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Monday, May 23, 2011

The Root Of All Evil

If you ever wondered where the root of all evil was in my front yard the whole time.

We had to cut down a tree to make room for two apricot trees. I didn't want a stump left so Greg pulled it out of the ground with the tractor. As you can see by the picture, it didn't give up without a fight, pulling the tractor off its back tires.

With a little persuasion, we managed to pull it out, roots and all. Who's your daddy now, stump?

We've pulled bigger stumps, but we used a bigger tractor for those. I always hate taking out trees, but sometimes they have to go.

Madeleine Maddocks won a copy of Apocalypse Rising from ParaJunkee's View.

Cate Masters won a copy of Apocalypse Rising from The Galaxy Express.
Note: We lost the comments at The Galaxy Express blog, but we found them even if they couldn't be physically restored. 

Thanks, everyone for visiting me!


One final note: I am taking a blog hiatus for a couple of weeks while I entertain company and hunker down for a writing marathon. I will likely be more visible on Facebook and Twitter while the blog is down, so follow me there if your curiosity gets the better of you. And of course, I'll be seeing you guys at your hot spots too.

So what's new in your part of the world? Who's read something they can recommend? I plan to do a lot of reading now that the tour is over. :-)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Put The Reader First

Today, the lovely Susan Blexrud has invited me as her guest on the group blog, Embrace The Shadows.

Embrace The Shadows regularly hosts authors and books. They also run a cover contest that's always a lot of fun. I'm a sucker for great covers.

I end the blog tour with my personal philosophy on promotion in a post titled: Put The Reader First. There's also a burning question I left for you at the end. I hope you'll pop in and visit.

Where I've been:
Thursday: ParaJunkee  (enter here for a chance to win Apocalypse Rising)
Friday: The Galaxy Express  (enter here for a chance to win Apocalypse Rising)
Tuesday: 'My First Book' with Misha where I'll talk about world building.
Wednesday: 'RT Reviews' Chicken Zombie Apocalypse
Thursday: The three layers of promotion at 'Tony Eldridge'.

I promised you this would be a short tour. Hope you enjoyed the posts!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

3 Layers of Promotion

I'm doing two marketing posts back to back this week. Today, I'll be at Tony Eldridge's blog talking about the three layers of promotion. I hope you'll find it useful.

Tony has a terrific blog dedicated to marketing tips for authors. He always has excellent guests at his place who share their marketing experience and expertise. If you're an author, you'll want to put his blog on your RSS feed.


This blog tour seems to have a black cloud following it. Blogger really rained on my parade. ParaJunkee lost its post (but recovered it and the comments) and The Galaxy Express lost its comments. I don't think they've  recovered them yet. I'll check with Heather as Friday rolls around.

But you still have a chance to enter at either blog until May 20th.

Friday will be the last day of the blog tour. 

Here's where I've been:

Thursday: ParaJunkee
Tuesday: 'My First Book' with Misha where I'll talk about world building.
Wednesday: 'RT Reviews' Chicken Zombie Apocalypse
Thursday: The three layers of promotion at 'Tony Eldridge'.

Question for the authors out there: Have you ever been on a blog tour riddled with potholes?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Chicken Apocalypse and My New Ride

On Facebook, I had mentioned that Greg offered to buy me a Mule (the 4-wheeled kind, not the 4-legged one) to help me lug stuff around the homestead. I asked for a 25-year-old hard body, but Greg declined. :sigh:

We kept window shopping, but nothing appealed to me in my price range. Then Greg suggested a golf cart with a dump bed in the back. A lightbulb went over my head!

I don't know the first thing about golf carts, but I know they're quiet (a big plus for me) and I don't have to worry about combustion engines or Greg stealing borrowing it to ride with his buddies. All I need is something to lug hay or 50 lb sacks of feed or soil from one end of the property to the other.

Over the weekend, he bought me this.

I wasn't sure I'd like it, but in fact I LOVE it! It's quite zippy and oh-so quiet. It has no trouble at all lugging my stuff. I even got Tank to go riding with me. I'll post a picture the next time Greg is in town and he can take a picture of me and my boy taking in the sights.


UPDATE: My post at RT Reviews is up. Come see how the Zombie Chicken Apocalypse started.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Subtle World Building

I'm globe trotting today and visiting with Misha in South Africa over at My First Book blog. Misha is a writer working on an epic fantasy and her blog is a chronicle of her experiences and discoveries.

It's a lively blog and she regularly hosts guest authors. Today is my turn and I credit Marianne Arkins for giving me my topic when she left a comment here back when I was looking for ideas. Today, I'm going to talk about world building and how not to leave footprints as you write.

I hope you'll join me over at Misha's.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Armageddon At Your Doorstep, Part 3

Blogger kinda put a kink in my book tour. Fortunately, I'm taking a break today so I can bring you the last installment of how we survived Hurricane Rita.

Here's a breakdown on where I'll be this week.

Tuesday: 'My First Book' with Misha where I'll talk about world building.
Wednesday: 'RT Reviews' where I'll tell you about the imminent Chicken Zombie Apocalypse
Thursday: I'll discuss the three layers of promotion at 'Tony Eldridge'.
Friday: At 'Embrace The Shadows' I'll share the reasons I chose the types of promotion I did.

You can still comment at ParaJunkee or The Galaxy Express for a chance to win a copy of Apocalypse Rising.  I'll choose a winner for each place this Friday, 5-20-11

On to the last installment.

The following article was to appear in a country magazine, but I pulled it when the publisher and I disagreed on appropriate compensation. This article is copyrighted. Please do not reprint without permission. Part Three of Three. Go here for Part One. Go here for Part Two.

Armageddon At Your Doorstep by Maria Zannini
Part 3 of 3

Once I arrived things improved marginally. Greg concentrated on limbing trees that buried our power line. I worked alongside him during daylight hours, dragging brush and building enormous mountains of burnable debris. At night, we switched to clean-up detail and slowly started to put the house in order.

The nastiest job was cleaning out the refrigerator and both freezers. I think I slept with the smell of bleach on my hands for at least a week. Nothing could be trusted to be sanitary and I scoured every inch of the kitchen by lantern light. 

Losing refrigeration tries even strong stomachs. I double and triple-wrapped the rotting food and immediately loaded the bags onto an open trailer. We hauled them to a special dumpsite, the mammoth dumpsters so burdened you could no longer recognize them as bins. It was a giant mountain of refuse where gulls and rats patrolled the area for easy pickings.

Over the years we’ve used our emergency supplies for minor crises, but until this experience we had never needed to rely on them this much or for so long. By the time it was over, our supplies were nearly depleted.

Fortunately, as our reserves dwindled, the city was coming back to life.

Grocery stores and gasoline stations opened for a few hours each day. Clerks armed with flashlights guided customers to darkened corners of their stores for what was left of their supplies. FEMA and the Red Cross had lines wrapped around parking lots.

There was no violence in our community. No anger. I think when it came right down to it, people were too tired to fuss, complain or waste energy. There was so much to do.

As for ourselves, as long as we had gasoline for the generator, it made life bearable. At night, we’d run the generator long enough to cool the house down and get some sleep. But there was nothing we could do about the mosquitoes. Despite drenching ourselves in bug repellent, they swarmed on us like a black fog. I felt sorry for the out-of-state linemen trying to restore power. To them it must have looked like a plague of biblical proportions.

We were without power for twenty-one days. And while the city immediately set to work on restoring electricity and a potable water supply, we continually had problems with our lines and pipes on our side of the property line.

Our area crawled back into the 21st century on its hands and knees. Even today, the tree line looks like a bad haircut. But we managed, and we survived. The experience brought out the best of our community. Neighbors helped neighbors, strangers became friends, and we never again took simple conveniences like running water and light for granted.

I made a list of things from our emergency reserve that we used on a regular basis. Now that I know better, I’ll also stock more medical supplies. Injuries occurred frequently and we went to bed every night sore and exhausted.

Aside from the usual things most of us stock, this list comprises those items we used most. Our home emergency kit includes:

• Flashlights. Battery and hand-cranked

• Hand-cranked radio. A lifesaver. Communication with the outside world is imperative especially if you’re isolated.

• Butane lighter or matches

• Rope/chains

• Duct tape. It repairs darn near everything.

• Bleach 

• Mosquito repellent

• Work gloves. We wore ours out. Always keep extra

• Extra socks

• Calendar. Things became a blur as one day melted into the next. The calendar kept us organized. 

• Pen and paper. It’s easy to forget things when you have so much to handle. Write everything down.

Food: This is an entry unto itself. In the past I always stocked food that had a long shelf life and easy to prepare. Now, I take our emotional well-being into account and throw in comfort food like sweets and complex meals that require cook time. When you’re beaten and stressed, even something as simple as a pudding cup tastes special.

Water: Because of the tremendous heat and the work, we drank gallons every day. Store more than you think you’ll need. If your water is out, you’ll need to wash with bottled water too. Fill extra bottles from the tap before a major storm.

Med Kit: Aside from prescription drugs, we used a lot of aspirin and painkillers. Other useful things:

• antiseptic
• alcohol
• petroleum jelly
• bandages
• tape and scissors
• waterless soap (Since we didn’t have water, this came in handy.)

The most important item of all is perseverance and you won’t find that in any emergency kit. You have to supply that on your own. We came home to an overwhelming disaster knowing we were going to be without for a very long time. We paced ourselves, working as long as we could and making a little headway each day.

We were lucky. We saved our home with a lot of sweat and muscle. But a lot of that also came from preparation and patience. Now that you’ve finished reading this story, I hope you’ll check your own supplies and make a list. No one can predict a major disaster, but you can prepare for it--and outlast it.

It was a brutal existence for a few weeks, but I was proud of us for making it. I just hope I never have to relive that in this lifetime. :grin:

What's the worst emergency you've ever had to endure?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

LIVE at The Galaxy Express!

It might be Saturday but there's no rest for the wicked. And you know who you are.

Blogger having been so uncooperative the last couple of days kind of threw a monkey wrench in scheduled posts, but I'm finally up at The Galaxy Express.

About The Galaxy Express
Heather Massey is the mastermind of this blog and mistress of all things SFF. The Galaxy Express is a blog entirely dedicated to science fiction and SF/Fantasy romance mash-ups.

You'll find an extensive library of author links (grouped by decade, no less) and the blog stays up to date on all the latest goings on in the world of SFF romance. If you're a fan of SFF, you'll want to put The Galaxy Express on your reader.

This time I team up with Diane Dooley (author of Blue Galaxy) over at TGE to entertain you with itty, bitty excerpts of true evil.

Apocalypse Rising actually has two villains. One mortal. One not. Today, I introduce you to the immortal villain--a sadist without equal. Those are the kind that scare me the most. What about you?

Thanks to Heather for hosting us, and Diane for asking me to join her. You'll see us together again later in the month, but for now I'd like to tempt you over to the dark side.

Leave a comment (at The Galaxy Express) for a chance to win a copy of Apocalypse Rising and tell me what scares you most.

You also have a second chance to win a copy of my latest book over at ParaJunkee. Just leave a comment there for a chance to win. A big thank you to Rachel for giving me the extra linky love when my guest post went through the Blogger Black Hole.

Monday: The final installment on the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.

UPDATE: Linda says that she had trouble commenting at The Galaxy Express. If you tried to comment there and couldn't, let me know in the comments here. I'll pass on the information.  Thanks.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hijinks at ParaJunkee, Part 2 of Armageddon

Thanks to Blogger, yesterday's post disappeared along with any comments. My sincere apologies.
Here's a quick recap on where I've been lately.
Yesterday, I was at ParaJunkee's View. (There's still a book giveaway going on there so be sure to comment.)

The day before I was at Housewife Blues and Chihuahua Stories with Professor Iko. (Lots of doggie pictures there.)

And the day before that I was at the Carina blog with an overview of Hurricane Rita--along with pictures evidence.
If Blogger will agree to cooperate with Galaxy Express, I'll be appearing there next with Diane Dooley (of Blue Galaxy fame). I'll post an update as soon as I see it go live.

But let's backtrack and let me tell you a little about ParaJunkee.
ParaJunkee, aka Rachel Rivera is a wonderful book blogger (and I'm not just saying that cuz she liked True Believers). Rachel really does give a balanced opinion on the books she reviews. I often compare my notes with her reviews on the books we've both read and I usually come to the same conclusions she did.

Rachel is also a graphic artist!! Check out her work here. One of my favorite features on ParaJunkee is when Rachel answers technical issues like formatting, blogging, and other imponderables on her blog. I am in awe of her prowess when it comes to html coding. (We won't recount my shortcomings in that realm.) But if you have questions, she has answers.

So stop by and visit me at her place. As a bonus, I am giving away one copy of Apocalypse Rising to a random commenter at Parajunkee.

On to part two on the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.

The following article was to appear in a country magazine, but I pulled it when the publisher and I disagreed on appropriate compensation. This article is copyrighted. Please do not reprint without permission. Part Two of Three. Go here for Part One.

"Armageddon At Your Doorstep" by Maria Zannini
Part 2 of 3

I packed Greg with everything I could think of—from battery-powered lanterns to a hand-cranked radio. But our biggest problem was gasoline, or more to the point, gasoline containers. We called stores for 50 miles in every direction from the Dallas area. There was not a single gas can to be had at any price.

A friend came to the rescue when her church heard of our plight. It so happened they had plenty of containers already filled with gas. They refused to take our money and offered their gifts to us gladly. Nothing quite humbles you like the gift of kindness, especially in an hour of need.

Greg made the 300-mile trip, every inch of that truck filled to the brim with food, supplies, a tent, and a new chain saw. He also carried a gun. The rampant looting of New Orleans was still fresh in our memories.

To my knowledge, there were no reports of looting anywhere in the Texas disaster zones. Maybe because we had been hit so hard, it hardly seemed worth looting. When Rita plowed through Port Arthur and Beaumont, she kept going for sixty more miles, savaging the area like a stump grinder.

Greg called me as soon as he reached home, and his first words were, “My God, it looks like Tunguska.” Trees and power poles snapped like toothpicks, running north to south. Debris was everywhere. The town was raped of people, animals and sound.

He threaded his way down our street and slowed as he turned into our driveway. He didn’t get far. Trees were down everywhere. Our house was buried under a crown of limbs.

But things weren’t that bad. Several humongous trees had crashed on top of the house and barn but both structures remained standing. There were gaping holes in the roofs of all our buildings, and the foundation had shifted on the house, but they were all salvageable.

Water and electricity were out. The power line running to our house lay buried under a mountain of rubble. Dozens of towering oaks were ripped out of the ground, their roots exposed. One of them dragged up our root-tangled water pipe with it. We wished we had thought of blocking off the water, gas and electricity before evacuating. No one expected this violent a storm.

Greg hauled out our ancient generator. He had little hope it would start. It hadn’t seen the light of day in over ten years. Amazingly, on the third pull, it cranked. More than anything else, that one tool made life bearable.

When it got too dark to see he laid out his supplies in the only room of the house that was still in one piece. A battery-powered lantern was his only light, and he ate cold ravioli from a can. Our grill had gone with the wind, and by this time he was too tired to make a campfire.

Life was a perverse dichotomy. The bathroom facility was the third tree from the left, while brushing his teeth with bottled water made him feel like the idle rich.

When I arrived two days later, he was tired, filthy and a little skinnier. He was also very glad to see me. 

One thing you rarely hear about is the psychological impact of isolation. Our cell phone calls were frequently dropped, and in the early days after impact, it was almost impossible to get reliable information.

That improved within days. While the media outside the affected areas often told varnished tales, that wasn’t true about the media inside the strike zone. Every radio station in the area banded together and found one working facility where they could provide support and information for the community.

Anyone who could handle a microphone took turns sitting in that seat, broadcasting every tidbit of information without interruption. They directed people to FEMA and Red Cross locations. They made announcements on behalf of churches, rescue groups and neighbors now funneling into the area to offer assistance. Unlike the media outside the strike zone, our local media put aside any attempt at sensationalism and pulled together to keep the lines of communication open.

Just being able to hear another human voice was a godsend. Even if we didn't see anyone, we knew we were no longer alone.
Monday, I will post part three of three, as well as a list of supplies I've found to be invaluable during a natural disaster.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Professor Iko Speaks and 'Armageddon At Your Doorstep'

Today begins a 3-part post on what happened when Hurricane Rita ripped us out of out of the 21st century and into the Middle Ages. But before we get to that, I want to direct you to a blog stop I'm making today with Jackie Burris at Housewife Blues and Chihuahua Stories.

This time my dog, Iko--er, make that Professor Iko is being interviewed on my behalf. That little monster has insisted on being called Professor ever since he graduated from doggie school. A little pretentious, don't you think, considering he was at one time a one-dog homewrecker and canis non grata. You can read more about Iko's nefarious life here.

About Jackie Burris: Jackie is a book blogger and a voracious reader who knows her books! I found her accidentally on Goodreads when I saw a picture of her precious little Chihuahua. Curiosity drew me in and that led me to start reading her reviews and recommendations.

I've always liked how she can tell you a lot about a book without giving away any spoilers. That's a real talent, especially if you're a book reviewer. I hope you'll put her blog on your reader or RSS feed. She's well worth following for all the latest reads. 

Pop over and visit. Iko loves the limelight!

The following article was to appear in a country magazine, but I pulled it when the publisher and I disagreed on fees. Copyrighted. Please do not reprint without permission. Part one of three.

"Armageddon At Your Doorstep" by Maria Zannini

We escaped Hurricane Rita in shifts. I left first, carrying three dogs and what few possessions I could stuff into the cramped space remaining in the Dodge Durango. Greg stayed behind by choice and duty since he was part of the hurricane emergency response team for his chemical plant.

At first, the whole thing seemed like a game, everyone going through the motions of stocking up on canned goods and batteries. Living on the Gulf Coast you get used to hurricane threats. Rita was going to be close but we didn’t know how close until it was almost upon us.

Early computer models estimated the storm would hit south of us, closer to Galveston and Houston. Greg would be safe. His chemical plant had a concrete bunker that could withstand most high impact storms as long as it wasn’t a direct hit.

Rita was a direct hit.  

Three days before the storm hit, there was an eerie quiet in the air. Birds were absent, most flying north. Insects were silent and hidden. Pets that were normally calm and obedient were now frightened or anxious. The storm was coming. They knew it better than we did.

I was already in Dallas, listening or watching the news every waking moment. On Thursday, I got the call. Greg’s plant had been given the order to bug out. Rita was coming right for them and it was coming in as a Category 5 hurricane.

People had evacuated by the thousands for days leading up to the hurricane. The exodus was so massive that many had been trapped inside their cars for up to twenty-four hours. Greg left on Thursday, September 22, just before midnight, a five-hour trip turning into sixteen hours in the car.

On Saturday, Rita made landfall, devastating Beaumont and Port Arthur.

A friend of ours who made the error of staying behind, called us with a shaky voice saying it was the most terrifying forty minutes of his life—this from a man who’d been in combat.   

The next morning, he tried to check on our house, but there was so much debris he couldn’t get any closer than the street. Three humongous trees swallowed our home under a canopy of limbs. We braced ourselves for the worst and prepared to make our way back.

Again, we traveled in shifts. Greg went first to assess the damage and let me know what else to bring. We’d been warned that if we returned we’d have to haul everything we needed to survive without utilities. There was no water, gas, or electricity, and absolutely no help for a sixty-mile radius. We were on our own. 

I didn’t realize then what true devastation looked like. I would soon find out.

Part 2 continues on Thursday, 5-12-11

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Apocalypse Rising

It seems I've invented time travel. Unfortunately, it's not quite perfected yet. My brain went back in time while the rest of me kept going forward. :rolls eyes: I thought I had another week before Apocalypse Rising released. I thought wrong.

We'd been working on the goat pen for days. This requires cutting trees and brush, breaking equipment and bruising flesh. Then there's drilling holes, setting 8-foot posts, and finishing it off with concrete at each base. We're not even close to stretching fence yet.

I went to my physical therapist Monday and he said my damaged muscles were deeply knotted. He probably figured that out when he pressed down on an especially tender spot and I jumped off the table. Yeah, it hurts right there. :grin:

After a session, I'm always very tired, but yesterday knocked me flat. I had to lay down and rest for a bit--missing most of the confetti many of you threw in my honor.

A big THANK YOU to: 

Jackie Burris (I'll be appearing on her blog Wednesday with Professor Iko) She not only posted on her blog but also Facebook.
Linda Leszczuk who it turns out shares her birthday with my book birthday. Linda was nice enough to paper Facebook with my cover.
Charlie Alden gave me a plug on her blog.
Dru Ann Love showed me the love on Facebook.
Cathy Pegau also honored me with space on her blog.
I almost missed Sherri Meyer's post, but caught it on my Smartphone. Finally, it's smart about something!
Cate Masters tweeted me and also had me as her guest just recently to celebrate my book so I want to acknowledge her too.
This morning, Marianne Arkins gave me a mention too.

What makes this so amazing is that I didn't ask for any of this. You guys just turned up on your own. I can't begin to tell you how special that made me feel.

And then there were all the people who stopped by the blog or my Facebook page to congratulate me. You bowled me over with your support.

Yesterday was my heaviest traffic since I started blogging. Deb Nemeth is obviously a very popular draw. I'm glad you stopped by to see what she had to say. If you missed it, just scroll to the post before this one or click here.

In the meantime, I hope you'll buy Apocalypse Rising, and if you already bought it, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

UPDATE: My post at the Carina Press blog is up. I have an interesting story to tell. Do stop by and visit. I'll be in and out all day, but I'll be sure to greet each of you.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Deborah Nemeth Is In The House

I have a serious girl-crush on Deborah Nemeth. Deb is my editor at Carina Press and she's generously agreed to answer a few questions. She's an editor in high demand so I really appreciate her taking the time to visit.

Deb recently edited Apocalypse Rising (out TODAY) and I've learned so much from her over the course of editing this book. She's an intuitive editor, grasping what the story needs as it develops. How she can read the same story over and over again and come up with new suggestions leaves me in awe. Editing is hard work! Yet she makes it look effortless. I hit the jackpot when I got her.

Please welcome my extra-special guest. Feel free to ask questions. I'm sure she'll pop in sometime today to answer them.


Q:  What subgenres do you actively seek?

A:  Thanks for starting out with an easy question, and one I can talk about at length. Short answer: I like variety, so pretty much any genre fiction except horror and inspirational. As most editors tell authors, voice is the most important attribute, followed by compelling characters and a gripping story. Carina doesn’t just publish romance, and I’m always looking for mysteries of all sorts, from gritty police procedurals to English village cozies.

One of my favorite genres is steampunk, a clever blend of SF/fantasy and historical fiction. Another is historicals—Regency (of course!), but any period from ancient civilizations to WW2, as well as unusual and exotic settings from Spain to Persia to Siam.

I also enjoy action-packed thrillers and suspense; lighthearted capers, chick lit and rom com; and dark, angsty contemporaries, women’s fiction and paranormals. For SFF, I’m seeking solid, unique world-building, and I especially enjoy epic fantasy, Arthurian, space opera, space westerns, futuristic. I’m open to genre blends and less popular niches such as family sagas. I acquire all heat levels from sweet to erotic and am always seeking more m/m authors and multicultural stories.

Q:  What advice would you give new authors when pitching their novels to Carina?

A:  It’s always a good idea to read a publisher’s guidelines and follow the instructions. Beyond that, here are a few tips:

• Write the best story you can and take the time to polish it thoroughly.

• It’s not necessary but it’s always nice when an author takes the time to research the editors and addresses a personalized query, which can be sent to the general email address. Dear Deborah Nemeth, I read on Maria Zannini’s blog that you enjoy steampunk/unusual historical settings/capers/cozy mysteries…

• Our submissions review process is more thorough than at many epublishers, so please allow us sufficient time. At least two Carina Press editors/staff members must recommend a manuscript for acquisition, so it often takes longer.

• If you get a revise and resubmit letter, treat it as an opportunity, not as a rejection.

• If you’re new to epublishing, educate yourself about social media and building a web presence so you’re prepared for when you receive an offer of publication.

Q: Can you give us a checklist that tells an author when a manuscript is ready to make the rounds?

A: Here’s a checklist that less experienced authors might find useful:

1. Have you begun the story in the right place, to hook the reader with an intriguing situation, goal and motivation?

2. Is the setup/backstory cleverly interwoven and presented in steady drips, only giving the reader what we need to know to follow the action, instead of fed to the readers in big chunks of exposition?

3. Are your characters fleshed out? Do the protagonists have some flaws? Do the villains have any positive attributes? Have you given your protagonists a goal they feel passionate about, one that grabs the readers’ attention and makes them want to keep reading to find out the outcome?

4. If your story is a romance, do the hero and heroine have clashing goals? Have you provided both internal and external conflict?

5. Does tension steadily mount until the grand climax? Do you make it more and more difficult for the protagonists to achieve their goals? 

6. Does every scene contain conflict? Does every scene begin and end on a hook?

7. Do you make your protagonists suffer? Do they learn, grow, change throughout the course of the story?

8. Do you bring the readers to a point in the story where they can’t see how the hero/heroine can possibly overcome their obstacle to achieve their goal?

9. Have you done multiple self-editing rounds, ruthlessly weeding out banal dialogue, stock gestures, clich├ęd language and situations? Is your prose as tight as you can make it, with repetition and unnecessary explanations pruned away, with no instances of telling what you show? No unnecessary dialogue tags or filler words that can come out?

10. Is your point of view as deep as you can make it? Have you eliminated unneeded filter words to bring us deeper into the viewpoint characters’ minds?

11. Has your manuscript been checked by crit partners who can give you competent and candid assessments of any weaknesses?

12. Have you read the dialogue out loud? Have you read the entire manuscript out loud, paying attention to meter and syntax, the rhythm of the prose?

These are terrific suggestions! Thank you, Deb for being my guest. You're the best!

Now dear readers, do you have any questions or comments?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Links and Line-ups

Next week is the big day for Apocalypse Rising, the day whether it sinks, swims, or goes in the pot for Sunday dinner. I'm as nervous as a cat in a room full of rottweilers. (Not my rotties. They like cats.) But even sweet rotties look intimidating before you get to know them.

Monday, I have an EXTRA-SPECIAL guest on my blog. I was over the moon when my editor, Deborah Nemeth agreed to be interviewed.  I absolutely adore Deb. When you read this interview, you'll know why I think so highly of her. There are going to be tons of tips for subbing success. 

You won't want to miss Monday. (Oh, yeah, I have a book coming out that day too. :grin:)

In Linky News, my friend KS Augustin has become so prolific she's split into two. (I can barely manage one personality.) She's got two books coming out soon, War Games and Check Your Luck Agency (no links yet) and an anthology called Seeing Stars that comes out May 9.

Whatever she's drinking, I'll have two. Kaz's newest personality is as Cara d'Bastian. Isn't that a great name? This is the author name you'll see for the 'Check Your Luck' series. She's even started a new blog for her alter ego. I hope you'll check it out.

Not writing related, but still a subject close to my heart is food.

Here's a tuna-noodle casserole from my friend, Sherri Meyer.

A Marinated Cucumber and Onion Salad from The "Cent"sible Sawyer.

And a Salt and Vinegar Roasted Potatoes from For The Love Of Food.

Check out the links and add your own if you have any to share. What goodies have you found on the ether this week?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

An Interview With Moi

Cate Masters has me over at her blog today on Author Chat. My boys, Tank and Iko came with me. Stop by and visit us.

And holy moley, release day is next week! I am somehow a week behind schedule. Hang on. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Million Sucky Things

Well, not really a million. But when I get a sinus headache it feels like it. Usually, I’m all sunshine and flowers, but today you’re going to see the dark side of Maria.

Let me offer you a random sampling of what’s been bugging me--performed in my best Chicago accent.

• If I hear one more person tell me he’s got a secret, but in the next breath says he can’t tell me what it is, I’m going to slug him. I mean, really. Is that nice? Shaddap or spill, already.

• I can’t be funny when I have a headache. This inevitably coincides with three promised guest posts where I absolutely, positively HAVE to be funny. If in the next few weeks you notice a lack of funny--remember this post and leave a 'pity' comment.

• Does every author have to have such a kick-ass cover just when my book is coming out? I’m dyin’ here.

• And what is with all the negative waves, Moriarty? Nobody wants to hear you whining about the unfair popularity of the romance genre, self publishing, e-books, sparkly vampires, and the fact that a push-up bra only works if you have something to push up. (Okay, maybe the sparkly vampires are getting old.)

• My husband has a clone. I’m sure of it. Lately, I’ve been reminding him of the promises he’s made on a honey-do list. Either he has amnesia or I’ve been talking to someone who looks just like him.

• I think I’m becoming a zombie. Parts of me keep falling off. Other parts freeze into unnatural positions. I’ve been going to physical therapy for two weeks now.

On each visit, this sadist my therapist tortures me by trying to break the adhesions between my muscles. On the first visit, he pushed so hard I nearly passed out. I am so not making that up. Ow!

Okay, I feel better for sharing. It’s your turn. What sucks the wind out of your sails?  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Attached At The Hip?

Before I get into today's post, I wanted to mention something that happened to me last night when I fell asleep with the tv on. An hour after I fell asleep, my subconscious woke me up instantly when it heard a reporter announce that Bin Laden was dead.

I don't discuss politics on this blog, so I moved my 'contribution' to Facebook. I've waited a long time to repeat this joke. Stop by when you get a chance.


On to today's post.

People sometimes ask me if it's hard to sell my chicks or the other animals I've raised. Or worse, put them in the pot. They want to know if I get attached to them.

Sometimes. But I try very hard to remain detached while they're with me. (Obviously, that never works with dogs--which is probably why I've had so many in my life.)

But writers have similar issues. I'll bet every writer who reads this can say he's been attached to his characters or stories at some point during the process, or they know someone (even themselves) who thinks of his novels as children.

When there has been sweat, tears and sleepless nights over a story, it's hard not to become attached. For the sake of your sanity (not to mention ease of editing) you must fight the urge to get all parental with your work.

There's nothing more suicidal than loving a story so much that you can't be objective about what to cut and what to enhance. I love my stories, but I'm not 'In Love' with them. Does that make sense?

And let's hear it for getting older. I have a terrible memory, but it has one terrific benefit. It helps me retain my distance by forgetting pieces of my stories.

My books are not my children. I don't have secret relationships with my characters, and I don't cry when I torture them. On the contrary, I actually get giddy when I find a new way to make life difficult for them.

(Admit it, you get that way too.)

The published book is history. It's past tense. It's a story that's already been told. I gave it the best I had at that particular moment in time. The rest is for the reader to decide.

But how about the books I'm working on presently? Am I intimate with those characters? Are they my children?

I hope not. I try not to create a dependency because my ultimate goal is to be completely objective when I edit. Yes, my critique partners help a lot in that regard, but ultimately, it's my responsibility. It's not my CPs' job to catch every problem area. It's mine. 

When the time comes to let the book go to a publisher or editor, I have to feel I've done all I can to make it the best book possible. It's up to my characters to sink, swim, or go in the pot.

How attached are you to your story once it's done?