

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

E-books and Editing

Sometimes I feel like I'm on a one-woman crusade to champion the cause for e-books. But there's a lot of prejudice out there against them. One misconception is if you've got an e-book, you've PDF'd it yourself and stuck it up on Amazon.

It's true there are a lot of self-published e-books. There are a lot of self-published print books also, but I guess e-books are easier and cheaper to produce if you're going down the self-published route. Self publishing has always had bad press in the industry. Just because a book is self-published doesn't necessarily mean it's bad - although I have read some that have made me understand where that assumption comes from.

The fact remains, though, that more and more small publishers are specialising in e-books only. This doesn't mean they scrimp on quality. There's still a rigorous editing process. SUFFER THE CHILDREN went through no less than seven rounds of editing, not including the pre-edit. DEATH SCENE is still in the process, but there's already been three rounds with more to come.

With the nature of publishing changing the way it is, I think we're going to see more and more independent publishers setting up as e-publishers. Sadly, much of the industry still has to come to grips with the fact that just because a book is an e-book only and has no print version doesn't mean it's not a 'proper' book.

I'm on a personal crusade to disabuse people of this notion at every opportunity. In fact most people who know me are bored of me banging on about this now. The publishing industry is changing. Those of us who are e-book converts just have to wait for everyone else to catch up.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Full Steam Ahead (Almost)

So I'm getting ready to start the third draft of the as yet untitled Zaphkiel Project. Usually my titles come to me right away. For some reason my muse, who bestows clever titles, decided to take a vacation. At this point I may end up calling it Zaphkiel. But there's already a book called Raziel and another titled Samael, so yeah, I'll keep working on it. (Raziel is also the name of a character in the Zaphkiel Project.)

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to figure out what my 50k writing challenge will be about. I don't normally write about vampires. Okay, there was that one short novel set during the French Revolution. For the sake of all our sanity, I won't release it on unsuspecting readers. Yet. (Evil grin.) Anyway, this idea about a vampire steam punk won't leave. Except it would involve steam boats and pirates as well, all set in Victorian Louisville.

Of course this means more research. I don't have a story yet, just a character who has what I hope is an interesting problem.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Excerpt from the WIP Red House

Eek! I almost forgot to post, it's been such a busy day. Since it's late and I don't have a topic, how about an excerpt from my work in progress Red House.


Wishing I’d brought an empty glass, I drank the rest of the tea and tossed the ice into the grass. I laid the book aside, along with my glasses. Drawing into a sitting position, hands resting lightly on my thighs, I did a slow grounding. Despite having spent a great deal of time here, I still wasn’t as familiar with this plot of land as I was with my own. Opening myself up, I reached out to the energy around me. The earth below, the sky above, streams and underground water sources, trees and vegetation, all of them flowed together into a natural rhythm. Beyond that was a hint of the man-made energy of the city itself. Point and counterpoint. Or if not that then at least two separate rhythms that somehow managed to work, like an improbable mash-up of two radically different pieces of music.

I expected all of that and had felt it before. What shocked me was the bang and clatter of something atonal, chaotic. Hard bop on meth, instead of cool jazz or trance blues. Concentrating on the discordant notes, it overtook everything else until its rattle was the only thing I could feel. A rushing wildness, dark and hungry, pulled at me. It pressed against my chest and tugged at my limbs. Fear exploded in my gut, followed quickly by recognition. That recognition saved me from what might have turned into a nasty panic attack. Reaching for calm, steady earth, I pushed away the chaos and took slow even breaths.

It was the flood. The land, the people, every source of energy in the area had been traumatized by the flood. There hadn’t been enough time yet for any real healing so the menace still lurked just beneath the surface of things. And if it was still at all present, that meant it could still affect things.

My breathing got a little out of sync as fear nibbled at the edges of my thoughts. I had to distract myself or pretty soon all I’d be able to think about was my destroyed home. Hard bop on meth, I thought, was not really a good analogy for this area. Well, the meth part worked. What other musical analogy might work to describe the flood’s leftover energy? I struggled to come up with something but the best I could do was “redneck Rammstein.”

I would not be sharing that tidbit in conversations with either Daniel or Blake.


Hee hee, redneck Rammstein. *runs away from editor who is a serious Rammstein fan*  But seriously, I actually do like this piece of the scene. The way Roxie feels the energy of magic is very tied in with the way she feels music, so I try to show that in little ways and sometimes, like in this moment, more overt ways. Why, you ask, does Roxie connect music and magic? Mostly because I'm a big music nerd, so, you know, I figure this falls under the heading of "write what you know."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Giveaway time!

I’m really stoked. On Monday my next urban fantasy release hits virtual shelves the world over. I wrote The Namaqualand Book of the Dead in a fit of pique about two years ago when Twilight madness was at fever pitch. In many ways it’s my reaction against the portrayal of obsessive love being a positive personality trait.

Set in Cape Town, South Africa, and also partially along the country’s West Coast, the story is part tragic romance and travelogue, offering readers unfamiliar with an African setting a chance to explore a world with which I am familiar.

So, in celebration, I’m giving away three electronic copies of The Namaqualand Book of the Dead. All you need to do is Tweet, Blog or do a Facebook status update tagging me with the following link promoting my new Facebook author fan page:
Remember to mail the evidence (either as a screen shot or link) to my email address so I know where to send you your book:

Read an excerpt here:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Who'd Be A Writer?

Today, I'd like to share a joke with you.

A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.

She decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.

"Oh my," said the writer. "Let me see heaven now."

A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.

"Wait a minute," said the writer. "This is just as bad as hell!"

"Oh no, it's not," replied an unseen voice. "Here, your work gets published."

This is an old joke, but I like it because it rings true. No one sane would voluntarily choose to be a writer, and put themselves into this perpetual torment we all live in. The stress and anguish of rewriting and revisions. The depression that follows each rejection. The feelings of worthlessness that seems to hit every writer on a regular basis, making them doubt their ability to write anything that's remotely publishable.

We don't choose to be writers, we just are. The need to write is as inherent as the need to breathe. So we deal with it, somehow. We write, and we deal with the ups and the downs. Those of us with day jobs somehow find a way to fit the writing and all it entails in around the day job. Sometimes I envy my colleagues who roll into work a bit later, insisting they physically can't get out of bed before 8am. Sometimes I wish I couldn't either, but my 5:30am starts on writing mornings prove that actually, I can, even if I don't like it much.

Being a writer is not a career choice, it's just what we are. I wouldn't be me if I wasn't a writer. On the whole, in spite of aforementioned downers, I am proud to be so.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March Madness Leads to April Frenzy

It’s that time of year again when NCAA basketball fans debate tournament seeds and fill out their selection brackets.

As I jokingly tell my husband, I know why they call it “March Madness.” Because people get mad. The intensity ratchets up several notches. The closer a favorite team gets to the “Final Four,” the more nail biting ensues.

March also precedes that writing mania known as Script Frenzy. Every April, aspiring playwrights, graphic novelists, and screenwriters embark on a goal of writing 100 pages in 30 days. As someone who’s done both NaNoWriMo and Script Frenzy, it’s easier for me to write a screenplay in a month than a 50k –word novel. For one, the rules of screenplay writing are different from novel writing. Nothing goes on the page that doesn’t go on the screen. Yes, the format’s restrictive but in some ways it’s actually more freeing because of the constraints.

Unfortunately, this time I have no idea what my script will be about. Last year I wrote a ghost story and the year before that a crime drama. I’m thinking of writing my basketball murder mystery but that would take more research than I have time for. Not to mention the premise is still pretty weak.

I’m not worried. There’s still a little over two weeks before April 1. Meantime, I’ll continue to work on my novel-in-progress and cheer for the Kentucky Wildcats.   

Monday, March 14, 2011


The first thing people ask me is where do I find inspiration. My typical answer is everywhere. But today, it occurred to me, that to a person who maybe doesn't have an artist's mind, this answer may not make sense. So I thought about it. I dug deeper for the answer to that question.

Yes, I do find inspiration everywhere, but that's because I look for it.

I don't mean that I go out of my way, but I've noticed that a lot of artists, writers, actors--basically anyone in the arts--are of the quieter variety. To the outside this makes us seem shy, and many of us are, but just because we're not speaking, doesn't mean that we're not paying attention.

A few nights ago was a good example. I was at a party (a situation that I feel entirely out of sorts with) and though I probably said fewer than two words, I learned more about the people attending then I think they learned about each other. I listened to their conversations, the careful back and forth that reveals everything and nothing. I watched their mannerisms, the subtle body language. I observed every nuance from they walked, to the dialect in their voice and the way they stood. I filed these bits of information in my brain, to be used at a later time. Who knows, maybe party-goer A is my new hero.

When I go somewhere, I find that I take in every detail. My brain memorizes the smells, the sights, the lines of building architecture, the taste of food or drink. I break these down into elements and somehow they work their way into my worlds.

Another example was when I was hiking yesterday during the fall As I traipsed through the woods, my brain flashed to a scene that I hadn't yet written. It was as clear to me as a memory--as though I knew those woods and that scene happened to me. And I realized I was seeing the woods not through my own eyes, but that of my characters. I went home and jotted down the scene. It will be in my current work in progress.

So you see, inspiration does come from everywhere. But that's only because as an artist, I view the world very differently. Some might say strangely, but it all makes sense when I write it down.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thinking about Japan

I had a topic for today but it's forgotten now. In between laundry and other activities I keep checking the news online about the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I first heard about the quake late last night on Twitter shortly after it happened. Twitter has become my go-to place for breaking news. The pictures and video I've seen today are heartbreaking, almost too surreal to believe. The Boston Globe's Big Picture has a stunning series of photos. With the quake's epicenter being off the coast of northern Japan I did a little Googling and found out that so far the military base where I spent two and a half years of my childhood is mostly okay and managed to escape the worst. I loved living there and so did my parents. They even lived in another part of Japan briefly after my dad retired from the Army. I've got nothing but love for Japan and her people and my thoughts and prayers go out to them.

Lake Mutsu
Chrysanthemum Festival
Tanabata Festival
The red horse in the middle is a representation of a Hachinohe horse, or Yawata Uma. They are traditional carved wooden horses from Hachinohe in northern Japan. I've still the got the ones I got as a child, along with some carved wooden dolls and other keepsakes I have treasured.

Hirosaki Castle

See that door there on the end - that was our front door. I took this at the baseball diamond across the street from our quarters. I got my first camera when we lived in Japan and loved taking pictures. Adjacent to the baseball field was the flight line. I got to watch jets fly overhead when I played outside.

Please consider donating to the Red Cross. The victims of this disaster are going to need the world's support in the coming days, weeks, and months.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The World of The Event Horizon

No. It’s not the SF/horror movie by the same name. It’s The Event Horizon, an alternative club in my version of Cape Town, South Africa, that seems to crop up in most of my contemporary settings. Whether I’m writing as Nerine Dorman or TherĂ©se von Willegen, The Event Horizon is a venue that spans both my writing brands.

Situated on the corner of Long and Shortmarket streets, The Event Horizon is based on a pub that’s been there for donkey’s years: the Purple Turtle. The Turtle, as it’s affectionately known, has a bit of a patchy history and was a particular den of iniquity I frequented a lot during my late teens and on into my mid-twenties. During its heyday, students mixed with backpackers, bikers, goths, trance-hippies and metal heads. As can be imagined, a fair amount of less-than-legal activities also occurred at the Turtle and probably still does, though the place has changed hands now and a completely different crowd hangs out there.

Many bands used to play gigs here too, way back when. I saw the likes of Squeal, Springbok Nude Girls, Ravenwolf, Psychodeli, Mr Barleycorn, Hog Hoggidy Hog, Seven Head Scream, The Awakening, Chris Chameleon and others. These are all bands that will mean very little to my foreign readers but for a small segment of South Africans who lived during the early to mid-1990s, these are touchstones of a forgotten golden age, before our musicians could actually consider making a break for it overseas.

But now I’m talking more than a decade ago. I’ve totally lost touch with the music industry and the only bands I really go watch are when I’ve friends invite me to their gigs. So excuse me while I still experience a pang of nostalgia for this dirty and sometimes scratchy-behind-the-eyes time. There’s beauty in the grime and a narcotic green haze, of going back to a time when I felt immortal, when the world was full of magic and mystery.

Also, as someone who is still nominally alternative, I’m frustrated because people aren’t writing the stories I want to read. I’m tired of only occasionally reading about goths and metal heads written by people who have no concept of what it means to be part of a subculture. It’s not how much black you wear, luv, it’s HOW you wear it. And what you see in Hollywood is so not what it’s like in real life.

I’m quite upfront when I say I write fluff. My novels are pulp, the kinds of books you’d read while on holiday. While I do occasionally touch on social issues, my stories aren’t life-changing literature. They’re entertainment. I write the kinds of stories I want to read. They’re an indulgence.

While the Purple Turtle of my past is just there: viewed through rose-tinted glasses rendered fuzzy by the passage of time, I allow myself The Event Horizon to pay homage to the specter of the past through my fiction.

After all, life’s too short and brutal as it is. What harm is there in dreams?

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What I Learned From My Editor #2 - "Show, Don't Tell"

If you've ever watched "Star Trek - Next Generation", you will be familiar with their writers' technique of using the 'personal log' voice-over to set a scene. But although this might work on "Star Trek", you can't get away with it when writing a novel. When the voiceover says, 'Worf's personal log. I have discovered what ship my brother Kern is serving on. I have arranged to meet him', it smacks rather too much of "telling, not showing".

This is a cardinal sin in the writing group and I am well aware of this. That doesn't mean I never do it myself. I'm a linear sort of person. I like beginnings, middles and endings, and I like narratives to follow a chronological line. I have a bad habit of indulging in the urge to over-explain things to my reader, especially when I'm writing in first person.

One aspect of this is the "Too Much Information", syndrome I talked about in the first post in this series. But I've also had to learn to "show, not tell". If my character is angry, I shouldn't need to say so. She should be stomping around slamming doors or throwing things.

Writing about emotion can be difficult. A character who slams doors is one thing, but how do you show your character falling in love? Well, I'm still struggling with this - at least on paper - so I'm not the best qualified person to offer advice here. But it seems that what a character does and says in the presence of another character, if written well, can make it very evident that these two people are falling in love, without anyone having to directly refer to it.

I think as far as characters are concerned I'm better at doing "angry" than "love". But working on the edits of DEATH SCENE, my editor advised me to to work a bit more on the relationship between my MC and her love interest, so I was obliged to get in a bit of practice. And judging by the direction my character's been taking in the second book in the series, I suspect future books about my amateur sleuth are going to offer plenty more opportunities for further practice....

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dealing With Writer’s Doubt

Warning: Minor rant ahead.
I’ve been having serious doubts about my writing lately.

What if I’m a hack? I strive to improve with each work in progress but can't help but wonder if maybe I suck and no one's told me yet. (I'm sure someone will eventually. No writer escapes some form of criticism.)   

Anyway, this uncertainty has resulted in a hesitation to submit material to critique partners and publishers. The irony is I’m still writing and revising. Yeah, I’m a study in contrasts like that. Don’t ask.

Part of it is I feel isolated from the writing community. Heck, my writing group apparently hasn’t even noticed I’m gone. But I also know I can’t rely on people to cheer me on no more than I can force them to buy my book. (I know, this is one weird rant. Nothing like venting while being pragmatic.)

So I’ll continue to write, revise, and submit while remembering what a friend says when life gets too bleak: “This too shall pass.”

Monday, March 7, 2011

Don't Forget to Dream

Once you're published, its easy to get comfortable with where you're at. I have two great publishers and have had the opportunity to work with editors that have stretched my writing ability and taught me more things than I could've ever hoped to learn. With them I've taken my writing to new heights and I'm proud to say that my current manuscripts are much better than the last.

But I've gotten used to working with my publishers, my editors, and everyone at the houses. I love ebooks and the world of ebooks, but I can't help put want to dream bigger.

I know plenty of ebook authors who are quite happy with staying with the micro presses and they've forged terrific careers, but I've always been a dreamer. And when I dream, I dream big. Which leads me to my next thing...

I've submitted a manuscript to Kensington.

That's right. My current finished manuscript is in the slush pile on some editor's (he requested the manuscript after reading my query and a partial) desk as we speak, just waiting to be read, judged, and given a sentence.

While this is happening, I am anxiously waiting on pins and needles. Its like waiting for a guy to call you after a date. You think it went well and wait near the phone (in this case, my inbox) for that sign that he thinks you two are a great match. You have no control over whether or not he's going to call or even when, but you obsess anyway.

At worst, I'll get a form rejection letter. At best, a yes letter with an offer. I'm hoping for the latter but would be grateful for a compromise (revise and resubmit letter). I have a friend that says the longer they hold onto the novel, the better your chances are--because that means they haven't read it and hated it. Heck, at this point, they probably have a long queue ahead of me. I don't mind. I'm just hoping for the best.

Anyway, that's my whole dreaming big moment. I'm hoping for Kensington to call or email me.

Wish me luck and remember to keep dreaming.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mimosas At Dusk

Mojo Queen will be out in two months and to gear up for the release I've got two short stories about main character Roxanne Mathis and her best friend Daniel to post as free downloads. First up is Mimosas At Dusk.


Paranormal investigator Roxanne Mathis thinks her latest job is a simple ghost eviction. When she discovers the ghost might not be the scariest thing in the house, it will either send her screaming into the night or be the beginning of her strangest friendship.


I knew it wouldn’t work, though. This stubborn old ghost called for a serious banishing. Holy water, bells, candles, the works. Damn it, I might even have to chant. There was a bag full of all the supplies I’d need in the trunk of my car, but was it really a good idea to do this with a dead body in the foyer? There would be enough awkward questions from cops. I didn’t need to add, “why did you wait so long to call 911?” to the list. I glanced around for a phone, distracted by a soft moan.

The dead guy on the floor, the one with no pulse and a cracked skull, sat up and gave me a wide grin. “Guess I shouldn’t have got in the ghost’s way, huh?”

One word screamed through my brain as I gaped at him: FANGS.

Mimosas At Dusk is 3840 words, about ten pages. It is available for download in three formats:

MOBI for Kindle
EPUB for Nook/Sony

This should give you a little taste of what the Mojo world is like and hopefully serve as an entertaining introduction to Roxie and Daniel. You don't have to read this or the second short story to read Mojo Queen - think of them as extra goodies. But you will have to wait for Mojo Queen to meet Blake the Sexy Sorcerer. ;-)

I hope you enjoy Mimosas at Dusk and feel free to spread the word. Blog it, Tweet it, Facebook it, even (gasp!) speak to someone face to face about it. :-) And feel free to let me know what you think - you know the only thing a writer loves more than fresh coffee is feedback!

Happy reading!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rant alert...

Please excuse me. I’m going to have another rant about self-publishing. I’m going to be horribly, terribly brutal here: chances are only one out of every 1 000 self-published works is worth the money you spent on it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, digital publishing is opening a lot of doors for people who wouldn’t ordinarily have had an opportunity to get their words out. And there are those arse-hats who’ll tell you that the traditional publishing industry “closes doors” for “deserving” authors blah, blah, blah… Before asking for you to give them money to publish your works.

It doesn’t work that way, hun.

Here’s the secret. If you’re a good author, a publisher should offer YOU a contract in order to publish your work. You sure as hell don’t have to PAY for that. And, guess what? If you’re a good author, your work will sell and you’ll earn money. In exchange your publisher keeps a percentage of the royalties. After all, they designed your nifty cover art, had an editor go over your words and they help place your novel in the market place.

There’s an exchange of energy here. Everyone wins.

When I wear my content editor hat, it means I have to assess manuscripts and, based on my comments, my publisher will decide whether to offer contracts. Content editors and slush pile readers are gatekeepers. We are the ones who turn away written works that still need polishing. Think of us as an immune system to keep the body of literature healthy.

A lot of wannabe authors don’t like us. We’re the reason they receive form rejections.

Well, guess what? So you’ve been rejected? Maybe it’s time you hold up that mirror and actually ask WHY your novels keep getting rejected?

Maybe it’s time you join a writers’ group? Maybe it’s time you start APPLYING the constructive criticism you’ve been receiving? That’s if you’ve bothered to listen.

Here’s another secret: writing is hard work. It requires you to read books critically. It means that if you’re writing paranormal romance, you at least ensure that you have a passing familiarity with the genre. It means that you need to work hard to constantly improve your writing.


Digital publishing means that you’re just one more small fish in a very big pond. You’re all competing for attention. This means you have to work your nuts off to ensure your manuscript is polished to within an inch of its life, this being whether you go the small press route or DIY.
And here’s another secret: a fool and his money are soon parted. If someone offers you the deal of a lifetime, it’s probably too good to be true.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

When Characters Misbehave

Sometimes no matter how carefully you plan, your characters refuse to follow the path you've set for them. And if they are insistent on misbehaving in this way, it often means you have to rethink your plot structure accordingly.

When I created my amateur sleuth, I had in mind she'd be a single, independent minded girl. I didn't want her tied to the obligation of a committed relationship.

In truth, I am not a big fan of romance in novels, and I don't like writing about romance. But it is difficult to keep characters perpetually single, because relationships are such an integral part of humanity and if you want people to relate to your characters, you have to ensure that they relate to other characters.

So, in DEATH SCENE, the first of the amateur sleuth series, my single female sleuth does have a bit of a 'fling', with a fellow actor. I never imagined that this was going to be a serious relationship. I thought he was only going to last the first book. I also didn't plan on her being in love with this character. I think she has a problem with commitment.

As we progressed through the editing process of DEATH SCENE, my editor advised me to make a bit more of the relationship between these two characters, as the 'love interest' was coming across as being a bit two-dimensional. So I worked on this a bit, trying to suggest that he was perhaps falling for her - though I was adamant I didn't want my sleuth falling in love with him. I also chickened out of adding any sex scenes. There were certainly places to put them, but I am the sort of person who skips over sex scenes in novels, looking for something more interesting going on (a bit of murder or mayhem, for instance). I didn't think the sexy details would add anything to the story, so it all happens "off-page".

I've recently finished the first draft of the second novel in this series. And what did I find, as I got to the exciting bit at the end? Suddenly I discovered my amateur sleuth was full of regret for the cavalier way she treated the love interest of DEATH SCENE (who I was convinced was out of the picture by the beginning of Book 2), and seemed to be hankering after rekindling her relationship with him. Granted, she was tied up in a damp dark basement in fear of her life at the time, and such situations lend themselves to a degree of self-reflection.

But this all came as a bit of a revelation to me. I had my amateur sleuth pegged as the type of girl who would move from lover to lover without a second thought. It seems that maybe she's not that kind of girl at all.

So, if my sleuth insists on my bringing back her ex for Book 3, that's really changed the story arc and I'm going to have to think about where I go with this.

Not only that, but it was at this point in the manuscript that I also came to the realisation that I'd pegged the wrong character as the murderer. Which is going to require some serious re-writing for Draft 2, as the actual murderer doesn't actually make much of an appearance in the first draft.

Pesky characters. It really throws a spanner in the works when they go and do unexpected things. A writer's life would be so much simpler if they did what you told them to. But the story would probably be far less interesting, so I have learned that it pays to listen when your characters are trying to tell you where you're going wrong.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Doors Are Open

For Angry Robot submissions that is.

I'm halfway through the first round of revisions for Forgotten Angel, the manuscript I want to submit this month. At least that's the working title. Otherwise, I call it the Zaphkiel Project. Usually I don't have a problem with titles but this time I'm, as Grimm would say, "Flummoxed."

Forgotten Angel is my longest work so far. I used to joke I would never write a story over 50k. The original draft of this one came to 102k and has since been whittled down to 94k or thereabouts. Yeah, when I say I slice and dice my work, I wasn't kidding. 

While it would be nice if AR sent me a contract (fingers crossed), I'll also compile a list of other publishers to submit to. Meantime, it's back to these edits.

That's if I don't get sidetracked by this shiny new story idea that keeps demanding my attention...