#Pitchmadness General crits

*NOTE BEFORE WE BEGIN

Keep in mind, this is my opinion only, and this is an incredibly subjective process-Much like the rest of publishing. And NONE of this is meant to call anyone out (I’m deliberately NOT mentioning anything only one person did.). Remember: All the good stuff is about YOUR MS. The bad stuff is about someone you don’t like’s.

I’m not answering comments  that seem to relate to individual entries. (It’s happened in the past on these posts, so I’m just throwing it out there ahead of time)

***

I look at the pitch last thing. For me, the writing is making 5/6th of the decision for me. The pitch is just to see what the overall concept is, I don’t care if the pitch is well written as long as the concept is there/workable. Then I glance at the age/word count to make sure if they’re compatible together with the writing. The ones that hit all the right areas? Highest marks. There were some common writing aspects that worked against you, and while I tried to get as many of you as possible who’d asked personal feedback, there’s just not enough hours in the day with the dayjob in the way. So I’ve rounded up the following for you, if you have questions, shout in the comments. I won’t be able to see your entries now, the teams are in there making their choices and the key was handed over, so I can’t give you personal feedback. If you still want personal feedback, check out Chimera, we’ll work something out.

  1. Let’s start with the easiest: Things that were way outside the rules-Coloring books, picture books, nonfiction, things that would get an X rating, and combinations thereof. Dude, this is a fiction contest limited to specific genres/ages, come on! Also some people entered more than one story. We noticed, accepted their first entry only, and disqualified the rest. (There were duplicates of the same entry, the duplicates were deleted as irrelevant).
  2. Some projects were way outside their age/genre’s word count range (This is my usual reference). A little off isn’t a big deal, but when you’re far off, it usually indicates other issues.
  3. If  it’s too low, either there’s not enough plot to support the story, or there’s not enough description/sensory information/internal monologue. I draft very light myself, hitting the main events, tying them lightly together, and mainly focusing on emotional twists and dialogue. Then I fix the plot first, and add in all the rest.
  4. Opposite, cutting, look first for scenes you don’t need. Do you REALLY need 3+ POVs? Probably not. Also make sure you’re not dragging on too far after the climax, or starting too soon before the inciting incident. Then check for redundant words and passive phrasings. Had, was, possibly was going to.. Anything where there’s a more active, succinct way to phrase it, go with the active way. This post from pitchwars might help on that, and while you’re at it, there’s a lot of other advice from this past Pitchwars on this tag.
  5. Speaking of passive voice-Especially if your character is sitting, waiting, or engaged in an ongoing action that doesn’t require their focus, watch their internal monologue for passive phrasings. Waking up, births, planes taking off/landing, they’re common starts, and all very prone to this problem.
  6. Then there’s the opposite-Throw the characters into a really intense situation. They’re running, they’re panicking, they’re hurt or being attacked. Well, there’s only one problem. We don’t know your character enough yet to CARE that this is going on. The idea of starting in the middle of action, in media res, is to hook the reader. Problem being? If your hook doesn’t give the reader a piece to empathize with, we’re desensitized, and the action alone isn’t going to get readers turning the page.
  7. If your character doesn’t notice something, and we’re in their POV, don’t mention it. Think of it like a camera. It can only focus on what’s in front of it, and you can control where it moves/what it centers on. Use that to your advantage. Center on what’s going to create the strongest effect.
  8. Onomatopoeia, while fun, are often distracting in an opening. Especially when capitalized/repeated. Use with extreme caution (MG can get away with it more.)

    MORE TO COME: I have a couple advanced techniques I want to show  you guys examples for, but I don’t have the right file with me. I’ll get that up ASAP, keep an eye out.

Writing is hard on the ego. It really is. But developing a thick skin will be important. Finding the agent is only a one step on the journey. You will still have rejection-from editors, from reviewers, from the marketing people, etc. If you ever want to make yourself feel better, go read the one star reviews of a popular/successful author. It’s a marathon, and there will always be obstacles and negatives. The authors who make it? Persevere.

Questions so far? Shout in the comments. 🙂 I love helping you all, it’s what drives me to do these contests and dedicate extra time to it. It’s fun, and I love how excited everyone is.

Happy Book Birthday @BrendaDrake and Guardian of Secrets!!

Guardian of Secrets by Brenda Drake | Release Day Launch | JenHalliganPR.com

We’re celebrating the release of Brenda Drake’s GUARDIAN OF SECRETS (Library Jumpers #2), today! Check out the teaser excerpt, and be sure to enter the giveaway via Rafflecopter below! I really can’t emphasize how much I love this series. Gia is smart, tough, and the world of Library Jumpers pulls out the best of her. The stakes just keep going up! When I finished reading this, I almost screamed, I wanted the next one SO BADLY! (It hadn’t even been written yet at that point!! Your wait shouldn’t be nearly so torturous!)

 

GUARDIAN OF SECRETSGuardian of Secrets by Brenda Drake | JenHalliganPR.com
(Library Jumpers #2)
by Brenda Drake
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: February 7, 2017

Being a Sentinel isn’t all fairytales and secret gardens.

Sure, jumping through books into the world’s most beautiful libraries to protect humans from mystical creatures is awesome. No one knows that better than Gia Kearns, but she could do without the part where people are always trying to kill her. Oh, and the fact that Pop and her had to move away from her friends and life as she knew it.

And if that isn’t enough, her boyfriend, Arik, is acting strangely. Like, maybe she should be calling him “ex,” since he’s so into another girl. But she doesn’t have time to be mad or even jealous, because someone has to save the world from the upcoming apocalypse, and it looks like that’s going to be Gia.

Maybe. If she survives.

Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers #1):

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Guardian of Secrets (Library Jumpers #2):

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Excerpt from GUARDIAN OF SECRETS

She did a U-turn and drove off. I sprinted to the area where I spotted the lightning. A shadowed figure sat on a white bench near the water. Another flash of light kissed the sky and illuminated Nick.

Since discovering he was a wizard, Nick struggled with his new magic. And he was careless. Anyone could spot him out here. How would he explain it to someone who was human and not from the Mystik realm? I couldn’t imagine how it felt to have that much power. Unlike him, I was a Sentinel. I had little magic and relied on my battle training to best wizards and other-world creatures. He only needed to shock or electrocute his adversaries.

“What exactly are you doing?” I asked, approaching.

He almost fell off the bench. “Shit, Gia. Don’t sneak up on a person like that.”

“Seriously, Nick? What are you doing? Someone might see you, and then we’d be discovered.”

“Just leave me alone.”

“I’m not going to just leave you alone.” I sat down on the bench beside him. A light breeze swept loose strands of my hair across my face. The briny smell of the ocean filled my nose. “Talk to me. You’re my best friend, Nick. I’m here for you.”

He formed an electric charge on his palm. I created my pink globe and tossed it on his hand, snuffing out the charge.

He made another electric ball and I cast another globe at it.

“Quit doing that.”

“You stop it.”

“I get it. Your globe is badass. It can counter magic and shield people, but it makes you weak. I can do this all night and wear you out.”

“You’re not nice.”

He buried his face in his hands. The knuckles on his right one were torn, with blood coagulating around the wounds. “I don’t know what’s happening to me. I can’t stop myself. I know I’m being mean to Deidre, to my parents…to everyone.”

“You haven’t been that mean to me, yet. That has to say something. I’m the most annoying one of the bunch.”

He snorted. “Did you just snort?”

“No.” He looked startled. “It was a sneeze.”

“I think you snorted.”

His face brightened. “I know what you’re trying to do. And it’s working.”

“I’m not trying to do anything. That was a full-on snort.” I wrapped my arm over his back and watched the water lap against the retaining wall in front of us. “I know you can’t see a therapist for this, ’cause what would you say? That you just found out you’re the son of the most evil wizard of the Mystik world and the curers recently released your magic?”

He gave me a half smile. “Yeah, that might not go over too well.”

“Or maybe you could. They’d think you were delusional, and you’d score some drugs.”

“Drugs make me nauseous.”

He stared at his hands, and I stared at the water, searching for the right words to say. “This has to be tough for you. I get it. I’ve been there. It’ll take time to adjust. How about I be your counselor? Anytime you feel anxious or angry, you call me and we’ll punch some bags or whatever. It always helps me to relax. Plus, my services are cheap.”

“Violence would make you relax.” He was pleased with his retort and laughed, which was followed by another snort.

Be sure to add GUARDIAN OF SECRETS to your Goodreads to-read list,
and grab your copy today!

Guardian of Secrets by Brenda Drake | JenHalliganPR.com

Brenda DrakeAbout Brenda Drake

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | Instagram

Brenda Drake is a New York Times bestselling author of Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers #1), Guardian of Secrets (Library Jumpers #2), Touching Fate (Fated Series #1), and Cursing Fate (Fated Series #2). She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. She hosts workshops and contests for writers such as Pitch Wars and Pitch Madness on her blog, and holds Twitter pitch parties on the hashtag, #PitMad. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment). Look for her upcoming novels, Thunderstruck, Seeking Fate (Fated Series #3), and Assassin of Truths (Library Jumpers #3) coming soon from Entangled Teen.

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Happy book birthday @HLVanFleet & Reckless Hearts!

RecklessHarts_banner_ReleaseDay

Today we have the release blitz for Reckless Hearts by #pitchwars mentor Heather Van Fleet! Check out the release day festivities and grab your copy today!! 

Reckless Hearts Cover

About RECKLESS HEARTS:

Between boot camp and two TOD’s in Iraq, my buddies Max, Gavin and me have been through some serious hell. So the last thing I ever expected was to find the biggest challenge of my life back home.

My girlfriend died. I couldn’t even attend her funeral, let alone tell her goodbye or that I’m sorry I wasn’t there like I should’ve been.

But she left me a gift. The best and scariest one I could’ve ever asked for. One I didn’t think I could handle…until the day I saw her tiny blues looking up at me in that airport. Chloe.

Now here I am, raising my baby girl—with the help of my two best friends. Things couldn’t be better. Until she walked into my life.

All I wanted was a nanny. Someone to take care of my girl when I couldn’t. What I didn’t count on was Addison, the brown-eyed temptress with a body of sin, and everything I didn’t need, but suddenly wanted.

Get Your Copy:

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Exclusive Excerpt:

He answered on the third ring. “Hey, Gav. You busy?”

“Not Gav.”

My face warmed at the sound of Collin’s voice.

“You there?”

“Um, yes. But I need to speak with Gavin, please.” Keep breathing, keep calm. You’ve got this.

“But I need to talk to you first.”

I clenched my teeth. “May I talk to him, please?”

“Nope.”

I threw my head back against the couch and groaned. “Why not?” If he was going to be short with his answers, I would be short with my questions.

“Need to talk to you about something first. Told you that.”

Could’ve sworn I heard the words Needs to eat your pussy is more like it in the background, but my mind was scrambling like the eggs I’d cooked for breakfast.

“Shut up, asshole,” Collin barked.

I spun a loose string around my finger. “What did you just say to me?”

Total déjà vu.

The wind slapped against his speaker. “Are you driving?” I unraveled the string from my finger and bounced my knee. “Because in the State of Illinois, it’s illegal to drive and talk on a cell phone unless it’s hands free.”

“Damn it, no. She’s putting that shit in her mouth.” He grumbled something else, and the sound of baby giggles tugged on my already floppy heartstrings.

I couldn’t help but smile as I thought about Chloe. I’d only been around her twice, but I kind of missed the little thing.

“Not driving. Just playin’ at the park.”

Playing at the park. Why did the image make me grin? Collin pushing Chloe in her swing, her little baby legs bouncing up and down as he did.

“Why are you calling Gavin anyway?”

“None of your business.” My smile fell. “Can you just put him on?”

“I told you I needed to talk first.”

I rolled my eyes. “Fine. Then talk.”

“Gonna take you out tonight.”

Shock pulled me into an upright position, and I stood so fast that a pile of clean towels fell to the floor. “Um, take me out?” I scrambled to pick them up.

“Gonna apologize. Again. Buy you food, return your sweater too. If you have plans, then cancel them.”

“Uh, no. Don’t think so.” At the simple thought of seeing him again, my stomach clenched in both excitement and unease. “You’re not going to pull that in-charge bullshit on me. And besides, what makes you think I want to see you anyway?”

“You don’t wanna see me, sweetheart?”

I slapped my hand over my eyes. Sweetheart? Seriously? “No. I don’t want to see you, pumpkin. Not when you got me fired from my job the other night with your ultimate-fight-club thing.” I blew out a quick breath. “Besides, I just…can’t.”

“I need a better reason.”

“Are you serious right now?” What was with this guy and his incessant need to be an asshole?

“Dead serious.” He laughed. “I’ll be by your apartment at six to pick you up. Dress casual. Gonna take you to dinner, and then we’re gonna talk. You’re going to get a free meal and an apology. Can’t get much better than that, am I right?”

RecklessHeartTeaserFinal (1)

About Heather Van Fleet:

Heather Van Fleet_headshot

Heather Van Fleet is stay-at-home-mom turned book boyfriend connoisseur. She’s a wife to her high school sweetheart, a mom to three little girls, and in her spare time you can find her with her head buried in her Kindle, guzzling down copious amounts of coffee.

Heather graduated from Black Hawk College in 2003 with an associate degree and has been working in the publishing industry for over five years. She is represented by Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary.

 

Connect with Heather:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/authorheathervanfleet

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/HLVanFleet

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hvfwrites/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/heath1005/

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Enter Heather’s Giveaway:

 

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HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY: Some Kind of Magic, by @Maryannmarlow

Some Kind of Magic by Mary Ann Marlowe I’m thrilled to be taking part in Mary Ann Marlowe’s Release Blitz for her debut, SOME KIND OF MAGIC! Check out the teaser excerpt, and be sure to enter the giveaway below. This looks so fun, a bit of escapism amidst the clusterfuck that is the world currently. (Also, any typo errors below are mine, the damn HTML the blitz service provided converted some elements wrong, and it was late when I was formatting this.)

SOME KIND OF MAGICSome Kind of Magic by Mary Ann Marlowe | JenHalliganPR.com by Mary Ann Marlowe Publisher: Kensington Publication Date: January 31, 2017

“An amazing first novel.” —Sydney Landon, New York Times bestselling author In this sparkling debut novel, Mary Ann Marlowe introduces a hapless scientist who’s swept off her feet by a rock star—but is it love or just a chemical reaction?… Biochemist Eden Sinclair has no idea that the scent she spritzed on herself before leaving the lab is designed to enhance pheromones. Or that the cute, grungy-looking guy she meets at a gig that evening is Adam Copeland. As in the Adam Copeland international rock god and object of lust for a million women. Make that a million and one. By the time she learns the truth, she s already spent the (amazing, incredible) night in his bed. Suddenly Eden, who’s more accustomed to being set up on disastrous dates by her mom, is going out with a gorgeous celebrity who loves how down-to-earth and honest she is. But for once, Eden isn’t being honest. She can’t bear to reveal that this overpowering attraction could be nothing more than seduction by science. And the only way to know how Adam truly feels is to ditch the perfume—and risk being ditched in turn. Smart, witty, and sexy, Some Kind of Magic is an irresistibly engaging look at modern relationships why we fall, how we connect, and the courage it takes to trust in something as mysterious and unpredictable as love.

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Excerpt from SOME KIND OF MAGIC

I scanned the rest of the room. I wasn’t surprised to see he had a turntable. Micah had been buying vinyl for years. An entertainment unit held a wide-screen TV and a stack of DVDs. I walked over to check out his movie collection. A Netflix envelope sat on top, and I read the address. The name rang a bell.
Adam Copeland?
Then I remembered. Stacy and Kelly had crushed on a rock singer with the same name for a few weeks last summer, another impossibly hot guy with red hair. No, wait, that was a different band. I could never keep their celebrity crushes straight. My eyes went wide. What if this was that same guy? They would die. He was a musician, after all. A wave of nausea crested as I took in my surroundings. The guy certainly had money. Adam glanced up from a stack of records and caught me staring at him. “What?”
“Your name is Adam Copeland?” My mind raced. The apartment was his parents’, so the money was probably his parents’, too. If he was a rock star, wouldn’t he have some lavish penthouse overlooking Central Park? He went back to flipping through albums, nonplussed. “Oh, yeah.”I narrowed my eyes. If I asked him straight up, he’d think I was crazy, so I casually sauntered over to the side of his bed and leaned back, facing him. I picked at the hem of my shirt, and then, as though I was teasing, I tested the waters.
“So, does everyone ask you if you’re any relation to that guy from that band?”
“Huh?” He pulled out a Van Morrison album and then dropped it back down, still on the search for whatever he was looking for. Then it hit me.
“Oh, God. I’m sorry. It must be an incredibly common name.” He froze in place like a deer caught in the headlights, like he had no idea what I was talking about. This was embarrassing. Awkwardly, I fumbled for an explanation, rambling.
“You know that band? They have a song that gets played about a million times an hour.” On the spot, I couldn’t even remember the band’s name. I scraped my brain, tapping my fingers on the bed post. It came to me out of nowhere.
“Walking Disaster!”
Adam rolled his eyes.
Riiiight.” He settled on an album and slid the vinyl record from the sleeve. I hoped I hadn’t offended him somehow. Maybe it was an irritating comparison. If someone famous had my name, I’d find it annoying. What was I thinking? As if some famous musician would just hang out at a club and buy me beers. And flirt. He’d definitely been flirting with me. Guys within my limited reach rarely bought me beers and flirted. How much chance would I have with a freaking rock star? I laughed at myself for losing my head temporarily. Unfazed, Adam dropped an album onto the turntable. I smiled as a dead sexy Arctic Monkeys song started.
“I love this song!” He sidled up next to me and bumped me with his shoulder.
“So you like that band, Walking Disaster?” Was this a litmus-test question? Like asking someone if they like Nickelback? What if he had a checklist, too? What if he only liked girls who listened to the “right” music and immediately disdained girls who listened to whatever he found uncool? And why did I suddenly care what kind of girls he might like? I shrugged, reaching for a safe nonchalant answer. “I don’t normally listen to them unless they come on the radio. I don’t intentionally listen to much current rock music, except for Micah’s. But my coworkers gush about that band. They tried to drag me out to see them just recently.”
“But you didn’t want to go?”
“No, I would’ve gone. But it was at the Meadowlands, and it was a weeknight. I had to get up early the next day.”
“To make perfume, right?” He leaned closer and breathed in. “What’s the name of this one?
“Oh, I don’t know.”
“Mmm. You should call it Irresistible. It smells nice.” He lifted my hand and laid a kiss against my wrist. My brain told me I should leave. I barely knew him. But I didn’t want to leave. Adam’s lips felt so good against my skin. His dark eyes sought mine, looking for permission, maybe. The naked desire etched on his face sent a tingle through me. I wanted to feel his lips on mine, but he held back, so I bent toward him. He kissed me soft, and I tasted the hint of Jamaican spiced rum.
He broke away and drew back, so close but too far away. His eyes pierced mine, and his breathing hitched, but he hesitated. I felt tethered there, unable to move back, wanting to move forward. I reached up to touch the stubble on his cheek, then that cord on his neck I’d wanted to touch earlier. Without another thought, I twisted my fingers in his hair and pulled him back to me.

Be sure to add SOME KIND OF MAGIC to your Goodreads to-read list, and grab your copy today!

Some Kind of Magic by Mary Ann Marlowe | JenHalliganPR.com

Mary Ann MarloweAbout Mary Ann Marlowe

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Some Kind of Magic is Mary Ann Marloweǯs first novel. When not writing, she works by day as a computer programmer/DBA. She spent ten years as a university-level French professor, and her resume includes stints as an au pair in Calais, a hotel intern in Paris, a German tutor, a college radio disc jockey, and a webmaster for several online musician fandoms, plus she has a second-degree black belt. She has lived in twelve states and three countries and loves to travel. She now lives in central Virginia where she is hard at work on her second novel. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at http://www.maryannmarlowe.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Happy New Year!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Sorry for the radio silence. I didn’t have the emotional or mental energy to blog, and figured you’d manage. Nothing bad going on in my microcosm, I’ve just been reading and listening to a lot of stuff about politics, and I kept meaning to write up a post on how to use those for world building in your novels. But it’s proving more challenging than expected, so it’ll be up when it comes together. Meanwhile, if there’s any writing related topics you’d like my opinion on, feel free to suggest them! Otherwise, posts will be up when they’re up.

 

2016 achievements:

*Had my first back to back fully booked months with client work.

*Had some absolutely fabulous projects to work on this year with amazing authors.

*Finished a novel of my own-Starboard- and wrote most of another.

*Read 53 published novels and 1 anthology in full.  All but one of those novels were written by women (or nonbinary, in one series’ case). Oddly, this wasn’t deliberate. I always have a LOT of books in my TBR pile, as I buy them when they come out and then get to them when I’m in the mood.

*Didn’t quit my dayjob in frustration or get fired for something stupid. Both were possibilities this year, and I pushed myself past them.

*Saw 3 Broadway shows-Spring Awakening, Allegiance, and The Great Comet.

 

2017 goals:

*Try not to die.

*Be a light where I can, helping and signal boosting good things. Do not allow hate, in any form, to make me afraid.

*Market my editing services more, with a goal that by this time next year, I want at least 10 new clients and at least 2 more repeat clients (Clients who come back for work on more projects. The more repeat clients I end up with, the more stable my editing work will be, which makes it MUCH easier to leave the security of my dayjob). Right now, my Romance clients are booking me far more than SF/Fs, which makes sense given their release schedules.

*Edit Starboard and, if I’m happy with how it turns out, query it.

*Finish my nano novel, or another WIP, and begin edits on it.

*Start another novel.

*Do something fun for my 10th anniversary with Owen.

 

What are your goals? Focus on things you can control. Getting a book deal is beyond your control, but editing a book and querying it are things you can do. Same with politics, stay engaged and aware, and do what you can on your level. Life isn’t a dystopian novel, even if it feels like it sometimes. I’m just hoping 2017 doesn’t get the idea to try and one up  2016.

Here’s hoping it’s amazing!

 

A Rose by any other name…

Especially if you write fantasy or scifi, you know the struggle: Finding names that both fit the kind of story and the kind of person you want your character to be.

In real life, picking names seems simple. If you ask people why they named their kids what they did, you tend to get one of these responses:

*It’s a family name

*I liked the way it sounded

*I liked what it meant

*It was an impulse.

See also names like ABCDE (pronounced Ab-si-dee) and Jack Daniels for why the last option isn’t a good approach.

Aside from that, what you really want in names is things that make sense within the culture or subculture they come from. Apple is an awful name for someone from Sweden in the 1980s, but fits if they’re a celebrity’s kid in the 2000s.

So how to do this?

My approach-Figure out three levels of names for a culture. Their common names, which all have similar phonetical aspects. This is where most names are generated. Your Jessica, Jennifers, etc have a soft consonant, a vowel, repeating soft consonant, another vowel, a harder consonant, vowel.  Pick out the pattern, and stick with it for the names. Alynnia,  Elissia, et.  Or come up with letter combinations that are popular. I took a page out of the Japanese book and used honorific endings to indicate gender, for example, on my latest WIP. So if, say, a character transitioned, they could just change the honorific on their name, and everyone’s cool with that. As opposed to the struggle many trans folks go through when trying to figure out what they want called (Owen was his middle name, he’s going by it but debating 2+ years into transitioning if he wants his first name to start with an E like his birth name so he can keep the same initials.).

Once you have the common names, figure out the names that would be ridiculous but within acceptable for your culture. That’s where your super religious (Ezekiel for example) and pop culture names fit. This is also where you can fit in cross-culture names.  Ones that will make people go “Oh, and where are you from?”.

Last, define what won’t fly in your culture. Xlikhreo would not work in our culture. Why? Because based on the phonetics of English, it doesn’t go together. Could you figure out a way to pronounce it? Sure, but why bother? Same applies in fiction. Fit it to your culture, and to the culture you’re working from, and asze’asdt’twe might become Asies Asidut Twi.

Obviously, don’t appropriate cultures you don’t understand. But play with the sounds, and see what variants that opens up for you.

I win #Nanowrimo!

Yay, I actually won Nanowrimo this year! I hit 50k Sunday evening. Given as I had a cold most of last week that resulted in most days being under 1k, I’m happy with that! I’m going to finish this draft, edit the project I finished in September, and then come back to edit this. It’s an experiment in a super sparse drafting, with the intentions of adding easily 30k to it in edits. Oddly, I think this may have been my original style before a decade of writing knowledge crammed between me and my ideas. This brings me to 6 Nanos won, 8 lost. Yes, I’ve been doing this forever. No, I’ve never even queried any of these projects.

Why not?

Well, they’ve never been ready. I actually only ever submitted one thing for publication, a short story that was picked up as part of an anthology at the first place I submitted to. It didn’t sell enough to make even $10 in the course of 5 years, and I eventually, on remembering it existed, got my rights back.

I’m not willing to put work that isn’t as good as I’m able to make it out in public, and I’ve yet to put the work into my novels that they need. I’m really good at telling people what’s wrong with their novels and suggesting ways to fix that. I can see the flaws in my own work. Fixing is another matter. It’s a completely different skill to apply those changes to my own work, and one I’ll freely admit, I’m not happy enough with the results yet to subject anyone other than KT and Owen to. Maybe a select few people who are sworn to secrecy.

If I ever figure out a process that works for me to edit my stories, I suspect I’ll have a clutch of about 10 completed novels to work from. Meanwhile, I’ve focused on being an editor, and love it. I do have one slot left in December and 2 for January, for those who are planning ahead, if you’re interested. *Shameless self promotion* Now’s a good time to book for next year, before I start getting busy. I should do more advertising, but I haven’t, so if you know you want to book with me, do so soon before I stop being lazy, do some advertising, and get busy! 😉

 

Word choice-The power of terminology

There’s an interesting subtext to a lot of the political talk going on in social media right now. It was on my brain as I worked on an argument in my story, where the queen and the MC are arguing about another person. It’s all in how they label her-The MC calls her “my best friend” and the reader has seen this in action throughout the story up til now. The queen is calling the same person an attacker and traitor to the crown, because she was possessed temporarily. Neither is wrong, from their own point of view. They both believe things must go their way. But there’s no way for them to both get what they want, and this character’s life hangs on the dagger’s edge. Neither wants to hurt the other, but neither is willing or feels like they’re able to compromise. Both are willing to jeopardize their futures because they believe they’re right.

Sounds familiar, right?

Of course, because it’s fiction, something will force both their hands.

Words are a writer’s tool and weapon. We have the luxury of editing them, and fussing at them, until we get them right. I’m no where NEAR as insightful or witty in person as I’ve been told I am online. I tend to try to avoid conflict and drama, in my real life. I prefer the clean space of the page, where I can throw out the words and redo them, and there’s no “I should have said this” after.

I hate calling people. Probably because I work in a call center, but I generally avoid it whenever possible. I angsted the first phone call I made to an elector. I went over my words time and again, using the best of my call center experience to form something resembling coherent, compelling speech. And I got a voicemail that was full. And another. I resorted to email for the rest of the week, as by Wednesday all I got were full voicemails. Do I think anyone’s listening to them? Probably not. In their position, I can’t say I would be. They think they’re right. Why should they care what I have to say? Yes, civic duty, but when duty faces emotion, emotion wins in our culture.

I have no answers, except to keep writing. My Nano novel this year is a queer, feminist, intersectionally diverse little skeleton of a project right now. I had no plans when I started this to try querying it, but if I can knock it into shape in edits, I damn well might risk it. The worst they can say is no.

I’ll keep editing, doing what I can to help amazing #ownvoices books get out into the world too. And even when it feels futile, I will keep standing up. Especially when it feels futile. Because there’s a little optimistic bit in me that hopes that maybe, with everyone else doing the same thing, this little  bit can add to an avalanche.

 

Wherein I try to talk writing while my brain is full of politics.

You guys.

I had plans for a post this week, on Nanowrimo and some things that are working for me, and some things that others say work for them but have never worked for me.

Then the election happened, and everyone around me-My boyfriend, my coworkers, my friends- have been in a state of panic. I’m one of those people who pushes through emotions quickly and then deals with them once the crisis is over. I’ll probably have a meltdown at some point, but my brain is still trying to sort solutions out instead. I lived in TX under G.W Bush, and I never felt threatened, so don’t mistake this for some kind of hippie liberal can’t-handle-losing BS. Because no matter how much I might have disagreed with his policies, he wasn’t intent on discriminating against wholesale groups of people simply for the color of their skin, who they love, or what religion they practice. (And so far, even aside from his horrific campaign, he’s already trying to put a known white supremacist as a key member of his staff. I have no doubts that this will lead to suffering for MANY people I care about.)

I’m rounding up phone numbers to call officials, and I’m spreading that to my (very queer, very liberal) officemates. A couple hundred people who spend their days trying to help people who will be very screwed. I’m jaded enough to not think it’ll do much good, but I’m the type who has to do SOMETHING, even if it doesn’t add up much. I’m also donating to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood with some of my editing money. This post took me WAY too long, because I kept having to edit out long, personal anecdotes about WHY I am going to be way more political for the next 4 years than I have ever been. Why we’re getting our passports, just in case, and why I ordered pepper spray. Along with new sneakers.

I’m mostly getting through listening to a very empowering playlist:
Vixy & Tony-Burn it Down
Vixy & Tony- We Are Who We Are
Olivia Holt- Phoenix
Kerrie Roberts-Unstoppable
Katie Grey- Revolution Katie Grey- Revolution
Daya-Sit Still, Look Pretty
Dar Williams-Buzzer
Demi Lovato-Confident
Sara Bareilles-King of Anything

Writing has been going relatively well. I’m ahead (at about 26k), but with the election and results eating several days of count, I’m not as ahead as I was. I’m working on a nano project that started, in a very different form, as my first Nano 13 years ago. Then, it was a romance/fantasy, with alien creatures and betazoid+X-Men powers, and demons that weren’t really. It was a meandering mess, but I loved some of the elements, and always wanted to do it in a way that would showcase them better. This time, it’s a fantasy with a strong woman in a complex, diverse world.  Will I show it to people? Maybe, after I go back through and edit it. But right now, it’s escapism, and idealism, and I need that. I’ll layer the complexity in edits.

But from now on, my personal writing projects will all have:

Strong women

Disabilities

POC

Queer people

And I will do my best to not screw it up. Am I going to be perfect? Nope! I will do what I can to avoid harmful representation, including paying for sensitivity reads if I decide to seek publication. Before I even so much as query. Because right now, we need windows, and mirrors, and kaleidoscopes. We need hope, and we need pressure to be better, because the world around us isn’t going to make it easy on any of us. I don’t expect to always get it right, and I will listen to those who take the time to tell me when I’m doing it wrong. If my fantasy world can use magic, why can’t they have a mainly black/hispanic court? They know our world, it’s a portal fantasy, so they can play up the tropes, or adopt outsider ways, as they see fit. There are factions that don’t approve of how others take on outsider ways, and factions who think the outsiders have the right idea. And in their reality, the truth lies somewhere between both, and they’re both wrong and right to different degrees.

If I pull the complexity off, I will be very happy. We live in a world that wants simple, binary solutions. The world isn’t ever that easy, but I just hope we can avoid turning into a dystopian YA novel, or worse, a post apocalyptic horror show.

In the meantime, lovelies, take care of yourselves. Push yourself as kindly as you can to create, to be that better world. Don’t let yourself become complacent to hate and othering of people who aren’t just like you. Because no matter what differs on the surface, we all love people. We all want what’s best for those we care about. What we think is best for them might differ, but we cannot be complacent against injustice.

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Robert F. Kennedy

#Pitchwars Lessons- SPOOKY Special Snowflakes vs Joe Everyman

These are two sides of the same coin:

a skull on an old looking coin

On one side, you want your character to fit the story, and your protagonist needs to have enough at stake where they can’t just say “screw this, I’m done” when the going gets tough. The Joe Everyman type character doesn’t. Anyone stuck in that situation would take the same actions, regardless of their backstory or growth. They tend to be static characters, who are stand ins for the audience en masse.

Your special snowflake, however, is the only character this could ever have happened to. If they weren’t there, everyone would be utterly screwed-The people enslaved, the ship exploded, the ancient curse fulfilled, whatever. They doubt their own skills and have to be constantly reassured of their own fabulousness before others even have reasons to believe in them. Their backstory is a key plot point that they don’t know until it’s revealed, and they always get their love interest.

How do you walk your character along the middle?

Flaws- Their flaws need to not be plot driven. That is, their flaws can, and should influence the choices they make, but those flaws shouldn’t, on their own, determine the plot. For example- In Star Trek, Next Generation, Georgie La Forge is bad with romances with women. That gets him in trouble with Leah Brahms when the real scientist doesn’t fit the same romantic mesh as a holodeck version of her did. But it’s not the only thing that causes problems for him, and it’s more an entertaining bit of character development behind the bigger Plot of whatever is going on on the ship that episode.

Ego-They have to have just enough ego to not need others for external validation except at the Dark Moment. They don’t think they’re perfect, nor do the people around them. They’re not an ass about it, but they’re not a doormat. They don’t bounce like a tennis ball between the two, either.

Dynamic-Your characters need to have the right balance of reactive/active/reinforcing going on for where they are in the novel. At first, in most novels, the protagonist is making 1. an inciting choice, followed by 2. a reactive series of choices, then 3. an active choice that doesn’t do what they expect. Making sure that the other characters aren’t on the exact same beat at the same time in that process makes the conflict stronger. Let the love interest make an active choice that backfires when your protagonist is still in a reactive phase, and it reinforces how much is out of their control. If they’re both in active mode, making choices, then they could just talk it out like adults, and we all know that doesn’t make for a good story.

Uniqueness-Your protagonist can’t be the only person ever with This Power. If they are the last, that needs to come with some heavy baggage. The lost princess needs to be the last one because the antagonists have killed all the other heirs to the throne. She’s next, if they discover who she is. Also avoid anything with obnoxious false colored eyes or excessive sparkling. Make them the last, or the latest, or one of a few currently. Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, there’s a lot of potential slayers, only one is called at a time. Well, usually.

Nanowrimo starts tomorrow. The #Pitchwars agent round is later this week. How did your revisions go, folks? Inquiring minds are dying to know, are you still editing, or taking time off for fresh Nano-driven words?

 

Anything you haven’t seen in this series and want, let me know! I’ll have more time in November, so you may see more varied posts. 😉