Monday, October 31, 2011

Southern Witch series

In the spirit of Halloween and All Hallow's Read I have to tell you about a new-to-me author!
Kimberly Frost is the author of the Southern Witch series. I first heard of her earlier in the year when I went to a book signing. Suffice to say, I really like series; it's super fun and cute and very well-written. I highly recommend it.

In book 1 Would Be Witch The family magic seems to have skipped Tammy Jo Trask. All she gets in the way of the supernatural are a few untimely visits from the long dead, smart-mouthed family ghost, Edie. But when her locket, an heirloom that happens to hold Edie’s soul, is stolen in the midst of a town-wide crime spree, it’s time for Tammy to find her inner witch.

After a few experiences in dysfunctional magic, Tammy turns to the only one who can help; the very rich and highly magical, Bryn Lyons. He might have all the answers—and a 007-savoir faire to boot—but the locket isn’t the only legacy passed down in Tammy’s family. She also inherited a warning…to stay away from anyone named Lyons.
In book 2 Barely Bewitched Tammy Jo’s misfiring magic has attracted the unwanted attention of WAM, the World Association of Magic. Now, a wand-wielding wizard and a menacing fire warlock have come to Duvall to train her for a dangerous mandatory challenge. When a curse leads to a toxic spill of pixie dust, the town comes unglued and the doors between the human and faery worlds begin to open. To rescue the town and to face the impossible magical test, Tammy needs the help of incredibly handsome Bryn Lyons, but WAM has declared him totally off-limits. To avoid deadly consequences, Tammy probably ought to follow the rules this time…
In book 3 Halfway Hexed Tammy Jo Trask is finally ready to embrace her mixed-up and often malfunctioning magic. But... First, there are the local residents who form a scripture-spouting posse and kidnap Tammy to “defend” Duvall against witchcraft. Next, someone saddles her with a secret package chock full of dangerous visions, just as the president of WAM—the World Association of Magic—arrives with his entourage to investigate her. And who worse to examine Tammy’s entanglement with off-limits and drop-dead gorgeous wizard Bryn Lyons than his ex-girlfriend? Not to mention that the clash between the locals and the magical visitors leads to a series of unnatural disasters that may doom them all.

Check them out!

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

All Hallow's Read

I'm sure all you wise writers out there know about All Hallow's Read, but just in case... Last October, author Neil Gaiman said on his blog:

You know, there aren't enough traditions that involve giving books.

I propose that, on Hallowe'en or during the week of Hallowe'en, we give each other scary books. Give children scary books they'll like and can handle. Give adults scary books they'll enjoy.

What an awesome idea!

Lots of folks did this last Halloween and even more are doing it this year. Let's give everyone a scary book! :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

be offensive

Some writer friends and I have been having a debate about cussing. One says it's bad, evil, a character shouldn't do it. One says some characters would cuss--so that's how they should be written. Clearly, the second writer's work has the potential to offend the first writer. This brings up the bigger issue: should we be careful NOT to offend readers? Should we write fiction that's acceptable to everyone?

I'm afraid I have to say: No. If we write bland, inoffensive, safe fiction, we run the risk of writing essentially ...nothing.
To write fiction people want to read, don't censor your muse; write what you need to write.

As NaNoWriMo fast approaches, I'm reminded censorship can play out on several levels. Some writers edit themselves to death; they can't make progress on a MS because they get bogged down trying to make it perfect. If you are one of these writers NaNoWriMo--National Novel Writing Month is for you! Give yourself permission to write shitty first drafts.

Give yourself permission to be offensive.

Monday, October 24, 2011

story and setting

I saw a presentation this past weekend called "Rural/Urban/Suburban Fantasy" which discussed the location of modern fantasies. Questions included: "How do locale and setting shape fantasy?" and "Can you move a fantasy from locale to another?"

Leaving aside the whole point that the term Urban Fantasy was coined to differentiate a fantasy from Epic or High Fantasy...these questions were off-base.

This wasn't the first time I've seen setting emphasized. In some writing books on description (which shall remain nameless), I've read description should drive the story.

No. Both setting and description should serve the story, not drive the story.
This means the story comes first and then you ask what setting and descriptions does this story need?

How about you? How do you come up with your settings?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Distractions have been kicking my writing butt in the last week. They've been related to writing: homework, editing, querying, contests, getting ready for a conference, etc. But I haven't written anything new in days. :(
I'm going to remedy that ASAP with some BICHOK. So, short post today.

How do you avoid distractions and keep writing?

Monday, October 17, 2011

changing times

Times, they are 'a changing. :) It seems like almost every day there's some big new announcement or change in the publishing world. For example, there are a plethora of self-publishing avenues for both electronic and print books. Some writers swear by their agents, some eschew agents. I could go on and on. I'm sure you have your own list (feel free to comment!) of changes.

One interesting article I spied lately was from The New York Times: Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal. Wow. More changes.

What's a poor writer to do? Well, the number one thing is: Keep writing. Finish that work in progress. Because by the time you finish it...more changes will have occurred.

Where do you think we're headed?

Good luck!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Shaw Guides

Presently, I'm gearing up for an upcoming conference where I'll be on some panels. This is always an interesting experience and I highly recommend it. "But I don't know much about conferences," you say. Never fear! The Shaw Guides' Writers Conferences & Workshops are here! This is exactly what you'd think: a guide of writers' conferencs and workshops around the world. Among other things, they have listings by geographic regions. The conferences and workshops here are quite varied, so choose carefully.

Of course, one of my favorite conferences is Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold but of course that's in September. --Keep it in mind for September 2012!

How about you? Any fun conferences coming up? Any you can recommend?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

chapter premise?

Elsewhere I talked about how every short story needs a premise, a one sentence summary of its essence. I just finished up some critiques and it strikes me that every chapter should also have a premise. This doesn't have to necessarily be a single sentence, but you should be able to state clearly the point(s) of the chapter. Ideally, it would address the inner and outer plot arcs of the character(s).

If you can't state the chapter premise you need to seriously consider if you need this chapter.

Actually, writing the synopsis can identify these flabby chapters. If you have little to write in the synopsis about the chapter in question, maybe it's time to cut.

How about you? Do you have any tips for avoiding flabby chapters? How do you make sure your chapters stay on track?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Amaz** Book Reviews

A certain gigantic on-line book seller is responsible for a new phenomenon, namely, reader-written book reviews. Many authors I know hate these Amaz** reviews; they focus on the bad ones, hardly even noticing scores of good reviews. (What is it about human nature that makes us do this? I guess that's a topic for another post.) Some authors hate them so much, they don't even read these on-line reviews any more.

As a reader, I have to say, I don't get much out of them. For every good review there seems to be a bad review that says opposite things. What a poor potential reader to do? :(

How about you? Do you read these reviews? Are they helpful?

Have you ever written any of these reviews? Why or why not?

Friday, October 7, 2011

popular fiction vs. literary fiction

I've come across a curious phenomenon. Some writers vociferously defend popular fiction while some others rigorously advocate for literary fiction. Popular fiction is deemed commercial and accessible for the masses. Literary fiction is art. Popular fiction is a fun, easy read while literary fiction requires deep concentration. Popular fiction is entertainment. Literary fiction illustrates all the complexities of the human condition.

Many authors are quick to self-identify their work as one or the other. Do you?

Any phenomenon that pits one author against another is not good. I don't think one type of fiction is better or worse than the other; this is not moral relativisim. Both popular and literary fiction are valuable aspects of our culture.

Can't we all just get along? :)

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

an unforgettable story

I read a story a long ago that made a huge impression. Sadly, I couldn't recall the author or the title (because I'm bad at stuff like that), but I recall thinking the story was great. I did recall it was about multi-dimensional beings that make contact with humans. :)

I accidentally reread the story last night. Huzzah! I've been reading a very long (990 pages!) short story anthology and there it was: "Tangents" by Greg Bear. It was even better than I remembered. Not only does it have the super-interesting multidimensional world and people, the characters are excellent. They're all underdogs: there's a brilliant WWII war hero persecuted for being gay, there's an unwanted Korean-American boy genius, and there's a female aspiring writer who takes care of them.

My point is, an unforgettable story has a great big-idea plot as well as empathetic well-drawn characters with internal arcs.
As writers we should aspire to that in all our work.

Are there any unforgettable stories stuck in your mind?

Good luck writing your own unforgettable stories!

Monday, October 3, 2011

agent info

Someone asked me recently if I had any info on how to find an agent. So, here you go:

Research agents and editors. You need to know who you're querying.

It's best to have a personal connection to the agent or editor, e.g. an author friend recommends you or you meet the agent or editor at a conference or book-signing.

If you don't have a personal connection, don't worry! There are many online resources, including:

Free searchable Agent database.:

Free searchable agent/editor database:

Free List of Association of Author's Representatives:

Free Absolute Write discussion forum:

not-free Publishers Marketplace where you can track deals, sales, agents, editors:

Always double-check agent's or editor's webpage to make sure what they want in a query now.

And the baddies are announced here:
Preditors and Editors

Some successful query letters with agent responses can be found here:
Chuck Sambuchnio's Guide to Literary Agents Blog at Writer's Digest.

Good luck!