WIP: The Movie

Pop that corn and grab a cozy seat, because today is the WIP: The Movie blogfest, hosted by Kyra Lennon and Rachel Schieffelbein.  Thanks for coming up with this fabulous idea for a fest, ladies!

I've been so excited about this because, come on, who doesn't imagine their literary babies up on the big screen one day? And do you know what's great for keeping track of visual collections? Pinterest. Sooo, I give you my WIP in board form:

In case you don't recognize that lovely man in a suit, it's Chris Pine, playing the male lead, Hayden King, in a contemporary office romance that is chick-litty in temperament. Pine came immediately to mind as the confident, smart, sorta cocky, but ultimately irresistible associate. Anna Kendrick plays the sarcastic and cynical yet playful female lead, Lyssa Bates. So far I've only cast one side character, and that's BBT's Kaley Cuoco as Lyssa's bitch sister.

You also get a peek at the urban setting with the beautiful Chicago skyline and a taste of the soundtrack. This story is set in modern day, but like I say in one of the captions---you can take the girl out of the 80's but you just can't take the 80's out of the girl. Hall & Oates capture the peppy beat of the story, Depeche Mode makes an excellent backdrop for a farmhouse bed scene that's a particular favorite of mine, and Addicted to Love would be a good alternate title for the story as our girl becomes slightly addicted to battery-operated love when she's disenchanted with real men. At the moment, I'm calling the story Vibrizzio.

The marvelous and extremely helpful Jennifer Lane has been my crit partner on this story, so I'm extremely curious to know---how did I do with the casting, Jen? Is this how you pictured them? 

P.S. On a completely different note, I'm putting out a call for prayers for my dad. He was recently diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer (man never smoked, looks like it was asbestos that did it) and there's a 15% chance it can be treated with a non-chemo drug that's proven highly effective. I would appreciate any and all prayers for him to be in that "lucky" 15. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


Happy Release Day @LHNicoleauthor -- Legendary is here!!

Today is the release of YA Arthurian adventure/ love story, Legendary by L.H. Nicole. I was a lucky pre-reader of this story, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes new twists on age-old tales.  And just looook at that stunning cover. This is the first book in a series that promises lots more fun and twists.

And now for my one-question interview with the author, L.H. Nicole:

Q: If you had to pick one song that best captures the essence of Legendary, what would it be?

A: Wow that's hard. I have so many I live off of when writing, but if I had to pick one... "Hey Brother" by Avici or "To Feel Alive" by Iameve.

Here's an audio taste of this fabulous new novel:


Ask the Editor: Your First Reviewers

This is the last post of Ask an Editor week with Kimberly Blythe, head editor at Omnific Publishing. Your response to her thoughtful answers has been wonderful---sooooooo we'll do it again! A couple of the questions I received were more appropriately suited to an acquisitions editor, so guess what I did...yep, I lined up an acquisitions editor to answer them. At the May Insecure Writers Support Group, I'll solicit even more questions. Sorry for the delay, but March & April sort of filled up.

And while I'm in apology mode, sorry I'm behind in repaying many of your visits. I've had some shite go down this week that's kept me away from the social networks. But I'll be around, and I look forward to it.

If you missed Kim's earlier answers, you can find them here:

Today we have from Kim one last piece of advice: Your editors are your first reviewers. It may seem like we delight in crushing your dreams, or undoing your hard work. I'm often reminded of a quote from the movie Anne of Avonlea, when Anne is discussing the sale of her work for commercial use by the Rollings Reliable Baking Powder Company. "How do you think a mother would feel if she found her child tattooed all over with a baking powder advertisement? I love my story, and I wrote it out of the best that was in me."

A good editor is your first and most constructive reviewer. Yes, we can be blunt and often aggressively push for changes that you never anticipated. Yes, we will often be demanding that you "kill your darlings" or that a beloved minor character be deleted or disagreeing with your decision to forego contractions in dialogue. But please be assured that if we don't tell you to fix these things during the editing process, a reviewer is sure to tell you that they should have been changed. And they aren't going to be paid to it diplomatically.

Unfortunately, belittling an author has become a sort of sport on social media these days. I can't tell you how many times I've given in to an author's plea to leave something unchanged only to see that very same thing pointed out as a flaw in review after review. Those reviews are often full of comments like, "where was the editor???" which makes me groan. I was there, trying to put these changes into place, but was ignored.

Being edited takes a thick skin and a lot of trust. It can be especially difficult if you've had pre-readers who are amazing cheerleaders for you, but have been decidedly quiet about changes you should be making. They've served an excellent role in keeping you writing and getting you to the point that you're willing to submit your work. But once you submit for publication, it's time to listen to your editors and take most of their advice. Because once your book goes to print, your reviews are permanent.

Find Kim at Tumblr, Goodreads, and Twitter.

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU Kim for taking the time to answer our questions and then some. 


Ask the Editor: How Editors Get Paid

Thanks for all the great comments yesterday! I'm so happy you're finding these insights from Kimberly Blythe, head editor at Omnific Publishing, as helpful and interesting as I do. If you're just joining Ask the Editor week, you can find the earlier answers here:
Editing What You Love...And What You Don't
Most Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Q L.Diane: How do most editors get paid? (Hourly, salary, by the job if freelance...?) I ask because I read a post from an author who stated that editors get paid a percentage based on sales and that really made me laugh because NO WAY would they work like that!/ Kittie: I'd also like to know how editors get paid.

A Kim: Many independent or small to mid-sized publishers are indeed working on a royalties-based paradigm these days. (These companies will usually pay the authors like this, giving them a percent of what is actually sold as it sells, rather than an advance to earn back through future sales.) How much an editor will earn depends on how much contact they have with a book, with developmental editors earning a higher percent of sales than copy editors do, but with copy editors having more titles to work on.

Freelance editors have a lot of different ways they set up their fee structure, usually based on per-page rates, and depending on what you want done. You'll pay a lot more for a "developmental edit" (grammar, plot, dialogue, advice on restructuring) than you will for a "copy edit" or "proofread" (which will only correct your grammar or vocabulary, but not offer advice on your story itself). Keep in mind, as you shop your novel around, that there is a difference between a vanity press, which will charge you for your editing, and a royalties-based company which will split the income from your book between you and all of the staff who worked on it.

Basically, you have to really love editing in order to stay with it long term. If you're looking to publish a book of your own, or to get into editing, you really need to do some research to see if your perception matches the current reality. Fiction editors are a lot less likely to have a desk in a high rise in a big city than they are to work from home on a freelance basis, though there are still jobs like that (and the market for them is incredibly competitive). Unlike novels or movies which picture a just-graduated-from-college-and-now-working-at-a-big-publisher editor who lives in an amazing NYC loft and wears brand name everything...real world editing is a lot less glam. (I read on GalleyCat that NYC editors for the big publishers average about $53,000/year, which wouldn't quite cover that penthouse and Louboutin lifestyle I've seen in novels. Alas.)

Editing isn't a great cash cow for me, though it does help pay my bills. But since I'm working for a publisher which doesn't have a physical office, I get to work in my pajamas or jeans, read great stories, and "meet" lots of characters and their authors. It's sort of what I mistakenly thought being a librarian was like when I was young—getting paid to read! (It also gives me an outlet for correcting people's grammar and vocabulary, which makes me much friendlier on Facebook and in real life. I don't even bat an eye when a friend uses "irregardless" or types a post that says "my friends brought they're favorite wine over for dinner awesome dude!!1!")

Find Kim at TumblrGoodreads, and Twitter.


Ask the Editor: Pre-Query Advice

Welcome to day three of Ask the Editor week, in which Kimberly Blythe, head editor at Omnific Publishing is answering questions from bloggers. Thanks for your comments the last couple of days! I find today's advice to be particularly valuable---it's not easy to do, especially in an industry that pushes us to crank books into the world at lighting speed, but setting your story aside for a while makes a huge difference in your ability to effectively edit it.

If you missed her earlier answers, you can find them here:

Q Suzanne: Is there one piece of editing advice you could give that we could all look out for in our own ms before submitting to an editor or agent?

A Kim: I would advise writers to let their story sit untouched for a few months before they go back and review it. Time and distance is a great way to find things that will confuse other readers. You will never be your own best editor, but with a little time and distance, you will be amazed at the gaps you will notice. Also, and I cannot emphasize this enough, read your book aloud. This is a great way to notice everything from choppy writing to grammar problems to stilted dialogue. It will slow you down enough to keep your eyes from racing over it too quickly to see problems, and it will help you see if you have done things like overused a phrase or word in a way that becomes distracting.

Try writing a chart or timeline for your story. Can you identify a definite rising action, climax and resolution for it? (Remember that plot chart from Language Arts that looked like a roller coaster?) If you're writing a series, try not to save all of your reveals for the next book. All too often, first books in a series are used extensively for set-up in a way that makes the reader frustrated with the lack of information. Don't confuse reader frustration with anticipation, because frustration leads to fatigue and a high chance that they won't bother with a sequel.

That was two pieces of advice, but I think they're related. They boil down to my recommendation that you try to look at your story from a technical point of view, like you are writing a book report. This should help you be more critical and able to assess your story's strengths and weaknesses.

Find Kim at TumblrGoodreads, and Twitter.


Ask the Editor: Most Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Welcome to day two of Ask the Editor week, in which Kimberly Blythe, head editor at Omnific Publishing is answering questions from bloggers. By the way, Omnific is celebrating its 4 year anniversary with a loaded Kindle Fire giveaway! Visit The Book Avenue to enter. 

If you missed Kim's earlier answers, you can find them here:

Q: Liz: What are some common changes you see editors asking for? I know every book is different, but are there some themes/problems that always seem to pop up? / Mary: What common mistakes does she see most? / Rena: I was wondering what part of editing is the most commonly addressed? Basic grammar, plot issues, choppy writing?

A: Kim: There are a few common issues that seem to come up in rough drafts of novels, and they're ones that authors find it hard to see in their own stories.

1. Point of view issues: Multiple points of view in one book is becoming more and more common these days. It used to be a huge no-no, but now many readers, especially in the YA and romance markets, really enjoy hearing from multiple characters. As a reader, I enjoy this style a lot. As an editor...it's a little more problematic. If you're planning a book in multiple POVs, I would advise you to separate them all into individual chapters. Be sure that each voice is distinct and really worth its own role in the story. You should also ensure that a different character isn't just rehashing the same event from another point of view.

If you don't want to separate the different points of view into full chapters because you want to use short parts and go back and forth a lot, you will still need to separate them into sections. Choose some sort of symbol to break the sections. (I use *** for mine.) You need also to look at the different sections carefully to prevent "head hopping." It's really easy to give one character information or opinions he or she wouldn't have as you accidentally slip into another character's POV.

Rainbow Rowell's excellent YA novel Eleanor and Park is a great example of a story with two points of view that sometimes has the same scene from both characters, but never lets it get dull and repetitive.

2. Lack of evidence: This is related to the tried and true "show, don't tell" rule, where you need your reader to see and feel that something is true, rather than just telling them it is. As an author, you know and love (or hate) your characters inside and out. But your readers don't. All too often, information that is crucial to a character's journey (backstory, development, emotion, logic) is left out during the storytelling. All of that information and emotion is, essentially, worthless if it's stuck somewhere in the author's head and never makes it into the book. If your editor tells you it's not there, please trust your editor. This is one area an author cannot truly be objective about. I promise.

Related to that would be adding too much detail. I once read that you should write out the backstory for your characters in great detail, and then take 98% of it out of the book. Make sure that what you include is really needed for the reader to connect to the characters, that it has direct bearing on the main plot of your story, and that it doesn't slow the pace of the book.

3. Mistaking style and grammar: Many authors are (like me) former English majors. Maybe we took a creative writing class or two. We might have dabbled in poetry. We learned a lot of rules, but we also learn the power of exceptions to the rules. When we go to write, we often focus on crafting each sentence like it's a story in itself. That can result in some amazing wording, but it can also result in a lot of overblown, purple prose. You might feel, as a writer, that using periods can make your style too choppy so instead you intentionally employ comma splices. (Or you don't know what a comma splice is and just think that putting commas everywhere makes it all go more smoothly than periods.) That's not always bad, but it can often be hard for your readers. (And provides great sport for grammar police to use in being dismissive of you and your publisher.) When you're publishing poetry you can throw out most of the rules. But when you're publishing mass market fiction, you really need to stay within the boundaries of grammatical convention. You can get away with exceptions for a small section (or three), especially in a dream or stress sequence, but overall, your story should follow the rules and style that's accepted by most publications.

4. The dreaded sex talk: This is where we tend to edit with a heavy hand. Pay attention to the logistics. Can two people really get into (and maintain) that position? Did you have to really think of a synonym for that body part? Are you really sure that hymen-breaking works like that? Does that dirty talk or nickname sound enticing when you say it out loud? If possible, can you get a friend to read just that section and tell you if anything is...well...yucky? There's a great discussion of things to avoid found here: http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/blog/10-things-i-hate-about-sex-scenes

5. Copyright violations: People often have the idea that "fair use" means anyone can quote just a little snippet from a song, movie, speech, etc. and use it in their commercial work. You might be surprised to know that publishers have to pay a pretty penny for all of those little quotes at the beginning of novels, unless they come from books or songs old enough to be in the public domain. Using a quote from the Bible? Did you know that the version you use affects whether or not you have to pay a fee to use it? If you're already a bestselling author, your publisher can probably pay for your desire to quote those U2 lyrics. But if you're going with a smaller publisher (or going it alone), you would do better to get rid of quoted material before submission. If you want to leave it in to see what can or can't be used, point it out in a margin note and be ready to work around it or without it.

Find Kim at TumblrGoodreads, and Twitter.


Ask the Editor: Editing What You Love...and What You Don't

I'm so excited to welcome Kimberly Blythe to my blog. Kim is head editor at Omnific Publishing, and I've had the pleasure of working with her on a few different projects. I'm unfailingly impressed by her professionalism, objectivity, and mastery of the English language, so I was very happy when she agreed to answer questions asked by some of you during this month's Insecure Writers Support Group.

Initially, I planned to post her responses to blogger questions in one shot, but as you'll see, her answers were so thoughtful and informative that I decided each one deserved it's own post---so I hereby declare this to be Kimberly Blythe Week! Each day this week, you'll get a new piece of her wisdom. At the end of this post you'll see her bio as well as links to find her on her social networks.

Today, Kim answers two questions at the opposite end of the spectrum. In tomorrow's post, she'll give great advice on the most common mistakes she sees and how to avoid them.

Q Alex: Do you ever get caught up in the story and forget you are supposed to be editing?

A Kim: This definitely happens, especially when the story is a compelling one. My time as a student and as a teacher has helped me develop a very active and conscious reading habit. As a voracious reader, I've also developed the ability to read very quickly. I have to be careful to keep a balance. I try to hear a book in my head as I read. This helps me with flow, dialogue, and with spotting little mistakes along the way. I also review an MS multiple times. If the story is one that keeps me really absorbed, I will go over a chapter a few times before moving on. That helps keep me from getting ten chapters on and realizing that I've only been reading for fun!

After years of editing, though, I find that rather than slipping past pages of work and not paying attention to editing, my problem goes the other way—I will read works that I'm not editing, and want to correct them or offer suggestions on how to make them better. I have to consciously turn off my editing like hitting a light switch!

Q Jennifer: I want to know how an editor deals emotionally with having to edit a manuscript that is in a hated genre or is written in a hated style. That would be tough for me!

A Kim: It is tough. I think that this is where years of teaching help me out. I'm used to reading and marking essays that are decidedly lackluster. When I edit a book that doesn't appeal to me as a reader, I have to be very careful to not push the story into what I want it to be, but instead to focus on helping the author's story be the best it can be. Also, having formal training in literature analysis, which included reading across a large variety of genres and styles, helps me be objective in offering constructive criticism regardless of how much I like or don't like a genre or plot line. I do try to actively question, though, whether something just isn't working at all, or just isn't working for me. That's one reason I'm very glad that the company I work with has multiple eyes on every MS. We can work together to balance each other out and give second opinions.

I frequently find myself surprised, though, about how little sales figures connect to my personal preferences. Sometimes a story that wasn't a personal favorite will do very well in sales, while at other times one I had a deep, personal investment in will languish. (And that is why I don't work in acquisitions!)

Kimberly Blythe, Head Editor Kim graduated with a B.A. in English where she focused on Regency and Victorian Literature. She followed that with an M.A. in Applied Linguistics, enjoying her study of the history of the English language, slang and dialects. For the last twelve years she has lived abroad, teaching classes on the English language, world literature and linguistics at the college level. Since she was one of the few native speakers of English available, by default she began editing grants and marketing materials from the universities she worked for and began to familiarize herself with the various style manuals. Her last job required her to guide thesis students in MLA documentation style and preventing unintentional plagiarism. She enjoys helping authors learn all of the little quirks of grammar and punctuation found in the English language.

Find Kim at TumblrGoodreads, and Twitter.

Today I also want to give a shout out to Cherie Colyer, a YA writer and wonderful person. The tantalizing cover for her upcoming novel, Challenging Destiny, was just revealed, and I get to show it to you. Please pay Cherie a visit to tell her how awesome it is.


Coming spring 2014 from the Wild Rose Press, Black Rose Imprint

Logan Ragsdale and his younger sister, Ariana, have been marked, chosen to be unwilling participants in a war between angels and demons.

Being Chosen is a terrible thing when there's no one you can trust


NA/YA Swag Giveaway Hop & Paper Moonless!

Welcome to the I HEART YA/NA Giveaway Hop, hosted by the marvelous Kelsey Ketch. Win swag from 24 YA & NA authors.

At my place, I'm featuring my college love story, Three Daves. I know a lot of NA is ultra-broody, but my whole purpose in harking back to those days was to spend some time in the lightness of that unique period of freedom-with-a-safety-net. 

And what better backdrop for flirty good times than the 80's?

My giveaway swag is a CD of 80's hits with the likes of INXS, Toni Basil, and Simply Red, a signed jumbo postcard featuring the Daves' shoes AND an eBook of Three Daves (Mobi, ePub, or PDF). This giveaway is international.

For another chance to win Three Daves plus a whole bunch of other books, including Moonless by Crystal Collier, which was just released in paperback, visit Crystal's blog and learn more about the Moonless event this week.


#IWSG: Fear of the Unknown

Welcome to the Insecure Writer's Support Group, February 2014 edition. The group was founded by Alex J. Cavannaugh...or one of his clones, we can never be sure...and has its own website loaded with resources for writers.

It seems to me that most insecurities arise from not knowing what to expect. I've noticed it's that way with me and writing. When the story exists only on my laptop and in my mind, everything is marvelous. No insecurities whatsoever. The moment I send a piece of it out for someone else to read? That's when insecurity sets in---because I don' have any idea how they're going to react. And sending out queries? Oy. Then, even if you strike dream-come-true time and a publisher accepts, you've got to face one of the scariest moments of all...handing your baby over to The Editor. Dun dun duuuuun.

You have no way of knowing what they're going to suggest you change, what they're going to demand you change, and whether or not you'll even recognize the fruit of your daydreams by the time the editing process is over. And even if you've been through it before, the process for each story is its own special roller coaster.

So, what do you say we try to take away at least a little bit of the unknown and go straight to an experienced editor to get some answers? The wonderful Kimberly Blythe, Head Editor at Omnific Publishing has graciously agreed to do an interview at my blog. Kimberly primarily does Copy Editing, the very last step before proofreading, but she's occasionally done developmental edits, and I can tell you firsthand from my Divine Temptation experience---she's also served as an excellent intermediary between author and other editors when there are disagreements.

But here's the thing: I'm not going to ask the questions. YOU are. Anything you've ever wanted to know from an editor's standpoint, please ask away in the comments, and I'll post her answers in a couple of weeks. (I want to be respectful of her time, so depending on how many questions I get, I may not be able to forward all of them, but no worries---I've got more editors in my pocket that I will have answer any that don't get forwarded this time.)

So whaddaya wanna know?

Also, for the first time EVER Alex's book, CassaFire is on sale for only 99 cents. Only through the 10th.  Here's a link & a Tweet if you want to share the great news:

“Top Gun Meets Battlestar Galactica” Amazon Best Seller and Pinnacle Award Winner CassaFire on sale .99 http://tinyurl.com/qaz7kxr

Aaaand, don't miss this 10-book giveaway (including Three Daves) to celebrate the release of Moonless by Crystal Collier in paperback!