Featured New Book Spotlight: Blood of Cayn by McDonald, Isom, and McDonald

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Featured New Book Spotlight

Been awhile, huh? I’ve been SUPER busy with edits and haven’t been able to remind authors to stop in. So if you are reading this, remind your author friends to stop in! It’s one question!

Today, we have McDonald, Isom, and McDonald back again, with McDonald representing the writing trio. Jason McDonald, that is, who’s an upstanding dude, so I encourage all you guys to check out this trilogy. And sadly, Blood of Cayn is the last book in the trilogy! If you’ve missed the first two, go chase them down. (Here’s the Amazon link to the first, and yes, sorry, but it’s exclusive to the Big A.)

So. Book Three. Blood of Cayn. (Man, I hope these guys have more in the pipeline. I’ve got to remember to ask.)

Jason, what song makes you guys think of your book?

Face Everything And Rise – Papa Roach

Aargh. This is one time when I wish we’d gotten more explanation about why. (Seriously, guys. I love the WHY part of that question!) I love this song, I have read the book… if memory serves, it fits. But I still want to hear from the writing team!

Ready for the back cover? Here you go:

Chernigov – once a shining hub of prosperity joining two nations, now a dark, smoke-shrouded hive of dangerous humanoids ruled by the ruthless hand of Bregu Kraagor – harbors a deadly secret. Somewhere in its depths, the villainous knight, Marko Madasgorski, and the body snatching mage, Gregori, have hidden a cache of plague-ridden soap that could spell the doom of the human kingdoms of Parlatheas.

After battling their way across half the continent, Xandor, Chert, Jasper, and Grendel have followed their quarry into the orc city in a desperate attempt to save the city of Pazard’zhik and everything they hold dear. Meanwhile, across the White River, Yana and Sehraine have joined forces with the Iron Tower to rescue their friends.

With only the dubious guidance of the disgraced Baroness Alexandra “Sacha” Madasgorski, the adventurers must plunge into the depths to find the plague’s cure and stop Marko and Gregori before it’s too late. But the dark god, Sutekh, doesn’t give up his pawns easily. While Sacha sets her own plans into motion, the sentient Veritas autem Sutekh whispers dark promises to Jasper, teasing him with hints of the answers they need and the promise of power – if he will swear his soul to Sutekh.

Will they find the cure? Can they escape the bowels of Chernigov to save their world? Find out in this thrilling conclusion to the Cayn Trilogy!

Seriously. If fantasy and D&D and all that is your thing, do NOT miss this series. It’s fresh, it’s innovative, and it’s fun. And, of course, once you read it, remember to leave a review! Reviews help books be more easily discovered… or to warn off readers if there’s a valid reason to do that.

Pick up your copy here: Like I said, it’s Amazon only.

And connect with our creative authors!

Website
Facebook
Goodreads

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Says the Editor: Respect The Reader

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I had picked up a book while it was on sale. No big deal; I do it all the time when the book sounds good. As a single parent who runs a microbusiness and has a mortgage and one college tuition staring her in the face, plus needs a second car and to fund a second college tuition, these sales — and I’ll admit it, the freebies — are a gift.

Yes, I leave reviews to say thanks. I suggest the really good ones to my friends, too. Why do you ask?

But this isn’t about the debate over free and sale books, and it’s not about the need to leave reviews. It’s about the responsibility of the author and/or publisher to respect the reader.

Now, this book had a number of big red flags. In the first four percent, we learned twice, in depth, about the main character’s need for anonymous sex. We spent a couple pages of info dump about the other main characters. And there was no clear opening to the book; I could have sliced off the entire four percent and the book would have been better for it.

So… already, it’s suffering from poor editing. Not a good sign.

And then, the grammar. And there’s a difference between uneducated — lots of him and me went together to that place — and sloppy.

I get that lie/lay is a hard construction. I still struggle with it, and I’ve been editing for HOW many years now? (The answer: about as long as my son’s ultimate coach has been alive.) But I’ve learned, because that’s what an editor does. She learns and grows and gets better at her craft.

Just like writers are supposed to.

So we had rough grammar, which didn’t completely complement the author’s voice and stuck out and made me wince. We had grammatical errors.

Clearly, no professional editor worth their salt was involved with this book.

But when I got to the place where a zero was used in place of the letter O, I was done. Now you’ve crossed the line from ignorance, which can be fixed, to a refusal to respect the reader.

Respect your reader.

At this point, it’s not even about editing. It’s about respect. It really is. Because if you can’t be bothered to at least run spell check to make sure something this massive hasn’t crept in, what else can’t you be bothered to do? Learn the craft of writing? Put your best effort on the page? Care about your project, your consumer, your future career?

It’s about respect. Respect the reader. Bring your best. Every chapter, every scene, every paragraph, every sentence, every word. Even if you can’t afford a professional editor, you owe it to yourself and your reader to run spell check and make absolutely certain that you’re not going to leave in an error that shows you don’t care about the product you are selling. There’s a difference between him and me stood there and stared and thr23 people approached. What does that last even say? How many people are involved in this approach?

If you can’t respect the reader, maybe you shouldn’t be publishing.

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Gotten Your Rights Back? Here’s a Deal

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The King Trevor cover because Lex did the ShapeShifter logo for my many years ago.

Have you gotten your rights back to a book that was previously published?

I’ve got a deal for you.

My friend Lex Valentine is offering a cover art package that can’t be beat. Lex is… an amazing writer, great graphic artist, and an awesome woman all around. She’s offering a great package on cover art for books whose rights have reverted to their authors. Why let your book sit on your computer? Put it out there! Visit her at Winterheart.com and be sure to tell her I sent you.

Of course, you can’t have a spiffy cover art package and a lot of typos inside. So if you send me proof you’re working with Lex on your cover art, I’ll give you a steeper discount than I usually do on a copy edit for a rights reversion. AND since right now the $100 rush fee is in place, I’ll waive, that, too, if time is of the essence.

That’s right. As a matter of course, I offer discounts now if you want to re-publish your book and put it on the self-publication market. BUT if you work with Lex, I’ll offer a steeper discount than I usually do. Even though it means I’m losing money, and with an expected announcement next month of college tuition hikes, that’s not real comfortable.

But these are the things we do for our friends, and I’ve no regrets about that.

Use Winterheart for your graphics. Get a discount from me.

Can’t lose… and hopefully, the royalties will roll in and you’ll actually win — new readers, nice royalty checks.

Seriously. What have you got to lose?

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Says the Editor: The Hard Work

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Been doing a ton of samples lately. Prospective clients. Summer approaches.

Noticed a trend. Big one.

Sending a lot of samples back with message: “I can work on this now, but I think your money’s more wisely spent if you take some time and fix these sentence fragments. If you’re stuck and need help, let’s talk about a pricing structure and coaching sessions that’ll help you improve this area of your craft.”

I don’t know where this trend is coming from, what’s fueling it. If authors are in such a rush that they aren’t paying attention to the simple formation of a sentence (and really, there’s rarely anything truly simple about a sentence). If their beta readers or critique groups or partners aren’t calling them out on this, whether from expediency or because they think it’s not their job (it is), or from simple ignorance of what constitutes good writing.

I can come up with a million reasons for why this is happening.

Ultimately, I don’t care what those reasons are, to be honest.

I want to see good writing crossing my desk. The kind that the author has worked on, paid close attention to, done his/her/their absolute best by, and then they’ve taken the time to learn some more, rolled their sleeves back up, and went deep yet again.

It’s not because I’m a snob. That I only want to work with the best. That’s not it at all.

Far from it. Some of my favorite clients are the ones who bring me a rough manuscript and then, as we work together, their craft improves. They do the hard work, and their pages reflect that, and the story reflects that, and then their readership reflects it, too.

Do you see the key? Have you picked up on what I’m stressing here?

Doing the hard work. Learning the craft. Doing the hard work.

Doing.

The.

Hard.

Work.

That means writing in full sentences. Sentences are powerful things, but if you cut them off at the knees, if you truncate them, you’re taking their power away. And in a novel, sentences are all you’ve got. They are the everything. The only thing more important are the words, themselves, that make up those sentences.

So yes. I’m trying to give these authors choices. I’m trying to save them some money — editing isn’t cheap, and I am a not cheap editor within the field. If you want to work together in a coaching situation, I’m more than glad to. Not because it’s lucrative for me, but because it’s important that you learn these skills, especially the basic ones. And because as you master them, your money is better spent when my editor’s eye can turn from the basics of writing to the more nuanced use of words and other elements of fiction: Plot. Setting. Pacing. Characterization. And the detail work, the timeline, the grammar, the echo words, your character’s eye color, the unusual spelling of your main character’s father’s name…

Slow down. Take your time. Don’t rush to publication; that never goes well.

Do the hard work. Work on your craft.

But if you need help, ask for THAT. Don’t pay me for an edit in which I have to call out 75% of your manuscript because the sentence fragments don’t work, even stylisticly. It’s a poor use of your money and a poor use of my time.

Do the hard work.

If you need help understanding how/why sentence fragments are a problem, ask. I’ll answer. I’m glad to work with you and teach you how to spot them, how to remove them, how to write better prose that readers will love.

Do the hard work.

Good luck.

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Susan’s Decoder Ring: Execution

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As an editor, I work with words — duh, right? Except part of “work with words” means I need to know how to bury something, how to pump it up, how a word’s placement in a sentence affects the reader. Unless I’ve done a line edit for you already, you’d probably be surprised at what a skill this can be.

That’s why I want to bring this very important one to you. Because for years now, we’ve been set up by a certain narcissist to accept something that I pray we won’t have to.

First was talk of walking out onto Fifth Avenue in New York and shooting someone and getting away with it.

There was no condemnation of the Saudi prince and his murder of a journalist.

There have been talks of sending our military into Venezuela. Rumors of military action against North Korea and others. Lots of talk of military action.

Just in March, a scant month ago, a Navy SEAL charged with murder was moved to a different spot in prison, a less restrictive place. Let’s reward the murderer!

And haven’t we seen some of that associated with certain mass killings? A kind of sideways absolution of someone who committed murder, at a rally, with an AR-15 or two or three? A lack of condemnation can be and probably is a sideways absolution when you’re speaking a narcissist’s native tongue.

There is talk of the military at the border being allowed to use more force against hopeful immigrants.

And then, recently, the most chilling one yet.

He started off by painting a lovely picture of a delivery room. Babies wrapped in blankets. And then, buried at the end of the sentence, after the feel-good moment, there it was. One word that both was preposterous in reality as we know it, but also a narcissistic teaser, a(nother) feeler to see how this new policy would go over, if there would be an outcry from the public.

EXECUTION.

This is a common narcissistic tactic: float an idea bunded into something else. See if there’s a reaction. If not, float it again and again. Inch toward the goal. Wear down the listener until they are too tired, too numb to react anymore.

Note, too, that this came mere days after Saudi Arabia executed 37 people. When we SHOULD be sensitive to it. When there SHOULD be an outcry, and not just because one of the executed was set to attend an American university when he was arrested and then executed. Thirty-seven people faced an execution. Thirty-seven people died. And a few days later, buried in a sentence, there it is.

EXECUTION.

It keeps coming back, in various forms. Don’t be numb to it. Listen to it. We are being shown what lies ahead.

So where is the outcry?

This is why that was tacked on to the end of that lovely picture. Oh, yes, it was meant to shock and horrify, and it did that. But that seems to be restricted to the idea of infanticide. Not to the wider idea of a change in our culture, a change in which the idea of execution becomes something that… well, if we’re not comfortable with, at least we’re not screaming bloody murder to keep it from happening.

Screaming now will hopefully save us from screaming in terror and the pain of loss later on.

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Featured New Book Spotlight: Animals, Acrobatics, Attitude, and Amore by Lynn Hallbrooks

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Featured New Book Spotlight

Well, this is a LONG time coming for this post, and let’s start off with a HUGE apology to Lynn. First her mail to me wound up in my spam folder. Then it got buried in an avalanche I had at the start of the month. And then it took four tries to dig it out of that mess.

But we’re here, and Lynn’s here, and it’s all good, right? Let’s talk about her new book, Animals, Acrobatics, Attitude, and Amore.

Lynn! Yay! We’ve connected! Tell us what song makes you think of your book.

The Unicorn Song.

There are mythical beings including Irish ones. Plus there are animals with attitude as well as plenty of gratitude.

Holy smoke. Have you guys heard this song? I swear I used to know a version of this when I was little. I SWEAR IT.

Wow.

How cool.

So what’s the book about?

A clean, cozy short story collection that includes fantasy stories that will be great for the young ones in your life. There are also what some consider Chick Lit. A quick read with something for almost everyone.

I know… short stories… a lot of people don’t like them. But can I tell you a secret? They’re AWESOME, especially if you have young people around you. You may not have time for one more chapter, but it’s pretty easy to squeeze in a short story between the kids’ needs. I speak from experience here.

So grab a copy. There’s only one review up at Amazon, and I KNOW you want to fix that, right?

Amazon US

Universal Book Links
Amazon Global

Multiple vendors via Books2Read

And connect with Lynn! Take advantage of this social media world we live in and learn more about her and her work.

Book and business website

Author and Reader website

Twitter

Goodreads:

Pinterest

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Says the Editor: Half the Story

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So here’s the scenario, ripped right out of my own life.

Student goes to the head chef at dining services. Asks if the dining staff will be making Kosher for Passover food next week.

He says no.

Doesn’t say anything else.

The student is, not surprisingly, upset. How can the dining hall not honor one of the major religion’s major holidays?

It’s a valid question. And a lot of people, especially the parents, quickly become upset.

But a little bit of digging reveals the answer: the chefs won’t be cooking Kosher for Passover food because the university is having it catered off-campus and brought in.

The chefs had been truthful. But they’d only had part of the truth.

So what’s this got to do with fiction?

Think about it. Think about how characters routinely ever learn only part of the whole picture. This is what fuels Big Secret plots, for instance, where part of the obstacles facing the characters’ relationship is what isn’t said.

Think about how withholding part of the truth can influence the direction a mystery takes.

You with me?

Take a look at your WIP. Are your characters being TOO forthcoming? Are they holding too much back? How does what each character chooses to say — or NOT say — influence and affect the plot?

It seems simple, but… it’s not. We authors often have impulses to tell what we’ve shown, and sometimes, we let that spill into the words that tumble out of our characters’ mouths. On the flip side, we think our characters are being oh, so clever when we have them withhold certain stuff. But are we doing justice to our fiction when we do either?

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Call for Submissions: Beer-Battered Shrimp for the Soul

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It’s been just over a year since my short story “Undaunted” appeared in this juried anthology. This call for submissions could have you bragging about your own inclusion in a juried anthology.

This one isn’t for short stories, though, unless you can tell an entire story in up to 125 words. I know some of you are very good at that.

What author Jaleta Clegg is looking for, mostly, is an abundance of silliness and weirdness. She wants happy and silly and hopeful, not dark or scary or disturbing.

Well, she says, maybe a little disturbing.

The idea is that it’ll fit on a page of funky fonts and cool formatting. And be silly and weird and happy and silly and hopeful and a little bit disturbing.

Got it?

Here’s another selling point: she’s paying a whopping $5 for each piece she selects. It’s not much, but it’s enough that you can say, “Hey, not only was it a juried anthology, it was a PAID juried anthology.”

Bragging points, indeed.

BUT that’s still not all. Nope. She’s also letting you tack one more thing onto that line you get to brag: Proceeds will go to Heifer International, so this is a charity initiative.

Got all that? Juried. Paid. Charity.

125 words. Silly, weird, hopeful, happy, and slightly disturbing, probably in its absurdity.

Need that link again, so you can check it out yourself? Here it is. Nice and long, so it’s easy to see and easier to click.

Good luck! You have until the end of May, thereabouts, because weird and silly and slightly disturbing… there are no real deadlines for THAT kind of fun.

As always, if you make the cut, come back and brag about yourself and use this space to help promote yourself and your anthology!

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This Read an eBook Week…

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Trevor’s Song

This is Read an eBook Week over at Smashwords. It’s the tenth annual Read an eBook Week, in fact, and I believe I’ve had a book or more enrolled every year since the first.

I’ve given away a lot of books during Read an eBook Week. Hundreds, thousands… honestly, I don’t really keep count.

You can get your hands on my books this Read an eBook Week, of course.

But I actually don’t want to talk about my own books, or promote myself. Not this week. (My books are old, after all, and even in ten years, society has shifted quite a bit and I don’t even know if they hold up anymore. I’m still proud of them, though.)

Rather, let’s talk about you, and three actions you can take this Read an eBook Week.
1. Browse Smashwords. Set your erotic filters and browse away. Find new authors, new books, new genres and subject matter. This is a great time to expand your reading horizons, so go for it.

2. Read something. If it’s stuff that’s been sitting on your ereader for a long time, if it’s the new stuff you’re finding… it doesn’t matter. Just read.

3. Write reviews. Leave them at GoodReads. Go back to the book’s page at Smashwords. Got a blog? Leave them there. Got a friend with a blog? Another option. I am also always glad to post thoughtful, constructive reviews and essays about books you’ve read here. And, of course, if you need help with a review or an essay about a book you’ve read, holler. I charge a minimal fee, and you’ll get more than the cost is worth.

Yes, that’s it! Find a book. Read a book. Review a book.

It has been proven over and over and over and over and over and over again that word of mouth recommendations are the best way to sell books. Reviews often fall into this category, because it means people are talking about someone’s book.

So talk about someone’s book.

We know there are algorithms that will prop up a book when it gets a new, or many, or a set number of reviews. So YOUR review has a very good chance of resonating and helping an author. Yes, even if it’s a negative review! (Remember, reading is subjective. I mean, I have met people who don’t loathe Moby Dick.)

And it’s not like you paid money for these books. Most of them over at Smashwords, as part of Read an eBook Week, are free.

That means leaving a review is an easy way to say thanks. To show appreciation for an author’s hard work, even if it wasn’t work that you loved. To help a very small business owner have a little bit better shot at success… and that, right there, is reason enough.

We’re one reading/writing/publishing community. If we don’t take care of each other, who will?

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#SaysTheEditor Why Isn’t Hell Proper?

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So I’m reading a book. It’s a good book. It’s a crazy book, actually, full of slapstick comedy and subtle humor and there’s a LOT to like about this book. It turns out to have been the third in a four-book series, and you bet I’m going to go back and find the first two, and then probably the fourth.

It is not a book I edited. It’s one of the approximately 35 I’m going to so-called leisure read. But when you’re wired the way I am, leisure is an odd choice of words.

And that’s the problem with this book. I’d recommend it in a heartbeat. I would. I have been, in the few days since I finished it.

But… I’m wired the way I am.

And in this book, Satan’s a character. And Hell is that place for immortal souls and suffering and all that.

Hell is a place. An actual place.

Now, Disneyland. That’s a place. Mars. That’s a place. Paris. Pittsburgh. Carnegie Music Hall. Buckingham Palace. The Louvre. Miami University of Ohio. Costco.

See anything about all these words? Notice anything at all?

That’s right. You use capital letters at the start of each of them. They are what we call proper nouns. They identify a specific place.

In this novel I was reading, Hell was a specific place.

But not once was Hell capitalized.

Drove me up the freaking wall. Three hundred pages of Hell being an important location in this novel, and never once was it accorded the dignity and propriety it deserves.

Hell is a place. In this use, it’s a proper noun. Give it a capital letter.

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Featured New Book: Amnesia by Jaimie Roberts

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Featured New Book Spotlight

What a way to start 2019 — with more new books to feature! You guys know I love to do this, so keep sending your submissions in.

Let’s get right to today’s friend. It’s Jaimie Roberts, and what a delight to see her here! She’s written a LOT of books, so hopefully she’ll stop back and tell us about some of the others, too. Why not, right? “New” only means it has to be new to me and you. No one ever said it had to be a recent release!

So Jaimie, what song makes you think of your latest release, Amnesia?

Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls, simply because the heroine of the book has been hiding herself for years for fear of people judging her. The hero is someone she eventually gets close to – opens herself up to. She decides to trust him even when the world around her seems to be falling apart. He is where she calls home. Her light in the dark. She wants him to see the real her.

Ooh, I LOVE this song. Always have.

But… there’s more to this, right? It’s not merely a romance?

Check out the description. It’s a romantic suspense!

I don’t use the term “bully” lightly. However, I have no qualms about using it when it comes to Max Cooper.

Arrogant.
Aggravating.
Annoying.

Those are just a few of the names I have for him that start with the letter A. I haven’t gotten through the rest of the alphabet … yet.

From the moment I met Max three years ago, he was nothing but an arsehole. The only reason we put up with each other is because we share the same best friend.

Then, everything suddenly changes when Max is involved in a horrific accident that sets him back three years. He remembers his friends, but here’s the real kicker: He doesn’t remember … me.

At first, I think it must be a cruel joke, but then I see how serious he is. Over time, I get to know the real Max Cooper. The one who can be sweet, funny, and kind. The one who shows me he’s not such an arsehole after all.

Then, the inevitable happens. I fall for him.

Just as things between us begin to balance out, I lose my own equilibrium, and I don’t know why.
But, despite all of this, no one is prepared for the real terror that’s about to unfold.

Whoa! You romantic suspense lovers are going to love this one. Heck, I’m curious and giving evil side eyes to the TBR mountains around here that I promised myself I’d make a dent in during 2019.

If you’re ready to chuck that resolution or never had it in the first place, here are your buy links. Amazon-only, sorry to say.

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Amazon AU

And connect with Jaimie. Her website’s under design as we speak, but you can find her here:
Goodreads
Twitter

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Susan Speaks: This Thing On?

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Happy New Year, friends, clients, acquaintances, writers, and the odd stalker or creepy person!

I figured it was a good time to stop in, check in, see how everyone is. It’s January 2, after all. It should be an inauspicious day, although longtimers around here know it’s not, and they know why.

It’s been busy over here. I worked all through the break and to be honest, I can’t remember the last time I took a day off. And I’m still not caught up, so thank you for the continued trust and work. Best of all, it doesn’t feel like work anymore, and it’s certainly not drudgery. Editing is the best challenge, brain game, and use of my time — not to mention stress relief!

If 2019 continues for me the way 2018 went, I don’t expect that string of no days off to change. By my count, I have room for about 11 projects all year — but don’t let that intimidate you. Remember that I do work on a Send When Ready schedule, so one of those anticipated eleven openings might happen right when — or maybe a day or two after — you need me. Please keep referring work my way, and if I can’t handle it… well, truth be told, I’ll figure out a way to work it in. This is what you do when you love what you do.

One thing I want to make time for in the upcoming weeks and months is conducting workshops, preferably (gasp) in person. Writing conferences, retreats, even meetings. When I haven’t been editing, I’ve been developing a pretty broad-based portfolio of workshops. I’d like to beta them, so if you’re in the area, keep your eyes open for details and invites to join in. Help me help you make the best book possible.

That’s it for over here. It’s been quiet even as it’s been busy, and as soon as I have more of these workshops tamed, I intend to return to blogging on a more regular basis. There’s only so much time in the day, after all, and you guys who pay me money to work on your manuscripts for and with you, as always, have top priority of my time.

Let me know what you’re up to. Chat with me on Twitter (@WestofMars), submit your book for a Featured New Book Spotlight, and keep an eye on the Facebook page, too. No need to lurk, not around me! I’m here in my yoga pants and oversized sweatshirt, living the dream… so join me.

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Susan Speaks: Cool Kinds of Kudos

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This is a rare gem that I gotta share with you guys.

I’d been talking to a potential client, like I often do. And unlike I often do, I wound up wishing him well with his writing endeavors, as he chose a different editor.

But he dropped back into my inbox a few days ago to ask if he could write nice things about me on his blog.

I appreciated that he thought to ask. And especially that he wanted to say nice things. Who doesn’t like receiving public kudos for their passions?

I’ll let you go over there and read them for yourself. If you have nice things to say about me, too, I’d love to hear them. I’m told time and again I need a client testimonial page on this here site, but I continue to resist. Why? A lot of reasons, including that I have a lot of clients who, wisely, use multiple editors in their quest to make the best book possible.

If you guys flood my inbox, though, with the sorts of kudos that I can’t resist — and more importantly, that’ll help other writers realize how amazing I am — I could change my mind and have my amazing web designer get your words on my site.

I kind of like that idea. Because it makes me happy when you guys tell the world how much you love me. Even when you (the horror) hire someone else.

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#SaysTheEditor Functional Fitness

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I was reading an article the other day. It said that triceps dips were an exercise no one should do because they aren’t a move replicated in real life, and therefore aren’t functional fitness. And if it ain’t functional fitness, don’t waste your time doing it.

That’s like telling a writer not to write in first person if everything they’ve ever written and published is in third person.

And… I don’t agree with that advice.

First off, I kinda like doing triceps dips. When you do them right, your whole body is being propelled up and down by these three skinny little muscles in your arms, and that’s pretty damn amazing to think about. And when you do them right, they are hard. Really hard.

I don’t know about you, but I like them just for the pure fact of the challenge.

Same for writing. Rise to the challenge. Don’t focus on the outcome.

Push yourself. Try new things. Stretch yourself — physically, mentally, and creatively.

Because when you focus only on the outcome, you limit yourself. You focus on the destination, not the journey. You never get to sit back and smile and tell yourself you’re amazing; that you’ve just done something you’ve never done before, and dammit, you CAN.

Maybe triceps dips really aren’t your thing. That’s okay. Try them anyway. See where the journey takes you.

Same for your writing. Maybe this isn’t directly going to get you published.

What you’re seeking is the indirect.

Go for it.

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Featured New Book: City of Cayn (Cayn Trilogy Book 2) by C Jason McDonald, Alan Isom, Stormy McDonald

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Featured New Book Spotlight

Let’s welcome my friend Jason McDonald back to West of Mars! If you recall, in September, the first book in this fun trilogy came out, and now Jason’s back to tell us about the second. I totally agreed with his pick for the first book, so let’s see what he’s got for the second, shall we?

Jason, what song makes you think of your book?

I was so looking forward to this question with this next book.

There’s a scene in my head where Jasper, my rotund mage, walks down a busy street wearing a disguise. In the background is the outer wall of the palace compound and the first chords of the song strike up. Tears come to my eyes every time.

The song has to be “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” by Aerosmith.

I remember this scene, and once again, YES. This is THE PERFECT song for that scene!

I can’t even begin to tell you guys about it. Seriously. Get the book — start with the first — and see what’s up. It’s fabulous.

Here’s the description for the second book in the Cayn Trilogy, which I still maintain is one you gotta read!

The people of Pazard’zhik are dying in droves due to the mysterious plague, and the only organization that might be able to help—the White Circle, the local guild of human mages—has been unable to find a cure.

Even Marcus, the leader of the Kral’s security forces, is sick and dying, but the team he recruited to investigate the disease, a ranger, a dwarf, a mage, and a half-orc gladiator, remains on the case. Not everyone is who they seem to be, though, and spies and traitors to the Kral abound, looking to aid in the team’s downfall.

Hunted by the local militia and the White Circle mages, as well as their true enemy, the team must race against time to locate the last wagonload of soap and solve the mystery of the Blood of Cayn before the citizens of Pazard’zhik perish.

Everything points to the city of Chernigov, but it is held by the orcs, their mortal enemies. Will the team be able to sneak in and find the answers they need to save Pazard’zhik, or will their capture and execution end all hope?

Sadly, this is Amazon-only. But it’s totally worth picking up in print and sharing with your friends. How often do I say THAT?

Connect with Jason, Alan, and Stormy!
Website
Facebook
Instagram
GoodReads

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#SaysTheEditor It’s December First!

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If you’re a writer, today, the first of December, means one of a few things:

1. Nothing special
2. Something special that has nothing to do with writing
3. A return to social media of a lot of writers you follow
4. A win
5. A loss

If it’s that last one, let’s talk about why it’s a loss.

Did you show up on November 1, intending to write 50,000 words last month? Are you kicking yourself for being a failure because you didn’t hit that 50k mark? Now that it’s December first, is all hope of winning gone?

Be kinder to yourself. You tried.

Yeah, sounds lame to me, too. So let’s talk about the REAL value of National Novel Writing Month — showing up to the page.

Kudos to you if you showed up for thirty days straight. Even if you wrote one word on a few of those days, you showed up. That’s what forms the basis of habits, and now that it’s December, just a generic month in the writing world, you shouldn’t stop. Keep that habit going.

Maybe you burned yourself out during November, struggling for those 50,000 words. You’re probably glad it’s December. If that’s the case, take some time off to recover and come back as soon as you can. Your fictional friends need you.

I remember when NaNo started and they’d tell you to go ahead and write garbage words, include stage directions for yourself – whatever it took to hit that 50,000-word mark. The intent was to show yourself what it would take to write a short novel.

But then NaNo changed, as everything does, and it became about being the month in which you’d draft a book you intended to publish. Hopefully you learned all about the art of revision.

Now, I think the value of NaNo is that it establishes (or RE-establishes) the habit. That practice of showing up every day, of staring at a blank page, of thinking about your characters, their struggles, their growth, the consequences they face.

And if you sat down on November 1, intending to write every day, but you found that because you’re a child, a parent, a friend, a lover, a boss, an employee, a coach, a mentor… a WHATEVER, you can only write on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays… that’s great, too! Make sure you show up on those days. Sit down. Stare at the page. Write at least one word. Two’s better. Ten’s an improvement. So’s eleven.

You get the idea.

Just because it’s December doesn’t mean you need to stop writing for the next eleven months.

Winning, in terms of being a writer, isn’t getting 50,000 verified words written on a page. Winning is showing up and doing the hard work of writing. It’s making a habit of working on your craft.

That said, though, while December tends to be a slow month for editing projects for me, don’t send me your NaNo attempt this year if you haven’t revised it extensively yet. Always send your editor your best work, so that s/he (I!) can give you the best feedback possible. The idea is to get yourself as far along the path as you can, and then bring in the big guns.

Good editing ain’t cheap. Remember that.

But maintaining your writing schedule? Rolling through the bumps that invariably pop up, interrupting your sacred writing time?

That costs you nothing — but will pay off down the road.

Keep writing. THAT is what makes you a winner. Not some random word count that is, to be honest, short for a good novel.

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Says the Editor: Authenticity

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You guys know I love Rock Fiction.

But lately… I have found myself disillusioned. Disgusted. Annoyed. Frustrated.

Because the authors aren’t bothering to do their research. There’s a HUGE difference between a band manager and a tour manager. Massive headlining tours don’t come together in days or weeks. And for crying out loud, know the difference between poetry and the structure of song lyrics. My favorite was the band who slept in their dressing rooms in the arena — umm… WHAT?

There really isn’t any excuse for this lack of research. And sorry, but, “I copied what someone else did,” or “I asked someone on Facebook” isn’t doing research. You need to talk to people who’ve worked in the industry, people with hands-on experience, people who’ve been there and seen it. Make sure what you want to have happen is plausible. If your star is the darling of the moment, can he REALLY take off to the beach and have a bonfire? Won’t there be security issues? No one notices and posts it to social media? He’s not too tired from all the touring, which is hard, exhausting work? If his alcohol problem is really truly that bad, can he spend that time without a bottle or can at hand?

Notice how my issues of authenticity begin to sway away from only the details of the music world.

That’s because, having found a string of errors, the author has broken the contract between us. I can’t trust what the author is presenting.

And therein lies a bigger problem, doesn’t it?

If you, as the author, can’t be authentic and therefore credible in your writing, why should I, as the reader, spend time with your book?

Think about it. A few small details is one thing. But the bigger issues… that’s undermining yourself. Your career. And, unfortunately, it hurts the entire genre or category, too.

If you love something, don’t hurt it. Build it up. Take the time. Do the research yourself. Check the facts. Build your authenticity. Get firsthand knowledge, even if firsthand knowledge means watching YouTube videos that established bands post of their tour busses or finding articles that describe busses that strain believability before you network your way to the people who can confirm and/or deny what you’re seeing.

Put the time in. Because if you don’t, why should I, as a reader, put the time into your book?

Increasingly, that’s the question I’ve been asking myself.

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Call for Submissions! Triangulation: Dark Skies

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I thought this cover would compliment the post, even though it has nothing to do with… well, anything other than the theme. In my mind. Let me know if I nailed it.

Local-to-me Parsec, Inc has put out a call for submissions for their literary magazine, Triangulation.

The theme is Dark Skies.

What does that mean?

From their site:

Triangulation: Dark Skies will be a celebration of the dark. This year, we are joining forces with the International Dark-Sky Association to raise awareness of the dangers of light pollution—to human health, to animals and plants in the nighttime ecosystem, and to the future of astronomical research on our planet. We’d like to see proactive characters experiencing firsthand the dangers and consequences of a world without darkness, but even more than that, we want stories celebrating our place in the universe, and our ability, as sentient beings, to see into the depths of space. Give us past, present, and future accounts. Cautionary tales. Secondary worlds and altered timelines. The effects of light pollution are many and varied—feel free to explore any aspects, from neurobiological studies, to life in an alien star system, to legends out of time.

Do you love it? I love it. I can feel some creative juices flowing already.

Submissions open December 1 and close on the last day of February, and should be made through my favorite submissions site, Submittable.

And they are a paying market! So be sure to check out the guidelines (aka rules) and follow them. Don’t set yourself up for failure. You are better than that.

As always, if you want my fine editor’s eye to look over your piece before you send it in, drop me an e-mail. I give discounts on editing when you say your intended market is one you first saw here. (HINT)

Good luck, and also as always, if your story makes the cut, come back and let us know. Do a Featured New Book Spotlight! Brag about it! Send us buy links so we can read it and brag about you, too.

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Featured New Book Spotlight: For the Sake of Honor (Seekers of the Past Book 2) by Amy Valentini

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Featured New Book Spotlight

Let’s welcome Amy Valentini to West of Mars!

She’s got a new book out, the second in a series, and it’s one of those series that continues the main characters’ timeline, instead of focusing on supplemental characters. So if continuing stories are your thing (I’m glad to read ’em!), listen up. If not, well… check out the first! Either way, you’ll want to investigate the first.

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

MAGIC by Pilot
Many would recognize it from the chorus, “Ho, ho, ho – It’s magic you know – Never believe, it’s not so – It’s magic, you know – Never believe, it’s not so.
Emma and Sam’s journey to where the Past meets the Present and Love Lives Forever is magical. A series that’s based in contemporary but takes the reader on adventures into the colonial era past as Emma and Sam seek answers connecting them to a couple from the past. Does love live forever, reborn again, and again?

Wow! When was the last time I heard this song? Amy, you ROCK for finding such a great old gem. I may need to add this to my main, crazy Spotify playlist.

So, after THAT bit of fun (I may or may not still be dancing around my office… does anyone remember how to do the Hustle? Can you do it to this song? Why would I want to?), let’s get back to the book itself. Because really, as much as we’re here for the music, we’re here for the books, too.

Ready for what it’s about? I am!

The Seekers of the Past series continues as Emma and Sam seek answers to a growing number of questions. The discovery of gold on the family farm has left them wondering about the world, time, and love. If love conquers all, can love prove greater than even time?

Emma discovers a journal written by the youngest member of the Embry family. The author of the journal is her look alike from the past. She begins reading the story of Anna Pelt and Joshua Embry. His return from England with a future bride has left Anna questioning her place in his world. Having loved him all of her life, she feels betrayed and discarded. When he claims to love her but honor is forcing him to marry the woman chosen by his parents, Anna believes it is because he thinks her too far beneath him—only a servant, and not good enough to be his wife. Can love prove stronger than honor?

Can the journey to find the answers Emma and Sam seek about the past uncover more about their mysterious connection to the couple in the portrait?

COOL.

Definitely pick up the first in this series. And remember to leave a review once you read the book — reviews are SO helpful to authors, and it’s such an easy way to give back. (Remember, if you are struggling to write a review, drop me a note and I’ll help. Super cheap!)

Here’s where:

Amazon (Print and Kindle)
Smashwords (all other formats) *This is a referral link, so if you use it — and you should! — I’ll get a small cut.

Connect with Amy!

Facebook
Twitter
BookBub
Goodreads
Amazon Author Page
Google+
website
review blog

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Featured New Book Spotlight: Georgia Pine: Southern Promises Book 3 by KG Fletcher

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Featured New Book Spotlight Let’s welcome KG Fletcher to West of Mars!

KG’s got the third book in a series to share with us today, released just last week. And you know how early sales (and reviews! Don’t forget the reviews) help a book’s overall success. Which means you need to get those One Click fingers busy. And no, NOT like that! Sheesh. Focus on the BOOKS, people. Of course, with a cover like this…

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

Rewrite the Stars – Zac Efron, Zendaya – from The Greatest Showman

The lyrics in the song are hopeful and sad at the same time. In my release, GEORGIA PINE, my main characters, Jessica and Tim, are hiding their relationship from the world. They want to be together, but unless Tim comes clean with who he really is, they can’t publicly love one another. If only they could “Rewrite the Stars”, nothing could keep them apart. The gut-wrenching lyric in the song, “Say that it’s possible” is that glimmer of hope. Will they end up together? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Yes, the video has subtitles in a different language. But this video had a lot of views, so that’s the one we went with.

Now, THAT song is enough to make me grab the book. How about you?

Here’s the official description:

The agony of defeat never felt so real.

Never in a million years did Jessica Kaufman think she would be divorced from her real-estate mogul husband and left to raise four young daughters on her own in an affluent Atlanta subdivision. The very last thing she expects is an encounter with her gorgeous gardener who looks more like a sexy beast from her daughters’ favorite Disney movie. She is smitten with his evergreen eyes, wild mane of hair and impressive stature.

Tim McGill is in hiding – his reputation and celebrated career on the West Coast left in shambles. He moves far away to distance himself from his downfall and inconspicuously tends the upper-class landscapes to keep his renowned identity a secret. Unlike his typical wealthy clients, Jessica doesn’t seem to mind that he’s a gardener. One spark between them is all it takes to ignite a fiery passion that could explode if Tim’s identity is revealed. He must earn Jessica’s trust and finally come to terms with what he has lost.

Can Tim open his heart wide enough to let in a beautiful mother and her four little girls? Or will his Southern Belle turn her back on him and walk away from their happily-ever-after?

Get your copy! Yep, Amazon only. Lots of authors find this is the best solution for their books.

Connect with KG, too! It’s always fun to connect with an author.
Website
Twitter
Instagram
Facebook
Amazon
Pinterest
Goodreads
Georgia Pine Spotify Playlist
YouTube Channel
Original Song recorded for the series!

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