Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Guest Author Rachel Firasek & Giveaway!

What's Your Style?

I recently took a branding class offered up by my fabulous new publisher, Entangled Publishing, and we discussed making your name stick. Now, I’m not going to try to paraphrase what happened in that class, but it sent me into information overload and I began to ponder how I can use what I learned in other areas of my work.
Okay, we’ve all seen the commercials that have brand names with a slogan attached that we’ll recognize for the rest of our lives. Some of them are 10-15 years old. “Just do it.” “The quicker picker upper.” Those are just a couple that comes to mind, but what about your favorite authors. I’m thinking about my faves and I know that there is something in every story that is a signature style/voice/theme for that author that brings me back to their work over and over again.
L. K. Hamilton will always give you a bit of macabre with her snark and sex. Gena Showalter has a sensual rhythm to her hot heroes and tends to tackle the darker emotions. Lyndsay Sands offers up humor with every bite.
They have found a way to brand their stories as much as their name. That’s what keeps their readers come back for more. So, what does this have to do with me? I re-evaluated my writing last night over a nice Mescato. Probably not the best time to do this, but sometimes we get too caught up in our own heads. I found that the stories that I’ve written that I love always take you down a path you weren’t expecting. That’s kind of my brand. It’s not an intentional path, it’s just a very natural method my brain chooses.
There will always be a bit of gore that my editor’s will have to shake their finger at. I’m a horror fan, no other excuses needed. The characters will be tortured sweetly. And most importantly, they will always be as real as I can make them. I spend too much time with them for that not to happen.
So, today, I ask you: If you are writer what does your writing style say about you and your brand? Does your style have a brand? If you are a reader, what does your favorite author do that keeps bringing you back to them over and over again? Please leave a comment below, I’d love to know. I’ll also offer up an ecopy of my latest release, Piper’s Fury to one participant!! Thanks for coming by and sitting through my meandering. J
It's an empath thing...
Using your "powers" to help the Dark Hills Police Department hunt down serial killers doesn't leave much time for dating. Not that Piper Anast is complaining. The last thing she needs is some guy brushing up against her and pumping his pornographic thoughts into her head.
When she meets Bennett Slade, a sexy, tormented vampire, Piper stumbles headlong into a telepathic connection with his missing daughter. She can't leave the kid to the evil surrounding her unwanted visions, nor can she resist her draw to Slade. He's the first guy she's been able to touch vision-free in, well, forever.
As she and Slade close in on the evil creature holding his daughter, Piper's powers morph into a deadly fury. To save Slade's daughter-and herself-Piper must face down demons she never knew she had and trust the one thing she keeps from everyone.
Her heart.
Rachel’s writing career began at the impressionable age of twelve with a poem dedicated to the soldiers of Desert Storm. A dark macabre affair that earned her a publication in an anthology and many raised eyebrows from family and friends, she hid her poetry and artistic style for years…
Tucked away in the heart of Central Texas, with the loving support of her husband and three children, she dusted the cobwebs from her craft. Returning to those twisted regions of her mind, she creates dark urban fantasies and soul-searching paranormal romance.
To learn where love twists the soul and lights the shadows, visit Rachel at http://www.rachelfirasek.com/

Rachel will give away one ebook copy of her latest release, Passion of the Soul: Piper's Fury. Comment for a chance to win!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Problem or Dilemma?

We’ve all been there. We have a shiny new idea. Maybe we brainstorm a bit, try to write an outline, then dive in. Or maybe we get that shiny idea and bypass everything and jump right in and go by the seat of our pants. We rip through maybe fifty pages, maybe more. Then it happens. Our story gets constipated and we stall. Or maybe we get to the middle and it happens. The dreaded sagging middle is upon us. Again, the story becomes constipated.

Maybe this is happening because the protagonist has a problem instead of a dilemma. Why should that make a difference, you ask? Because a problem doesn’t have the potential that a dilemma does. A problem can be so bad that the protagonist can’t solve it and throws his hands up in despair or more likely, he can solve his problem and get on with his life much too easily.

A dilemma is better. A dilemma can’t be solved without generating another problem. Preferably the dilemma will generate lots of additional problems. For example, my current protagonist loves freedom and is willing to die for it. That’s the hill he’s willing to die on. His problem is that he lives in a society where he’s subjugated and treated worse than an animal, and he has less rights than an animal. To solve the problem, he wants to join the local freedom fighters. Seems simple enough. But his dilemma is that he despises authority and authority figures, and that includes the leaders of the local freedom fighters.

Do you see how this opens the door for more trouble? Let’s say our boy sucks it up and joins. He now has to take and follow orders from superiors—that’s everyone who’s been there longer than him and especially the group leader.

Now let’s say he’s totally fed up with the leader who gives him specific orders but our boy decides he has a better idea and does it his way. And his way gets some of his comrades killed. Now he’s in deep doo for disobeying direct orders and the loss of lives. Plus all that guilt he has to pack around now. Good stuff. Whereas if his problem was hating being subjugated, and he simply joined the freedom fighters to kick butt, the danger of running into the dreaded sagging middle or flat out running out of story is high.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on problems and dilemmas and how you beat the stall and the sagging middle.  

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Leaving out the parts people skip.

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard

This is a great quote- it’s funny and it’s also truthful. I mean come on, how many writers want to think folks are skimming over the boring parts? If we thought they were boring we wouldn’t have put them in, right?

Hmmmm- sometimes.

First of all, oft time writers (others not any of us here reading this blog) can get so caught up in their world they get a tad too excited about wanting to share. As in share everything. EVERYTHING. Maybe there should be a term for it, instead of TMI, it might be TMCI (too much character info). The problem is a lot of the stuff we think is fabu, and to be honest we DO need to know, the reader doesn’t need nor want to know. So they skip. Your precious words get skimmed over. Do it too many times and that reader just skimmed themselves out of your novel.

I’m guilty of this as a reader sadly. I write fast books because I like to read fast books. So when I get to a book that has more than a page or two with no dialogue? I’m skimming. Which when I think about it is sad because there could be some very interesting and important information there. Clearly the writer thought so. But without dialogue for that long it just falls dead to me, slows things down, and usually is a case of TMCI (or TMBI, TMDI- too much background/description info respectively.) There are many very well respected authors who have page after page after page of details. The character thinking to themselves about this or that. And many times its written very well. And some readers love it.

But to me, those are the parts I skip and so I walk away, and don't pick up that author again.

There’s another side to this issue however, those of us who do write fast (and I do mean a fast read, although I’m also a fast writer) sometimes leave out the parts folks might need. In our need for speed (and to follow Elmore Leonard) we leave some important slower parts in our head. Luckily for us a good beta or critique partner can sniff those out.

However, there have been times when even I- the fast book gal- finds myself wishing the writer would have slowed down a bit. Give us some down time to get to know the characters a bit more. I find this with a lot of Urban Fantasies. I know that genre is a fast one, but I like more of a roller coaster. Fast, fast, then a take a breath, slow down, get some background section, then back up to speed. A book that is all slower deep pace, or all too fast, just isn’t fun.

So what about you folks? Are you a too fast or too slow gal?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Research: Yes, You Have To Do It

I have never been the most scholarly of thinkers. I like learning - don't get me wrong - but when it came to writing papers and researching this or that for school papers, I was always a last minute kind of gal. It never thrilled me.

That was one reason I never thought to write historicals, one of a few. I like historicals quite a bit, but outside of the fact I don't think I could adequately get the 'voice' of a historical correct, it was my distinct lack of research enthusiasm that led me to discount the historical before I even began.

So, hey, Paranormal! Urban Fantasy! The world is mine to create, so no one can come and bip me over lack of research or not getting the details down correctly. Right?

Umm... well...

True, it is my world, and as such, people can't shake their finger at me and tell me that isn't how it really works.

The problem lies with how to explain my vision of the world. If I don't know how something runs in the real world, how am I going to compare and contrast and be able to explain the sooper-dooper magic version so that my world becomes real for the reader.

Answer: I can't. Not without research.

So I can't escape research. I'm trying to figure out how to do it in fun ways though. There are tons of TV programs that ask weird questions or pit historical figures against each other (Discovery Channel has almost nothing but) so that's one way to research while being entertained. And as the geeks continue to take over the world, the internet is filled with ever-more-humorous blog posts and random facts that help me out.

Yes, I'm becoming rather adept at research. Who knows, maybe a historical isn't such a far-fetched idea after all.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Word or Page Count -- How Do You Keep Track?

Whenever you go to a publisher's submission pages, you see their guidelines in what the publisher is looking for. These almost always include word counts, and if you submit a story not within the certain word count, chances are great that they'll reject it. This alone could make one stare at the word count meter on their word processor, but after a dose of National Novel Writing Month, the problem can lead to word count obsession.

But then, there are authors who go strictly by page count. Some focus more on that than word count, and they're probably just as bad about having desires to reach their goals.

Someone else I knew said they write the story and then submit it based on the length it happens to turn out at. But is that realistic? How about after you've already gotten a book published, and you're writing the sequel? I don't think it's that easy, especially if one is looking to get a novel published. I have to have a goal in front of me to reach for.

How do you handle juggling a good story and fitting it into the word count requirements for submission guidelines? Do you think writers should write the story and submit based on the length it happens to be? I look forward to your thoughts!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fantasy Romance Author Code of Honor

My publisher, Crescent Moon Press, is hosting a 3-day blog tour. The GRAND PRIZE is a FREE Kindle or Nook with a DOZEN ebooks! There are 16 authors posting, 16 prizes and 16 great books. 5 authors posted yesterday, 5 post today and 6 post tomorrow. But it’s not too late to enter! You can still go back and visit all the sites!

I’m also hosting a leg of the trip. I’m giving away a Romantic Fantasy Scrapbooking Basket. Come over and take a look what’s inside. My post is up at authorkinleybaker.blogspot.com.

During the process of posting for the contest I formulated a code.

Fantasy Romance Author Code of Honor
1.) Believing in fantasy opens portals and hearts.
2.) Laughing makes the realm a better place.
3.) Romance rules supreme, even over the gods. 

When I think of fantasy romance, these three things are essential in my mind. I’m cross posting with my personal blog today because I want you all to have the chance to win great prizes and my publisher loves fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal and time travel!

I tried to keep my post short since there are fifteen other authors on the tour, but I wanted to deliver what I felt was my most important message. Here’s a glimpse of what I aim to achieve for my readers.

“If I can make you giggle, smile or tingle while reading, I’m doing my job. I aim to write stories about sexy men and interesting women. I enjoy writing scenes that still make me laugh after a year of editing and the ones that bring a tear to my eye. If you ever experience either, please let me know. I’m trying to convince my husband I’m actually funny, or at the very least clever. You don’t have to laugh out loud (overall feeling of amusement or even a twinge will suffice).”

For more, please head over to my blog. The full contest details are at Crescent Moon Press. You should enter because I love giving things away!

So… anyone pledging their loyalty to the code?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Brùnaidh—the Scottish Brownie

Contradictory information regarding the diminutive creatures known to the Lowland Scots as brownie and to those who speak the Scottish Gaelic as brùnaidh abounds. I've seen where the brùnaidh is mistakenly lumped together with the ùruisg and the gruagach but each is a separate species of otherworldly creature, the brùnaidh being of the household, whereas the others are creatures of nature.

Some say brownies evolved from the lore of the elf, and in my mind, they have similar physical characteristics. The included drawing is of an ancient elf, but his image is similar to the one I imagine for a brownie.

My first exposure to brownies was as a young Girl Scout. Scouting Brownies take their name from the folklore brownies, as the wee men are a model for the young girls due to the brownie's penchant to assist in household chores, asking for only a bowl of cream or a honey cake for payment.

I became reacquainted with the brùnaidh while doing research for the first book in my Garden Gate series. My hero is of the MacLachlan clan, who resided at Castle Lachlan on the shore of Loch Fyne. The clan has several legends regarding their clan brownie. The History and Legends of Clan MacLachlan, written and edited by James A. Finegan, states, "The MacLachlan's brounie, known as both Harry and Munn, has been associated with the clan for so many generations that no one really knows when the brounie first appeared." The legends are from 1746 and before.

In the classic work, Faeries, from Brian Froud and Alan Lee—I have the twenty-fifth anniversary edition—brownies are introduced as a species of faerie. The brownie is described as a shaggy male of short stature, no more than twenty-five inches tall, wearing either tattered garments or nothing at all. It is also suggested that brownies living in the Highlands have no fingers or toes, whereas those living in the Lowlands have no noses.

Other references tell a different tale. "In appearance, they (brownies) have been variously described, from squat, shaggy, naked creatures to tall, handsome and well proportioned. They usually kept to themselves, being mostly solitaries, unlike the fairies who were notably gregarious." –Scottish Fairy Belief by Lizanne Henderson and Edward J. Cowan

Although few brownie names are known, there are some who've achieved notoriety: Billie Blin, Aiken Drum, Wag-at-the-wa', and Puddlefoot. With Meg Mullach, also known as Hairy Meg, being one of the few females.

Superstitions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, by John Gregorson Campbell is available on the internet for download and provides additional references to the wee men.

As you might include historical figures in your stories, why not take the folklore and, using creative license, tweak the nature of these otherworldly beings to include them in your romance novels? In my unpublished Garden Gate series, I borrowed the incredibly mischievous brùnaidh of MacLachlan legend. Since brownies are known to have a keen sense of responsibility, Munn is duty bound to the Chief of Clan MacLachlan. Part of the twist since many accounts state brownies in general prefer mistresses to masters. In the first book, Just Beyond the Garden Gate, Munn creates all kinds of havoc for the hero and heroine.


An excerpt from the second book in the Garden Gate series, Just Once in a Very Blue Moon

Cloaked in the glamour of invisibility, Caitrina observed the brùnaidh, the wee man who foolishly believed himself hidden in the coppice of trees near the knoll at the edge of the Fir-wood. Munn, the MacLachlan clan brownie, barely stood three feet tall and almost blended into the foliage, dressed in baggy brown leather trews, a knee length leine and a forest green brat.

His unusual blue-green eyes searched the area before he stepped out onto the grassy knoll. He certainly didn't see Caitrina, but when he sniffed the air, his ancient, whiskery, brown face scrunched even more than usual into a nasty grimace.

"I hate that exotic fragrance, the scents of peony and freesia and sandalwood." He sneezed and wiped his big nose with the back of a brown hand. "She has returned. It must be she. That irritating sithiche is back." Even though he mumbled, Caitrina heard his rant.

His face contorted. "What mischief has she conjured? Ach, grundle fundle, I must warn the chief before something terrible happens."

As effortlessly as he'd come to be on the fairy knoll, the little man disappeared into the haze.
Caitrina smiled. Then she, too, dissolved into mist.


I wish I had the gift to draw so I could capture the image of Munn on paper with pencil and share the rendering with you.

Visit with me at Castles and Guns on June 7th when I post my version of a MacLachlan brownie legend—The Legend of the Vanishing Wedding Feast.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New Kid on the Block!

Today is my first day guest blogging at Castle and Guns and I am beyond excited. I want to thank the talented writers at this great blog for inviting me to be part of the team for the next several weeks. While author Suzanne Johnson takes a short break I'll be stepping in her very big shoes (and promise to return them in pristine condition).

So, pull your chair closer and let me tell you about myself. I am a "we," as in two halves of one whole. Gabriella Hewitt is the pen name of two moms with three kids with full-time jobs, who decided they had too much time on their hands and thought writing would be easy. Just Kidding. Not about the kids, though.

Sasha and Patrizia met before their families were complete. Now, I use the term "met" loosely because despite a partnership spanning more than five years, neither of us has met the other face to face. In that time, however, we've completed at least 6 manuscripts and sold three of them. We zing five to ten emails back and forth a day and when we really need to talk there's always instant messaging.

Did I mention that I'm in Japan and Sasha is on the east coast of the US? While one sleeps, the other writes. It's a win-win for both of us.

But how was this partnership born? By a very enterprising Latina who knows how to grab onto an opportunity.

It went something like this. Patrizia and Sasha met on the eHarlequin forum boards. On one occasion a romantic suspense author started a story and then challenged others to finish it. Many got into it, but by the end the two of us and one other writer remained. The readers loved it so a continuation was written. Meanwhile, each of us tried on our own to write, sent in our masterpieces to Harlequin and received the dreaded "R." Well, Sasha mailed me and we chatted about feeling down on writing. I suggested we work together for fun. Maybe by writing together again we could learn from one another and improve our craft. We brainstormed a contemporary gothic which appeared to be popular with one of the Harlequin lines. The story was set on a vineyard on Long Island.

About a month later, Sasha was invited to attend a luncheon for Latina writers. Caridad Pineiro was hosting the event and her editor at that time, Stacy Boyd of Harlequin Enterprises, was to attend. I told you Sasha was enterprising, right? She not only sat next to Stacy, she pitched our story and received a request for the whole manuscript. Um, we had only three chapters written. What was supposed to be a writing exercise one minute turned into a serious partnership the next. We worked our tails off to finish the story, settled on a pen name, and sent it out. Stacy loved our writing. Gothics, though, were yesterday's fad. No sale.

But a partnership was born.

The next story we wrote was another romantic suspense, set on Vieques, an island off of Puerto Rico. It sold to Samhain Publishing and is titled Dark Waters.

We have since moved into paranormal romance. Our latest novella, Out of the Shadows, will be published by Samhain Publishing. It is the first in a series of contemporary stories with an Aztec theme that promises lots of excitement, suspense and passion.

We look forward to seeing you every other Sunday and blogging about writing and marketing, paranormal worlds, and whatever takes your fancy. (You can tell us in the comments what you'd like to talk about.) We hope you'll hang out and chat with us and if you want to talk more, you are welcome to check out our website and blog at www.GabriellaHewitt.com. ( :

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Story or Character Questions - Can You Answer Them?

Something must be in the air, because there certainly is a lot of advice about writing out there right now. Recently, a friend of mine--Lisa Wanattaja--gave me a list of nine character questions to answer for my WIP. I always need help pulling out this kind of information, because even if I know it in my head, for some reason it never gets on paper.

I'll list them for you and hopefully they'll be of some help.

1. Why this protagonist - hero/heroine/villain?

2. What is character doing at beginning of story?

3. What external situation will influence/affect or shape hero/heroine/villain throughout the course of the book?

4. What is the hero/heroine/villain's goal for the period of time for the book?

5. What obstacles stand in hero/heroine/villain's way? There should be three, but ideally situation needs to grow worse.

6. What qualities does hero/heroine/villain possess that will help them overcome those obstacles? Assume character is trying their hardes to succeed at their goal.

7. How will hero/heroine/villain change over the course of the story?

8. Why are you writing this story about this character?

9. What price will hero/heroine/villain pay or be willing to sacrifice/endure to achieve their goal (end of story) and what will be their reaction to that sacrifice?

Chapter 1-4 answer the first four questions. Usually this is the easy part.

Chapter 5 is where the first obstacle shows up.

Chapter 6-11 keeps the story moving forward, meeting obstacles, over-coming them.

Chapter 12 is where sex comes in (and since most of us are writing romances, it could be sooner or later).

Chapter 13 is where things get worse. Don't they always after sex?

Chapter 14-22 contains more obstacles and over-coming them.

Chapter 23-24 answers Question 9 (What is character willing to sacrifice/endure and how will it change the?).

Chapter 25 answers Question 7 (How will character change over the course of the story?).

Some of these, you will almost too easy. Others, not so much. Most questions are meant to answer scene goals. What's going on and why (the purpose)?

What questions do you use to create your stories? Anything that has proven successful?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Writing Retreats with Friends, Oh My!

Like most who probably follow this blog, writing is not my full time job. It is a job, and one I love, but I have to carve out time between everything else in my life to make it happen. Unlike Nora Roberts or Kresley Cole - who if they go near a keyboard all people run away and dare never disturb them - me near a keyboard is more of a suggestion, like maybe we won't bother her, but that's if the dishes are all done, the kids aren't crying, and I don't need to ask where the peanut butter is.

And that is with the most supportive hubby in the world, a guy who really wants me to write! I'm always so sorry to hear of my fellow romance writers who are not so fortunate, that their loved ones treat their writing as  playtime.

Which is why I believe in the power of a writing retreat.

I'm going to be running away from home this weekend with a couple writer buddies of mine. We are going to be spending the long weekend in a little condo in a seaside town, with no internet, and all we are going to do is write or talk about writing - plotting, characters, pitching... sigh. For a writer, this is good times.

Writing retreats do more than just let you get some word count in. In the same way a conference will, a retreat jumpstarts your creativity, your devotion, your willpower. Writing is such a lonely business, it is an invigorating experience to be around like-minded individuals and indulge your writing obsession.

I hope that all my fellow writers have the ability to take advantage of an occasional retreat. If you do, I highly encourage you to get one set-up. Don't settle for getting together in someone's home, get away from it all. It will shake the cobwebs out and let the writery juju come forth.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Guest Author Maureen O. Betita

Making Magic Out of Mistakes

I’m back at Castles and Guns today to talk about something that happened to me on the path to having a print book. My book, The Kraken’s Mirror, came out from Decadent Publishing on January 31 of this year. And it was a great day! I loved the cover.

My artist, Dara England, listened to me made changes as we went along to make certain the cover was a fair representation of my book. I got a female pirate holding a pistol, a nice tall ship in the background on stormy seas, a wonderful font for the title that I absolutely love…and a tentacle.

The tentacle was important as it addressed the kraken mentioned in the title. The same who kraken who was a major character in the book. I asked for it to be white. And she made it white. She had it curl down the edge and provide a wonderful backdrop for the ‘M’ of my first name.

I adored this tentacle.

Less than three weeks later, the print version of the book came out. Within a week, I received a small box of the books and I danced around the room with them. Oh! The excitement of seeing your first cover and being able to hold it in your hands! (I love e-books, but the print edition fed my soul in a way that is hard to describe.)

Not long after, the wife of an old high school acquaintance reached out on FB to say how much she was enjoying the book. I replied. She replied. Long story short, I met her and her husband for lunch a few weeks later. Where I signed the book. And in discussing the process of publication, I lifted the book to address how much the cover reflected the story. And realized, for the first time…that the tentacle was missing.

(I never claimed to be the most observant of writers. Ask me about the bank robbery that went on next to my Starbucks some day… La la la la la!)

I went home and wrote my editor. Who looked at the print edition and wrote me back. “Ooops.”


Okay, I know these things happen. And the print cover is slightly different, sans tentacle, than the electric cover. The details are sharper. The pirate is larger…it’s a fabulous cover. It just…well…lost the kraken accidentally. Dara was sorry. My editor was sorry. Nothing to be done at that point.

Well. Damn. What to do?

I’m not idiot. I had to make a plus out of this negative. Lemonade out of this lemon. See the silver lining around this dark cloud. I had a book I loved, I had a cover I loved, even if it was missing the kraken.

Where did he go? And so…the Where Did the Kraken Go contest was born!

This is what I decided to do. I wanted to be imaginative. I wanted to make some magic and have fun. I wanted more people to like my author facebook page (yeah, this has changed since FB decided to get all rule bound!) and pay attention to … well… me. And my blog. And entice other blogs to take part… This is the contest…

In a nutshell… I ask people to tell me where they think the kraken is. I offered up a few bits of speculation of my own and invited them to choose one, or create another. And for each guess, either on my blog, on my author FB page (I still love to see posts on my FB pages…and I’m noting them on my entry list), or on any guest blog during the month of May, they are entered in a drawing for some fabulous prizes.

At the end of the month, all those names are going into a big hat and I will begin to choose names.

At the end of each week, I pick a comment of the week and award a prize of somesort. Some kraken bling, a pirate perch hat, a tote bag… Now and then, I’ll grab a name and give away a book…

I’m making magic out of a mistake!

And yes, this is a guest blog so make a guess right here on Castles and Guns and be entered to win.

To read more about the contest, click this link and check out the blog…

Let’s see some ideas here! Every entry counts and yes, multiple entries are encouraged!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Premature Sending - The Writer Affliction

You all know what I'm talking about… I know you've been hit by that urge… The one that tells you it's a good idea to send that manuscript even though it's not quite done. Maybe not all the chapters have gone through your crit loop, but you're positive the ending is genius.


All lies!

I thought I was over this affliction. I mocked it as I worked on edits for Ruined. But no! The affliction lives on! Two days after submitting my book... Yes... only two days... I'm already getting the itchy finger on my next manuscript. I signed up for an Editor appointment and I'm so excited about the person, publishing house and new series, that I'm going to have a hard time waiting until New York. But I will not fall victim to this dreaded illness! I will give my manuscript the proper love and devotion it deserves.

Don't allow yourself to click prematurely!

What will happen if you prematurely submit is that you will get a rejection because there are hundreds of smarter people out there standing out at publishers because of the professionalism of their submissions. Let us all stand loud, proud and patient. Don't crash the submission high with a premature rejection. Everything happens for a reason. What will be will be. And all those clichés that don’t make a lick of difference when your pointer finger is hovering over that send button.

The worst part of all this is that I know better now! A few years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. Sure I made mistakes. Don’t we all? But now… I know better than to send the manuscript. I know more about what a final product needs to look like. I know these thoughts are wicked! But I’m like the heroine in a romance novel. I just want to be a little bad. But this is a very bad thing! Don’t be tempted to send manuscripts that aren’t finished! *SMACKS FINGERS WITH RULER*

And I’m only telling you all this because I’m really telling myself. Don’t do it, Kinley Baker. That Editor is busy! She deserves your best manuscript that all your critique partners have seen. AND your beta readers. Do not hit send, Kinley. The world won’t end if they don’t read your manuscript tomorrow. But it will end when you see that rejection in your mailbox because you were a little premature. And we all know premature is bad. Am I right, ladies?

How do you keep from sending your manuscripts too soon?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Interview with Author Christine Ashworth + Giveaway

1. Tell us about yourself.

Sarah, thanks so much for having me here at Castles and Guns! I'm a born and bred So Cal girl, married with two grown sons. I blog about wine, gardening and cooking, and I write like a fiend when I get the chance.

2. When/how did you know you wanted to write?

My father is a writer, and so was my brother. My mother told epic stories to me every night before I went to sleep for years. Storytelling is in my blood, lol.

3. How long did it take you to get published?

I started writing with an eye to publication ten years ago. Someone once said it takes at least 10,000 hours of practice at anything to begin to attain mastery; I figure I'm almost at that 10k hour number.

4. How long does it take for you to write a book?

It depends. No, seriously. I've written 85k words in 16 days, and then again it's taken me 8 weeks to write 60k for a first draft. Of course, this is all without deadlines. I love deadlines. But when I give them to myself, my inner diva just laughs at me. DEMON SOUL was written in spurts in 2008; sent on the contest circuit in 2009, and rewritten twice. It sold in October of 2010. I wrote three other books during that time as well, though, so I wasn't strictly focused on DEMON SOUL.

5. Tell us about your new release DEMON SOUL.

DEMON SOUL is the story of Gabriel Caine, one of the Caine brothers, who are tribreds – demon, human and Fae blood runs through their veins and has for dozens of generations. Each Caine has his own way of dealing with their blood and the gifts and traps that come with it. Gabriel has suffered from the demon blood inside him, and when his soul is stolen by a bitch-vamp, he’s got to get it back or he’ll become the demon he fears.

6. What inspired DEMON SOUL?

A couple of things. I wanted to write paranormal, but I didn't want to stick with misunderstood vampires or sexy werewolves. Instead, I decided to mix the bloodlines - demon and Fae along with humans. I figured that would give me a lot to play with, story-wise. I wrote a short story, hoping to sell it to Nocturne Bites, Harlequin's paranormal novella line. They really liked the story but ultimately they passed on it. While they were considering it, I began Gabriel's story, since my hero in the short story was the oldest of three boys. I took the youngest, who'd fled the family home ten years prior to the opening of the book, and went from there.

7. What do you have in the works next?

The second in the series is called DEMON HUNT. The title is from the short story, but I've had to scrap almost the whole thing in order to get enough meat for a 90k novel. It's the story of Gregor Caine, the eldest of the Caine boys. Where Gabriel hates his demon blood but uses it when he has to, Gregor refuses to be anything but totally human. Unfortunately, circumstances arise where he must use both his demon and Fae blood in order to save the woman who has won his guarded heart.

8. What is your advice to aspiring authors?

Read, write, take as many online classes as you can, join Romance Writers of America no matter what genre you write - we are an inclusive group. If you don't want to join RWA, then join Savvy Authors (SavvyAuthors.com). Finish the manuscript. Write another one. Writing isn't easy; it's more difficult than digging ditches. If you think you might want to do something other than write, then maybe you should do that other thing. Writing, like aging, is not for sissies. And if you still want to write after all of that, then welcome to the club!

Stalk me here:
Website/blog: http://christine-ashworth.com/
Twitter: @CCAshworth
email: Christineash@sbcglobal.net

Buy Links:
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Demon-Soul-Christine-Ashworth/dp/0984180591
All Romance eBooks: http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-demonsoul-532766-140.html
Crescent Moon Press: http://www.crescentmoonpress.com/books/DemonSoul.html
Tag line: ...to retrieve his soul, she'll become fire...

Gabriel Caine stands on the edge of the abyss. A vampire has stolen his soul and if he doesn’t get it back soon, his next step will be into Hell.

Rose Walters has been sent back from the dead to complete one task- save Gabriel Caine. She’s drawn to Gabriel on the most basic level, but restoring his soul may cost Rose her life.

Rose has touched the whole of Gabriel, making him yearn for a love he believes he can never have. Her willingness to put her human life on the line for him forces him to bring all three parts of himself – demon, human, and Fae bloodlines, and the strengths of each – into harmony, and into the fight that will decide their fate.

Make sure to comment for the chance to win a copy of DEMON SOUL, your choice of print or ebook. If there are more than 10 commenters, Christine will giveaway a print book AND an ebook!

EDIT: Congrats to the winners! Ilona and Blackroze!

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Favorite Writer’s Tool

A while back, I was introduced to a tool I had never used before by a writer friend. That tool is AutoCrit. It made me a better writer the first time I used it. It really did. First, I learned I had a really awful habit of starting too many sentences with he/she. Something about seeing your mistakes in red and green will get your attention every time. My first time using AutoCrit was with a short story of about three thousand words. It validated the things I was doing right and displayed in glaring color the things I wasn’t.

Not only did I have a bad he/she habit, I discovered that I read right over a large number of echoes without seeing them. I am still perplexed over this one. I don’t understand how I could have so many of these gaffs and not see them. And the disturbing thing is, I’m not the only victim of this word/phrase malady. I have put a good chunk of a novel through AutoCrit, a novel that has been read by not one, but several readers who are also writers, and none of them caught the echoes either.

AutoCrit catches lots of other things that I apparently don’t have issues with. It checks the number of adverbs you use and admonishes for over use. It highlights over used words in general. It counts the avoid words like it/there/just, saw/see/feel and so on.

Since I started using AutoCrit on all my fiction I’ve noticed a dramatic decrease in the he/she problem. I still have echoes in my work but not like before. Of the ones that remain, some I catch myself others I still need AutoCrit to find. I’m still bothered by this persistent bugger of a weakness but at least I have help with finding them.

While I’m not a slave to AutoCrit’s recommendations, I can say for a fact that this tool has made me a better writer. And AutoCrit did it the very first time I used it. Any tool that can pull that off will be in my bag of tricks for as long as I’m writing. And that’s going to be a very long time.

I’m always looking for tips and tricks and would love to hear yours. What are your special tools? What software can’t you live without?  And why?