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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tia Nevitt

Do you love fairy tales with a twist? This week, I'm pleased to introduce Tia Nevitt to the blog. Tia reviews many science fiction and fantasy books over at Debuts & Reviews, but today she's coming over to talk about sex and The Sevenfold Spell.

Please welcome Tia Nevitt.

When to Include Sex Scenes

I’ve gotten a few reviews so far of The Sevenfold Spell, and the reaction concerning the sex scenes is worthy of a blog post. Mainstream fantasy usually includes few sex scenes, and would be classified as “sweet.” Therefore, a couple of reviewers were surprised by and didn’t like the sex, and one even called it erotica. Another said it had lots of “fun sex.” And another said that the sex scenes weren’t sexy enough!

I tried to be very careful with the sex scenes. I didn’t want it to be any sexier than what you would find in a standard romance novel. In fact, in my opinion, it’s a good deal less so because the scenes are so short. And as that one reviewer said, all but one or two aren’t really sexy at all.

Most surprised were my friends when I told them that this story would be rated R. (My family wasn’t surprised, which pleased me.) I totally don’t look the part to be writing sexy novels. I dress modestly, with my necklines just high enough to cover my cleavage. My skirts just barely clear the knee—if they clear it at all. I don’t wear anything tight. And I don’t swear.

So why the sex scenes? I call it writing unleashed.

This is when I don’t hold anything back during that first draft. I let it all pour out, even if I know I never want to see what I’m writing in print. And then, in the second draft, I edit out what I don’t want the world to see, leaving as much emotion behind as I can. And believe me, I did a lot of editing on these sex scenes when I finished. The apple cart scene was a standalone sex scene before I decided to cut it and have it as a reminiscence between my main character, Talia, and her closest friend.

I wrote Talia as Princess Aurora’s opposite. Aurora is royal, pure and beautiful. Talia isn’t any of those things—at least on the surface. I’ve never slept around, but I really tried to get into the head of a girl who did. Over the years, I’ve spoken to many women, some of whom talked to me quite frankly of their experiences in sleeping around—especially the women I knew during my military days. So I didn’t write it in total ignorance.

I don’t use this writing unleashed technique on sex scenes only. I’m working on a Christian novel, and I’ve done the same thing there. I also used this technique when describing battle rage. It’s for emotionally intense scenes, no matter what the emotion. When I can get in that writing unleashed zone, I know that I’m producing something good.

When I was trying to adjust this story for short fiction magazines that didn’t accept adult material, I took out all the sensual scenes. And I didn’t really have Talia’s story any more. I never even tried to sell that version. When I knew I was going to send it to an epublisher, I went back to my previous version, took out one of Talia’s lovers, and replaced him with another man, who doesn’t become her lover at all. And he is the man who probably would have provided the best sex scene!

Will the future stories in the Accidental Enchantments series be as sensual as this one? It’s hard to say at this point. I know one story won’t, because of the compressed timeframe, but the others can go either way, depending on whether the plot needs it. Either the way, I try to unleash my writing for every work of fiction I write.

Buy The Sevenfold Spell at Carina Press.

Here's the blurb:

Have you ever wondered what happens to the other people in the fairy tale?
Things look grim for Talia and her mother. By royal proclamation, the constables and those annoying “good” fairies have taken away their livelihood by confiscating their spinning wheel. Something to do with a curse on the princess, they said.

Not every young lady has a fairy godmother rushing to her rescue.
Without the promise of an income from spinning, Talia’s prospects for marriage disappear, and she and her mother face destitution. Past caring about breaking an arbitrary and cruel law, rebellious Talia determines to build a new spinning wheel, the only one in the nation, which plays right into the evil fairy’s diabolical plan. Talia discovers that finding a happy ending requires sacrifice. But is it a sacrifice she’s willing to make?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Blonde Mule

My nickname is Mule. It's actually a compliment. Greg has been calling me Mule almost as long as we've been married.

I earned that nickname because I'll work all day without stopping and I hardly ever complain. Well...I probably complain a little bit more now. 

This week Greg finally came home and promptly put me to work. The first job on the docket was sealing the concrete floor of his shop. I didn't think it would be such a big project, but it took two days. He poured the sealer and I did the painting. 

Somehow I think I got the raw end of this deal.

To be honest, I took the job because it hurts his back too much to do that much bending. Even though I used a long-handled roller, there was still a lot of bending and twisting. I ended up using a lot of forgotten muscles.

Evidently, I'm not as hearty a mule as I used to be. LOL!

But my sore muscles haven't been my worst discovery this week.

I think I'm going blonde!

I've always had red undertones in my hair, but as I've gotten older, the red is getting lighter and lighter. It's nearly strawberry blonde now, especially at the top where the sun hits it.

It looks silly on my complexion. Greg tells me not to worry about it. But really, whoever heard of a blonde mule?

So who else has nicknames? And how did you get your nickname? 


Tomorrow: Stop by tomorrow because Tia Nevitt is going to visit and talk about s-e-x in The Sevenfold Spell.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why I Might Not Comment


For the past few weeks I've been scrambling to get some advance posts done for my upcoming blog tour, so you can imagine my stress level as I try to be clever and amusing in a very short period of time.

Believe me, clever doesn't happen on command.

One of the things I had to ease up on during my post writing frenzy was visiting other blogs as much as I normally do. I still made the effort at some blogs, especially if they were kind enough to comment here, but there were a few I couldn't reach in a timely fashion, and the bloggers had already gone on to other topics.

It's easy to figure out why we comment, but have you ever wondered why we don't? I gave it a little thought and these were my top five reasons.

1. Lack of time. This probably sums up the main reason for me. Commenting takes time. I almost always read the posts, but if time is of the essence, commenting takes a back seat.

2. Not my topic. This is also high on my list. My interests span widely, but every once in a while you might come up with a topic that holds no appeal for me.

3. It's offensive.
Not deliberately, I'm sure, but sometimes people forget there are two (or more) sides to every story. If a blogger wants to be inflammatory that's up to him--but I don't have to play along. That's how flame wars get started.

4. You got buried. This happens a lot. Since I read off Google Reader, if a post is truncated--that is--only the first paragraph shows up, it often gets left behind until I have time to visit the site. Well, you know how that goes. Wait too long and the post becomes buried and forgotten. At last check there were 649 subscriptions on my Reader. It is very easy to get buried.


There is one blog I adore, but all her posts are truncated. And she usually posts two at a time. Unless the title lures me in, I just delete.

5. You never-ever comment here (or respond on your blog), even if I've commented at your place regularly. If you're interesting, I might keep you on my Reader, but chances are good I probably dropped you a long time ago.

I don't expect people to comment every time I post. God knows, you have real lives more important than anything I have to say.

But if you come over, say howdy, share your opinions, and your time, by George, I am going to make an effort for you. That's the least I can do for the gift of your company.

So how about you guys? What sort of things keep you from commenting?

--and if no one comments, obviously I answered my own question. LOL!



Update: True Believers is now up on the Carina web site. I have five more promised posts to write before I can rest. We're getting close now. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Terri Brisbin

I was chuffed to learn that MISTRESS OF THE STONE had been selected as a Kensington Brava finalist for Writing With The Stars. But what really drew me to the contest was the chance to pick the brain of a Brava veteran, someone who could guide me on how best to approach this contest.

The administrators contacted each finalist for the preliminary stuff, but it would be a while yet before we learned who each of us snagged as our mentors. You should have heard me when I learned I had scored Terri Brisbin!

Terri is a three-time Rita finalist and the author of 18 paranormal and historical romances. She even serves on the board of RWA. Holy Moley, I had hit the motherlode of mentors! 

She was so kind and genial, calling me up just so we could get to know each other before we got down to business. We had a lot to cover. 

Some of you know that I worked in advertising for a lot of years so I'm used to brainstorming and hatching new plans of attack on the fly. Terri kept me hopping. And while I probably exasperated her on several levels, she never gave up on me.

I think my novel has the legs to be in the Brava line, but Terri gave me the tools I needed to showcase my excerpts in the boldest and most emotional way possible. 
 
I'm going to tell you more about a specific excerpt in a later post (coming in November) but I just had to crow and tell you how much I appreciated this lady.  

And if you love historical and paranormal romance you MUST get a hold of Terri's books. There's a reason she earned the title of Mentor. She's fantastic!

Her latest book, MISTRESS OF THE STORM releases next week. Go and buy it. You can thank me later. 

Is this not a gorgeous cover? I want a cover like this! 

Read the excerpt here.

Show of hands. Have you ever had the privilege of working with a mentor in your chosen field? Was it a good experience?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

If It Ain't Broke...

Blogger is insisting I use their new formatting editor. Works fine--but not all the links I put in are working.

I'm hoping it's just affecting the preview. We'll find out for sure tomorrow.

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Crime Pays

...or at least telling the story does.

A few weeks ago on Smart Bitches, Sarah asked for comments detailing our honeymoon night as part of a giveaway for a Tempurpedic mattress.

Some of you already know about the back injury I've been living with for the past two years, so you can believe me when I say I couldn't type my comment fast enough. I would have given her every sordid detail for a chance to win that mattress!

Get your minds out of the gutter. We didn't have that kind of honeymoon. It was far more memorable than that.

I'll tell you the story in a minute. I just wanted to mention that I did not win the mattress, but I did get the runner up prize of a set of books from Tracy Anne Warren.

So, okay, the books probably won't help my back problem, but they do look deliciously sinful and are sure to keep me warm at night.

Thank you, Tracy and Sarah! I know I'm going to enjoy these.

And here's the comment that won:

Honeymoon Couple Robs Bank.
Film at eleven.

So help me, this is the gospel truth. We drove from Chicago to Canada for our honeymoon. That’s ten hours in a little, bitty MGB. We were starving by the time we arrived, so we unloaded our luggage and promptly set out to find dinner.

As usual, we got lost and ended up near their business district. The streets were deserted and even the new husband was ready to stop and ask for directions.

A police car rolled past us going in the opposite direction and both cops in the car just kept pointing and staring at us. By this time Greg is watching them from the rear view mirror and he tells me, “They’re turning around.”

Within seconds, the lights come on and they BLOCK our car. Both policemen get out of their vehicle and the older one unhitches the snap at his holster. (I’m getting a little worried now.)

The younger one starts asking us questions. Our names. Our address. Why we’re out here on a deserted street when all the businesses are closed. Meanwhile the other one is running our plates.

They separate us and ask the same questions all over again, then ask to search the car. We have nothing to hide, so we tell them to go ahead. Then they ask to check my purse, still asking the same questions but worded differently. My guess is they were trying to catch us in a lie.

We kept telling them: “We are on our honeymoon.”

Finally, after 45 minutes, the younger cop gives us back our ID and tells us we can go.

Evidently, two people, a man and a woman in a little green sports car with US plates had just robbed the local bank. We matched the description to a tee—down to the color of our clothes.

The only reason they let us go is because they found the robbers with the loot.

And that was the start of our married life.

We’ve never been back to Canada.

***
Considering Canadian police 'traumatized' me for life, I think I deserve the bed AND the books. LOL!

What do you think?

It was actually a wonderful honeymoon. The cops just gave it that REALITY TV flavor.

Who has honeymoon stories?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Potential Virus Alert

Everyone, there's something odd happening at Twitter and Facebook. There's a flaw in the system that allows third party web sites to open in your browser by mousing over keywords.

I'm not finding much information yet, but Sophos.com had a post on it just now and there's also one at Thinq.

I got off both Twitter and Facebook when I noticed a big orange graphic loading on my Twitter page. I'll keep an eye on the web for any updates.

You might want to run your virus protection just to be on the safe side.

If anyone hears anything new, let me know. Thanks.

UPDATE: Goddess Fish Productions posted a link from Forbes saying Twitter has patched the bug.

I'm still running a comprehensive scan on my machine just to be safe. I'll wait for it to finish before I get back online.

It's a good habit to regularly run scans on your computer even between the automatic scans for instances just like this.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fall Garden 2010

My spring and summer gardens were a bust so as a last ditch effort I decided to try one more time for fall. You know us gardeners. Hope springs eternal.

Since I didn't expect much, I was haphazard with my plantin
g. I saved a few of my tomato, eggplant and pepper plants and transplanted them to another part of the garden.

Note: Gardeners, I know that was dicey. Mature plants rarely survive a transplant, but at this point I had nothi
ng to lose. They already looked terrible.

I pruned them heavily, fertilized, and watered daily. Everything made it, but the tomato plants still refuse to give me fruit eve
n though they are flowering.

The eggplant and peppers were mo
re generous.

I threw a few corn seeds into the dirt as well as the starts from a sweet potato I had bought at the grocery store. Okra, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and cucumbers went in too. (The cucumbers have been especially sweet. I'm sorry I didn't plant more. I could have pickled a few.)

As an afterth
ought, I
buried a few seeds for decorative gourds.

OH MY GOODNESS!

Even though I planted them last, they are taking over my garden. It's so robust, I hate to pull it up, but I might have to. Next year, if I plant these, they are going out in the field, not the garden. I've never seen a plant so aggressive.

Has anyone ever grown
decorative gourds? I am seeing all sorts of weird gourds, including one that is as round and smooth as a melon. This is the first time I've tried decorative gourds so it's all new to me.

What is the most unusual plant you've ever grown? And who can tell me about sweet potatoes? How do I k
now they're ready?

True Believers Update: Thanks to everyone who offered to review TB or host me on the blog tour. I had more offers than I could handle.

I could have accepted all the offers, but I worried I might come off sounding canned or insincere, and I didn't want that to happen. I left some of my weekends free so if a burst of genius strikes me I can post it.

If I promised you a post as a guest blogger, expect it at least a week before it airs. I'm still waiting on my links to go live so I can add them to each article.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Why You Might Not Like My Book

Will I slap my mojo if I say that I worry about True Believers?

It's like a redheaded stepchild. Firstly, it's science fiction. If ever there was a stigma to romance, just add SF to it and see people bolt from the ranks like they were on fire.

Secondly, the romance isn't overt.

And thirdly, it's long. At 95k, it's not as long as most SF and fantasy novels, but it's still long. Worse yet, it's not as long as it should be. I could easily have added another 10k just to fully immerse the reader into the alien cultures.

But I worry too for personal reasons. This is my first book. Not the first book that was published. My first book ever. I put it away when I became interested in apocalyptic fiction and didn't think about it again until Carina Press put the word out that they'd like to see some SF.

Is True Believers good enough? Well, someone at Carina thought so. When I heard they were interested in acquiring SF, I reopened the file to this manuscript, my red-headed child. Did she have a right to breathe life? Was she good enough to interest and intrigue? There was only one way to find out.

True Believers was written as an introduction into the world of the Nephilim, a race of beings shrouded in mystery and scorn.

So add one more strike against TB. I used biblical 'bad guys' as not-so-bad guys.

Great. Now the Church will be mad at me too.


But I have hope the readers are out there. There are several good SFR review sites available. If they're reviewing science fiction romance, that means people somewhere are reading it.

There's Heather Massey's The Galaxy Express and Charlie's The Smart Girls Sci Fi Blog. Tia Nevitt is the one who introduced me to both of them and she's neck deep in what goes on in genre publishing. And there's also Bitten By Paranormal Romance that Jackie Burris recommended I add to my reader.

I've relied on all these blogs to let me know what's new and where to spend my money. Brick and mortar stores are few and far between where I live, so I don't have the luxury of physically browsing shelves anymore. I tend to rely on reviewers a lot more than I used to.

With so many worthwhile review sites, I'd like to think there's a growing cadre of SFR fans out there. I hope they find me. And I hope they think True Believers is worthy of the label: Science Fiction Romance.

A question to readers who review: Is it just me or do you think the rise of digital is strengthening the influence of genre reviewers? I did two reviews recently on Goodreads and I was surprised that me-who-is-nobody actually had running conversations with strangers who read and commented on the reviews.

I don't review often so it took me off guard--pleasantly so. Do people often respond to your reviews?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Do I Look Nervous To You?

RT Reviews has just posted the bios to all the finalists. Voting commences October 11.

There's so much to tell you about my experience so far. Next week, I'll introduce you to my mentor Terri Brisbin. (By the way, if you stop by Terri's blog and leave a comment, you'll be entered in her giveaway.)

Stop over at RT and browse through the author bios. (I'll be the one with the cute dog.) My entry is a Paranormal Historical called Mistress Of The Stone.

I absolutely LOVED writing this story. It's a swashbuckler tale set in the 17th century with pirates and pirate hunters on an island where the dead never rest and people aren't always what they seem.

I can't wait to tell you more.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Krista D. Ball

Krista Ball has decided to visit me here in Texas, and she brought Canada with her. Please give her a warm welcome and annoy her with comments and questions.

Show of hands. Who's been to Canada?
***

The Six Month Winter

It doesn’t take long before folks figure out that I’m Canadian. I try to inject as much Canadiana into my work as possible, even when it is fantasy and science fiction. Canadians have difficult cultural ticks, different unspoken rules, and different laws than the US. I want my work to reflect that differentness. Easier said than done.

When I first ran “Harvest Moon” by my American beta readers, many pointed out my “typo.” See if you can catch it:

Six moons would pass before the spring thaw, relieving her of seeing her masculine features.

Spot it yet? It was the “six moons” (six months) phrase. I had a lot of feedback saying that winters are never six months in the US Midwest. I asked why did they think it was even set in the US. The response? They didn’t realize it could be set anywhere else. I laughed it off and developed a scene where Dancing Cat actually mentions the geography of the area. The beta readers put the story in the Northwest Territories. A little too far north, but at least closer. A few more twinks and most people figured out that I was writing about Northern Alberta, Canada.

(Americans, don’t feel picked on. My content editor is British and was quite shocked by the length of winter!)

Injecting other cultures and changing up the setting in fiction really helps challenge both the reader and, I believe, the author. It would have been easy for me to have placed Harvest Moon in Idaho or Montana. However, it would have changed the small, subtle differences: what people ate, what people wore. It was those differences, those tiny layers of texture, that I felt changed the tone of the story.

As an author, I feel that it’s important to include different peoples, different cultures, and even different sexual orientations. It’s even more fun when you take those differences and toss them into the mix of a stereotype or cliché. It makes for a rather interesting salad.

About Krista:

Harvest Moon is Krista’s debut single-title work, is out now through Canada’s newest publisher, MuseItUp Publishing. Krista can be found lollygagging on the internet at www.kristadball.com and on Twitter (www.twitter.com/kristadb1). She complains about zombies on her blog and her step-children on Twitter. What’s even funnier is that the kids follow her blog and the zombies follow her Tweets.

Buy HARVEST MOON

UPDATE: Here is a free coupon for "The Amazing Transformation of Wicca Dog" over on Smashwords :) It's valid until October 10!

Coupon: XY28R

Thank you, Krista!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Contests & Reviews

You may recall I have a little book coming out October 18 and I've been wracking my brains trying to come up with a creative prize package to introduce as many new people to my work and to this blog.

I can't afford Zoe Winters' fabulous prize of a Kindle. And I don't want to give the usual books and swag that m
ost blog tours offer. But not too long ago Jayne Ferst had a lovely prize package consisting of vintage books and china pieces.

Hmm...I have a few vintage items I've picked up during my travels. Maybe a couple of Texas items too. Or writers, would you be interested in a whole novel critique? I'm still working out the particulars. Since I want it to be available to anyone on the planet, I don't want the objects to be too heavy. The postage would kill me.

What's the most creative prize you've ever seen offered for a contest? Would you like me to offer something unique as opposed to just books?

I plan to do a whirlwind tour. I'm trying for 30 days, but to be honest, I don't know that I can write that many articles.

And speaking of articles, you don't have to worry about this being shameless pimpage. Every guest post is going to be a real story or article, and a couple of astounding interviews--that were done behind my back. Expect my posts to be informative, entertaining, or plain funny with a buy li
nk at the end of the post.

There's a couple of reasons I'm doing a blog tour with no sales pitch. I don't like the hard sell. It won't do me any good to beg or fast-talk anyone into buying. You'll either like my novel or you won't. And secondly, I don't want anyone to gouge their eyes out in utter boredom.

My goal is to introduce NEW readers both to my books and my blog by virtue of visiting lots of new places and charming them with my sparkling wit and humor.

Hey! Quit that guffawing. That means you, Catie. I see you chortling behind Marianne.

Oh, great. Now Liz is getting into the act. And Dru! I'm surprised at you! You were always the good one.

Please go visit these characters so they can stop laughing at me. Thank you.

Now where was I? Oh yes. I'm going to T-R-Y to be charming and witty--despite my hecklers.

And you, oh loyal friends and allies can help me spread the word. When the blog tour starts, tweet my links, mention my stops on your blogs, and post a note on Facebook.

I'm going to do a Zoe and track every mention on a spreadsheet. And I'm going to reward your efforts in return. (That's where the prizes come in.)

I think we'll have two and maybe three prizes, depending on my money situation. The top people who comment, tweet, blog or post about me and my guest appearances will win themselves a prize of unique proportions.

What will it be? You tell me. What would you like to win (that's under a hundred bucks)?

Reviewers Wanted
I don't know how many reviewers Carina is going to get for True Believers (if any), so I am looking for serious SF romance readers who will be willing to read and review the book on Goodreads, Amazon and B&N no later than October 20.

I'm only going to offer the book to a handful of qualified reviewers. What makes you qualified? If you understand the tropes of science fiction and if I don't have to twist your arm to read a couple of spicy sex scenes, that makes you qualified. But I do need the review by October 20.

If you'd like to be considered, email me at MariaZannini AT gmail DOT com. Just remember that I need the reviews fairly soon.

The blog tour will start on October 17, but I'm already lining up guest bloggers to appear here. This Wednesday, I'm going to introduce to you author extraordinaire, Krista Ball from the way up North. Be sure to bring your parkas.

You are going to see a lot of me in October and November. Just pencil me in now because I have a lot of stories to tell. Some of them might even be true.

--Don't forget to tell me what kind of prizes you'd be interested in winning.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Touching Your Dream

Recently, on Absolute Write Water Cooler, we received news that one of our members passed away suddenly.

It upset me more than I realized. As I went about my day, I kept thinking more and more about this lady, a stranger to me.

Her name was Irene and she wrote middle grade fiction. Only recently, she received news from an agent wanting to represent her.

Reading her blog, I felt her joy and excitement at receiving the news. There were several agents interested in her manuscript, but when she spoke to the first agent who offered representation, she immediately felt a connection. That was who she wanted.

Irene touched her dream however briefly, and I hope that brought her some measure of contentment.

I often ponder on life and death. It's important to me to leave this world a little better than I found it. I might not be able to change big things, but maybe I can make some hurts less painful, some joys more powerful, and make friends to last a lifetime.

I think Irene accomplished that. All the interest from agents was just icing on the cake--a little personal woohoo for her bucket list. Judging by the support on AW, she accomplished a lot more than that.

She helped others with their manuscripts,
offered a shoulder to cry on when things didn't go as hoped, and urged others to rally and buy her friends' books. She sounded like a wonderful person. The kind of person I'd like to be. The kind of legacy I'd like to leave.

The word on the grapevine says that her husband will continue with Irene's project and I hope with all my heart that it'll get picked up. If it does get published, I intend to buy it as a tribute to a life well spent.

Rest in peace, Irene. You left behind more than a manuscript. You left an indelible impression on people you didn't even know.

What sort of legacy would you like to leave behind? If you knew tomorrow was your last day, what would you do today?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Followers Unite

Hey, guys! If you follow my blog--or want to, (bats eyes) leave me a comment so I can add myself to your followers' list.

When you add yourself, double check your profile link to make sure it's active. If it's grayed out, it's not a clickable link and I can't follow you back.

I wish I knew how to fix that. There are other people on the follower list who are also grayed out, but unless they leave a comment, I can't find them.

Thank you Meghan for letting me know. I finally found you!

I think by now, most of the (extremely) evil people who talked me into signing up at Facebook have already friended me there. If you are only nominally evil, or didn't know I was over there you can look for me at this link.

UPDATE: Ellie Garrett has a neat contest on her blog. Become a follower and leave a comment for a chance to win magazines and your name in Ellie's next story. Hop over here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Novel Critters

Did ya miss me? I decided to take an extra long Labor Day weekend. It helped me tidy up some loose ends around the house, work on my contest package for Kensington Brava, and critique a manuscript for one of my CPs. (Yes, Mike. That's real blood on my notes.)

It might sound weird, but I enjoy critiquing someone else's manuscript more than I like my work being critiqued. Reading a crit for my own work is helpful for that particular novel, but critiquing others helps me think in broader terms. It shakes me out of my comfort zone as I experience other voices, other styles.

But getting your finished draft critted is like standing naked in the middle of town. You'll get the occasional wolf whistle for a clever piece of n
arrative, but you'll also get heckled and have angry old women (and men) curse you with their canes.
Maria! What were you thinking? Destroy this scene at once and never let it darken my door again!
I have very stern critique partners.
I also love them. They keep me from making a total fool of myself.

I've probably critiqued well over 700 short stories, chapters and
whole novels so far. Two thirds of that total was done on OWW. OWW is short for Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror.

I don't remember how I found OWW, but for a 30 day free trial, I was glad to test the waters and see how I'd fare. That was six years ago. Talk about being a babe in the woods! I didn't know nuttin'.

The more I reviewed, the more I learned. I got to be pretty good at it too. People would review my work in the hopes I would crit them back.


Within a few months, I had a regular posse of 8-12 critters who would review my work as soon as it came up. I rarely left the submission up on the shop for more than a week. Once it had at least eight reviews I took it down and moved on. That was more than enough feedback for me to work with.

Three years ago, I started a private crit group that reads and reviews entire novels in one go. You don't catch as many individual nits, but you can analyze the story arc and character developments better.

But I really owe OWW a lot because they taught me the bones of a good crit and a good novel. They were so integral to the development of my upcoming release, True Believers, that I acknowledged OWW in the dedication.

Many reviewers read the original incarnation of that story and helped me shape it to what it would become. It was a long road for this story, but I'm glad to see it reach fruition.

Critique partners, no matter where you find them, are indispensable.

Do you have a critique partner(s)? How did you find yours?

UPDATE: Kait Nolan, Jennifer Shirk, Marianne Arkins, Barbara Wright commented and left their respective crit group urls. If you're looking for a partner, here are a few more places to check out.

Crit Partner Match
We're like Match.com but for writers.
Passionate Critters Romance Writing Critique Group
OWW Online Writing Workshop for SF, Fantasy & Horror
Concrete Bride Live crit group in the Houston, TX area
Writers' Village University Online writing group

And if you have a group, leave me a comment and I will update the blog with your group's url too.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ghostly Encounter

When I die, I'm coming back, just to prove a point.

Every once in a while, I see dead people--or at least people who shouldn't be waltzing through my green beans and okra.

The other day I was bucketing a ration of feed for the chickens. My feed and all my gardening supplies are kept in a nice little building thirty feet across from where my chicken yard is.

The double doors were wide open since it's been so unbearably hot as of late. Greg was in the garden adjusting the sprinklers when I looked up from the feed barrel and saw a woman in a long blue and white dress walk past the doorway.

Her hair was hidden underneath a bonnet of some sort. In her hands she held something, though to be honest I wasn't sure what it was. It looked like a little book to me.

I'm staring at her with my mouth hanging open and she just vanishes--right in front of me. I walked outside to see if she would reappear somewhere else, then I called to Greg.

Me: Did you see that?

Greg: See what?

Me: That woman in the long blue skirt. She walked right past the doorway.

Greg: Seeing things again, eh?

At which point the conversation ends with me mumbling some unkind things about his ancestry.

Greg doesn't pay much attention to me anymore when I point out apparitions. He knows there are some things in this world that I'll see and he can't.

I can't explain the phenomenon. I do know it tends to happen in spates. I might go a year or more without seeing anything unusual, then BAM! within a week, there will be a whole rash of appearances.

In the same week of the lady in the blue dress, there was a shadowy man who leaned over my shoulder while I was reading some operating instructions, and several voices that became silent as soon as I walked into the room.

I've long since stopped worrying about ghosts. They're there and as oblivious of me as I am of them (most of the time).

But why do I see these people when I do? I used to blame it on my overactive imagination, but it almost always happens when I'm doing something that requires analytical thought, like measuring or counting.

The lady in blue startled me because she was so very clear. I could easily see the stiffness of her dress, the faded blue skirt, and how tiny she was. I even heard the hem of her dress drag on the grass.

It was that sound that made me look up in the first place. (I thought it was a snake rustling through the grass and I was fixing to get my hoe and make it a good snake.)

As soon as I saw what she was wearing, I knew she wasn't physical, so I didn't say anything. Though I wonder now if she would have acknowledged me if I had.

Except for a couple of instances long ago, I've never been able to communicate with these apparitions. I promised Greg that if I died first I was coming back to tell him what was on the other side.

And he said he didn't want to know! :sigh:

I'd want to know. How about you? Any takers? Maybe I could just swing by your place instead.