Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Links -- Volume 57

Well, we're almost at that time of the year where I sit back and realize I didn't come close to fulfilling my writing goals for the year.  In fact, I'm so far off that, at my current pace, I may not even finish them by next year.  Yikes!

I have some vacation days coming up the next two weeks, so I plan on one last writing burst before the end of the year.

If time constraints don't allow me to post again before January, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season.

Have a great weekend!

What Makes a Story’s Black Moment a Black Moment?

Secrets to Writing for Kids: Even Villains Have Mothers

Let Characters Be Wrong

Rewriting: Something has to happen

Time for a Pivot? Kindle Unlimited and Marketing in 2015

Don’t Make Their Lives Easy

A Fun Exercise for Getting Out of a Writing Rut

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What Do You Know About Writing That You've Forgotten?

I follow a ton of writing blogs, always on the lookout for useful tips to increase my writing skills. After having done this for several years, I’ve reached the point where I don’t come across many pieces of advice I haven’t seen before. Occasionally I’ll come across a post that approaches a topic from a different angle, but for the most part, I already know what the blogger is going to say. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of what you already know.

Case in point. Last week I was beating a chapter into submission (I never said my process was elegant), and feeling pretty good about it, at least until I came across a post by David Farland describing how to decide whether a scene is necessary to the story. Among other things, he points out that something needs to have changed by the end of the scene. If a scene can be removed and the story still makes sense, then the scene probably doesn't need to be there in the first place.

Now I’ve heard this before, and I’ve used this technique to tighten up my stories in the past, but as soon as I read that post, I realized one of the scenes I was editing didn’t really progress the story. Back when that scene had originally been written (an embarrassing long time ago), it had been a necessary part of the story, but after multiple revisions, the important parts had either been dropped or moved somewhere else and what remained no longer qualified as a necessary scene. And if I hadn’t been reminded to check my scenes for their worthiness, I never would have thought about checking again.

The moral of the story is this. No matter how much I learn about writing, I’ll always depend upon my critique partners, beta readers, and writing bloggers to remind me of those things I already know.

So what do your beta-readers have to remind you about the most?


Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Links -- volume 56

Nothing much to mention this week, other than the fact that my daughter's Kindle Fire stopped working... again.  My guess is that it's the battery, and I think it probably broke open.  A weird fog has developed under the screen, which moves about depending upon the temperature.  It's not water, and the only chemical I know inside the Kindle that could do this should be locked inside the battery.

The first malfunction occurred six months after we purchased the unit.  Amazon happily sent us a free replacement (which we've subsequently discovered was actually a refurbished unit). And now, one and a half years later, the replacement stopped working, showing exactly the same weird symptoms.  Unfortunately, this time Amazon wants us to pay for a refurbished unit.  :(

The Kindle Fire (1st generation) that I bought for myself three years ago hasn't had any problems at all.

I suspect Amazon is having some quality control issues with  later models.

Anyway, enjoy the links and have a great weekend!

Writing a Blurb for Your Book Cover

The F-Word: Tackling the Nitty Gritty of Formatting

Repost: The Reversal

Story Openings: Five Choices

Self-Promotion: About As Fun As Bathing In Hot Wax

How To Be A Good Critique Partner


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Debt Collector Blog Tour

Today I'm pleased to be a part of the Debt Collector Series Blog Tour.  I've read several of Susan Kaye Quinn's books before this series, and in my opinion, Delerium is her best book yet. 

Some authors make me envious when I read their words.  Not so with Delerium. Lirium's voice is so well done I just sat back and lost myself in the book.

So check out Episode One (for free) and decide it you agree with me.  Besides, where else can you read a book written by a rocket scientist?

Debt Collector 1
Susan Kaye Quinn

Genre: Urban Fantasy with a Cyberpunk Twist

Date of Publication: Mar 2013


Number of pages: 48
Word Count: 12,000 words

Cover Artist: Steven Novak

Book Description:

What's your life worth on the open market?

In this gritty urban fantasy, debt collectors take your life energy and give it to someone more "worthy"... all while paying the price with black marks on their souls.

Lirium plays the part of the grim reaper well, with his dark trenchcoat, jackboots, and the black marks on his soul that every debt collector carries. He's just in it for his cut, the ten percent of the life energy he collects before he transfers it on to the high potentials, the people who will make the world a better place with their brains, their work, and their lives.

That hit of life energy, a bottle of vodka, and a visit from one of Madam Anastazja's sex workers keep him alive, stable, and mostly sane... until he collects again. But when his recovery ritual is disrupted by a sex worker who isn't what she seems, he has to choose between doing an illegal hit for a girl whose story has more holes than his soul or facing the bottle alone--a dark pit he's not sure he'll be able to climb out of again.

***first episode of the nine-part serial***

"Absolutely riveting!"

"Quinn has a way of writing heart-breaking characters."

"You'll be holding your breath, looking over your shoulder, and begging for more."

Contains mature content and themes.

Available at Amazon


2014 Semi-Finalist in Science Fiction in the Kindle Book Awards

It is recommended that you start with the first season, but each season is a complete story for that debt collector and can serve as an entry point to the series. There are five planned seasons in the Debt Collector series, the first four each from the perspective of a different debt collector with the fifth season bringing all four together.


Season One - Lirium – COMPLETE

Episodes 1-9: Delirium, Agony, Ecstasy, Broken, Driven, Fallen, Promise, Ruthless, Passion

Season Two - Wraith **available for pre-order** releases 12.15.14

Episodes 10-18: Wraith, Specter, Menace, Temptation, Shattered, Penance, Judgment, Corruption, Atonement


My jackboots are new, the latest ultra-light material out of Hong Kong’s synthetics district, and they make a strange squeaking sound against the hospital floor. It’s the kind of sound that might gather snickers or a raised eyebrow, but no one looks at me, at least not on purpose. I stroll past the ICU desk, taking my time, breathing in the antiseptic smell that masks the odor of death held back by machines and drugs and round-the-clock care. The nurses duck their heads and study their charts, ignoring me. As if catching my eye might mean I’m coming to collect their debt, rather than Mr. Henry’s in Room 301.
The floor is so highly polished that I see the reflection of my trenchcoat running ahead of me, black as a midnight grave, a spook that lives on the surface of the oft-scrubbed tiles. It reaches the door to 301 before me and disappears in the dim, flickering light coming from the room. The spook has gone back where he belongs, into the dark recesses of my soul, assuming I still have one. If I was a betting man, I would say the odds of having a soul keep getting longer with every transfer I do. The older debt collectors, the ones who are still alive, don’t have anything shining out of their dull-glass eyes, even when they’re hyped up on a transfer. There’s no telling what my eyes look like.
I stopped looking in the mirror a long time ago.
Mr. Henry’s hooked up in all the usual places—tubes in his arms and monitor patches hovering over his temples and the blue-veined skin of his chest. His knobbed knees and shriveled legs stick out the end of the blanket. I don’t know if he’s tossed the blanket aside or the nurses just forgot to cover him up again after his sponge bath or whatever they do to prepare patients for a debt transfer. Goosebumps raise the hair on what’s left of his legs into a small forest of gray fur. I tug the thin, white-weave blanket over his exposed legs, and Mr. Henry opens his eyes.
They’re pale green and watery—washed out and used up like the rest of him.
“You’ve come for me,” he says.
I pick up one of the hard-backed, plastic hospital chairs, the kind that makes you uncomfortable sticking around the ICU, just in case all the death-waiting-to-happen doesn’t do the trick. I carefully set it down, backward facing at the head of Mr. Henry’s bed, and settle in. I don’t answer him, just study him for a moment over my laced fingers.
“What’s your name, son?” he asks, which makes me lean back and mentally check over his file again. No, he’s not an Alzheimer’s patient. He shouldn’t think I’m his son. And I’m only twenty, but no one’s mistaken me for a boy in a while, not since I started collecting.
“Lirium,” I say. It’s just my collector name, short for Delirium. Some punk collector thought it was funny when we went through training and it stuck. I don’t use my real name anymore, so it’s as good as any. Most people don’t ask.
 “Is it going to hurt, Lirium?” His hand wanders out from the blanket, shaking a little and fluttering around his chest, like it’s searching for something. Then it lands on the rail of his bed and grips it.
“No, sir.” Relief gushes through me like water from a busted hose. When patients have been properly prepared, that’s the question they ask. It means they’re ready. I should thank the nurses on the way out, if I can get one of them to look at me. “It won’t hurt at all, Mr. Henry. In fact, it will be a relief.”
This isn’t really true, but I imagine it will be better than what he’s feeling now, all the aches and pains of the cancer slowly eating him from the inside out. This is where I usually tell them that transferring out is a good thing and how paying their debt will make the world a better place. I tell them it’s better for everyone—they get relief from having to live the last painful stages of their disease, they’re no longer a drain on the resources of the world, and someone else, someone in the height of their productivity, whose contributions to the world will be long lasting, will receive their debt and do even more with it than they can imagine. And I get my cut. Everyone wins!
I usually leave out that last part.

About the Author:

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the bestselling Mindjack Trilogy and the Debt Collector serial, as well as other speculative fiction novels and short stories. Her work has appeared in the Synchronic anthology and has been optioned for Virtual Reality by Immersive Entertainment. Her business card says "Author and Rocket Scientist" but she mostly sits around in her PJs in awe that she gets to write full time.

Subscribe to the newsletter for a free short story:

More about Sue:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Putting Things Off, But in a Good Way

I’ve been in edit mode these past few weeks and, as usual, I can’t help but notice most of my revisions involve rearranging the order in which my sentences are written. Sometimes it’s only a sentence or two, but often it’s whole paragraphs. Occasionally it’s entire scenes. I don’t seem to have the knack for writing things down in the appropriate order during my early drafts.

No surprise there, but what really surprised me was that most of these changes involved moving the words farther back in the story as opposed to moving them forward. I rarely tell the reader stuff too late. My problem is telling the reader stuff too early.

Now I’m sure this happens to all writers to some extent. Most of us infodump in the early drafts, and that pile of information needs to be whittled down and moved back until the reader absolutely needs it. But even when I have a paragraph or two of information I wouldn’t consider an infodump, I’ve discovered it’s still better to move the information as far back in the story as possible.

I suspect my difficulties stem from teaching chemistry classes and giving research seminars. I’ve grown accustomed to explaining a topic in a nice linear fashion that maximizes understanding and (hopefully) decreases the number of questions I get at the end. It doesn’t occur to me to leave out information just to leave the class wanting more. So when I have the characters in my stories explain something to other characters, I usually have them spill everything they know about the subject. Good for teaching, not so good when writing fiction.

In real life, most people explain things in a haphazard manner—wandering about the topic, leaving stuff out, and often contradicting themselves in the process. And good writers take advantage of this quirk. Think about the conversations in your favorite books or movies. Rarely does the character explain things thoroughly. The information usually comes in snippets, with just enough to make you want to know more. And how many times have you seen a character leave out important points during a conversation so that another character (and the reader) can be surprised later?

So even when it makes perfect sense for a character to mention A, B, and C when talking to another character, the story is often better served by mentioning A, vaguely hinting at B, and ignoring C altogether. The trick is to dole out just enough information to leave the reader asking more questions.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Links -- Volume 55

I assume everyone has heard by now, but The Insecure Writer's Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond is now available.

And it's free!

Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh and all the other writers who contributed to the book.

Here are the links. Go pick up a copy.

Barnes and Noble

P.S.  For some reason, the Amazon book is priced at $0.99.

That's it for this week,  Enjoy the writing links.


Why and How to Copyright Your Self-Published Book

Has Your eBook Been Pirated? What To Do: Step 1

How Original Is Your Idea?

An Easy Approach to Story Building : The Bedtime Story Model

My Inside-Out Character Development Model

Profits of Doom?

Nanowrimo: Act Three questions and prompts

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Darkness Watching Review

Wednesday morning edit: Whoops, I forgot this was the first Wednesday of the month, so this won't be much of a Insecure Writers Support Group post.  Right now, my biggest insecurity (other than the worry I might fall off Alex's list), involves all the wonderful books being released by my writer friends.  Books whose words flow better than mine.  Books written many times more quickly than I could ever hope to write.  Books with professional looking covers.  Books that make me wonder if I'll ever finish my book. Etc.

That's enough whining for today.  Time to get back to writing.  Enjoy the regularly scheduled post below.


To celebrate Monday's release of Walking Shadow by Emma Adams, today I'm reviewing Darkness Watching, the first book in the Darkworld Series.    There's more information about this series after the review, along with a Rafflecopter giveaway.

 First, let's take a look at the book blurb.

Eighteen-year-old Ashlyn is one interview away from her future when she first sees the demons. She thinks she's losing her mind, but the truth is far more frightening: she can see into the Darkworld, the home of spirits– and the darkness is staring back.

Desperate to escape the demons, Ash accepts a place at a university in the small town of Blackstone  - little knowing that it isn't coincidence that led her there but the pull of the Venantium, the sorcerers who maintain the barrier keeping demons from crossing from the Darkworld into our own world.

All-night parties, new friendships and a life without rules or limits are all part of the package of student life - but demons never give up, and their focus on Ash has attracted the attention of every sorcerer in the area. Ash is soon caught between her new life and a group of other students with a connection to the Darkworld, who could offer the answers she's looking for. The demons want something from her, and someone is determined to kill her before she can find out what it is.

In a world where darkness lurks beneath the surface, not everyone is what they appear to be...

             The Review        My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Eighteen-year-old Ash doesn’t know it yet, but she’s special. After all, not every university student has to spend their nights fending off shadow creatures and solving magical mysteries.

At first glance, Darkness Watching will seem familiar to readers of this genre. First off, Ash begins seeing scary, purpled-eyed creatures no one else can see. Then she receives an invite to attend Blackstone, a school she doesn’t remember applying to. And once she arrives at the school, it doesn’t take long for her to discover that not only does she have an affinity for magic, but that some of the other students do as well.

But that’s where many of the similarities to other books end. It’s not your typical magically-imbued girl goes off to prep school to battle vampires, werewolves, or the obligatory group of rich snooty girls. It’s not filled with teenage angst and there are no interspecies love triangles. Heck, Blackstone isn’t even a school of magic. This is a simple, yet mystery-filled story about a teenager trying to figure out why weird things are happening to her. There are plenty of twists and turns as she learns who she can trust and who she can’t. She’s not out to save the world, just her own sanity, and quite possibly, her life.

The pacing is good. The story is always moving toward the next mystery, and little time is wasted on fluff that doesn’t drive the story forward. You learn about the Darkworld in bits and pieces. Not so fast as to overwhelm you, but not so slowly you become bored.

What I liked most: Darkness Watching made me feel as if I were back in college again, but with the added bonus of being in England as opposed to Missouri. I admit to being a bit of an Anglophile, so the idea of stomping around pubs, perusing ancient libraries, and exploring cemeteries in England while dabbling in magic ranks pretty high on my wish list, and the author’s writing style left me feeling as if I was right there doing it as opposed to watching a movie. Thanks, Emma.

I also enjoyed the colorful characters, although some of them seemed a little too similar, which meant I occasionally had trouble remembering who was who. Of course, I have that same problem during movies too, so perhaps it’s just me. But a few more distinguishing characteristics might have been nice.

What I didn’t like: My only real problem was that sometimes Ash avoided asking obvious questions about the Darkworld and her abilities, often deciding to keep them to herself for no apparent reason.

My only other complaint was that Ash didn’t seem to spend much time doing schoolwork. Supposedly the first year at University is the easiest, so maybe you really can get away with that, but if the next book in the Darkworld series occurs during her second year, she better spend more time in the library! :)

Oh, did I mention I’m looking forward to the sequel?

 I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

When you have a connection to the Darkworld, nowhere is truly safe.

Ashlyn has found a new home in Blackstone, but when a spate of grave robberies across the country spark fears that someone is practicing illegal sorcery, she comes under the radar of the Venantium, the protectors of the Barrier between her world and the Darkworld, who are suspicious of any sorcerer unaware of their origins.

The trouble is, what Ash does know might just get her killed.

Sufferers of the dangerous condition known as the vampire’s curse are being brutally killed, and the latest victim is Leo’s guardian, the ex-head of the Venantium. Ash determines to help Leo find out what’s really going on, but it isn’t long before events are spiralling out of control. The dead are rising from their graves, and the barriers around Blackstone are threatened by a demon which looks exactly like Ash herself…

Amazon   Amazon UK

Add on 

And here's more information on the first in the series, Darkness Watching  (Darkworld #1)


“In the vein of Buffy and Supernatural, DARKNESS WATCHING found that perfect balance between the freaky and the fun.” - YA author Jen Estes

"Demons, Sorcerers, evil, and secrets. Could you ask for a better supernatural suspense set-up?...It's full of suspense, danger, evil and dark humor. The plot is original, and completely gripping. From the first page, this book had me hooked." - Rose at 
Desert Rose Reviews

"A suspenseful first part to an intriguing new fantasy series." - 
Sharon Stevenson, supernatural author

“The story is extremely well-written with effortless, flowing prose, and the original magic-user mythology and Darkworld creatures are very entertaining. The author took what might have been over-done premise and twisted it into something very fresh and exciting.” - Lexa Cain, author of Soul Cutter

"This is a wildly different story than any I have read about demons...I loved it!" - Kathy at 
Bookmarks, Spoilers, and Happily-Ever-Afters's Touch: A Darkworld Novella is also available now!

This is a standalone novella, intended as a prequel to the Darkworld series. As it takes place one year before the events of Darkness Watching, it doesn’t contain any spoilers (although it does hint at things which will come into play later in the series).

Freakish powers and staring demon eyes aren’t part of Claudia’s plans for the future – and neither is ending up stuck at the gloomy, isolated University of Blackstone. But bad life decisions are the least of her problems, when a split-second decision to help out another magic-user puts her in the crossfire of both the shadow-beasts and the creepy organisation which hunt them down.

Claudia’s never had to worry about making the right choice before, but every decision matters when you have a Darkworld connection. Soon, she’s going to have to make a choice: turn her back on the crazy and try to live a normal life, or take the monsters down.

But in a world where everyone seems to have secrets, can she really trust her fellow magic-users – or even herself?

Emma spent her childhood creating imaginary worlds to compensate for a disappointingly average reality, so it was probably inevitable that she ended up writing bizarre, fantastical stories. She was born in Birmingham, UK, which she fled at the first opportunity to study English Literature at Lancaster University. In her three years at Lancaster, she hiked up mountains, skydived in Australia, and endured a traumatic episode involving a swarm of bees in the Costa Rican jungle. She also entertained her creative writing group and baffled her tutors by submitting strange fantasy tales featuring dragons and supernatural monsters to workshops. These included her first publication, a rather bleak dystopian piece, and a disturbing story about a homicidal duck (which she hopes will never see the light of day).

Now a reluctant graduate, Emma refuses to settle down and be normal. When not embarking on wild excursions, she edits and proofreads novels for various publishing houses and reads an insane number of books. At the age of 21, she signed a publishing contract with Curiosity Quills Press for the first book in her creepy urban fantasy Darkworld series. DARKNESS WATCHING was published in October 2013, the first in a five-book series.
Emma’s books tend to contain monsters, magic, and wildly inappropriate humour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway