Friday, March 29, 2013

Two Things

So I have a new look for my blog. The backgrounds gets boring after a while, and I like to switch them up. It's a lot easier than painting the walls, if you know what I mean. The last one was a very busy pattern so this time I went for simple and classy. Hope you like. It's sort of calming and blue is my favorite color. If you read any of my writing, you'll see my main characters usually wear blue.

Hey, they didn't blow it up.

We went to see Olympus Has Fallen tonight. If you're a fan of the better Die Hard movies then I recommend you check this one out. Lots of action. Lots of blood. Lots of patriotic take-that bad guys. The main character ends up pretty messy which isn't such a bad thing. The bad guy is hate-able  Sure, there were eye rolling moments where you say to yourself 'no way I'm buying that sh#$.' Overlook that and enjoy it anyway. After spending all day on twitter Pitch Madness I was ready to put belief aside.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cover Reveal: Trisha Wooldridge

I'm so excited to help out a fellow member of Broad Universe. Happy Cover reveal week to Trisha Wooldridge and The Kelpie! Please check out some of her events.

I can't honestly say I was joking when I suggested to my best friend, Joe – Prince Joseph, eldest son of England's Crown Prince – that we could probably find something the police had missed in regards to the missing children.  After all, eleven and twelve year olds like us did that all the time on the telly and in the books we read…
            When Heather and Joe decide to be Sleuthy MacSleuths on the property abutting the castle Heather's family lives in, neither expect to discover the real reason children were going missing:
            A Kelpie.  A child-eating faerie horse had moved into the loch "next door."
            The two barely escape with their lives, but they aren't safe. Caught in a storm of faerie power, Heather, Joe, and Heather's whole family are pulled into a maze of talking cats, ghostly secrets, and powerful magick.
            With another child taken, time is running out to make things right.
To go along with sharing the simply gorgeous cover, author T.J. Wooldridge has enlisted several of her friends who have helped her in the journey of writing this novel to put together a special treat for you!
Each day of the week, search for individual components of the cover--with a bonus piece of art on Wednesday--at these blogs.  Collect the right words per the instructions, and unscramble the line of poetry to be entered to win one of three prizes!
Prize 1
A handmade fused glass kelpie necklace from Stained Glass Creations and Beyond
Prize 2
A handmade necklace from Art by Stefanie of Vic Caswell's rendering of the kelpie from the cover!
Prize 3
An 11x16 poster of the cover of the Kelpie signed by T. J. Wooldridge and artist Vic Caswell
5x7 cards of all the cover aspects featured in the Scavenger Hunt
So, how do you take part in the Scavenger Hunt?  Here are the details:
Collect the words from the novel excerpts and put together a poetic phrase.
Monday 3/25
Visit the Faery Castle at Kate Kaynak's blog:
Scavenger Hunt Goal: first sentence, 10th word
Tuesday 3/26
Hop over to Scotland at Stained Glass Creations and Beyond:
Scavenger Hunt Goal: first sentence, 12th word
Check out an artist rendition of Heather MacArthur's family tartan with Aimee Weinstein at
Scavenger Hunt Goal: first sentence, first word
Wednesday 3/27
Bonus Art!
Meet Heather's dad, Michael MacArthur, at Valerie Hadden's blog:
Scavenger Hunt Goal: first sentence, 12th word
Thursday 3/28
Cast your eyes upon the kelpie, itself, with Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert at
Scavenger Hunt Goal: 2nd sentence, 2nd word
And feel the snark of Monkey, the fey cat with Justine Graykin at
Scavenger Hunt Goal: first sentence, 3rd word
Friday 3/29:
Meet Heather's best friend, Prince Joseph at, who's hanging out with author Darby Karchut at
Scavenger Hunt Goal: first sentence, 17th word
And finally meet Heather, herself, who's hanging out with one of Trisha's editors, Laura Ownbey at
Scavenger Hunt Goal: first sentence, first word
Collect all the words and put them together in a poetic sentence, and enter them into the rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win one of the three prizes:

Trisha J. Wooldridge
"A Novel Friend" Writing & Editing  *
President, Broad Universe -
Editor, Spencer Hill Press -

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lessons Learned the Hard Way: Sean Jenan

This is a lesson that seems so simple and, yet, is so deep. It's in keeping with the writer. I've twisted the arm of the most mysterious and elusive of my writer friends (And maybe applied a little guilt. Sorry, I learned it from my mom.) to get this post. Actually I really want to thank Sean for taking the time when I know he is extremely busy at the moment.  

Lessons Learned
On a cold, dark morning in the winter of my forty-fourth year, I faced the realization that I had lost all faith in the absence of God.

I hadn’t found God exactly — but rather I thought of a question that I’d never had the words to ask before. I’d always understood the universe in a way that let it operate quite efficiently without the need for a divine creator, but it occurred to me in a moment of frightening lucidity: it didn’t then automatically follow that there wasn’t one. In trying to discover what was, I’d ignored the awesome playfulness of what could be.

Then the strangest thing happened. The spigot from which my stories had once flowed, stopped-up since the waning days of my youth, suddenly burst open. After a twenty-year hiatus, I wanted to write fiction again. I needed to. And with the benefit of two extra decades of knowledge, experience, and wrinkles, writing a new novel would be easier than the fitful thrashings of my teens and twenties. And it was! In a seven-month rush of pent-up ideas, I wrote nearly half a million words, which I rived in fifteen editing passes to the one hundred thousand that still remain as the completed manuscript for Cipher.

But the process was still too fractious and inefficient for me, filled with too much wandering and blind alleys. I was determined to make the next book more of a march than a fandango, perfect the technique of Writing The Novel. When I started sketching the plot for Black Sea, I resolved to use the lessons I learned writing Cipher as a springboard for crafting a tighter, denser work in less time. I set a goal of five months for completion, with the initial zero draft allocated forty days (corresponding to Lent).

The zero draft went as planned. Using my detailed outline as a guide, I made my 2500 word-per-day goals time and again, and even when I’d find a day swallowed by research, my output on the following day would easily keep me on track to finish. By Easter of 2012, I had 99,822 words on paper. I figured after a trip to the Easter vigil mass (to get Baptized, Confirmed and receive First Communion after having completed the year-long preparation program required to enter the Catholic Church), I’d have a quick three months of edits and be ready to query.

Yet this Lessons Learned is written a year later, during the last weeks of Lent in 2013, as I still edit and polish and make changes to Black Sea. I don’t know if it’s because this novel is much more challenging structurally than Cipher, if my evolving standards and expectations for my writing have outpaced my abilities, or if the distraction of querying and tinkering with Cipher revisions concurrently is hindering me, but the net result is that my “five month novel” is likely to be a “fifteen month novel” — if I’m lucky.

Fifteen months was lucky for me in 1990. It had been that long since the birth of our first child when my wife told me she was pregnant with our second. I recall one of the eye-opening things about being a second-time parent: how surprised my wife and I were to discover that nearly every hard-won lesson we learned with our every-so-difficult firstborn son was barely useful with our new daughter. She didn’t merely arrive from the factory equipped with a different option package, she was at a right angle to everything we had learned to expect. We had to discover a new way to be the parents she needed us to be. Fortunately, thusly experienced with both types of child, we were well-prepared for our third. Until she arrived as a little human being somehow perpendicular to the axes occupied by her brother and sister. Suffice to say, three additional children later, we’re currently parenting in six-dimensional spacetime with the only common locus between our children’s personalities the zero-point origin centered on my wallet.

And it turns out novels are no different. Writing my fifth novel is as much a journey of discovery as was my first, three decades ago. The stories are alive, they’re unique, and — for me, at least — they can’t be stamped from a mold or contained by a process or predicted by a theory. They’ve got to find their own way, take a path as individual as the characters that populate them. That may mean a single forward motion or it may mean wandering in the desert for forty years. So being an author, like being a parent – like being a man – means valuing relationship more than result. Doing more listening than talking. Remaining open to serendipity, to foolishness, to moments of impossible absurd clarity. Following each path unafraid into the darkness — just to see where it leads.

And as it turns out, that’s a way to find yourself in a much more interesting place than you ever expected to visit.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Professional Writer?

When did you first consider yourself a professional writer? In the middle of filling out a questionnaire for an upcoming blog tour, that question brought me to a screeching halt. It was something unexpected, and I didn’t feel like it applied to me. A professional writer. Professional. Was I among that list? To me that list includes great fantasy writers like Sanderson, Tolkien, and Rowling. Was that me? Although Kindar’s Cure will soon be released as my debut novel, I didn’t really think so.

I looked up the word. –relating or belonging to a profession.  –engaged in an occupation as a paid job  –businesslike, conforming to the standards of skill, competence, or character  –very competent  –doing something habitually.

digitalart at
For some reason, except for doing something habitually, I don’t feel like I fit those definitions. I haven’t been paid yet, so I can’t judge if I’ll feel professional when the first (small) royalty check lands in my lap. There are no reviews from readers on Amazon or Barnes and Nobles, so I can’t use them to judge if I have skill, competence or character. The fantasy and science fiction writers’ organization doesn’t accept authors who don’t receive advances, so I can’t join their professional group.

Possible modesty complex aside, none of those excuses are the real reason that I don’t feel like a professional. To me the term professional assumes something more than those definitions. It means you treat your skill like a business. You perform it for the gain you receive. It implies a sense of being jaded. But that has never been my idea of writing.

Most writers write because they must, or because they love to surprise readers, or for the thrill of getting a reader reaction to their words and sharing a story. Maybe deep down there is also the desire to be immortal. So feel like a professional—no. To me it’s the thrill of unfolding a story and having it take me to unplanned places. I hope that never becomes old. So no, I don’t think I’ll ever feel one hundred percent like a professional.

What are your thoughts? What does it take to be a professional writer? An agent? A publishing contract? What will tip the scales for you? 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Query Contest Opportunity

If your query needs some eyes before you sending it flying out into the netherworld of agents, take a look at this awesome opportunity. SC is inviting writers to send in their queries. Queries will be randomly drawn and posted on his blog so that participants can offer feedback and vote on the query "most likely to succeed." The only prize involved is the prize of a better query.

So take heed and send off your query. The deadline is Thursday, March 21st at 8:59 pm. You can find all the details here.

I've sent my latest query. Have you?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Getting the Call: Querying Warning

This isn't a normal Getting the Call post. I've been debating what to say on this subject for a few days now. I wasn't sure whether to bring it up or let it lie. Then I decided that people should be warned. Other writers need to know to be cautious, as all that glitters may turn out to blow up in their faces. I'll just give the basics of the situation and leave any names out of it. Please do not mention names in any comments you may leave.

A very close friend and CP of mine recently got an offer of representation. This offer came from a new agency. This agency didn't have much experience in the publishing world. But my friend had tried many agents with no luck. She has a great manuscript. (I know, I read it myself!) It was just bad luck and bad timing because of her particular crowded genre that she didn't get other offers. Of course, she was very excited. Her group of CP's celebrated with her. Now her ms could go on submission before large publishers!

She filled out a questionnaire and waited for the agent to contact her again. Time passed... and passed. She contacted the agent and heard nothing. The person stopped discussing agent related things in their tweets. My friend tried again. Nothing. We learned of another writer also offered representation by this agent who was also shut out.

I was very upset for my friend, and more then that--angry. Sure we've all heard of horror stories before. But they were always "stories." My friend did everything right when dealing with this person. She kept her cool and used her common sense. She is now working hard on her WIP and will query again with that ms.

It's a very exciting time when you get an offer. Be cautious. Ask questions. Don't let the excitement make you forget common sense. Keep some perspective. And remember, they aren't just "stories."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Romance's Place in Speculative Fiction

Romance and speculative fiction have always been separate genres. Different things drove their plots. And their readers knew what to expect when they picked up a new story: one sort of story for romance fans and another type for speculative fiction.

Historically, fantasy, science fiction or horror had little to do with love stories. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Jules Verne had little or no romance in their great novels. For them, it was a side note to be acknowledged but passed over as quickly as possible. Not to raise its head until the end of the story or to be buried in the footnotes. Love (for the most part) didn’t determine the choices their characters made, or push their quests forward. Terry Brooks used it in a very minimal level in his first books.  I can’t remember much of it in Orson Scott Cards early works. Their stories are plot driven and those plots had little place for romance or love.
Of course, those writers were all men. It was a man’s world, filled with sword-fighting, magic, and testosterone, and their protagonists were men. So what happened when women started writing more fantasy and science fiction?

More of the same. Anne McCaffrey let her characters find their matches, but her dragon stories certainly weren’t devoted to that aspect. Romance had a place and that place was as a smaller sub-plot. The main characters might be female now, and love might make the characters happy, but it didn’t drive them. Much the same can be said for Ursula LeGuin, Madeleine L’engle, Kate Elliott, and other female fantasy writers I’ve read. Romance had a growing importance, but not by much. Speculative fiction still kept the love on the down-low.

Then came the vampire explosion and suddenly paranormal romance burst onto the scene. It began to dominate the market of speculative fiction. Now plot was driven by love. Much of what happened in these stories was directly because of a forbidden love. Now the two genres were meshed together in a way that made them difficult to separate.

So was that a good thing or bad thing? I guess it depends on your point of view. Fans of one genre could also now become fans of the other.  It grew the audience for speculative fiction. But it also made for some heroines that depended on love. It was often portrayed as the end-all and be-all of their world. Not such a good thing in my opinion. I wouldn’t want my daughter to be one of those protagonists, focused solely on love to the exclusion of anything else.

Like so much in reading, it depends on your taste.  For myself, I prefer my speculative fiction to have a 
strong element of romance. The older books that left all love out had something missing to my mind. But I don’t want that element be the focus that drives the plot. It should continue to stay a side plot. I guess I like a middle ground, where romance can blossom, but the story could exist without it. Those of you who have read any of my stories can see I prefer the balanced approach.

So how about you? Lots of love or a little?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Interior Art for Kindar

I haven't seen the cover art for Kindar yet, but over on the left sidebar and down below, you'll notice an image of a sword. It's a line drawing to be used for the interior art in Kindar's Cure under the chapter headings and before scene breaks. 

Kindar's sword is more than a piece of metal to her. It's a piece of her identity. It was crucial to me to have her sword represented in the novel, and Divertir is willing to go the extra mile to make their authors happy. I wanted a pencil sketch and that's exactly what they gave me. Now I'm nervous to hear your thoughts. Thumbs up or down?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Two Contests

Two exciting pitch fests are starting next week. On Monday, March 11th is the 'Luck 'o the Irish' pitch fest from WriteOnCon. Monday to Wednesday, YA and MG authors can submit their 200 word query letter for review. Twelve agents are involved and each will choose 25 pitches on which to comment.

The other contest is Pitch Madness from Brenda Drake. Entries will be taken during windows on March 15th. The genres can be Adult, New Adult, YA, and MG. For this contest you'll need a 35 word logline/pitch and the first 250 words of your completed manuscript.

Sounds like fun. Good luck to everyone.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Dr. Seuss' Birthday Tribute

In honor of Dr. Seuss' birthday a little tribute I wrote last year. It's a little of this and a little of that, but it might bring a laugh for my writerly gaffs.

At the far end of the table
where the toast crumbs lack butter
and the grimy dishes gather in piles of clutter
and no speech is heard except hollow mutters
was the quarter of the Solitary Writer.

And deep behind the toast crumbs, you may see,
if you dare believe, instead of flee,
where the Writer once wrote
what dreams she dared float
before someone stole the hope away.

Who was the Writer?
And why did she work?
And why was she solitary in midnight lurks
at the end of the table where the toast crumbs lack butter?
The mouse still sets in the murk.
Ask it. It knows.

The mouse won’t speak.
Don’t left click its button.
It rests on the pad, no glutton
for devious cluckin’.
Its batteries glow on low,
don’t you know,
except for certain dull Tuesdays
in the middle of winter
when the moon casts its rays
toward the laptop’s dark screen.
Then the mouse might reveal
the fate of the Solitary Writer
before hope faded away.

It all started way back …
Such a long time ago …
Way back in the days when the agents were keen
and editors did glean
the words to forward careers most unlean.
When six figure advances appeared by the dozen
and publishers said welcome dear cousin.

That was when the glorious words first poured
onto paper and laptop, from opening lines to finishing chapters.
The bright sparkling words, volumes unmoored,
producing not tears but laughter.

And among the words, the nouns did play
before the hope did die away.
The verbs hopped and rumpled, all active by far.
With no tellerous was-ing to lower the bar.

To agents the query letters were let fly most trustful.
Until day by day, month by month
came the sickening smack by the gutful
of scabulous ‘no’s’, so disgustful.

The Writer said nothing. Just hung down her head.
No more words. No more nouns. No more verbs to be tried.
She silently faded away, the hope had lied.
Hearts of pride can only bleed.    
On the screen, the curser blinked one thing …

Until someone like you reads a whole awful lot,
it won’t be bought.
So read for the Writer. Treat her words with care.
Give them much praise. Put forth comments that dare. 
Let no book lack.
Then the Writer
 and all of her friends
 may come back.