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!

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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.
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Georgia Pine Spotify Playlist
YouTube Channel
Original Song recorded for the series!

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Featured New Book Spotlight: Son of Cayn by C Jason McDonald, Alan Isom, and Stormy McDonald

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Featured New Book SpotlightWOOT. I have been waiting for a LONG time to be able to tell you guys about this one!

C Jason McDonald, Alan Isom, and Stormy McDonald have collaborated on a fantastic tale that has stuck in my brain for years. YEARS. Do you hear me? I’m so glad Jason was willing to stop in and talk to you guys about this book, Son of Cayn.

Jason, what song makes you think of Son of Cayn?

Crazy Bitch by Buckcherry

This may be a surprise to a lot of people but it was the only song that kept running through my head every time I wrote about the baroness.

I knew this; Jason and I had discussed it at some point in the past, and let me tell you: he’s RUINED the song for me because HE’S RIGHT. This is the anthem of the baroness.

Bad Jason, ruining songs!

Good Jason, for picking such a perfect song.

Seriously, you guys. It fits.

Have I sold it hard enough to you yet? Well, here’s the description:

It was supposed to be a simple assignment—look into a caravan destined for the White River. But when Marcus, the leader of the Kral’s security forces, dug deeper, he knew something was amiss. Not only was it the teamsters’ third trip east of the Wall, a no-man’s land haunted by the dead, but their cargo was one of the least profitable—soap.

All was not as it seemed, so Marcus hired outsiders, a team not tied to his organization of spies, to find out what was really happening. A ranger, a dwarf, a mage, and a half-orc gladiator; they had the tools and experience to infiltrate the caravan and get the answers he needed.

Until the appearance of a strange knight sets in motion a chain of horrible events.

Time grows short as the people of Pazard’zhik begin dying—including Marcus. The healers can’t understand why, just that the deaths are somehow tied to the caravan. Can the investigators solve the mystery of the caravan in time to save the Kral’s kingdom, or will the Blood of Cayn claim the land?

Get your copy now. Unfortunately, it’s Amazon-only and that sucks, but this one’s worth asking your library to get their hands on if you’re not an Amazon shopper.

Connect with Jason, Alan, and Stormy, of course.
Website
Facebook
Goodreads
Amazon Author Central

And remember: leaving a review is always a great way to thank an author for putting in the years, the blood, the sweat, the tears, the harsh editorial letters, the ruined Buckcherry songs, and the vision to bring you a book. If you read it and this isn’t your thing? That’s fine. A constructive, thoughtful review about why is also very helpful.

As always, if you are struggling to get a good review down, drop me a note. I offer a super-cheap service to help you perfect your book reviews. THAT’s how important they are.

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Featured New Book: For You I Fall: Angels and Misfits Book 1 by TN Nova and Colette Davison

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Featured New Book SpotlightLet’s welcome author TN Nova to West of Mars!

TN has a new book to share with us today, and for you series lovers, it’s the first. You get to start on the ground floor — but you also have the agony of having to wait until the next one comes out. It’s a mixed bag, finding out about a series starter when it’s new. I’m still a fan, especially given how backlogged my own TBR mountains are. By the time I get around to starting a new series, the next one (or, let’s be honest, more) are out.

TN and Colette’s book is called For You I Fall and there’s got to be a song that makes TN think of the book, right?

Right.

Do or Die by 30 Seconds To Mars reminds me of For You I Fall on so many levels. It took Seth dying to learn to live and love. It took Dante Falling to achieve his love. They will never forget the moment that they were able to be together and love freely.

You know, this song is on many of my Spotify playlists, but I’ve never listened to it. Time to change THAT!

Ready for the description?

Despite having had a rough life, Seth has a big heart. After spending nearly ten years sleeping rough on the streets of New York, he’s managed to get himself freelance work and a place to live. But his new found security is about to be torn apart, as the horrors of his past come back to haunt him in the worst possible way.

Dante was sent to watch over a young Seth when his mother died. As an angel, he had many rules to follow. The most important of which was to never fall in love—especially when it involves a human who is your charge. For the last ten years, Dante has kept his feelings for Seth hidden. That is until the night Seth’s past catches up with him.

When Seth is murdered, their destinies are changed forever. Feelings and emotions come to the surface, but will the rules that govern the afterlife keep Dante and Seth apart for eternity, or will they be able to find their happily ever after together?

**Contains explicit language and scenes**

Ooh, there’s so much to like in here. Agree? Grab a copy!
Amazon
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Amazon AU

Remember, the best way to show your appreciation for an author’s book is to (well, pay money for it) leave a review online somewhere and talk about it to your friends and others who’ll like it. Another good way, though, is to connect with the author. Or, in this case, authors. Yep, TN stopped in, but that doesn’t mean you can’t connect with Colette, too!

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Colette Davison

Books With Heart (Colette’s Street Team)
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Featured New Book Spotlight: Witching Well by SD Hintz

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Let’s welcome SD Hintz back to West of Mars! SD was last here in January, with Vigilance and Vengeance, and now he’s back with a new one, called Witching Well.

SD’s not long on chatter, so you always have to listen to his song choices to understand how they tie into the book. This time, it’s Somebody’s Watching Me, that classic ’80s song by Rockwell.

I’m curious. Are you?

Here’s the book description:

It’s the end of the world…

…as Murray Macabe knows it. The security of his home life has been ripped out from under him when his mother was brutally murdered. Rejected by his aunt, Murray only has one place left to go, and that’s to live the rest of his life with a woman he barely knows.

To Grandmother’s House He Goes

At first, life with his grandmother doesn’t seem like it’s going to be that bad, but Murray soon learns his grandmother harbors dark secrets.

Double, Double Toil and Trouble; Fire Burn and Caldron Bubble

As bad as Grandma’s secrets might be, they are nothing compared to the secrets held by the neighbors, three elderly women who have set their sights on Murray for their own dastardly purposes. Soon Murray finds himself fighting for his very life, and there’s no one to turn to for help because everyone knows there’s no such thing as witches.

I have to say, this sounds like so much fun, I’m sorry I didn’t get to work on it in my usual guise as a freelance editor. This sounds right up my alley. So you know I’ll be adding it to my wishlist to pick up when I have some spare cash and time.

Here’s the link. It’s Amazon only, unfortunately for those of you who like to support independents or other retailers.
And, hey! Want it in print? Here’s the link for that. If there are other retailers you like to use for print, ask them to order it. Independent bookstores, in particular, love to order books for patrons!

Want to connect with SD? Sure you do! Here’s how:
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Susan Speaks: How to be Productive

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West of Mars logo

Like I’m not busy enough this summer, I answered a call from a journalist who was looking for creative ways to be productive at an unfulfilling job.

You guys know me. You know what I had to say.

But go check it out anyway. And, of course, do the upvoting thing and all that.

As always, send your friends my way. I’ve got a college tuition to pay, a research trip to Yellowstone, my mortgage… and besides, the busier I am editing, the less trouble I get myself into, and while my adventures are fun and make great stories — my attorney told me a couple weeks ago that she misses hearing them — staying out of trouble for the next couple of months is a good choice. At least until I’m sure the college kid isn’t going to follow in my footsteps. Too much.

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Call for Submissions: Novellas of the SFF persuasion

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Some SFF for you to consider, although this is already published and not a novella, so it doesn’t fit the current call for submissions.

We’re in that time again. It’s happening.

No, not Mercury Retrograde, although that’s happening, too.

Tor is open for unagented novella submissions. They’re looking for between 20,000 and 40,000 words, and encourage you to take a close look at their current list to see the sorts of things they publish. (This means they’ll consider works that are different from what they currently publish, but not so far from their mainstream that they can’t comprehend. They are, after all, a for-profit publisher and are trying to maximize profits first and break new literary ground second. So be wise with your expectations.)

Now, to jump on the bandwagon, they are “actively” requesting submissions from writers “from underrepresented populations.”

I’ll leave that there and let you read the PC decisions behind that. It’s sad that a SFF publisher even has to say this when so many of the SFF greats of history have fallen into that “underrepresented populations” category.

Sigh.

But anyway, move FAST because this window is only open for a very short time — until August 13, to be exact.

If you’re not ready now, don’t fret. They last held an open call like this in May — and haven’t finished sorting through the submissions — and so are likely to do it again. Focus on making the best book possible.

And, as always, read the guidelines. Make sure you conform to them because no, they’re not going to make an exception for YOU. That’s narcissistic thinking and it’s wrong and it’s stupid and don’t go there, okay? Follow the damn guidelines. Here they are again, so you have zero excuse.

On the off chance that you start writing and your finished product doesn’t fit the stated guidelines? Check Submittable! There’s always good opportunities over there. (Just beware of the tool charging $85 for a manuscript evaluation. What the fuck?)

This is the spot in the post where I offer a last-minute go-over before you submit, at a steep discount. But… it’s summer and you can tell by my lack of regular posting that I’m swamped. Unusually so, even for summer. If you need me, drop me a note and we’ll talk and see what we can work out. You know I’m always glad to have your back and help make your words sparkle.

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Would or Wouldn’t? Ask the Magic Decoder Ring

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It’s been awhile since I’ve posted about the charming narcissistic abuse we’re being exposed to on a daily basis. But this one’s been gnawing at me, so here it is.

Know how some members of the media are chasing after our Narcissist in Chief, trying to figure out what he means? Do all the walkbacks, the contradictions, the double-speak give you whiplash?

They are meant to.

It’s the most basic form of narcissistic abuse: keeping you on the hook, around, dependent on him (or her) for clarification. There is no reality other than what the narcissist creates, and it’s a shifting, slippery, scary place. He (or she) is the only one who can navigate it for you.

But if you look at the words and then compare them to the actions, they NEVER match up. They never will. Because the words are a game. They’re the worm on the fishing hook and you’re the trout. You can’t resist; it looks so good wiggling away there on the hook. One bite and it’ll be yours.

One more try to kick that football that Lucy holds and you’ll have made it, Charlie Brown.

Get it? See how that works? The media comes salvating around, trying to get at the truth of the situation. Would he? Wouldn’t he? Which is it? Yesterday it was would, today it’s wouldn’t, tomorrow it’ll be would, come back Tuesday to see if it’s changed or stayed the same.

There’s a hint of an endorphin rush in there, isn’t there?

Don’t buy into it.

Don’t listen to the words, especially when the words change so fast. Look beyond them, into the spaces the words are designed to hide. Look beyond them, into the actions the words are designed to hide — and no, the spaces and the actions aren’t the same things. Not even close.

Close your ears. Tune out the narcissistic abuse that’s nothing more than noise. Stop chasing him around, hoping for the final absolute truth and reporting every last syllable even when it contradicts what your eyes tell you. The only thing you’re doing is hurting yourself — and everyone who’s depending on you for the truth. In the case of the media, the harder they chase, the more they feed into his claims that they’re not truthful. See how that works?

Look at the actions. Always, always, always, look at the actions. There’s your truth, even when it’s ugly and hard to admit.

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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
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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!
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Smashwords (affiliate link)
Book Nook
Kobo

And connect with Dee, too.
Website
Blog
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Good Reads
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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!).
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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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