Monday, December 27, 2010

What does 2011 look like for you?

I heard or read somewhere that making New Years resolutions, while good in spirit, usually leads to depression when said resolutions fall flat. Yet every year, I’m moved to make the next year a better one, and therefore pledge to make improvements on some aspect of daily living.

My pledge this year is to complete two of my WIPs. Seems attainable now; after all, I have a head start and a whole year ahead. Right now, I’m fairly optimistic.

It also helps with this sort of resolution to have a plan in effect, rather than just hope and wait it comes to fruition. I have a plan by which I intend to tackle my WIPs and get them into some workable mode to send to pubs. I also have a plan to lose weight, but that’s for another blog. Point being, the main reason resolutions fail is the unrealistic expectations set and the lack of preparation. Saying you want something or you will do something is just the first step. Make sure all your bases are covered.

What about you? Authors, aspiring authors…do you have resolutions? A goal? A race to a personal deadline? And do you have a way to get there?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I just wanted to wish everyone the happiest of holidays, whichever ones you celebrate! Or if you don't celebrate any, happy almost-2011. More great posts are to come from Romancing The Muses in the new year. Until then, eat, read, write and be merry!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Yule!!

I just wanted to grab the chance to wish everyone 
a Happy and safe Yule season or Christmas
if that's what you celebrate ...

Many happy blessings on which ever version of the 
season you celebrate!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Knowledge is Power!

When I was in middle and high school, my parents did everything they could to get me away from the computer screen and into the real world. They knew I loved writing, and therefore made a point of watching out for events that I might attend locally to socialize with other writers and obtain direction and suggestions from those established in the field. Therefore, for six years, I attended Drury University’s Writing Camp. The camp consisted of rooming in the dorms with fellow aspiring writers and attending a number of conferences hosted by two or three well-known young adult authors between Thursday and Monday right after the school year ended. Here, I learned many things between there being no such thing as writer’s block (which I believe is, to put it nicely, horseshit) to write what you know.

Writing what you know is a great start in fiction, but as someone who has always wanted to learn more, I often look at various subjects or plots as a way to educate myself in which something I previously had little to no knowledge. For this reason, I would advocate writing what you WANT to know just as much if not more so than writing about things in which you are already educated. If there’s a subject you’re interested in, give yourself a reason to do some research.  

That being said, don’t go out of your way to show off your newfound knowledge. Info dumps, especially in world-building scenarios, can be very tempting, but do your best to pace yourself and your reader. Only reveal what is essential for the story UP UNTIL THAT POINT while maintaining a level of realism for eventual revelations. That is, don’t reveal A Very Important Device the minute said device is needed, but also don’t devote a paragraph to a nonessential element just because you have worked it out.

As this will be the last you hear from me before the holidays, I’d like to take a minute to wish all of Romancing the Muses subscribers and readers a fantastic week and a great weekend to come. Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it, and seasons warmest regards to everyone else. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ask An Editor - Hooking Your Reader

I worked as an editor at an e-publisher for two years. In that time, I read and accepted submissions and judged writing contests, among other things. Over the next few months I'm going to share with you some of what I think will help you the most in getting noticed by an editor, but today I'm going to get us started with something I think that's vital - hooking your reader. And before you can hook a reader, you have to hook that reader who has the potential to buy your book: your editor.

It's imperative to start in a meaningful place. Right at the point of change or slightly before it is the common advice. One thing I'd recommend you not to start with, unless you have an extremely strong voice or unusual way of handling it, is a dream sequence. In one contest I judged, 4 out of 5 entries had characters dreaming or just waking up from a dream as their opener. Not good. You want to stand out as much as possible, and when you pick a scenario that already has a lot of mileage, you're running the risk of blending into the pack.

Another piece of advice is to limit the infodump. You want to intrigue us to keep reading that exciting opening scene you've crafted, not bog down the pace with lots of info that can be sprinkled in later on. I'm guilty of this too. Sometimes you'll find you need to write a few chapters of "getting to know your characters" but then you discover later on you can chop them off and leave them out of the book entirely.

Introducing too many characters at once is another thing I'd warn you against. As much as you want to set your scene, you also want your reader firmly seated in your heroine and hero's heads. Using deep POV (something I'll talk more about in a later post) and limiting the amount of characters you introduce early on will help your readers bond more easily with your protagonists. Not to mention the importance of not confusing someone trying to lose themselves in your story. Once I start getting confused about who's who, I start losing interest. And that's the last thing you want a prospective editor to do when they are considering your manuscript.

Do you struggle with opening your story? Sometimes I have to rewrite my opening several times until I have it just right. Showing off your voice and making sure your opener has impact can be difficult, but it's so worth it. Think of your opener as the foundation of your book. Once that's solid, you're in excellent shape to keep building.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Start at the Top

Fellow authors Madelyn Ford and Rosalie Stanton have touched upon this topic, but it is one of great importance.  As soon as you finish your manuscript, it's time to shop around for a publisher or agent. I know it's daunting and very scary, but there is one thing you must never do -- don't sell yourself short.

When I started, I wasn't aware of all of the presses out there, how they worked, or where to start.  I wrote a blog prior indicating places to check in the event you're looking for a home for you work.  However, the one thing I didn't stress enough is that it's very important to start at the top and work your way down.  I know it's tough when you have an extended wait on a submission, but it's always best to aim high and strive to place your book at the best possible press for your work. For this reason, I suggest you find your number one, two, and three publishers/agents and go for them first.  Rejections happen, so if this occurs, move along to the next on your list and so forth.  It's always fantastic to receive an acceptance letter, but you would be surprised at how quickly that happiness can turn to something else when one of your top choices expresses an interest and your manuscript is no longer available.

So please remember to be patient, to aim high, and to have confidence in your work.  Of course, I'm being somewhat of a hypocrite here, as I still harbor insecurities regarding my own material.  Still, if you don't try to land one of your top places, you'll never know what might have been, and that's a sting that continues to linger even after the contract has been signed elsewhere and there is little you can do about it unless you pay your kill fee and attempt to explain to the publisher who is interested that you're contracted somewhere else but really wanted to be with them.

It's terrifying to submit to the big dogs, but it's a necessary evil.  Just keep in mind that all opinions are subjective and you are often your own worst critic. You can do it if you just continue pushing forward.

Keep up the great writing!

Monday, December 13, 2010

"Who are you? Who? Who? Who? Who? I really wanna know!"

Sometimes you have an idea in mind that has everything fleshed out. Details, rising action, climax, and resolution, all wrapped up nicely with every component a good author needs to tell a compelling story…all except one.

With one of my projects, I found it difficult getting into my heroine’s headspace. I knew her name and her personality, but because of the way she was meant to come across, finding her voice became difficult. There are characters who simply don’t want to talk; for these stubborn types, there are a variety of resources one may employ in order to get a creation to open up.

One of my favorites is character interviews. I’ve discussed them before in an earlier post, but they really are key to bringing forward a character and getting a feel for his or her voice. It can also determine whether or not a character is important to the story, especially if the character you’re trying to flesh out isn’t one who will be in center stage.

I’ve included links before (who may find them here if you like!) and even if you’re not struggling with a particular character at the moment, I suggest you familiarize yourself with the interviews. If for nothing else, you can use these as a way of determining whether or not your character is two-dimensional or has enough personality to be someone readers would recognize on the street.

Another important aspect of writing is a phrase all authors should know intimately, and should likewise know how to identify. “Show, Don’t Tell” is the philosophy that writers should strive to demonstrate actions and sensations rather than explain them. Recently, I’ve encountered “telling” a lot in reading, wherein an author might tell me why Bob loves Sue and describe how passionate their relationship is, but telling me isn’t going to evoke the same reaction as showing me. It’s through internal thought, action, tension drawn between characters, and a thousand different steps that separate your book from the “okay” and the “fantastic.” If you’re writing a romance, beware of phrases like, “the heat between them was palpable.” If you need to tell your reader what the characters are feeling in plain language, your scenes, while passable, might need revision.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Buried in edits...and snow!

I've been dealing with something most writers will encounter from time to time, if they're lucky - edits due on two different books at one time. In my case, they were with different publication houses, which means adjusting your edits to the individual house style, etc. Each publication house has their own rules about how they like to handle certain grammar and punctuation mandates so it's necessary to conform to those. In my case, one house likes to use the serial (or Oxford) comma; the other house does not. A serial comma refers to the last comma before "and" in a list of items: i.e., the ball, car, and house, by the way. I grew up using the Oxford comma and it's been really difficult to "unlearn" that habit. But that's all part of conforming to what each individual publisher wants.

A few weeks ago (yes, it's been that long since I've blogged - bad blogger!) Leilani asked what I was working on. I've just completed first round edits on Insatiable, a contemporary m/f erotic romance due out in early 2011 from Loose Id and also edits for Reveal Me, another contemporary m/f erotic romance coming to Ellora's Cave in 2011. Along with that I've been readying another story for submission - which has involved extensive edits as well - and also trying to write a new story. This is how it goes if you're trying to make a go of it as a professional writer. Not to say that some writers may not have a different process and only focus on one thing at a time, but usually once you're submitting, you'll be dealing with your books at different stages of the game simultaneously. It can be challenging, but it's also hugely rewarding to do what you love. I can honestly say I'm thrilled to be pursuing my "dream job" and I'm so grateful to have an opportunity to do what means the most to me.

And then there's the snow! By last night, we'd reached 42 inches of new snow in 72 hours in my area of NY - and it snowed throughout the night! We'll definitely have a white Christmas this year. 

So I've been buried, metaphorically and literally, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully soon I'll be able to get into some "Ask The Editors" posts. Any questions you may have, feel free to ask them here or email me at cariquinnauthor at gmail dot com.

In the meantime, happy holidays!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Writers Beware

I know I promised I would post about the variety of shortcuts in Word to help make your writing and editing a much quicker and easier process but this crossed my path and I thought it deserved to be discussed. I've mentioned before just how important it is to really read over your contracts. Everyday it seems a new e-publisher springs up and while a few of them will probably turn out to be good reputable publishers, some will not. There is one, Tinglemedia, that I have serious qualms about.

Red flag number one:
Tingle Media agrees to pay a portion of the fees collected in respect of Accepted Content (“Payment”) that is purchased by members according to the rate schedule set forth on Exhibit A to this Agreement, as it may be modified from time to time (the “Rate Schedule”). The Rate Schedule is subject to change in the sole discretion of Tingle Media, Inc. in the ordinary course of its business without notice by posting such changes on the Website. If at any time the Rate Schedule is not acceptable to the Author, you may refrain from providing additional Content or terminate this Agreement in accordance with its terms.

So while presently, Tinglemedia is offering 40% of the proceeds from each story purchased, they can, as per their contract, change this number at any time. Their termination clause is also very obscure:

Upon termination, Tingle Media, Inc. will be entitled to retain all amounts owing to the Author for a period of thirty (30) days to determine any applicable rights of set-off, and shall be entitled to deduct from such amounts, a reasonable administrative fee for establishing, managing and terminating your account.

If that alone didn't have me running the other way, red flag number two certainly would.

Authors understand that Tingle Media will be providing a platform for Authors’ content to be viewed and purchased by not only consumers, but also by publishers. Author will benefit from Tingle Media’s marketing efforts, site traffic initiatives and presence at industry events, etc. If Author subsequently signs a publishing contract with any publisher after their Content has been published on the Tingle Media website, Author shall pay Tingle Media 15% of any Payments Author receives from such content for the first 2 years of any such contract. Such Payment shall be to compensate Tingle Media for all marketing, networking and publicity efforts enacted on behalf of Author at no charge while Author has Content published and available on the Tingle Media website.

As per the beginning of Tinglemedia's contract, this is a non-exclusive contract, so I guess if the Content they are describing about is the actual work you are contracting, this might make sense (though personally I'd never sign it). But the language is so vague, you could in effect be signing away 15% of any future works because Tinglemedia presumes that they will be marketing not only the content but YOU.

Now I've seen some interesting additions to contracts where the publishers (even some of the biggest) just make mad dashes to grab whatever rights they can, even rights to things as an e-publisher they never have any intention of using. So I cannot stress enough how important it is to read those contracts very carefully. I know nothing about Tinglemedia other than what I've read on their website so they could turn out to be a perfectly legitimate publisher. Time will only tell.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Frankie Says Relax

I've mentioned Graham Greene before, and I likely will again, but I particularly like him as an example because of how little he wrote per day and how much he produced over his career. There are writers out there that get down on themselves if they let a day go by without committing something to paper. We've all been there at some point or another. The key is to set realistic expectations for yourself in the time marked as your own. Don't focus on what you want to accomplish; focus on what you CAN accomplish reasonably within the time allowed to write per day.

Right now, I'm working on three novel-length WIPs at once. I won't go into too much detail, because that's what my personal blog is for, but the other night I decided to pull the reins on what has been my standard plan of attack whenever I feel ambitious enough to work on more than one thing at a time. Mind you, this has never worked for me; it might fly for a few days, even a couple weeks, but I end up getting discouraged over how much time it takes me to complete a chapter. Chapters were my old goal. One chapter per one WIP, and then shifting attention to another. You would think that after having failed repeatedly in the past, I would have reevaluated this plan for its flaws and amended it to something that better suits me. It's no wonder the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Therefore, I have decided to focus on the word count rather than the chapter. The rest will come to me.

This plan might fail as well, but the key is to find something that works for you and your schedule. I have a full-time day-job, not to mention a part-time job. I also have a husband who occasionally likes getting attention, and while I don't have kids yet, there are plenty authors who do, and therefore have their writing time further encroached upon by the beast that is real life. Setting the bar too high regarding writing goals can lead to discouragement and depression, and that's something I definitely seek to avoid. By restructuring the way I look at my various projects and the time I have to dedicate to them, I can at least go to sleep knowing I've accomplished what I set out to accomplish within the reasonable limits I set for myself.

The point is this: don't set out to do more than you can. Set realistic expectations for the writing you produce. Even a couple hundred words a day is better than nothing, and if that's all you can manage in your hectic schedule, getting that much done should be your goal. Anything else is just icing on the cake.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

So You Want to Write a Novel

There are a lot of misconceptions out there when it comes to being a writer. I have heard an array of horror stories from a variety of authors. One of the most common seems to be epublishing is so easy to get into anyone can do it. All you have to do is write something.

For those of you who know how false that statement is, here's a little bit of humor (or cause for major depression, you choose:)I found on YouTube.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Takedown Requests (DMCAs)

Imagine that after hours of hard work in creating, editing, and submitting your work, your book is now available for the reading public. You've been promoting, trying to spread the word, when you learn that your book has been uploaded on a file sharing site for the masses to take free of charge. It's a horrible feeling, as well as something that is incredibly confusing for a new author. I remember when this first happened to me, I had no idea what to do. I didn't have a formal letter, nor any idea of how to have the links removed. It's not enough to state you are the owner of the copyright, rather you have to list numerous things, especially if you want to see results.

In an effort to help those new to this, I wanted to share a couple of templates I use when sending out DMCA notices. As soon as I have book that is released, I also make sure I create a new word document with all the information and fill out the blanks as necessary. Although I hope you're not faced with piracy, perhaps these will help make the task a bit easier in the event you need them.

DMCA Templates:


My name is <insert your name here> and I am requesting take down of my work that is being shared in violation of copyright, as is stated in the warning issued in the work being illegally shared below.

<insert name of your work here> -- ISBN#: <insert ISBN here>

is available for purchase at: <insert link where your book can be purchased>

I have good faith and belief that the use of aforementioned material is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agents, or the law. No part of this e-book may be reproduced or shared by any electronic or
mechanical means, including but not limited to printing, file sharing, and e-mail, without prior written permission from <insert the name of your publisher here>. I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the (copyright) owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.

Links are available on your site here:

<insert link where book is available on file sharing site>

I would appreciate it if you could remove these as soon as possible.

You can contact me via at the address below:

<insert your name here> c/o <insert name of your publisher here>

<insert the address of your publisher here.  You can usually find this information on your publishers website, or by asking your editor, etc>


<insert your name here>

Another good letter to use is this one:

Attn: Moderator,

Pursuant to 17 USC 512(c)(3)(A), this communication serves as a statement that:

(1). I am the duly authorized representative of the exclusive rights holder for <insert name of publisher here> and all of its holdings;

(2). These exclusive rights are being violated by material available upon your site at the following URL(s): <insert link where you material is being offered on file sharing site>

(3) I have a good faith belief that the use of this material in such a fashion is not authorized by the copyright holder, the copyright holder's agent, or the law;

(4) Under penalty of perjury in a United States court of law, I state that the information contained in this notification is accurate, and that I am authorized to act on the behalf of the exclusive rights holder for the material in question;

(5) I may be contacted by the following methods:

Send mail to: <insert publishers address here>

Call: <insert phone number of publisher here, or if you prefer, you can leave this blank although some file sharing sites require a phone number>


Email:  <insert your email here>

I hereby request that you remove or disable access to this material as it appears on your service in as expedient a fashion as possible. Thank you for your kind cooperation.


<insert your name here>

Piracy is a tangled web, one that's hard to maneuver, but once you have a letter, it's just a matter of ensuring you have a Google Alert for your material in place (which you can learn about by doing a Google search for Google Alerts).  I also register at the piracy sites and check them frequently.  It does take a lot of time and diligence, but if you're willing to stay on top of things you can be successful in having the links removed.  Keep in mind that there are places, namely torrent sites, who will not comply with DMCA requests.  Trying never hurts, but be prepared in the event you come across these.