Featured New Book Spotlight: Love Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me by Lyndi Alexander

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Featured New Book Spotlight

Let’s welcome Lyndi Alexander to West of Mars! Lyndi and I have known each other for years now and I think she’s pretty darn cool. I bet you will, too — and that you’re going to love her song!

Her book is called Love Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me, and it’s been around awhile. We’re good with that because it’s new to me! It’s got to be new to some of you guys, too.

So what’s the song that makes you think of your book, Lyndi?

Anything from Phantom of the Opera. LOVE ME, KISS ME, KILL ME is the story of Sara Woods, who is innocently drawn into a mystery of deadly proportion, just as Christine was in the musical. I listened extensively to the soundtrack while writing the story, and can still suddenly be in the middle of one scene or another if I hear the music. Life is never what it seems, and trusting too soon can be dangerous.

The haunting quality of the Andrew Lloyd Webber creation inspires me–Sara’s journey will do the same for the reader.

But… but… there’s no one song I can link to! Here’s the theme song, such as it is, performed — by all people! — by Nicole Scherzinger. Who knew she had such pipes? She’s also lucky enough to sing with FOUR different men who played the Phantom (although damn, this one dude belongs in Les Miz and I wish I knew all their names ’cause I’d like to hear more of them). So enjoy this and check out the rest of the soundtrack.

(It has been so long since I’ve heard this, I’ve forgotten how powerful the music is. This is going to be a hell of a book Lyndi’s written.)

Ready for the description:

A bad divorce, a broken heart, a need to begin again.

These three things propel reporter Sara Woods to leave her comfortable position working for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and take the first news job that comes along, working as the new reporter for small-town Ohio’s Ralston Courier. Ralston is a sleepy little town that doesn’t seem to have much to offer this big-city girl, but her very first assignment is to investigate a dead body, a young woman found half-frozen on the side of a country road.

But soon the story on this body ties in with others, and she finds herself scrambling to come up with a common link among the dead other than the fact that they’re all young women Sara’s age.

Still recovering from a previous auto accident and struggling with chronic pain, she becomes a patient at the Goldstone Clinic, a local mecca of healing.

But all is not as it seems at the Goldstone, its doctors and nurses are all the picture of perfect beauty and health. Patients at the clinic first seem to get better, then they deteriorate. Sara enlists the help of Dr. Rick Paulsen, a doctor at the city hospital who shares her concern about the deaths of the young women, one of whom was his own patient. He teaches her through Eastern techniques how to access her internal power, skills she never knew she had, revealing secrets from her past.

Police officer Brendon Zale also takes an interest in Sara, but he stalks her, watching her every move, and he won’t leave her alone. He always turns up at the most suspicious times, especially where the dead bodies are found. What’s his interest in Sara?

As she digs deeper into the story, and more young women die without explanation, she tries to choose allies wisely, but not till the last confrontation does she discover the identity of her true enemy.

By then, it’s too late.

Yeah. I need this book. Do you need this book?

Get it at
Amazon
B&N

And connect with Lyndi!
Her website
Facebook

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Call for Submissions: Women on Writing

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Pink Snowbunnies
I’m totally going to have to have a graphic made for these calls for submissions. Wouldn’t you agree? Anyway, this is the cover for an anthology that I submitted to — and made the cut. Seems fitting to include it here.

WOW-Women on Writing hosts a twice-yearly contest and call for submissions for both flash fiction (word count between 250 and 750; open topic) and creative non-fiction.

There IS a $10 entry fee, but they are clear about where the money goes (yay for transparency!) — and they are only accepting the first 300 entries. That sounds like a lot until you stop and consider that entries are open to writers worldwide and we all know I’m not the only one spreading the word about this contest!

Yes, it’s a contest. Did you miss the other times I mentioned that? Winner gets the entry fees — and more!

BUT there’s a few extra twists happening here. One is that for double the entry fee, you can get a critique back on your piece (once the contest ends, obviously. Right? Wasn’t that obvious?) — and having been a judge in a contest that asks for critiques, I’ve heard from the entrants that the critique is really nice to have in your hands. (THAT was some weird discussion, as I couldn’t out myself as a judge!)

The rules for non-fiction are a bit different, so go check them out at the WOW-Women on Writing site.

And, of course, be sure to read ALL the rules. There’s a downloadable file, so be sure to download, open, and READ IT. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by skipping that step (why am I giving myself the stink eye?)

Enter away! Once they hit the max number of entries, the buttons will be disabled, but as I’m typing this, they are live, so go have some fun!

As always, if you make the cut at any stage or wind up the winner, be sure to let us know so we can all cheer you on. And remember: you can totally do a Featured New Book Spotlight for published short pieces, as well!

Good luck, and here’s that link again.

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#SaysTheEditor My Typos are Better Than Your Typos

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It’s finally happened. And so, it’s time to change the mindset of many many authors, readers, and publishing professionals.

For years and years — and remember, I put the first Demo Tapes anthology for sale in 2008, and this attitude pre-dates even that — the general wisdom was simple: self-published books didn’t have nearly the quality of books from the major publishers. Now, some of that referred directly to production quality, and that’s been fixed many years on now.

What’s lingered has been the stigma about the writing and editing.

No more, I say.

I’ve ranted here before about finding significant numbers of typos in books published by the big houses. I’ve ranted about bad writing.

It’s not only in self-published books anymore, boys and girls.

So no more. No more putting down the indie writers as a whole. A number of them won’t stand for excessive typos and lazy writing any more than you or I would. Many of them are my clients, but even more aren’t (simply because I can’t work for everyone. I’m only one person, after all!).

And a very very large number of them would be mortified if I nodded my head in agreement showed up in a book with their name on the cover.

That’s because I have yet to find another body part that you nod. Oh, a body can nod off to sleep, but that’s entirely different. And a character or a person can certainly nod to show they are paying attention, or nod to show interest, but it’s pretty widely assumed that a nod means assent of some sort — even assent that attention is being paid or that the subject at hand remains interesting. So there’s no need for that in agreement phrase that’s thrown in. The reader will assume it’s there unless they are specifically told why the nod isn’t one of agreement.

This falls into the “Shit!” he swore school of bad writing.

Come to think of it, I found that in a book from one of the big publishing houses, too. Recently.

So. Enough. Enough denigrating an entire publishing model — one that works for a number of authors and readers — based on a lack of polish that the other, more highly regarded (although more and more, I do not know why this is so) model increasingly unleashes on the public.

Stick to the books that are well written and well edited. Period. It no longer matters which publishing model you follow or who published the book in your hands.

A lot are good. A lot are bad.

Publisher simply doesn’t matter anymore.

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Featured New Book: Wild World by Peter S Rush

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Featured New Book Spotlight

Let’s welcome debut novelist Peter S Rush to West of Mars! Peter’s a cool dude I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know, and this book is timely, timely, timely even though it’s set way back in history, maybe almost before my time.

Peter, what song makes you think of your book?

Wild World by Cat Stevens. The book is set in the early 70’s and the music is integral to the era.

Not only does it fit the book title, but this song is PERFECT for this book. Sit back, let the familiar strains wash over you, and then get this book.

Here’s the description:

Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the protest era of the early 1970s, a gripping novel of a power, corruption, injustice, courage, and hope—and one tenacious young man whose determination to overturn the system holds unexpected consequences for his own life.

Steve Logan wants to make the world better. Weeks before his graduation from Brown University, he meets a reform-minded cop from New York City who convinces Steve that to change the system, he has to get involved. Fueled by a strong sense of moral justice, Steve joins the Providence Police Department. Though he’s eager to make a difference, fighting the establishment is overwhelming. His education makes him an outsider, and his honesty makes him a threat to the corrupt cops who use the badge for money and power. At home, his college friends think he’s a traitor, and even Roxy, the med student he loves, has begun to pull away. But Steve isn’t going to give up. He devises a dangerous plan to radically shake up the system and take his enemies down… unless they take him out first.

Seriously. Pick up a copy and be sure to leave a review once you’ve read it.

Amazon
B&N
Indiebound

Connect with Peter at his website, too!

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Lines of Distinction: Windmills by Lyndi Alexander

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Check out this line from Lyndi Alexander’s Color of Fear series:

The pain of anticipating her new shorn look sat on her shoulder for a moment then faded. This was only a means to an end. A small price to pay for what she must do.

buy links:
Amazon (Book 1)
Amazon (Book 2)
B&N (Book 1)
B&N (Book 2)

Connect with Lyndi
Website
Facebook

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Call for Submissions! Hot Metal Bridge

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Local-to-me college literary magazine Hot Metal Bridge is in the middle of one of its two annual submission periods, and if you have some short fiction (up to 6k words) that you’d like some eyeballs on, this is a good one to submit to.

They are looking for

fiction that turns out heads to show us a new perspective. Be it through formal invention, depth of insight, or strength of narrative, the fiction that grips us does so by revealing a little sliver of some idiosyncratic, particular human life. But we don’t want to get too specific here: we want your best story—your ire, your lore, your comic relief—whatever form it may take.

Yes, I’m guessing that’s a typo in those first few lines. (Hey, HMB staff, I’d be glad to come be an in-house copyeditor for you! I could possibly be convinced to work for O fries and Dave & Andy’s, although not on the same day.)

There is zero cost to submit, which is my favorite kind of submission.

AND.

If you have non-fiction or poetry or a visual art, they’re taking those, too.

Get busy, because the submission deadline is December 3, which feels like a long time from now but actually isn’t.

Did you miss the link to use to submit? Here it is again.

Also, be sure to stop in at the site and check out what they do and what they’re about. You might find a favorite new place to stop in for some literary escapism.

Still not convinced? Well, let me put it to you this way: if I had something to submit, since I never worked for HMB when I was a Pitt student (mostly because I don’t think it existed back then, in the Dark Ages when having a dot matrix printer in my dorm room was considered a luxury), I totally would.

Because Pittsburgh.

Because we’re a literary city.

Because it’s my home.

As always, if you submit and are accepted, be sure to let me know so I can cheer with you and help get word out of your excellent work once it’s available to the larger world.

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Tip O’ the Iceberg

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It kinda boggles me that I have to say this, but… here goes.

Vague, bombastic comments are a hallmark of our current Narcissist in Chief. He loves them.

But guess what?

They’re a form of narcissistic abuse.

Once again, I’m faced with the difficulties imposed by narcissistic abuse. It’s sneaky. Pernicious. Insidious. (Not sure of the difference? See what Merriam-Webster has to say!)

And it’s hard to remember that not everyone has learned to spot it so easily.

So. Let me break this one (and all the other vague statements) down.

These sorts of vague statements are a tease, a way to keep you coming back for more. How often do your local TV news broadcasts tease you like this? “Did that really happen? Find out at five!”

And, of course, anyone my age or older remembers Who Shot JR?

This is one of the reasons this form of abuse is so effective: we’re used to it. Acclimated to it, accustomed to it. We almost don’t think about it.

But we should. And we need to.

Because a narcissist uses this sort of vague tease to control you. To keep you sitting at his feet, salivating and anxious for the next tidbit that he’s going to dole out… whenever he sees fit to. Which could be soon, or it could be later, or it could be never because most likely, there was never anything to wait for. No iceberg, and no tip of it. At least the news media delivers on that promise to tell the story during the 5 p.m. newscast. After a looooooong summer of wondering, the world found out who shot JR.

A narcissist, though, won’t give you the answers. For one thing, he’ll tell you that you’re not worthy of being answered… but he will never admit that the second he feels he’s losing you, you are suddenly worthy. That’s when he will set his hook, cast his bait, and you’re caught up in his cycle once again.

Truth be told, he’s not interested in satisfying you; he’s interested in keeping you close, your attention fixed on him. He’s oh, so very vested in watching his victims run in circles, trying to figure out what he’s talking about. That confusion you feel, that need to know, to be seen, to be acknowledged. It feeds his need. He’s got you, his captive audience, and it’s sooo good. All that attention, hanging on his every word. He never has to explain himself, instead using a word here, another tease there, and he’ll watch his minions spin off into emotional reactions that allow all reason to fly out the window. They’ll continue to sit at his feet and salivate, and they’ll always be at the ready to do his bidding… because they’re always waiting for a satisfaction that never comes.

This, friends, is abuse via control. It’s a deliberate manipulation of your attention, your choices, your focus, your thoughts. It’s a constant keeping you on tenterhooks, constantly keeping you craving his attention, his favoritism. He’ll take you to the point where you don’t know what’s real and what’s not, where you are so utterly dependent on him that you couldn’t identify which way was up if you lay on your back on the ground and stare at the sky.

Don’t fall for it.

When the Narcissist in Chief makes these kinds of statements — and let’s face it, if he did it on Facebook, we’d all accuse him of vaguebooking and be angry with him — ignore them for the gaslighting and abuse they are. Don’t reply to him, don’t use his name.

But do call out the behavior. Do teach others what to look for, how to recognize the abuse for what it is. Talk amongst yourselves, not to him.

It’ll drive him crazy and make him escalate, sure. But it’ll also drive him to make mistakes — and that’s when we’ll all begin to really see the winning happen.

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Featured New Book Spotlight:

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Featured New Book Spotlight

Oh, my.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people now about the Featured New Book Spotlight. I’ve heard a lot of interest, especially when we get to that point about “Well, it has to be new to my readers, so use your best judgement…” line. Because even older titles need promotion and what better way or place to do it than with a quick, one-question interview?

Seriously. Tell your friends. Send ’em on over. Authors, this is a spot for YOU to brag about YOUR book. That’s it. I want to help the good books find their readers.

And if you can’t answer the one question — I’ve heard repeatedly that it’s a hard one — if you have a graphic teaser, or a line you simply adore, remember there’s Lines of Distinction for you to take advantage of, too. That one’s even easier, especially if you have the graphics made. All I need is the graphic and the buy links!

Really. This is your spot for free advertising (caveat: if you want to reserve a date, there’s a token fee), for helping spread the word about your books. A number of readers still check in every Monday to see what book they are discovering, so why aren’t you taking advantage? Readers are looking for you!

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Featured?

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Featured New Book Spotlight

What.
the.
heck.

The Featured New Book Spotlight is still empty?

One question.

Free.

Promote yourself.

What’s not to like?

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#SaysTheEditor Refining Your Plot for Character Growth

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I’d wanted to read this one particular book for awhile now. Rock Fiction; it’s always in my wheelhouse. And the author is someone I recommend without hesitation when people ask. Win-win, right?

A quick check of the library showed that they had a copy available on Overdrive, so one click later, I was reading away. And quite surprised by what I found. Not in a good way, sad to say.

The problem, in the end, was a simple one: the plot wasn’t quite refined enough, and as a result the character growth suffered. Whereas most books fit the formula of “this is a story about _____, who wanted _____.” this story… wasn’t.

Oh, it was a story about Jane. And it was a romance, so presumably Jane wanted Dick, right? (Pardon the pun. Oh, Lordy, pardon that pun. But it was either use Dick or Tarzan!)

But… Jane also wanted to make music. And run a small business. And then Jane wanted Dick AND Tom. And then she wanted to be rid of past ghosts. And to be moral support for a friend going through a bad time.

Did you get whiplash from all that wanting?

The upshot here is that Jane never really wanted any one thing, which was pretty funny considering that Jane’s first arrival in the book portrayed her as a woman who knew exactly what she wanted in life (or at least in sex partners) and didn’t hesitate to go get it.

For me, I’d have liked it if the story had been framed with Jane’s underlying drive being her music. Hey, I’m a lover of Rock Fiction, remember? But that would explain a lot of the motivation for what comes next: the tragedy that drove her from the stage, her fears and PTSD, and it would even frame how her love for Dick and then Tom unfolded and helped her overcome her issues.

Best of all, the story would not have needed much tweaking. Just a sentence at the beginning and a wider triumph at the end. And maybe some more exploration of her fears as they related to her music career as the story unfolded.

Notice that? I’m NOT saying it needed to be rewritten or restructured. All that is already there. What was lacking was that bottom part of the sentence, “This was a story about Jane, who wanted _____” It would have been so easy to do, and it would have taken all these various elements of the plot and tied them together. Not necessarily with a neat bow — I hate those — but in a very rich sense that allowed for maximum character growth of our heroine.

Ultimately, when we read, that’s what we’re looking for: that character growth, that beauty that comes out of pain. Readers may not realize it, but the underlying adventure that we seek is one of change and fulfillment. Of coming into one’s own. Of who the character (and, by extension, us) becomes as they move from Point A to Point B.

This book lacked that. It’s not surprising I found it lacking. But it came oh, so close…

Go ahead. Push yourself. Don’t come close; that’s another way of saying “I fell short.”

And, as always, if you need me, I’m right here to help guide you.

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Susan Speaks: I’m Standing Right Here

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Another in an intermittent series dissecting what something looks like, but in reality isn’t.

Last week, there was a lot of talk online. Seems the Narcissist in Chief made a comment about how his wife was sad she wasn’t present.

Except… she was standing right beside him.

Most people wrote it off as dementia. It’s an easy enough excuse. It’s handy. It seems to make sense — and it’s the default explanation used by many, so it’s also the most comfortable reasoning. Dementia! Surely that’s it!

But those of us who’ve experienced this garbage firsthand, we know better. It’s not dementia. It’s not a mistake made by a garbled old man.

Oh, hell no. It was a quite deliberately aimed comment. And while the rest of the world was writing it off to the first, easiest, most popular reason, the target herself knew what was going on: She was being told, point-blank and in front of millions, that she didn’t count. That she wasn’t wanted there, that her presence offended, that she should have stayed home. She had erred in some way, and maybe she knew what that way was and maybe she didn’t, but it didn’t matter. The message was sent. And I promise you, the message was received.

If I had to guess, I’d say someone is jealous that his wife — who he recently introduced as “the star of the … family” — is better liked than he is.

And he can’t have that. Narcissists never can, even though spouses and children are generally viewed as nothing more than extensions of themselves, there only to serve the purpose of making the narcissist look good.

But there’s also a war within the narcissist happening here: No one can get more attention and love than I can. And they love you, which makes me look good.

A narcissist can’t understand that it’s okay if the object that’s supposed to make him look good is more popular.

And so he lashes out. He refuses to acknowledge her existence, her presence.

And that, my friends, is abuse.

The world witnessed a man abusing his wife. And very few people can even recognize it for what it is, let alone speak up about it.

Let’s change that.

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Where’s the Featured New Book?

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Featured New Book Spotlight

I purposely took last week off from posting a Featured New Book Spotlight because of the launch of the redesigned website (have you clicked through yet? Checked it out?).

But this week?

Well, I’m not quite sure why the spotlight is empty.

I’d like to change that. We even made a handy-dandy form for you to fill out right here on the site, to make it even easier to send me your question and the one song that makes you think of your book.

C’mon. It’s easy.

Well, the question can be hard. Only one song?

But it’s sooo worth it. And as I’ve said before, I’ve had readers go out and buy a book based on your appearance here at West of Mars.

So what’s stopping you?

C’mon… get your submissions in. Like always, first come, first served. And it’s free, unless you want to reserve a specific date (although even that is free for my editing clients).

So what’s stopping you?

C’mon.

You know you want to!

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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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