Friday, July 31, 2009

Juggle and Balance

Sounds like what someone working in a circus would hear. Well, would you believe me if I told you the life of a writer often resembles a circus?

T.J. talked of bonbons, Diana about her corrupt file (poor thing, heart and support go out to her). I'm gonna talk about the need to balance.

Yes, it's easy to strive for this equilibrium when your life and everything in it is ho-hum. You take the kids to school, make their food and snacks, help with the homework, play those mind-numbing games you wonder why kids like. You welcome the man home. You shower TLC on him (and hopefully he returns some back!). You sit and chat over a cup of coffee while the kids are killing themselves in their room (but that's not your problem currently since you're in couple's time). You sit down and grab a book to read before going to bed, or you turn on the TV and plonk down in front of whatever soapie is airing, wondering how this woman was chasing this guy nine months ago when you last caught this show and how she still hasn't got him even now. Oh no wait, she got him and then she left him for someone else, and now she realises she shouldn't have left him int he first place, and yada yada to make mush out of the remaining brain you still had.

So all this is fine on most days. Somewhere in there, you open that Word doc and stare at the words, asking this woman featured there, uh where did we meet...? And you go, oh yeah, you're the gal who's hooked onto that hunk of a fella, but he isn't looking at you, right? You want me to hitch you together. And that's where you also go, pray tell me how on earth I'll do that!!!

And then there are the days when nothing else exists, nothing but this story inside you that you desperately need to write. Forget chores and welcome a whole family of dust bunnies in your house. There's so much laundry to do you can simply tip the baskets over and have great free-form furniture. And last you checked, no one died from a diet of instant noodles and carbonated drinks.

Yes, this is what you want to do when the writing bug bites you, and I know what I'm talking about, because I'm in this very predicament! There's this story screaming to get out, and I mean screaming, as in yelling, screeching, hollering, using one of those sound-magnifying things the police use to call to a hostage taker.

How do you fit life in there?

I find it's not easy to do, but do it I need, since like T.J. said, life is not a dress rehearsal. What happens to your kid now is not gonna happen again the same way after you finish penning this story down. The hug and cuddle he wants to give you sounds like a break you don't need from your keyboard, but this may just be what will take this child through another hour with you zoning out in writer land. You think you got your man? Yeah, you do - that's your ring on his finger, innit? Well, get this - a ring is not fixed onto his finger, just like you're not the only woman in the world (well, maybe you're the only woman who will take him with all his pig headedness and lousy bathroom habits and strange food eating ways, but you wanna risk that?) What happens if after you've penned this story, who may not be a masterpiece even, you look around and find that there's a stranger in the house with you? The worst thing is, it's not him the stranger, it's you, because you retired into your world and lost touch with the reality he's been living in.

Want to try to rekindle everything then? Fine, go ahead. If there is anything to rekindle. Cold ashes do not blaze back to life.

So whenever the writing bug bites, you'll feel kinda weird. You want to write, write, write. But remember that you also have to juggle and balance, because unfortunately for us writers, there is also the real world out there and it won't stop existing because we will it to.

Have you ever been bitten by this bug? If yes, what did you do to retain the equilibrium in your life?

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural Romantic Fiction, With a Twist
Coming out October 2 - Light My World - Eirelander Publishing
Nolwynn Ardennes - The Promise of Fulfilment
Coming out in January 8, 2010 - Storms in a Shot Glass - Eirelander Publishing

Aasiyah Qamar/Nolwynn Ardennes - Romance the world over

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Not a moment's rest

Not behind the scenes. I think I stop when I actually sleep. Yes, I'm a direct contradiction to dear T.J.'s post.

Why? Well for the last seven...eight? days, I've been recreating a corrupted Novel length file . I've discovered my word is corrupted. It finally had a meltdown and there's not much I can do about it at the moment. Fixing the book in question is my priority. But really, this is only one facet of what happens behind the scenes.

A mangled file? It's like losing the middle five pages to the scene of a play...that debuts tonight!

You scramble to find those pages. I'm scrambling to get this file fixed for an on time release. What's funny though? During this uber stressful week, I've actually read two books and numerous short free reads, reading I haven't been doing at all because I have been working myself to the grind, a pressure of my own making. So one stress is imposed, and I know I'll get it done. I just need time. Somehow that's less stressful than working day in and day out on a number of stories for scattered submissions. I can read guilt-free during one stress. It's a little harder when I'm the one kicking my own arse to stay moving. I think I need my head examined... No, I'm not accepting volunteers, but thanks for thinking about it. *wink*

Somehow though, there's different levels of stress, or maybe different levels of importance. I know this applies to far more careers than just writing, but since we are welll, a writing blog, that's who I'm talking about, and to.

My point with this?

T.J. is dead on right. I know. I know. I'll give you a minute to pull your chair back under you and pop your jaws back into place. This is a minor emergency in the grand scheme of things. It affects my release schedule, thus it's gotta get done, but what happens when I'm not under the gun? Why do I still work like a fiend? I know I'm going to dry up eventually and need to take a few days off, or a week to find my last cowering brain cell hiding behind my office door. You'd think I'd learn. (I see T.J. is shaking her head at me.) But one thing that isn't taken into account, but needs to be just as controlled, is drive. Okay, mine borders on obsession, I'll admit, but this is a perfect case in point--me--to slow down. Because one of these days I'm just going to blow up.


Whoops! Too late!

Here, let me get you a tissue. *G*

I think I'm going to find a chocolate cake and make best friends with my couch after I get this file fixed. That sounds just about perfect.

What do you do to extricate yourself from the writing machine? What are your non-author destressing activities?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I sit around and eat bonbons all day!

Knew that would get your attention. J

The fact is writing is a job (Full-time or otherwise). You can't slice it any simpler than that. You pound keys. You promote. You work, work, work. While you're promoting you've got to be thinking about the next story, or if you are really on your game, writing it. Another cold hard rule of life is that life happens.

I can't tell you how many authors I've told, 'take a break'. First off you need to recharge your batteries. Walk in the sunshine and let your body soak it all in. Let it happen because some of the best ideas I've ever had pop into my head have come from just getting away from the stupid box I feel chained to most days. Second, there is such a thing as becoming over-written. Ever felt burned out? That's because you've written until pulling words from your brain is the next best thing to having a root canal sans anesthetic.

The other side of this is life. You should have one. Nobody says you can't run the kids to school or hang around with the mate. It's a fallacy that the next story is the most important thing to a writer. Life is more important than anything. It's not a dress rehearsal. You won't get a second chance to watch your kids grow or have those riveting conversations with the mate while he's totally zoned out and into the internet. That's not a fact of being a writer, that's a fact of being alive.

The same thing goes for editors. We're notorious for becoming over-read. Let's be real, that's what we do all day. We read and read and just before our eyes start to sizzle, we read some more.


So the cold truth is if you are feeling stressed about a story the best advice is get away from it. Let it perk and join the world of the living. Eat a few bonbons. You might find it interesting and you might find some inspiration.


Until next Tuesday, cheers and happy writing,



Friday, July 24, 2009

Adventures of an RWA conference virgin - Part II

By J. Hali Steele

Hi all, Royal Blush has allowed me to come back with more on the Adventures of an RWA Conference Virgin.

I did promise to bring you up-to-date on what really happened in DC. To my shame, I have no pictures. I am just not the photography type. My walls at home have not a single photograph to adorn them, none on my shelves either – that space is for books. Oh well…

Again, there were murmurs, and what I call hubbub, between RWA and those seeking change within the group. Let me say I sat 4 rows back, damn near center, and when Ms. Pershing asked for the resolution, IMHO, her voice and her words did not come across as harsh or mean – I believe she was genuinely shocked, as was I, that no one had a copy of it. As a member of the RWChange group, my thanks go wholeheartedly to Francesca Hawley who pulled it up on her phone and read it to the room. She was my hero that day. I’m a member of RWA and plan to remain a member. Change happens from within. I belong to ESPAN and Passionate Ink, two very great chapters. Recently, I joined the Liberty States Fiction Writers and I’m sure I’ll learn much from each of these groups. Those who know me know I’ll ask for what I want if I don’t see it.

Remember the two friends I spoke of meeting? Well one of them pitched and came away with an agent. Yay Rhonda, I’m happy for you girl! She so deserved this. At RT this year she took Bobbi Smith’s Advanced Writing class, entered the Creative Writing Challenge and won. This gave her the opportunity to have an agent look at a synopsis and the first 25 pages of a story. Needless to say, all of this worked to her advantage. Now, for RWA.

I met Janet Evanovich and I asked her when she was going to kill off Joe Morelli from the Plum novels and she laughed. Caridad Pineiro was so natural and friendly. Kimberly Kaye Terry is always the bomb. These last two ladies I’ve met at RT a few times and enjoyed their workshops.

Some classes I attended included The Setting as Character with the ever fabulous Jade Lee, who gave me a whole new perspective on where my characters live and what affect this has on them. Annabelle Corrick Beach’s The Process of Writing…10 Steps to Success, added a few that were missing from my repertoire. I decided not to attend the Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Erotica but Were Afraid to Ask simply because I feel these are done so well at RT conferences with lots of audience and reader participation. I found not very much of that happened in any class I attended. I came from each one feeling I’d learned but there wasn’t the camaraderie I’ve come to expect because of RT. Speaking for myself, there wasn’t the feeling of ‘friendliness and acceptance" I’ve gotten at the RT conventions. There is definitely a division between epublished authors, of which I’m one, and those who are published by NY.

I did attend the Pro Retreat and had some great conversations with some members before it started. We were all very excited about being Pros and most of us had our pins. At the start of the Agent section, I left. I am not looking for one right now and there was an Avon book signing I simply couldn’t miss. Did I feel I got something from this retreat? Can’t say yet. By the way, only talked to three others who were currently epublished and most I spoke to were seeking "only" NY. Leaving the retreat wasn’t hard.

Thursday evening I attended the Passionate Ink party and that was one of the highlights of my trip. I met quite a few fellow Ellora’s Cave and Changeling authors. Here I felt at home. I had the chance to talk more with Francesca Hawley, who is the President of PI and the lady is absolutely awesome. Angela James from Samhain spoke about epublishers and the epublishing industry. Barbara Bradford talked about what is currently happening with NY publishers and what they’re looking for. Nothing new there.

Does this sound like I prefer RT conventions to RWA conferences? I sure talked a lot about RT in this post didn’t I? Well, guess I have to answer yes. I’m no longer a virgin as far as RWA conferences go but I’ve discovered I’m much happier with RT and its acceptance of me as an epubbed author.

One thing did strike a chord with me during RWA -- many speakers used the phrase "you can do it" at some point in their address. It’s those words I chose to come away with.

Again, Royal Blush authors, thank you for the opportunity to tell all about my first time at an RWA Conference.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Experiences as an E-Published Author

Being an E-Published author has been a learning experience for me. It’s been exciting, but also a challenge to keep up with everything. I had no idea what being e-published or in print would mean to my life. It has changed my existence. I learned there’s much more to being a writer than writing, there is promotion. In my contract there was a clause that required me to do a certain amount of promoting my books on-line.

It’s not easy to get your name as a novelist out there, or to find a following for your stories. It takes time from your writing, and a lot of hard work. To become known and to get people to read your book you have to promote them and yourself. I started by building a website with a front page telling a bit about the genre I wrote. Then I put in a picture and a bio about me, posted covers of my books along with blurbs and excerpts about my stories, a links page to other authors, and a contact page.

Next, I started a blog, where I write and post articles once a week. A bunch of authors asked me to join their blog and post an article there once a month. This is all done to market ourselves. Then I had to join Yahoo loops with readers and other writers to let them know about my website, blogs and to post blurbs and excerpts to interest them in reading my books. I joined in chats and did interviews on sites for readers. All of this is time consuming.

There are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to be done. I try to write thirty minutes to two hours a day, which can mean anywhere from one page to four pages a day. If I can get more time meaning more pages written, then I’m thrilled.
Often times my routine is interrupted by normal events and people around me. It’s hard to make people realize that this career is not an eight hour job, but twelve to fourteen.

My first two titles, The Catalyst and Addiction, were released by Forbidden Publications in late 2008. In six months my publisher closed due to health issues, and I made a whopping $33.99 on my digital sales. I decided to self-print The Catalyst as a print on demand book, and I have yet to make the money I invested back. Every penny, I’ve gotten for those books have been sunk into advertising material such as business cards, post cards, book marks, etc.

E-publishing has had a stigma on it for many years, but it’s about to come out of that phase as more readers are buying books and magazines digitally. Many authors have used e-publishing as a stepping stone to a New York Publisher, then decided they want to be in both, or even just stay in digital.

What would I do if I had the chance to go to NY? I’ll be happy staying with my new publisher because I believe they will be one of the forerunners in this business. They will also be willing to help those authors who want to go to NY.

As hard as the work is, I can think of no job I would rather have. There are people asking me when my next book will be out, and they are saying they can’t wait to read it. This makes me want to work faster and get more books out there. I can hardly wait to hear what they say about Addiction when it’s released November 6, 2009 from Eirelander Publishing.

Thank you, and I'll see you next month.

Sandra K. Marshall

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I’m a what? A *shiver* published author

Congratulations, we'd like to offer you a contract for your story.

Those words are an elation statement in this industry. But once there welcome to the world of what is expected from you? Well, that somewhat depends on the publisher. Some publishers are a little more cushy with their authors, they create relationships with them, others are doing the proverbial pounding on the door to your inbox going – when can we expect your next work? It doesn't mean either is right or wrong, it means they are styled under a different model. No biggie—get used to it and go forward.

There are a few 'p's you should watch in this industry. They are as follows: Professionalism, Precision and Punctuality. Professionalism is self-explanatory, though if your publisher is friendly to you, by all means take the olive branch they put forward. Just remember, you are in a business in which they might explain a detailed dissertation on how the ins and outs work at that publisher. This is not giving you permission to spread that conversation across the Internet. There's a trust factor involved there, and one that you need to be aware of.

Precision is paying attention to detail. Part of what happens in an edit is your editor is teaching you. They will expect you to apply this knowledge to all subsequent works submitted there. With Track Changes now in full use, you need to pay attention to what your editor is commenting and absorb it. So if you have a problem with transitional sentences, that editor will expect you to take away that you need to focus on them in the future. Crutch-queens and kings, if your editor picks up your favorite phrase understand it's something you should watch out for.

Also, when performing your edit, you should work with speed. There is a reason for this. Your editor is waiting on you. That's not to say you shouldn't take your time and perform the edit to the best of your ability—you should. But, do you think it is fair to make your editor to wait weeks for you to get back to them? It also smacks of a lack of professionalism. I once pounded out an edit in three days on a saga length story. It was sent to the author who in turn took her/his sweet time to get it back to me (one round nearly hit five weeks to get back to me). In the mean time, I had a senior editor over me going, 'what's the status of this story?'. Want to talk about trial by frustration.

It also smacks of the writer not being totally invested in their work. When an author treats their work as if it's an old issue or they don't really want to put effort into an edit, the editor will pick it up quicker than a frog can snatch a fly with its sticky tongue. This is a HUGE thing because it puts the author into one of two categories: the hobbyist versus the pro.

The term 'hobby writer' was coined about a millennium ago. These were the authors who just wanted to write. There's nothing wrong with that, but when it came to the nitty gritty work of selling and editing they were the first to make excuses or simply move on to the next project. Remember: writing is a job, whether part time or full time.

A pro understands the three 'p's and is on the ball. They understand that some edits will take longer than others but approach work professionally.

Now it's your turn? Do you get the three 'p's or do you think that's a bunch of hooey?


Until next Tuesday, cheers and happy writing,



Monday, July 20, 2009

With Love, from Ms. Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

We're still backstage this week, untangling threads behind the scenes. And as anyone can tell you, tangled threads can get messy! There's publishing, Ny publishing, e-publishing, to consider. Then there's stuff like promotion, workshops, conferences. Life definitely gets hectic for authors out there.

On this backdrop the RBA posse bring you some more about life behind the red curtain.

Find T.J. on Tuesday as she tells us more about what happeens when you hear the magic words "We want to offer you a contract". What can you, and what should you, expect?

On Wednesday, Sandy brings us a post about her experiences as an e-published author.

And on Friday, we welcome the second leg of our guest blogger's posts - Adventures of an RWA conference virgin-Part II is what J. Hali Steele has to tells us now that she's back from the RWA National conference!

Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) is encountering some Internet issues, and will try her best to post on Thursday.

Don't forget:

This July, we're going backstage into the world of writing and the writer.

This July, we're on the quest:

Searching for what happens behind the scenes...

The best of us for the best of you, that's our promise as we deliver the full flush of romance.

From now till later, enjoy!

With love, from Ms. Blush

Saturday, July 18, 2009

In Memoriam

This special blog post is dedicated to a man who truly loved his craft and was so great at it, Walter Cronkite. It wasn’t so much that Mr. Cronkite brought us the news. It was that he brought (at least we believed) the truth. He was the most trusted man in this country. His words carried weight with everybody, and I’ll personally never forget him sitting with Anwar Sadat and asking when the Egyptian ruler would go to Israel. In a way, he began the peace process. I will never forget him counting the days ticking up during the Iran Hostage situation.

As I reflect on his vast career, I am reminded of his love of journalism. The love of his craft.

I think we all forget at times to love what we do and take pride in it. That writing is also a craft. It can take a writer to another planet or give them a hero to fall in love with. That’s the great thing about our craft. We’re writers. We paint with words. We create worlds. We create characters.

We all won’t be famous. Most of us will never see our name on the NY Time’s Best Sellers List (but we can hope, and work, and progress as writers).
What we should never forget is to love this craft.

To Walter Cronkite – Godspeed, and happy reporting in heaven.

To all the followers of this blog, have a very happy weekend.

Until next Tuesday, cheers and happy writing,


Thursday, July 16, 2009

How anal should your editor be?

The answer would be - as anal as possible!

The job of an editor is to fine tune your story and to make the ms as strong as possible. The editor also needs to give the pub house the best possible work for publication.

So, in concrete terms, what does this entail?

In broad sweeps, this is what is expected of an editor:

- Know the craft

- Know the genre

- Know the story being editted inside out

- Know the market

Knowing the craft means that an editor should know how to write too. The editor needs the same basis as the writer, because a story, whether writing it or editting it, uses the same techniques. How will an editor be able to spot GMC issues or plot holes and plot drops if she doesn't even know what these are about? An editor also needs to come up with constructive advice and avenues for every issue she finds in your story, whether it is how to make the hero more heroic or how to activate your scenes and make them more character-forward. And, of course, the editor knows about all those terms such as character forward, massaging the story, layering, and knows how to explain it to the author in a clear way.

Knowing the genre means an editor should be in her element when working on a story. For example, if the editor is a fan of vampires and weres, she knows the rules, limitations and set-up of such creatures' worlds. This enables her to edit a story within these worlds to make it stronger.
Now in case the editor is not so familiar with a genre, and however lands with the story, it is her job to brush up her knowledge of the genre in order to be able to provide a worthy edit. Say that for example, your editor has landed your Regency historical but is not inherently familiar with that era. She'll be expected (by the publisher and Editor-in-chief first) to brush up her knowledge. Ideally this story should go to someone who is familiar with the era and genre, but this is not always possible. Research is a key word here. Then the editor won't come and ask you in her notes why in a Regency historical, you mention that women don't wear heavy powder and rouge yet the old gossipmonger of the town wears it. As your Regency historical editor, she should know that powder and rouge went out at the turn of the century, yet the older ladies who did wear such makeup prior to the era circa 1800 still stick to their guns and haven't ditched the heavy caking up.
Another example would be a fantasy story - an editor should recognize that fantasy stories are rather heavy concept-wise and contain lots of explanations because the world is completely fabricated, with its own myths, landscape and world-building.

Knowing the story inside out means the editor should be able to sit down and talk about the intricacies of the story off the top of her head. She's expected to have read, re-read, and analysed every aspect of the story so that she knows its every detail on the tip of her fingers. Expect at least a modicum of 'knowing what the story is about' and everything the plot and characters entail from your editor.

Knowing the market means your editor has also got her finger on the pulse of the publishing world. What's hot and what's not, what's in and what's out, what's being requested and what being ditched faster than a hot potato. This knowledge will enable your editor to tell you why your story may not fare well and what you can do to remedy that. For example, if beta heroes are being brushed aside and you have a Beta hero in your ms, the editor can, will, and should, tell you this and offer ways how to Alpha-ize the hero to better target the market.

All of the above usually come with the editor when she takes the job, or at the very least, when she is training to become an editor. The actual hands-on side of the task of editting englobes all the above and combines a few other aspects, discussed below. These are more the nitty-gritty, on the job/ms issues:

Ensuring a proper reading experience - an editor's job is the bridge between the author and the reader. The editor has a duty towards the reader to provide him/her with the best possible reading experience where the book is concerned. So in this light, an editor must ensure that the story has a smooth flow, that it 'works' well, that it is a wholesome package, and also that it doesn't take the reader for an idiot.

Guaranteeing attention to detail - this comes in the wake of ensuring a proper reading experience. The editor makes sure that details are consistent throughout and make sense all through the story. A good example would be character and place names - are these consistent in the ms? Could there be an instance where the hero, who is named Nick, is addressed/mentioned as Rick? Nothing jars a reader more than lousy attention to detail. Imagine reading a story where the hero is named Michael and at one point, you read line that goes "She thought him obnoxious? Viktor didn't know what to make of her!" This wouldn't be a problem if the hero was named Viktor, but say that in the first draft he was named Viktor then the author changed it to Michael. Not only did the author miss this name slip, but the editor too missed it? On more than one read? Wouldn't this spell 'sloppy' in your reader's mind?

Being the guardian of language - another point to consider: people read also to 'see' how proper language is used. As such, an editor is the guardian of the language, because based on her edits, people can and will construe the grammr/spelling/punctuation laws. For example, he had strived. First, strived does not exist, and second, after using had before a verb, you would use striven. An editor's best friends are often a style guide and a good dictionary!

Yet, all this does not mean the editor is responsible for all the aspects of your story. She isn't a full-time nanny with whom you dump your baby once you've delivered. The editor should fine-tune your work, but she isn't responsible for the whole deal of making your ms meet quality standards. You as the author are expected to do a good part of this already when you submit your work.

Some examples of this would be:

Proofing your work - your editor is not your school teacher. Every writing program has a spellcheck feature; use it and present a good, finished project. A few instances where the program may have missed an error is not an issue, but when the ms is lettered with mistakes, the editor can be saying "Holy ****!" at every page and this doesn't bode well at all for a good edit!

Needing to rely on the author for some things - like formatting according to the publisher's submission guidelines. Another good example would be when the editor is not familiar with an aspect of the story and has to rely on the author knowing what he/she is doing. Like, your story is set in Northern England, and the old ladies there call everyone ducks, or Scots call a baby a bairn, or your London East End cabbie says Guv instead of Sir. The author has to make sure such details are accurate. Similarly, if the author needs, for example, permission to use the lyrics of a song, he/she is responsible for ensuring he/she is not in breach of copyright laws on said lyrics. The editor is not responsible to figure out if you're in breach (though she should question it and ask for proof of release) and does not need to go search for this release on the author's behalf.

Research work -the editor cannot research the story's background/era/backing for the author. An example would be depicting the animosity between a Hindu and a Muslim in India. An editor is not expected to know the intricacies of this animosity, its roots and reasons for existence. This seems to contradict what I said above, that the editor should be familiar with the era. There's a difference between being familiar with an era/period/situation and knowing the intricacies of a region. For example, as an editor you should know the base notes about the former IRA in Ireland and how it affected the country and people. However the editor is not expected to know that such and such word carries bad connotations and is never used. This is research that the author needs to undertake and which the author should be able to explain. If thee ditor knows it, great, if not, the author should help by porviding the most accurate and up-to-date presentation in his/her work.

No rewrite expected - an editor shouldn't be saddled with a sloppy copy of your ms, or the first, non-revised draft you ever penned (a publisher shouldn't even take on those, but sadly, this isn't the rule at all houses). The editor is expected to fine-tune your story, not rewrite it to commendable standards! The author needs to provide a good foundation on which the editor can continue building.

No tampering with your voice - a good editor will recognise your voice for what and how it is and will not ask you to overhaul it. There's a difference between ensuring proper grammar in your work (your characters use verbs like people talk, like, there ain't any way she did that. This can work in dialogue, but not outside of dialogue tags.) Your voice means the way you write, the words you use, the way you explain things. If your style of writing goes into using a few sentences to describe a setting and the description works, your editor shouldn't tell you, tighten this to a five-word sentence, or you are overwritten, or, you use too many questions) All these can pose issues if they do happen too much, but a good editor should know how to figure out the difference.
For example, your heroine has been kidnapped and once in the cold, dank and dark room, her POV goes: Why me? What do they want from me? A ransom? No one has the kind of money to pay for my release. Why, oh why, did I think of going to the store when the light outside was broken?
Counter example: your heroine loved a man who went missing and she is now about to marry his brother: Oh dear! Would she be able to marry John tomorrow? And why was she thinking of Steve, when she was about to pledge herself to his brother? Steve. Had she ever stopped loving him? And what to make of the suspicions she had that the man she'd seen lurking around could be him? They had never found Steve's body, had they? That charred skeleton in the car could've been anyone's, couldn't it? What would she do if Steve came back? Would she go ahead and marry John? Would she betray John's love? What would she do? Would John blame her? Was Steve still alive? Would he come back from the dead?
The point here - unless you're writing the script for a soapie, the second example has too many questions, while in the first, the questions actually strengthen the POV and highlight the heroine's plight.

So with all this in mind, how does the editor actually go about the job? The key here is reading. Yet, there are different kinds of reading associated with editting:

Read like a potential reader - This is usually the first read. Is story interesting? Does it make sense? Is it consistent? At the same time, the editor is asking herself whether this story would fit in the editorial line-up of her house.

Read like a editor - Usually second read, though a seasoned, experienced editor can do this on the first read itself. At this stage, she is looking for the potential pitfalls of the story, which issues need to be adressed, such as plot holes, plot drops, incoherent characterization, sketchy GMC.

Read like a 'teacher' - usually follows in the wake of the 'looking for issues' read. The 'mistakes' are identified and solutions devised based on the story, plot, characters and author's voice. The editor here jots down how to stregthen the story, irrespective of whether plot holes or the likes were found in the ms.

Read like a reader - after line-by-line edits are tackled, to make sure the details are consistent and whether the story provides the best possible reading experience. Example - Nick became Rick or Michael turned into Viktor are dealt with here.

That would be the broad view of it. Every story is unique, and also based on the complexity of the story and the length, all of the above can take place within two weeks or two months, provided too that the editor is working exclusively on that project. If she's also got other works on her edits roll, this can take longer.

T.J. mentioned how edits are done at Eirelander Publishing. As an editor with them, I too follow the same layout pretty much to the dot. A first read - first 50 pages should give you a good handle on story, full read gives global picture. Broad notes (usually plot points/holes/drops) then it goes into characterization, address issues, and another read to see if issues have been tackled. A finer read, where line by line edits come into play and where little details are attended to.

It is pretty much obvious an editor would encourage rewrites to stregthen the story, but at the same time, she shouldn't be overhauling your story either, unless this is exactly what you signed up for when you were contracted. For example, you sold on proposal and your first draft made it on the editor's desk, and she takes the role of CP-beta reader-editor in the same go.

There you go, the long and short of it. An editor generally should be anal and a perfectionist, because that's when she ensures the best possible story comes out of your hands, through the publisher's doors, and into the hands of the readers.

And, the best bit - the reader knows naught of what the editor did. The great work coming out is the author's, and it's the author who reaps all the glory and spotlight!!

As usual, all comments welcome!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural Romantic Fiction, With a Twist
Coming out October 2 - Light My World - Eirelander Publishing
Nolwynn Ardennes - The Promise of Fulfilment
Coming out in January 8, 2010 - Storms in a Shot Glass - Eirelander Publishing

Aasiyah Qamar/Nolwynn Ardennes - Romance the world over

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Adventures of an RWA conference virgin

By J. Hali Steele

First, I’d like to extend my appreciation to the Royal Blush Authors for allowing me to share my excitement about attending my first RWA Annual Conference. Once I’m back and all settled in, I’ll bring everyone up to date with what really happened. Wait. Does what happens in DC have to stay in DC? Hmmm.

Over the last month, no one could possibly have missed the hubbub with RWA and its stance regarding e-books and e-book publishers and where they fit into the RWA’s scheme of things (or don’t!) To be politically correct, perhaps I should be saying digitally published. I’m not sure anymore. Anyway, I’m not going to say much about it here except that I am a new author who is e-book published and I am not seeking to be published in NY in the foreseeable future. This does not take away from the fact that I consider myself career focused, and I believe I’m learning tremendously by working with three very good publishers. I look forward to the day we are all on the same page and playing on a level field. Enough about that.

I’m ready to begin my adventure and I’m going to have a wonderful time meeting and networking with quite a few of the folks I’ve met online. The next time I chat with them, I’ll have faces to put with names.

I’ve spent hours pouring over the workshops trying to decide which to take. There are so many: Boot camp for Writers, Get Your Acts Together and Emotion: the Heart of the Novel, just to name a few. I found one that is perfect for me: Mastering Your Domain - I’m hoping this one gives me info to take back control of my home!

Check this workshop out: The Virgin Widow's Heart Stopped When She Saw the Workshop That Would Change Her Life Forever: How To Recognize Clich├ęs and Use Them To Make Your Writing Shine. Huh? Yup, that’s one title.

And there’s The 15 Minute Synopsis. I’m not going to waste my time there. If someone had this secret, it would have been on Facebook or MySpace by now. At least it would have been Twittered about. LOL

When I first joined RWA my goal was to learn everything possible and become a Pro. Well, I made it, and no matter what anyone says – I’m proud as hell to wear that pin. (Wonder if they give a class on photography? Hey, it’s the best I could do.) The fact I finished a novel and mustered the courage to send it out made me feel as though I earned it. *smiling broadly* This is one workshop I am definitely looking forward to attending. Here’s the thing: it’s all about being published in print. But I have a plan. I’m going to listen and learn. Period. Here’s what they’ve planned for Pro —

Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks, Inc. is going to talk about what happens after the sale. How your book passes through acquisition and copyedits – I’ve been through this with epublishers and the editors were tops in my book. Why? They kicked my butt! I learned from them. She’s going to touch on marketing and sales – okay, I’ve done a bit of this for my books, but you can never know too much about marketing, so I’ll learn more. She’s also going to talk about print runs and distribution. I’ll listen, it never hurts to learn new things.
Madeline Hunter is going to talk about issues for authors who sub and don’t sell and how to go from rejected to being sold. I can learn from that because I’ve been rejected by publishers, so this could certainly help me. I’ll be listening closely.

There’s going to be an agent panel. They’ll discuss what is selling and what isn’t right now. I’m going to take it all in and learn. There will surely be something I can use, something that will help me along the path I’ve chosen.

I’m attending the Passionate Ink chapter’s party. That should be hot! At least the conversations will be. I’ll not miss the Rita and Golden Hearts awards ceremonies. I hope to be on the receiving end one day. (See, I’m focused and that field may get leveled yet!)

The breakfasts, lunches and dinners will all be opportunities to meet new people, learn new things and I’m going to act like a sponge and soak it all up. I’m meeting two friends whom I first met at an RT Convention a couple of years ago and we formed a great bond of sisterhood-in-writing. We email each other often but we’ll catch up and share so much in person. My sisters are coming down for two nights *eyes rolling*. They’ve been supportive of me and my dream, I can’t say enough about how much I love them. Plus they’ll help me lug my junk around. *grins*

So, I’m ready. For me this is another step on my career path. Another page turned and the start of another great adventure.

Thanks to the ladies of Royal Blush for having me in for the day and to read more about my adventure, come back on Friday, July 24th. I’ll tell you what happens in DC. Promise – I won’t leave anything out. There may even be pictures if I can get the hang of the dang camera.

So…stay tuned for more.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

You want to do WHAT to my BABY?!

Would you like to know how many writers run into the harsh edit? Uh, too many to count. There is a cold hard fact involved here, harsh edits fall into basically two categories – the one's where the author doesn't agree with the editor and the ones that are faulty.

I've received both. I didn't agree with some because after all I write the way I write. Here's another fact, just because some author in New York gets away with doing something doesn't mean you can follow suit. E-publishers for a long time have been fighting the original opinion that e-publishers will publish anything, sloppy or otherwise. Hell, there are times when I looked at some publishers and go to myself – can you say, Author Mill? For those of you who don't know what an author mill is, it is a quasi-publisher who either expects your story to be 'publication ready' or charges you for edits (if they offer that service at all). They'll slap cheap cover art on the story, assign it an ISBN number and there you go – welcome to being a published author.

Okay, so how do you tell the difference between a harsh edit and a faulty edit? If you've ever received a truly faulty edit you know. I once received an edit in which the person who edited it put in a scene break between each of my head hops. Rather than looking at the full scene as it stood. Having come across this before I knew what I had to do, but when I contacted the Editor-in-Chief to explain this was now a mass revision, I was told my editor was right and I had to abide by the edit. Here's a clue, try to remain professional. It doesn't help either side if someone starts to spout off. I came back with, do you really think adding 117 scene breaks to a 50,000 word story makes sense?

The other side of this is if you know you are struggling with a faulty edit; keep the ball in the editor or publisher's court. That means, keep your cool and stick to your guns. If you know what your editor is doing is wrong, then by all means advocate for yourself.

The other side is the harsh edit. I've received them and I have given them. The harsh edit comes in two forms (not surprisingly). The first is where the editor is reworking your story to make it better. The other is where you dig your feet in and start screaming 'no, no, no'. You need to keep in mind that if the edit is not faulty then you are expected to perform. Another important thing to understand is how editors edit. (This doesn't always happen, but this is the common process and the one at Eirelander Publishing).

  1. Global changes. This may come in the form of broad notes or bulk paragraph edits. Global changes include voice. POV switching. Loose Plot Lines. Stringing. Character name changes. Dropped plot points. They all fall under global changes.
  2. Refinement. The over usage of dialogue tags. Crutch words. Missing characterization or characterization falls off. Setting.
  3. Tweaking. This is the look when the editor is truly fine tuning the story. They are tweaking dialogue or getting you to delve a bit deeper into the emotional drive. Some editors address crutch words here. It makes little difference.
  4. Copy edit.
  5. Editor's final look.
  6. Errata. This is the author's final look.

Most editors do not jump straight to line edits. They'll tackle global changes first. Mostly because if they can't see the story through the weeds, what good does it do either themselves or the author. This is also helpful when you are revising your drafts.

The biggest thing to remember is if you don't agree with an edit it is best to discuss it with your editor. Don't get nasty, but do tell them you don't agree with them. If it is something such as POV you really don't have much of a choice since some publishers have policies against head hopping. If it's something minor or that really doesn't, in your opinion, change the scope of the story – then bring it up. Be prepared for them to say – this is the way that it is, and be open to their suggestions.

Sometimes you have to buck up and just do.

Your turn. Do you think the full edit process helps or hurts you. Have you ever received a faulty edit and not known what to do with it?

Until next week, cheers and happy writing,


Monday, July 13, 2009

With Love, from Ms. Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

Life gets quite tangled and much of a mess backstage, wouldn't you agree? We deal with a lot of things at the same time, and like many in the publishing/writing business, we also juggle other hats.

So what happens when you also juggle the editor hat which remains right beside your writer's coat on the rack next to your front door?

T.J. and Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) bring you some answers regarding this.

Catch T.J. on Tuesday as she tells us more about edits and the difference between a harsh edit and a faulty edit. Yes, these two categories do exist, unfortunately, especially where the latter is concerned.

On Thursday, Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) will ask the question: How anal should your editor be? Going through the roles and duties of the editor, she'll aim to shed some light on this often misunderstood role.

And, don't miss the first leg of our guest blogger's posts - Adventures of an RWA conference virgin starts this Wednesday, where J. Hali Steele gives us a glimpse into her world as she prepares for this mighty event!

Catch all of it this week on the RBA blog!

Don't forget:

This July, we're going backstage into the world of writing and the writer.

This July, we're on the quest:

Searching for what happens behind the scenes...

The best of us for the best of you, that's our promise as we deliver the full flush of romance.

From now till later, enjoy!

With love, from Ms. Blush

Thursday, July 9, 2009

If you're gonna get in the fast lane, you better drive fast!

As a driver, nothing annoys me more than people who swerve into the fast lane and then drag along at snail's pace (pedestrians walking on the roads and leaving the pavement for stray dogs is another peeve, but I won't go there today). Let me give you the picture - in Mauritius, we drive on the left side of the road (I know, the 'wrong' lane, lol!) so the fast lane is actually the right lane. Speed limit on the motorway where we have dual/more lanes is 110 kms per hour. That's roughly 75 miles, I think. So there you go, driving at 80 kms (50 miles?) in the left lane (which is fine) and you swerve into the fast lane. Bleeeppp!!! You cannot continue driving at 80 on a lane where everyone is doing at least 100!

The same, imo, applies to writing. If you're gonna write something, write it well (fast lane = drive fast). This follows a lot upon T.J's post, but I won't ask you about the personal line you do not cross. I'm gonna ask you about how you tackle that which you've decided to tackle.

On my website blog last week, I wrote about the feel of authenticity, and how I as a writer strive to bring such authenticity to my work. I used the example of the hero in my current WIP to pen that one.

But what applies to the hero applies to just about every other aspect of a story - plot, twists, characterization, start, middle and end. You expect a tragedy to have a tragic ending. You expect a comedy to make you laugh. You expect a romance to have an HEA. That's authenticity too.

So what then happens when you don't have that? A lot of writers take the line of 'twist, spin, flip' to an extreme. Yes, they do twist, spin, flip an existing genre/category/line/premise. But most get lost along the way. For example, the supernatural hero who is too heroic and has no Achilles heel. The downtrodden heroine who would make even Oxfam look like selfish snobs. The Alpha hero who would make lava turn to ice and ice turn to molten rock.

Or, you get writers who take a romance and add an urban fantasy feel to it. The women's fiction who takes on comedy of errors scheme. The paranormal with fantasy elements. That's the realm of cross-genre, and if you're gonna write cross-genre, you better write it well.

Twist, spin, flip. There are ways to bring this about. Take an exotic locale and turn it into a lair for fantasy creatures. Take another exotic premise and give it new life. Mix archetypes and layer them. When at one turning point, when whatever it is that's established expects you to turn right, turn left at that crossroads and see where it leads you. Many great stories have been penned this way.

But be ready to answer to the genre/rule/scheme you'll be twisting, spinning, and flipping, and ask yourself whether or not there is sense in what you've done/written (a good crit group/partners comes very handy here). Driving fast in the fast lane doesn't mean you drive with no foot on the brake and no eye on the rearview mirror. Driving fast in the fast lane means you are even more vigilant of the road and anything that could unexpectedly happen, all while you feel your back pressing into your seat, your hands sensually stroking the steering wheel while a smile of bliss tugs at the corners of your lips thanks to the exhilaration of the speed and the rev of the engine when your foot lingers on the pedal.

You should have fun with your writing too, but you should never leave that responsible, grown-up part of the writer get lost in the joy and sense of freedom.

Now tell me - do you write in the fast lane? And what is it like for you?

All comments more than welcome!

Aasiyah Qamar - Cultural Romantic Fiction, With a Twist
Coming out October 2 - Light My World - Eirelander Publishing
Nolwynn Ardennes - The Promise of Fulfilment
Coming out in January 8, 2010 - Storms in a Shot Glass - Eirelander Publishing

Aasiyah Qamar/Nolwynn Ardennes - Romance the world over

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

To go there or not to go there? That is the question.

Is this aspect of a story too much? Did I go over the top? Will I get hate mail because I wrote this? Have I written porn when I meant to write a romance?

I haven't met an author yet who hasn't run into these questions during their career and opinions vary on them. There are authors who will tell an aspiring writer or even an established author write for the market and don't go off the beaten path. There are other authors who will tell you – if it works then it works.

The truth is: at the end of the day, you have to be able to live with yourself. If you aren't comfortable writing two or three sex scenes then that is a line in the sand for you. If you don't mind writing sex that's your prerogative and nobody should say anything about it.

The other questions are a bit trickier because they may deal with stepping on proverbial toes. You may have added an issue that's been downplayed in mainstream or erotic romance or is a closet taboo.

I'm an author who once struggled with some of the first questions. I had one story sitting on my shelf forever because I chose to go there. I never regretted my decision and when I finally did sell it, I was surprised to find it was well received.

Today I'm not known to shy away from a tough subject. In fact, I appreciate the hardcore details that come from digging down to the nitty-gritty. I don't have any problem laying it out there where my readers can draw their own opinion. But that's me. By this point I have very thick skin and there is very little taboo left unexplored in my repertoire. I drew the line where many authors do – no incest. I have a few other fuzzy lines like I don't normally write M/M because a gay relationship is actually very different from the way it is mostly portrayed. That's a respect issue with me. Even if I write multicultural I am always respectful of the culture and religion whether or not I agree with their practices or religious doctrine.

To me, it does come down to going there.


So, it's your turn. Are there firm lines you'll never cross when it comes to going there? If so, what?


Until next Tuesday, cheers and happy writing,





Monday, July 6, 2009

With Love, from Ms. Blush

Hello to you all wonderful, beautiful people!

Hmmm, long time no hear... We at Royal Blush hope you all had a wonderful July 4th celebration, and if you live in other parts of the world or are not American, well, we hope you had a nice time over the past week. We know we enjoyed our break, even if we missed making the usual appearance here. Life went on like it usually does at this time of the year. Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) is begging for some sunlight in her dreary winter while Sandra and Diana are asking for some relief from the humidity and heat of the summer in the northern hemisphere. You'll probably hear another such rant in a few months when the seasons change, but what can you do? That's the basic economic premise, isn't it - limited resources for unlimited wants...

But, no digressing, coz we are back in full force this month, refreshed and ready to take on the world. Backstage, we've been giving in to a lot of the 'twist, spin, flip' technique. No, we weren't making pancakes, though one of us could surely give you a good recipe and technique for this delicious concoction. We've actually been thinking about all that goes on backstage in writing, prompted by our very first guest blogger spot for July!

Confessions of a confie virgin is what our guest blogger, author J. Hali Steele, will be telling us about. About to attend her first writer's conference, J will pen for us 2 posts, one prior to her departure and another after she comes back home with a new experience, that of attending such an event. Don't miss her spots on Wednesday 15 and Friday 24.

As usual, our regular contributors will be chiming in - Sandra Marshall and Diana Castilleja will definitely have something to tell you about the backstages of writing.

T.J Killian and Z(Aasiyah/Nolwynn) will also be clocking their weekly contributions. They start this week with questions about the personal line every writer doesn't cross (T.J on Tuesday 8) and authenticity when you take the fast lane (Aasiyah/Nolwynn on Thursday 9).

Don't forget:

This July, we're going backstage into the world of writing and the writer.

This July, we're on the quest:

Searching for what happens behind the scenes...

The best of us for the best of you, that's our promise as we deliver the full flush of romance.

From now till later, enjoy!

With love, from Ms. Blush