Wednesday, September 9, 2015

And Scene

As many of you have probably guessed from my total radio silence these past few weeks...

TWINDOM HAS ARRIVED!

The babies were born on August 20th - yes, that's right, exactly one day after I posted about how weird it was to be a not-parent-parent, stuck in the in-between stage.

These babies have an exquisite sense of timing. (Oh, and we had a boy and a girl, for those keeping score.)

At any rate, this means I am officially on an extended hiatus from social media. I wish I could give you all a date when that hiatus will end, but the truth is that I'm so sleep-deprived and newborn-crazed that I bounce between thinking I should blog about this right now! and I'll never be able to blog again!

So, for now, we'll just say it's a hiatus of indeterminate length. I apologize that I won't likely return your visits for a while, and I know I'll be kicked off of the IWSG list soon, but I'll be back eventually, and will look forward to catching up with you then.

Off to tend to Twindom...

And, scene.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The In-Betweens

I was sorely tempted to post another 'gone writing' banner and beg off of blogging today, but then I remembered, "oh right - twins!" and thought I'd better blog while I still can.

My wife and I are astonished floored delighted weary so happy that those babies are still in utero, given twins' propensity to arrive rather early. We're at the point when they could arrive anywhere from today (no joke) to two weeks from now, and we've been at that point for a good solid two weeks - most twins arrive as early as 28 weeks and as late as 39, with more than half being born by 35 weeks - and while I'm psyched for the extra time to get my to-do lists from miles-long to just feet, this is a very weird way to live.

"Do you want to have dinner on Saturday?" friends ask.

"Um, maybe?" we reply.

"Let's schedule an appointment for the week after next," my acupuncturist says.

"Right, and what was your cancellation policy again?" I ask.

I book clients at my day job, and wonder if I'll actually be there for our appointments. I look forward to settling down with my library book (The Empathy Exams, currently) and then wonder if I'll have a chance to finish it before it's due - and how much I'll end up owing if I don't have time to return it.

All because, you know, babies.

I'm not complaining, really - I just wish I knew when, so I could settle down and live and get things done. But since the Fates laugh at even the idea of me knowing, I have to stay in this weird in-between place. Not yet a parent, but not not a parent. Working and planning and crossing items off of lists, and trying not to hold my breath every time my wife so much as frowns.

This, of course, is all incidental when compared to the Real Anxiety: that my life is about to change so utterly and wholly that I may not recognize it anymore; that I myself am about to change, too; that my family is about to double in size; and, most of all, that I cannot fathom what any of this is going to look like. 

I can imagine. I can extrapolate. I can guess. But I won't know until they're here. I am stuck, between parenting and not, between one stage of life and another. I am in the in-betweens. We both are.

So, we wait. And we plan, and hope, and complete tasks. And we wait.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Random Writer Thoughts

In honor of summer brain (which in my case involves lots of daydreaming, little writing, and a giant waterspout of weird thoughts,) here are some totally bizarre, utterly non-linear, sometimes senseless, rarely useful, and always random thoughts today:

1. What is the opposite of a pet peeve? You know, a little thing you especially like? Don't say 'favorite,' because that's different.

2. I really, really, really love semi-colons (My CPs will attest to this. They may also swear and complain about it.) They're just so useful. They're like the Swiss Army Knife of writing.

3. My pet peeve on romance stories (see #1 above), by which I mean any genre that contains a romance plot, be it sci-fi, literary fiction, horror, whatever: sex scenes that do nothing to further the plot. Don't get me wrong; gratuitous sex is fine - if you're writing erotica. In that case, sex it up. But if it's a romance plot, please, make the sex plot-worthy. Let something happen - character progression, relationship progression, etc. - during it. I am not talking about books that actually are in the romance genre, because I am not the expert on how to write those. I'll let the actual experts speak on that count.

4. I want a literary tattoo. I've wanted one for years. The problem is that I can't decide on which quote to get. Should I go classical, and choose some snippet of Sonnet 65? Should I go modern/fantasy/political, and have some wise nugget of Ursula Le Guin's inked on me? Or should I do poetry, in which case Mary Oliver or Adrienne Rich feel like my favorite options? I have no idea. It's impossible to decide. Which is why I don't have one yet.

5. My favorite smells in the whole world: wood smoke. Old books. Leaves in autumn. The sea. Honeysuckle.

6. This poem. (see #4 above)

7. Is there anything better than settling down with a book you've been looking forward to reading, with uninterrupted hours stretching in front of you? I think not.

8. Bless the public libraries. Many times in my life, when I was too poor to buy all the books I wanted to read, libraries gave me a way to still have #7 (above.) Since I can, I now buy books more often and support authors and indie bookstores, but I continue to use, and appreciate, the library.

Thanks for staying with me to the end, my dears. What random thoughts are you having these days? Do you know the answer to #1, or have a vote on #4? Any input on #3?


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Insecure Writers: Getting Over Submission Phobia

It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's time for The Insecure Writers! The IWSG is an online group created by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers. You, too, can join us anytime!


As I mentioned last month, I am successfully avoiding insecurity because I am so damn excited about my writing group. We meet once a month, and apparently we share a similar schedule to the IWSG, because once again we just recently met, right before the first Wednesday of the month.

BUT, that's not what I'm writing about today. Well, sort of. Peripherally. It's related. Relatedly.

Whatever.

I want to write about just doing it.

Not Nike, no.

Submitting,

Yes. Submitting your work. Querying agents. Sending stories/essays/poems to magazines or publishers or literary journals or (paying) blogs.

Here's what I've realized, first-hand, in only two months of meetings with my group: some of the most talented writers never get published, because they never submit. I realize this isn't exactly earth-shattering news - I've read about this phenomenon myself - but now that I'm seeing it happen right in front of me, it's throwing me for a loop. These writers I'm meeting with are so damn talented, but some of them aren't published, because they're not submitting.

You know when you open a journal/magazine/website/anthology, and read a piece, and think, 'well, that's OK, but I know I can write something better.' Well, you know why that piece is published? Because the author submitted it. Shocking, I know. Most likely, that author submitted to a ton of places. Most likely, he or she fielded 10, 20, 50, 100 rejections in the process. Most likely, he or she drank too much/cried too much/swore to give up, too, and then kept going.

And got published.

So please, IWSG-ers, don't be Those Writers, the ones who pen gloriously and submit never-ly. Please get your stuff out there. Rejection will come, and you'll survive it - and then you'll be published.

I challenge you to pick a piece you've been sitting on, that you know is finished, that you know, is good, and submit it. Right now.

Just do it.

Do you submit, or are you submission-phobic? What piece are you holding onto? Where are you going to submit, right now?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

3 Things Writers Should Never Do

Don't you like declarative, forceful blog post titles like that? They're so confident and bossy. It's like my inner eight-year-old gets to come out and tell everybody what to do.

BUT. On with the DECLARATIVE DIRECTIVES!

These are all things you should never do in your writing, not in general. Man, that would be a long list, wouldn't it? They are also things that are huge pet peeves for me, and I do quite a bit of editing and proofreading, both for my betas, CPs, writing group, and friends, and also as freelance work on the side. Which means I have rather a large amount of experience, and am not completely unqualified to write this. It also means that this is not the only list of things you should never do, but is instead a small sampling of Stuff That Pisses Me Off, Which You Should Avoid Doing Because It Also Pisses Most People - Including Editors, Agents, and Other Important Industry Types - Off.

1. Ignore Grammar Rules

This one could be broken down into about 4,573 (as a rough count) separate common grammar issues, but instead of boring you all to tears, I decided to lump them all together. I am not referring to the poetic license type of ignoring grammar, but the much more common, and MUCH more annoying ignorance/laziness that leads people to eschew all basic grammar rules. I see everything from missing quotation marks to bad or missing paragraph breaks to sentence fragments to tense changes to inappropriate apostrophes and more.

Here's the bottom line: it makes me focus on your grammar (or lack thereof) instead of your content, and that is a very bad thing. There's no way I'll be engaged by your story if I'm not focused on the content. Please, use all the resources the electronic world provides, from style guides to grammar sites to the grammar check in Microsoft Word. If you need help, ask for it. Even when you're sending things to betas or CPs, save them some time and do your basic proofreading first, so that they can focus on the meat of your work, and on catching the little typos that slip past even the most strict grammarians.

2. Go For Melodrama Instead of Drama

(Small caveat: unless you're writing Gothic Romance or absurd comedy, in which case, go for it.)

For the rest of us, this is to be avoided at all costs. I define melodrama, personally (and for the purposes of this post) as unearned emotion. In other words, a scene that comes three-quarters of the way through a long story, in which Joe is screaming at Betty because Betty has been deliberately pushing his buttons and provoking him and trying to get him to explode is probably earned (probably. But still should be watched.) However, a scene that comes in the second chapter, after we've just met the characters, in which Joe is screaming at Betty because Betty just doesn't understand him and oh god the pain is probably melodrama.

I'm saying the emotions have to match the stakes, and have to follow an arc of rising tension that leads us to the big emotional moment. That arc can take place on a small scale in one scene, but the emotion should be subsequently smaller, too. The bigger the rising arc, the bigger the emotion. Earn that drama. Earn that weeping or the screaming or the throwing things (unless it's comedy, of course.)

Why? Because you need to take your readers with you, and let their emotions and investment rise, too, so that when the big moment happens, they're just as devastated as your characters. Don't rush it. Build it.

3. Favor Facts Over Emotion

This is the 180 degree opposite of #2, in which you throw all drama out the window and tell your story in a dry, yet thorough and detailed, way.

Your plot points are stellar. Your story lines are masterfully woven together. Your writing craft is exquisite and careful and exacting. And yet people read your work and yawn, because they have no investment in your characters.

We need emotion - we are (most of us) emotional beings. The why of an action is just as important as the how. So Joe can throw a plate at Betty, but if we don't know how he's feeling when he does it, or understand his motivation, it will just be one more dry fact.

Color things up. Shake 'em up. Just not too much (see #2 above.)

That's a small sample of MY pet peeves. What are yours? What else drives you crazy when you read/edit/offer critiques?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Summer Break

No,the babies aren't here yet, but I've been buried by my to-do list and need to take a brief blog break this week. I'll be back next week! If I don't get to visit you in the next few days, I promise I'll be by next week. Have a great day, y'all!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Your Summer Reading List

Peeps! Guess what?? You wrote this post.

Yup, you really did. Well, maybe not in a sit-down-at-the-computer-and-bang-out-Liz's-posts-for-her kind of way (which, btw, I'd be totally open to letting you do,) but more in a I-compiled-responses-from-you sort of way. But EITHER WAY, the end result is that I now have a really freaking cool, reader-approved, first-hand list of book recommendations.

See, last week I asked you all to recommend books that I should read this summer. And so many of you gave me so many great tips and ideas that I got super excited about it, and decided I should put them all together and share them back to all of you! And of course, to make it more fun, I included the blogger who recommended each book in the list.

So here it is, straight from you to you:


Your Summer Reading List


The Bone TreeNatchez Burning and The Bone Tree, by Greg Iles

These came from Susan Gourley/Kelley, who said, "Both books really highlight the terror of the deep south during the civil rights movements in the 60's and how so much hate and inequality still lingers today."




Secret Worlds, Anthology compiled by Rebecca Hamilton

H.R. Sinclair recommended this 21 (21!!!) book set, which looks like a collection of paranormal romance novels from a bunch of bestselling authors. Which really, with 21 (21!!!) to choose from, the odds are pretty damn good you'll like at least a few of them.



Kate MortonAnything by Kate Morton

Ok, yeah, I cheated - that's an author image, not a book image, but to be fair, M Pepper Langlinais did recommend all of her books, specifically for summer reading, and it appears that Ms. Morton is too prolific for me to show her titles here. So, go check her out, and pick one, and report back! I'm thinking of starting with The House at Riverton.




All the Light We Cannot SeeAll the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

Loni Townsend opted out of making a recommendation because my tastes are too serious for her or something. I have no idea why she would say such a ridiculous thing (nevermind that I said it myself,) but she then had a change of heart and decided to give us one, anyway. This was hers, although she hasn't read it yet. Let's see: blind kid? Holocaust? Yep, right up my alley.



Lisette's ListLisette's List, by Susan Vreeland

Jenni Enzor stepped away from her (fantastic) MG recommendations to give us this one, which is, as she says, "about famous paintings hid in Provence during World War II." It's fiction, though, don't worry!




Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary ShelleyRomantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley, by Charlotte Gordon

It's not in paperback yet, so this one might make my fall reading list. It's non-fiction, yes, but what a story! Ava Quinn recommended this examination of the famous author and the daughter she never knew, saying, "[It's] history and feminism all rolled into one."



Marlene Dietrich by Her DaughterMarlene Dietrich by Her Daughter, by Maria Rivera

Maria Rivera is Marlene Dietrich's daughter, of course, so this biography is straight from the source. Birgit recommended it as one of her favorites: "It is not a scathing book done by a daughter but a revealing look at this enigmatic woman."





The Diviners (The Diviners, #1)Unwind (Unwind, #1)The Diviners, by Libba Bray, and Unwind, by Neal Shusterman

Madilyn Quinn has such a long TBR list (I hear you, Madilyn; mine is so damn long I don't even look at it anymore, which totally defeats the purpose of having it) that she had to recommend both of these. I'm not complaining! They're both YA: "The Diviners is historical fiction while Unwind is a sort of dystopian biopunk thing."



Anything by Marian Keyes

I had to cheat again and and give you an author pic, because Diane Carlisle recommended everything by Marian Keyes, saying she loves her style and voice.








A Natural History of Dragons (Memoir by Lady Trent, #1)A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan

I'm excited about all of the books on this list, but this one really tickles my fancy (that's a very weird expression, isn't it?) I love books that play with genre, and I will always be a sucker for fantasy, so this fictional memoir of a Victorian-era woman studying dragons is right up my alley. Mason Matchak chose this, saying, "...it's oddly charming, especially if you like classic British stuffiness as both plot and character points." Which I do. Score!



The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate

Sarah Brentyn recommended this book, and I almost jumped out of my seat when I read her comment, because I loved this book. In fact, it was on my reading list last summer, and it was a wonderful summer read. It's MG, but adults will love it, too.





sex murder double latte collection by kyra davisThe Sophie Katz mystery series, by Kyra Davis

I do love these two-for-one - or really multiple-for-one - recommendations. This one for a series of books about a writer-turned-detective comes from Shannon Lawrence, and it looks like a lot of fun.






And that's it - but that's pretty damn good, if I do say so myself! Too bad the credit is all yours ;)

See anything on here you want to read? What else would you add?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Summer Reading, and Requests





I did a post on summer reading last year, and it was so good at giving me something to blog about much fun that I decided to make it an annual tradition. As I mentioned the last time I did this, the summer version of Seasonal Affective Disorder always strikes me in July - that is, the total lack of motivation to do anything besides be outside, read (preferably outside) and swim (preferably while also reading, and definitely outside.) Which means that blogging about reading is at least in the right ballpark, and I can usually do it outside on my porch. So it's a win-win.

But THIS YEAR, I need your help, too. You'll have to keep reading to find out why (see how I did that? Oh yeah. I'm a pro at hooks...)

Here's what I've been reading so far:

The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri

This is not my typical summer read. It's slow, lyrical, and utterly heartbreaking - not exactly what I'd call good beach material. But I was so drawn in by the characters and the simple yet masterful writing that I couldn't put it down, and that is what I call good beach material. It also offers a fascinating insight into the history of India and Bangladesh, and the Communist insurgencies there in the 1960s. A topic which, I confess, I knew absolutely nothing about until I picked up this book. Once I got over feeling humiliatingly ignorant, I loved the insight into the particular time and place in the country's past. Highly recommended.


The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd

I know, I know, I am way overdue on reading this book. It was everyone's favorite book like 15 years ago (or 12, whatever,) and yet I never read it. I kept meaning to, and kept meaning to, but I somehow never actually got to it. I didn't think much of it until I realized just how long I'd been putting it off, at which point I was so embarrassed that I moved it to the top of my list. I'm reading it right now, actually, so I can't write a real review of it yet, but so far, I love it. It's engaging, funny, and heart-wrenching (because apparently I am incapable of reading lighthearted books,) and I'm very glad I decided to finally pick it up.


Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

Look! I'm not too far off on this one! This has been one of the most talked-about books this year (at least in my very limited circles,) and I'm reading it this year!!! Or at least, I'm intending to. It's next on my list after The Secret Life of Bees. I don't have much to say about it, except that I'm really excited to read it, because everyone I know who read it absolutely loved it.






Now is where you come in, because this is IT for my summer reading list, and I need more suggestions! So please, pile 'em up. What are you reading this summer? What's on your list? What should I read after Station Eleven?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Insecure Writers: How to Find a Writing Group, Contd.

It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's time for The Insecure Writers! The IWSG is an online group created by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers. You, too, can join us anytime!

A briefy (yes, I made up a word) today, in honor of my resolution to stop overwriting so damn much:

I am NOT insecure today. I know - can you believe it??? It's a Christmas miracle. Or, a July miracle. Whatever.

I am NOT insecure this month because I am instead excited, inspired, and feeling accomplished!

Why, you ask? (Go on - ask. No, really. It'll make me happy.)

Because I have a writing group!!!

Some of you might remember me bleating on about this a few months ago, wishing I had such a group. A few of you might even remember that I took a non-fiction writing class this spring - but if you don't, that's OK. I barely remember my own life, much less anyone else's.

Well, I took the class in part to get better at writing personal essays, but also to see if I could find some cool, talented writers who might also be interested in forming a group.

And guess what?? I DID AND THEY DID! Our class is over, but more than half of us decided we wanted to keep going. We had our first meeting last week, and it was wonderful. Productive and inspiring and fun. I can't believe that I found these talented and smart people, and that they wanted to write with me. How lucky am I??

What are you insecure about? Do you have a group that inspires you?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dribbles, Drabbles, and CASSA SERIES!

Good morning (or afternoon/evening/late night) my lovelies! It's been a while since I've done one of these dribbly/drabbly/drivelly posts, so I thought, why not today? Whilst perusing my little list today, please make sure to get all the way down to #3, because it's an exciting one...


1. The True Meaning of Spectacular

Every year, I take my father to a Red Sox baseball game - a nice sort of twist on what he did for my brother and I when we were young. Fenway Park is a really unique, historic place, and I always love being there...even when the home team delivers another rotten egg for our viewing enjoyment.

BUT, regardless of what the Sox were (or weren't) doing last night at Fenway, we were treated to a truly spectacular laser show by the sky, lit up in glory over the game (and the lights at the park did their part to make the photo I snapped something special):


The light show lasted a long time, with rays shooting golden, then orange, then crimson into the heavy, low-hanging clouds. It was breathtaking.


2. Writing, What?

I thought I'd be using the months before the onset of twindom to write and write and write, and sort of store up lots of writing time before I have zero time - like people tell expecting parents to shore up on sleep. Turns out my idea was just as flawed as the sleep one. Dammit. 

Know what I'm doing before the onset of twindom? Not writing, oh Lord, no. I'm getting ready for twindom. It's truly astonishing how much preparation and stuff and work goes into two tiny helpless little beings' arrival.

It's all worth it. It's also a bit frustrating. Maybe next week I'll have more time?


3. Alex J. Cavanaugh's Cassa Series Available in Boxed Set!

And now, I'm delighted to help Alex announce that his Cassa books are now available as a boxed set:


Release date - June 22 2015

CassaSeries
By Alex J. Cavanaugh 
ISBN 9781939844118
Price - $5.99 eBook boxed set
Science fiction/adventure (FIC028010) and science fiction/space opera (FIC028030)

The Amazon Best-Selling Series!

CassaStar - Few options remain for Byron. Slated to train as a Cosbolt pilot, Byron is determined to prove his worth to his instructor, Bassa. As war brews on the edge of space, Bassa must make a decision that could decide the fate of both men. Will their skills be enough as they embark on a mission destined to stretch their abilities to the limit?

CassaFire - Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters behind him, the detection of alien ruins sends him to the planet of Tgren. Forced to train a Tgren named Athee and deal with an eager young scientist, he feels invaded. Tensions mount as the ruins reveal a potential weapon, plunging him further into the chaos. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

CassaStorm - Commanding the base on Tgren, Byron watches as a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the planet. When the war hits Tgren, it triggers nightmares in his son. The ancient alien ship begins transmitting a deadly code and the probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago returns. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…

Find it here:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ZAP5PV4?*Version*=1&*entries*=0
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00ZAP5PV4?*Version*=1&*entries*=0
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cassaseries-alex-j-cavanaugh/1122097909?ean=294015196217
https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/cassaseries
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25705316-cassaseries

About Alex: Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm.

http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/
http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/
http://twitter.com/AlexJCavanaugh  


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

This Is What Addiction Looks Like: Game of Thrones

Note: there's nothing about writing here today. Not a peep. Unless you count the fact that I WROTE this post? No? Right. Sorry. I got...distracted. I'll try to drag myself out of the television for next week. Really, I promise. 

I held out for as long as I could - either four years or nineteen years, depending on if you count from first book publication or TV premiere - but it's finally happened:

I'm drinking the House Stark Kool-Aid. Smoking the Westeros crack pipe. Hooked up to an IV of Blood Magic.

In other words, I've joined the legions of people who are completely, thoroughly, utterly addicted to Game of Thrones.

I'm talking the HBO series, here, not the books: as a proud bibliophile, it's embarrassing to admit, but I've been scared away from the books by the sheer size of the volumes. They're freaking long, OK? And I've always worried that if I started reading them, I wouldn't be able to stop until I'd read all of them, which would takes months and would mean I'd never read anything else, and, even worse, that I'd hit the point of utter desperation so many fans have felt, when they reached the end of the fifth book only to find that George R. R. Martin is the slowest writer the world has ever seen, and realize that they'll have to wait an unbearable, undetermined amount of time before they can get their next fix.

Now that I've started watching the TV show, I know - I was right to be afraid. Because now I reach the end of one episode and find myself thinking, "Well, the next one is only another hour, I can squeeze that in, right? It's just one hour less of sleep." Or, you know, five.

So now I'm sleep deprived and running behind on a ton of tasks (not good, considering what's coming up in my life,) and even when I'm not watching TV it's still ruling my life. I'll be cooking dinner or working with client, and think, "Hmm, what's Tyrion going to do about [insert life-threatening dilemma here]?" Or, "Oh god, I can't get over it! I keep seeing the scene where [insert important, beloved, heroic character here] died, over and over again."

I was going to write more, but, you know, EPISODES TO WATCH.

See?? I'm sacrificing social and recreational activities, and my relationships and work are suffering. I really am addicted.

OOOO the theme song is playing! Gotta go!

Do you watch Game of Thrones? Read the books? What are you addicted to these days?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Guest Post: Chrys Fey's Ghost of Death and Witch of Death

Man, I've been featuring a lot of books on the ole blog recently, haven't I? It's a pleasure and a lot of fun - and yes, with the impending arrival of twindom, it's also a delight to hand the reins over to someone else, and let them ride us both off into the sunset while I busy myself installing medicine cabinets, picking up baby gear hand-me-downs from generous friends, and cleaning out our closets.

Oh wait, was that one of things I wasn't supposed to admit? Oh. Oops. Hmm, does pregnancy brain only affect the partner who's pregnant? What's my excuse, then? 

Umm...oh dear. I may not have one. 

Well, then, let me just come out and say I am DEE-lighted to feature Chrys Fey here today, not only because she's giving me time to paint the nursery, but MAINLY and MOSTLY because she's a great blogger friend and a prolific and talented writer. Take it away, Chrys!


Thank you for opening your blog to me, Liz, so I can share my newest short story, Witch of Death, with your lovely readers. :)


Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved the moon. When I realized the moon followed me in the car, I thought it only did that for me and that I was special. I thought the man on the moon was my friend. I used to talk to him in whispers from my bedroom window. I even pretended he was my boyfriend. Hey. I was eight. Don’t judge me! :P

The point is, the moon had been of deep fascination to me and now it’s a constant source of inspiration. In Witch of Death, a witch commits murder during a full moon. In Ghost of Death, the moon has an even bigger significance. Before my MC, Jolie, dies, she sees the moon and recites the lullaby “Goodnight Moon,” a bedtime story I loved.


Here’s a cute animated version narrated by Susan Sarandon:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yu_g5x3ZoQ

QUESTIONS: Do you remember Goodnight Moon from your childhood? Do you like the moon?


Blurb:

Jolie Montgomery, a twenty-one-year-old woman, wakes up in an alley next to her corpse. She has no memories of her murder or the night she died. She didn’t even see the killer’s face before he or she took her life. Wanting justice, Jolie seeks answers in the only way a ghost can...by stalking the lead detective on the case.

Avrianna Heavenborn is determined to find the person responsible for a young woman’s death. She gets closer to the killer’s identity with every clue she uncovers, and Jolie is with her every step of the way.

But if they don’t solve her murder soon, Jolie will be an earth-bound spirit forever.


Excerpt:

With the sound of her mom’s grief wafting up to her, Jolie came to terms with her present state. I’m dead and now my mom knows it. She eyed the door in front of her. She hadn’t yet walked through a door, but if her hand could pass through metal then she knew she could move through wood.

If I have to be a ghost then I’ll be a damn good one. All across the afterlife I’ll be known as the Ghost of Death! And I’m going to start by walking through this damn door!

She would’ve taken a deep breath to brace herself if she could have, so she mentally pumped herself up instead. You can do it! Easy-peasy. Nothing to it. And she took a step forward. Solid matter slipped around and through her form. On the other side, a familiar site confronted her: a black and white bed, the bright green shag carpet in the middle of the room, and a white desk.

Stepping up to her desk, Jolie eyed her ancient desktop computer, the one she used before her dad gifted her with a laptop when she announced she was accepted to the local university. Wanting to send out the first ever tweet from the afterlife, she pushed the button to bring the device to life, but her finger poker straight through it. Resigning to her Twitter-less fate, she moved toward the full-length mirror hanging on the wall. She saw nothing. Not even a shimmer in the air hinted at her presence.

Being a ghost sucks!


Book Links: 



Also available: WITCH OF DEATH



Blurb:

Detective Reid Sanders doesn’t believe in the supernatural, but when he’s faced with a crime scene that defies the laws of nature, he has no other choice but to start believing. And solving a magical murder involves working with a witch.

Liberty Sawyer embodies the look of your classic evil witch, so, it’s no surprise when she uncovers the murderer is a witch that she becomes Reid’s number one suspect. If she can’t convince him otherwise, more people could lose their lives to dark magic, including her.


Book Links:






BIO:

Chrys Fey is the author of Hurricane Crimes and 30 Seconds. She is currently working on the sequel to Hurricane Crimes that’ll serve as book two in the Disaster Crimes series.

When Fey was six years old, she realized her dream of being a writer by watching her mother pursue publication. At the age of twelve, she started writing her first novel, which flourished into a series she later rewrote at seventeen. Fey lives in Florida where she is waiting for the next hurricane to come her way.

You can connect with her on Facebook and her blog, Write with Fey. She loves to get to know her readers!


Author Links:

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Insecure Writers: New World Order

It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's time for The Insecure Writers! The IWSG is an online group created by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers. You, too, can join us anytime!

Happy June, everyone! Here in Crazytown Boston, after an unseasonably hot and summer-y May, June has decided to remind us how grateful we should be for summer by reverting back to late winter. It's 40 degrees and pouring. I had to turn the heat back on in my house. Delightful, isn't it?

Sigh. That's New England, peeps.

BUT that's not why I'm feeling insecure. Irritated and chilly, perhaps, but not insecure.

No, the reason that I'm super-charged on insecurity this month is that my life is on the verge on changing, irrevocably, forever and ever. You might say it's on the verge of exploding. You might say that and many other shocked and shocking things, because - wait for it - at some point this summer, I am going to become a parent.

Nope, not pulling your leg. My wife is expecting twins - TWINS! - in August. Or, as is the case with twins - TWINS! - whenever the hell they decide to get here. Personally. I'm rooting for full-term, late August, and I do tell them this every night, but I have a feeling this might just be my first exercise in parental futility.

Yes, this is why I've taken a few protracted blogging breaks. Yes, this is why I gave away mountains of books, killing a small piece of my soul in the process (oh I do so love exaggeration.)

And yes, this is why I am freaking the bleep out right now.

There are the standard parent insecurities (not just, will I screw up my kids? But really, how badly will I screw them up?) plus the twin - TWIN! - insecurities (how will I ever have enough hands to feed/clothe/bathe my children? Will I ever sleep, ever ever again?) and on top of all of that, there are the writer-parent insecurities (is it possible to be creative when I'm a sleep-deprived-writer-zombie? Will I have to wait until I'm geriatric to start writing again?)

There are so many insecurities. Because hello, twins! TWINS!

I am also of course over the moon, overjoyed, over-ecstatic, over-excited, and over-many-other-things. But this is the Insecure Writers Support Group, not the Happy Writers Support Group. Who needs a support group to be happy, anyway?

Truth be told, I am both joyful and insecure-ful...which is probably just about right. Oh yes, and if I suddenly and inexplicably disappear from the blogosphere for a few weeks, well, now you'll know why.

How do you juggle family/writing time? Were you able to be creative when your kids were little? What are you IWSG-ing about this month?


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Reverse Shelfie

I've had a rough week.

It's hard to talk about, but gosh...sigh. I want to try.

I took picture, a sort of twisted sad reverse shelfie, so you can see what I mean:




Those are all books. Moreover, those are all books that I voluntarily got rid of.

I know what you're thinking: WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?

I KNOW! I can't believe I did it, either. It was like a fit of madness came over me or something. One minute I'm a normal hoarder book-lover with lovely teetering stacks of books on all my shelves, and the next, I'm some kind of crazed clean-freak with an unreasoning vendetta against biblio-clutter, and a bloodthirsty drive for organization. 

In all seriousness - wait, who am I kidding? I can't be serious; I'm too busy waxing melodramatic over the fate of my books. 

Alas. It sort of did have to be done. We don't have a large space, and our shelves were so overcrowded something really terrible happened: we didn't have room for any new books.

I will admit, though, that it's possible I didn't deal so well with the culling process. I may or may not have cried a little. I also may or may not have had a last-minute panic attack and started grabbing books indiscriminately from the bags in an attempt to 'rescue' them. 

In the end, though, the vast majority made it out of the house and into the donation piles of some local charities, so at least I can hope they're going to good, loving homes. 

And now...we have room for new books

I knew there was a silver lining in there, somewhere,

Do you ever clean out your book piles? Or do you keep every book forever? Have you taken a shelfie?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bookish Thoughts, And Nicki Elson's Vibrizzio!

Hey everyone, I had this great idea for a post today, about books. SHOCKING, right? Me, write about books? I know, but I think it's important to stretch ourselves sometimes, and really step outside of our comfort zones. Be brave. And write about books.

Well, I will write about books (I'm not sure why I feel the need to continue emphasizing that) but not til next week, because this week I am FINALLY getting my butt in gear and featuring my blogging buddy Nicki Elson. I say 'finally,' because her new book has been out for weeks and I missed the official blog tour and I am a lame, lame friend. 

SO, without further ado (although I do like an ado), here's Nicki!

Wait, wait, just kidding. First let me say that you really need to read the excerpt she has here, but please do so without sipping or eating anything while you read. Because you will blow it out of your nose when you start laughing. I am not joking - there may have been a coffee/nose incident when Nicki sent this to me. Maybe. I'm just saying, be careful.

NOW, here's Nicki!


If you read this blog, then I know you've had practice at following trains of thought, yes? Liz is great about letting us know where her brain waves have taken her—which is just one reason I love stopping by. So would you like to know how I arrived at the excerpt I’m going to share with you today?

Well, Liz lives in Boston (her tidbits about living in the city are another thing I enjoy here), and though VIBRIZZIO is set in Chicago, there’s travel involved, including a trip to Boston. So I started thinking about that city … which naturally led me to tea—y’know because of that pah-tee in the haa-bah—and instead of landing in Boston, I plopped right back in Chicago at the Drake Hotel for high tea.

I write love stories, and I know many in the world of romance want 100% of the focus on the heroine and hero, but I write what I want to read, and I like to see how the main character interacts with a variety of people—family, friends, coworkers. Then reviewers make comments like the one below and I know I’m not alone:

“The other characters really bring life to the story. They’re not just background. It becomes clear how Lyssa’s friends and family have shaped and continue to shape her.”

Maybe what I really write is women’s fiction. I love my heroes, but the story I’m really telling is the girl’s.  To truly know her, we need to meet the important people in her life. Today, I introduce you to Lyssa Bates’ mum, Penny, in an excerpt from VIBRIZZIO.


* * *

"Keith and I broke up.”

It was good Penny had already set down her teacup; otherwise, stained water would’ve gone flying with the dramatic rush of her hand to her chest as she gasped loudly enough that the diners in the immediate vicinity glanced in her direction.

“It’s just a breakup, Mom. Calm down.”

“Well, do you think you’ll be getting back together?”

“I … I don’t know. I don’t think so. Look, I know you really liked him, but it became clear that he and I didn’t understand each other, so it seemed best to split.” Penny nodded and her hand slowly made its way down to the table, where she absently ran her fingertips along the rim of her saucer.

“When you say you didn’t understand each other, do you mean sexually?”

Pressing her lips together with pressure so fierce it could form diamonds, Lyssa gave a curt shake of her head. “It was a lot of things, Mom.”

“Oh.” It was one those ohs that came packed with layers of meaning—none of which merely meant oh.

Let it go, Lyssa told herself. Talk about the tea or talk about the weather. Maybe encourage her to go on for an hour about Jessica’s homemaking prowess, but do not give in to her bait. It was a battle Lyssa rarely won. “Why did you automatically assume that sex was the problem?”

Penny’s eyes went wide with feigned innocence. “It was only a question. No need to get shrill.”

Was she shrill? Lyssa looked down and saw her fingers bent like talons, holding her balled-up napkin in a death grip. Willing herself to relax, she released the napkin and spread it across her lap. “I’m sorry, but … why did you immediately go there?”

“No reason.” Penny lifted her porcelain cup to her lips. Before taking a long sip, she murmured, “It’s just that you’ve always been a bit of a prude.”

Lyssa's fingers choked the napkin again. Had any other woman in the entire history of everything ever been accused of being a prude by her own mother? She decided to meet blunt with blunter. “So you’re still disappointed I wouldn’t go with Jess and the other seniors to the suck-off-the-football-team parties?” For effect, she lifted her wrinkled napkin and dabbed at the corners of her mouth.

“That is not what was going on, and maybe if you’d been more social, you would’ve been asked to a prom.”

“You wanted me to social myself out for a date to prom?”

Penny tilted her head in the way that said she’d have none of her daughter’s nonsense. “What I want to express is that I understand what it’s like to be uptight in the bedroom. Your father and I … ”

Oh dear God.

“ … but once I loosened up and agreed to some of the things he’d been asking me to try … ”

Oh God, no! These weren’t random words popping into Lyssa’s mind—she was actually praying. Please, make it stop.

It wasn’t stopping, and Lyssa did her best to block her mother’s words and focus on something—anything—else in the vast room. Her eyes darted about, failing to find purchase anywhere, and the distinct syllables that formed the word “testicles” in her mother’s nasally voice cut through her rising panic. Her eyes stopped on the gleaming flatware resting conveniently on the white linen tablecloth. She momentarily considered stabbing forks into her eardrums, but that’d only stop the noise; she’d still be able to read those lips that didn’t stop moving.

“ … and there’s something very gratifying about causing a man to lose control like that … ”

Lyssa instantly decided on the ultimate superpower Keith had always wanted her to choose. She’d pick telekinesis, and she’d use it to snap off one of the harp strings and levitate it over. Then she’d wrap it around her mother’s throat and squeeze. Squeeze until Mommy turned blue. Squeeze until that larynx could never again spew its torturous revelations.


* * *


I, uh, might have a bit of a latent violent streak that leaks into my writing every once in a while, ehe.

Thank you so much, Liz, for having me over and letting me share a piece of the Vibster w/ your followers. I hope you enjoyed it. Have a fabulous Humpday, everyone!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Milo James Fowler's Captain Quasar

I am DELIGHTED to feature author Milo James Fowler on my blog today! His novel, Captain Quasar and the Space-Time Conundrum, is now available - in serialized form. Which means you can subscribe, and read a little bit at a time, whenever you have time. How perfect is that? If you haven't read any of Milo's Quasar stories yet, you're in for a treat. And now, on to the novel and the author!


Every Day Novels is proud to announce the release of Milo James Fowler's first serialized novel: 


Captain Bartholomew Quasar and the Space-Time Displacement Conundrum

16 weeks of serial chapters every weekday – that's 80 exciting episodes of adventure aboard the Effervescent Magnitude for only $5 USD (includes an eBook edition following serialization). Don't delay – Subscribe today!

Captain Quasar is out of time.

Pursued by vengeful Goobalob toll collectors, savage Arachnoid bounty hunters, and formidable Amazonians, Captain Bartholomew Quasar must do whatever he can to keep the crew of the Effervescent Magnitude out of harm's way. All in a day's work—except time is not on his side.

Torn from the present to relive his past, he vows to keep mistakes from occurring the second time around. But is he doomed to repeat history? Or can he erase his regrets?

Villains will be vanquished. Lives will be lost. Bonds will be betrayed. Heroes will be heroic.

Join the crew of the Effervescent Magnitude for a hilarious time-travel space adventure the likes of which you've never seen!

Now Available from Every Day Novels

Add Captain Quasar to your Goodreads bookshelf



Prologue:

Jaw muscle twitching at untimed intervals, Captain Bartholomew Quasar gripped the armrests of his deluxe-model captain's chair and narrowed his heroic gaze. The main viewscreen on the bridge of the Effervescent Magnitude radiated with white-hot streaks blurring in elongated trajectories as his star cruiser plunged into the depths of space at something near the speed of light.

Quasar could feel the tension in the air. It was palpable and tasted like sweat—mostly his own. The members of his bridge crew remained silent, standing at their stations and staring at the viewscreen. Many forgot to blink as their insides trembled, recoiling with a nameless fear.

They had never moved so fast in their lives.

This was the Magnitude's maiden voyage into deep space utilizing the recently installed cold fusion near-lightspeed reactor—an experimental propulsion system they'd picked up on the planet Carpethria. One thing was readily apparent: it worked. But how long could the ship could maintain this incredible velocity without compromising hull integrity?

Already, the ship was creaking and groaning in protest, and the helmsman—a very hairy, four-armed Carpethrian who resembled something between a sloth and an overweight orangutan—had begun to grumble that the reactor really should have been tested before this full-speed leap into the black.

But there had been no other choice. Their options at the time were either flight (and survival) or fight (and undoubtedly be destroyed). Vicious Arachnoid bounty hunters were on their tail, and Arachnoids tended to be a very hungry lot—often foregoing payment for their illicit services in favor of a fresh kill.

The Magnitude's first officer, Commander Selene Wan, wasn't keen on the idea of allowing a Carpethrian to man the helm of their freshly minted star cruiser. But no one else on board knew how to navigate at near-lightspeed, and it took all four of the alien's hands to do the job—something two humans would have had to coordinate in tandem. And that could have gotten awkward.

"Steady as she goes." Quasar smoothed down his close-cropped blond hair and cringed as the ship released a moan that didn't sound good at all—something akin to a whale giving birth. "How are we doing, Hank?"

"Haven't run into anything yet," grunted the very hairy helmsman, hands flying across the controls.

"Status report?" Quasar half-turned to regard his first officer with a confidently raised eyebrow.

Commander Wan, a tall, slim Eurasian with impeccable posture, kept her attention riveted on her console. "Proximity scanners are offline." She swayed on her feet with the rocking movements of the ship, her sleek black hair swinging across her shoulders. "Artificial gravity is holding. Life support remains functional." A sudden frown creased her usually furrow-free forehead. "But the reactor, sir… We may have a serious problem."

"Elaborate."

"It's overheating, Captain. If we don't decelerate, it may—" She swallowed. "Explode."

That wouldn't be good at all. The folks back home were depending on Captain Quasar and company to bring back loads of quartz necessary for virtually every form of technology and transportation on Earth, not to mention haute vintage time pieces. The Magnitude could not possibly be allowed to blow up.

"Hank?" Quasar faced the shaggy helmsman. "Could we possibly slow down a bit?"

The Carpethrian grunted something intelligible, followed by, "Commencing deceleration sequence."

"Very good." The captain nodded, glancing over his shoulder at his first officer. Everything was under control. "Status?"

She shook her head without a word. Quasar checked the console on his armrest. The Arachnoid ship was nowhere in sight, and the Magnitude had begun to slow down, but only by an infinitesimal fraction of its near-lightspeed velocity.

"Uh-Hank? About that deceleration sequence…" Quasar cleared his throat.

"It will take thirty minutes, Captain. Any sudden downshift in speed would tear the ship apart."

Quasar maintained a brave façade for the sake of his crew. Such was expected from starship captains, after all. Clenching his jaw, he leaned toward Wan and whispered, "Do we have thirty minutes?"
She met his gaze, and he didn't like what he saw in her eyes—something she hadn't shown before when they'd dealt with the horrible Goobalobs or the savage Arachnoids:

Terror.



Get to know the man behind the book:

1. When did you start seriously pursuing writing as a career?

I've been writing since I was 12, but I started submitting my work for publication in the summer of 2009. I'd always thought I would pursue publication at some point—probably after I retired from teaching or turned 40. My first story was published in January 2010, and I've had over a hundred others accepted for publication since then. I won't turn 40 for another year, and I'm still teaching full-time. Doesn't look like I'll be retiring anytime soon!

2. How did you create the character Bartholomew Quasar?

When I came up with Captain Bartholomew Quasar back in the spring of 2010, I was going for a mash-up between William Shatner's James T. Kirk and Dudley Do-Right from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (but in Quasar's case, things seldom ever go right). He's one of those classic pulp heroes with a heart of gold whose narcissistic tendencies often land him in hot water. I hope readers can laugh at Bartholomew Quasar and root for him at the same time. He's ridiculous, but there's something about his fallible nature that most of us can relate to on some level.

3. Are you working on more Captain Quasar stories?

I've written over 20 Captain Quasar tales so far, many of which are out on the submission circuit, looking for good homes. "Captain Quasar and the Ghosts of Space Command" will be published in the next issue of Perihelion Science Fiction. "Captain Quasar and the Carpethrian Call of the Wild" will be included in the B is for Broken anthology, and "Captain Quasar and the Devious Powers of Persuasion" will be in the Geminid Press space opera anthology. I'm in the middle of edits on a novella-length adventure I plan to submit for publication soon. My collection of 15 Quasar tales Starfaring Adentures…in SPACE is available everywhere eBooks are sold—and free for the taking, last time I checked.   



About Milo:

Milo James Fowler is a teacher by day, speculative fictioneer by night, and an active SFWA member. When he's not grading papers, he's imagining what the world might be like in a dozen alternate realities. In the past 5 years, his short fiction has appeared in more than 100 publications, including AE SciFi, Cosmos, Daily Science Fiction, Nature, Shimmer, and the Wastelands 2 anthology.

Visit www.milojamesfowler.com and join The Crew for updates about new releases.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Insecure Writers: More TIME, Please!

It's the first Wednesday of the month, so it's time for The Insecure Writers! The IWSG is an online group created by Alex J. Cavanaugh for writers. You, too, can join us anytime!

I have to give a huge CONGRATULATIONS to all of you who completed the A-Z Challenge this year. It's a huge accomplishment, and I'm sorry I missed a couple of weeks of it! Give yourselves a huge round of applause, and then go sleep for a week.

In fact, I think that's what I did last year. I also shut down my computer, because I couldn't bear to look at the screen for one damn second longer than necessary.

Yes, you can begin to see why I didn't participate this year...

Anyway, I took a slightly longer hiatus there than I planned to. Oops. Sorry about that. Vacation is wonderful but work has this annoying habit of continuing even when you stop for a break, so that you come back from your refreshing travels only to find a mountain of work waiting for you. Isn't that ridiculous? Clearly, everything else should stop when I do. I mean, obviously.

I'm still catching up - I also happen to be taking another writing class right now, which is adding to the mountain of work - so I will attempt to be brief.

I make no promises about my success, but I will attempt.

Most of my insecurity this month is coming from time - as in not having enough of it. Normally, when I take a writing class, I like to really dig in and give as much to it as I possibly can. But life has been extra specially nuts these past few weeks, vacation notwithstanding, so I find myself in a sweating panic the day before my class meets, desperately trying to cram in some writing and finish a piece in time for class. It doesn't help that all of my classmates are really, truly gifted writers, and I keep feeling like I'm not doing my best work and not impressing anyone and need to work harder or better or more originally or with more humor and should perhaps just give up and curl into a ball and disappear.

Whew, that was a whole giant truck-load of insecurity, wasn't it? Sounds a little high-pressure there, doesn't it? Hmm. Maybe I should cut myself a break, shouldn't I?

I should, I think. And so, I think, should all of the other insecure writers out there. We give ourselves a very hard time sometimes.

What are you feeling all IWSG-ish about this month? Are you recovering from the A-Z Challenge?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Vacation!

Update 4/29/15: I know, I'm supposed to be back! I am back, but being on vacation left me with a small mountain of work to get done. So, I'll be on blog hiatus til next week. If I can get around to make my blog visits this week, I will! Otherwise, I'll see you all next week :)

I'm off in lovely British Columbia this week. I'll see you all next Wednesday, as per usual! In the meantime, please go visit Nicki Elson, who has a brand new book out this week!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Finding And Maintaining A Fun And Effective Writing Group

So last week I lamented the lack of writing groups in my life, and asked for help. Because she's amazing, my blogging friend Loni Townsend answered me with such a long, detailed, and helpful email that I asked her to reshape it a bit and make it into a guest post. She did this purely because I asked her to, but I wanted to give her a shout-out, because a) her writing is wonderful, and b) so is she. So if you haven't already, please go buy her books! (And keep reading after her guest post for a look into her most recent novella, This World Bites.)

What follows is Loni's excellent advice on finding, forming, and maintaining a writing group:

Last week, Liz brought up the topic of writing groups, and how much she’d love to find one.

As my buddy Jim mentioned on my blog a few weeks back, I do have one of those groups. In fact, I'm the one that started it because I couldn't find anything that matched what I wanted in a group. I didn't want casual come-if-you-can-and-we'll-do-whatever, which at the time was all the Idaho Writer's Guild offered.

Jim is actually the critique group manager guy for the guild. He keeps track of all of the different groups, so that when someone comes to the guild, he can point them in the right direction. I'm not part of the guild, since I can't justify paying for meetings and conferences that I can't attend because of work and family. But I know enough people on the board to be dangerous. ;) That being said, if you have a local writer's guild, check there first because they may have something you're looking for.

Since the guild didn't have something I wanted, I made my own. It started with NaNoWriMo. Me and a couple of friends met every Friday morning for "write-ins" (drinking coffee and chatting a lot) during November. After November ended, we created a Facebook group that local people could join and stay in contact beyond the NaNo forums. I posted a question to the group to see if anyone would be interested in starting up a critique group. I knew I wanted a limited number of people because big groups are hard to manage when it comes to scheduling, plus you lose some of the intimacy. I got a couple of bites from people I hadn't met yet, and some interest from a few I had.

I ended up limiting it to 12 because the closest library had a meeting room that sat 12 and was free to reserve.

Then I sat down and wrote the expectations and guidelines for what I wanted. Here's a look into those guidelines:

Treasure Valley Critiquers is a group aimed to provide constructive criticism to group participants. It is a community where writers can go to gain honest feedback about a segment of their work.

Expectations:

  • Meetings will take place every two weeks
  • Sharing will take place on a round-robin schedule.
  • One member will share per scheduled 60 minutes. If more than 60 minutes is scheduled, then more than one member will share.
  • The scheduled sharer will email their work to the other members, or place it in the appropriate Dropbox folder, 10-14 days before their scheduled share date and indicate genre.
  • The shared segment will consist of approximately 5,000 words or less.
  • Critiquing members will have feedback compiled prior to meeting start (either physically or electronically).
  • Sharing author will remain silent during the discussion.
  • Critiquing members will discuss the work with the author present, but not directly address the author. 
  • First time attendees must participate in critiquing another member’s work before they are added to the schedule. 
  • Criticism is more than just grammar. 
  • Topics covered will include:
    • Plot/Pacing
    • Characterization
    • Setting/Tone
    • Clarity
    • Dialogue
    • Entertainment Value – If a short story, was it satisfactory? If part of a bigger story, would you continue reading?
    • Other


Guidelines:

  • Be courteous. It is fine to dislike another person’s writing or work and to voice that opinion, but refrain from cruel or mean-spirited feedback. Comments such as “It sucked” are inappropriate. If you come bearing a complaint, be prepared to provide a suggestion on how the piece can be improved.
  • Keep an open mind. People are allowed to have opinions. Whether you are giving feedback or receiving it, not everyone comes from the same background. Some people may and will have different moral foundations. Even if you disagree with someone else’s opinion, discuss your reasons civilly. 
  • If you are the sharing author: once your time has started, you are done talking. Refrain from defending or commenting on or even clarifying any of the details within your work. You are there to listen. Your readers will not have you there to answer all their questions once you publish, so if something is misunderstood, then it may need to be rewritten. 
  • Avoid sidetracking on tangents that don’t relate to the author’s work. This is the time to focus on the author’s writing and not how attractive a particular actor is (even though you would love to see him play this such-and-such character in the segment you’ve just read).
  • Don't share another author's pages with people outside of the group unless you gain the author's explicit permission. They are trusting you with their work. Don't betray that trust. You don't own the rights to their work.

It's been tweaked a few times since the beginning, but mostly it's the same.

Then I figured out a schedule. Every other Wednesday worked best for most people, so that's what I went with.

I manage the critiquing schedule, group vacancies, and location scheduling. We have a closed Facebook group where I post the events of who is going when and where we're meeting. I also keep track of time and prompt topic discussion while we are critiquing, and steer conversation back on track when we get too far off-topic. I've even busted out my mom voice on some of the more excessive talkers.

Not all people understand the finer points of the group's intention. We've had to update our expectations to include a topic list so that we weren't spending twenty minutes on wrongly placed commas. It's helped smooth over some of the frustrations some members have with other members.

We use Dropbox to share our work and feedback. This works, for the most part. :) Some people still struggle with uploading files. They usually just email them to me and I put them in the folder. We used to email our pieces to a group distribution, but then some people were getting missed or lost, and I'd have to re-email.

Sometimes the group plan doesn't always work. One of my members started a separate group specifically for YA/NA (mine is open to all genres, including nonfiction). She based it on our existing structure, and expectations and guidelines. A volatile personality in her group started fracturing the other members' confidence. She came to me asking how I would handle the member. I suggested she talk to him, and if he wasn't willing to be tactful with his feedback, then to cut him off. I don't think she was willing to kick him out, or she didn't convey her message very well (she's not a mom and doesn't have a mom voice). The group crumbled, and disbanded after a few months.

We've had people come and go from my group. Since creating the group nearly two years ago, there are 6 from the original 12, and we've had 8 people join and leave for varying reasons (new babies, new jobs, new apartments in other cities). We still see each other around town and exchange laughs and stories.

Everyone is looking for something slightly different. If you don’t find what you want, try making your own.



This World Bites

It’s her first day on a new world and Cera's already found trouble. Michael, her guardian, has been bitten by a zombie and will soon join the undead ranks.

Everyone tells her there's no cure, but Cera isn't one to be deterred. She’s willing to face off with zombie hordes, demon slavers, and black market informants if it means she’ll find a cure for Michael.

But she’s not the only one hunting for something.

Something is hunting her.

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By day, she writes code. By predawn darkness, she writes fantasies. All other times, she writes in her head.

People call her peculiar with a twisted sense of fashion, but don't let those understatements fool you. Her behavior is perfectly normal for a squirrel disguised as a human. That's part of being a ninja—blending in.

She makes her home in Idaho with her sadistically clever—yet often thwarted—husband, two frighteningly brilliant children, and three sneaky little shibas.

Find her on her blog or social media.

Contact info:
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Thank you so much, Loni!


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Writing Groups And Other Rare Species

Note: Somehow I missed signing up for Alex J. Cavanaugh's release day! I am so bummed, and so sorry, Alex!! So let me take a second to plug his BRAND NEW BOOK, Dragon of the Stars, which is OUT and available to buy. Head on over to Alex's blog for all of the info.

On to today's regular post...

Hey, A-Zers! You're through your first week of the marathon. Congratulations!!! I am wholly impressed by all of you.

Now, for something totally unrelated. Or, well, mostly unrelated.

I am at a loss. Not only that, I am lost. Being lost as well as at a loss is frustrating, not to mention confusing. Sort of like being stranded on a mountain with no idea of how to get home, and no idea of how to figure out how to get home. Maybe you have a compass but don't know how to use it, and you're staring at due north on it and wishing you knew what lay north of you if you walked that way, besides some fragment of Earth's magnetic field.

Before my metaphor gets stretched too thin (I know; too late), what I mean is that I know I am in desperate need of a writing group. Not just CPs or beta readers, although I love and appreciate them beyond words, but an actual, bona fide, official writing group. You know, people who meet up with each other on at least a semi-regular basis and exchange work, trade critiques and advice, inspire each other, and help each other. People who meet up just for writing dates. You know, my people. 

See, I'm working hard on my non-fiction and am producing pieces much more quickly than I could ever produce a novel, and as a result I need other pairs of eyes on them often. Far more often, in fact, than I can ask my CPs and beta readers to do. I also need some face-to-face time, some writing dates, some pushes and inspiration and community. As I said, I need a damn group.

The problem is that I can't seem to find one. I go to some writing classes and I meet some cool people, but I haven't yet met anyone who could form such a group. Some people live too far to meet up; some people are casual, occasional writers who don't need a group; and some...well, in total honesty some I don't want to be in a group with. There, I said it: I'm picky.

This is one of the few times I really regret not going through an MFA program. I think many people form their groups that way, or at least get connected to them through their communities.

Anyway, I am also at a loss as to how find this group. I know I could put out an ad on craig's list or something, but as I said, I'm picky.

So, blogosphere, I put this question out to you: if you have such a group, how on earth did you find it? How did it get started? Do you have any tips you could share with the lost, dazed, and confused?