Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Crazy Year, Crit Club Deadlines and Your Questions Answered

Well, it's been an amazing, crazy, challenging, eye-opening, tick-it-off-the-bucket-list kind of year for me. And it's ended on a high with over 4,000 people downloading BREAKABLE last week!

I'm grateful for everything I've learned and experienced. And I'm resolved to share as much of it as I can with you guys in 2014.

Right now I'm planning some insight posts into self publishing (what marketing worked, what didn't, what I'd do differently next time, etc), some how-to writing posts (finding the flow, getting discriminating with describing words, how to polish, and more) and I'll be hosting some more of my favorite authors which is just a high.

If you have any burning questions about writing, editing, critiquing, or self-publishing, feel free to email me, or to ask them in the comments. I'm looking for inspiration for new blog content for 2014 so ask away! I am an open book (no pun intended).

Don't forget that I've also set up The Crit Club. We'll have our inaugural workshop in January. If you use your holiday break to finish up a manuscript and would like to join, make sure and read the FaQ's then apply before January 6th.

So, I'll see you in the New Year. Thanks for taking this manic journey with me in 2013!


Your Turn: Any questions or requests for blog posts in the new year? Ask them here, or email me at aimeelsalter (at) gmail (dot) com

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

BREAKABLE is FREE until Friday!

That's right! The Kindle edition of Breakable is free on Amazon until end of business Friday. If you don't already own it, now's your chance!

And if you send one of the quoted tweets below, or share my facebook status promoting Breakable anytime between now and Friday, you'll go into the draw for a free paperback copy too! (That's international folks - if Amazon ships to your country, you can go into the draw).

So head on out there and pick it up for free, or tell your friends about it and go into the draw for a free paper copy.

To enter, go to my Facebook page and share any status update advertising the free promotion, or tweet about it using one of the tweets below (you can make up your own - just make sure it includes #BreakableBook so I count your entry):


Free today! BREAKABLE the #YA NYT Bestseller @Coracarmack calls "Officially one of my favorites" http://ow.ly/rOF4g #BreakableBook

I love this book and it's free! BREAKABLE Stacy can talk to her future self. Her future self lies. http://ow.ly/rOF4g #Breakablebook #ya

Free today! BREAKABLE the #YA NYT Bestseller @Coracarmack calls "Original. Authentic. Heartbreaking." http://ow.ly/rOGPf #BreakableBook

Free today: BREAKABLE - Stacy can talk to her future self. Her future self lies. http://ow.ly/rOF4g #Breakablebook #ya #mustread

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Release Blog Tour: SLEEPER by S. M. Johnston

I am so blessed to have awesome online besties like Sharon laying around. Sharon answered a call I made years ago to find readers for Breakable when it was still Listen to Me. Through that we've ended up reading for each other, blogging together, and generally having a riotous good time on Twitter. (Yes, I do riot on occasion. It's been known to happen. Don't judge).

Anyway, when I heard her debut, Sleeper, was finally coming out, I jumped at the chance to interview Sharon about the book so you can know more about it too! This is a truly unique concept, expertly delivered, and despite it's Sci-Fi roots, it's compelling to a die-hard romance fan like me.

Read on - especially if you like speculative fiction!

Okay, Sharon, welcome to Living the Write Life! To kick this off, give us some idea what Sleeper is about, and who you think will most enjoy it?

Sleeper is about a girl, Mishca, who meets two boys, one she genuinely likes (Ryder) and one that she loves the moment she sees him and doesn't know why (Colin). But it also has cool speculative fiction twists with a heart transplant triggers super powers that Mishca tries to keep secret as she's worried about being a science experiment freak. It's her journey to finding out the truth behind her powers and her love for Colin. 

I think anyone who enjoys trying to solve an intricate mystery will love this as well as people that love romance. Even though it's got a Science Fiction/Paranormal bent, it's more Fi than Sci.

What was the inspiration for SLEEPER? How has the protagonist, Mischa, developed since your initial idea?

Originally, it was meant to be Mishca and Colin's love story, but I quickly realised that they had a doomed love that would never work, so along came Ryder. Originally Mishca struggled with her situation a lot more, but my mentor, Angela Slater, showed me I need a MC who wasn't a sad-sack-syndrome sufferer. She became a lot stronger and it really improved the story and Mishca's character ARC.

Do you have a favorite scene, or theme in the book?

My favourite scene is "caught in my bra in my boyfriend's car" where Mishca decides to play show'n'tell to explain her heart transplant to her boyfriend Ryder. Unfortunately her dad sees this and thinks something else is going on. It was actually inspired by something that happened to me. I had a boyfriend giving me a kiss goodbye and my dad yelled out "Get your tongue out of my daughter's mouth!" My boyfriend crapped himself and made a quick exit. Unlike Mishca's dad, I found my dad crying with laughter at the outcome. 

You’ve had a long road to publication. Tell us a little about your journey and your publisher. How much control did you / do you have over the final product?

When I first wrote SLEEPER, I had never heard of New Adult. I put some of it on a site called Inkpop, which was like a crowd-sourcing site run by HarperCollins. I called the story Mishca then and it quickly rose through the ranks and was the most successful Australian story on the site. I've  a talent scout represent me and an agent, but neither of those situations worked out. I've had other agents interested, which included a request for a rewrite to make it YA. I did that and it ended up with Entranced on the basis of that version. When I let them know there was a NA version as well they asked to see it and wanted to publish that one as they felt it was more inspired. Entranced are fantastic to work with. I had so much editorial control.

Do you have any advice for writers considering independent press?

Independent press are more willing to publish the left-of-centre stories. So if you've been having trouble landing an agent, you could try small press. With Entranced I got a lot of support with publicity and my cover is amazing. I realised that I wasn't confident with self publishing at this point in my career as I wanted to work with a publishing team, and that's what I got with Entranced. Every step of the way is covered. SLEEPER and the TOY SOLDIER SERIES won't be the only novels I will publish with small press. 

Is there anything you wish you’d known before you got published? Anything you’d do differently or tell others to consider?

I did a lot of research, so I knew what I was getting myself in to. What I've learnt the most along the way was finding the balance between listening to others and staying true to my vision. You need input from others as often they will find things in your story that you can't see because you're just too close to it. Work on your story, have multiple eyes look at it, and make sure they're not just friends and family. You need people in publishing - editors or authors - to be reading your work. I'm blessed to have beta readers who are industry professionals, but I still paid to have a professional edit.

Although I found a home for me first novel, I know many authors who didn't. Be prepared to let a project go if you need to and move on. 

What has been your favorite moment in your journey so far?

Finding a home for Sleeper, knowing that someone saw the merit in publishing my work. I actually got the offer for SLEEPER quite quickly after I sent through the full. It was a matter of days, which I know is rare. But for me it was a great validation of the belief I had in myself - someone else shared it too. I jumped around like a crazy woman when I got the offer. 

Intrigued? You should be. But if you need more, take a look at the blurb and cover below:

A new heart should mean new life, not a living nightmare.

Mishca Richardson’s life is at an all-time high after her heart transplant. With new boyfriend, Ryder, the two of them have the perfect summer romance. Even the nightmares that have been plaguing her sleep since her operation can’t dull the high she’s on.

Things start to unravel as Mishca develops superhuman abilities. She does her best to hide them so as not to end up a science experiment in a lab. But she can’t ignore the instant attraction she experiences when she meets her university professor, Colin Reed.

Torn between the blossoming love and the obsession, Mishca must decide if she wants Ryder or Colin. But the organization responsible for her changes and her connection to Colin, is moving to secure Mishca for himself so that she can be the weapon he always intended her to be. If Mishca can’t resist her programming she’ll have a lot more to worry about than romance.

Buy it now on Amazon, or check out the reviews on Goodreads!

Monday, December 9, 2013

5 Questions with My 5 Favorite Authors FEAT. Julie Anne Long (Historical Romance)

Okay, so I had this inspired idea of asking my favorite authors questions about themselves and their writing, and so far they're all saying YES. *Dances* (Though one will have to wait for the post-Christmas push to be over).

Anywho, I'm kicking off this roaring good fun with one of the wittiest and pure-darn-sexiest writers I know. And by that I mean, her male characters are sexy. Not Julie Anne herself...though she may be. I wouldn't know... except that to write like that she's got to have some kind of insight, right? But... well, this is heading into dangerous territory...


Well, it's no surprise to me that Julie Anne is a USA Today bestselling author. If you enjoy funny, emotional, historical romance with depth and genuine wit, you can't go wrong with her Penny Royal Green series. Seriously, I have yet to hate on one. And they are all on my "re-read" shelf which, let me tell you, is very sparse.

In fact, even if you aren't normally an historical fan, I'd encourage you to pick up Like No Other Lover if for no other reason that the scene Julie has mentioned below. (Or, my favorite, How the Marquess was Won. Seriously. Inspired).

I'm going to stop fangirling now and let Julie talk. Except I'm formatting it so it looks like we had an actual conversation, because to me, that would be awesomesauce.

Let me live the dream...

ALS: Which of your books was the most fun to write, and why?
JAL: Interesting question! They all have their moments, truthfully, and writing in general is “fun” for me, even when it's torture, if that makes sense. :) I remember in particular having a WONDERFUL time writing a certain scene in LIKE NO OTHER LOVER—a shooting scene, to be precise. But I probably had the most fun writing my first one, THE RUNAWAY DUKE. I knew absolutely nothing about publishing, was unfettered by expectations of ay kind, and blithely went about writing whatever the heck I wanted, unconstrained by perceived genre rules or jargon or constructs.  It was a delightful surprise when it was a big success (after a bit of whittling down to fit into genre constraints.)

ALS: Which of your characters do you like best, and why?
JAL: You know this is an impossible question for authors to answer, right??
[ALS Sidenote: No one said this was all going to be fun and games, Julie].
JAL: LOL. It's like choosing a favorite child! I like all of them, but I do tend to favor the ones I'm currently writing, because creating them is delicious.. Truthfully, however, I still have a crush on Adam Sylvaine from A Notorious Countess Confesses, however. He was such a different hero—a hot vicar, with tremendous moral and spiritual strength, but who was funny, human, honest, very no BS, and kept a volcanic passion in check—until, of course, the right woman came long. The book was emotionally challenging to write and I think Adam is husband material. ;)
ALS: Did you choose your genre (and if so, why?), or did your genre choose you?
JAL: A bit of both, actually. I've always been a pretty voracious and egalitarian reader, and I read and loved quite a bit of historical romance. I set out to write a book with no genre in mind—I truthfully didn't know books were so specifically marketed by genre—and what I ended up writing was a big, big historical love story. Its original 500 pages were whittled down in the editing/revision process to a more orthodox historical romance length. And the momentum of the success of my first book sort of carried me forward in the genre. The rest is history!

ALS: Which part of being a published author do you find most difficult?

JAL: I'm not crazy about the word “difficult”, because I kind of feel like labeling something “difficult” is a self-fulfilling prophesy. :). Every bit of my career challenges my creativity and emotional maturity in many ways. Since I love learning and I'm always on a quest for self improvement, it's all valuable, and even the disappointments become sort of interesting when viewed in that light. That said, I think the uncertainty inherent in a writing career challenged me the most. You never, ever know what might happen, and it could be spectacularly wonderful or it could be disappointing. Getting comfortable with ambiguity is a process. :)
ALS: And thusly, you've reached the BONUS ROUND [In the vein of "Boxers or Briefs"]: E-book or paperback?
JAL: It depends! If I can only get it in paperback, then I'm delighted to read it in that format. I read a lot on my Kindle because of the instant gratification factor. ;) (Kindles are dangerous little inventions.)
ALS: *Nods sagely* I concur, Julie. I concur....
 Julie Anne Long is the USA Today bestselling author of the popular Pennyroyal Green series, To Love a Thief, and The Runaway Duke. She's funny, inspiring, downright talented and one of my five favorite authors of all time. If you have any kind of interest in historical romance, you do not want to miss these books! The next installment of the PRG series, Between the Devil and Ian Eversea is out April 2014. Go ahead and buy the others now. You won't regret it!


Thursday, December 5, 2013

YA Author, Beth Pond, On Tackling Book Research

Confession: As a 7-year-old, I dreamed of being an Olympic pairs figure skater. I loved the grace of the female skaters, how they were lifted and thrown, how they spun. I loved it all. When I told my mom and my figure skating coach my wish to try pairs figure skating, they couldn’t contain their amusement. I was already as tall as my coach and was still growing. Sure I was coordinated and had strong legs, but I definitely did not have the build of a figure skater.

I took figure skating lessons for another year, but ultimately went on to compete in a variety of other sports. Still, I loved skating, and I loved the Winter Olympics. In fact, it was the 2006 Torino Olympics that first inspired my novel Podium Finish. As interesting as the sports were, I found the athletes’ life stories even more fascinating.

While I knew what it felt like to win and lose, how much it hurt to break a bone, and though I had some idea of what it meant to train twice a day multiple days a week, I realized very quickly that I didn’t really know what it was like to be an Olympic hopeful, nor did I know that much about the winter sports I wanted to write about. This meant one thing: I had to do research.

The first thing I did was buy a 3 ring binder and dividers. I wanted to research 5 sports, so each sport had its own section. I made lists of the things I didn’t know, starting with a bulleted list of broad topics such as rules, gear, or training, and then started writing specific questions.
I also made “character sketches.” So much of what drew me to wanting to write about the Olympics in the first place were the different life stories of the athletes. This notebook was a good place to develop their character and plotlines before I even started writing.

The internet was a great resource for answers, especially my questions about ice dance. Image searches helped with ice dance costume ideas for Alex’s character. The images were also helpful for when I needed to explain certain body positions.
I watched footage from different skating competitions, always making sure I had a pen and paper at hand. Watching skating competitions gave me a feel for how the skaters moved and acted. Plus, televised skating competitions have sportscasters, some of whom were skaters themselves. They explain what is going on for an audience of non-experts. They make skating accessible to those who have never skated before. This is similar to what an author does, so it was incredibly useful to hear how the sportscasters described the rules and routines and borrowing their jargon added a sense of authenticity to the book.
Nonfiction books are another great source of information. I read several autobiographies of athletes from various winter sports. These books captured the hard work, sacrifice, and daily struggles of an Olympian. Plus, they answered questions I didn’t even know I had. Turning to autobiographies has also proven helpful in the research I’m doing for another manuscript I am currently working on. This story involves various medical components—comas, organ transplant, hospital regulations, etc.—and while some of this information is on the internet, autobiographies give a closer and more insightful look, because they tell of a more in-depth personal experience.

It’s important to know your market. Where does your book fit?

The best way to figure this out is to read other books in the genre. When I was writing Podium Finish, there weren’t many other young adult books out there that dealt with winter sports, let alone the Olympics, so my work offered something new. However, there were some wonderful young adult books that had sporty female protagonists, such as Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s Dairy Queen series and Miranda Kenneally’s Catching Jordan. Know what’s out there. Know what these authors do well and see if your book has these elements. Sometimes doing book research involves improving your craft.

Initially, I had intended for the book to take place in Torino, as this was what sparked the premise of Podium Finish in the first place, but an agent told me that using a real Olympic location would date the book. She recommended I change the location to some place real, but a place that had not recently hosted/was not scheduled to host the Olympics. I had traveled to Iceland in 2010 and was able to use bits and pieces of that experience in the book.

After reading and scouring the internet, I still had some unanswered questions, so I contacted some Olympians and Olympic hopefuls. I emailed them explaining that I was doing research and asked if they would have time to answer a few questions for me. I had some wonderful responses. I wanted my book to portray their sports as accurately as possible. The accuracy was something important to the athletes too. I was writing about sports that most people only pay attention to every four years, so this was a way to get the athletes’ voices out there as well. Plus, I was 16 at the time. I used my age to my advantage. While some adult athletes might have been skeptical of helping a young, budding writer, I found that teen athletes and athletes in their early twenties were very interested in helping out. They were trying to build their career just like I was trying to build mine, so we could relate to one another. And, the characters in my book were 17-year-old Olympic hopefuls. Interviewing teen Olympic hopefuls about their experience made the most sense.

As a final note, it’s important to remember that not all research will end up in the book. For example, I interviewed a snowboarder, Brooke Shaw, who, fingers crossed, will make the 2014 Olympic team—she’s awesome and I loved interviewing her—but I ultimately decided to cut the snowboarder character from the book, so I could focus more on Alex and Harper. This research wasn’t in vain. I learned a lot, and who knows, I might use it an upcoming project.

Thanks for having me, Aimee!

Beth Pond graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Hendrix College in 2012. In 2013, she taught in South Africa for 9 months as part of a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Grant. Pond is currently completing her coursework at the University of British Columbia’s Creative Writing MFA program. When she’s not writing, Pond enjoys martial arts (she’s a black belt) and serving as a volunteer coach for her brother’s special needs baseball team.  
Her debut YA novel, Podium Finish is available now:

With six months until the Olympic Games, seventeen-year-old Harper's life is pretty much perfect. She's fighting for the starting spot on Team USA Women's Hockey, and for the first time ever, she has a crush on a guy who likes her back. She feels like the luckiest girl in the world, until she runs a risky play at practice and breaks her knee, thereby sentencing herself to six weeks in a cast and possibly ending her Olympic dream before it even starts.

For seventeen-year-old Alex, being anything less than the best is unacceptable. That's why, after a miserable debut season at the senior level, the former junior national singles champion switches to ice dance. Her skating partner, Ace, is an "all skating all the time" type of guy, which would be fine, if he'd stop keeping secrets about the real reason he and his former partner broke up. Now is not the time for second thoughts, but how can Alex skate her best if she can’t trust her partner…or herself?

As the pressure to make the Olympic team builds, the girls must rely on each other, because if there’s one thing they both know, it's that the only thing harder than skating to the top is staying there.

Available for Kindle / Nook , and in paperback where good books are sold ;)
You can also find it on Goodreads.
Twitter: @BethPond90

Monday, December 2, 2013

Should You Believe Your Own Reviews?

The hardest part for me in the process of moving from "unpublished" to "author" was the week, a month ahead of release date, when I lost control of my book: I had to send it to reviewers.

While I'd never looked forward to reading my own reviews (mainly out of fears they'd all be 1 or 2 stars from people saying things like "What on earth convinced this woman she was a writer?!"), I hadn't anticipated the fact that I would actually court reviews. That I would need them before readers even got their hands on the book.

Way to think things through, Aimee.

So the week I started passing out copies to people I didn't know and couldn't trust to be anything but honest felt like an exercise in self-flagellation. It was an odd experience. After all, I'd courted plenty of tough critiques and editorial comment prior to that point. I'd gone out of my way to ask people not to try to save my feelings. But it wasn't until that day that I realized, while I may have wanted honest feedback on the book before, I'd always been in control of who had it - and who saw the feedback they gave.

Turns out, getting reviewed was a WHOLE lot different than getting critiqued because, after all, whatever the results, they'd be out there in the public forum.

You're raising your eyebrows at me, thinking "Well, duh." and if I were you, I would be too. But the fact remains that I hadn't really thought through the differences until the moment was upon me. Let's just say I spent a fair week or two sweating it out.

Now, before I go any further I'll say I've been lucky: Reviewers like my book. There's currently 29 ratings on Goodreads and about 18 reviews, and none rates lower than a 3. Only 4-5 of the raters / reviewers know me personally, and they're legit. I'm sure they wouldn't have rated me lower than a 3 anyway, just to be nice. But all of them posted 5-star ratings or roaring, thoughtful reviews.

The rest, however, are legitimate reviewers who were either given a copy by me in the process of hunting for review sites for my blog tour, or readers who've bought the book and decided to let others know what they think of it.

Strangely, it turns out that even though my reviews are all positive (even the vocal 3-stars have a lot of good things to say), reading my own reviews in any category is nail-biting. See, when people read your book they take things from it you never intended. They feel things you hadn't realized you communicated. They ask questions you never intended to answer.

In some ways that can be very rewarding - after all, I've never wanted my writing to be escapism for escapism's sake. But in others it's a real challenge.

And then there's the other side of it - the ratings. The vast majority (20 of 29) of raters / reviewers have given Breakable 5 stars. I've also had feedback personally from people via social media, who tell me how much it touched them, or what they loved about it. That's wonderful, of course. Seriously, you'll hear no complaints from me. But strangely I've found myself asking "Are they begin honest? Or do they just have a reason to be nice that I'm not aware of...?"

It appears that, even in my outward success, my insecurity still carries a foghorn and presses the alarm button on a regular basis.

So...should I believe my own reviews? Objectively I think yes. The fact that people like the book is rewarding and reassuring. The fact that readers who don't know me are complimentary is the first mark of a job well done, in my book. (SIDE NOTE: I seriously wrote that sentence without realizing I'd made a pun until I re-read the post for proofing... *facepalm*)

But, by the same token, that doesn't mean my book is perfect, or I have no work to do to make the next one better. In particular, one three-star reviewer really got me thinking about the role of a "hero" and how to ensure my reader is brought along for the ride.

So, yes, I will take the (so far) predominantly positive feedback as a tick in the right box. But I will not accept that my book couldn't have been better.

With all that said, it's a lot easier to go to sleep at night feeling like I've done what I set out to do than it would be if reviews were decidedly mixed, or watery. I am thankful that readers are taking the time to think about my book - what it says, and what it doesn't say. And I'm really grateful they're willing to talk to other people about it in a public forum.

Then again...maybe they're just being nice? *Insecure frown*

Just kidding.

Sort of.

Your Turn: Do you think reviews are a true measure of a book? Do you ever "pull punches" when you're reviewing on Goodreads, or Amazon?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Read MY Dear Teen Me Letter!

That's right, today I'm being hosted as the author over at Dear Teen Me. This is such a special moment for me because that was the website that inspired Breakable. But also, I just plain love what they do over there.

If you're interested, head on over and see what I would say to my sixteen-year-old self!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bullying - Why Should You Care?

Much has been made in the reviews of Breakable over the bullying Stacy (the protagonist) is forced to deal with. I really appreciate the reviewers asking hard questions, or looking into the issues. Though I didn't intend for Breakable to be a "bullying book", it appears to have slipped into that category. And I'd rather discuss the issue than avoid it.

That said, there are those who read my book, or watch the current headlines, or listen to their niece / nephew complain about experiences at school and they just kind of shrug.

"Toughen up. It isn't that bad."

Those are the responses to any bullying discussion that get the hairs on the nape of neck standing to attention. Why? Because it means those people really don't understand why bullying should be eradicated with the same singularity of focus we'd give to a rat's nest in the baby's bedroom.

If you're someone who has those thoughts, I'd ask you to keep reading.

Consider this:

Outwardly bullying appears to be social jockeying for position; the natural process of conflict and triumph that dictates the hierarchy of any mammalian group.

And when that "survival of the fittest" filter is applied, there are certain aspects of teenage social interactions that even I would agree fall into that category: We have all been teased, humiliated, targeted, or socially isolated at some time. Having a crappy day at the hands of our peers isn't tantamount to bullying.

Bullying is another beast entirely.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

BREAKABLE Paperback on Sale over at B and N!


You can pick up BREAKABLE for just $9.04 today, over at B&N. I'm not in control of the sale prices, so I have no idea how long it's going to stay that way. 

Accordingly, Amazon have dropped the price to $9.15 (for Prime users anyway - can anyone tell me if that offer is everywhere?).

I'll probably blog about this later, when I know a little more. But I'll admit it's a bit disturbing when outlets are messing with my pricing, etc, and I have no control. That said, they appear to be paying me my full royalty (at this point anyway) so I can't complain!

My advice is, get some Christmas shopping done early and buy a glossy copy for that YA reader you know. You won't regret it!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Pleasant Discoveries of a Debut Author

Hey guys, I'm still taking applications for the Crit Club, but due to other commitments, I'll have to close up at the end of this month for the January critique round. So if you're interested in joining, get in touch asap!

These last couple months have been a real ride. I've lost control of my book! Since October 8th it's been in the hands of people whose sole purpose is to decide whether they like it and tell other people what they think. And since November 4th, it's been in the hands of readers - the real litmus test.

There've been a lot of surprises and discoveries along the way - some good, some bad. I'll talk about the bad another time. Today I wanted to talk about the good.


#1 - Reviewers are generally nice, kind people who get excited about books. Even mine.

Something I hadn't considered before embarking on getting my book reviewed was that, as a general rule, most reviewers want to read books they think they'll enjoy. Most of them won't agree to review a book they aren't attracted to. What does that mean? It means when someone says "Yeah, I'll read it." I've already got one foot in the door. They've already decided that my book appeals to them. They're predisposed to enjoying it.

I just have to deliver on the promise! (Whether I consistently can remains to be seen).

#2 - No one's joking when they say the very best social media marketing is having successful people talk to their followers about your book.

The day two NYT bestselling authors and a popular reviewer talked to each other (briefly) about Breakable? Yeah, that. In the span of 30 minutes I had two new reviewers contact me, several new followers, and some promised book sales. That was a day of happy dances, let me tell you.

#3 - Facebook is my best friend.

This is one that really took me by surprise. It turns out, the VERY best online marketing tool (for me anyway) is people sharing my book with other people on Facebook. Especially if the sharer is a book blog / reviewer, or an avid reader with lots of avid reader friends. Makes me wish I'd given more time to my facebook page BEFORE the release...

#4 - People really do get excited about the fact that I've got a book out. And not in the "nod and smile" kind of way.

I've always loved my family and friends, and felt loved by them. But I am literally staggered by the support they've given me in this (one particularly loving sister has bought 9 paperback copies so far - and counting!)

I think deep down I thought no one really cared that much, they were just happy for me to be doing something I loved to do. But it turns out the people around me are genuinely impressed and proud that I've written a book. And I'm sure their friends and family are getting sick of hearing about it!

#5 - Readers don't write fake reviews.

I think of all the milestones I've hit and fun I've had in the last couple weeks, there's been one stand-out moment: the first time a person who didn't know me from Adam heard about and bought my book, then reviewed it. With zero input from me, they loved it and told all their friends why.

It's an experience I've wanted since I was little...and it's happened. It still feels surreal.

Other than all that, it's been a crazy couple of weeks. I'll be posting more about it and the nitty gritty behind the scenes over the next few weeks. But until then, check out all the great ratings and reviews for Breakable on Goodreads (I didn't pay for or co-erce a single one. Promise!). Or get really brave and buy a copy!

Your Turn: What expectations / hopes do you have for YOUR debut?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Affordable, Quality Critiques When YOU Need Them - Join the CRIT CLUB!

So, you've finished a draft of your manuscript. You're feeling good because it's done, but you know it isn't "there yet". You want input and guidance on how to take your book to the next level. But finding someone with the skills to help you identify what's missing, or where you could improve who will read the entire manuscript in a timely manner is hard. Especially if you're a fast writer and need that kind of input every couple months.

I get requests from writers all the time who are in this position. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to critique for each of them - I wish I could! I know how hard it is to find the answers you want. And the fact is, we all need that kind of detailed input, right?

Well, I think I have a solution. And I want to know if you're interested in getting involved. Maybe, just maybe, we can solve that problem for everybody in 2014:


What is the Crit Club?

The Crit Club is a circle of authors, who write various genres, all with complete manuscripts, armed with the tools they need to analyze plot structure, character development, technical writing skill, and story analysis.

Every month or two (depending on the needs of the group), the Crit Club will convene for a workshop. Over a four-week period, each author in the workshop will analyze a whole manuscript, chapter by chapter, then fill out an over-arching review document.

By the end of the month, every author in the clinic walks away with a detailed analysis of their entire book: Chapter reviews which include commentary on the characters, plot, structure, pacing (and more!) and a Story Review which identifies which aspects of the book as a whole are working, and which are not; self-editing tips and ideas for which parts of the manuscript to focus on, along with identification of which parts of the writing, story, characters and plot are working.

How Does it Work?

Approved authors who are members of the Crit Club will be notified by email when a workshop is approaching. They can then opt in or opt out.

By opting-in, you're committing to critiquing another manuscript, of similar wordcount to your own, within a four week period (the first half due within two weeks, the second half due by the end-date).

During a workshop, each author will send their manuscript to me (stripped of author names, etc). In return, I'll send them the anonymous manuscript of another author.

To avoid personal conflicts, you won't know who's critiquing your work, and you won't know whose work you're critiquing. But once you've submitted the complete critique, you'll receive the critique done for you.

It's that simple.

How Do I Join?

It takes a lot of time to critique a full manuscript, and it can be a little rough on our writerly-egos, so it's imperative that every member of the club is screened to ensure they understand how to critique effectively, and also are capable of receiving critique and understanding the value of it.

If you think you have what it takes, and you're interested in becoming a part of the Crit Club, it's a two-step process:

First, you submit the first chapter (or first 2,000 words, whichever is smaller) to me, along with details on your genre, overall wordcount, etc. (Don't worry, I'll send you a form to fill out. It only takes a second).

In return for a small screening fee, you'll receive a detailed critique of your first chapter. If you find that helpful and want to continue, I'll then submit a first chapter to you for critique, along with a chapter critique template that you would use if you were involved in a workshop.

Within 7 days, you'll return a detailed critique of that chapter to me.

Authors who are accepted for the program will then receive critique templates to make the process easy no matter how you like to read, and the Crit Club "Tips for Critiquing" document, full of tips on how to make the most of both critiquing other writers, and how to process and action critiques you receive (including notes on how to gain confidence on when not to action critique notes).

In each workshop members will be grouped by skill level, wordcount, and / or genre (depending on the number of authors involved), ensuring that everyone receives a detailed, quality critique in a timely manner.

How Much Does It Cost?

The application process is $20 (payable by Paypal or Credit Card) and guarantees that even if you aren't accepted into the club, you will walk away with a detailed critique of your first chapter (or first 2000 words).

Each workshop will be $50, but writers in the club have no obligation to join a workshop. If it isn't the right time for your manuscript, or you don't have the cash, wait until the next workshop is announced. There's no financial commitment unless you opt-in for a workshop, so there's nothing to lose!

What if I Don't Like My Critique?

If you join a workshop and believe the critique you received is poorly done, or inaccurate, you can apply directly to me to have it reviewed.

If I agree that the critique is substandard, you'll be refunded your fee.

Why Do You Get to Screen Everybody, Aimee?

Well, because it's my club. And also because I regularly critique for traditionally published and successfully self-published authors. This is something I'm good at. I also receive great critique from experienced authors, and I know what a good critique looks like.

If you aren't sure, you can check out some of the critiquing we've done on this site in the past. In fact, I'd highly recommend it. We won't be pulling punches at the Crit Club, so you want to make sure that you're prepared to receive honest criticism of your work - with the goal of making your book even better than it already is!

Where Do I Sign Up?

If you don't have any more questions, go here and apply.

If you do have questions, email me at aimeelsalter (at) gmail (dot) com with "CRIT CLUB" in the subject line. We'll take it from there!

Happy writing, everyone!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Dearth-of-Epic-Endings Epidemic


Because I'm merrily marketing at the moment, (I'm interviewed AND reviewed at PondAcrosthePond, and there's another review and a chance to win a paperback over at Endless Reading) I'm bringing back some popular posts from years past. Until Thursday, every comment on my posts, or linked Breakable Posts can win a signed Paperback! (If you're not sure what to say - wish my Mom a happy birthday!)

And now, back to our regularly scheduled viewing...

I read a lot of bestselling YA fiction. And in the past year or so I've noticed a disturbing trend: Fabulous beginnings leading to merely average endings.

My apologies if your kids saw that...
Don't get me wrong - nothing I've read has made me screech "That's it?!" and throw the book across the room. But...

Three of the last four BIG YA releases I've finished captured my imagination completely in the beginning, while the conclusion left me with a distinct sense of Oh. Okay. *Shrug*

These are good books! I still want to read sequels (or other books by the author). But none have knocked my socks off to the point where I'm pulling a bookstore manager across the desk, demanding she give me a release date for the next one now.

And that's a problem.

The reason I'm barking about this is because as a reader I want more. Much, much more. I want unexpected twists, satisfyingly noble conundrums and realistic failures leading to nail-bitingly close calls. In short: I want to close the cover and feel like the climax was...er... satisfying.

And that tells me something important about my writing. Some questions I need to ask myself for each and every book:

1. Does my book end on events the reader can only predict in hindsight (AKA: "I should have seen that coming!")?

2. Does the climax place the protagonist in a position so precarious that loss of life, love or eternal happiness seems impossible to avoid?

3. Is my protagonist forced to make a decision that the reader prays they'll never have to make?

If I can't answer "Yes!" to at least one of those questions (but preferably all three), there's a problem.

Endings can be as bombastic as a nuclear explosion, or as quiet as a sleeping kiss... but they must be fraught. Emotions must run high. Chances must seem impossible... And victory absolutely, without fail, must be hard-won.

Blog Reader says: That's all well and good, Aimee, but how do I do that?

I'm glad you asked, Friend Writer. The answer to that is as varied as the writers behind the stories... but I can tell you how not to do it:

PLEASE NOTE: These comments are based on a bestselling YA release of a few years back. Names / creatures have been changed as I don't want to point fingers.
I read A BOOK years after it became popular. For the first three quarters of the pages it was a triumph (in my opinion). The writing was great, the characters likeable, the tensions varied and unrelenting. Check. Check, check, check.

But the ending was a prime of example of a non-epic-ending. It's too easy.


As we move into the climactic chapters, the characters 'realize' the apparent cure for Creatury Shapeshifting is an specific kind of physical illness. This moment is delivered with a flourish and one can almost sense the characters eyeing the reader, waiting for the breathless "Of course!".

Except, I (the reader) figured that out in the first couple of chapters. The first time the heroine described her early memory immediately after contact with the Creatury Shapeshifters. It was obvious. And frankly, I was never quite buying that the characters didn't make the connection.


The answer to the "How Ever Will We Induce This Life-threatening Illness?" question is answered off-stage. Annoying, stock character pops out of nowhere... Again. (She always crops up when the heroine is in need of a good motivating stimulus, then disappears until the next obstacle, I noticed) and says "I just happened to be a the hospital with my nurse-mother where a patient just happened to be dying of a germ that will do the trick, and I just happen to know how to take blood, so I pretended to be a nurse and got three vials... let's go save some Creatury Shapeshifters!"

Even if you ignore the implausibility issues of a narcissistic rich girl a) going to hang out in the hospital with her near-absent mother, b) knowing how to take blood, and c) getting hold of the necessarily medical apparatus to take no less than three vials and get them out of the hospital without anyone noticing, you're still dealing with the fact that all of this plot-central action occurred TOTALLY OFF-SCREEN.

Not only does I (the reader) have to believe it - the only evidence I'm given to back it up is that the characters told me so. 


After a (well-delivered) breathless and tense scene in which the hero is only barely able to obtain human-form long enough to receive the probably-deadly dose before changing back into a Creatury Thing, he disappears.

Now, as a plot-point this works well. MORE TENSION! Yippee!!!

Except... he just stays disappeared. For months. No checking in. No hints. Not even a red-herring. The other Creatury Thing dies and our heroine goes into an emotional spiral assuming her favorite Creature has too.

Then.... without any warning the hero shows up in the last handful of pages to establish the Happy Ending. No explanation of where he's been. No plausibility-affirming details on why he was gone so long when, clearly, the antidote worked.

Now, I'm all for delivering a story-arc over three books, but when readers who aren't late-adopters like me might have to wait a year or more for the sequel, you've got to let us see what's happening in the NOW.

If you didn't catch what the problem was there, catch it here:

The Hero achieved victory OFF STAGE. (Again!)

And that victory remained unexplained. (Again!).

Strike three = You're Out.

Now go write something that lets the reader howl alongside your hero / heroine until they're writhing with the injustice of it all - and sighing with satisfaction when it's over.

Your Turn: Have you read a book recently where the ending fell flat, or one that left you breathless? Why did it work / not? (And if you have read and know which book I used for the example, just keep it under your hat. I have no desire to point fingers at specific authors or books).

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Another Great Review for Breakable!

I'm having a lot of fun over at Goodreads, where the ratings and reviews are coming in steadily. But the most fun is when the reviewers jump on board and start promoting for me because they love the book! The other day Amanda Foody (a YA author repped by Molly Jaffa at Folio Literary Management) was tweeting people about my book. What a treat.

Check this out!
Then there's Taherah over at Books As You Know It, talking about Breakable too! 

Friday, November 8, 2013

About My Characters, and the Challenges of Self-Publication

Today I'm over at Eve Castellan's blog talking about the journey to
- and challenges of - self publishing.
I'm also at Paulette Harper-Johnson's site talking about my characters!
Last day to go in the draw for a signed paperback. Comment here or at either of these sites to win!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

AUS / NZ Followers - Win a paperback today!

Hey guys, completely separate from my international giveaway, there's a paperback up for grabs at Sharon Johnston's blog today.

Get thee over there and comment!


An Interview and More Chances to Win

Click on the links at the top right menu if you haven't got your copy of BREAKABLE.

Short and sweet today guys - you can still win a paperback copy of Breakable by commenting here, or on my interview over at Creating the Write Reality with author, Liz Gelb-Oconnor.

There's some other stuff coming up too. Link you later!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How to Turn an Idea into a Book and Why THAT Story??? (and WIN!)

Breakable is now for sale in paperback, for Kindle and for Nook!

Today you can win.... over at Down Under Wonderings  (after 10am) where one of my besties, author Sharon Johnston is offering a Breakable paperback (comment and you'll get two chances to win!).

I'm at author Helen Lowe's website (after 10am) answering the question Why This Story? (Check out her fantasy novels if you haven't already - she's an awesome NZ writer repped by Writer's House and she's winning all kinds of awards).

And I'm already at Ara's "My Book and My Coffee" blog, talking about what it takes to turn an idea into a book.

And don't forget: the international competition to win a signed paperback of Breakable continues. You can comment on this post, or any of the posts I've linked today to earn an entry. Winner announced next week!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Win BREAKABLE (and more)

To win a signed paperback of Breakable, comment on this post and / or any of the posts linked below. Each comment is an entry. Winner announced next week!
Or you can buy Breakable as a paperback, for Kindle, or for Nook!

Before you ask, yesterday was *soprano voice* Awwww-Suuuuum. The cliff notes can be found here.

*Returns self to dignified posture*

Well, it's been kind of a weird few days, what with having the flu and releasing a book, and all that. But we aren't finished! Over the next ten days I'll be offering up more chances to win and more appearances here at Living the Write Life - did you see that? See how I just dropped that in there? Huh? Yeah.... (Check out the new blog title if you haven't already).

And, if you're still mulling over the idea of buying a copy, there's some more reviews and interviews up today:

And I've found generous shout-out posts from Heather and Kate!

Anything else? I'm not sure. If you think of something, ask me in the comments! (You'll be entered for the competition then, too).

Your Turn: Comment to win! And check back later next week to find out if you're the winner!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

An Insightful and Amazing 5-Star Review for BREAKABLE!

Hey guys, today my review dreams came true when Jen Strand over at the YA book blog Fictitious Delicious gave Breakable five stars and wrote the review I always wanted to receive. (And I didn't even bribe her!)

Among other things, Jen said:

"...The dialogue, the pace, and the emotion conveyed through this story are some of the best I've read.  There is no doubt that Aimee Salter loves to write. Shelve any of your self pubbed hesitations right now..."

If you want to read the whole thing, check it out here.

As for me...For today at least, I am full of fabulous...


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

WIN a Character Named After YOU!

Hey guys! It's only FIVE DAYS until Breakable is released (excuse me while I throw up a vital organ). There's lots of fun stuff happening right now, but the best part for me is that I've been able to kick off my reader site!

That site includes a three-question "survey" on what my next project should be. So whether you want to read Breakable or not, I'd love your thoughts. The survey includes brief descriptions of three different books, each with an opportunity to tell me how much they appeal / don't appeal to you. Then you can enter your email address or twitter handle in the final textbox to enter to win a character named after you!

So, head on over to the Reader Survey on my reader website (you're welcome to poke around the site too, obviously - though if you plan on reading Breakable, beware of Spoilers).

Thanks for all your support, guys! From my end, things are going as well as they can at this point. I'm excited to share Breakable with you and the rest of the world (hopefully) on Monday.

See you on the other side!!!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Self-Editing #10 - Self-Editing for Commentary

Author commentary.  AKA: Common ways authors scream at the reader I WANT YOU TO NOTICE THIS.

You don't want author commentary.  It reads as implausible, dilutes tension, pushes readers out of the story, and will drive any writer-reader absolutely mental.

So, are you guilty?  Check out these five common-taries...

1. Statement 'o' Obvious

Essentially a product of telling when you should be showing (or telling something you've already shown in order to make sure the reader 'got it'), Statement 'o' Obvious usually looks something like:

- One FBI Agent character tells another FBI Agent character "With the Chief cutting costs everywhere, it's going to be that much harder to hunt down our multi-billionaire, jet-setting suspect..."

- Frequent use of dialogue akin to: "I know you already know this, but...", "As you know...", "Like I said last time..."

- In a romance titled Don't Leave Me that centers on the middleaged cop named Frank whose wife left him last year and whose best friend just got shot:  "Frank was frightened of spending the rest of his life alone."

2. Info Dumpado

Hello.  My name is Aimee.  I'm an Info Dumpado Aficionado.  It's been three chapters since my last backstory download...

- Info Dumpado is the scene where seventeen pages are dedicated to a blow-by-blow of the history of bad-blood between the warring brothers currently ruling two factions of your fantasy world.

- In a "touching" scene between your protagonist and her hero, three years of backstory is covered wherein he explains every girlfriend who ever dumped him, how he felt about it, and why it still haunts him to this day.

- It's dialogue punctuated by frequent use of "[Character] did [ghastly action] and then [other character] responded with [equally ghastly action].  Then we all..." etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

3. Character Wonderment

You know that moment, when something important happens, but it's subtle?  Just a look, or a single sentence of dialogue that you - the author - know is IMPORTANT, but the reader might not catch it?  Character Wonderment is the unnecessary pause in action when the POV character thinks...

- "...That other character just looked as me as if she was angry.  But I have no reason to believe she's angry with me.  I'd better file away that GUT INSTINCT that tells me she's angry just in case something happens later that would lead me to believe someone might have a murderous rage boiling in their veins against me."

- "...if I hadn't known better, I would have thought he was lying to me."

- "...While scrubbing himself in the shower, Gus considered Tracey's words the night before.  Had she been flirting with him?  And why did she frown and refuse the drink her Nasty Boss Nathan offered?  Hmmm....  Maybe Gus would keep an eye on him."

4.  Preaching to the Choir

When an author has a message, sometimes the message supercedes the story.  And the people who came along for the ride get lashings of Fire and Brimstone when they're really looking for angels:

- It's the moment the green-loving environmentalist author creates a Serious And Educated Park Ranger in Murder in Yellowstone who proceeds to spend two pages 'telling the hero' about the environmental effects of littering in a national park.

- It's the closet spiritualist who writes a thriller-romance wherein the Pro-Tennis Playing Protagonist is 'coached' by a strangely sage-like young African woman whose step-by-step meditation program singlehandedly saves the day when normal athletic pursuits prove unsuccessful.

- It's two characters who adhere to polar-opposite ends of the political spectrum and argue economic policy for seven pages during a dinner-party.

5. Don't Hate Me 'Cos I'm a Beautiful Writer

Offenders are authors who use six-syllable words to explain a simple concept.  Or whose prose is so beautiful and skillfully crafted, the reader spends more time thinking about the words themselves, than the story they depict.  AKA:

- Progenators of prose who apply recondite idiom to elucidate an elementary supposition.

- Hark! Words fall from her pomegranate lips (whose passion is plumped, calling me) with the artiface of the heroes of olde.  The Bard could only creep in her shadow, cringing 'neath the weight of her glory, when yon branch did lie aslant the brook.

Clear as mud? Good...that's kind of the point...

Your Turn:  What author commentary mistakes do you make, or do you see in work around you?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Self-Editing #9 - Getting Specific: VERBS

So we've already talked about "Show, don't tell", and getting specific with your nouns. Today I want to talk about what I like to call 'nothing' verbs. Verbs like "came" and "went", "down" and "moved". Words that tell the reader something... but not much of anything.

To whit:

A moment later the door opened. Carl came out and went down the street.

For those words to have any meaning or impact, they'd have to be in context. As they stand here, they tell you next to nothing. Right?

A little better would be:

A moment later the glass door opened. Carl stepped out, walking down the street.

There's more certainty in that, which is a starting point. But a really firm image needs the tiny details that will make it real for the reader. Like this:

A moment later the glass door slid aside. Carl appeared, trotting down the stairs. His steps echoed off the nearby buildings as he hurried along the empty street.

Do you see what I mean?

Yes there are more words in that final image. But there's also a lot more clarity and reality.

I'd suggest to you that if your book is full of rich and succinct imagery, then you can get away with a few thousand extra words. But in truth, you won't need to. The more solidly your world is built in the little moments of description, the fewer words it will take to convince your reader your story is really happening.

Although you can't do a seek and destroy mission on these words, start developing an eye for them. They're the verbs that tell the reader your character did something, but don't tell them how.

Wherever possible, turn your 'went' into 'walked', exchange the likes of 'came' for 'hurried', and replace 'moved' with 'shuffled' and his equally vivid friends.

Then, just like with specifc nouns, when you've got some specific verbs in place, choose a minimum of adjectives to color in the gaps.

Enough said?

Your Turn: What generic words spring to mind when you read this? What kind of words would you use to replace them?

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Self Publishing Journey: Setting the Price

I hadn't done a self-pub post in a while, and since right now I'm deep in the details of setting up book format files and all the nitty-gritty that goes along with that, I thought I'd shed some light on the part of the process which scared me the most: setting the price.

To be honest, I thought this would be the easiest part. As a reader who's also got a background in branding and so forth, I'm hyper-aware of buying behavior. I'm always observing myself making choices, and comparing that with how I hear my friends going through the same decisions.

For that reason, I thought walking into this that I knew where I wanted to set my price, and that would be that.


Okay, so the digital side of things started pretty straight forward. In order to pin my price at what I believe to be the best cross-section of credibility, risk-aversion, and profitability, I went with my gut on a kindle price of $2.99. No sweat.

Then I discovered that Barnes and Noble's Nook was going to take an extra 25% (retail! So that's 33% net) of my profit margin, and I wasn't allowed to set the price differently than it was available in e-book anywhere else.

After a lot of grumbling, vacillating, and general cursing, I decided to just take it on the nose - and ask everyone to buy the kindle version if they could.

Then I started on the paperback. *Straps in*

First I discovered that my original price-preference ($8.99) would leave me paying people to buy my book. (Cue gnashing of teeth).

Then I found out that even though there was a lot more time and expense involved in setting up the paperback, even if I went to the outer-limits of what I felt I could justifiably charge, I was going to earn less off every paperback than I did off each e-book. (Insert howls of frustration).

Then I learned that I couldn't even trial-and-error it. Because I wanted to work with my own ISBN numbers and set my book up as close to the manner in which a traditional publisher would as I could. So I had to choose (and nail down!) my price on my paperback before I'd sold a single copy. Why?

Because if I want my paperback to have any chance of ever being picked up by a store, it has to have a barcode. And a barcode has to have the pricing already programmed in.

This meant, (cue further wailing) if I ever want to change the price of my paperback, I have to pay $25 for another barcode, re-assign it to the ISBN, and have my cover designer create a new image OF THE ENTIRE FRONT-BACK-AND-SIDEWAYS COVER for me to insert into the formatting file. Which means that I then have to go through the proofing process again to make sure the printing process hasn't suddenly stopped working the same way, and so on and so forth.

Cue a great deal of wailing and big-girl panty twisting.

The end result? Cross my fingers and pray.

My paperback will be selling for $10.99. I will make less money from every paperback sold but this is made up for in part by gaining more personal satisfaction from each sale (I'm not sure why, but I do feel that way). The digital books will all sell at $2.99.

The gates will open soon and then we'll find out if I made the right decisions...

Your Turn: Do you buy e-books or paperback? Do you have "budgets" for each kind of book - and are your budgets different for self-published books than for traditionally published? Share your buying behavior with me!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Self-Editing #8 - Getting Specific: NOUNS

This self-editing tip is another that's going to take some time and some intentional re-reading. But it's also a great philosophy to adopt in drafting:

A good writer uses specific nouns to offer clarity in minimal wordcount. They paint a detailed picture - not to complicate or exaggerate, but to be clear and succinct.

To whit:

"The noun rhinoceros flashes a sharper, more meaningful picture to your reader than does the noun animal. But animal is sharper and more meaningful than creature. In the same way, consider bungalow versus house versus building... starlet versus girl versus female... Colt versus revolver versus firearm..."

-Dwight V. Swain, Techniques of the Selling Writer

The fewer words you can use to communicate the idea, the easier the reader will follow - and the broader the world built in their head in the shortest time. In other words: You'll write more efficiently.

So scour your manuscript for nouns and ask yourself: Is that the very best and clearest word for this person-place-or-thing?

Then let the nouns speak for themselves.

Why am I talking about nouns instead of verbs or adjectives? Well, primarily because we're covering verbs in the next post. But since you brought adjectives up (yes, you did), I'll make one brief point:
If you let your nouns speak for themselves wherever possible, adjectives will be less necessary. And where they do crop up, more effective.

But don't mix up being specific with over-stating. Say one thing clearly - not impressively. What's the difference? Here's a quote from C. S. Lewis:

"Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite."

I'd add to that, don't say 'wonderful' for something that is merely 'sweet'. And never use 'devastated' when your character is simply 'sad'.

Good writing is simple, clear and leaves no room for confusion or distraction. (It also doesn't get impressed with it's own ability to synonymise). Good writing is also specific. It doesn't exaggerate or over-state because that creates melodrama in the minds-eye of the reader.

If the reader is spending time thinking about how beautifully you phrased something, or how impressive your vocabulary is, they aren't deep in the story. They may admire your prose, but be unable to tell their friends what the story was about.

So, what's your goal? For me, I want my words to be invisible, disappearing behind the clear and fascinating picture they paint.

Your Turn: Does this advice / approach apply only to commercial fiction, or to literary fiction also? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cover Reveal Giveaway Winners!

Thanks so much for your support guys. I've had literally hundreds of sign-ups on my various sites,
which is awesome.

But as always, there can only be one (or in this case, three) winners.

*Drum roll please*

SIGNED PAPERBACK: Goodreads entry from "Nicole" (I sent you a friend request and a message)

Ebook #1: Facebook entry from Fred LeBaron

Ebook #2: Twitter entry from Susanna Leonard Hill

(Fred and Susanna, let me know what format you prefer for your e-book!)

If you're still interested in winning, there's a giveaway run by Goodreads (the link is in the sidebar on the right). Just click to be in to win!

As for me, I'm disappearing back into my file-formatting cave... *Sigh*

Monday, October 14, 2013

I Was a Victim of Bullying... (My Story for Bullying Prevention Month)

Dear Bullied Teen,

I just found out it's Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. And because I want you to know you aren't alone, I'm going to tell my story for the first time:

I was a victim of bullying. Though it's been twenty years since I left high school, I remember.

I remember...

...when guys in my class laughed and pointed because I tripped over a mat and fell on the cement with my skirt flipped up over my back.

...when the popular girls passed me in the halls, whispering to each other while they looked at me, laughing and calling names over their shoulders.

...the guy who would mutter "I hate you," every time he saw me. Every. Time.

...the friends who'd sink into the crowd when I got cornered in the hallway by a group of girls determined to make me understand how ugly, useless and stupid I was.

...the two guys in woodshop pulling me aside and asking me what color my pubic hair was. Then, when I wouldn't answer, they laughed and ran around the class telling everyone a lie.

...a girl leaning out the window of a classroom as I passed, reciting the contents of a note she'd found when searching my school bag. (She'd photocopied my "love letter" and distributed it among the freshmen and sophomore classes).

...the more popular girls in my class wishing me a happy 15th birthday. When I smiled, they cracked an egg in my hair.

...the friend who denied being my friend when our classmates taunted her about knowing me.

...the teacher who affirmed my classmates taunting, just to get a laugh.

...the time I returned from PE to find my clothes soaking wet.

...the guy who liked me, but told me he couldn't date me because others would make fun of him.

...the guy who asked me to dance, then when I said yes, laughed in my face and called a bunch of his friends over to tell them he'd asked me and I'd said yes. "Like I'd ever want to touch her..."

...being backed up against the wall of the woodshop classroom, completely surrounded by a dozen male classmates, all of them hurling words like "slut" and "virgin" (in the same sentence, mind), "ugly", "fat", and accusing me of having sex with my father. Among other things.

...the girl who followed me home from school, hurling insults and threats, and eventually (because I completely ignored her) hit me over the head with an umbrella. Hard.

...hearing words like "ugly", "slut", "hate you", "go home", "fat", "dog", and more and more and more, every single day.

And more. And more. And more...

My heart rate still goes up, every time I talk about this stuff because of all the things I experienced, the memory of fear is the most acute. When I cast my mind back to those days, my body returns to the state I lived in back then.

It's a battlefield.

I remember dragging my clothes on for the day ahead, walking reluctantly onto campus, head down, pulse raised, body sweating, wary of what might be coming from behind, braced for impact from what I could see ahead.

At fifteen, walking down a school hallway felt akin to approaching a firing squad.

No one should have to live that way. No one. Including you.

I want you to know that it can change. It doesn't always have to be this way. But it won't be easy. Through no fault of your own, you've been handed a mountain to climb. And I know how hard and painful that trek is.

I want you to know it's worth it.

In the years since I found emotional freedom from my past I've come across a lot of bullies. Ironically, they're scared of me now. Because they don't sense weakness in me anymore. Now they sense strength. I've had friends, colleagues, acquaintances take shelter behind my metaphorical bulk, because they can sense it too:

I'm not scared anymore.

Can you imagine how wonderful that feels? Probably not. I ache knowing you're still experiencing that pain and fear every day.

If I could tattoo anything on your heart it would be: "You have value. You are loveable. They are wrong." I would follow you around repeating those words and more - how important you are, how critical you are, how necessary. That the world would be less if you weren't here. But as a former victim myself, I know those words, while they hold hope, are hard to believe when you're in the bunkers, rallying strength for the next altercation.

So, I wrote a book. Among other things, it's about a girl who's bullied relentlessly at school - and those around her don't quite realize how bad it is. It's called Breakable because you and I both know that people aren't impenetrable. There are weights that are too heavy. There are blows that are too hard. We are fragile.

We can break.

I didn't write Stacy's character to retell my story. She has a story of her own. And I didn't write her to tie up a bullying story in a nice little ribbon - because you've probably already figured out, our stories don't end that way.

I wrote her story so that you know that I remember how it feels. And I know that it's wrong. I wrote it because I want you to see that even though I don't know you, I love you. I feel for you. I hurt with you.

No matter what anyone else tells you, the truth is: Those bullies in your life are wrong.

The day will come that you'll be strong. You won't feel isolated or afraid. You'll know with certainty that they are wrong. Then they'll lose their power, and you'll lose your fear.

But until then, know that I haven't forgotten, and I know how hard it is. And I'm not the only adult you'll meet who understands. You aren't alone. It won't always feel this way.

I was a victim of bullying, but not anymore. I'm strong now. I can sit in the bunker with you until you're ready. Then I'll remind you: I'm walking proof: You can find your way out of that hellhole. So don't give up. Please, don't give up.

They're wrong.

If you or someone you know is being bullied you can get help. Start with a school counselor, or a parent or family friend who had similar experiences. If they don't get it, keep looking: Sports coaches, teachers, aunts and uncles, older kids whose lives have already changed... just keep looking. You need help. You deserve help.

You can also get in touch with others who've been in your shoes, and the adults who can help on sites like www.pacerteensagainstbullying.org, and http://www.uft.org/our-rights/brave (check out the BRAVE line contact details on the right).

Don't stop looking for help. Don't give up!