The Blank Spaces in Our Stories: The Messages Writers Send Readers Between The Words

 

By Kym-n-Mark Todd

Kym-n-Mark give a Silverville Saga reading in Kreuzberg, Germany, alongside Berliner novelist/screenwriter Knut Kohr. The bar for the reading was 100 yards from the largest drug drop in Berlin.)
Kym-n-Mark give a Silverville Saga reading in Kreuzberg, Germany, alongside Berliner novelist/screenwriter Knut Kohr. The bar for the reading was 100 yards from the largest drug drop in Berlin.)

As writers, we all spend lots of time thinking about narrative craft – plot, character, setting, dialog – but what about the blank spaces between all those words?

Readers don’t give much thought to those spaces – unless they’re missing. So it’s up to writers to fill the blanks with implied meaning. And it’s part of the unwritten “contract” we create every time we ask a reader to invest storytime with us.

Over the next three posts, we’ll remind fellow writers of the messages they intuitively (and, we hope, intentionally) include in the blank spaces of any good story. It starts at the sentence and paragraph levels, but it builds as we accumulate the sections and chapters of a good tale, and it even plays a role if we decide to expand our universe into multi-book series.

Part 1 – “Half-Halts and Full-Stops”: Why we add the breaks between sentences and paragraphs

As a part of writerly trade, we all know that every conversation – and especially every sequence of constructed dialog – tells as much or more through the subtext rather than the spoken exchanges. On the street, we express important information beyond our words by the way we gesture, inflect tone, screw up our facial muscles. On the page, we do something similar by how we use blank spaces, communicating important information that readers sense at a metatextual level.

It’s kind of like the subtle cues a good rider uses when “talking” to a horse. All our lives, we’ve bred, raised, and trained horses, and we’ve never cared for the term “horse whisperer” – that’s way too loud to characterize what takes place in the conversation between rider and ridden.

If performed correctly, that’s why the art of dressage is boring to watch from the sidelines because nothing seems to happen. There’s no slapping or spurring or yipping; but there’s a constant, subtle conversation occurring nonetheless, one expressed with a two-ounce pressure on the reins, a slight shift in the seat, a quarter-inch drop in the heels. These quiet cues, call “half-halts,” tell the horse important information is about to come, and then one slightly more assertive “statement” signals the next executed movement.

Similarly, the tiny breaks in the forward motion of our writing prepare readers for how to read our words. When we elect to fill our sentences with commas, we’ve slowed the pace, signaled the reader that important little packets of information are arriving, and each needs its own moment. But when our sentences roll on in long and flowing streams of words, we give readers the sense that the gush of ideas should speed up the reading pace to keep in step with our lengthening strides.

Same thing for the short, single-sentence or -phrase paragraph.

It’s that empty space at the end that signals to readers the importance of a single, stand-alone statement. Kinda of like a “full-stop” for a horse, telling the mount to think on what just happened for a moment before continuing. Our paragraph breaks function much the same way.

Of course, the spaces that punctuate breaks between sentences and paragraphs are part writer’s style and part style guide. For example, journalism tends towards very short paragraphs because newspaper articles flow down narrow column widths, and long paragraphs make a column look too gray and uninviting. Book-width pages can pack more in, but a leaf without paragraph breaks still looks daunting, and maybe the reason short, snappy exchanges of dialog can “open up” a page, encouraging readers forward.

Pages dense with type signal readers by the lack of blank space, telling them to take a deep breath, to slow down and pay attention. In this sense, writers carry on conversations with readers even before readers’ eyes focus on words and phrases.

Nothing inherently wrong with dense passages, of course, if that’s the message a writer intends to send. But blank spaces – or their lack – signal readers about what’s ahead and how they should approach the reading.

Less subtle are the larger blocks of blank space separating one section or one chapter from another, where a completely different sort of meaning takes place. Readers recognize these blank spaces say something important, and the audience assumes writers know how to use that space to set up what follows next – the topic of the next posting.

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By day, Kym is a graphic designer, Mark a writing teacher and director of Western State Colorado University's MFA program in Creative Writing; by night, they’re caped crusa – er, writers. They collaborate on the paranormal adventure-comedy Silverville Saga series, including Little Greed Men, All Plucked Up, The Magicke Outhouse (forthcoming next month), and Colorado Boo(m) Town (forthcoming in late 2014) – all published by Raspberry Creek Books. Mark is also author of the SF novel, Strange Attractors – A Story about Roswell, and two collections of poetry, Wire Song and Tamped, But Loose Enough to Breathe.

Why I Decided to Hire a PR Company as an Indie Author

By Colleen Oakes

Last night, at approximately 11pm, I decided that I would make some promo images for my upcoming novel, Queen of Hearts. I’m up late frequently these days, which is not very conducive for sleeping or for having a newborn. I’m up late doing weird things like promo images, because in this new, strange world of indie publishing, social media and promotion is key.

The fact that I’m staying up so late at night doing promotion was one of the reasons I decided, as an indie author, to hire a PR company.

Oakes_EllyA bit of history: I had an agent. My agent disappeared (literally!) and I was left behind in a huge publishing house. What I hated about having an agent (yes, I said it) was the long wait. I waited for a year while they messed around with Elly in Bloom and then at the end, nothing came of it. That was infuriating, and I swore then that my timetable would never again be based on anyone else's whims. After all, that's one of the great beauties of indie-publishing, and patience is not one of my virtues. As a control freak, I like and need this.

About six months ago, I was getting ready to launch Queen of Hearts. It has taken me two years to write this book, and that includes a huge chunk of time taken out to launch Elly in Bloom, the first book of my chick lit series. The book, FINALLY, was ready. It felt incredible to be done, to write “The End”. I am so ready for people to read it, to love it, to hate it. I know now that it will be a bit divisive and I can't wait to see those arguments play out. I was overjoyed to be finished with this beautiful monster. But the idea of launching another book on my own was daunting because I am already sick of it…

Self-Promotion.

Let’s be honest: it’s exhausting! I worry about it constantly. Am I putting out too much? Too little? I don't have a Tumblr - should I? I only have 250 Twitter followers. I should have more. Do I need two author FB pages, one for the Elly in Bloom series and one for Queen of Hearts? I only have twenty five Instagram followers - that's pathetic! Do I blog enough? Do I need ANOTHER blog? Do I have enough reviews? How is my Amazon Author Central? My Goodreads author page? My Smashwords page? My LibraryThing page? All of these things have to be kept hip, relevant and recent. It's overwhelming and intimidating and I worry that it's annoying to those that know me.

It's a constant stream, and at times I felt like I was drowning in my own words.

I explain it non-writer friends like this: Imagine that every single day, wherever you work, you had to petition to save your job. You had to remind your bosses of how great you are, every single day. You had to enlist co-workers to publicly state that you deserve your job. You have to email and tweet and stay totally relevant minute to minute, lest your company fires you, because you face that every afternoon. That's what it's like to be an indie-author right now. We are all fighting for the same spot, and social media is the key. You want to sell books so that you can write books. To sell books, you have to get readers to find your books. To unleash your creativity, you have to become a marketing expert.

The fact of the matter is that the indie pub revolution is here. It's happening right now, and the market is flooded with indie-authors. You have to work three times as hard to get noticed, just to rise above the fray. Writing a good book is the first and most important step, but after that it's all elbow grease and networking. Then, once you've risen above the fray, gotten the reviews, you have to maintain that. Blog. Tweet. Post. Facebook. Grow your followers. Make fans. Make friends. Sign books. Do blog tours. It's a lot.

Please don't misunderstand me - I am blessed to be able to do what I love to do every single day. My dream of becoming an author has come true and it's everything I thought it would be.

But. But. I did not anticipate the level of PR and self-promotion that I would have to undertake, just to stay relevant and selling books. It has cut dramatically into my writing time, which is something that the writer cannot abide. I find myself often making choices like "PR today or writing?" Do I focus on what I'm writing NOW or do I spend the time promoting what I've already written? It's always one baby that is left in the ocean, and that baby cannot be your writing.

And that’s why I have signed with a very cool PR company, Booksparks. They have taken the load off my chest, and put their resources on what’s most important, which was something I worried about. What promotions were worth it? Which ones were not? One of many obstacles facing indie authors is discoverability and getting your name out there. If you don't have a huge publishing house churning out your name to potential readers, what do you do? How do you find people? How do people hear about your book? I'm hoping that the PR company is the answer, and that they will not only take the burden of PR off my back, but also because I want to see what my books can do with a little (big) push behind them. It was the perfect time to hire a PR company, because I will be launching THREE books this year. I'll need help with that.

Hiring a PR company was like an intervention of sorts. A writing intervention.

Now I can get back to business, my business, the business of being creative.

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Colleen OakesColleen Oakes is the author of the best-selling novel Elly in Bloom, which debuted in September 2012. A die-hard Colorado native who really enjoys living in other places, she attended Concordia College in Bronxville, NY where she received her BA in Creative Writing. When not writing, Colleen enjoys swimming, traveling, and immersing herself in nerdy pop culture. She now lives with her husband and son in Denver. Colleen captures her thoughts about life (the good, bad, and awkward) pretty frequently over at her blog, The Ranunculus Adventures. Her first foray into epic fantasy, the first book of the much anticipated Queen of Hearts series, arrives this holiday season, with the sequel to Elly in Bloom not far behind. She is signed with Sparkpress Publishing.

For more information about Colleen and her books, visit her website and blog. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Talk to the Paw: Make No Bones About It

Kinsey as a Puppy
Kinsey at 4 weeks old

by Karen Duvall

We gave Kinsey a bad habit when she was a puppy. Bones. Not just a bone every now and then, but a bone every single night. When she was a wee puppy (almost 5 years ago), her energy level was through the roof. She needed constant attention and was so curious about everything that she was always getting into trouble. Solution? A nice juicy bone to occupy her time.

Her first pacifiers were chewy things for teething. She got rawhide this and that, those big yucky pig's ears, bull tendons, baked knuckle bones… Having that kind of stuff in the house is difficult for a vegetarian, but I figured it was for a good cause: my sanity. I had to keep my puppy satisfied or I'd never get any writing done.

Kinsey
Kinsey
Sammy
Sammy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kinsey is all grown up now and her need for a pacifier is long over. However, she's a spoiled brat and she has my husband wrapped around her paw. "She likes her bones," he says. Our living room looks like a cattle graveyard.

The cats are disgusted with her bone habit, and quite frankly, so am I. Especially since Kinsey is obsessively protective of her collection.

Kinsey: Mine, mine, mine! Get away or I'll bite you.

Sammy: Rolls her eyes. Yeah, right. I have no interest in your slimy old bone anyway.

Kinsey: That's because you have no taste. They're delicious.

Sammy: They're disgusting.

Kinsey: Oh, yeah? I've seen Dad watch cooking shows on TV and the humans boil beef bones to make soup.

Sammy: Yawns. Chicken I may pay attention to, but cows? Narrows her eyes. You know, you kind of look like a cow. A Guernsey cow.

Kinsey: Growls. You're getting too close. Back away from my bone.

Sammy: Okay, okay. Sheesh. Paranoid much?

Kinsey: This bone is special. It's the same kind humans eat in those gourmet restaurants.

Sammy: Humans don't eat bones, they eat the meat on the bones. At least humans that eat meat do.

Kinsey: It's a shank bone with yummy marrow inside. Humans pay a lot of money for these.

Sammy: For dog bones? You're not serious.

Kinsey: I am serious. I heard Dad telling mom about it the other night. They scoop out the marrow with skinny spoons and spread it on bread. It's a delicacy.

Sammy: Walks by Kinsey and trips on an old bone sticking out from under the couch. Ouch! That thing's sharp. The least you can do is pick up after yourself.

Kinsey: Mom will do it.

Sammy: You're spoiled.

Kinsey: Am not.

Sammy: Are too.

Kinsey: My old bones are useful, you know. Dad puts them outside under the plants to keep the deer away.

Sammy: He uses bones as deer repellent?

Kinsey: Yep. So I'm helping out the family. That's more than I can say for you.

Sammy: Whatevs. I still think you're spoiled. I've seen dad smear peanut butter inside your empty bones just to get you to leave him alone when he doesn't want to play ball.

Kinsey: Grins. I do have my ways of getting what I want.

Sammy: Swipes a paw at Kinsey's face and hisses.

Kinsey: Cringes. Hey, what was that for?

Sammy: That was me getting what I want.

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Karen DuvallKaren Duvall is an award-winning author with 4 published novels and 2 novellas. Harlequin Luna published her Knight’s Curse series last year, and her post apocalyptic novella, Sun Storm, was released in Luna’s ‘Til The World Ends anthology in January 2013.

Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. She is currently working on a new contemporary fantasy romance series.

 

http://www.karenduvallauthor.com/

http://www.karenduvall.blogspot.com

https://twitter.com/KarenDuvall

http://www.facebook.com/Karen.Duvall.Author

After the Critique: Sorting the Good Advice from the Bad

by Lori DeBoer

You’ve done the drafts and decided to test the publishing waters by sharing your writing with your inner circle.  Or maybe you've signed up for a slot with a local or online critique group.  While your manuscript is out and you are waiting for feedback, it's a good time to calm your Beta reader jitters by developing an action plan.

To wit: How are you going sift through all that feedback?

A plan will help you keep your post-critique bearings. You want to emerge with a good dose of confidence and clarity about how you’ll tackle your revisions.

Here are some strategies for sorting the good advice from the bad:

Consider the Source
This advice comes straight from my mom, who doled it out when I took an unkind comment to heart from folks I shouldn’t have been listening to, anyway. Granted, her advice didn’t make much sense when I was a kid, but I’ve grown to appreciate her message.  So, does your oldest arch rival find your most recent short story “trite”?  Does your mom think your memoir shouldn’t go on and on about Great Aunt Vivian? Does your boyfriend cringe at the sex scenes in your romance novel? Does your boss’s nephew who recently graduated from college really know if zombie novels are passé?  Consider the source.  Bonus tip:  Don’t give your memoir-in-progress to anybody in your family, or even tell them you are writing about the family. . . for at least a year. Trust me on this.

Be Realistic
If you are a total beginner, it’s likely you have a lot to learn. Even seasoned professionals work hard at their craft. Nobody expects to play a professional sport or become a professional musician or actor without years of study, practice and paying those proverbial dues.  If you have just started out and are getting consistent suggestions that you might want to dump your prologue or that your characters are flat, you might want to entertain that feedback.  Remember to say “thank you.”

Set Some Benchmarks
Writers who are successful read like writers. That is, first they read in their genre for pleasure. That out of the way, they reread their favorite and least favorite books in said genre with a (metaphorical) scalpel. They break those books down into what works and what doesn’t and dissect their disparate parts until they can put them back together. Once you do that, you can figure out who critiques your stuff with an insider’s knowledge, who recognizes what you are trying to do and can help you get there.

Avoid Extremes
Did the comments you received make you feel like you were walking on sunshine, on top of the world or in seventh heaven? Or did the comments make you feel like crawling into a hole, under the covers or back into the hell that you were spawned from?  Either extreme should give you a tip-off that this is not the critique partner/group/forum for you.  Even if the folks giving you comments are wildly published, you should find the nearest exit and run.

Get a Second Opinion (Or More)
When I was pregnant with my son, I was diagnosed with a fatal disease and thought I would die in childbirth. Turns out I should have gotten a second opinion.  I was tired and didn’t, but that’s another story.  Unless you are in the throes of a high-risk writing pregnancy or some other sort of extreme author illness, buck up and get a second or third opinion. And while you are at it, check that person’s credentials. Some opinions are more informed than others.

Ask for Specifics
If a reader claims that your writing sucks, is insipid, flat, filled with cliches or, God forbid, “sentimental,” ask for specific examples.  Ask politely. Even if the critique is spot on, it’s difficult to get a feel for what’s not working in a piece when you are handed vague and pointless remarks like “it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.” Likewise, if a reader professes to “love” a piece, resist the urge to leave it at that. Ask him or her to point out moments or passages in your writing that evoke these feelings of “love.” The most recent research on motivation shows that we learn more from specific feedback about what’s working more than barbed remarks about what we are doing wrong. That said, gratuitous praise helps no one.  In fact, no one really believes overinflated, vague praise. Not even kindergartners.

Challenge Your Resistance
If some feedback or suggestions really makes you angry or upset, you may want to take a look at why you threw a tizzy fit in response, even if you threw it quietly. The feedback could be truly terrible. Or it could be that the advice you received is spot on and you subconsciously (or consciously) just don’t want to deal with the ramifications  Because revising is a lot of hard work, like hauling rock, only with your bare-naked brain instead of your bloody hands, and who wants to do that?  So, feel like pushing back?  Try pushing on in your revisions.

Know Thyself
What are the secret, dark and dishonorable impulses that might be motivating you to write? Is your memoir a thinly veiled attempt to tell the world about how your mom/father/ex/teacher/fill-in-the-blank treated you? Are you seeking revenge for all your past hurts in the form of a novel about time-traveling werewolves? Are you writing schlock because it seems like easy money and you have allowed yourself to become a bitter person? Do you dream of instant author popularity at your 20th class reunion?  If any of this resonates with you, it could be that your personal baggage is getting in the way of you reaching your personal writing best. Figure out a better way to schlep that stuff around, or dump some if it altogether, and chances are your writing issues will also resolve.

Be Willing to Experiment
Not sure what to do with a piece of advice?  Try it out! At the advice of others, I’ve overcome my tendency toward being stubborn (I am the youngest child) and overhauled my stories. In one case, I changed the age of a character, in another, I changed the setting and point in time, in a few other stories, I’ve changed the point of view.  Sure, these revisions have taken time and I've groused about them, but I’ve always learned something from these experiments. If you feel petulant about undertaking revisions, remember that you aren’t working on a typewriter for Pete’s sake, so no hardships there, and this is what writers do. So just get it over with and see what cool scenes you come up with.

Let it Simmer
Take enough notes so that the feedback you receive makes sense, and then stick that writing in a drawer and let it simmer for a couple of weeks. After you are no longer in the thick of producing that story, you’ll be able to look at your work and the advice you received with a more impartial eye.

Ultimately, what you do with the feedback you receive on your writing is up to you. At some point, you’ll find a reader or two who really understand what you are trying to do with your work and can help you bring it to a level that will earn you legions of fans. My advice?  Those kinds of readers are keepers. Feed them chocolate and and gratitude.

When it comes to revising your writing, how do you sort out good advice from bad?  Please weigh in!

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Lori DeBoerLori DeBoer is an author, freelance journalist and writing coach whose work has appeared in The Bellevue Literary Review, The New York Times and Arizona Highways. She has contributed essays on writing to Mamaphonic: Balancing Motherhood and Other Creative Acts, Keep It Real: Everything You’ve Wanted to Know About Research and Writing Creative Nonfiction and A Million Little Choices: The ABCs of CNF. She founded the Boulder Writers’ Workshop and is a homeschooling mom. She and her husband Michael and son Max live in Boulder.

For more about Lori, please visit her website and blog.

Rogue’s Possession Release!

by Jeffe Kennedy

This is release week for me!

The second book in my Covenant of Thorns trilogy, Rogue's Possession, came out from Carina Press on Monday. This is my first sequel - the continuing story of the adventures started in Rogue's Pawn - and it's been a whole new, thrilling experience to have readers excited for the release. Already the book has been listed on October "Must Have" lists and early ratings on Goodreads have it at a perfect five stars.

(Of course, that's from four, die-hard fans and I don't expect it to last, but for now it's all pretty and pristine.)

For those interested, a bit of a blurb:
A human trapped in the world of Faerie, in possession of magic I could not control, I made a bargain for my life: to let the dangerously sensual fae noble known as Rogue sire my firstborn. And one does not break an oath with a fae. But no matter how greatly I desire him, I will not succumb. Not until I know what will happen to the child.

Though unable-or unwilling-to reveal the fate of human-fae offspring himself, Rogue accompanies me on my quest for answers. Along the way he agrees to teach me to harness my power, in exchange for a single kiss each day and sleeping by my side each night. Just as I am about to yield to temptation, I find myself in a deadly game of cat and mouse with an insane goddess. Now my search for the truth will lead me to the darkest of all Faerie secrets.

And, just for fun, an excerpt!

Chapter 1
In Which I Accomplish Several Impossible Things before Breakfast

Negotiation is the science of the fae culture, providing the guiding precepts for all actions. Virtually nothing is offered without a price attached. Conversely, nothing can be taken from you without appropriate payment. Pretty much.

~Big Book of Fairyland, “Rules of Bargaining”

We were late to the battle.

As I’d been promised, the Promontory of Magic enjoyed a spectacular view, though I wasn’t there to sightsee. The finger of rocks thrust well out into the ocean, the water the unnatural blue of a resort hotel pool, despite the thunderous surf and driving rain.

Below, two fleets of sailing ships exchanged fire. They were conveniently arrayed on each side of the promontory, flanking me as if I were a Wimbledon line judge sitting at the net, ready to call faults and points. Except my power was even greater.

I would decide who lived or died.

Whether I wanted to or not.

My hair lashed against my cheeks, stinging me, and I pulled up the hood of my cloak, grateful for its warmth. A gift from Rogue, the cloak magically repelled water. Despite all I’d learned about controlling and stabilizing magic, Rogue’s abilities far exceeded mine. The scent of sandalwood teased me, bringing up warm and sensual memories of his devastating kisses. Rogue managed to be both the bane of my life and the addiction I couldn’t seem to shake. My life had become irretrievably intertwined with the fae lord’s, though I hadn’t seen him in days. His absence made my heart that much more vulnerable to the longings he stirred in me. I tucked them away, where they wouldn’t distract me.

“Which side is ours?” I asked.

My fae companion, Puck—a vision in celadon polka dots that clashed quite alarmingly with his strawberry blond locks—gave me a goggle-eyed stare, as if I’d asked which way was up, and pointed at the left side. Good thing I’d asked—I’d thought maybe it was the other. One of the many disadvantages of being a human in Faerie was missing out on their hive-mind shared understanding.

“It’s a fine day for a battle!” Puck gazed out over the ships with a gleeful expression and I tried to fake the same enthusiasm, despite the dread in my heart.

Of course, every day in Faerie was fine, in a purely aesthetic sense. The sun, which shone most of the time, did so with lustrous brilliance in depthless skies. The grass glowed an emerald green Oz would have envied. Even the rain shimmered like effervescent and musical drops of platinum.

Beautiful, gorgeous, yes.

Don’t wish you were here.

Seriously.

In a place like Faerie, the pretty merely masked the reality, which could be horrible indeed. I hadn’t liked my university job as a neuroscientist in the physiology department back in Wyoming, but being employed as a war sorceress sucked far more. Forget the glam sound of it—killing people at someone else’s whim whittled away your humanity in hateful bites. Compared to that, my old tenure committee seemed like amateurs.

“You recall your instructions?” Puck bobbed his head as he spoke, encouraging me to agree.

“Piece of cake.”

Puck cocked his head, puzzled, and I knew my idiom hadn’t quite translated. Usually my intended meaning got through just fine via the telepathic network, but sometimes, particularly if I didn’t pay attention, my good old American English slang created strange images in the fae mind.

Some gaps could never be bridged.

“Yes. Darling will inform me of the moment and I will sink exactly half of the enemy ships.” I sent a questioning thought to Darling, my cat Familiar, to make sure he was still on board with the plan, especially since he provided my only long-distance communication access. When he felt like it. Imagine a cell phone company run by kittens.
“It shall be a battle to go down in history! Victory shall be ours!” Puck galloped off, leaving me alone with Darling’s grumbling narrative in my head, which roughly translated as bored, bored, bored.

Darling had become my Familiar largely in a quest for adventure, and being stuck with the generals at battle HQ so he could relay information to me annoyed him to no end. He wanted real action. Sometimes his thoughts came across with a disconcerting manly point of view—especially since he communicated mainly in pictures and feelings. He also suffered from delusions of grandeur.

I had bigger problems, however. The terms of my indentured servitude to General Falcon as pet sorceress in his war dictated that I do as he instructed. The arcane rules of bargaining in Faerie gave me something of an out—as long as I stuck to the letter of our agreements, I could skate around what he really wanted.

In this case, the drowning death of half the humans in the opposing army. Or navy, I guess.

I sure as hell couldn’t drown a bunch of innocent humans. The fae might regard their lives as disposable, but I knew the men on those ships had no more choice—or stake—in Falcon’s ridiculous war games than the wooden vessels themselves. Rogue had warned me I’d face this moment if I chose to honor my servitude instead of running off with him. Since I hadn’t been eager to exchange my status for an even more questionable one with Rogue, I was well and truly stuck.

Don’t think about him.

A white slice of anger at my current predicament flared in me. Something sharp and alien enough to take my breath away. I shuttered my mind, thinking it came from elsewhere, but it continued its headlong race through my heart and disappeared again, leaving me rattled. This wasn’t the first time I’d felt it since the last battle—like the remnants of a fever dream after you’ve awakened. I wasn’t sure what it meant, but I knew giving it attention was probably a bad idea.

Instead I concentrated on my goals for the day:

1. Do what you’re told.
2. Keep to simple agreements.
3. Stay alive.
4. Try not to kill anyone.

The four habits of highly effective sorceresses.

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Author Head Shot

Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her fantasy BDSM romance, Petals and Thorns, originally published under the pen name Jennifer Paris, has won several reader awards. Sapphire, the first book in Facets of Passion has placed first in multiple romance contests and the follow-up books, Platinum and Ruby, are climbing the charts. Her most recent works include three fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns, the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and the post-apocalyptic vampire erotica of the Blood Currency. The first book in Covenant of Thorns, Rogue’s Pawn, has won numerous awards and the highly anticipated sequel, Rogue’s Possession, releases this fall. She is currently working on Master of the Opera and The Twelve Kingdoms, a fantasy trilogy.

Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, with two Maine coon cats, a border collie, plentiful free-range lizards and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com or every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog.

She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.

Banned Books: Why Won’t You (Dis)Like Me?

By Julie Kazimer

A few weeks ago was banned book week.

My favorite time of year.

This is when we honor the long tradition of idiots banning books, and thereby making the author and the book famous. Book banning has a long history both in the United States as well as many other places in the world. Some extremists have even taken to burning said books, which doesn’t quite work the same in the digital age. It will be interesting to see how e-readers go up in the fire.

Now I’m no expert on this banning stuff, but I would ask those in the banning community to do me a favor, and ban all of my books. I’ve seen what challenging a book can do, on a much smaller scale, with the release of my F***ed Up Fairy Tale series (this is not a shameless plug, begging you to buy my books. The begging comes much later, so please keep reading).

Little ole me got an interview with the finest local news agency this side of the **********, CO city limits when CURSES! was released in March of 2012. Yes, I had hit the big time. Take a moment to bask in my coolness.

Moment up, as was my coolness.

For, a few hours before the interview, the reporter called me, said she had to cancel because the editor, felt my book, mind you he had never read it—like so many people who have never read, but nevertheless banned books throughout time—was inappropriate for their obviously highbrow readership unaccustomed to seeing asterisks where letters should be.

At first I was upset because the inappropriateness of my book and apparently of me, had this unintended effect. A reporter with The A.V. Club heard about the cancellation, and in 1st amendment style, wrote a piece on the whole sordid deal. Therefore, instead of an interview guaranteed to land on the driveway (and probably sit there for a few days) of a thousand potential readers, my book hit the inbox of tens of thousands.

This was a valuable lesson in marketing for me and hopefully for you.

Controversy is key to selling books. Forget if they are any good. Who cares about writing when people are tossing matches at your work. Love? Hate? It doesn’t matter as long as you sell thousands and thousands of copies.

Of course, I’m joking .

Who throws matches anymore? That’s what lighter fluid and those long grill lighters thingies are for. Safety first, people.

And with that lifelong lesson, please take a moment to buy or check out the following top 100 books challenged or banned from 2000-2009 (according to the ALA) from your local bookstore or library (might I suggest my favorite book of all time, number 21 on the list).

And then in this next decade, let’s really work on banning or challenge all my books. Seriously. Help a writer out. I’d be happy to burn your book in return.

Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16. Forever, by Judy Blume
17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20. King and King, by Linda de Haan
21. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
22. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
23. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
24. In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
25. Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
26. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
27. My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
28. Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
29. The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
30. We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
31. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
32. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
33. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
34. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
35. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
36. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
37. It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
38. Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles
39. Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
40. Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank
41. Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
42. The Fighting Ground, by Avi
43. Blubber, by Judy Blume
44. Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
45. Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
46. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
47. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby: The First Graphic Novel by George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the creators of Captain Underpants, by Dav Pilkey
48. Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
49. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
50. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
51. Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan
52. The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
53. You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco
54. The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole
55. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green
56. When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester
57. Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
58. Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going
59. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
60. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
61. Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle
62. The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard
63. The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney
64. Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park
65. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
66. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor
67. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
68. Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
69. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
70. Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
71. Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
72. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
73. What’s Happening to My Body Book, by Lynda Madaras
74. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
75. Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry
76. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
77. Crazy: A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert
78. The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein
79. The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
80. A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
81. Black Boy, by Richard Wright
82. Deal With It!, by Esther Drill
83. Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds
84. So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins
85. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
86. Cut, by Patricia McCormick
87. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
88. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
89. Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger
90. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
91. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
92. The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
93. Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
94. Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
95. Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
96. Grendel, by John Gardner
97. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
98. I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte
99. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
100. America: A Novel, by E.R. Fran

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include The Body Dwellers, CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story and FROGGY STYLE as well as the forthcoming romance, The Assassin’s Heart, and the upcoming mystery series, Deadly Ever After from Kensington Books. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator.

Learn more at www.jakazimer.com or on her writerly talk blog More Than a Little F***ed Up. She can also be found (way too much of the time) on Twitter as @jakazimer and on Facebook as Julie Kazimer.

RMFW Spotlight

Mike Befeler, who posts here every other Monday, is recovering from a recent health setback. Mike, we send you lots of good wishes and prayers for a quick and full recovery.

While Mike gets a little R&R, we thought we'd take this time to introduce a few of our RMFW officers and volunteers. We sat them in the hot seat, shined the bright light on them, and channeling our best inner Oprah, plugged them with a few questions.

Today, we introduce you to Vicki Rubin, RMFW's esteemed and much appreciated Vice President. Vicki we are so grateful for all you do for our group and the time you took to answer a few of our questions.

 

Let the grilling begin.

1. Tell us what you do for RMFW and why you are involved.

I am the RMFW Vice President. As such, I have few official duties. In fact, none. It’s a great gig. In addition to being VP, I am Co-chair Volunteer Coordinator. I get to help Scott Brendel recruit volunteers when the need arises. In both positions I get to meet people and help them figure out ways to become involved in RMFW. Being involved with RMFW allows me to visit with interesting people and learn how they create amazing worlds and fascinating characters.

2. What is your current WIP or most recent publication, and where can we buy a book, if available?

I’m working on a couple of short stories with a Twilight Zone flair as well as a manuscript about two reluctant (yet effective) sister private detectives: Calli Sheridan and Buttercup Rollins. In this book their adventurous grandfather, Chance, an ex-jewel thief, has been charged with--dang--jewel theft. He promised he’d gone straight. The sisters must clear him or he’ll lose his apartment at Beautiful Gardens Retirement Community and have to live with one of the women. That will never do.

3. We've all heard of bucket lists-- you know, those life-wish lists of experiences, dreams or goals we want to accomplish-- what's one of yours?

I am a “worlds-biggest-ball-of-yarn” girl. I love to see stuff that is unique and incredible, like the Corn Palace in South Dakota or a moonshine still hidden in the Okefenokee Swamps of Georgia. In addition, I enjoy participating in things that scare the life out of me. I’ve zip-lined, tightrope walked, and rock climbed. Don’t ask what possessed me to do those things. I’m still trying to figure it out.

4. Most writers have an Achilles heel with their writing. Confess, what's yours?

Being Southern, telling stories comes naturally; we have an oral tradition down there that I took to like a moth to a flame. Writing those stories down is a little more challenging for me. I duct tape myself to my computer to produce material. It’s not pretty, but it is effective.

5. What do you love most about the writing life?

I suppose I love the solitary life.The eyestrain acquired by glaring at a computer screen for hours at a time appeals to me. Not to mention the posture problems. Then there are the public conversations I have (complete with hand gestures) with people who aren’t there causing the people who are there to give me a wide berth. Honestly, what’s not to love about writing?

6. Now that you have a little writing experience, what advice would you go back and give yourself as a beginning writer?

Rejection is not about me. It’s about not being in the exact right spot at the exact right time with the exact right manuscript. No more, no less.

7. What does your desk look like? What item must be on your desk? Do you have any personal, fun items you keep on it?  

My blond-wood flattop desk is a wreck most of the time with different sized stacks for different projects on different corners sharing apace with reference books and a printer. My laptop has a little clean spot in the front center. My desk is next to an oversized chair where I read with Gracie, my Dalmatian. Mostly she pretends to read, but is really sleeping.

8. What book are you currently reading (or what was the last one you read)?

Just finished a writing book recommended by Angie Hodapp. It’s by David Farland and is called Million Dollar Outlines. He presents lots of insight into what makes a strong story and creates a solid bond with the reader. It was terrific. Thank you, Angie! I’m also reading Lee Child’s books because I love Jack Reacher.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you, Vicki, for being such a good sport and granting us this opportunity to get to know you a bit better.

Stay tuned to October 21st to see who is the next victim...er...gracious volunteer for our RMFW Spotlight series!

 

 

 

Talk to the Paw: The Sound of Silence

by Karen Duvall

When I write, I like complete silence. No music playing in the background, no television noises to distract me (unless it's football, of course. The sound of cheering keeps me motivated). My pets know my demands, and the cats are lovely about keeping quiet. The dog, on the other hand… She claims she can't help herself. I'll be right in the middle of a pivotal scene, concentrating on what the characters will do next, when all of a sudden… BARKBARKBARKBARKBARKBARK! I nearly fall off my chair.

Sammy         Kinsey

Sammy: What's wrong with you?

Kinsey: Looks confused. I have no idea what you're talking about.

Sammy: The barking. At everything.

Kinsey: I do not bark at everything.

Sammy: You see a leaf fall from a tree, you bark. The birds gather at the feeder in the yard, you bark. A neighbor walks by the house, you bark.

Kinsey: I'm a watchdog. It's what I do.

Sammy: Watch things and then bark at them?

Kinsey: Growls.

Sammy: You're making Mom a wreck, you know.

Kinsey: Am not.

Sammy: Are too.

Kinsey: She knows I can't help myself.

Sammy: She calls you Lady Barksalot.

Kinsey: Well, if a burglar ever comes in the yard or tries to break into the house—

Sammy: You'll break his ear drums with your high-decibel barks. I know.

Kinsey: Looks smug. You're just jealous.

Sammy: Excuse me?

Kinsey: You do nothing but eat and sleep all day.

Sammy: Untrue. I keep Mom's lap warm while she's writing. My purring always puts her in a good mood. I'm her muse.

Kinsey: Looks thoughtful. That's not what I heard.

Sammy: What did you hear?

Kinsey: That you're trouble.

Sammy: Just because my sudden energy bursts sometimes knocks plants over and sends vases crashing to the floor doesn't mean I'm trouble.

Kinsey: Just keep telling yourself that.

Sammy: Hisses and swats at Kinsey's retreating backside.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

MeKaren Duvall is an award-winning author with 4 published novels and 2 novellas. Harlequin Luna published her Knight’s Curse series last year, and her post apocalyptic novella, Sun Storm, was released in Luna’s ‘Til The World Ends anthology in January 2013.

Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. She is currently working on a new contemporary fantasy romance series.

 

http://www.karenduvallauthor.com/

http://www.karenduvall.blogspot.com

https://twitter.com/KarenDuvall

http://www.facebook.com/Karen.Duvall.Author

New Adult: Defining it in Art and in Life

By Trai Cartwright
Part Three of a Six-Part Monthly Series

If you haven’t already heard, the writing world has a Hot New Thing. It’s called New Adult, and everyone’s after it – but no one can agree on what it is.

I’ve been known to take a poll or two, collecting data until there are enough consistencies to connect the dots, draw a conclusion, feel well-informed. You know, the old-fashioned way to self-educate, before memes explained everything in tell words or less.

So I’ve been polling all the writers, agents, and editors I meet lately and ask them: What is New Adult?

Here are some of the answers I’ve gotten:

  • New Adult, or “NA,” is a relationship-driven story in which said relationship has transformative healing powers.
  • NA is about 18 – 24-year-olds who go to college. Or get their first jobs.
  • NA is any story about a person aged 18-35 who is doing something in the Adult World for the very first time (so marriages, new home ownership, zombie apocalypse, world travel, world travel during a zombie apocalypse…).
  • NA is Chick Lit from 10 years ago.
  • NA is YA with sex.
  • NA is YA, basically, but with a sophisticated writer’s voice. Like, a story about a 16-year-old, but with a voice that isn’t quite literary so only oldsters would read it, but isn’t glib and chatty or texty or slangy like much of YA.
  • It’s rooted in the real world. If you do all of this in scifi or fantasy, don’t call it New Adult Fantasy, just call it Fantasy or Scifi.

Egads. Does the publishing world even know what they’re all so fired up about? I even saw one contest seeking to award a New Adult manuscript but the contest rules didn’t even define what New Adult was to them!

Then it occurred to me that a great place to look for NA models was TV and the movies. Hollywood has been doing New Adult their entire existence, updating as the audience got more diverse, sophisticated, and/or more morally corrupt.

Here’s a five-second list of on-screen New Adult titles:

Johnny Got His Gun

Veronica Mars

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (in the last seasons, it seamlessly transitioned from YA to NA)

Rocky

Norma Rae

Alien

Silkwood

Wall Street

Badlands

Bonnie & Clyde

A billion action movies staring some hot young stud / studette who is at the top of their car racing / parkour / psychic / super- / computer hacking / spying skills.

Any war movie ever

And perhaps the most definitive New Adult movie ever:

Risky Business

Here’s the dots I’m connecting across all mediums:

  • School of any kind may or may not be a part of the main character’s world, but it’s not a key component. Mostly these protagonists need lessons school can’t teach. They often leave their school at the mid-point.
  • They are newly-forged adults in a world that hasn’t laid out a red carpet for them to take their place in it. And our main characters may not want or care about that red carpet (golly, I wonder if this ties in to all the anti-hero stories we’re seeing…?).
  • The main characters are all under 30. Because apparently if you haven’t figured out how to start working the system by then, we cast you out of our society and/or start writing mid-life, book club-bait dramas about you.
  • There absolutely is Scifi and Fantasy with new adult qualities. Tons it, actually. They practically forged the genre. But yes, the publishing world really does just call it Fantasy or Scifi. (Or Horror.)
  • Unlike YA, in which the young person who, no matter how heartily she rebels, still realizes that in the end, she needs a community to survive, and must tamper down that rebellion and take her place in society, New Adult isn’t about finding your place in society. It’s about surviving the reality of being responsible for yourself in a tricky, dangerous, complicated world.

So here’s my conclusion: while it might well include a grab bag of other components from above, in general New Adult fiction is about:

  • Young people facing graphic adult issues. Like sex, violence, domestic issues, disease, addiction, job loss, etc., but it’s not a “rite of passage” to adulthood. It’s just part of their world, and it might be all of that stuff, all at once.

Because sometimes that’s what being an adult is.

Now swim.

I almost feel a responsibility to write New Adult now, to give guidance to our young people graduating high school and trying to get out of their parents’ basement and not completely fall to pieces. It’s a scary world and a lot is expected of them. The least we can do is pass on what we know. And maybe if it’s packaged just right with a shiny new genre title, the young ‘uns won’t mind that it’s an oldster telling them.

Any books you’ve read that you think of as New Adult? Any components or definitions you've heard for New Adult?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Trai Cartwright HeadshotTrai Cartwright, MFA, is a 20-year entertainment industry veteran and creative writing specialist. While in Los Angeles, she was a development executive for HBO, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. A new Denver arrival, Trai currently teaches creative writing, film studies and screenwriting for Colorado universities, MFA residencies, writers groups, conferences, and one-on-one as an editor for fiction and screenplays. Learn more about Trai and her work at her website.

Trying to Retire

By Carol Caverly

Carol CaverlyI've been in the writing business for a long time, since the late fifties, I think. It's been a long wondrous, fascinating journey. But as the years have passed, and the business changing completely (some for the better, some for the worse) the fire in the belly has disappeared, or perhaps worn thin like a creaky joint. The book in progress has been in progress too long. The idea is still intriguing but the long days of hard work needed to complete it are not appealing. I decided the time had come to throw down the pen/pencil/keyboard and do all those other things I've always wanted to try.

It wasn't easy. I mean, I couldn't do it right now. I still had to get the third book in my mystery series onto Kindle and finish up with a big well-planned promotion before sending the aging darlings off into the ether to live or die among all the millions of other books out there. So, okay, that would be my final project.

Happy to not be sitting at my computer, I wandered into Barnes and Noble looking for one of those learn-French-the-easy-way books (one of the other things I want to do,) gathered a couple of possibles and looked for a place to sit down. As you probably know, B&N no longer has comfy chairs scattered all over the place, just a couple of wooden benches and hard chairs opposite the magazine racks. I sat in a well-worn arm chair and glanced at the racks. Directly in front of me were copies of The Writer, Writers Digest, and a Writer' Digest Yearbook edition boldly titled Novel Writing. With a rush of nostalgia I put the French books aside and grabbed the magazines. Way back when I was a young bride on a ranch in Wyoming, a chance encounter with The Writer, which I borrowed from a friend and quickly devoured, was the beginning of my writing adventure. A life long reader, it never occurred to me that just anybody could be a writer. I thought they were a special breed. How enticing the articles were. I was snagged.

For twenty years I read every issue of The Writer and Writer's Digest from cover to cover. The Writer was smaller then, printed on pulp paper, but very dignified. It stuck quite closely to "good" writing. Writer's Digest was much noisier. It covered everything--fiction, poetry, articles, true confessions, westerns, greeting cards, me and Joe stories for outdoor magazines, picture books for children. I loved it all! I added books to the mixture and eventually found, built and joined the writing community that has been an important part of my life ever since.

But that was a long time ago. The discipline is gone. I don't want to spend all that time alone staring at a computer screen. Priorities change. Now is the time for families and travel.

I selected French in 10 Minutes a Day from my pile, gasped at the price of the magazines but decided to buy them, too. For old times sake. I'm sure you know where this is going. Of course I read the magazines. Of course I found a market that sounds like a good shot for a short story in my files. Of course I found an article in the newsletter that encouraged me to respond to the call for bloggers for the RMFW blog. I've never written a blog post before.

So I've been hedging my bets a bit. Here are my new rules for retirement: I don't have to write, but if I feel compelled...yes. No more novels (unless compelled.) Stick to shorter projects and maybe a blog here and there. And no matter what happens, I'll never give up my writing friends.

I'm on page two of the French book.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Carol Cavalry is the author of the Thea Barlow Wyoming mystery series, All the Old Lions, Frogskin and Muttonfat, and Dead In Hog Heaven. Though now living in Colorado Springs, Carol used her extensive background of Wyoming ranch living for the settings of her mysteries. Her books also appeared as selections of the Detective Book Club. Her latest short story was included in the anthology, Homicide Host Presents. Her books are available on Amazon with the first two also available as Kindle editions. A Kindle edition of the third will be available in November. You can learn more about Carol and her books at her website.