Summer’s On at Smashwords! #SummerSale

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Trevor’s SongTrevor’s Song is part of the Smashwords Summer Sale.

It’s July, so that means one thing: the Smashwords Summer (winter for you Down Under) Sale!

As always, my books are free for you, so help yourself. Pick up one of my past titles, enjoy Trevor and the Trevolution. Let me know if you want to see a third Trevor novel or a fifth Demo Tapes compilation — or even a complete set, with each and every story in chronological order. I can and will do any or all of these for you.

But this year, I’m going to lay down a challenge for you. On August 2, 2019 (so, a year and a month) from now, my daughter is headed to Yellowstone National Park with the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. They picked 13 of their ZooU students for this trip, which is run through Ecology Project International. They’ll be doing a week’s worth of research, conservation work, and more. They’ll be camping in the back country, bear spray at the ready. It’s a nine-day trip, the longest she’ll have been away from me. And she’ll be doing something I’ve dreamed about! Talk about adding insult to injury…

So. What’s the challenge I’m handing down to you?

It’s this: If you decide to pay full price for any of my books at Smashwords during the month of July, when they are on sale and you could have them for free, I’ll put 100% of my royalties to the cost of her trip. It’s not a cheap trip, and she needs some gear before she goes, too. Thankfully, because we are a Scouting family, we have some of it. But she still needs some.

Want to donate directly to her and skip the books, since you’ve already read and loved them? You can do that. She and I would both love that.

Regardless of what you choose to do (if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice!), take some time and wander through the Smashwords Summer Sale. Find some good deals.

And no matter what, remember to leave a review! Nothing helps an author more — except telling your friends about something you’ve read — than leaving a review. Even if it’s as short as “I liked this because…”

Negative reviews may prick an author’s pride, but when written constructively, they are helpful to both the author and future readers. I encourage you to think long and hard, but not to shy away from a negative review.

And, as always, if you need help writing a review, holler. I offer a steep discount on review help. That’s how important they are to me.

Happy Smashwords searching! And if you haven’t joined the Trevolution yet, why not? It’s FREE.

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Says the Editor: Busy Season!

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For a long time, I thought the reason summer was my busy season was because you all wanted me to edit while you’re on vacation. Really, you guys deserve longer breaks from your work in progress for more than a week, but I’m indulgent like that. (I slept until 8:30 this morning — well, the morning I’m writing this — and that’s extremely rare for me.)

But lately, I’ve found a way to quantify my stress and I noticed that as soon as the kids were out of school and my oldest now a graduate, my stress levels… plummeted. That’s coincided with my sitting on the couch, working on my own fiction. (and probably sleeping until 8:30, but that’s another story.)

Coincidence?

Not on your life.

Whatever the reason, I’m glad to say this summer is shaping up for me like almost every other: busy. Which means that if you need me (and why don’t you???), better get in the queue now. I still work on a first come, first served basis and I’ll do my best to hold a date if you’re a deadline person, but know I’m not going to sit idle for a few days while I wait for you. I have a college tuition to pay starting in August!

Right now, I’m not so busy that the Rush fee is active. That could — and probably will — change at any point, so if you’re working on something that you think or know will be ready for an edit soon, well, do NOT rush it. Not for my sake. Remember you always want to send your editor your very best (unless you’re stuck and you need my expert eye, at which point holler and I’ll help. Of course!).

So what do you do?

Contact me. Tell me you know it’s the busy season, and you want to make sure I’m on your radar. If you’re an existing client, will it make a difference? Quite possibly; I take care of my people.

But if you and I haven’t worked together yet, don’t despair. You won’t be thrown to the back of the queue time and again. Nope. You’re my people now, at least temporarily, and I take care of my people.

What does that mean? It means I’m not too busy to communicate with you (generally) about where you are in the queue and when I’ll get to you. It means you’ll get 100% of my attention and be the only project I work on until it’s done. (Not all editors, I’ve learned, work this way.) It means you potentially get to make me so busy, I impose the rush fee.

Got it?

Now, get busy on your fiction. Summer’s here (unless you’re Down Under, but that’s a logistic we can work out another time). Hopefully your stress levels plummeted as much as mine have. Hopefully you’re busy writing, and you’ll need me before you start shopping for school supplies or (eep!) dorm room linens. Be in touch, let me know you’ll me.

In the meantime, I’ll be over here. Busy.

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Says the Editor: A Million Words of WHAT?

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If you’ve followed me for these past 12 years, or if you’ve ever taken the time to wander through my archives, you may get an inkling of one thing about me that I don’t overly try to hide: I live life large. I’ve done all sorts of crazy and not-so-crazy things in my life. Of course, that leaves me with a lot of scars, a lot of painful memories I don’t talk about. Most, I don’t like to revisit. I’ll be honest about that.

Sometimes, something comes out of the buried ether to torture me, amuse me, or give me perspective.

What happened recently was the latter: all about perspective, baby.

It was right after I’d graduated from Pitt with my BA. I was taking graduate-level classes, trying to figure out if grad school was what I wanted or where else I might turn my face to a new path. We were meeting in the professor’s house because, hey, we were grad students and this is what we did. (Come to think of it, all these years later, that was the only time I had class at my professor’s house, which was quite a shame) We were a small group. Diverse, but not in the way you might think. One of Chuck’s favorite students had paid for her undergrad degree as a phone sex worker. Her writing never met my expectations, which was that I wanted to see that she’d lived life large.

Anyway, we were sitting around one night, and I’d put up a few chapters of a novel I was working on. It… got panned. Like really bad. That was the day that Chuck told me he wanted a German satellite to drop on my main character. And as much as it stung, I had to jab my tongue into my cheek — I still remember this moment clearly — and nod and agree. “When you put it like that, so do I,” I told him.

And then Simon spoke up. Simon was a Brit, he was a few years older than most of us, he had long brown hair, and I can’t remember if he had bangs or not. He was both scruffy — a ton of razor stubble, but not in the sexy way men wear it now — and polished. He would sit cross-legged on the floor and when he wanted to speak, he’d straighten out of his slouch and somehow rock on his crossed knees, raising himself up a good six inches. It always reminded me of a cobra, uncoiling from the basket the charmer kept him in. He’d tuck his hair behind his ears. His eyes would sparkle, and he’d weave his torso, purse his lips, move his hands (when they weren’t tucking his hair, which he’d do repeatedly while he waited for a break in the conversation) until he got to speak. We always liked it when Simon spoke; he was smart as hell. I bet if I could remember his last name (which I maybe never even knew, so maybe there’s nothing to remember), I’d discover he’s got a backlist of publications that puts my 15 to shame and he’s probably got some awards on top of all that.

Needless to say, I respected Simon. I was a little scared of him, but I respected him. When he spoke up in workshop, he tended to be right on.

“I believe,” he started cautiously, and I steeled myself, “that all of us writers need to write a million words of crap before we find our writer souls. You’re clearly talented, Susan, but…”

I winced.

“I believe this is part of your million words of crap.”

Ouch. And, like always, he was right.

“You are young,” he continued. “Get your million words of crap out of you. Write as much as you can. All of you,” he said, eyeing the room. “We all need to write as much as we can. Make sure those million words of crap are out of you. I know mine are.”

That was many years ago. I am not sure I believe that all writers have a million words of crap in them. I’ve met too many really good writers who knock it out of the park on their first attempt. (I’ve edited a number of them, too.) And while I agree that the project I was working on at the time was a mere seventy thousand of my million words, I’m not sure I ever hit a million. (Although, of course, there are some who’ll gleefully disagree.)

That memory got dredged up a few weeks ago, and hasn’t left me yet. I was working with a new author who didn’t take kindly to the realities of the editorial process.

But even now, all these years later, Simon’s words and assessment were right on. Even when I’m not consciously aware of it, his words are the basis for my belief that authors have to give ourselves permission to write utter crap for our first draft. Feel out the work. Get to know the characters, the setting, the message. Embrace the million words.

Not everyone can do that. It’s hard to embrace crap. I learned that day in Chuck’s house, sitting one person over from him and with Simon about five more to Chuck’s left. Because the comment about the German satellite, and Simon’s comment about the million words — they weren’t meant to be mean. They were meant to tell a writer to cut her losses and move on to something better. That if I could admit this was bad — which I did, right there, because everyone who’d spoken up had made great points about how and why it was crap — I could let go of the emotional attachment I had to the work and move on to something better.

I know I did, although I don’t remember what that was. It, too, wound up being trashed, stuck on a floppy disc somewhere, maybe a hard copy stuffed away in the cabinets here in my office. (I think I have the one that was so roundly trashed, too.)

The point is that it’s okay to write a million words of crap. It’s okay to write a million words of not crap.

But be a big enough person to realize that writing is a craft and it’s not a waste of an editor’s time to hire him/her/me and ask for help — but you gotta take that help that you’re given. Even when it hurts. Give it time. Go write something else. Live a little bit larger than you had been. And then come back to the page and make it better.

That’s the beauty of writing: for every million words of crap, there’s ten million of good stuff.

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Featured New Book Spotlight: Chevalier by Bree M Lewandowski

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Let’s welcome Bree M Lewandowski to West of Mars!

Her newest book is called Chevalier, and isn’t that cover intriguing? I really dig it.

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

How will Fate dictate this adventure between lovers?

Nightcore’s version of Legendary Lovers.

Hmm. That doesn’t tell us a lot about the book, does it? Are you intrigued? I am. I’d like to know more. So here we are:

Linah Morane, a well-known woman of Meridionalis has been scorned and taunted her entire life due to her abnormalities. After the humiliation of being abandoned at the altar, she humbly accepts the unexpected marriage proposal to the King’s Vizier, Kohl. Her heart still fluttered each time she fondly remembered their first and only dance together.

The depth in her eyes was emphasized by the rare hue of cerulean that peered into his soul. Those eyes had stopped the very beating of Kohl’s heart. He had fallen in love with her that very moment. Over the years, her poise and grace to overcome the whisperings were admirable on a royal level. Then fate arrived and Kohl lept at the opportunity to have Linah as his bride.

Seeking safety for his wife after learning of impending war, they journey through the forests and mountain caves until Kohl is mortally wounded. Linah turns to the Nightingale Queen and her gift of healing for help, but is unaware of the damaged past the Nightingale Queen and her husband share.

Secrets are exposed and loyalties shift in this thrilling tale of love and war!

Yeah, this one’s got SERIOUS potential. Pick up a copy!
Amazon
iTunes
Barnes and Noble

And connect with Bree, too. It’s always fun to connect with authors (especially when you like their books and leave them reviews. Not that I’m hinting; I’m coming out and telling you do it!)

Facebook

And what’s this I hear? More coming from Bree? Check out her page, get in touch, read her book, leave reviews. You guys know the drill. Help support authors of all kinds; it’s good for all of us.

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Featured New Book Spotlight: Naval Maneuvers by Dee S Knight

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Let’s welcome Dee S Knight to West of Mars! She and I got to chatting via Twitter one day and the next thing you know, my inbox was full of a Featured New Book Spotlight that I’m thrilled to bring you guys today.

Do you guys like military fiction? I have to confess I like what I’ve read, but I don’t rabidly seek it out. Still, this is one that’ll probably show up on my GoodReads page sooner or later… it really sounds good!

But before we get to what the book’s about, let’s talk about music. Because that’s the fun of the Featured New Book Spotlight: the music. Dee, what song makes you think of your book?

“Blue, Navy Blue” by Diana Renay.

I like it for my book Naval Maneuvers because it’s kind of bittersweet. Men and women who choose the Navy to serve the country leave family and loved ones behind during long tours at sea. Of course, the song also mentions the happy homecoming, which is often filled with lots of kissing and loving behind closed doors (except those doors aren’t closed in my book! ;)) Naval Maneuvers is composed of three novellas: love denied because of childhood memories, love found and then lost because of military regulations, and love found for a second time after years of lies. All have HEAs, humor, and strong men and women.

An oldie! Oh, I love this song. I’d never heard it before, but it makes me think of a more innocent time. And Henry Winkler. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a compliment.

Now I need to read this book! But wait! It’s actually a three-in-one volume — and not novels, either, if you’re worried about time commitment. Nope. These are short stories. Even better.

Here’s what it’s about:

Men and women of the armed forces experience desire and love pretty much like everyone else. Except, well, there is that uniform. And the hard-to-resist attraction of “duty, honor, service” as a man might apply them to a woman’s pleasure. All things considered, romance among the military is a pretty sexy, compelling force for which you’d better be armed, whether weighing anchor and moving forward into desire, dropping anchor and staying put for passion, or setting a course for renewed love with anchor home.

Weighing Anchor (allowing a ship to move forward by retrieving the anchor): A professional woman sworn to avoiding all things military finds herself in love with a lieutenant commander in the Navy. Love won’t conquer all if she allows her childhood memories to eclipse future happiness.

Dropping Anchor (securing movement by dropping the anchor): Two people find (surprisingly) that they are both in the Navy and love their chosen professions—until one turns out to be an officer but not a gentleman and the other is a gentleman but not an officer.

Anchor Home (safe, smooth sailing): When two former lovers find each other after more than a decade, will a long-hidden secret threaten the course of a rekindled romance or be the cause of it?

So. Grab your copy, and be sure to leave a review — they help readers find books!
Amazon
Smashwords (affiliate link)
Book Nook
Kobo

And connect with Dee, too.
Website
Blog
Twitter
Good Reads
Amazon

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Call for Submissions: Less Than Three Press

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Anthologies are great ways to get published and meet fellow authors who’ll help get your name out.

Whoa, this could be some heavy stuff, for you who are into it. Or it could be uplifting; it’s all in how you interpret the prompt, right?

Less Than Three Press is looking for submissions for their anthology titled Life After All. Here’s what they say:

Life After All — an apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic/pastoral apocalyptic LGBTQIA+ anthology — The end of the world is a dark, bleak place. Life is full of grit, misery, and barely scraping by. But if humans excel at anything, it’s making the best of a bad situation, and the end of the world would be no different.

Less Than Three Press invites you to submit stories about life after the end of the world being far from bleak and hopeless. We want to see stories of hardened apocalypse survivors building new lives and homes with their found families; gentle robots terraforming the ruined remains of the Earth; your post-Earth space settlers slice-of-life.

I hope you have more than I do, ’cause I got nothing. I just can’t force my tender little brain to go there.

There are a few things you’ll need to know before you start to write:
1. Stories need to be between 8k and 15k. Yes, that’s a minimum of eight thousand words. And yes, fifteen thousand is verging on novella territory, but just think of what an awesomely meaty story you can create! Some of you see that word count as a luxury. Others are freaking out, I’m sure. Stop that. You can do it.

A few of you are going to wind up with a novel, too. Go for that, as well.

2. Stories need a Happily Ever After, or a Happily For Now (my preferred ending). No compromise on this one! BUT at the same time, you’re not locked into writing a romance, if that’s what got triggered in your brain when you saw the HEA or HFN just now.

3. They pay a LOT. Like, wowsies.

4. Deadline is July 31.

5. Be sure to check out the Less Than Three Press website for full details, including instructions on how to submit.

As always, if you’ve written something for a prompt I’ve posted about and you’d like my experienced eye on it, holler. I’m glad to work on this for you, and at a discounted rate, too. (I’ll even waive the rush fee, if it’s on, like it currently is.)

So get writing, and good luck! If you get accepted, be sure to stop back and let all of us know so we can celebrate you and pick up a copy of an anthology with one of us in it.

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Says the Editor: Righty or Lefty?

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Are you a righty or a lefty? And why does it matter when you write fiction?

I just realized this, as I’m communicating with a client. The sentence was something along the lines of The blast came from one side, causing him to fall over to the other side. (Wow, is that a horrible interpretation of what’s on the page, but you get the idea. I hope.)

Now, yeah, it’d help if we knew which side things came from. Maybe this isn’t an issue of righty or lefty in terms of which is your dominant hand, but maybe it’s an issue of righty or lefty in terms of which side you skew toward. Maybe handedness and eye dominance plays a role. I’m not sure!

So. On the page, I’m envisioning that the blast comes at the character from the left, and s/he falls to the right. I’m also envisioning that the character is right handed.

The question I have for you is twofold:
1. Do you envision it the same way I do?
2. Are you a righty or lefty — both handedness and eye dominance?

Let’s see how this shapes up.

In the meantime, when you’re writing action scenes and things are coming at the characters from the sides, maybe throwing in a left or a right every now and then isn’t a bad idea.

Make note of the every now and then in the above sentence. That’s important, because if you overdo it, you wind up in the realm of information that’s important for you as the author but not so important for us as the reader.

Getting back to Steve, my client whose character got hit from one side, I suggested he change it up to let us know which way the character falls. Thinking more about it, I’d like to know how that fall affects her, too. If she falls toward one side or the other, does it change her reaction, both physical and mental? Does it change the flow of the action scene? The outcome? Would it be different if she were a righty or lefty? And most importantly, how does knowing these few simple details — which is her dominant hand, and which way did she fall — affect how the reader interacts and absorbs what’s happening here? Does it recast their mental picture of the scene? Or does it shore up what they’d envisioned up until they got to that word?

Lots to mine in here, huh?

That’s what you guys pay me the big bucks for. To sit and think these things through, so I can help you enrich your fiction and help paint those mental pictures that readers need.

As always, I’m here when you need me, so never be afraid to speak up.

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Says the Editor: Speech to Text

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Do your hands hurt? Are your wrists too sore to type? Thinking of switching over to a speech to text program?

I have a number of clients who use it now. Personally, I imagine them standing behind a desk, narrating away, pacing as they do and occasionally stopping to frown at the screen. “That wasn’t what I said!” I can hear them thinking. Or saying… as it prints on the screen.

Yes, you can tell I haven’t yet played with speech to text as a writing method. I’m curious about it, though. I’ll admit that.

That’s not what this post is about. Nope. It’s about the need for those of you who do use these programs — and most of you seem to use Dragon, so I’ll just come out and name them, but feel free to leave a comment if you use another one — to make sure you go over your manuscripts carefully. Like all computer programs, it’s not perfect. It’s not great with nuance.

And if I don’t know you’re using it, I’m going to assume — as I did last week — that you’re simply being sloppy and not respectful of either yourself or me. This is never a good thing, for obvious reasons.

I know… you may not always have the time or energy to sit and make sure past didn’t come out as passed. Or that the names in your fantasy novel were interpreted wrong. Or that “excuse me while I kiss the sky” didn’t come out as “Excuse me while I kiss this guy.”

But believe me, while I’m willing to go an extra mile when I know you’re using Dragon (or whatever program you prefer), even I have limits. I don’t want to be paid to correct a machine’s inadequacies. I want to help you be a better writer, and there’s a big difference in those two actions.

That said, there was one day where a character’s name was misinterpreted so badly that the text made ZERO sense and I stood at my desk and scratched my head and read the bizarre phrase out loud until I got it. And yes, there are times when I fix a Dragon mistake and laugh at how absurd the interpretation was. Those are my favorite times, to be honest.

But I need to know going in that you’re using it. So, you know, I don’t think you’re being sloppy and disrespectful. Because then I get cranky and let me tell you, my kids hate it when I’m cranky. So do I, although now it’s summer and I can jump on my bike and take a ride to chill out, albeit a shorter ride than I’d like.

So. If you’re going to switch over to speech to text, let me sum it up again:
1. Look over your manuscript before you send it to your editor.
2. Tell your editor you’re using it so I can blame the program and not you.
3. Be prepared to laugh at some of the stuff I’m about to uncover and reveal. Because let’s face it: some of it is darn funny.

Got it?

Talk to me, not just to your speech to text program. And keep on getting those words on the page, no matter how you have to do it. I keep saying it: I have the best clients ever. You guys keep proving that to be true.

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Learn More about Undaunted

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Let’s go visiting today, shall we? And while there, let’s talk about Undaunted, and more.

Now, of COURSE you’re going to be seeing a ton of posts about the Running Wild Anthology of Stories (Volume 2) that my newest baby is in. I mean, hello? Isn’t calling my story “my newest baby” enough of a clue as to how I feel about it?

Today, I’m over at Julie Doherty’s blog, with an interview that’s about the story, about writing, about my work as a freelance editor… to be honest, it was one of those “pick the questions you want to answer” forms, and I don’t remember what all I said! So join me over there and let’s check it out together. I remember having fun as I filled it out, so I bet you’ll have fun reading it. Isn’t that how these things work?

And remember: Pick up a copy of Undaunted. Leave a review once you’ve read the whole thing (or just the story. I won’t mind, although my anthology-mates will!).
Amazon
B&N
Rakuten/Kobo
iTunes

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Call for Submissions: Flash SFF

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Yes, it’s a novel and this is a call for stories — flash at that — but hey, it’s the same genre. So deal with it and get writing.

I found out about this one from my friends at Littsburgh, who were spotlighting the Alchemist because they (The Alchemist) are a Pittsburgh-based literary magazine and because Littsburgh is about all things literary. #LiteraryYinzers for the win, my friends.

And because they are located here, near-ish to me, in the hometown that refused to let me reject it (yeah, not nearly as dramatic as “adopted hometown” but certainly a lot more contentious a relationship — and certainly, the deeper my love for it all), I wanted to bring it to your attention, so you know what’s going on and can help support it both by reading it and by submitting to it.

Submissions are fairly easy… yet they’re not. That’s because the first requirement is that they want SFF pieces (including subgenres like horror) ONLY if they are under a thousand words. And the world your story is set in can’t be borrowed from someone else, or shared with other published writers.

Did I mention they pay? They do! And it’s a sweet $50 per story, too.

They also need your support and are accepting subscriptions over at their Patreon page. So if you love SFF (as much as or more than I do), jump on board and help out. Every little bit helps.

You can read the rest on their submissions page.

Have at it, and if you sell them a story, be sure to let us know so we can cheer you on and become donors in your honor.

As always, if you see a call for submissions here at West of Mars and decide to go for it but you’d like me to help you get it into the best shape possible, holler and I’ll cut you a deal on my fees and work you in on my schedule.

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Featured New Book: Harmon General by Kimberly Fish

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Woot! Let’s welcome Kimberly Fish to West of Mars!

Kimberly’s got a new book coming out, so let’s take a minute and talk to her about what song makes her think of it.

I’ll Be Seeing You–the scratchy record version sung by Bing Crosby. I’ll Be Seeing You is an iconic song made famous by a rule-breaking woman–Billie Holliday. Rule-breaking women are my favorite characters to read about and write about. These particular lyrics reflect the main character–Lane Mercer– and her feelings of lost love and longing for the men who defined her career. Plus–and this may be my favorite aspect–the song is a little ironic for a spy novel. My two female characters have carried out difficult missions for the U.S. government through the espionage agency, the OSS. As spies, their primary goal is to remain undetected. So, a love song about “seeing” someone in familiar places means the spies are not doing their job. To be clear, Lane Mercer and Emmie Tesco are very good at their jobs–too good.

Ooh, this is good stuff. I definitely want to read this one! It comes out in mid-June, so mark your calendars, add Kimberly’s blog to your reader, and stay informed.

Ready for the official description? Here you go:

In 1943, Lane Mercer and Emmie Tesco had nothing in common. Well, nothing stronger than a town neither of them chose and careers they couldn’t advertise as agents within the Office of Strategic Services. During the days of Longview, Texas’ Friendly Trek Homecoming Parade, Lane was gearing up for the grand opening of a bookshop that also disguised an espionage safe house, and Emmie was chasing a criminal with evil intent through the US Army’s new medical facility treating diseased and amputated soldiers, Harmon General Hospital. Emmie ropes Lane into international threats at Harmon General, making it increasingly hard for the two spies to navigate the Junior Service League, church life, or anything else that might be considered normal for a town sizzling with oil boom wealth. A friend from Lane’s past arrives and pushes against the fiction she’s created to distance her spy history from the wedding bells ringing her future. Emmie flirts with the idea of finding a life outside of the OSS, but justifies the danger as a way to make amends for those she’s betrayed. Connecting the two women, to their surprise, is a rogue agent who targets them for crimes he believes they created. For better, or worse, they have to put aside their differences to share responsibility for stopping “The Grasshopper” before he blows apart the Big Inch Pipeline project, and Harmon General Hospital. The hope of malaria treatments for US soldiers depends on it, and justice of the heart demands it.

Buy links aren’t up yet, but since this is a sequel to Kimberly’s novel, The Big Inch. So be sure to get that one now so you’re all caught up and ready for Harmon General’s release. Y’all see the link in that previous sentence, right?

Of course you do. You guys aren’t dummies.

Which means you’re going to connect with Kimberly, too, right? Of course! She just might have written the best “connect with me” link posts ever. At least of those I’ve seen submitted here at West of Mars, which for me counts as ever. Pooh on you if you don’t agree.

I like to blog about the writing process
I have one social media app on my iPhone and it’s Instagram–so follow here to see my spontaneous photos

I’m also on GoodReads learning about new books in the market and talking to readers

I do keep a Kimberly Fish, author page on Facebook and love to announce bookish news, events, awards, and connect with readers.

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Says the Editor: Are you Tired?

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It was in an email from a friend: I’m tired. So goddamn tired.

And maybe it was because I know him, or maybe it was because I know the exhaustion he was speaking of, or maybe it was just that word choice, but in those five words, I could hear the deep weariness he was expressing.

That’s the key here: the deep weariness. It came out in that second phrase: so goddamn tired.

It’s all about the word choice.

Because think about it. If he’d said so fucking tired, there’s anger in there. You hit that f-word hard when you speak it. It’s a word of anger or frustration. A hostile word, which is why it gets used as often as it does. It’s meant to affect the listener, to evoke an emotional response that echoes what the speaker is feeling. Yes, even if that intention is subconscious, it’s still there. I mean, there’s a reason we call them f-BOMBS, right?

So enter the softer word choice: goddamn instead of fucking. And it changes the entire dynamic. Gone is the white-hot anger. Because it’s added as a modifier, or as an afterthought, the exhaustion creeps out: it’s too much to say in one sentence. It’s gotta be broken up, so the speaker can stop and breathe. Maybe even work up some courage to admit something. Or find the energy in all that tiredness to express it.

I couldn’t do much to help my friend. He works near me, so I offered up the house if he needed to sneak out of work and take a nap, but beyond that, all I could do was commiserate — because, like I said, I’d been in that particular situation before — and so I did.

But I also wrote a blog post because his word choice was just so spot-on perfect.

Which leaves me with this dare for you: can you replace a convenient f-bomb with something else? Something that conveys a bigger, broader meaning? And even more importantly, can your characters?

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Susan Speaks: Are you Missing?

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I had heard of this from others, but didn’t think it was actually happening. Mail has gone missing from Google Mail.

Well, after a message between me and a friend vanished into the ether — all copies of it, like I’d dreamed it or something — I realized that nope, it’s real and it’s happening. Gmail seems to be eating messages.

So at this moment in time, I am caught up on Featured New Book Spotlights. If you’ve submitted the form but not heard back from me, resubmit, and include a note wherever you like that it’s a resubmission.

Don’t let this go missing. Take the time to recreate. Let me feature your book; it’s one question! And some music, and who doesn’t need music to start their Monday off right?

And a quick note: on an editing front, things are arriving steadily, so if you need me, be sure to get into the queue sooner rather than later — and again, if you haven’t heard from me, drop me a note. It’s possible Gmail ate that, too. Grr.

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Featured New Story: Visiting Friends by Rebecca House

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Let’s welcome another new writer friend of mine to West of Mars!

The best part of this anthology may not be the stories themselves, but the people and their fascinating lives and the personal tales they tell, beyond their fiction. That said, the fiction’s pretty damn good, too, so don’t miss out on it — and remember to leave your reviews. Reviews help more readers discover a book, and even if you list your favorite story titles and say nothing else, that’s a helpful review.

Okay, off my soapbox and back to the story at hand. Today’s focus is on Rebecca and her story, Visiting Friends. Which means we gotta ask that one famous question: Rebecca, what song makes you think of your book?

As soon as you asked this question the song that came to mind was, People Are Strange by The Doors. It’s an eerie song that I think aligns itself well with my short story, “Visiting Friends” in the Running Wild Press Anthology of Short Stories Volume 2. The main takeaway from the song and I think “Visiting Friends” is that things are not always as they appear. The song also lends itself to the darker components that tend to creep into most of my fiction writing.

Ooh, I love me some dark fiction!

Want to know more about the story? Here you go:

In the short story “Visiting Friends,” Bram Samper is thrust into Tarriton, a small Upper State New York town to attend his best friend’s wedding. While he is trying to navigate his own torments, Bram meets a strange couple, the Bakers and is taken to the bride’s family home, the Van Meertan mansion. A lavish party is being held where he meets his friends and soon-to-be married couple, Jeff and Maryke. As the night before the wedding continues, a brewing storm and strange occurances eventually draw Bram into a precarious situation. This eerie short story with a supernatural twist asks the one simple question, are things always what they appear to be?

Pick up your copy of the anthology today!
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And connect with Rebecca, too.
You can find out where to find Rebecca’s other published short stories at www.smalltowngal.com. You can also find her all over social media at Twitter (@rhhouse), Instagram @rhousewriter) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/smalltowngalwriting/)

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Featured New Short Story: Dawning by Suzanne Grieco Mattaboni

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Featured New Book SpotlightMy friend Suzanne Grieco Mattaboni steps into the spotlight this week!

To be honest, we weren’t even casual acquaintances before the Running Wild Anthology of Stories came out, but now that we’ve been working together for a couple of months, let me tell you what a cool woman Suzanne is. You’ll want to check out her story, Dawning, and then connect with her.

So, Suzanne, what song makes you think of your story?

This sounds fatalistic, but “It’s The End of the World As We Know It” by R.E.M. makes me think of my story, “Dawning,” which appears in the “Running Wild Anthology of Stories” (Volume 2). First off, the song dates to the late ’80s, which zaps me back to when the confusion of navigating an adult world first hit me. Like a frying pan to the head.

Second, the chaos of the song itself reflects the inner turmoil of being on this confounding yet exciting precipice between the world of carefree college parties; and the workaday, gritty reality of starting a career from scratch in an unforgiving city. The lyrics are random and harsh and rambling:

“That’s great, it starts with an earthquake/Birds and snakes, and aeroplanes …
… Slash and burn, return, listen to yourself churn …
… Birthday party, cheesecake, jellybean, boom … Right? Right!”

Yet even in the midst of incoherent disaster, the narrator of the song finds a sense of redemption that sews-up the narrative:

“It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel l fine … I feel fine …”

I heard the producers of “Friends” wanted to use this song as the opening theme but couldn’t afford it. They wanted it because it embodies that point when life first spits you onto the pavement of the grown-up world, left to find your way in the midst of what seems like the insurmountable insanity of adulthood. Yet you have to give in to it, realizing you’re destined to become another person soon, someone who might even have a better, more drama-free existence and professional life ahead of her. Eventually. If you can tough it out.

“Dawning” drops us into that moment. Throw in a Manhattan Christmas party, the 7 train to Queens, 15 helium balloons, illegal substances, and a best friend who doesn’t understand the word NO, and you’ve got the picture.

Give the story a read!

Pick up your own copy of this incredible anthology. The more I investigate it, the more I love it and am proud to be one of its contributors.
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And connect with Suzanne!
My website
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Susan Speaks: How About an Eye Update?

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It’s been forever since I’ve shared an eye update with you guys. That’s actually a good thing — it means there’s been nothing to say. The eye has been and remains stable.

And it was that way last week, too, when I saw the surgeon. He’s happy with how it’s healed, although he finally did admit I’ve got a handicap in the form of what’s called a Lamellar hole. It’s confusing to explain what exactly that is, but its presence explains a few problems I have with my vision: letters drop out of signs and the eye chart. And, something I noticed a year ago: I’ve developed a touch of face blindness.

Which means that if I’ve known you for years and I suddenly don’t recognize you, it’s not because you look terrible. It’s because I truly cannot see you well enough to make out your features. Or because my brain can’t interpret what my eyes are seeing, and can’t make the connection to the memory I carry of you. I’m not sure which; I haven’t asked that question.

The fact that I’ve got this slight face blindness is is really strange, given that the damage is to my non-dominant eye. You’d think that the dominance would overrule the distortion. Okay, *I* expect that. Except, it doesn’t seem to work that way.

Which leads us to another big question: how can I work as an editor if letters drop out of my vision?

That’s where it gets weirder: when I’m looking at my screens, my dominant eye kicks in and compensates. And the surgeon says, too, that my brain is learning to adapt to the dropped letters. I’m figuring out, he says — and I agree — how to look at things so that I can get a more complete picture. I’m learning how to look around the hole in my vision.

Bizarre, isn’t it? You’d think it’d be the other way around, that I’d struggle with the small stuff and have faces down cold.

But eyes, as we’ve all learned through this crazy adventure, are tricky, confusing, confounding, and amazing things. At one point during this whole ordeal, I looked at one of my surgeons — I think it was the cataract guy — and said that if I were 20 years younger, I’d go back to med school for ophthalmology. This is really cool stuff.

So what’s the upshot of all this? I get to see the surgeon once a year now, so long as I check in with my optometrist in between my annual surgeon visits, to make sure my eye pressure is behaving. That problem probably won’t ever go away, and so I need to stay on top of it to keep it from damaging my optic nerve. I’m willing to do that, even though it means having my eyes dilated twice a year and letting them touch my eye with that strange blue light. Like everything else, you get used to it.

Another upshot: this is what it is. It’s not nearly as bad as it could have — should have — been.

And I can work as well, if not better than ever. In some ways, I work more slowly, more thoroughly these days.

Just… if we see each other in public and I don’t seem to recognize you, don’t hesitate to say, “Hey, it’s Stevie.” (Except, you smartass, use your own name.) Like I said, it’s not you. It’s the strange gift of my right eye.

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Featured New Book: Her Real Man by Natalina Reis

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Featured New Book SpotlightThere’s a Reis Run Road not too far from West of Mars. Think the person that road was named for is any relation to Natalina Reis?

I know… who cares? But it’s fun to make those small connections, especially now that we’re welcoming Natalina to the West of Mars family. She’s got a new book out, called Her Real Man, Book 0 in the Rescue Me Collection.

How can it be Book 0? Well, think of it as Ground Zero: where it all begins.

The book is called Her Real Man, and the song that makes Natalina think of it is…

Ed Sheeran’s Perfect

An awkward writer and a scarred firefighter. As imperfect as Ana and Gavin were, they were perfect in each other’s eyes.

I know a LOT of writers who would describe themselves that way… but I’m hopeful that for Natalina, this isn’t a case of Write What You Know.

Anyway, I love that very simple description. Don’t you? It’s so pure and trusting… Oh, that gives even the most jaded among us (and you all point to me, I know) hope.

Want more? Here’s the official description:

An imperfect firefighter defined by his past.

A determined author on a mission for the truth.

When Ana Mathews searches for book-boyfriend inspiration, she gets more than she expected from Gavin McLeod. Her quest to find imperfection could be the spark that brings to life their chance at happiness, or the burn that could destroy it all.

I LOVE that. “When Ana Mathews searches for book-boyfriend inspiration…” I have clients who do this! I have friends who do this!

(I do not. See above about being jaded.)

And suddenly, the title makes a LOT more sense. In fact, it’s really darn clever and I appreciate the sly nod here.

Grab a copy. You know I did.

Please provide buy links
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And connect with Natalina!
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Susan Sets up Shop in Littsburgh!

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West of Mars logoWhat’s this Littsburgh stuff? You all thought I was West of Mars!

Well, I am BOTH. Littsburgh is the literary hub for us publishing folk in the city of Pittsburgh and maybe you missed it, but West of Mars definitely refers to the only city or town of Mars in the United States. The question I usually won’t answer is how far west of Mars I am, but that’s because I hate it when people show up on my doorstep. Of course, showing up on my back deck is even worse, so don’t do that, either. And before you go, “A-ha! I’ll use the garage,” know that’s where the boy’s bows are stored. Just sayin’.

So because I’m both West of Mars and a proud part of the Littsburgh community, Nick and Rachel and Katie were more than glad to feature me with a quick four-question interview about my story, “Undaunted,” in the Running Wild Anthology of Stories.

I know I’ve done other interviews and stuff about it already, but somehow, seeing myself up on Littsburgh, being an active part of the writerly community… it’s darn cool.

Check it out. If you haven’t picked up a copy for yourself, what are you waiting for?

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Featured New Short Story: Life After Breath by Tori M Eldridge

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Featured New Book SpotlightLet’s welcome Tori M Eldridge to West of Mars!

Tori isn’t just another contributor to the anthology that my short story, Undaunted, is in. Nope. She’s the lead named author, which means that she’s got some serious literary clout. Just that reason alone should be enough for you to pick up a copy of the anthology and start reading, but in case it’s not, let’s ask her what song makes her think of her story.

“Hurt” by Christina Aguilera: The anguish conveyed through this evocative melody, poignant lyrics, and–of course–Ms. Aguilera’s astounding voice resonates with the grief and despair that drives my character into the ocean when a fast-moving fog swallows the coast. “Hurt” strikes that painful chord of longing, guilt, and a struggle to find a reason to live.

Now, you may not know this, but Christina grew up near West of Mars. She’s a graduate of the school my kids go to. So this connection may or may not count for Pittsburgh Geography, that game where it all links back to Da Burgh, but… maybe it does. I vote yes, anyway.

So what’s the story about? In case Tori’s explanation above wasn’t enough for you, here’s more:

“Life After Breath” is a poignant underwater ghost story about grief and redemption, set along the foggy Malibu coast.

Grab your copy! Not all the stories have to deal with death and grief, I promise.
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Remember, too, to leave a review once you’re done. It’s the best way to say thanks to an author for putting in the time to compose a literary gem (or turd, but let’s face it: in this anthology, they’re all gems), and then to have the courage to submit it. That’s some scary stuff, folks, submitting a story!

Be sure, as well, to connect with Tori:
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Reviewers Wanted!

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Like short stories?

Sure ya do.

Especially since one of them was written by me, and you know you want to read what I’ve come up with now. I’ve heard feedback that it’s VERY different from my older stuff. More polished. Less angry. And it certainly felt different as I wrote it!

So. I am willing to hand over digital copies of the anthology to anyone who’d like one — with the caveat that you leave a review at whichever book review site you like. Amazon, Goodreads, B&N… I don’t really care. I just want to see the reviews happening, so that others can read the work of 20 damn good writers. Or 19 damn good writers and me. Whichever. You can decide and mention it in your review.

If you’d like a review copy, let me know. But remember: I expect a review! Maybe not a day after I hand the copy over, but within a reasonable period of time.

Reviews sell books. They expose books to new readers who otherwise wouldn’t hear of a book. They HELP. They are the best way to say thanks for taking the time to write, hone, revise, craft the tale in your hands.

Be polite. Write reviews.

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