Susan Speaks: More Interviews!

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The cover of Trevor’s Song, because that novel is as personal as this post. If you’ve read it, please leave a review! If you haven’t, grab a copy at your favorite retailer.

I don’t usually get this personal when I give interviews. I don’t like to, and I often skip them. I encourage all authors to draw their own boundaries about what they will and won’t talk about, and I encourage their/our hosts to allow them/us to do so.

But something compelled me in this media query. Maybe it’s my own need to finally share with the world my real perspectives and my real truths, things I’ve kept hidden from all of you but increasingly not to myself. Maybe I’m making up for fifteen years of hiding.

Or maybe I just feel comfortable talking about it at last. Certainly, my truth may be another’s lifeline, salvation, or help. Hell, maybe it’ll inspire some fiction, and that’s the best compliment an editor like me can get.

The article is up at Reader’s Digest. I’ll let you click through and read it, not because it’s too horrible and personal to talk about but because a reporter did some good work and you should check it out and give her props for it. Fiction ain’t the only kind of writing I love and respect (it’s just my preferred type of writing to work on), and I encourage you to seek out good writing and good reporting wherever you can.

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#SaysTheEditor Yes, You Need Me

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I got a call for guest bloggers last week. I’m not telling you directly about it because:
1: The call was for Pittsburgh-based folks, and most of you aren’t Pittsburgh-based
and (here’s the key)
2: It was full of grammatical errors.

Why would I encourage anyone to be associated with a group that’s trying to curate an unpaid writing staff, but can’t be bothered with proofreading the job packet? Why would I take the time to write a post or two for them, using my strict standards for grammar and punctuation, and… let them possibly change that up and make me look bad?

One or two typos… that’s one thing, in certain circumstances. Like a blog post, a Facebook status, even sometimes (*cough*) a Tweet. (Typos, folks, not a lack of knowledge of homophones.)

But from a professional organization? Looking for writers?

Yeah. No thanks.

I came this close to sending them an e-mail offering to proofread for them. It didn’t take long to decide not to. After all, my fiction clients keep me gloriously busy* and fiction is my passion. I’m about making the best book possible, not about hitching myself to a company, while local, that would probably thank me and tell me to contact them when I wanted to submit unpaid blog posts to them.

So… as you consider publicity (and even publications!) for yourself, look hard at the source. Is their copy sloppy, riddled with errors? If so, how will they make YOU look to others?

Bottom line: You can write the best book possible, but if people aren’t helping you look your best, it’s not in your best interests. Publicity or no, walk away.

.
* That said, this is always a good time to add your manuscript to my queue, or to ask for a sample if we haven’t worked together yet.

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Clicky Clicky!

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Yes, that’s an invitation.

My new site design went live just now — well, last night most likely — and I’m showing it off.

There are, of course and as always, some bugs to work out. I know some links are broken. It might even be more than some.

BUT, to celebrate and to invite you to look things over, I’m making you an offer, one I hope you won’t refuse:

Either 50 pages edited for free

OR

$50 off your edit

IF you find the most typos on the site.

Now, the blog archives are HUGE. They go back almost eleven and a half years. So I don’t expect you to wade through all of them (especially because that’s where the most broken links are). But if you want to, there’s a lot of work in the past eleven and a half years that I’m proud of. A lot of fiction, even, if you are thinking of hiring me or never really paid attention to my writing chops because you’re so focused on my editing skills.

Those of you who know me well know that despite the prickly exterior, I’m generous and a softie at heart. Which means that maybe there are going to be more than zero free or discounted edits offered around here. I’m not promising anything because it depends on how generous a mood I find myself in, but…

That’s the offer.

Either 50 pages edited free or $50 off your whole thing.

You choose.

Have fun checking out the new site.

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#SaysTheEditor Series Book Two (or Three, or Four or…)

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I did it. I really did.

Over at GoodReads, I gave one star to a book I’d picked up without realizing it was the second in a series. The book had arrived here years ago, back during my crazy book trading days, and had sat and waited for me to finally read it. And this past week was finally its time.

So I looked it over. “Are you part of a series?” I asked it.

It’s a book, so it didn’t answer. Go figure.

And maybe I should have looked it up online, but it was late, I wanted to crawl in bed and read, and hey, the book wasn’t showing in any way that it was part of a series.

I spent seven pages constantly wondering a rousing WTF before I gave up. I had zero clue what was going on in this book… it was a cluster of words and images I couldn’t make heads or tails out of. When I realized that the first chapter didn’t explain things any better than the prologue had, I gave up.

It wasn’t until I logged on to GoodReads that I realized it wasn’t a standalone book. Which explained much, but…

And here’s the point of my post:

As authors, you owe at least a hint that your reader is now holding Number Whatever. Publishers need to mark books clearly (does anyone think that maybe this is partly why some authors get hit with the dreaded “bad sales” label).

I am often asked by clients how much of the first book or books is enough, how much is too much, how much is not enough. That’s not something that can actually be quantified, because every book is different, every book in a series relies on its predecessors differently, and not every series builds the same way. Like everything else, the answer to “how much” is entirely subjective.

Obviously, that’s where a good editor (ahem) can help. Getting it right can be hard, and an experienced set of eyes is always a good thing.

But more to the point, this is a good one to run past your beta readers. “Do you need more of the past history” is a completely valid question to ask a beta, especially if the beta hasn’t read the previous books. Ask and encourage them to mark up the spots where they get lost, or where a little more explanation (but never an info dump!) is needed. And remember that you may get different answers from readers who’re familiar with your series than you will get from new readers. Finding the balance between those two needs is your goal. Enough to catch a new reader up, but not so much that you bore your reader.

I don’t feel good about that one-star review. I thought about not reviewing the book at all, but I’d promised myself that I’d leave even a short review for every book I read in 2017. And I made it clear in that review that you can’t read this book without having read the first — and that I think the author (and in this case, the publisher) have an obligation to help a new reader into the world. Not that I need a complete recap or background, but it would have entirely changed my reading experience if I’d known even a little bit of what was going on with the swirling colors and the loss of magic and who these people were and why I should care.

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Featured New Book Spotlight: Eternal Curse: Giovanni’s Angel by Toi Thomas

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Let’s welcome author Toi Thomas to West of Mars! Toi stopped in last week to see what song made her friend Alex think of his book and decided to hang around and step into the spotlight, herself.

Brave woman!

Let’s get right to it: Toi, what song makes you think of your book?

When I wrote the story, Eternal Curse: Giovanni’s Angel, that of a gray man and his search for a purpose and transformation; romance was the last thing on my mind. During the developmental stage, I realized that Giovanni needed a new relationship to replace one that was fading. I wanted it to be a friendship, but with the new character being a likable and attractive woman (not a bombshell by far) soon romance was on the page.

There’s a scene where Giovanni is drawn to the woman, Mira, who has left him temporarily and gone to another state. It was the next scene that made me realize that this friendship was a romance. Giovanni finds Mira across many miles, when he’s not even looking for her, because of a compulsion. Later, I heard the song, When Can I See You by Babyface. That scene came back to me and I thought, “Giovanni just couldn’t wait to see Mira again.”

Ooh, this sounds by turns deep, spiritual, uplifting, and maybe even a little bit scary. Don’t believe me? Check out the description!

“You have plenty of time to change your mind. You have not yet seen the monster I can be.” — Giovanni

Giovanni has been waiting his whole life to meet someone like Mira, someone from the outside world who might be able to help him. He wonders if there really is help for him as he continues to hold tightly onto dark secrets and even darker memories. Giovanni wants to be hopeful and he wants to accept Mira’s help, but first he has to look himself in the mirror and face what he truly is- and that is a reality no one is quite ready to accept.

Searching for new purpose and meaning in her life, Mira meets Giovanni online and an exciting and, in some ways, scary friendship is developed. Mira decides one day to meet Giovanni in person, at his secluded country home, in order to aid him on his journey of self-discovery. What these two are able to discover will not only test their strength and will, but it will stretch the limits of their minds and catapult them into a world where earth, Heaven, and Hell collide.

Giovanni’s Angel is the story of a man who may just be the answer to a spiritual war swiftly heading his way- but for now, he just wants to be a man.

Do you need to read this book? I think I do! And you know what else I need to do? Check out more Babyface; I’ve never really explored his music, but hearing him take on James Taylor? You betcha. That’s how you open doors and get someone to listen to a new artist: expose ’em to a cover of a song that’s got some sort of attachment and make ’em curious. I approve!

Pick up your copy of Eternal Curse: Giovanni’s Curse:
Amazon
Createspace

Connect with Toi; she seems really cool!
Website/Blog: The ToiBox of Words
Toi Thomas Facebook Fan Page
@toithomas on Twitter
GoodReads
YouTube Channel
Pinterest
Amazon Author Page

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#SaysTheEditor Author Privacy

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This is a sticky wicket, but it’s happened to me and it’s happened to some of my clients, so I’m going to address it: the issue of privacy.

Now, as an editor, I rarely give out the names of my clients. I have a few I go to for references and there’s a number of folk who’ve linked to me on their Amazon and/or GoodReads pages. I’ve either discussed that with the author beforehand (in the case of references) or am pleasantly surprised when authors link to me, tweet about me, blog about me. But note that it’s always their choice whether or not they are going to talk about our relationship. Some authors — perhaps many — prefer to hold their professional associations close to their hearts. And that’s fine.

Where it gets more difficult is when authors (and sometimes, me as editor) are asked to divulge personal information. What constitutes personal varies by person, of course. For some, it’s asking where you live. For others, it’s your biggest regret, your fondest wish for life. Some authors may not want to reveal their favorite book.

Reasons for this, as with everything else, vary. Stalkers and trolls abound. What if you mention the wrong book and lose a reader over it? What if your lifelong dream is something that will be fodder for ridicule? What if you say something that inadvertently opens you up to legal trouble, or an uncomfortable and dangerous situation down the road?

Of course, it’s fun to read the answers, especially if you like the vibe of a new-to-you author, or if the author is someone whose books you adore and whose interviews you’ve read in the past.

While I’m able to see both sides of this issue, if you’re an author who wants to bow out of answering something, I encourage you to do so. Your writing is what should matter, even in this day and age of social media. You need to be safe, to feel safe, to know that no deranged reader is going to give out your home address or tell their troll friends how to drive you over the edge.

So for bloggers or journalists, if someone declines to answer, rather than publishing the request to decline to answer, would you please consider editing your interview so that the reader doesn’t even know the question was there? Yes, even if it’s your trademark question, such as boxers or briefs — it seems fun, but as authors, we know too well how one offhand comment can come back to haunt you in horrible ways. If you’re not sure about that, read Stephen King.

A little bit of respect, folks, for the need to be private in a transparent age. Angry readers HAVE shown up on authors’ and reviewers’ doorsteps. Let’s respect the wishes of those who don’t want that to happen to them.

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Another Promo Opportunity for Authors!

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Seems like a good time to remind us all that many of our fellow authors rely on grants from the NEA and NEH to help pay the bills.

In addition to Lines of Distinction and the Featured New Book Spotlight, both of which always have openings for authors of all ilk, I’ve got news today of a site that loves to post author interviews. And they make it super easy!

The site is called The Book Squirrel. Know going in, my friends, that they consider themselves to be family-friendly, so that means:

I will not feature erotica, violence, or covers that are erotic/look like porn.

Got that? I expect you to honor that.

Seriously.

After that, though, things are pretty easy. There’s a choice of questions and you answer up to ten of them, then submit. Provide the buy links for your book and your social links and voila. Interview completed.

It’s easy, and I’m all about easy, so I encourage you guys to take the time and answer the questions.

As always, remember to tell your reader base where to go in order to visit the site and see your answers for themselves. And if you’re so inclined to add The Book Squirrel to your reader and discover new stuff, well, I highly encourage that, too! Remember that to be part of the community, you have to act like part of the community.

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Featured New Book Spotlight: Dragon of the Stars by Alex J Cavanaugh

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Let’s welcome Alex J Cavanaugh to West of Mars! Alex is a tour de force in the publishing world right now, involved with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and visible in many other places. He’s one of those folk you want to know!

So, Alex, what song makes you think of your book?

The song that inspired the story in the beginning – Dragon on the Sea by Ayereon. The lyrics tell the story of Queen Elizabeth sending Sir Francis Drake to defend England in the 16th century. I began to envision the story set in space. Only the man sent by the queen isn’t the dragon–he is seeking the Dragon, a lost ship of unimaginable power that could win the war. And I took the line ‘You will never be the same…’ to a new level.

I like taking history and giving it a new twist! And the song itself is great, too. Completely new to me, at first I thought it was some techno song. But nope! It’s as surprising and twist-filled as Alex’s take on history.

Here’s the official description:

The ship of legends…

The future is set for Lt. Commander Aden Pendar, son of a Hyrathian Duke. He’s poised to secure his own command and marriage to the queen’s daughter. He’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

But when the Alliance denies Hyrath’s claim on the planet of Kavil and declares war on their world, Aden finds his plans in disarray. Entrenched in battle and told he won’t make captain, Aden’s world begins to collapse. How will he salvage his career and future during Hyrath’s darkest hour?

One chance remains–the Dragon. Lost many years prior, the legendary ship’s unique weapon is Hyrath’s only hope. Can Aden find the Dragon, save his people, and prove he’s capable of commanding his own ship?

Even if I didn’t know this was based on history, I’d be intrigued enough to pick it up. I love a great space opera and this just hit the right notes for me. If it does for you, too, pick up a copy:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

ITunes

Kobo

Chapters

Amazon UK

Overdrive

Books-A-Million print

Audio book:

ITunes

Amazon

Audible

And be sure to connect with Alex. He’s a great dude, and the IWSG might be just what you need for your own writing endeavors.
blog

Companion site

Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Twitter

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Call for Submissions: Short Stories

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This is an anthology I’m featured it. It was unjuried and authors were invited to submit. But still! It’s a publication credit, and don’t discount those.

I have some very dear friends in publishing, and because they are dear friends, I’m always happy to share news of what they are up to. This one, however, I almost didn’t talk about, simply because I don’t want to expand the pool of submissions and make it that much harder for myself to make the cut. See how much faith I have in you guys?

But then my sense of fairness kicked in and if it’s good for me, you know it’s good for you. So here you go.

Running Wild Press has put out a call for submissions for a new short story anthology. This will be their second, so you’ll be getting in on the ground floor of something pretty special. Or maybe not the ground floor, but the first floor, right? Because it’s the second anthology and the first was the ground floor…

Yeah, yeah. You’re not here for a close-up look into the demented world of Susan’s brain (but it’s such a good editorial brain!). You’re here for the deets and the links.

I don’t know much else. There’s no talk of payment, so I’d expect that’s not something that should motivate you to submit or not.

What there is talk of is genre. And here’s what they say about that:

Genre agnostic. Great writing and great stories that cross genres.

Now, to me, that’s pretty contradictory. Are we agnostic, or do we want to cross? One or the other, please! Or… as I ultimately decided, maybe they just want really good fiction and won’t care if it’s agnostic or if the story’s been colored outside the lines.

Oh, and a 15,000 word limit, too, so you have plenty of room to have fun and play.

Submit via Submittable before September 15.

Good luck, and if you make the cut, be sure to let me know so we can all cheer you on!

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Featured New Book Spotlight: Chain Reaction by Wendy Goult

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Welcome Wendy Goult to West of Mars! She popped in via Twitter, so even if you’re not currently promoting a new book, keep helping spread the word. I do like to give presents to friends and clients who refer a lot of new people my way, either for this or for editing services.

Her book is called Chain Reaction, and she didn’t say a lot about why she picked her song. In fact, she didn’t say anything. She simply said, “Jealousy, by Billy Fury” and left it at that.

Check. This. Song. Out.

I love it. Total old school. And you know what? It doesn’t need an explanation. Wendy, you are the woman!

Here’s what Chain Reaction is about:

Do you believe or even think there might be life after death? We all have our opinions on this conundrum. Chain Reaction takes up the challenge in admirable style and gives an acceptable insight into what it could be like to be ‘on the other side’. We follow the chain of events that occur after Kate Maple arrives in her after life with no recollection of how or why it happened and who killed her. The story weaves through the lives of friends, family, witnesses and suspects exposing vulnerabilities and associated threats. Even the police are not immune. Their frustrations, reactions, emotions and attractions show they are human too. This is no sugary, endless fields of flowers, birds and butterflies tale but draws the reader into a story of illicit love and secrecy, a love betrayed and a rage that takes away all reason but which ultimately leads the reader into a sense of wellbeing.

Need a copy? It’s paperback only, and the listing takes you to the UK Amazon site, but there’s a note that says it can be delivered to select locations. If you’re in one, pick this one up, give it a read, and be sure to let us know what you thought — reviews are always helpful and appreciated not only by authors but future readers, as well.

Jealousy… oh, that’s a catchy tune…

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#SaystheEditor Unintended Verbal Warfare

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This one showed up, of course, on Facebook. It was from someone who claimed to be genuinely curious about what peoples’ “excuses” were for missing the anti-hate rallies scheduled around town.

I put excuses in quotes for a very deliberate reason. (Those of you who’ve worked with me will recognize how badly I HATE words in quotes, so you know it’s a major thing I am calling your attention to.)

Here’s how Webster’s defines excuse:

1a: to make apology for
b: to try to remove blame from

2: to forgive entirely or disregard as of trivial import : regard as excusable graciously excused his tardiness

3a : to grant exemption or release to was excused from jury duty
b : to allow to leave excused the class

4: to serve as excuse for : justify nothing can excuse such neglect

Look at all those weighted words! to make apology for or trivial interest or justify nothing can excuse such neglect.

Those aren’t words that help define a genuine interest. Those definitions show that the woman’s word choice was verbal warfare. By using excuse instead of reason, she set her position out there: Nothing you say will be good enough.

She also set herself up as the arbiter of what might maybe be good enough. Judge, jury, and executioner? One look at the comments and yes, she was.

In your fiction, look out for words like these, words that are loaded with more meaning than you maybe intend them to have. Be aware of how words and phrases show your — yes, you, the author! — perspective, politics, and worldview. Stay alert for how these words can undermine your entire meaning, your character’s authenticity, or even the reader’s experience.

Because no reader likes to be bullied. But when you’re asked for an excuse instead of a reason, no matter how well-intentioned the rest of the request is, you’re only setting yourself up if you answer.

Stay alert. In real life and in your fiction. Be on the lookout for the language that divides us and stirs up the art of verbal warfare.

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#SaysTheEditor Writing Your Climax

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I can just HEAR you guys about my post title here. I totally can. So go and flood my inbox and we’ll do a Beavis and Butt-head chuckle together.

Heh heh.

Anyway, I’m just going to take this verbatim from my notes. I don’t remember what sparked it, only that it wasn’t about a manuscript I was working on. If anything, it was an explanation of why I liked the climax in that particular manuscript so much. So here it is:

Action climaxes shouldn’t be like a fireworks finale, where the air is full of smoke and the techs set off firework on top of firework until you can’t see anything but big flashes of light and a smear of color through the smoke.

Even the climax should advance the story and illustrate characterization. It can’t be mass violence for the sake of mass violence.

I’ll let you think about that. Discuss in the comments, if you’re so inclined.

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Featured New Book Spotlight: Where’d You Go?

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Oh, no! After two weeks, the Featured New Book Spotlight is back to dark.

I don’t like it dark.

I like it when I can feature YOU. And your book, of course. Okay, mostly your book.

And a song that makes you think of your book.

That’s it. It’s that simple.

Well, okay, some buy links, too. And links to social media, so people can connect with you and you can make long-lasting fans.

IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU HERE IN THE SPOTLIGHT!!!

So tell your friends. It’s free, unless you want a specific date (and it’s always free for my editing clients).

It’s supposed to be quick and easy. One question. In. Out. Done. And it’s one that should be fresh, one that doesn’t get asked by every single other interviewer out there.

Here’s the details. Really. Spread the word. Hog the spotlight, if only for a week.

You deserve it.

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Call for Submissions!

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So I like bringing you guys opportunities to further your writing and/or your careers — because the world deserves the best writing we (yes, me included in that) can offer.

Except that by telling you about them, unless it’s my own site, I can’t really endorse them. I mean, most of what I bring to you is stuff I come across, not opportunities for promotion or calls for submissions that I have personal experience with. Which means you should always, always vet an opportunity carefully, even though I’ve already looked things over and decided that hey, they look pretty solid.

Today’s entry fits that category: I looked ’em over but have no personal experience with them.

Crystal Lake Publishing will be opening their submissions on October 1 of this year. I know! That’s a month and a half away, so why am I telling you about it now?

So you can write something, silly. Pull out something you’d set aside and polish it up. Whatever it is you have to do.

They ARE looking for haunting stories. Not necessarily ghosts, but something that’ll stick with the reader. And yes, they want it dark-themed (but no, although the anthology will be called Tales from the Lake, they aren’t looking for stories with lakes).

So that’s the bare bones, no pun intended. I’ll let you go over to Crystal Lake Publishing and read their call for submissions. You’re big people and you’re professional writers. You can do some of the leg work yourself.

Have fun. Let me know if you need a set of eyeballs on your piece before you submit it, and definitely let me know if you’re accepted.

Now, go rule the world with your literary stylings. That’s an order.

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Susan’s Decoder Ring: “On Many Sides”

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For better or for worse, there’s something about me that’s Edward Cullen glitter to narcissists. They love the challenge I pose, and they always approach me knowing I can see straight through them. That gives me a lot of power over them.

But now with a Commander in Narcissism at the helm and influencing more than just real estate, it’s time to teach you guys how to use the Magic Decoder Ring that all of us who’ve survived narcissistic abuse learn to create.

Let’s start with the speech the other day. The one that was carefully scripted — until the end. And if you watch carefully, you can see when the decision to add “on many sides” is made. You can see the smug face that no narcissist can hide after they’ve lobbed one they know will be successful.

But here’s the thing about those three words: The fact that they pissed off half of America, if not all of it and if not a good cross-section of the world, was a bonus. A calculated and deliberate bonus, sure, and here’s why:

It was very clear that our NPD’s handlers had been very clear about the importance that he read the statement, only the statement, and nothing but the statement. What makes it clear? The fact that it happened.

But right there at the end, just as everyone relaxed — hey, he did it! He listened! He behaved! — he slipped those three words in. Frustrated hands flew in the air. Disgust crossed faces. Handlers and advisors turned on each other, screaming, pointing fingers and flinging blame that you couldn’t control him and Eff you, I did everything I could! No one can control that bastard!

I’ve witnessed these scenes. They’re not pretty.

And the narcissist loves them. Feeds on them, even.

Because the narcissist has no conscience. There’s no distinction between positive attention and negative attention. So all the NPD processes is, “Look at that reaction! I really riled them up and I’d only do that if they loved me.”

And don’t forget the bonus: “While they’re going on about how great my speech was, no one will pay attention while I do this over here. It’s okay that it’s illegal. They love me! They won’t mind. Besides, look at them. They don’t care what I do.”

That’s the easy part. The part any psychologist can tell you.

Now, listen up to the deeper part. This is the part the survivor can tell you.

That’s the message that was sent to the speechwriter: MY contribution was the best. The part I added? Got the biggest reaction. And because mine was better, yours sucked. It was inadequate. You are nothing next to me.

Logic says if the NPD isn’t happy with the speech that was written, the speechwriter would be fired.

But… this is narcissism. And one of the best things a narcissist does is play with the victim’s emotions. Which means not only will that speechwriter stay around, but his/her inability to write a speech as good as the NPD’s is something that will be held over his/her head… forever.

Why put up with it?

Because at the same time is the challenge: top me. C’mon. I know you can. I hired you because of how good you are. You are the exact person I need. (But really. I’m the best. Not you. Me.)

It’s a sick cycle that victim and NPD engage in. It’s blood to the vampiric NPD, so they’re not going to end it. The victim has to stand up and leave the relationship.

I know. You think all this is a stretch.

But stay with me. I’ll keep outlining the message of narcissistic abuse as they happen or are revealed. You’ll learn to see the pattern. You’ll learn to see how the gaslighting works, how the abuse happens. Narcissistic abuse is the most insidious of all forms of abuse, but it’s time to step out of the shadows and show you how it works. How to defuse it, and how to identify it so you can save yourself from being its victim.

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Featured New Book Spotlight: Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar: A historically accurate retelling of the ninth book of the Gesta Danorum by Rachel Tsoumbakos

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I LOVE having books to feature around here, and I’m glad to see submissions rolling in. Keep ’em coming, so keep spreading the word.

Today we have one of my friends from Triberr, and although this book has a super long title, I’m fascinated just by the concept of it. It seems (to me, anyway) that lately, we’ve been learning that Vikings are more than just all rape-pillage-boats-conquer-wear hats with horns. And this book definitely helps us learn more than the old-time stereotype.

The book is called Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha and Ragnar: A historically accurate retelling of the ninth book of the Gesta Danorum. (Did anyone else not know what a Gesta Danorum is, or am I deficient?)

So. Author Rachel Tsoumbakos, what song makes you think of this incredibly ambitious-sounding book?

If I Had A Heart by Fever Ray

Not only is this song included in the opening credits to History Channel’s Vikings, but the theme of the song feels like it is on a very similar trajectory to that of Lagertha and Ragnar’s love story in my novel. Vikings: The Truth about Lagertha and Ragnar delves into their story and tries to shed some light onto the real version rather than the one shown on TV. Even though both characters are faced with many obstacles in their relationship, like the line “crushed and filled with all I found,” they still care for each other. They still feel the need their love “will never end” because they want more. However, it is never quite clear until the very end of their Viking saga whether their story will have a happy ending or not.

But… it’s a romance between Lagertha and Ragnar, right? But… it’s also real life, so…

Ugh. Now I NEED to read this!

Here’s the back cover copy:

Lagertha was known to be one of the wives of the famous Viking, Ragnar Lodbrok. But did you know they first met each other at a brothel? And just how long did their marriage last? Was Lagertha really the revered shield maiden we see her as today? ‘Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar’ aims to unravel all these secrets.

‘Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar’ is so much more than a history book though.

In Part One their story is brought to life with a historically accurate retelling. Part Two then explores the historical facts surrounding this story.

‘Vikings: The Truth About Lagertha And Ragnar’ aims to discover just how much of what we know of the shield maiden, Lagertha, and the famous Ragnar Lodbrok in popular culture today is actually true.

‘The Truth About’ series explores the historical fact from present day fiction in regards to the Vikings and other key historical figures that existed in the Viking era.

Pick up your copy. It’s Amazon-only, so know that going in.

And if you do read it, be sure to leave a review! If not at the place of purchase, then consider GoodReads or the other social book networks, or if you ask nicely, I’ll loan you my blog for a day. Reviews help books find new friends!

Connect with Rachel, too. (She writes amazing reviews of popular TV shows, and I recommend them!)
Website
Facebook
Twitter

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Susan’s Promo Tales: Two Opportunities for Authors!

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The cover to my friend Sharon Cathcart’s fun novelette. Pick it up! (That’s an affiliate link)

Not only are there openings for the Featured New Book Spotlight and Lines of Distinction that I’d LOVE to fill (hint!), but once again, my buddy and name-sharing author friend Susan Leigh Noble is looking to feature authors, herself. She’s looking for excerpts, guest blog posts, and interviews. She likes to post these on Fridays, whereas the Featured New Book Spotlight runs on Mondays and Lines of Distinction runs any day I have an opening — but Susan will hold certain Tuesdays for blog tours, cover reveals, and publication announcements.

So there you have it. Two Susans, both offering our author buddies (existing and brand new) promo opportunities.

How can you go wrong?

Go here to learn more about what Susan’s got for you.
And once more for the Featured New Book Spotlight and Lines of Distinction.

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Susan Speaks: The July-August Crush

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The cover for the anthology in which Pink Snowbunnies in Hell appears because August is the month it was chosen for inclusion.

No one’s been able to explain it, but historically, July, August, and September are my busiest months of the year. My theory has to do with vacations, wanting to get the book done so you can not worry about it while you’re gone, but September?

At any rate, I’m so swamped right now that authors are clamoring for me, the $75 rush fee that I charge when you want to skip to the head of the line has kicked in, and more than one client is paying it. That has me working crazy hours and too many days a week.

And I love every second of it. My clients are sending me truly strong, well-written manuscripts that make the hours fly and consistently have me looking up and wondering where the day has gone. So much for that bike ride I’d promised myself! That’s got to happen after dinner — which the kids make because I’m in here, working.

Of course, all of this is a great way to say that right now, I’m being crushed with work. And that I love it. And to keep it coming. I can maybe kinda sorta see the end of the queue, and to be honest, I do like it when I can see a longer stack of manuscripts waiting for me. Job security. You know how it is.

I have a million things to talk about, and I’m keeping careful notes and drafts that I’m not fully satisfied with. Just for now, keep sending your manuscripts. Keep telling your friends about me.

And, of course, submit more for The Featured New Book Spotlight and Lines of Distinction. In amid my crush is the simple pleasure of taking a few minutes to schedule a post highlighting some of the great books being written and published of late.

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Featured New Book Spotlight: Bolt Action Remedy by JJ Hensley

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Let’s welcome my dear friend JJ Hensley to the Featured New Book Spotlight today!

JJ’s cool. If you don’t follow him on Facebook or Twitter, you should. He’s got a very dry, acerbic sense of humor that slays me, time after time.

And… he’s got a new book out. It’s called Bolt Action Remedy, and let’s sit back and see what JJ’s got to say about it. I bet it’s funny.

First off, what song makes you think of Bolt Action Remedy, JJ?

My first novel, RESOLVE, was set against that backdrop of a marathon. Ever since writing that book, I’d been looking for a way to integrate another endurance sport into a story but with more intensity. I incorporated biathlon (skiing and shooting) into the setting because if you are going to write a murder mystery then why not give EVERYONE a gun. As I researched biathlon, I came to truly appreciate the intensity and speed of the sport. So whenever I hear the song Joyride (Omen) by Chevelle, I feel the intensity I tried to capture on the pages.

The song itself captures some of the internal struggles of the protagonist, Trevor Galloway. Joyride is about the difficulty of letting go of the past (or, in Galloway’s case, the past refusing to let him go) and the fast tempo gives the song the feel of a race.

The music I listen to is so important to my writing process. I visualize my stories as movies and each of them has a soundtrack. The songs I hear in my mind (shut up, I’m not crazy) really assist me in developing the tone I’m looking for in particular scenes. Sometimes I’ll be listening to a song and think, That’s the mood I want the readers to feel when they read chapter two! It’s not surprising that most of the music I listen to is fast-paced rock, since I do everything I can to keep my stories moving along at a good clip. Fortunately, I’ve been able to construct my books in a way that readers don’t have to particularly care about marathons or biathlon, or like rock music, and they can still get caught up in the mystery. I THINK Bolt Action Remedy and my next book, Record Scratch (Spring 2018) are my best work thus far. If not, I guess I better shake up my playlist!

JJ and I often have similiar tastes in music, but I’m just not there with the Chevelle. Are you? Not familiar with them? Check it out and see if JJ’s right, that it works with his book!

Here’s the official description:

Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: Skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.

Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.

In Bolt Action Remedy, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.

Mmmmm. I love people who write about Western Pennsylvania. And, like I said, JJ is great people.

Join me in the love. While the book won’t be released until October, you can (and should!) preorder it now. Here are the links:
Smashwords *Affiliate link
Amazon
Barnes and Noble

Connect with JJ and enjoy the wit! (Seriously. You’ll be glad you did.)
Website
Blog- Steel City Intrigue
Facebook
Twitter

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#SaystheEditor Don’t Tell Me What She Sees

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Strangely, I’ve been seeing this one a lot lately, mostly from some of my younger writers.

She saw him enter the room.

Umm… Okay…

I get it. You’re worried about point of view, because I am a stickler for POV. (Okay, I point it out and it’s up to my clients to change it. I’m an editor, not a drill sergeant and not a dictator.) So you want to make sure it all comes through the screen of your POV character.

BUT.

You’re telling me what she saw. You’re not showing it.

He entered the room with a flourish, jazz hands flapping until they froze into place. One leg extended, toe inside the bulky hiking boot as pointed as it could get and ever-so-gently touching the tile floor.

It’s still the narrator’s sensibility. You haven’t broken POV at all. In fact, you’re sharing a deeper POV with us, by letting us see him in action. The details the narrator and/or POV character choose to show wind up revealing things to the reader. Maybe a different POV character or narrator would tell us about the guy’s hair. Or clothes. Or his sparkling eyes. Or. Or. Or.

So take a minute and go back through your Work in Progress. Are you telling me what the character says? What he knows?

He knew the sun would be hot in the morning. versus The sun would be hot in the morning; it always was at the end of July.

Try and get away from those telling statements. Show. Take a few minutes and play with your descriptions. Show me the colors, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the feel. Maybe (read: definitely!) not all at once, but reach for those sharp, pointed, telling details that paint a picture.

Your reader will thank you.

So will I.

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