Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Monthly Round-up: April 2015

The more observant may notice that there was no monthly round-up last month. This was partly due to the day job keeping me a bit too busy to keep up with blog posts, and partly because there was nothing to report.

However, I am now back on track , so here is the news from my writing world.


No new 'coming soon' announcements since February's news about SUFFER THE CHILDREN being released by MuseItUp next year.

The anthology THE DARK HEART OF PEEPING TOM is out there, though, and it's available in paperback as well as e-book (and Kindle). It features many stories that were first published in the UK 90s horror zine PEEPING TOM, including my story "Jimi Hendrix" eyes. If you like your horror dark, brooding and disturbing, this is a collection for you.


After a bit of a quiet period, I have kick-started my online presence and have a few guest appearances in cyberspace to report

29 March - I had a guest post on horror writer Luke Walker's blog about why a nice horror writer like me writes crime.
9 April - I wrote the inaugural post for author and editor Akaria Gale's new series on pro tips, writing about why the author needs a balance of praise and criticism.
20 April - Jan Edwards interviewed me on her blog.


I am still working on SPOTLIGHT ON DEATH, the third Shara book. This time last month I was quite depressed about it. Then I decided to scrap the old draft and start again. It's never an easy decision to do this. If you keep restarting a manuscript you never get to the end, and I am a big advocator of getting to the end of the draft and fixing it in the rewrite. But I got to a point when I felt the manuscript wasn't working in its current state and there was no point in continuing.

The reboot involved making some fairly major plot changes. Happily, the new draft is going quite well, and I have been able to salvage quite a lot of the earlier draft and incorporate it into the current WIP. Thus proving that it wasn't all complete rubbish after all.

I am, however, only 7,000 words into the new draft so there is rather a long way to go yet.

See you next month!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Walking in an Editor's Shoes

This past weekend saw me doing a marathon edit for a project. And I can say I'm grateful to my editors for being tough on me because I was able to take what I'd learned from them and apply it to the stories I critiqued.

Nothing is more wonderful than reading a story that needs little editing. One gets a sense the writer has studied his/her craft and respects not only the editor (and publisher) but the reader as well.

There were three major issues that were prevalent throughout the editing process. The first one was writers who used two spaces after a period rather than one. Apparently, the situation is so common-place, there's even a Facebook meme going around begging people to stop doing it. True, when I learned to type on an electric typewriter my freshmen year in high school, two spaces was the norm. But not anymore.

The second issue concerned body parts acting on their own. Things like eyes roaming over someone's body. (Okay, that's probably a bad example, but hopefully, you get the idea.) This one is a hard habit to break, and even I've caught myself doing it. But I also know my editor will beat me over the head with her digital blue pencil, so I try to catch when I do it. (Speaking of blue pencils, does anyone remember them?)

And then there's what's referred to as "author intrusion." This is a little tricky, because writers do it without thinking, and I've even seen it in books published by best-selling authors, so I don't know if all editors subscribe to the idea or not.

Basically, what this means is if you're writing in first person POV or third person deep POV, you're inside that person's head. So phrases like "He saw," "He wondered," "He thought," etc., aren't needed. For example: "He watched Carrie storm out the door." Instead, all that's needed is "Carrie stormed out the door." If he's watching Carrie, then that part's implied and the reader will understand what he's doing without needing the "He watched" part. As for phrases like "He smiled," "He grimaced," etc., my editor told me that when one is doing these things, one doesn't think about it. In other words, you don't smile and think, "I'm smiling," and if you don't, neither should your characters.

Breaking this habit can be hard, especially when you want to convey how your character is feeling. I've found The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi to be a wonderful resource.

The last issue is another one that seems to be common among writers: head-hopping. That is, the reader is in one person's POV and then, all of a sudden, s/he is in another's, with no scene break to indicate the POV has shifted. This can confuse the reader, which is why POV shifts are often indicated by scene breaks.

Being aware of the above issues and avoiding them is one way to make your editor happy. Not only that, it will make your writing stronger.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Writing Wrap Up

Judas Dilemma Excerpt
This past weekend, I attended the Author Fair in Madison, Indiana. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to go to ConGlomeration since both events were at the same time. This was my second year at the Author Fair. This year, I'm probably going to Indie Gathering in Ohio. Depends on if my screenplay finaled. So far, it's been a bust in two screenplay contests. I have my agent shopping it around, and I plan to enter it in a local contest. Who knows? I might get lucky.

Speaking of which, I got a shout out from a speculative fiction author for my novella The Ripper's Daughter during the horror panel at the aforementioned Author Fair. High praise from an established author? Oh, yeah, I was positively giddy. :-)

That said, though, I had no time to rest on my proverbial laurels. Last night, I finished the extended draft of The Judas Dilemma. Originally a novella at 37,427 words, it's now at 84,308, although I'll probably knock a couple thousand off when I revise it.

Next project is expanding Cathedral Girl, which will also need about 40,000 words added. After that, Sins of the Mother, which currently clocks in at 65,000 words, so I'll probably add 10,000-15,0000 words. I never thought I could write long, but having an agent means I need to adapt if I want to have a chance of my books selling to New York. (Btw, none of these three books is Christian fiction. The first two are angel paranormal suspense and the last one is a political suspense-thriller.)

Not that I plan to stop publishing with small presses or self-publishing. My small press project includes helping edit an anthology which we hope to put out next month.

I'm also planning to revise and submit Serpent Fire and Devil Inside this summer, the two books in my three-book Angels of Death series that started with Death Sword. I have a spin off from Exterminating Angel, Hell on Earth, that I'd also like to submit, but since all are paranormal romance, and publishers aren't taking PNR, I'm stuck. Hopefully, not for long, though.

And then there's con season. Fandom Fest, Indie Gathering, maybe Film-Com, the Bullitt County Library Author Fair, Imaginarium, and probably one I'm forgetting. Would love to make it to Hypericon in Nashville this June, not as an author but as a reader. Couple of authors I know will be there.

There's always a chance. Like with anything, there's always a chance.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Ten Commandments of Writing #4: Thou Shalt 'Show' Not 'Tell'

"Show, don't tell" is a common refrain in my writing group. This is generally another way of saying there is too much exposition in the manuscript. Consider the following two sentences:

1. He was angry.
2. He slammed the door behind him and went stomping down the corridor, swearing under his breath.

They both say the same thing, but the second example demonstrates the character is angry without saying so directly.

'Showing' not 'telling' is a way of adding interest to your writing. You could open your novel by spending the first page describing your main character in detail, including personality traits, but it's far more interesting to spread this out throughout the novel, so that the reader can extract this information for themselves. If you want to tell the reader that your character is anxious and nervous, maybe have them gnawing on their fingernails in several scenes. If a character is a chain smoker, you don't have to tell the reader that. If the character lights a cigarette (or even several in quick succession) in every scene they are in, the reader will pick up on that soon enough.

An example of an author I think does 'show, not tell' well is Lisa Brackmann, who writes a series of crime novels featuring Ellie McEnroe, a young former soldier who was injured in Afghanistan. Though more or less physically recovered, Ellie is constantly drinking beer and swallowing pain killers with it, and these actions demonstrate aspects of her character quite clearly without us ever being told directly.

I think 'showing, not telling' is something that new writers often struggle with. It's something that a writer gets better at the more they practise it. If you want to tell your readers that a character is untrustworthy, how would you do it? This would probably be a series of actions in which they repeatedly demonstrate that they go against their word, or betray other characters. This would be more engaging for the reader than another character declaring, early on the story, "I don't trust Tom".

Here ends the lesson on the fourth commandment of writing. Join me next week when we will touch on the importance of heeding the rules of grammar.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Ten Commandments of Writing #3: Thou Shalt Not End With "It Was All A Dream"...

How many of you remember getting assignments to write stories in school? My heart always leapt with joy when that happened. Generally some people were always asked to read their stories aloud to the class. And there was always that one person who'd written some fantastic and implausible adventure, only to finish with, "and then I woke up and realised it was all a dream."

This is another of those tropes that was probably once perfectly acceptable, but it has been done so often that it has become too predictable. A similarly over-used trope is that one where the characters are actually dead and don't realise it until the end of the story. In spite of these two tired old tropes being over-used, there are nevertheless recent examples of both of them being used in TV shows (*cough* 'Lost' *cough*).

An author might decide to end their story this way to provide a twist to the tale. The problem is that it's been used so often that this revelation no longer comes as a surprise. To me, it rather smacks of the author writing themselves into a corner and not being able to think of another way of getting out of it. Plot twists and turns make a thrilling read, but avoid getting into a situation where you get your character into such a sticky situation you can't work out how to extricate them from it.

For fear of sounding like a broken record, this is why plotting is important. I have read more than one novel where strange things happen to the character, and I turned the pages eagerly, wanting to know why these things are happening, only to come across the "it was all a dream" ending. I interpret this to mean the author couldn't be bothered to think of a more original ending. I accept that much of this is personal opinion, but I have heard similar view expressed by agents, and ending in such a way puts a lot of agents and editors off any further negotiations with the author.

So, here we have the third commandment of writing: thou shalt come up with a better ending than "it was all a dream".

Join me next week, when I shall be exploring the difference between "showing" and "telling".