Check out this very insightful interview over at Amy Bank’s blog today.
It was fun to be the author interviewed rather than doing the interview (and hoping someday someone would want to interview me). Thanks for having me, Amy!
I’ve gotten good at living in the moment and appreciating every day as if it might be my last, each milestone a cause for pause and celebration no matter how small. I turned another year older in January which marks the third birthday that almost wasn’t. What a year it’s been on so many fronts.
Being published brings a new level of insanity I had no idea awaited me. Promoting a book is more demanding work than creating the story in the first place. The editing process was a whirlwind and consumed most of the holidays. Now we are neck deep in blog tours and article writing and cross promoting and networking and planning the unofficial release party at LTUE next week. I did more writing in January than any January on record but the majority of production was NOT on my current novel. How to keep up with everything and still continue to produce the next book has become the latest thing I need to learn. Regardless, I wouldn’t trade the experience and the thrill for anything. I have an author page on Amazon. Seriously. Amazon. I still wake up sometimes and forget it is real. I’m published.
This year also brought me a new association of authors and thrust me into the non-profit world. It is an amazing group and my closest friends from my writing group are part of it. Bonus! The group happened to put together a lunch on my birthday. But, I have a demanding day job so I couldn’t make a Wednesday lunch work. I was sad, but that’s life and the day job pays for it so what can you do? Unexpectedly, my calendar opened up and I had the afternoon free so I took it off to celebrate my birthday. It was the perfect lunch full of tiaras, signing each others books, group photos, selfies and raucous conversation certain to make fellow diners uncomfortable. “How many does he have?” “Did she leave him?” “I had to kill her off last night.” I’m certain the fifteen of us all talking over one another was like a tornado in an otherwise subdued setting. We hadn’t all been together since before the holidays and it was a loud reunion. It was the perfect start to my birthday. I sat there in the midst of award winning authors, successful editors, non-profit founders, a lawyer and just plain powerful writers all brought together because of our love of writing. I marvel that they had become my people. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
I came home to my new business cards in the mail. I’m official! Everything is moving at the speed of light careening me deeper into this life of my dreams. It still feels surreal. If this birthday had been stolen from me back in 2011, none of this would have happened.
For my birthday I got a sparkly “Birthday Girl” tiara from one of my friends. It started with a mention and snowballed into a new thing we do. Writing fueled by a tiara on your head. All the most bad-ass chick writers I know are doing it. Enough of us we’ve formed a collective. I may or may not have more than one. I’ll never tell! Maybe this is the key to figuring out how to promote and create at the same time. (How did I ever write in solitude before?)
The best and most freeing part of this birthday that almost never was is owning the new number proudly. I am forty-three. Something about being faced with the real possibility of never seeing the number get bigger than thirty-nine makes it much more of a celebration to see forty-three. It is liberating not giving a shit what the number is. So many people cringe at the thought of disclosing their true age. I say own it – the alternative to that number getting bigger as we get older is far, far worse. I know FORTY THREE never felt better. I’m loving every minute of this stolen year I am grateful to be celebrating. Here’s to many more to come!
Let’s talk short fiction for a minute. I learned so much about writing any length piece by writing short stories. For the Secrets & Doors blog tour, each author is discussing an aspect of writing. Writing is far more difficult when each sentence must do more than one thing since you can’t devote an entire sentence to each aspect of the writing. The old adage of “choose your words wisely” applies especially to short fiction. Set a tone, build characters, set the stage, provide necessary information for the reader to move the plot forward – all of these can be done with an economy of words.
Reflection is a sci-fi dystopian story where the people of Earth have been living on another planet after fleeing a threat that is still searching for them. In order to protect themselves, they hid the truth in rules that over generations have become folklore and superstition. It was originally written as a novelette at eight thousand words. Far too long for the submission guidelines for this project. Cutting more than half the words while conveying an alien world and telling the story was challenging. When setting this particular scene, I found it most effective not to point out every detail but, instead, to note those things that were different from our world. The sky that isn’t blue, the absence of tall mountains, and that it rarely rains become significant. Contrasting these differences with what the reader knows already from his own experience highlights them, creating the backdrop of the story.
Choosing your words wisely is true in individual scenes as well. I am a novel writer which means I can use lots of words. But I don’t have to. Instead of saying he turned and picked up a box, he just picked it up. My writing group called me Verbose Girl because in the early days I had a tendency to write a lot to make sure I fully explained every detail. It didn’t always translate to the reader as I wanted it to. The truth is, even novel writing is better when you use an economy of words like a smaller piece. The last thing you want is your reader to get bogged down. The tighter the language, the more engrossing the story becomes.
As part of the official launch, I have the privilege of interviewing the talented Callie Stoker, Editor of Secrets & Doors available from Crimson Edge Publishing. Callie is a freelance editor and owner of The Manuscript Doctor.
Open the door and unlock the secrets in eleven short stories from The Secret Door Society, an organization of fantasy and science fiction authors dedicated to charitable work. All proceeds from this anthology benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in their quest to cure Type One Diabetes (T1D).
In these pages you’ll discover a modern woman trapped in an old fashioned dreamscape, a futuristic temp worker who fights against her programming, a beautiful vampire’s secret mission disrupted by betrayal, a sorcerer’s epic battle against a water dragon, the source of magical mirrors—and more. There are tales for every science fiction and fantasy taste, including new works from award-winning authors Johnny Worthen, Lehua Parker, Christine Haggerty, and Adrienne Monson.
Join us in the fight against T1D as you peek into a world of magical and mysterious doorways—if you dare.
In my own history as a reader, I never knew the value of an anthology and rarely picked them up. A collection of short stories gives you a taste of the writing style of many authors and could be the way you find your next favorite, or decide which novels you’re willing to take a chance on. Being one of the authors in this anthology, I know exactly what went into creating my individual piece. The editing process is more of a mystery. I wanted some insights – secrets even – so I sat down with Callie to get all the insider information I could.
Secrets & Doors is an anthology with eleven authors, but your name is the only one on the cover. How does that work?
The decision is ultimately up to the publisher. Some anthologies will include the author’s names on the cover, although that can often result in a busy and confusing image. For this anthology it was decided that a streamlined cover with a beautiful image would sell best, and I think we are all very pleased with the result. The editor is often the driving force behind the creation of an anthology, sending out a call for submissions and choosing from those submissions, and thus usually receives a publishing credit on the cover. The creation process for this anthology was a cohesive and synergistic one. Although my name ended up on the cover, that shouldn’t overshadow the incredible work by the Secret Door Society in writing, polishing, and perfecting their stories. I think we accomplished a lot with this collection and I’m very proud of it.
Tell us about your journey. How did you become an editor?
I started out as a writer! A wonderful group of me and three women expressed an equal desire to write, so we formed a writing group called Once Upon a Keyboard. This was ten years ago and since then, two of the women have been published, I became an editor, and we gained a new member, a copy editor, over a year ago.
My shift from writer to editor is expressed perfectly in my favorite quote by E.B. White, “An editor is a person that knows more about writing than writers do, but has escaped the terrible desire to write.” This fact was a frustration to me early on when my writing buddies would talk about their stories with such passion and I struggled to eke out a plot from a single idea. My passion emerged as I read and critiqued my fellow writers’ work. I was able to see the weakness while praising the strengths. I could clearly define what wasn’t working and put them on the path of how to make it successful.
I’ve spent the last several years intensely educating myself in the craft of writing. I believe that a good editor teaches and instructs while critiquing so that the author is left uplifted and inspired to apply a better understanding of craft to their future work.
I launched my personal business in 2014 and its success has shown me the current need writers have of an editor that can not only correct punctuation and grammar, but supply individualized instruction based on writing craft.
What goes into editing an anthology?
Anthologies are a collection of short works (stories, essays or poems) tied together by a common theme. It is the editor, often called the curating editor, who sends out a call for stories fitting the theme and reads and selects from the submittals. The curating editor also chooses the order of the stories so that each transition creates the best experience for the reader. Finally, the curating editor takes the lead in the editing process, completing or overseeing the stages of revisal.
What do you like the most about the editing process?
I am unendingly impressed by the creativity of writers. It is often said that there are no more “new ideas,” yet there are also infinite new perspectives on old ideas. I often feel privileged to read a writer’s fledgling ideas and witness as they develop. I love helping the author see how their ideas can be coaxed and nurtured into a successful story by helping them understand what kind of a story they are writing and how to make each scene and each character leap off the page.
Anything you wish you didn’t have to do as an editor?
At times I’ll need to change the tense or point of view of an entire manuscript which can be a little tedious. At the same time, making these changes is extremely satisfying when the end result is a clean draft. Proofreading may be the most tedious of tasks, but there are creative ways to go about it like changing up the font and size of the document to trick your eyes into seeing it for the first time, or reading the manuscript backwards so that you forget the story or the grammar and see only the typos or misspelled words. Sometimes I enjoy mixing up my content editing work with these tasks.
What other projects are you currently working on?
I have an ongoing client list that keeps me always reading and editing. These clients include published authors, unpublished writers, screenwriters, bloggers, and non-fiction writers. I am currently working with a publisher on the second book of a series and look forward to working in the future as a freelance editor for publishers.
Any free advice to any aspiring writers out there?
First: Read. Read. Read. Read your genre. Read outside your genre. Read the greats. Read the current stuff. A big part of storytelling is about story tropes. Tropes aren’t a bad thing, they are a recognized story form and there is a reason they exist: because they are story types that are repeated again and again. When you know the tropes, you are better equipped to treat them correctly in your own writing and to know what has come before and how to build on it. I can promise you that your level of reading will affect the depth of your writing and increase your creativity.
Second: Know what kind of story you are writing. This may seem simple and obvious, but I’m not just talking about genre and demographics (although knowing these is also important). Are you telling an adventure story? A mystery? Is this a character development story or a save the world story? The best tool for discovering this is Orson Scott Card’s M.I.C.E. Quotient. If you don’t know it, learn it. Every story is either a Milieu (Setting), Idea, Character, or Event story, or a mixture of these. When you know the story you are writing you’ll know where to begin and end your story, what conflicts to focus on, and how to create the most satisfying arc for your characters. This is the number one thing I work on with my clients.
Where can readers find you?
Please visit my website, www.themanuscriptdr.com, to see what kind of services a freelance editor can offer. If you are curious about what level of critique could help your own work, you can submit your first chapter through my website for a free sample edit. Perhaps a personal editor is exactly what your writing needs to get you to the next level.
Also find me on Facebook and Google+ as “The Manuscript Doctor” or Twitter @themanuscriptdr
Check out my writing group’s website, www.onceuponakeyboard.com. We’ve compiled the best articles, links, videos and podcasts on writing advice. We’ve done the research so you can do the writing.
If you’d like to pre-order your copy of Secrets & Doors, you can do so at the following links.
I was going to write a big post about what is happening with my story in the anthology* releasing next month. But, then the publisher wrote this great article. I’m just going to point you all to it so you can hear directly from the source.
It has been such an honor to be part of this project with The Secret Door Society. There are amazing stories for everyone to enjoy and we get to help in the cause for a very common but terrible disease.
Next up: the cover reveal sometime next week! Stay tuned…
*Anthology = a fancy term for a collection of short stories. A great way to sample the work of many authors to determine if you like their style enough to pick up an entire novel.
There are only so many hours in every day, no matter how effective you are at using them wisely. I’m not sure whether it was a funk I was in over the holidays while I grieved celebrating without my mom, or a mild case of burnout. More than likely a tad bit of both. I spent the last week making a conscious effort to get myself refocused. For the first time, I wrote down writing goals for the year. Measurable ones with dates and everything. Which someone said makes them far more concrete. I’m not really a written goal kind of girl but yearly goals are part of my corporate job which shapes my efforts over the course of the year. It was not surprising to find myself in the same kind of mind-set thinking about my writing. I have taken my hobby to a professional level and it just flowed naturally to set yearly targets for productivity.
I have some lofty goals for 2015: two novels and several short stories by the end of the year.
The reality is, if I want to achieve these goals I am going to have to step things up even further this year. I’m going to have to start saying ‘No’ to things… I’ve been involved in creating a new non-profit organization the past few months and it took a lot of time. Time I could have been writing. (No surprise that I’m also on the pro tempore Board of same, right?) But it was because of my involvement with that group that my first story will be published so I have to believe it was worth it. I’ve been trying to juggle so many things that some of the balls I’ve got in the air are bound to fall on the ground, try as I might to catch them. Gone are the days where I could say yes to everything that I spontaneously thought sounded fun and then find a way to work out all the details. Now, it’s called prioritizing and I have to do it before the fact. Instead of lamenting, I’m thinking how great it is to have these business-related problems. It means I’m a professional which will help in getting to the next level. A level I can’t fathom at this point but which I welcome nonetheless.
I’m working on a new ITIL certification at my corporate job called Service Strategy (it’s an IT thing, it’s okay if you don’t know the reference, google will). One of the principles I thought fitting for my current situation is: ‘Strategy is deciding what not to do’. Basically putting what your business plans to do in perspective of what you have time, money and resources for, and what you don’t. I never thought I’d be using my corporate job skills in my writing career but here I am, doing exactly that. Hours of time to allot for writing is the most precious of commodities right now for me. I can either use them for writing or networking or marketing or creating new and exciting ventures that benefit the community and advocate literacy. But I won’t have the time to devote to each of them that I want. Maybe I’ll win the lottery and I won’t need the corporate job anymore. I find myself day dreaming about how much I could get done at work if my only job was my writing. But I can’t dwell on things as unlikely as wining the lottery.
As a result of my introspection, you won’t see me at FanX, probably not at ComicCon either. Plus, I’m being selective on which writing conferences I attend this year. Because that gives me three more weekends to devote to marathon writing sessions where I practice the craft that helps me excel in my business. Truth is: without my craft, there is no business. If I’m not writing and producing products intended for consumers, all the rest of my networking and marketing efforts will be fruitless in the end.
Now, more than ever, if you need me I’ll be writing. I’ll sure miss watching football, since I’ve already given up the rest of television. Perhaps I should buy stock in a coffee supplier just for safe measure? I will certainly need my share of caffeine in the coming months while I watch 2015 unfold. Stick around, there’s always hindsight when we can’t have a crystal ball!
Today I have the pleasure of hosting Joshua Robertson, author of the upcoming Melkorka from Crimson Edge Publishing. I asked him to share some writing tips and he was nice enough to oblige. Thanks, and welcome, Joshua!
The Art of Combat
In younger years, I always thought that R.A. Salvatore was the master of writing fight scenes. If you have not read his works, I would suggest starting with Homeland, Book 1 of the Dark Elf Trilogy, featuring the legendary Drizzt. This fantasy author presents combat so well that it appeared to naturally flow in his novels in the same way that other storytellers would write about the scenery. When I think of exceptional fighting in novels, I still think of Salvatore.
Those that have read my novels tell me that I share this strength in my writing. If anything, I assume that this comes from years of playing tabletop RPGs, combat-oriented video games, and sparring with my brother throughout the years. I will leave it to the fans to decide how well I actually execute combat in my novels. However, I wanted to take an opportunity to share just a few tidbits on improving your written combat. My disclaimer to these tips is that I don’t always follow the rules. Sometimes, it is important to intentionally neglect them to capitalize on something within a scene…and sometimes, I simply forget. In any case, it is good to keep these concepts handy!
Keep It Quick
A fight scene is supposed to be fast paced and tense for the character. This is not the time to be explaining how the horizon melds perfectly against the tree line. You want to keep the language in the book glued to the fight scene when it is taking place, while maintaining a flow that does not make it confusing for the reader. What do I mean by that? The English language can be molded in many ways to enhance your writing. Changing passive sentences to active sentences will change the entire feel of a fight. However, I think the easiest rule to begin with is to cut your adjectives and adverbs. They slow the reading process and destroy the emotional feel that most authors believe them to enhance.
John fiercely thrust his serrated sword forward and quickly pierced through the knight’s armor. [or] John thrust his sword through the knight’s armor. You get the idea. One example gives a fancy visual for speculation where the other pushes the reader into the next line of action. Combat is a time for action.
Another quick tip, if the terrain is an important element for the combat, then you must set it up in a previous scene or prior to the combat. Good writers will lay the groundwork well in advance of when it is actually needed.
Suspense is your friend. Take any great fantasy novel and know that you are spending the first hundreds of pages preparing for a climatic end that may only last a few pages [or paragraphs] at the end. One of my beta readers for Melkorka shared with me that this was an element of the novel that kept him turning the pages. And, even at the end of the novel, he was yearning for more.
In reality, most fights do not last long. Anyone else watch UFC in their spare time? A couple of minutes and the entire conflict is over. You may watch commercials the entire week prior to the fight, and then watch someone be beat to a pulp for 45 seconds. The trick for the fantasy writer is having this also be reflected in the novel. Well-structured suspense is what makes that fight scene great.
Your readers will lose interest if they cannot visualize the scene or the characters placement. It is not everything, but it is important to know your battleground. I have done fighting scenes many ways. I have used maps, figurines, or even danced around my house to practice different maneuvers with swords and whatnot. The author has to know what is going on in order to tell the reader what is happening.
Without being too stereotypical, fantasy has long been a genre for nerds and geeks. As you may have guessed that we within the nerd community have certain expectations. We like things to be realistic within the guidelines of the genre. Sure, magic exists – but there are certain rules and properties it has to follow, right? Fights, including pure physical combat, also have rules to follow, such as force and leverage. You will find that readers can forgive some of these mistakes in a well-written novel, but if it is consistently flawed, you will lose your audience. Conducting fight scenes requires the author to conduct research. You have to know the weight of a sword, the reloading rate of a crossbow, the distance a person can jump, and what impact a lance has on iron armor. Then, once you know what you are talking about, write the scene be clear, accurate, and realistic.
One of my biggest peeves in some fantasy novels is fight scenes that have nothing to do with the plot structure or character development. Many times you will find authors that will write fight scenes without any purpose, or they will defend the scene with “This scene is important to demonstrate my MC’s strength and agility.” That, my friends, does not advance the plot. It is filler and confuses readers because they are looking for a deeper connection and how this particular scene ties into the character’s motivations. It is not helpful to open your book with a scene of a character fighting a band of robbers on the side of the road, unless those robbers are an intricate piece of the plot line.
Why is this important? I think the primary reason is that the reader grows to skim your battle scenes, no matter how important they could possibly be. If I am frequently reading about punches, kicks, and parries in the novel, then the combat begins to lose its meaning. I can remember great scenes in Tolkien and Jordan and Sanderson because the motivation of the characters enhanced the fight. There should always be a good reason for combat.
Kaelandur was forged by the Highborn to slay one of their own, Nedezhda Mager. As their slave, Branimir Baran never thought to question his cruel masters until he is forced to take part in the execution. His actions begin a chain of events that will lead him to confront demons, cannibals, and himself as he is forced to question his own morality and the true meaning of good and evil.
Book One of the dark fantasy series, Thrice Nine Legends, available on Amazon January 2015.
Joshua began crafting the world for Melkorka in 1999, and has since continued writing flash fiction, short stories, poems, children’s books, and epic fantasy novels. Joshua is the author of the transitional children’s book, Bo Bunny and the Trouble. He is also the co-creator of the fantasy tabletop game, Thrice Nine Legends, due to be released in 2015. Joshua currently lives in Alaska with his wife and children.
You can find Joshua at the following links:
Crimson Edge (Melkorka Ebook available for Pre-Order Now)
This is the week my little family typically heads to a beach somewhere to get away from the Utah cold and reconnect with each other; no school, no work, no dance and no pressures of everyday life to interfere. This year we booked a trip to a more
expensive exotic location later in 2015 and instead are enjoying a week of staying home from the day jobs while the kids are out of school. Lots of heavenly reading, watching movies together and hanging out with family and friends – in sub-zero weather.
The other night, Hubby and I ditched the kids for a rare evening out alone at our favorite Tai place. There was a large group of women who were having some kind of a celebration. Nothing obnoxious, but the typical noise of many people talking over one another was unmistakable and added to the festive ambiance of folks out on their holiday errands. As we were leaving, we walked past their party, which was breaking up, and Hubby (who talks to everyone everywhere) asked several of the ladies if it was girls night out.
“No, just our book club” one of them said.
And with one sentence, my husband completely rocked my world…
“Really? My wife is a writer!”
It is rare for me to be speechless but, for a moment, I was. As if in slow motion, all eyes turned to me with that shine that all readers must have when they meet a Real. Life. Writer. I know that’s how I used to feel before I spent so much time with other authors that they have become commonplace. Several of them asked “what do you write?” and I recovered my wits quickly enough to answer “Science Fiction, mostly”. But their reactions were not what caught me so off guard.
I’ve been married for twenty years and my husband always introduces me as “my wife who works with computers” or “my wife in IT” or “my wife who drives a forklift” which was a funny inside joke when I worked in IT for a heavy equipment dealer. This was the first time he’d introduced me with five little words that knocked me sideways: My wife is a writer.
As we walked the rest of the way to the car, me grinning ear to ear and obsessing about what else I could have said like any neurotic writer would, I realized that more than what I do with my free time has changed this past year. My efforts to “someday” be a writer have brought me here, where my someday is now in the present. Who knows if I’ll ever write a novel that most people have heard of, or sell thousands of books. But it doesn’t matter. Because I’m living my dream of being a writer.