Smashwords’ End of 2017 Sale!

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Trevor’s SongWhat do you think? Does Trevor’s Song need an updated cover?

I always encourage my clients to wait until January or even February in a new year to publish their book, because while the “People get new e-readers for Christmas and need something to read” is a sound strategy, experience has taught all too many of us that indie titles tend to get shoved down on visibility lists in favor of more established authorial names. That can sink a person’s book, and fast.

Count on Smashwords to enter the end-of-year fun and be a disruptor by offering another of their famous site-wide promotions. (Okay, the extent of the promotion is up to each individual author, but they offer every one of us a chance to join in the fun.)

So, yeah. From now until January 1, you can pick up any number of great reads — old and new, within the bounds of familiarity and without — for free or discounted prices. And yes, some books will still be offered at full price.

Some. Not mine. If you’ve ever wanted to read anything I’ve written, my faves of the bunch are Trevor’s Song, Demo Tapes 1, Demo Tapes 2, and Broken.

If you’ve got those four and want more, here’s the link to my profile. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a longer list of books at the end of 2018? That’s one of my many goals.

As always, if you pick up or are gifted a book (any book!) this holiday season, think about leaving a review once you’ve read that book. Reviews help authors in multiple ways — and yes, a well-thought-out negative review can be helpful! (As always, if you need help with a review, holler. I charge $5 per review, and that’s a steal for what you’ll get.)

Here’s to a great 2018.

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Call for Submissions: Musical Speculative Fiction

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This one just opened on December 1, and you know it’s in my wheelhouse, since it’s got a musical theme.

Here, let me explain

Triangulation, Parsec Ink’s themed speculative fiction annual, is now in its 14th year, and open for submissions. Whether you’re a new or established author, we hope you’ll send us your outstanding fantasy, science fiction, weird fiction, or speculative horror. Just tell us a story we won’t forget.

Theme: This year’s theme is “music”. Tentative title, Triangulation: The Music Edition. We’re looking for stories where music, a musical instrument, the parts of music, or musical culture make an appearance in a meaningful way. As a thematic element, you can apply a light touch or go “full tuba”. Be aware that we may retool the title of the collection, depending on the exact quality and character of the submissions we receive. If you’ve got a better title than “Triangulation: The Musical”, don’t forget to let us know in your cover letter.

Looks like Rock Fiction, smells like Rock fiction… probably quacks like Rock Fiction, too, if you can hear the music in a quack.

I love the idea of melding speculative fiction in with Rock Fiction. The possibilities here are absolutely endless, so push yourself to think of something more than the song that summons a demon, okay? Go. Have fun. Speculative means that someone somewhere’s gotta speculate, so speculate away, turn it into speculative fiction, build it on a musical framework, and you’re done.

(as if it’s that easy, huh)

Entry deadline is 28 February, so you’ve got some time to think of something, write it, polish it, and send it off. (Yes, I edit short stories — for those of you who may need me.)

And it’s a paying market, too. That’s always a nice thing. Semi-pro rates (2c per word), and contributor’s copies.

Get busy! And note that they, too, are using Submittable for their submissions. If you don’t have a Submittable account yet, what are you waiting for?

Need the submission guidelines again? Here they are.

And, as always, if you submit something and make the cut, report back! I love being able to brag about you guys.

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Featured New Book: Grace’s Turmoil by Peter Perrin

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Featured New Book SpotlightLet’s welcome Peter Perrin to West of Mars!

Peter and I met via Twitter — another good reason to use Twitter to directly reach readers and other publishing industry professionals, such as myself. Twitter makes a good water cooler when you can find people willing to chat with you. And here’s proof: Peter’s come to tell us what song makes him think of his new book, Grace’s Turmoil.

In Grace’s Turmoil, Grace had suffered a painful divorce and been emotionally scarred. After that, she had settled for a life without men, without a love of her own.

But then a dashing widower moved into her retirement village. Alfred awoke feelings in her she had wanted to keep dormant.

Less than four weeks later, Grace sang “Blue Moon” for him at a karaoke night and her choice of song spoke volumes about how he had changed her life. Like the song says, she was no longer alone.

Ooh, I like this version! Billie Holiday is incomparable, and her version is so much more upbeat than the dirge we’re usually presented with. Be sure to check out the link and give this version of a classic a listen. I bet you’ll never go back. (I sure won’t.)

And yes, Peter specified this version of the song. For which I am grateful. Love this solo interlude!

Back to Grace’s Turmoil, though. What’s its official back cover copy?

Divorced and emotionally damaged, artist Grace Stollery wants nothing more than to spend her semi-retirement painting and let time heal her emotional scars.

But when dashing widower Alfred Nobel moves into her retirement village he turns her life upside down and her heart inside out by awakening feelings she wants to keep dormant.

Alfred quickly sets out to woo Grace and slowly she warms to him. But the village’s resident femme fatale wants him for herself. Will she succeed in driving a wedge between Alfred and Grace?

Get a copy! It just went live on the 15th — that was last Friday — and you know how the early sales help fuel a book’s success!

Devine Destinies

I’ll update with Amazon and other links later.

And, of course, connect with Peter at his website.

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Says the Editor: More Verbal Abuse

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It was fourteen months ago that I first brought up the subject of verbal abuse and warfare.

I’ve been studying it ever since then, learning it, recognizing it, calling it out when I see it — usually privately.

But this last time? Well, not so much.

Like last time, it started with a phrase. This time, it was, “It goes without saying.”

Now, taken by itself, that’s not such a bad thing. If you’re having a dialogue and both people have the same body of knowledge, it’s a very safe phrase to use. It shows harmony between characters (or people, but do think of this in the context of fiction and fictional conflict ’cause it’s way more fun that way), a shared history, and even a similiar mindset. Oh, not every time; I’m generalizing here. The point is that there is a way that this phrase can be used to show parity between characters.

And then there’s the verbal abuse and warfare. The times the phrase is used to get one up on another, when it’s used to show that the speaker is lording their knowledge over someone who may not have the same breadth of experience and knowledge about a subject. And that’s how it was being used the other day.

As an editor, I deal with writers all day long. I am also a writer. Put those two things together, and I understand the writer mentality pretty well. We are, by dint of the massive amount of rejection we face, a pretty insecure lot. Add in the fact that we’re working in a field that relies 100% on subjective judgments by others, usually complete strangers, and I’d say we’re allowed to be.

So long as we support each other and help each other, that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it feels pretty good to help out a fellow writer and watch them grow and gain success.

But that’s not what was happening here. One writer was using “It goes without saying” as a way of lording it over others in the group that the topic of discussion was basic knowledge.

Remember: I work with writers daily. Writers who aren’t myself. The subject at hand didn’t go without saying; it was stuff I say to my clients and my friends and even casual acquaintances I’ve run across at various meetings and workshops. The scenario usually goes like this:

“I used X publisher and I wasn’t happy with how they handled…” they’ll say.

“Is it in the contract?” I’ll ask as gently as I can.

“Well, no. But they said…”

“Specifically? Did you ask? Did you ask if they could put it in writing? Did you talk to other authors who’ve used that publisher?”

“Well… no…”

I’ve had variations of this conversation more times than I can count. And each time it kills me. They didn’t know to ask. They didn’t know they could ask. They didn’t know they should.

“Lesson learned for next time,” I tell them and encourage them to contact me if they need to be walked through any steps along the way. I’ll hold their hand, I’ll give them suggestions based on my experience, I’ll let them bounce ideas off me. Many do. Many get referred to lawyers or others who I think can help them make informed decisions, too, because Lord knows I don’t have all the answers. Just hopefully experience and contacts to people who do have more answers.

And that’s the scenario I keep flashing back to as I consider what was going on between me and the other writer. She had experience she could have been sharing with the group, supporting them and helping them make really smart business decisions. Instead, she chose to lord it over them, needing to raise herself up over them. The discussion did need to be had, the questions did need to be specifically stated. Making a statement like “That goes without saying” to an observer who didn’t realize this set of questions should have been second nature makes their IWI kick up something fierce. That writerly insecurity… it’s a vicious little bastard. There’s no need to feed it, and a phrase like, “It goes without saying” turns into verbal abuse the second someone feels bad about themselves because they did need the information to be discussed.

I knew we’d crossed the line between simple lack of audience awareness (which is not a good thing for an author to do! Know who your audience is often gets cited as a top rule for a writer to consider) and into verbal warfare with a potential for abuse when she explained to me that “It goes without saying” was a phrase.

Wow. Ya THINK?

Of course, this wasn’t the first interaction with her, either. She’s been making a point of one-upping me for a couple months now. Until this, I ignored her. But this time, I called her on it. And what do you think happened?

Refer to the end of the last post about verbal warfare and abuse. Because it was the same damn thing: a clumsy attempt at a classic redirect, gaslight, and abuse.

So. As you work on your fiction, unless your character needs verbal warfare, unless he or she is a gaslighter, unless you’re willing to deal with abuse, be mindful of the phrases you use. Both “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again” and “It goes without saying” are common phrases in our lexicon. Think about the message you’re sending when you use them. Are you speaking to someone on the same level? Or are you engaging in verbal abuse and warfare?

And if it’s the latter, why?

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Featured New Book: A Touchdown to Remember by Seelie Kay

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Featured New Book Spotlight

Let’s welcome Seelie Kay to West of Mars!

Seelie and I chat via Twitter from time to time — see why it’s useful to have Twitter? Come chat with us! — and I was thrilled when I saw she’d filled out the handy-dandy form to tell us what song makes her think of her new book, A Touchdown to Remember. Ready? It’s a good one!

It’s Feel Like Making Love, the Bad Company classic! If you click the link, you’ll LOVE the video — looks like someone recorded VH1 and alive appearance by the band. Since there was no official video, I went with this so you can at least see Paul Rodgers and band at their fashionable best. (We should not make fun, but come ON.)

Intrigued about the book? I sure am! Here’s the description:

A Touchdown To Remember

It takes more than a hard knock on the head to keep running back Tim Wheezer Douglas down. When life pelts him with the proverbial lemon—a career-threatening concussion—he simply runs the other way, right into the arms of litigator Laura Adler.

When a second concussion sidelines Milwaukee Greyhound running back Tim Douglas, the rest of his life continues full-speed ahead. A some-time law student, Tim is faced with a classic Catch 22: Whether to continue to play football and risk a third and possibly life-altering concussion or quit the game altogether to pursue a career as a sports agent. He loves the game, but his priorities change when he meets Laura Adler, a sassy, sexy young attorney and rabid Greys fan. Their sizzling romp of a romance turns serious and Laura demands that he make a decision about football before she accepts his marriage proposal. Will Tim choose football or the law, and what role will Laura play in his future?

Pick up a copy! This link will take you to the Goodreads page, as the Amazon link wasn’t working. And besides, I like Goodreads better than Amazon.

Hey! Here’s the link to the publisher. Buy direct!

And connect with Seelie, too. Get news of new releases and follow her career.
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Writing Prompt! Are You Tainted?

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Are you tainted?

That’s the question of the day.

Sort of.

I’ve got a writing prompt for you (and yes, you are free to use this as your starter for a pizza horror story) today, so have at it.

As always, you are free to send me your creation privately (although if it’s a novel… well, that’s gonna cost you for a formal edit) and if you publish something from my prompt, you have to tell me so I can mention it here and we can all cheer for you.

Ready?

Here’s your prompt. It’s a line of dialogue.

“You have to mark that as tainted.”

And… GO.

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Call for Submissions: Pizza People!

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I am not certain about this one, but it’s too funny not to tell you about. And if you decide to go for it, you HAVE to tell me, and if you are accepted, you HAVE to tell me so I can cheer and buy you a pizza and pick up a copy and read it, cheer some more, tell everyone to read it, and then cheer YET some more.

Because, dude. This one’s fun.

Ready? It’s from Dark Moon Digest, and… it’s called…

Ready?

You sure?

It’s worth my teasing you like this. It really is.

Unless you don’t like cleverness, or puns, or any of that fun stuff. But if you do, why are you hanging out with the likes of ME?

Okay. Fine. Here goes.

You sure you’re ready?

“Tales From the Crust: An Anthology of Pizza Horror.”

I KID YOU NOT.

Pizza horror.

And they are taking it seriously. (How seriously can you take pizza horror? And is there anything more horrific than gluten free pizza?)

Now, this anthology has some editors picked out, two folk named David James Keaton and Max Booth (no, both of them do not have the same name. One is David and one is Max and c’mon. You could figure that out yourself). And it’s a paying market, too.

The submission deadline isn’t until June 1, so you have time to think up some serious pizza horror. Have at it!

Here’s the link again, just in case you didn’t notice it above.

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Featured New Book: A Cruel Kind of Beautiful by Michelle Hazen

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Featured New Book SpotlightLet’s welcome Michelle Hazen to West of Mars!

Those of you who hung out at The Rock of Pages will recognize Michelle from some great reviews and book coveting spots she wrote for me and Jett over there. But if you don’t know her?

Well, sit down, grab your coffee, and let’s go. Because Michelle is super. AND today is the release day for her new book! How can you beat that?

Michelle, what song makes you think of your book, A Cruel Kind of Beautiful?

“Seeing is Believing” by Blind Pilot.

It’s a song all about the strange ways life brings you exactly what you need. In the book, Jera has a really rough time, but in the end, all those obstacles work together and end up bringing her just where she needs to be. I love how life does that, and it makes perfect, divinely-inspired looking sense in hindsight, but as you’re living it it feels messy and horrible and annoying. I wanted to write a book that did exactly that.

There’s a line in the song: “This life is going to make you believe…” Yes. For Jera, it really did.

Be sure to check this song out; it’s a different one for us avid followers of the Featured New Book Spotlight, and it’s pretty cool! Shades of the Fifties, of Rockabilly, of country music… I’m digging it.

Ready for the book’s description? I sure am.

If you can’t get to the Big O, can you get to the happily ever after?

Jera McKnight loves music, swoons for hot guys, but sucks at sex. Jacob Tate is her perfect storm: a pun-loving nude model with a heart as big as his record collection.

When a newspaper-delivery accident lands him in her living room, he’s almost tempting enough to make her forget she’s never been able to please a man—in bed or out of it. Sure, he laughs at her obscure jokes, and he’ll even accept a PG-rating if it means he gets time with her, but he’s also hiding something. And it has everything to do with the off-limits room in his apartment.

Jera pours all her confusion and longing into her drum kit, which pays off when her band lands the record deal of their dreams. Except just like Jacob, it might be too good to come without a catch.

She doesn’t know if her music is good enough to attract a better contract, or if she’s enough to tempt a man like Jacob to give up his secrets—even if they could fix her problems between the sheets. But if this rocker girl is too afraid to bet on herself, she might just end up playing to an empty house.

Fans of Alice Clayton’s Wallbanger or Kylie Scott will love this addictive new series because of its quick sense of humor and adorable found family.

Do you NEED this? I know all my Rock Fiction fans and friends do! (I sure do, and thanks to Michelle for approving me for a copy over at NetGalley.)
It’s Amazon only, though — so if that’s an issue, I HIGHLY encourage you to get in touch with Michelle and see what sort of magic she can make happen for you. Because you need it!

Connect with Michelle. She’s very cool, very involved in the literary community, and very diverse in her jobs, too. I’ll let you figure out what that means, because it’s too cool to spoil!

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Says the Editor: About That Editing Discount…

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You guys are GOOD. I’ll give you that, and as I do, know I’m full of admiration and appreciation for this one.

Last week, I offered a discount for anyone finishing up their 2017 NaNo project and returning to the WIP they’d been working on before November 1. I’d only take four, I said, the first four to commit to sending me a manuscript (or actually sending it, depending on how much more tweaking was going to be involved — some of you hate to send me your stuff and tweak right up until the 11th hour!).

And okay, I’ve already had one solid taker. Yay! Three more slots remain.

But… and this is where I tip my hat in admiration and appreciation, there’s a group of you who found the loophole. One I hadn’t even considered but of course I’ll honor.

That’s asking me for a sample before you commit to a full edit with me.

I TOLD you there was a lot to admire and appreciate in this move! Because OF COURSE I’ll honor the discount if you like the sample I work up for you and commit to sending me a manuscript. Yes, even if that means I give away more than four discounted edits. I may not get to all of them during December, and I’m as always upfront about my calendar and where my editing time is going to be devoted, but yes. Absolutely. I was contacted in good faith, with full intentions of giving a discount on my work. And it was for the first four people who committed.

Which, in my mind, means that if you start the process of committing but aren’t one of the first four to actually make the commitment, yes, I’ll extend the offer to you even if you’re the fifth. Or seventh. Or tenth. (I should be so lucky! So far, I haven’t done that many samples.)

To those of you savvy enough to think of this before I pointed it out, like I said, you’ve got my admiration and appreciation. Tons of it. That was slick maneuvering, and I bet you’d outsmart this dude, too. (but would you want to? THAT is another story. Me, personally, I would not want to outsmart him. Bring on the ducks!)

To those of you who didn’t think of it, that’s fine, too. Get in touch with me before those last three slots are firmed up — which means sooner rather than later. Because once those three are booked, it’s back to regular rates. And I’m told my regular rates are high — which they should be. I’m worth it, dammit. And frankly, so are you.*

So. Ask for a sample or just grab the discount now. Your choice. Just don’t dawdle because this is a limited-time offer. And there’s no shipping or handling charges involved, either. (I had to add that because I’m starting to feel like an infomercial here!)

Bring it. Show me what you’ve got, and let’s work on making it the best book possible.

*If you still can’t afford my rates (regular or discounted) but really want to work with me, drop me a line and let’s talk. I can be flexible, as you’re seeing here with this cool loophole, up to a point. I do have a mortgage and car payment and all that single parent stuff that demands I not give my work away.

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Says the Editor: Just Start Writing

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I can’t make this stuff up, even if I tried. And since I’m a writer as well as an editor, I do try.

I actually see it more often than you’d think. People who… well, you know what? I can’t tell you what their motivation is most of the time. Sometimes, they’ll tell you. “I want to get in on the riches of being an author,” or “I’ve always wanted to write a book,” or “People tell me I should write a book.”

The query isn’t actually, “I want to write a book” — that’s not really something you can ask someone.

Nope. It’s “How do I start?”

And it may seem flip to respond, “Just start writing,” but that’s my go-to answer. And, of course, that comes off as being flip or rude or not helpful. Because I think a lot of these people are looking for magic formulas and rubrics and step-by-step instructions. And maybe down the road, with experience, those magic formulas will appear, but not at the beginning. Because at the beginning, you need to try a lot of things, make a lot of mistakes, and then discover what truly works for you, what your process is.

But before that, you also have to figure out what exactly you don’t know. And then you have to go learn it, incorporate it into your draft, ingrain it in your writing self.

So, yeah. Just start writing.

Make mistakes. Puke words on a page. Read a lot — but don’t just read. Study what you read. Compare it to what you’ve written. Tweak what you’ve written. Go read something else. Study. Compare. Tweak.

Unfortunately — or maybe it is fortunate — there are no magic wands when it comes to writing a book. It’s a lot of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears. It’s frustration, boredom, elation, trepidation, inspiration at 2AM or just at that point when the shower hits the perfect temperature and you’re too excited by the revelation to enjoy it properly.

And of course, “Just start writing” also means “Get off social media and quit talking. Shut up and get busy already.”

Because, yeah, that’s gotta happen, too.

Just start writing.

If nothing else, writing is a journey of self-discovery. So get busy. Discover things about yourself you never knew possible. Discover your characters, your setting, your story in ways you hadn’t been able to imagine them. Discover if this is really something you want to see through to completion — and be sure to discover the why behind that, too.

Go on. I dare you.

Just start writing.

And for those of you who ARE writing, I’d like to remind you that I’m offering a special for the first four authors who contact me with a manuscript they put aside for NaNo 2017 and now need help with. I made this offer a few days ago and this post was scheduled, so I have no idea how many remain. If you need help, don’t delay. Get in touch with me NOW.

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Says the Editor: NaNo Winners and an Editing Discount!

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My timelines the past few days are starting to fill up with NaNo Winners — this year’s slew of writers who were able to write 50k words in the month of November, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. (You know: NaNo)

Congratulations to the winners. I’ve done it myself, way back when, and I know it’s no easy feat. I remember my year-old daughter standing at the door to my office, dropping her shoes over the baby gate to get my attention. (If I didn’t close the gate, she would come in here and turn the computer itself off. She was a pistol at that age!)

I found that the month-long rush to get words down didn’t work for me as a writer, and of course, I strongly believe in doing what works best for you as a writer. Yet I have other friends and clients for whom NaNo sets the discipline of writing every day, and for them, it lasts throughout the year. They use it as a tune-up time, to make sure they’re still pushing themselves to write daily and to get the words down. Even when revising, they set lofty goals and do their best to achieve them.

So NaNo works on many levels (and if you’ve got thoughts on this, let’s hear them!), but one way it doesn’t work?

Revisions.

Every novel needs to be revised. NaNo, by its very structure, doesn’t leave a lot of time for revising as you go. In fact, they tell you NOT to revise at all. The goal of NaNo, after all, is 50,000 words — not 50,000 good words.

So once you win, close up that file. Take a deep breath. Pat yourself on the back and order the winner’s t-shirt (do they still do that?), then sit down and indulge in the best piece of chocolate (cake) you can find. Savor it. 50k in a month is no small feat.

And then return to whatever you were working on that was interrupted by NaNo.

If you hate it or need a jumpstart, or if you think it’s time to get eyes on it, drop me a note. The first four manuscripts that come my way as a “Help Me After NaNo” plea will get a discount. (Why four? That books me solid for the month of December.)

Remember: this isn’t for your 2017 winner. It’s for what you were working on before November began. Or something you’d set aside before NaNo and now need some feedback on.

In other words: complete before November 1, 2017.

And again, to the winners and the winners-to-be in the next few days: huge congratulations from a veteran NaNo participant and winner.

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Featured New Book Spotlight: Bringer of Chaos: Forged in Fire by Kayelle Allen

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Featured New Book Spotlight Let’s welcome Kayelle Allen to West of Mars today!

Kayelle’s new book, Bringer of Chaos: Forged in Fire (Marooned on a Barren World) is only available for pre-order right now (release date: December 29, which is a date near and dear to my heart), but what’s stopping you? Preorders are awesome because you can preorder and then when the book shows up on your Kindle, it’s like a belated Christmas present, right when the post-Christmas-present blues hit. How can you resist?

Before you go order (and the link’s at the bottom, of course, to slow down your excitement and instead build it up to a slow burn, let’s ask Kayelle what song makes her think of her book. Kayelle?

The Ancient One by the wonderful group Really Slow Motion. They perform movie trailer music for some of the biggest films out there, including Beauty and the Beast, the Justice League, Blade Runner 2045, Daddy’s Home, and hundreds more. You can find the song on YouTube.

Yeah, I linked twice. Just to make sure you go listen to movie music. Who doesn’t love that? (Honestly, I do, so this is a real treat to be exposed to and excuse me while I dash off to Spotify to see what I can add to my various playlists.) And just from the title of this book alone, the song is perfect. (If any of you have these guys on the playlists you write to, let me know! This song in particular would be incredible writing music.)

Intrigued yet? I sure am. So let’s check out the back cover copy and the description of Bringer of Chaos: Forged in Fire.

What if you were a soldier marooned on an undeveloped planet?

What if you had no food and few survival tools? What if you’d been genetically engineered? No matter how agonizing the wound, you’d survive. No matter how you died, you’d come back.

It could be worse. You could be here alone. But that’s the problem. You’re not.

On one hand, there’s a tribe of sentient panthers who protect you. Although you hate humans, the one who was dumped on this planet with you has become a trusted friend. The beautiful telepathic warrior you’ve loved since forever is at your side.

On the other hand, half a million people who depend on you are trapped inside stasis pods, waiting for you to save them. It wouldn’t be so bad if you could wake up a few at a time. But the traitors who abandoned you and your followers set the timers to release all half million.

At the same time.

You’re facing an ecological disaster and over five hundred thousand hungry, thirsty, homeless immortal warriors.

Worse still, before you can build shelter, figure out how to grow food, or set up a government, you must take back command from a ruthless enemy you’ve fought for centuries.

Your brutal, merciless father.

Talk about being forged in fire…

Immortals may heal, but a wound of the heart lasts forever.

Bringer of Chaos: Forged in Fire has no profanity or explicit content, but lots of angst, a little humor, some sweet romance, and a ton of betrayal with plenty of vengeance. Oh, and let’s not forget–one ginormous black “kitty”.

Anyone else sold on the kitty?

Pre-order your copy today — remember, you’ll order now, and it’ll magically show up on December 29. And yes, it’s Amazon-exclusive.

(Yep, double links again. Just to be sure you see it!)

Connect with Kayelle. She’s a neat lady.
Kayelle Allen writes Sci Fi with misbehaving robots, mythic heroes, role playing immortal gamers, and warriors who purr. She’s a US Navy veteran and has been married so long she’s tenured.
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Says the Editor: Verb? Adjective?

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Is it a verb? Is it an adjective? No! This is a picture!

Seriously, though…

I had an interesting experience I wanted to pass along, because it’s about worldview, and it’s about word choice, and it’s about how every person brings something different to a piece and to the use of language, itself.

You see, I have a short story. I’ll be telling you more about this short story in the near future, but for now, let me say that I wrote a short story and I’m working with an editor on it. Yes, even editors use editors! (That’s because we understand the value of a second set of eyes, and we understand that it’s money well spent, and we understand how a fresh perspective (dare I say worldview can help us produce the best book — or in this case, short story — possible.)

And I used this phrase: At last, we quiet.

Or something like that. 😉

And my editor wanted me to change it to At last, we quieted.

So I took a look. Because I brought her on board to help me, right? And… I realized that the piece is in present tense, which is kind of rare for me but there it is, and approving her change means… a tense change right in the middle of the piece.

I pointed that out to her. She looked it over, thought about it, agreed, but said something about the phrase still bothered her.

I took another look, both at her request and because, frankly, I was intrigued.

And it hit me. She didn’t like that I was using quiet as a verb. So I changed it to an adjective by adding a verb in there and we were both happy.

It was a few hours later that it hit me what a brilliant change that wound up being. It’s one of those small, subtle changes that no one will ever be aware of (although now that I’m pointing it out to you, you might), but it’s a verb that echoes back to the genesis of the story, the action that sets the character on the path that leads us to the point where she finally quiets.

But hopefully — and this is what really good writing does — that one small word change, that one insertion, will give the reader a more complete reading experience, will heighten the emotion even if they don’t know the hows or whys they got there. That the reader will come away with a bit of extra satisfaction that they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

This is why we use editors, friends. I sent her the best story possible. She helped me make it better.

More to come about it, so stay tuned.

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#SaystheEditor Don’t Pick Favorites

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Favorites. We’ve all got ’em. And by and large, favorites are an okay thing to have — on a personal level.

But on a professional level?

Not so much, I’d say. At least, not that I’d admit to publicly.

But another editor did, loudly proclaiming on Twitter the number of books she’s edited this year and that of them all, THIS was her favorite.

Can you imagine being one of those other authors? Can you imagine that you’ve chosen to partner with someone, you’ve worked with them to produce the best book possible, and they… announce to the world that your book wasn’t their favorite?

Talk about being gut-punched. Or having the rug pulled out from under your feet. Or any other familiar cliche/saying that pretty much encompasses the way you feel when you’ve been betrayed.

Because if that were MY editor, coming out and saying that someone else’s book was her favorite? I’d be looking for a new editor real fast.

Because if that were MY editor, I’d rethink my belief that she had my back and supported me at all times, even if it’s true that my book wasn’t her favorite or that she has a client who’s better than me. (In fact, I’m quite sure the people I work with have clients who are better than me — because better is entirely subjective.) After all, writers are inherently insecure.

Think about it: you hire an editor to help you make the best book possible. You hire someone to help you produce something that helps overcome that inherent insecurity, a book you can be proud of and that you are confident is the best you can produce.

You don’t hire someone expecting them to hold up someone else’s work as better than yours. Which is exactly what this other woman did.

Just… I can’t get over this. I’m angry on behalf of those other authors. Every single one of them deserves better. Every single one of them deserves to think their editor is proud of the work done by the author and the editor, both separately and as a team. Every single one of them deserves to think their book is as good as everything else that crosses that editor’s desk — because, in my view, every book is. Yes, some have prettier writing than others. Yes, some have more unique storylines, more engaging characters…

Every book has at least one element that is better than the one beside it. And every book has at least one element that’s not as good. When you look at it that way, how can you pick favorites? Every book that crosses my desk has elements that are unique and worthy of being celebrated. I’d like to think that every book that gets returned to its author has been improved, that the possibility for greatness is that much closer. Heck, I wouldn’t like to think — I know.

But that doesn’t mean I can pick a favorite of the multitude I have worked on over my career. And even if I could, I wouldn’t. Doing so undermines the value I put into every single one of my clients. The time I spend talking to them about non-editing things. The referrals to formatters and cover artists and help with promotion. The way my clients love to send me good news about a sales goal achieved, a word count achieved, a panel they’ve been asked to sit on, a proposal to teach a class that’s been accepted.

So as you vet editors, take a minute and look at their social media presence. (For one, do they spend more time on it than editing? Interestingly, I have felt that way about the editor who picked favorites.) Don’t choose your editor because you hope she’ll say those things about you. Choose your editor because he or she believes in you and because s/he will have your back at all times — even when asked to pick a favorite.

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#SaysTheEditor Worldview

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Milo cat inspired today’s post about worldview, so here he is again.

I have two cats: Milo and Lucy. They’re shelter cats, classic tabbies (as you can tell from the picture above) and… nothing really special. They do cat things: kill mice, eat, beg for food, play with toys, sleep on me, take over my favorite furniture, beg for raw meat when I’m cooking, come ask for pets, and give purrs. Normal cats, if you think about it. They are so easy-going that they don’t even wake me at the same time every day, like many pets do.

But Milo cat was diagnosed last March with diabetes. I caught it early — I went away for the weekend and came back, only to look at him and be convinced he’d lost weight while I’d been gone, a whole 48 hours — and he’s in remission.

Part of keeping him in remission — and the part that ties into today’s theme of worldview — is that I feed him twice a day, at the same time every day. It’s rigid and there are times when I hate it (and times when I love it) because it can be limiting on how I live my life.

Enter my cat sitter.

She’s important, because it’s her worldview that opened my own.

You see, Milo gets more food than Lucy at each meal. He’s bigger than she is and has a higher caloric need, by and large. He’s also lazier, so some days, Lucy gets supplemental feedings. But Milo gets more of their special diet at each designated feeding.

Despite that, Milo often — usually — finishes his food faster than Lucy. And because he’s Milo and he’s a piggie and probably still hungry, he goes and tries to shove his head into Lucy’s bowl. So not only do I have to feed them at certain times, I have to supervise them, too. It’s a good time.

Now, I’ll tell you that Milo is a bully, trying to take Lucy’s food.

But my cat sitter? She left me a note that she thinks Milo’s a doll, coming over to encourage Lucy to eat faster. Because my cat sitter, once the cats are fed, will break out a toy and play for awhile.

Worldview.

See how that worked?

And you know how this ties into writing, right? That I’m going to tell you that we as authors — heck, we as people generally only have one worldview: our own. But our characters often demand that we adopt more than that. We need to adopt theirs, too. And that’s not always so easy to do. Our characters have backgrounds that are different from ours, they often have values that are different (especially those of you who write mysteries and thrillers who have to get into the villain’s head and don’t want to descend into trite stereotypes).

How do you do it?

There’s no one tried-and-true answer to this one. But there are a lot of ways in which it can come about. Everything from listening to your characters to listening to the points of view of the people around you, people you have discussions with (be they political or not), or even eavesdropping.

If you’ve got a favorite method, I’m all ears. Share how you expand your characters’ worldview with all of us, will you?

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Featured New Book Spotlight: Where Are You?

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Featured New Book SpotlightSo, umm… Where are you?

Yeah, you. You with a book you want the world to know about and discover.

You, who made a playlist to keep you company and set the mood as you wrote.

You, who read something that you loved and want the author to come talk about, so you can learn more about it.

You, who loves music and finding new angles on beloved songs — or who loves discovering new songs to fall in love with?

I don’t get it. It’s one question. It’s free. And it’s promotion.

My readers like to buy the books featured here. Some of them will leave a review.

C’mon. Submit your song and your book today!

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#SaysTheEditor The Air Around Us

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I was thinking about this one a few weeks ago, and it’s been rattling around my head ever since, so here it is.

Let’s talk about air. About the air around us. About how air feels.

I can see you, you know. Making those funny googly eyes at your screen, trying to figure out what the hell I’m talking about, why you should care, and how this can possibly be worth an investment of your time. Bear with me; it actually does make sense.

Like I said, I noticed it a few weeks ago. The seasons were finally starting to change, the nights finally getting cold enough that I had to close the skylights… earlier every night. And then finally, I couldn’t close them early enough and had to turn the heat on.

Now, I like having the skylights open. I love to be outside, and one of the reasons for that is the feel of the air. The way it touches my skin, and if you stop and think — REALLY think — you’ll realize you understand what I mean. The autumn air, when the skylights were open, put a nip into the air. Not the “it’s about to snow” nip, but a sharpness that plucked at my arms and invigorated me. And, a day later, when the heat was on and I stood at my kitchen sink — largely under those now-closed skylights — I realized that the temperature-controlled air had an entirely different feel on my bare arms. It was softer. Sanitized, somehow. It felt protected, safe, almost coddling, especially when I considered the state of the rest of the hurricane-ravaged world.

This post today isn’t to tell you that you have to use all five senses when you describe something in your fiction — that’s a newbie’s game, designed to get a young writer to think and push themselves beyond the usual he looked or he noticed type of convention. All too often, scenes that make sure they encompass all five senses aren’t well done because the focus turns from the scene to the inclusiong of the senses.

Rather, as a writer, you should be thinking about these things. How does the air feel as it brushes against your face, your arms, and can you relate that to your character? Note that in my descriptions above, I use emotions as well as concrete telling details — emotions such as protected and concrete details such as sharpness — and if you don’t see how something like coddling can be an emotion and not a concrete telling detail, you need to stop and think. It’s not always the word itself so much as what the word conjures for the reader.

And again, this doesn’t mean you need to stop and describe every last thing. Just the important details, the small points that bring the scene to life. For me, it was noticing the difference in the air as I stood in a familiar place and did a woefully too-familiar exercise. Everything else was routine, so part of my brain went and sought out what was different, what was notable.

Right there. That’s your key. When something’s familiar, what’s different? Can you bring that to life? Remember to make sure there’s a reason for this — unnecessary detail just to show off how you can flex your descriptive muscles is never sexy writing — but have at it. What can you notice that your reader will appreciate, that will enhance the scene or the story, that will help push your own writing to new heights?

Think about it. The air around you. How does it feel?

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Still In Need of Promotion?

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Books do tell our stories! Not only should we support the NEA and NEH, but we should support each other, as well! Let me do that by sharing promotion opportunities with you.

Featured New Book.

Lines of Distinction.

Two easy promotion methods that I offer here at West of Mars — why aren’t more of you using them?

If you have, or if they are too hard for you (really? All you graphic teaser people?), here’s another promotional opportunity for you. It’s over at Wise Words Book Blogger, where Louise Wise is looking for current affairs articles written by your protagonist.

Seriously.

And seriously fun, no? Especially if you have a protag who doesn’t share your worldview. Stretching yourself to understand how your character would view something happening in the news right now is a great way to get to know not only your character, but to gain a better look at the world, as well.

We’re always told to write what we know, but sometimes, the demands of fiction don’t allow us to do that. This is a great opportunity to learn new things, stretch your writerly wings, explore a bit — and get some eyeballs on your project(s), too.

Go for it. Tell Louise I sent you — and be sure to drop me the link when it runs!

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Call for Submissions: Hot Holiday Reads

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Here’s an anthology I was invited to join. Not quite a call for submissions, but it’s an anthology! And they could have hated my story and sent it back, but it’s one of my favorite from the Trevolution. Grab a copy if you haven’t already.

Today’s call for submissions is for you romance writers and man, I wish I had something to submit. The deadline to submit is November 10, so if you’ve got something that needs a final polish, go for it. Otherwise, start on something for next year! (I am NOT kidding!)

The source is Fuse Literary — yes, a literary agency! — but don’t expect to back door your way in, and don’t disqualify yourself if you are already repped (but, of course, DO let your agent know what you’re up to, as they have a vested interest in your career). This is an anthology Fuse puts out annually, and the money from it goes to charity.

If you’re picked to contribute, you’ll get $10, which can be turned over to the charity, wink wink nudge nudge.

Here’s more about what they’re looking for:

The theme is winter-holiday romance. This can be any holiday in winter, any romance sub-genre, any heat level, any orientation, any fetish, etc. All are welcome, and diversity is encouraged.

Stories of all lengths will be considered, but this is not the place to submit a full-length novel.

We’re signing non-exclusive rights, so you’re free to publish your story elsewhere (let us know if your story has been published before).

As always, there’s no submission fee.

If your story is accepted, you will receive a single payment of $10, which you can choose to have donated directly to the Lung Cancer Alliance.

If you have any questions, leave a comment here so everyone can benefit.

For the record, this is the fourth time they’ve done this, so they’re old hands at by now (one would imagine). Submit your best!

And, since logic says they’ll go for the nice round Number Five (don’t ask how five is round; it is my brain), if you don’t have anything, start planning for next year. At worst, you’ll get a chance to write and push yourself and grow a little bit as a writer. And how is that possibly the worst that can happen?

Here’s the link to submit again.

As always, if you make the cut, let us know so we can brag about you and post links when the anthology goes live. Best part of the day when we get to do that!

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Featured New Book Spotlight Temporarily Dark Again

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Featured New Book SpotlightGrr, but no one had sent me their book information this week to be featured in the spotlight, and I was out of town all weekend, with limited Internet access. (which is a fancy phrase for unplugging and too bad if you don’t like it) So this week, the spotlight is temporarily dark.

If you hate when that happens as much as I do, send me your information, and do it early in the week! I love learning about your books, love hearing your music, and love bringing it all to a wider audience. Best of all, unless you want to reserve a certain date, it’s FREE.

Only costs you a couple minutes of your time.

Have at it. Flood my inbox. Just remember… it only has to be NEW to me and my readers.

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