Monday, December 28, 2015

Prepping For A New Year

I'm ready to tuck 2015 up, stick it in my pocket, and move on.

The year has been full of major challenges, mostly related to my business, which has over shadowed almost everything else. There were some highlights: writing three novels, meeting some great people (mostly via Twitter), and going to see Chris Cornell (yes, I'm still going on about that).

Despite the challenges, 2015 was a year of finding myself again. Remembering who I am and getting back to the things that I love, especially writing and music.

The coming year will be one of change. Near the end of January, I'm closing my retail business. It wasn't an easy decision but several factors played into it. I'm in the midst of planning a new online venture with my mom, who also owns her own retail business.

One of my completed urban fantasy manuscripts is ready to be queried again. I can't wait! I'd started querying in June, then met an awesome freelance editor, Kate Angelella, who connected with the story. I decided to work with her. She helped me bring my manuscript up to the next level.

I'm also looking forward to 2016 because some of the people I've met have books coming out! One I've been anxious to read since I first saw her pitch it over a year ago during a Twitter pitch party. To learn more about Blackbird Summer and the wonderful author Em Shotwell, visit her blog. Watch for her cover launch next week.

The book Tiger Lily by Wende Dikec also comes out next month, which I'm looking forward to. I met Wende one evening on Twitter when I was feeling stuck in my own writing and she had tweeted something that reminded me to keep going. For more, visit her blog here.

My critique partner also landed an agent in 2015. I've read her manuscript a few times and loved it. Hopefully this will be her year to find a home for that manuscript with a publishing company. I'm excited for her as well. Keep watching my blog for more on her first book.

So, here's to 2016 being a year where all the seeds I've planted start growing.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Naughty List - A Book Review

After reading this book, I just might be getting coal in my stocking.

The Naughty List is a collection of short romance stories by six talented authors. I loved the range of stories, everything from heartwarming, to frisky, to paranormal. Each story has it's own flavour and tells a tale of love during the holiday season.

I've read several books that are a collection of short stories. Usually there are some I really like (hopefully love), others that I find okay, and some I don't care for too much. This wasn't the case with The Naughty List. I enjoyed every story.

Right from the first story--A Christmas Maggie--I knew I was in for fun. It starts quite hot, then moves to heart wrenching. In this one, Tiffany Reisz, wrote about a man, Daniel, who was having Christmas with his new girlfriend. He'd lost his wife several years ago and wasn't sure he could move forward with his new love. In the vein of A Christmas Carol, Daniel is visited by his late wife's ghost, who shows him the past, present, and future.

This story was really sweet. I liked that the wife shows Daniel a past that wasn't as perfect as he remembered. Though they loved each other, he wanted children and she didn't. I liked that the author didn't make her out to be a villain for her choice, but the couple did struggle. There were several parts in this story that pulled at my heart and brought tears to my eyes. It's not usually the type of story that I'd pick up on my own, but I enjoyed it and the emotions it evoked.

The second story--Christmassy by Alexa Piper--was a paranormal, which is more my speed. In the story, a new witchling, Cora, has to go to see her family for Christmas. Taotien, Valerion, agrees to go with her. The two seem to have a hot and cold relationship. On the drive, they encounter a supernatural entity that has kidnapped a man and Cora insists they must save him.

I got the sense that it was part of a larger story because there seemed to be more going on than the author was revealing. There were times I felt further information would have helped me enjoy the story more, but it likely would have turned into a novel then. As it stands, I enjoyed the paranormal element of Christmassy and there was some good suspense as I wondered if Valerion would find Cora in time. I enjoyed the banter between Cora and Valerion.

The third story, My Midnight Cowboy by Pumpkin Spice, was quite a bit hotter. Lucy is on her way to Wyoming to start a new career as a pastry chef. At the airport, she meets two cowboys who are going on the same flight. One seems a little abrasive, while the other seems sweet. Sitting with the abrasive man on the flight, Lucy finds out he can be lots of fun and brings in the New Year in a memorable way.

My Midnight Cowboy was another story that was out of my usual realm of reading, but thought it was quite good. I wondered which cowboy Lucy would end up with. It seemed like she's picked the right one. I liked the sneaky intimacy on the plane and the way they brought in the New Year. 

In the Doghouse by Elizabeth Black was a shorter than the rest and got right to the point. Nicky and Angela had broken up because Nicky started to become forgetful and take Angela for granted. When he tries to apologize, Angela decides he needs to be punished a little the bedroom.

This continued with the heat level raised in My Midnight Cowboy. I liked that the man was the submissive in this one and it was written from his perspective. I was not impressed with Nicky's treatment of Angela and would have dumped him too. I liked that Angela took control and gave him another chance, after some punishment.

Winter's Daughter by Doug Blakeslee, was an interesting read. In this fantasy story, fae, Etina, comes from the land of winter and is looking for a mate. She finds Byron and spends a hot night with him before he's deployed to Afghanistan. He's told to meet her again at the same ski hill when he returns. Years later, she waits for him to call to her again so she doesn't lose her magic.

Though it was a short story, there was a lot packed in there without it being too heavy. The world building was good and I enjoyed the fae realm and the family conflict between Etina and her sisters. It was an interesting story based in the winter realm.

Stealing Time, by Wendy Sparrow, was the final story of the book. One of Father Time's sons, Zeit, was supposed to take Hanna as a yearly sacrifice last New Year's Eve. The Fates were not happy with the man Zeit took instead--a man having a heart attack. Zeit has been saving Hanna's life all year as the Fates try to claim her. When Hanna checks into the same lodge for this holiday season, Zeit is determined to get her out of his system so he can take her life this New Year's Eve. Once they get to know each other, things get even more complicated.

This story is longer than the others, so when I first picked it up, I thought I'd read just the first chapter. Well, that was a mistake--I couldn't stop! I loved the humour and the characters. I loved the story and had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen. I love the mythology around Zeit and New Yea'rs that Sparrow built. The chemistry between Zeit and Hanna was so well done, and I was ready to cry depending on how Sparrow ended it...I'm not telling!

In every story in The Naughty List, I found likable characters, each with distinct personalities...and varying sexual tastes. Some stories were racy, others not as much, but it all fit with the story. The difference in stories made the book even more enjoyable because I wasn't reading the same type of story over and over.

If you like romance, I highly recommend picking The Naughty List up.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Time Passing In Your WIP

As I've mentioned before, I don't do much pre-planning when I sit down to write. I know the plot, the main character (maybe some secondary characters), and some of the scenes I want to include. Other than than, I wing it. My first draft is usually a zero draft--more of a discovery draft.

I often leave notes while I'm writing. Sometimes it's notes that I don't like the words, sentence, or even the scene, other notes could be about a character's motives, or things I want to elaborate on later. The most common note I see in my work in progress (WIP) is 'What time is it?'

It might not be a question your reader needs the answer too, but as a writer, you need to know. If something is off about your timing, the reading will pick it up. Only so many events can happen in a day.

When I start my first draft, I decide what day it will be in the story and use the Microsoft Word comment feature to note it. Every time the day changes, I note it in the manuscript so I at least know what day I'm working on. This is important because weekends can throw a wrench in your plans. Not everyone works on weekends and many offices are not open on weekends. If your character is working seven days straight for no reason other than you forgot to give them a weekend or a day or two off, your reader will notice.

After I finish my first draft and reorder my scenes/sequence of events, I put the events into a calendar to give me a visual of when things happen. I find it useful to keep track of everything.

Once I start my revisions, then I worry about the time of day. I'm usually pretty good about keeping track while I'm writing, but once I shift things around, I need to make sure everything works. In my current WIP, they are searching for something that only comes out at night so it would make no sense if they encountered it during the day.

Keeping track of the time of day helps you move your story along and by generally knowing if it's morning, late morning, early afternoon, mid-afternoon, evening, etc., you can add flavour to your story and settings. Maybe it's late afternoon and your character is starving because she missed lunch or is fighting rush hour traffic. Maybe your character can enjoy the peacefulness of an early morning. Use the time of day to build your story and setting.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Just Not Feeling It

I've been pondering what to write for a blog post for over an hour now. I have a few started but they aren't working for me today. Basically, I'm just not feeling it today. And with that thought, the light bulb goes on and I have a blog post.

We all go through these times, where we aren't into it. It could be anything from writing to our paying jobs to exercising...basically anything. There are days that we want to skip to the end of the day because we aren't into it. It's not laziness, more of a disconnect.

And that's okay!

It can be annoying because you want to do an activity, but for some reason it's not flowing. It could be just an off day, maybe you're overtired, maybe you're bored, maybe the planets are out of alignment...who knows. Things just aren't flowing.

As writers we often hear that it's important to write every day no matter what. After all, we still have to show up at our paying jobs even if we don't feel like it.
So what's a writer to do when she's just not feeling it?

1) Remember that it will pass. You could just be in a down cycle and maybe tomorrow you'll feel better, or maybe not. Eventually, the cycle will end.

2) Work on another project. Sometimes it helps to work on something that you have set aside. Maybe some editing, maybe a blog post.

3) Show up and do the work anyway. Sit down and pound out some words. Sometimes all you need to do is get started.

4) Read. When I feel drained from writing or editing, I'll grab a book and read. Sometimes what I'm reading will reignite the spark. At worst, I got to relax and read a book.

5) Veg out. Sit down and catch up on the shows that you've been missing because you're so busy writing. Let your subconscious work things out while you turn the rest of your brain off with a good TV show.

6) Do something physical. Get some of that neglected housework done, go for a walk, exercise, dance...just get moving. There have been times when a little physical activity has gotten me out of my down cycle and prompted new ideas.

7) If I don't feel like writing but want to do something related, I'll sit down with my character profiles to fill them in a little more or work on my world building files. That way I at least feel like my writing is moving forward, even if I'm not working on my manuscript.

Is there anything you do when you're in a down cycle to get out?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Armageddon Rules - A Book Review

During my recent outing in Toronto, where I saw Chris Cornell (you can read about that here), I wanted something to read while waiting for the concert to start. My husband and I wandered into the huge Indigo bookstore at the Eaton's Centre. As I drooled over browsed the books, I found an author I'd seen around Twitter, J.C. Nelson. I'd watched his interview on Whisky, Wine, and Writing and he'd been a mentor in Pitch Wars, which I'd hoped to enter but didn't. Because I'd seen him around and thought his books sounded interesting, I picked up Armageddon Rules.

This is the second book in the Grimm Agency series. No, I haven't read the first book (Free Agent). As mentioned in previous book reviews, I'm doing writer research by picking books mid-series.

In Armageddon Rules, Marissa Locks has a hard time catching a break. As an agent for the Fairy Godfather, Grimm, she runs from issue to issue solving magical problems. She is also trying to help her best friend, Princess Ari, get through school and learn magic, solve a curse put on her boyfriend, Liam, and train a new piper to deal with deadly poodles.

When a queen tries to take revenge on Marissa, Ari ends up trapped in a sleeping spell and Grimm becomes frozen, unable to communicate and help her. Marissa accidentally signs an ironclad agreement with a demon to start the apocalypse.

When I told my husband about this book, I described it as a fairy tale on crack. That's not a bad thing. Overall I found Armageddon Rules a fast-paced story with vivid characters and a unique fantasy world.

There is lots of action in the book to keep the pace up though it took a while to get to the real story. The story didn't drag, but I found myself wanting it to get the point faster. Once the story picked up, I had a hard time putting the book down.

I found the characters well written, especially the women. There are lots of strong women in this story, without them coming off as flighty or needy, which can be a problem in some books. Marissa uses her head, especially when dealing with the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse. She's also not a know it all. It's a fine balance to strike and Nelson did it well. I especially enjoyed Marissa's wit and sarcasm.

One of the biggest things for fantasy is the world. J.C. Nelson has created a rich, unique world using the basis of fairy tales. There is a divide between Kingdom, the fairy tale world, and our world. For the most part, humans have no idea this other world exists. There are all manner of fairy tale characters, some Marissa interacts with, others we are just told about. I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to see Low Kingdom, I'd like to see what it's like--maybe in the first book since it was alluded to that Marissa did go there at one point.

Marissa's boyfriend, Liam, is gone for much of the book. Since I didn't read the first book, I didn't have the luxury of already knowing their dynamic. Though he's not present for a good portion, I sensed their connection and believed that they loved each other. Though at times I found that Marissa pined for him a little too often. Then again, if my best friend was in a sleeping curse and my boss was unable to communicate with me, I'd probably want my boyfriend around too for comfort and help.

Most importantly, J.C. Nelson made me cry. Oh, yes, he did. I'm not going to spoil it. But I was invested enough in the story and Marissa and Liam's relationship that I got quite teary at one point near the end.

I wasn't big on the killer poodles. I get why J.C. Nelson did it. Taking something cute and usually unassuming (though are dogs ever really unassuming) and turning it into something deadly. I'm also not usually a big fan of demons, though in Armageddon Rules, it didn't bother me at all.

If you're looking for a fast-paced urban fantasy read, I recommend picking up J.C. Nelson's Grimm Agency series.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Just Do It!

I don't believe in wasted writing. Connecting with other writers has taught me that we all suffer from the same affliction...major self-doubt when putting words on the page. If you let it, it can keep you from writing. The best thing to do, is push through and put words on the page.

When I write, there are times when I'm in the middle of a scene that I know will be scrapped later but I follow through. Why? Often the writing helps with character and/or story exploration, especially since I'm a pantser (a person who doesn't pre-plot before putting words on the page). Sometimes I cut the scene during revisions and put it in my folder of deleted/original scenes only to find that I can use it later, usually in an altered form. Or sometimes, it's just a discarded scene. I never think I wasted my time writing that scene. It could have showed me something about the character or story, or I may have only discovered something that wasn't going to work.

Remember, things don't have to be perfect the first time around. That is one of the hardest things about writing, wanting to get the story right in your first draft. It won't happen. I leave myself many comments during my first drafts stating that I don't like the word choice or the sentence is really bad or that I need to make the scene better. This is what the joys of revision are for. At least  have something down.

There comes a time during the writing process where I feel like I'm spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere with the story. I often reach out to the #amwriting thread on twitter. Usually someone else is experiencing the same issue or I see a post reminding me to keep going. Often one of my followers tweets me some encouraging words, which really means a lot. A critique partner (CP) comes in handy during these times too. I have a wonderful CP, who is now a friend, that is willing to bounce ideas around with me. As with revisions, often that other perspective can help unlock ideas or help me see something I missed.

Despite the self-doubt that I experience while writing, when I go back later to reread the passages that I thought were so horrible they should be burned on sight, most are workable. By pushing through, I've given myself a starting point. I'm not saying they are ready to be seen by other people, far from it, but I can mold them into something that is worth sharing.

I used this analogy in another blog post but, for me, it helps keep the process in perspective. I view writing like sculpting. I have a giant piece of stone that I want to form into something. To get that sculpture, I need words on the page, a first draft. Once I have that, I can chip away to turn it into something I'm happy with and hopefully proud of.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Inspriation Is Everywhere, Though Not Always Easy To Find

I love the look some people give me when I tell them about the stories I write. When they stare blankly, it makes me smile. I have a tendency to write strange and dark things. The novel manuscripts I've written so far have been paranormal and urban fantasy. When I tell people about them, many asked how I come up with the ideas. I think this goes for most writers.

My ideas can come from anywhere. Sometimes they pop into my head, but usually they are prompted by something.

For my latest urban fantasy manuscript, the idea came from the title of another book called, Bringing Back The Recently Deceased. I thought it sounded cool and was disappointed to find out that it was a non-fiction book. So I wrote the book I thought it could have been.

There have been lines in books that spark ideas that have nothing to do with the book I'm reading. A few times a song has inspired a story. When I listened to Godsmack's "Turning To Stone", an image popped into my head that I'm working on turning into a short story.

Inspiration can come from anywhere if you're open to it. There have been real situations or people I know that have prompted story ideas. Sometimes something I see in a TV show launches an idea that is unrelated to the show.

I knew I wanted to write a sequel to my current urban fantasy manuscript but wasn't sure what the story would be. I have a plots that will run through the whole series but I needed a plot for this book. To get ideas I started looking through mythology and monster books and websites. Sure enough, something struck me.

Ideas often take a little--okay a lot of--toying with to work. There are times the idea doesn't go anywhere so I tuck it away. Maybe someday it will develop into a story...or not. That's why it's a good idea to keep a pen and notebook handy. You never know when an idea will come to you.

It's not always easy to find inspiration, but it is there. Writer's block happens and it sucks. I'm starting to ponder what I want to write next. I have some ideas but nothing that's sticking. I hope when I take time to look around something will jump up and say "Write me!".

Where do you find your inspiration or story ideas?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Editing Cave

Every writer wishes that first drafts were perfect, heck, we'd even settle for passable sometimes. For me as a pantser (a person who doesn't plot or outline before hand), the first draft is exploratory. Once there's something on the page, then the real work starts.

I compare editing to creating a sculpture out of stone. You have a huge chunk of material that you need to form into a work of art. The only way to start is by chipping away what you don't need. It's not easy and it's often messy, but in the end you can have something to be proud of.

My latest urban fantasy novel took me about a month to write the first draft. I have been editing it for about five months. There are eight drafts, each one has been read and worked on a minimum of three times. I have printed it out about three times and read it on my tablet twice. There are days where I'm so sick of reading it that I want to burn it. I keep leaving offerings for the editing elves to finish it off, but they haven't come yet.

Critique partners and beta readers are a huge part of the process. They give you a fresh perspective on your work because after you've read it twenty times there's no way to objectively look at it. They often see things that you overlooked. What I love is the different reactions they have as well.

I have a love-hate relationship with editing. I love working on the story to make it shine. During editing is where you can fill in the finer details and bring out the aspects of your characters to make them come alive.

It's also a long, drawn out stage that feels never ending. I get frustrated because sometimes it seems like I'm not getting anywhere. When I'm writing, there's progress that I can see. During editing, you're analyzing everything to death. It takes many passes to get a novel to where it needs to be because with each pass you're often looking at different things. One pass could be character arcs, another world building, another sub-plots.

There are times when you think you are done. Maybe you start querying the manuscript, maybe you've passed it onto someone else to read. Then you realize your not done, there's more work to do. Back to the editing cave you go.

No work is ever perfect. It can be hard to know when it's time to stop editing. There comes a time where a writer is just changing things for the sake of changing things. This is when it's time to pass it on to someone else (a beta reader or critique partner) or send it into the world, whether querying, to your agent/editor, or publish.

I'm feeling good about my latest round of edits. My urban fantasy manuscript is almost ready to fly.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Hounded - A Book Review

Since I was so torn after reading Shattered by Kevin Hearne, I thought I'd do a follow up review on the first book in The Iron Druid Chronicles, Hounded. If you're wondering why I read the seventh book first, it was the only one the bookstore had at the time and for my own writer research on how books in the middle of a series are handled.

Atticus O'Sullivan is over two-thousand years old and the only Druid left on earth. He's settled in Houston, Texas and owns an occult bookstore. He has been hunted for centuries by Aenghus Og of the Tuatha De Danann because he stole a magic sword. In Hounded, the god has located Atticus...and he wants the sword back. Atticus ends up being a pawn in the games of gods and goddess and will need all his power to stay alive.

I would say that I enjoyed Hounded more than Shattered, mostly because it was written from one point-of-view. I don't have a problem with multiple points-of-view; I do have an issue with using different tense when points-of-view change as was done in Shattered. I also found that Hearne inserted himself less in this book than Shattered. There were still a few times when a pop culture reference came up that seemed a little out of character but it wasn't as glaring as in Shattered.

I am a sucker for anything with mythology in it, especially Celtic. Hearne seems to have done his homework, which makes his characters vivid and the world believable. I enjoy is Atticus's tone and wit. He's sarcastic and saucy, which for me are a good combination. Though I have a hard time believing the level of immaturity the creeps in at times. I loved his lawyer, Hal Hauk--another snarky attitude. Atticus's elderly friend, Mrs. MacDonagh is quite funny, especially when the werewolves were doing her yard work.

The overall story kept me reading. There is action, suspense, drama. Hearne keeps up a good pace.

Again, this series could be my favourite if it wasn't for a few things.

I get Atticus's relationship with his dog, Oberon. It's great that they can communicate telepathically, but Oberon's character isn't my favourite. Most time I find it annoying. I mentioned in my last blog that I've seen reviews by people who really enjoy Oberon, just not me.

The male fantasy of goddesses throwing themselves at Atticus gets old. I understand that Atticus is a good looking man, but find it a bit of a stretch that the Celtic goddesses are all hot and bothered over him.

There were things I let slide so that overall I would enjoy Hounded...then I hit the epilogue. I should have stopped reading after the last chapter because the epilogue tainted the whole book for me. I'm going to tell you why so if you don't want a minor spoiler, quit reading here knowing that I would recommend this book for those who like a snarky, witty Druid, mythology, and urban fantasy and can get past the weaker parts of a book.

Still with me?

After the story ends, Atticus takes time go hunting with Oberon. They have fun and return home to a surprise Atticus set up for his BFF...several french poodles...all in heat. That's how the book ends. To me, that was gross and unnecessary. Leaving the book like that left me with a negative impression, especially since I worked to ignore aspects I didn't like.

I love the world and characters that Hearne has developed. Some of the finer details are not to my liking. It's not enough to deter me from the series, though it is enough to keep it from being a favourite.

Monday, October 19, 2015

What I Learned From My Days In The Newsroom

I worked in the radio news industry for over ten years, everything from a freelance reporter to news director. There are some things I learned during that time that I’ve carried over to my fiction writing.

1. Lead lines

The first line of a news story is supposed to grab attention. This is the same in fiction. You want the first line of your story and chapters to grab the reader so they aren't tempted to put it down.

2. Write tight

When writing news, you only have a certain amount of time to get the story across. It’s amazing how much you can put in a two minute newscast if you stick to the important details. This goes for fiction too. Don’t use two words when one will do. Make every word count. If a scene isn't contributing to the overall story, dump it (yes, even if you slaved hours over it and it's your favourite).

3. Check your facts

There’s nothing worse than airing a story with the wrong information. It’s important to check your facts, same as in fiction. If you’re writing about something that you’re unfamiliar with, look it up, find someone knowledgeable to talk to about it. If you're doing historical fiction, research, research, research.

4. Everyone’s story is the most important

When people are planning events or have a cause, to them, that is the most important issue and should take precedence. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. It’s great the people are passionate about what they do. In the grand scheme of news, their story doesn’t always rank. It’s the same for characters. Each character has a motivation, an agenda. To that character, his issues are the most important to him or her. This goes for secondary characters too. They have desires, issues, and needs that they want filled.

5. Professionalism

With social media and email, this seems to be a dying thing. Just because you can't see the person you are writing to doesn't mean you shouldn't put your best foot forward.

When you attend an event as a news person, you're representing the place you work for (this can be said about any professions). Media outlets are under constant public scrutiny, the last thing I wanted is people talking about how unprofessional I was at an event and having it affect the station. I also wanted the people I was there to see to talk to me and take me seriously. If they didn't, they may not have granted me interviews. I've met the Premier, federal and provincial ministers, heads of companies, musicians and more. I used to deal with mayors and city/town councilors on a daily basis. If I couldn't get these people to talk to me, it affected my job.

This carries over to writing. If want agents and editors to take your work seriously, then act professional. You're trying to enter into a business deal with these people. It doesn't mean you can't be yourself, just make sure you're coming across as someone they would want to work with.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Finding My Characters

I'm more of a pantser than a planner when it comes to writing. I do a basic outline and know where I want the story to go, but when I sit down to write, I let the story take me where it will. This includes my characters.

I worried that I didn't sit down and plan out my characters in detail, filling out elaborate character sketches that other seemed to. Like my story, I have a solid concept of the characters in my head but if I force myself to think about them, nothing comes to mind or they end up being cardboard. As I write the story, they come to life for me and I let them unfold naturally. I don't know how common this is since I keep reading about people who do character profiles before they start writing.

Recently, I read a blog by a writer who also doesn't do character sketches but discovers her characters as the story goes (and do you think I can find this blog again? Nope.). I was happy that I wasn't the only one.

As I write both the story and the characters reveal themselves and I go with it. Sometimes I think I know my character then he/she  does or says something I hadn't expected. It can be quite interesting. My husband thought I was crazy until he saw an interview with actor John Cleese, who said that sometimes the character takes over during acting and that he had heard that it happens with some writers too. After that, my husband believed me.

During my first novel, I had a hard time developing the main character's love interest, mostly because I was forcing his personality. Once I stopped and listened to him, his true character revealed itself and he was a deeper and more rounded character. My great epiphany about him came while I was working out and I allowed my mind to wander.

The down side is that either you need to stop writing and make notes about your character(s) as you go or have a really good memory about details you have written. I do both, depending on how my writing session is going. Sometimes, when I'm doing a read through, I'll keep a pen and paper handy to make character notes as I read.

So, for anyone else who has trouble plotting out characters in detail before writing, you're not alone. I fine tune my characters and story though multiple revisions, like any writer. As long as you have a good concept before you start, there's nothing wrong with letting characters write themselves if that's what works for you.

Creating Tension - Crash Course

Recently I travelled to attend another interesting writing workshop, taught by Brian Henry of the Quick Brown Fox blog. This one was on creating tension and suspense.

Tension and suspense keep the reader interested. They want to know what will happen next...if writers do their job exceptionally well, the reader NEEDS to know.

So how do we create that sort of interest?

It's not always easy. As writers, we lead the reader along, making them see what we want while not losing them through confusion or disinterest because we aren't revealing enough. It can be a fine balance at times. Without enough tension or conflict the novel is dull. On the other hand, too much can overwhelm the reader.

First you need a character your reader cares about. If you don't care about the character you won't worry how this person will make it through the conflict. The character doesn't always have to be likable, but the reader needs to relate and feel empathy towards him/her.

Once you have your character, you need to keep your story focused. If you make your plot and subplots too complicated, you will lose the reader. It doesn't mean you can't have an intricate plot, just make sure your reader can follow it.

People read to experience something new, to feel something, to be plunged into a different world. Give them that. Layer your characters with emotions and sensations. Give them strong emotions with some conflict. We don't always feel one way or another about things, sometimes circumstances dictate how we feel or react to situations. If you're writing fantasy or sci-fi, make your world interesting. Have your characters interact with it so the reader can experience the world too.

Then it's time to throw your character to the wolves. Make his/her life miserable. Characters needs to experience crises to challenge themselves and come out of the whole situation changed (for better or worse). Building to these turning points in your story builds tension and suspense for the reader. So draw it out, but keep it interesting.

As I mentioned earlier, writers lead the reader along. It's a good idea to give them a plausible outcome, then turn the tables and surprise the reader with a different outcome. This can be tricky because you don't want to cheat the reader. Like having the main character captured only to have help arrive shortly after as part of his/her plan. Or providing a different outcome that was way out of left field.

You can also provide a few ways the problem can be solved so the reader is unsure which the character will choose. You should drop some hints as to what is really going to happen, they don't have to be obvious, but make it believable. In my research for writing a mystery novel, I saw the tip to add these sort of little details/clues about the real solution during an action scene when the reader is focused on something else. Then at the end the reader won't feel cheated because you hinted at the real solution, just not outright. Sometimes it helps to make a list of all the ways the character could solve the problem or get out of trouble. Write down anything and everything. Usually the first ones we come up with are standard tropes so we need to flush all the ideas out to dig and find the really creative solutions for our character.

Delaying the action is another tension builder. Slow the scene down. Like in horror movies when the character hears a noise and is slowly walking towards the door at the end of the hall. That walk is drawn out to build out suspense. In writing, slow the action down. Take time to describe the character's heart pounding, the eerie light coming from underneath the door, the creak of the floor. This can be tricky because you don't want to bore your reader either. As a reader, sometimes I want to know the outcome so badly that I start skipping sentences to get to the action.

Those are some of the things we discussed during the workshop. Are there any other tips you have for bringing tension and suspense to your writing?

Preparing to Query

My urban fantasy manuscript is revised and edited, and I've started the querying stage. I'm definitely better prepared this time because I've learned so much in the last year.

For those new to this phase, a query (as defined by the dictionary) is an inquiry from a writer to an editor of a magazine, newspaper, etc., regarding the acceptability of or interest in an idea for an article, news story, or the like: usually presented in the form of a letter that outlines or describes the projected piece.

Sounds simple doesn't it? If only it were.

Before you think about querying, make sure you have a completed manuscript. This means you have finished revising, editing and proofreading. You believe it is polished to the best of your ability. You have had others (beta readers) read it and give their thoughts. If you can find a critique partner, have that person read it and give their honest feedback.

Once you've completed that step, celebrate. Seriously. It's hard to write a novel then go through the months (or years) of editing and revising. You have accomplished something many people only talk about doing.

Next step, before querying, is check your word count. If you're shopping a 120,000 word romance novel, that number alone will get you turned down. Word count is important because the more words in a story, the more expensive it is to print and the more time the reader has to invest in reading the book. Some readers will not pick up a book that is thicker. You probably have a lot of stuff in your manuscript that isn't needed. Is there too much back story? That's often the biggest problem. Does the manuscript start in the right spot? We are all guilty of starting a story with lots of set up at some point. Start as close to the first major turning point as possible and back fill the essential details as you go.

To check if your word count is in the acceptable range here are a couple websites:

Writer's Digest Guide (you should bookmark this site in general. Lots of good stuff here)
Literary Rejections Guide (this is a good site for many reasons)

The best comment on word count I saw was to look at the Harry Potter series and compare the length of the first book to the others. You have to earn your extra words.

Got your word count? Great.

Make sure you know your genre. There's lots of genres and subgenres out there and some books can cross genres. Know where yours fits.

If you poked around on the Literary Rejections website, you may have found their page on genres. If not, you can find it here. Writer's Digest also has a list here.

Now are you ready to query? Almost.

You've spent anywhere from months to years on your manuscript. By now you could recite your story in your sleep. But do you know the hook?

Wait. Hook? Are we going fishing? Actually we sort of are. Your hook is what makes an agent request your work.

What is the main conflict in your story? What does the character strive for? Who or what is keeping your character from that goal?

A helpful formula I've seen is: When (conflict in your story) happens to (character), he/she must overcome (obstacle) to (achieve goal or finish quest).

I don't recommend using that in your query letter but do it for yourself to help develop a hook. Hooks need to be punchy and they help show what makes your story unique. Agents can have hundreds of queries waiting to be read and often read a bunch in one sitting. It's important to make yours stand out.

Once you've done these steps then it's time to start writing the query, which I'll cover in the next post.

Other posts in the querying series:
The Query Letter
Time To Query

Preparing To Query Part 2: The Query Letter

You've written a novel, how hard can it be to write one letter? You will be surprised.

Your query letter is a brief description of your work and a little about you. It should be no more than a page long and make sure you edit and proofread it. This is an agent's or publisher's first introduction to you and your work. Make sure it's professional. You are approaching these people to enter into a business agreement, don't give them reasons to doubt you. I have been amazed at the remarks I've seen from agents regarding unprofessional queries. Don't promise them that you're the next bestseller or that they will make millions off you. Let your writing convince them.

Start your query with an introduction - make it personal. Do not write one letter and mass email it, agents will know and the majority won't read any further than the generic salutation or list of email addresses at the top. At the top of each email, put the agents name. Dear Jane, Dear Ms. Doe, something that shows you know who you are sending the letter to. I personally do Dear Ms. Doe as a show of respect. DO NOT address your email/letter, Dear Agent, To Whom It May Concern, or any other impersonal greeting. One agent tweeted that she received a query that started, Hey Bitch. She stopped reading there.

There's some debate about the next paragraph. You can launch right into your pitch (as discussed in a pervious blog) or put your book information here. If you're doing your book information you need to include the genre, word count and something to show that you have researched the agent (which I will discuss in the next blog). It can read something like:

With your representation of fantasy, my 92,000 word manuscript Queen of Swords may be a fit for you.

If I know an author the agent represents in the same genre as your story, you can add it in. It shows that you have done your research.

Next start your pitch. Lead with your hook and a paragraph or two about the plot. Make sure you put in the main character and what is at stake for him/her. Read the back of books to get an idea of what to include. The pitch needs to be interesting, but not give everything away or be too information heavy. It can be a fine balance.

After your pitch, put a little bit about yourself that is relevant to your writing. This is a short paragraph. You are selling your work. If the agent likes your work, then they will ask more about you. Don't write about your family (unless it's very relevant to your book) or give a the whole background on how you came up with the idea for the book.

For help writing your query, here's some links:
Query Shark

Like your manuscript, this letter will be revised numerous times. Give your query to someone who hasn't read your manuscript and ask if there was anything confusing in it. Let someone who has read your manuscript look over your query to make sure you got the important points. Agents can read dozens of queries in one sitting, yours needs to stand out and make them want to read more of your work.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

My Chris Cornell Adventure

I did something rather selfish on Friday. I went to a concert. Now to most that may not seem like a big deal, but for us, it was. And you know was amazing! 

I hadn't been to a concert in years so when I heard Chris Cornell was coming to Toronto, I was determined not to miss it. I've been a Soundgarden fan since the band and of the singer, Chris Cornell (and his amazing hair) since their early days when I was a teenager. I missed Soundgarden twice in the past couple years when they came to Ontario so I didn't want to miss Cornell this time.

If you didn't see my previous post, music plays a big part in my writing. Usually my work connects with a band and I listen to their albums while writing. My latest urban fantasy novel chose Chris Cornell. I have been listening to his solo albums, Soundgarden, and Audioslave for hours over the last several months while writing and revising this manuscript. So seeing Cornell preform was extra special. Anyone who writes (probably creates in general) to a soundtrack understands the connection you can develop with the music. I hear certain songs and they take me right to my characters and story. If I listen to other music and become stuck while writing, I bust out my Chris Cornell playlist and am back on track.

It was a week before the concert when I found out he was coming. But it was a Friday...of Thanksgiving weekend, so the timing was good for us to travel the six hours to Toronto. The problem was life.

I had no one to work at my store. So I decided that I'd close on Friday and Saturday if I had to. Anyone who owns a retail business knows that this is a tough decision. I need the money to pay for rent and new stock, but I also needed this. I was fortunate that a friend stepped up and said she would keep my store open for the couple days.

Then it was my husband's work. He couldn't get Friday off so we'd have to leave once he was done work at 10 a.m. This meant the possibility of driving about seven hours to my parents' place to drop the kids off, then another two to Toronto (on a long weekend), then back to my parents' again after the show. Given that my husband gets up at 4 a.m., I thought that was too much, but my husband insisted we could do it. Thankfully, I have a wonderful family and someone met us part way to pick up the kids.

Of course we need tickets. Ticketmaster was sold out. So we paid an a ton more for tickets off another provider. I'm trying not to think of that because it still bites my ass, especially since we live on a tight budget.

It would have been easier to say, "Forget it," and just stay home. With the number of people we had to inconvenience, the hassle, and the money, not going would have been the way I usually handled it.

I'm going to be very honest. The past year has been rough. Everyone has their hardships, so I won't go into mine, but let's just say lately it's been stress headaches for four weeks, insomnia, and tears. I was done in many ways. I knew I needed something like this, something I could count as a win because there haven't been many lately. When I told my husband about the concert, he knew it too. When I brought up all the buts, he said, "You deserve to do something for yourself."

You only live once and it wasn't like it was anything drastic, like taking off to Europe. It was one concert, by a musician that I truly admire and love. It was one thing that would mean a lot to me and give me the pick me up I needed.

So, I threw caution to the wind, called on several people to help make this work, and went. This was about indulging myself and reminding myself that I can have fun.

Am I ever glad I did.

I waited all week for something to come up that would keep us from going (seriously, that's been my luck for the last year). I tried not to get too excited because I worried it would be taken from me.

But the universe smiled on me.

My husband and I got to Toronto early enough to hang out downtown, which we hadn't done in years. It also gave us some together time, which is very rare for us.

Then we headed to Massey Hall, which is a fantastic venue for a concert. Put an amazing singer like Chris Cornell in there and you have a memorable night. We sat in the balcony to the right side of the stage in second row. They were really good seats. Cornell took the stage a little late because, being the awesome man he is, he was texting his wife who was worried that the plane she was on was going to crash. Once she was safely landed, he took the stage. He played a two and a half acoustic set that included solo stuff, Soundgarden, Audioslave, and a number of covers. Cornell sounded amazing. Sometimes you get fantastic singers who don't sound as good live as they do on an album. That was not the case with Cornell. He was amazing (yes, I know I keep saying that, but he was!).

Going to that concert was worth the hassle of arranging the trip, the six hour drive (five hours of it with kids), and the money. Every now and then you have to do something for yourself, to remind yourself who you are, and to simply have a good time. It's easy to get bogged down in daily life and forget to live. Because I gave myself this, I feel refreshed and ready to keep on fighting. 

Thank you Chris Cornell for the amazing show and the pick me up I needed. It gave me something positive to look forward to when things weren't going well.

For everyone else, my message is go see Chris Cornell! Just kidding, though if you are a fan do. Find something you love and treat yourself every now and then. You deserve it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Shattered - A Book Review

I recently finished Shattered by Kevin Hearne, the seventh book in the Iron Druid Chronicles. This is the first book I have read of the series. Yes, I know it's the seventh; it was the only book the bookstore had. I've taken to picking up a book in the middle of a series for research on my own writing, but that's another post.

I must admit, I haven't been this torn over a book in a long time...possibly ever.

In Shattered, Atticus O'Sullivan has been the last Druid for over two-thousand years. His apprentice and girlfriend, Granuaile, has reached Druid status and in the previous book Atticus rescued his Arch Druid, Owen, from being frozen in time.

Atticus needs to catch Owen up on the last two-thousand years while also trying to find out what gods and goddesses are trying to kill him. Meanwhile, Granuaile is working to save her father, who is possessed by an evil sorcerer's spirit in India.

The premise of this book is so good. I love mythology and Druids so this book is right up my alley. The book visits several different places in the world and incorporates different pantheons, making it even more appealing to me. Even though I hadn't read any other books in the series, I was able to follow the plot. Hearne provided enough backstory when needed for me to know what was happening and why, without bogging the story down.

I also love Atticus. He's quirky, rather mouthy, confident and fun. Granuaile's character is also well done as a strong, independent woman. Probably because I picked up the latest book in the series, I wasn't sold on their relationship. They spend the majority of the book apart so I didn't find there was a strong connection between them. I found Atticus a little too dismissive when he doesn't hear from Granuaile, though I liked his confidence in her that she can handle herself.

So if I liked all the stuff, why am I so torn?

I was really into the book after the first chapter. When I started reading the second chapter, something annoyed me about how Granuaile's perspective was written. I realized it was written in present tense. Atticus's chapters are in past tense while Granuaile and Owen's chapters are in present tense. I found that super annoying, but was determined to move on.

My next major issues was the way Hearne slipped in his own likes, dislikes, and opinions into the book, like the shot at the Toronto Maple Leafs. Areas where he did this were stiff and seemed out of character, which drew me out of the story.

I've read some other reviews of this book and found that some people enjoy Atticus and Granuaile's dogs. The two Druids are able to talk to talk to the dogs, who answer them back in their minds. To me, it was over done and rather annoying at times. It does lighten the book and add some humour, but I could have done without it or at least a lot less of it.

So will I go back and read the rest of the series?

It actually hurts to think of how awesome I would have found the series if those other things had not been part of it. This easily could have been my favourite series. But once you realize something annoys you when reading, it's hard to over look it.

I decided that I love the premise and Atticus so much that I will.

Do I recommend this book?

I recommend it with caution. Everyone is different so the things that annoy me, might work for someone else. There's a lot of things I had to overlook to really enjoy the book and some people might not have the patience to do that if they have the same issues I did.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Critique Partners Rock!

It's hard to see your own work objectively. We become caught up in our stories and are working on so many levels that it's difficult to step back. We know the story, the secret motivations, the backstories that we don't put in our work. With all that running around in our heads, it can be hard to see how the story works for a reader who doesn't have all this knowledge. This is where a critique partner (CP) comes in.

A CP is an important part of the writing process. If you have more than one, even better. The purpose of a CP is just as it sounds, someone who reads your work and gives honest feedback on it. The person can critique everything from story structure, plot, and characters to the finer details like grammar and wording. In exchange, you critique your partner's work.

It takes a little practice critiquing, but as you learn more about writing, you know what to look for. Sometimes just pointing out areas of confusion or a different idea on a scene can be immensely helpful.

I've leaned a lot being a CP. It's a great way to apply what you learn about the writing process. When you read someone else's work, its easier to pick out ways to improve or other issues. I have found that doing this makes it easier to spot some of the same issues in my writing. Sometimes I see the way another writer handled something, a description, a character, etc., and it gives me an idea of how I could handle a similar aspect.

Being a CP, you also get to read some great stories and help make them better. It's exciting to know you're working on something that could one day be published, and when it does, you were part of that.

The best critique partners aren't afraid to give you honest feedback. They point out areas where there are problems or need improvements in a way that's not harsh, just honest. It's not only about pointing out what's not working, it's also pointing out what is working. I try to leave comments when I feel good tension has been built, something about the character or scene really shines, or if something surprises me. Doing this is as important as pointing out the weaknesses because it allows your CP to see strengths in the project. It can be hard to know what is working in a story as much as what isn't working.

Receiving critiques isn't always easy. Remember that your CP is trying to help better your story. A good CP will usually note that the thoughts are her own and you can use what works for you and disregard the rest. To be a good CP, you'll do the same. I never get offended if a CP doesn't use my suggestions.

Finding a critique partner can be challenging. First you want someone you can work with and secondly, you want someone who understand your genre and vice versa. Sometimes it's good to start by trading query letters or a short story.

I found my CPs on social media. Watch for someone looking for a CP or asking if anyone has time to read his/her work. My first CP came off #amwriting via Twitter.

Here's a few places to find a CP:

Look for writing groups in your community or online.

Whiskey, Wine & Writing is a fabulous website and I recommend listening to their webcasts. The ladies are knowledgeable and entertaining, and they bring on wonderful guests. They also have a CP listing.

Ava Jae blogged about where to find CPs here.

On Twitter you can also use #critiquepartner or watch during contests like #PitMad, #AdPit, #QueryKombat, etc.

I've found making connections on social media the best way to find a critique partner. I've met some wonderful people, some who have become friends and have provided support during the more challenging times of my writing journey.

Where did you meet your CP(s)?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Skye Falling - A Review

I recently finished the paranormal romance, Skye Falling. This novella is the first release by author Anna Kyle, published by Red Moon Romance. This book is part of a series that will start with Omega Rising (release date TBA).

The book is about a Halfling-Fae princess named Skye who is determined to save herself. Her wolf-half will not wake and seems to be draining her Fae magic, which is slowly killing her. Hearing of the Wolf King, Skye takes off to find him, hoping that he can awaken her wolf and save her life.

Lake, the Wolf King’s second in command and enforcer, is charged with keeping Skye safe as a favour to the Fae king. Reluctant to do the task, Lake finds himself on a ride he never expected. When he grabs Skye, her wolf wakes enough to bite Lake and his wolf returns the favour, linking them as mates. When Lake can’t sense Skye’s wolf-half, they wonder if the bond is false. There is suspicion that a spell was cast to mimic the mate bond so the Fae can get close enough to the Wolf King to kill him. To find out the truth, they must visit to a shaman. On that journey, they grow close and develop strong feelings for each other as they are attacked by Dark Fae and bicker with each other.

Kyle has built a rich world where the paranormal lives in secret along side the humans. I love books that do that because it’s fun to think that our world is full of more magic and mystery than we are aware of. Her world has texture and is believable.

Skye is a little fire cracker, which I love. She is a great blend of princess snob and sassy-bad-ass. She’s not going to wait for a man to rescue her. From the first page, she is her own woman, ready to save herself. She won’t bow to her fate, she’s ready to fight. Then you have Lake, the hot, wolf enforcer. I like his grumpy nature at the start and how Skye puts him in his place. As the story goes on, you see his softer side and his ferocious commitment to his mate – even if he’s reluctant at first. In the beginning their connection feels a little forced, but by the middle of the book it settles nicely and by the end you’re hoping their mate bond is true, that Skye will survive, and left a little hot under the collar after their intimate encounters, which are done with a good amount of heat.

The story is told from Skye and Lake’s perspectives. I don’t mind stories with various points of view, but I’m not a fan of viewpoints shifting mid-chapter. Maybe it’s the organizer in me, but I like when a chapter sticks with one person’s perspective. I accepted this and was able to move on. It’s not a breaking point for me, just a strong preference.

Skye Falling starts right in the action with Skye seeking the Wolf King and Lake following her. I found the beginning a little stiff, trying to catch the reader up on what’s going on and the politics. As part of a larger series, I image there will be a lot going on, and Kyle has built a good founding her rich world. For this book though, the start a little info heavy given the fun, frisky nature of the rest.

Though I wasn’t totally pulled in at the start, I liked the characters and wanted to know what would happen to Skye. The ending of the book (nope, not telling you, you have to read it) was so well done that I’m looking forward to reading more of this series. The reveal and the writing for the end had me staring at my screen (I read the ebook), unwilling to stop reading until I knew how it all turned out.

If you enjoy paranormal romance and want something with some spice that you can read in a day or two (depending on your reading speed). Pick up Skye Falling and give it a shot. I think that author Anna Kyle will tell us some good tales in her coming books.

For an excerpt of Skye Falling, visit Anna's guest post on my blog.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Four Things No One Tells You When You Write A Book - Guest Post

I'm excited to have my first guest post - Anna Kyle, whose new paranormal romance Skye Falling was recently released by Red Moon Romance. She was even awesome enough to provide a taste of the novella after the post below!

Anna Kyle wrote her first story at age 12 on her dad's old manual typewriter, and though the technology has changed, she hasn’t stopped since. She lives in the Midwest surrounded by family and friends and dogs and horses. They’ve forgiven her (mostly) when they appear in her stories.

She reads everything she can get her hands on, but romances, especially paranormals, are her favorite. Vampires, humans, Fae, shapeshifters, or demons, it doesn’t matter—Anna’s heart goes pitter-pat for the Happily Ever After. Hot heroes + strong, funny heroines = awesome.

You can find Anne Kyle at her blog and on Twitter.

Four Things No One Tells You When You Write A Book

My first book (novella), SKYE FALLING, was published last week. The second, OMEGA RISING, will be out in the next six months. Books 3 and 4 in the Wolf King series will follow that (once I’m done writing them!). Yahoo! I’m still a newbie, debut author (I picture that as a wobbly foal, unsure yet how to run) but I’d thought I’d toss out a couple of things I learned along the way. 

1. It’s hard, like really, really hard to write a book from beginning to end. Once you’ve accomplished this tremendous feat - and it is tremendous - bask in the glory…for a day then put it away. Because the work is just beginning. Your completed manuscript is a lump and needs to be formed, molded, pummeled into a cogent story. But before that happens you need distance (for SF it was a few months, Omega Rising was a month). I’d read that tip but didn’t really believe until I experienced it. Believe it. Your amazing brain will keep the book simmering in the background as you throw yourself into another project. When you return to your story, suddenly the parts that aren’t working are easier to see, solutions bubble to the surface, plot twists get twistier, you're better able to kill your darlings.

2. Cheerleaders are awesome when you embark on the difficult journey of writing a book but know what’s even better? Critiques. I’m not saying find some a-holes who pick apart your baby. Kick those people to the curb. No one needs those guys. Exposing your words to someone else for the first time is nerve-wracking, even vomit-inducing. I’m talking about honest feedback said in a (hopefully) kind manner. Oh, and it probably shouldn’t be family. Family members are cheerleaders. You can find groups online through social media. Google critique partners or form a group of your own. You cannot write in a vacuum. If the crushing doubt doesn’t get you, overconfidence will. My personal monkey-on-the-back is Doubt, yes capital D. Balance is key.

3. Study the craft of writing. You may have an innate talent for creating wonderful stories but getting it down on paper requires work. Go to conferences. Participate in webinars (pricy but worth every penny). I subscribe to Writers Digest and found it to be super helpful. There are online forums like Janice Hardy’s Fiction University. My two favorite books on writing are Stephen King’s, well, “On Writing” and Donald Maass’ book “Writing 21st Century Fiction” but there are TONS of books on the subject willing to drop pearls of knowledge on us. Read as many as you can.

4. Writing is lonely. Find support. This is different from cheerleaders or critique partners. I’m talking when it’s 11 o'clock at night and you're stuck on a scene that just. Doesn’t. Work. We all know that feeling. Ugh. I HATE that feeling. I’ve found support on Twitter. Maybe you use Facebook, or Snapchat, or Reddit. Whatever. Reach out. Even just venting to other writers because they know exactly what that feels like helps. I met folks through participating in NaNoWriMo last year and all of us were freaking out. 50,000 words in 30 days? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? But a lot of us did it while sharing word counts, doing word sprints, or flat out whining to each other. (My urban fantasy book is still waiting for me to get around to fixing it). Just knowing other people are out there struggling with rewrites, edits, scenes, somehow shares the burden. At least it did for me.

Now for a peek at...

Sand whipped into the air. A whirling vortex sprang up and halted the shifter’s forward progress and then lifted him four feet above the beach. Stunned by what she’d created, Skye dropped her hand and the wolf landed on the beach with a thump. Sand coated every inch of his body, but before he could act on his growl’s implied threat, Skye hurriedly lifted him back into a new sand tornado.

She’d practiced her power regularly, in secret as advised by her father, but had never been able to marshal this kind of force before. Skye could snuff out lanterns and blow papers off her father’s desk but not much more. The wolf’s surprise had turned to anger in his second ride. His eyes were narrowed against the stinging sand, but Skye could see their golden glow. The enormity of what she was about to do hit her.

She could stop it now and be returned to her father or, the lesser possibility, the torture of the Dark Fae. Both meant death.


That small word meant life. Not a tough decision. He strained to get to her and shouted, but the roar of the wind whipped his voice away. She summoned a life jacket onto his torso, followed by a pair of orange water wings around his arms. He glanced down and roared helplessly as he comprehended what she planned. He pointed a finger at her, then pointed down. Yeah, like she’d do that. Stupid wolf.

“It’s not personal, wolf,” she said, pleased her voice was calm. Skye raised her shaking hands. With a flick of her wrist she flung him out into the deep lake, far enough that she’d have a chance to escape but not so far he would succumb to hypothermia. She winced as he bounced across the lake’s surface like a skipping stone. Once. Twice. Three times before she could see him bobbing in the waves. It was done. No going back now.

She hoped he could swim and wished for a moment she had sent a raft with him. Skye took off toward Union Station in the pre-dawn shadows, ignoring the enraged wolf’s cursing dwindling in the distance. Her fingers wove as she ran and her soggy dress changed to her standard gray tunic and leggings and boots. Fear gave her an added boost of speed as she zigzagged through the city just starting to wake up. The first train out was at 6:00 a.m., only an hour away.

Anna Kyle (2015-08-25T04:00:00+00:00). Skye Falling (Kindle Locations 227-231). Red Moon Romance. Kindle Edition.

Find it on or

Monday, August 31, 2015

Rising To The Challenge

When I saw that I'd been nominated for a challenge that read 7x7x7x7, I was worried. I hadn't heard of it and thought, what am I in for this time (having visions of the ALS challenge that went around). Thankfully, this one was easy. I was nominated by Jen DeLuca who I've become acquainted with on Twitter.

For those nominated, you need to go to the seventh line of the seventh page on your WIP. Post the next seven lines on your blog (if you don't have a blog, I'd be happy to host your entry). Once you've done that, tag seven writers to do the same.

That's seven lines from the siren short story that I'm working on (it still doesn't have a title).

Charis’s stomach rumbled. She leaned against the wall on the other side of the narrow room and crossed her arms in an effort to keep still. Her hunger increased almost to the point of pain when she looked at the door that led to the other room. The men her sisters had chosen were on the other side and a recording of Charis’s voice crooned from behind the door to keep them subdued. She’d successfully guessed a couple of the men her sisters picked. They each had their preferences and having watched them for years, Charis knew their tastes.

Charis was anxious to sample the locals on this side of the country.

Now I will tag seven writers on Twitter so they can participate in the fun.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Time to Query

Is your manuscript polished? Query letter written? Research done?

It’s almost time to send out your first bunch of queries!

I’ve seen it recommended that it’s best to query five to ten agents at a time, while other agents recommend querying up to twenty. When you start, query a small batch to see how your letter is received. If it’s getting requests, great, send out more. If agents are passing on your work or not responding, look at how you can improve your query.

After you’ve selected the first batch of agents to query, visit their websites again to check their submission guidelines and FOLLOW THEM. Agents want different things as part of your submission package. Some want a query letter only, others want a synopsis or summary and/or sample pages. You also want to check the website to make sure the agent hasn’t closed to queries.

Show the agent that you can follow instructions by adhering to their guidelines. These people look at hundreds of emails in a day. There is a formula to query letters so agents can get the details they need quickly. If your query stands out, because of the proposed story and writing, they will ask to see your manuscript.

When sending a query DO NOT:
  • Send the whole manuscript as an attachment.
  • Send your query as an attachment.
  • Send a mass email to several agents with a generic greeting.
  • Use fancy or coloured font.
  • Select an excerpt from the middle of your manuscript.
  • Send pages from your manuscript in lieu of a query.
  • Query more than one agent at an agency at a time (some agencies ask that you query one agent from the agency only, others say that if one passes on your work, then you may query another).
Doing these things can lead to agents passing your manuscript without even looking at your query letter.

When sending a query DO:
  • Follow the agent’s submission guidelines on the website.
  • Provide a sample, if requested, starting at page one of your manuscript.
  • Make your query personal, or at least use a salutation with the agent’s name you are sending the query to.
  • Only send an attachment if requested. Most agents like the synopsis and sample pages (if requested) pasted in the body of the email, under the query.
  • Proofread your query again before sending.
  • Be professional.
  • Let your writing speak for its self and make your letter stand out. You don’t need to do anything cute or gimmicky – just write the best you can.

After one final look to make sure you have everything in the email that the agent is looking for, hit send.

Now for the hard wait and check your email compulsively.

Agents vary in response time. Some have reply timelines on their websites while others do not. If you follow agents on Twitter, some will post the date they have read queries up to. Resist the urge to send emails asking for an update on your query – the agent will likely bump you to the end of the line if you do.

NEVER call an agent to ask about a query.

The best way to pass the time is work on something new. Focus on a new manuscript, look for writing contests to enter or workshops to take. While you wait, look for ways to better your writing.

The replies will come in one of three forms.

1) The Rejection
You will get them and they will sting. This is a very subjective industry and you’re looking for an agent who loves your work and can use that passion to sell it. What works for one agent, doesn’t work for all. Remember than when a rejection comes.

It’s been said that you should aim to collect 100 rejections. Some very famous authors received that many or more rejections.

NEVER reply to agents who passes on your work to tell them that they are missing out or making a mistake. I’ve been shocked to see what some agents post about responses they have received to rejections. Don’t do it.

2) Partial Request
Congratulations if you get a request for a partial! An agent is interested to read more of your work. Usually they want the requested chapters attached to an email. To help the agent stay organized, hit reply to the original email and send it that way.

From here you will either move on to the next step or they will pass on the story. If you are lucky, the agent will provide useful feedback on why he/she felt the need to pass.

3) Full Request
Congratulations! The agent likes what he/she has read and wants more.

The reading of full manuscripts takes longer than queries and partials. It can take months to hear back. It is acceptable to politely nudge an agent if they have had your manuscript for several months, unless their guidelines say it takes them longer to get around to reading it.

From here the agent could pass on the manuscript (if you’re lucky, you will receive helpful advice to improve your work), ask for and R&R (revise and resubmit), or offer representation.

Most people write multiple books before they receive their offer of representation from an agent. So keep going, do what you can to improve, and network with other writers. It’s a long, hard journey and you will be tempted to throw in the towel more than once. Don't give up.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Preparing To Query Part 3: Research

Now that you have your query letter, you need someone to send it to. This is where the research starts.

Before you can start researching, you need to know your genre and age category. Where does your book fit into the market place? Is it adult romance, middle grade fantasy, young adult dystopia, adult high fantasy? If you missed my first blog post on preparing to query, check out the Literary Rejections site for information on genres and sub-genres.

Where are you going to keep track of the agents you want to query? I have forms that I print and fill in (see below), as well as a spreadsheet with columns for the date queried, agent name, agency, genre represented, estimated response time (often found on the agent’s website), and email. The printed forms allow me to add more details about the agent while the spreadsheet is more for quick reference and easy organization. Keep the data in whatever form suits you, but keep it somewhere and make sure you can use it. You don’t want to lose an agent’s name and miss a chance to query him/her or query an agent twice with the same manuscript.

You know your genre and have a place to keep agent information, now where do you find agents?

There are books released yearly that list agents and agencies. I’ve seen Writers Digest advertise one.

The internet is a fantastic resource for finding agents. My first stop is Query Tracker. Through this website you can search agents by genre. A very handy, and free, feature on this site allows you to build a list of agents to query and mark when you query them and when they respond. Other people querying can leave comments and you can view a list of an agent’s clients. If you become a member, you have access to additional features. That choice is yours to make.

Great, so I can print a list off Query Tracker and query all the agents that represent my genre.

Please don’t.

It’s important to read about the agents, visit their websites, do an online search and read interviews on those you’re interested in querying. This is how you learn if the agent is the right fit for you.

For example, I’m looking for an agent who represents urban fantasy and hopefully paranormal as well. I’ve visited websites or read interviews and found out the agent is only be looking for high fantasy. Sometimes, when I visit the agent’s website, I find she/he isn't even looking for fantasy, which means the Query Tracker entry may not have been updated in a while.

Always, always, always, visit the agent’s website. There are still some who don’t have websites and it’s hard to find information on them, but the majority do.

Yes, that means clicking on each agent on the list and looking up their websites and any other interviews posted online.

Other websites that will help with your research are:

I follow some blogs that introduce new agents:

You can even just do an internet search for “literary agents that represent (genre)”.

With the help of those websites, you will be well on your way to finding the agents who could be right for your project. We get enough rejections without sending to agents who aren’t right for your manuscript. Every now and then though, I see an agent mention that she/he found a manuscript from a genre she/he doesn’t represent. That’s rare.

Dig up what you can about the agents you think may like your manuscript. This is what you can use in your query letter. Don’t get creepy by writing something like, I follow you on Twitter and think your kids are cute. Do personalize: I saw a tweet last week that said you were interested in fairy tale retellings and thought my retelling of Thumbelina would interest you.

The research will take up a fair bit of time. But if you don’t find the right agent for your current project, you have the list for your next project (if it’s the same genre).

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Writing vs Having Children

The next part on querying is coming...I promise. I’ve been busy in the trenches querying and trying to write the next story in the series that I’m proposing.

In the meantime, here’s something I hope brings a smile to your face (and please don’t take it literally, this is meant to be fun).

Writing is similar to having children in several ways.

1. Your latest work in progress can keep you up at night or wake you at weird hours.
I don’t miss the days of babies waking me at all hours. Now I stay up late because I’m on a roll writing or I get thinking of an idea/character/plot and can’t sleep.

2. We lose touch with friends or only see them occasionally.
Parenting takes a lot of time and energy and sometimes we don’t have time or energy left to hang out with friends. Writing is much the same. Many of us write in our spare time, which can come at the expense of friend time. When a writer becomes engrossed in a work in progress, many other things can fall to the side for a while.

3. You forget to eat or do housework.
This relates to above. For writers, when you're on a roll, you think, I’ll eat when I finish this part. Well, three hours later you realize that you still haven’t eaten. I often head to bed after writing and think about the laundry I forgot to put on.

4. When it’s new, we want to spend all our time with it.
That sweet newborn is just so cuddly, you want to snuggle it a lot. When you’re in the initial stages of writing a story, that’s all you want to do.

5. Some days it’s really hard and all you want to do is lock yourself in the bathroom.
There are times where I wonder if I suck as a parent, there’s days I wonder if I suck at writing. Those are the days I want to climb into bed, pull the covers over my head, and hide from the world while drinking a bottle of wine.

6. It’s an emotional roller coaster.
There are so many ups and downs in parenting. You’re proud of your children, you fear for them, they drive you insane, you love them so much it makes you crazy. Oddly enough, writers go through a lot of ups and downs too. You love your manuscript, you hate it, you think it rocks, you’d love to burn it. There are times when you love and hate it at the same time. Then there’s the emotional journey of putting your work out there, trying to get an agent/publisher, etc.

7. Unless your friends are also writers or parents, they often don’t understand.
When I had my first child, I wanted to call all my friends who had children before me and my mother to apologize. I thought I was understanding of my friends with children. There’s no way you can know until you have your own. Writing is the same. The hours, months or years we spend pouring over a work, analyzing every detail, the pain in rejection letters, if you haven’t experienced it, you can’t completely understand.

Are there any similarities I missed?

Friday, May 15, 2015


It’s been about a year since I picked up my first manuscript again, dusted it off, and revised it. It's been an interesting journey since then and can't believe how much I've learned and grown.

I started querying my vampire manuscript last September. As much as I want it to be picked up, I know vampires are a tough sell right now. I really love this story and believe in it, so I'm not giving up. However, I've learned so much that I see ways to improve the story that require another revision, or three, so I've stopped querying it for now.

What else have I accomplished in the past year?

I’ve written the sequel to my vampire novel. It’s still in rough draft but once I get the first manuscript fixed, then I can work on the sequel. There’s at least two more books planned for this series. No matter what the outcome is of the original manuscript, I will write them. If I don’t, the characters will hound me to finish their story.

When I finished my vampire sequel, I wrote a new urban fantasy novel. The idea came from the title of a non-fiction book. I read the title and thought, ‘That sounds like a good book,’ not knowing it was non-fiction until I looked at it. Well, since it wasn’t the book I envisioned, I went ahead and wrote what I thought the book would be about. At this time, I’m getting ready to do the final proofread and start querying it.

Querying my vampire manuscript was an amazing learning experience. Heading into querying my new novel, I'm better prepared. I know more about researching agents and writing a query letter (though it's still not easy).

I also bit the bullet and joined Twitter, which I blogged about (see the post here). I’ve made some new friends and found encouragement among other writers when I struggled. I also really enjoy the monthly #SFFlunch chats that World Weaver Press does. If you write fantasy or sci-fi, think about stopping by for one. I mainly joined to follow agents and participate in the pitch parties (#PitMad, #SFFPit, #adpit, etc) where you pitch your book and through the day, literary agents take a peek to see if there’s anything that interests them.

There has been a lot of learning this past year. I attended a workshop with Brian Henry of the Quick Brown Fox blog and have another one coming up. I’ve been reading and talking to writers and literary agents (mostly via Twitter), gathering tons of information I can use in my own work. My email is crammed with posts from blogs I subscribe to, everything from literary agents to writers dispensing useful advice.

I'm looking forward to see where the coming year takes me.