Says the Editor: NaNo Winners and an Editing Discount!


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

In other words: complete before November 1, 2017.

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the same time.

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

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

Your brutal, merciless father.

Talk about being forged in fire…

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

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

Anyone else sold on the kitty?

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

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

Connect with Kayelle. She’s a neat lady.
Kayelle Allen writes Sci Fi with misbehaving robots, mythic heroes, role playing immortal gamers, and warriors who purr. She’s a US Navy veteran and has been married so long she’s tenured.
Romance Lives Forever Reader Group


Says the Editor: Verb? Adjective?


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

Seriously, though…

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

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

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

Or something like that. 😉

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More to come about it, so stay tuned.


#SaystheEditor Don’t Pick Favorites


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

But on a professional level?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


#SaysTheEditor Worldview


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

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

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

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

Enter my cat sitter.

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

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

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

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

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


See how that worked?

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

How do you do it?

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

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


Featured New Book Spotlight: Where Are You?


Featured New Book SpotlightSo, umm… Where are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


#SaysTheEditor The Air Around Us


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Still In Need of Promotion?


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

Featured New Book.

Lines of Distinction.

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

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


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

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

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


Call for Submissions: Hot Holiday Reads


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, there’s no submission fee.

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

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

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

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

Here’s the link to submit again.

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


Featured New Book Spotlight Temporarily Dark Again


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

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

Only costs you a couple minutes of your time.

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


Another Source for Promotion!


Speaking of promotion, here’s a freebie for my friend JJ Hensley. Pick up his latest, why don’t you?

I love my clients, and I absolutely adore being an editor. I get up every morning, eager to see who’s dumped what in my inbox, and what’s happening in my current edit-in-progress. I am one of the luckiest people ever, because I get to work with great writers on great projects.

But having great projects that turn into great books doesn’t mean anything if readers don’t ever hear about them. That’s why I offer the Featured New Book Spotlight and Lines of Distinction.

It’s also why I like to share your success stories, and also to let you know of calls for submissions… and for promotional opportunities. Like this one.

The POTL: All Things Books, Reading and Publishing blog is accepting Wednesday Book Spotlight submissions from now until the end of the year. All you have to do is email NN Light your name and book title, and they will take it from there.

It’s first come, first served, of course. But it’s promotion, and who doesn’t need promotion?


#SaysTheEditor Musings about Authorial Responsibility


I read a book a few weeks ago that I had to walk away from before I’d finished it.

I’ve done that a lot this year, come to think of it. To look over my GoodReads page, I haven’t finished about a third of what I’ve read this year. There’s been a variety of reasons, but one that I keep coming back to is how women are treated and how abuse and rape culture are perpetuated. That was the case in this book I’m talking about (which, interestingly, isn’t the last book I DNFed) — the heroine repeatedly winds up in situations where NO doesn’t mean NO to two different men. She’s also been cheated on in the past and has a history of actually discovering the boyfriends in bed with the women they are using to cheat on said heroine.

Even before #MeToo began trending on Facebook and Twitter, where almost all of us women have stood up and said, “Yes, I’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted,” this was something that has been bothering me.

Here’s where I get stuck: on the one hand, authors shouldn’t be glorifying or perpetuating rape culture.

But on the other, as authors, I’d argue that we have a responsibility to reflect society as it currently is, the good AND the bad.

And yet… by being a mirror and accurately reflecting the way men treat women, aren’t these books (and their authors) collaborating with and contributing to the normalization of abuse and rape culture? How many readers pick up a book where the hero won’t stop rubbbing up against the heroine, even when she says no, and the reader breathes a sigh of relief. It’s not just me. And by feeling less alone, the reader normalizes the behavior: It’s just how guys are. I am wrong to put up a fuss about it.

On the one hand, I want to say I don’t have an easy answer. Not every single book should have the heroine turn and knee the bastard in the balls when he won’t stop. Not every heroine can or should call the man on the bad behavior. Not every heroine needs to be empowered from the get-go. And maybe there are other, gentler ways to de-macho the men who think there is nothing wrong with this behavior. Maybe the heroine needs to learn that yes, this is the way some men are. And maybe even some heroines need to learn to accept this bad behavior. There’s a multitude of options, from what we’d right now consider politically correct and the proper response clear on down to situations that leave a reader horrified and… putting the book in the DNF pile.

But maybe there is an easy answer, after all. And that’s that every single person on the planet has a range of experiences, both sexually and not. Fiction should reflect as many of those experiences as authors can find within themselves to write about. And authors absolutely should not write a sanitized version of their truth or their world. They should write what they say — although I can’t stress enough that authors also have a responsibility to refrain from glorifying rape and abuse. (But, again, this opens up the can of worms about the segment of society who think that rape and abuse should be glorified, as they are horrified by what many of us would call a healthy relationship based on respect. And we can turn in circles like this until the serpent swallows so much of its tail that there’s nothing left but its head.)

It’s up to us, as readers, to filter through it all. To read widely (heh. I’d originally typed wisely) and to make recommendations based on what we like — and to point out the wider themes in books where we see them. For me, right now, abuse pings my radar and I can’t read books that glorify abusive situations — such as the hero rubbing up against the heroine even after she tells him to stop. Or the book I read earlier in the year, in which the hero paid off the heroine’s mortgage and did other things she was fully capable of doing, always with the caveat that he was doing it to prove how much he loved her. He thought he was being nice. I thought he was being a controlling, abusive dick because if he truly loved her, he’d have been aware enough to realize how important it was for her to do those things herself.

We all have our catnip and we all have our triggers.

I think we, as readers, need to broadcast them both.

And that we, as writers, need to write to the authenticity of our experiences as much as possible.




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


Featured New Book Spotlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready for the description:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By then, it’s too late.

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

Get it at

And connect with Lyndi!
Her website


Call for Submissions: Women on Writing


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck, and here’s that link again.


#SaysTheEditor My Typos are Better Than Your Typos


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

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

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

No more, I say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A lot are good. A lot are bad.

Publisher simply doesn’t matter anymore.


Featured New Book: Wild World by Peter S Rush


Featured New Book Spotlight

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

Peter, what song makes you think of your book?

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

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

Here’s the description:

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

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

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


Connect with Peter at his website, too!


Lines of Distinction: Windmills by Lyndi Alexander


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

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

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

Connect with Lyndi


Call for Submissions! Hot Metal Bridge


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

They are looking for

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Because Pittsburgh.

Because we’re a literary city.

Because it’s my home.

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


Tip O’ the Iceberg


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

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

But guess what?

They’re a form of narcissistic abuse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But we should. And we need to.

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

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

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

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

Don’t fall for it.

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

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

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


Featured New Book Spotlight:


Featured New Book Spotlight

Oh, my.

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

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

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

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

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