Category: #AmRevising

WRITERS: Top 5 Most Memorable Scenes


Lori over at Pure Imagination raised an interesting question today, one that I had been pondering last night myself. What makes a book magic?

There are books out there that I read that I fall in love with. What makes a book magic for me is the believeable factor. If I can believe that this story could really happen somewhere, that these characters really exist, then I’m in. I’ll be their biggest fan.

It got me thinking and almost panicking about my unpublished series, The Ferryman and The Flame. For the other aspiring writers out there this believeable factor, this magic factor is something we all try to achieve with our WiP’s.

There’s a way to know if you’ve succeeded.

Mundie Moms has been hosting a weekly special where they talk about their favorite scenes from City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare.

That’s the ticket right there. Scenes so good that people have to read the book just for those scenes. If you read through a book and nothing sticks in your mind afterwards, scenes, liners, emotional reactions to the characters, then the book has failed. If however you find yourself going back to the same scenes over and over again and you end up naming scenes the “Dirty Sexy Alley Scene” or “The Seelie Court Scene” or “The Bookstore Scene” or “The Porch Scene” then you’ve got a framework for the book in your head. You might not remember everything but you’ll remember those scenes. THAT is what will make the book good, it’s all about the scenes!

This next part is an exercise for these aspiring writers and for myself I’ll post my answers right here.

Which scenes in your WiP are the most memorable? Why are they memorable?

If you can come up with 5 memorable scenes, scenes that people will find so irresistible they have to read the rest of the book, then kudos you win! If not, keep working at it!

The Ferryman and The Flame: Surrender
(my 5 most memorable scenes)

1. “Are you always like that?” : Krishani watches Kaliel swim with the merfolk. They meet for the first time afterwards and he creates an orb of ice for her.

2. “This is what I want.” : Krishani and Kaliel meet at the waterfall a second time, this time they kiss, but she runs away from him.

3. “Your destiny is greater than your love” : That horrible scene when Lady Atara tells Krishani that he has to leave Avristar and go to the Lands of Men.

4. “Ro Tulten Lye” : The dream Kaliel has where she dies with Lotesse, the Emerald Flame and finds out, he comes for us

5. “You were the last person I wanted to see before I died.” : Pux appears in the village where Kaliel is hiding. He’s wounded from battle and all he wants is one last moment with his best friend.

There are actually more I can think of and I could make another list for the WiP I’m currently editing.

The Ferryman and The Flame: Warrior

1. “She was everywhere and nowhere,” : Krishani watches the magma flow into the lake, thinking heavily about all the bad things that have happened.

2. “Ten thousand years” : Tulsen Tavesin tells Krishani what the Ferryman is expected to do. Krishani doesn’t want to be a Ferryman.

3. “I want to watch the blossoming,” : A dream sequence where Kaliel and Krishani end up in the orchards at Beltane where they watch the blossoming together.

4. “Tell him to come for me!” : Krishani threatens the Daed and dares Crestaos to come for him. The way he came for Kaliel.

5. “Kaliel?” : Krishani turns to see the body of the girl filled with the flame’s fire.

Post your comments here with either your top 5 scenes or with a link to where you posted them on your blog!



Thanks Leslie for making me think about this.

So many of you are getting it wrong.

I just want to point it out as an author AND a blogger (and a million other things) that if you’re an aspiring author that’s written a book and you want it out on Kindle and Nook and B&N and you’re not afraid of being self published and blah blah blah, that you need to be CAREFUL about how you treat the book bloggers.

1) Don’t be presumptuous. Yes we’re here to review books, but we all want GOOD books. None of us like posting negative reviews but we will if we have to.

2) Don’t ask before you’re really ready. You should be joining a writing group first like or writeoncon or somewhere, and talking to other aspiring writers about your work. You should be getting BETA readers first who can snuff out all the bad stuff. They can get you into the process of revising and editing BEFORE sending out your verbal diarrhea to Amazon and B&N (too graphic, really sorry)

3) Don’t expect a shining review unless you’re really confident that your work is the best it can be. I’ve often read books from authors that requested reviews only to find out that I need to give them an entire lesson on POV shifts, third person omniscent v.s. limited, adverbs, spelling errors and grammar, you name it, I always find SOMETHING wrong that I have to complain about. Usually these things are technical and while I can appreciate an “uncorrected proof” I need to know that beforehand. At least then I know whether or not to point these things out or not you know?

4) Do be kind in your approach. You attract more flies with honey than vinegar. Be authentic in your approach and give them YOUR best. That’s right, you know how you write QUERY letters to agents? Well send your QUERY letter to book bloggers. It’s your best bet of getting them interested and excited about your book without looking like a jackass or an amateur.

5) Gratitude. This is the last point and you REALLY need to be thankful to these people for taking you under their wing. You’re giving them content sure, but they’re giving you FREE EXPOSURE and that kind of thing only compounds, so you need to send them your love, tears, whatever, you need to make sure that THEY matter to you. So you answer their e-mails before anyone elses, you follow their blogs, you follow their tweets, you laugh about stuff not related to your book with THEM. And in turn they’ll become the beginning of your giant posse of fans.

That’s it, know whether or not you’re ready for BETA readers or REVIEWERS and for crying out loud be classy about the way you ask!


WRITING: Noticing Small Press Publishing

Hey everyone,

You do realize that you don’t need to be self pubbed to be on Kindle right?

And you also don’t need to be with a big 6 to be published. Did you know that too?

Well if you didn’t, here are some publishing companies that are NOT affiliated with the big 6.

Angry Robot

Black Zombie Publishing

Coscom Entertainment

Dark Side Publishing

Entangled Pub

Llewellyn’s (Flux)

Quirk Books

Revolution Publishing

Rhemalda Publishing

Samhain Publishing

Spencer Hill Press

Sterling Publishing


And I’m sure there’s more I’m missing, but the thing is, 50% of people don’t care who published the book, they care that the book is good. Publishers are irrelevant.

And yes, some of these companies take unsolicited manuscripts, some of them are closed for submissions, some of them take only solicited manuscripts, etc. etc. Some of them get books into bookstores, some of them do POD, some of them do ebooks only, but all of them publish books, all of them get the books into the market, and all of them are there to help authors get their stories out there.

What more could you really ask for?


WRITING: Hook, Line and Sinker

WARNING: If you don’t like happy dances, stop reading now.

I had an epiphany the other night. I was going through my Kindle, Kobo and PDF reader on my iphone, flipping between books thinking hmm, what do I want to read now?

And then I had a really bad idea. I had sent the first draft of FLAME OF THE APOCALYPSE to my Beta Reader who has read the first two books. I realized that technically I can download it so it’s on my phone. All I had to do was go to my inbox, click on the sent folder, and then scroll through a few hundred messages to find the e-mail I sent her two weeks ago.

Sure enough I find it, download it and open it up into my PDF reader.

I start reading . . .


I can’t stop, for some reason I’m completely sucked into the book, it’s got this crazy hold on me, the gait of the words, the flow of the sentences, the pretty words I use, the emotions and feelings of the characters . . .

It really didn’t feel like MY book.

I kept reminding myself, “this is the FIRST DRAFT.”

Usually what used to happen when I’d open up FLAME OF SURRENDER or its little brother FLAME OF JUSTICE, I’d read through the prologue which was usually free of grammar and spelling errors, and then get into the first paragraph of the first chapter and STOP. I’d find some minuscule spelling error or a sentence that’s out of place or I’m not feeling it or something.


I only read through the first chapter and then forced myself to stop. My husband actually came into the room and was like, “Are we watching Fringe tonight or what?” and so I put the phone down, just because of him.

I tried to stay away from it too, I was like, “Oh no, I’m actually spoiling myself by reading this, the second book has A LOT of work to do.”

But then I was bored in the car and didn’t feel like reading anyone else’s book for once so I was back again. Got through the second chapter.


I don’t know what the heck it is with this book, but there’s something different about it.

And there were plenty of things I did differently while writing the first draft.

1. I wrote in first person limited from the get go. I was inside only one character’s head at a time, I even planned it out in my outline by putting their initials next to the scene that was from their POV.

2. I expanded my vocabulary. I used a lot of simple words that I didn’t know about before, there are plenty of 4 and 5 letter words that are both different, non Shakespearean and interesting. I did my best to include these words when writing. Expanding your vocabulary doesn’t mean learn bigger words, it means learn all the small words you don’t know exist yet. Just FYI for others out there that still find themselves sauntering . . . y’all could be parrying or tarrying or you could have an awkward gait. Think of it like scrabble when you play against the computer and they get like 33 points from playing Xi.

3. I wrote it all in one period of time. I was there everyday with it, and because of that I was able to keep the same language, tone and style. Best thing to do is if you begin writing it, don’t stop until it’s finished.

I’m dreading going through the editing process on the second book, but what will steer me on is the fact that the third book is so worry free.

What about you? When did your writing hook you?


WRITING: Light Bulbs, Lightning Bolts and Counting Sheep


This post is dedicated to @IAlecDale from the Philippines, if you don’t already follow him on twitter you should, he’s a big Cassie Clare fan!

That being said, I’ve read a lot of boring books. I mean it, books with awesome writing that might keep you engaged for awhile, but books with a plot, characters and setting that were just drab and uninteresting. I’ve found myself yawning through books and skipping pages because it was so mind numbing I thought I’d fall asleep.

Chronicles of Narnia made me fall asleep, but that was for an entire other reason. Also, half the books I read when I was 17 made me want to fall asleep. I remember faking it through my English 1 class for this book about soldiers that had me slipping after ten words.

The point is, these days you can’t just write something and think it’s good. Your writing need to compete on a lot of levels. You might be able to throw together a satisfying story about witches, but does it compete with other stories about witches? What makes the story pop, what makes it stand out?

I have my own list of things that will often make me stop reading in the first few pages, things like third person omniscient, obscure fantasy world, unlikeable characters, unbelievable characters, too much dialogue, too many bodies, not seeing the main character in the first scene, etc. etc.

The real difficulty with writing is that it starts out as being only for you, something that only you are going to read and fall in love with. After that it becomes something you and your mom will like. Then something you and your friends will like, then something you and your other writer friends will love, then you and others in the book blogging scene will love. By the time you’ve really worked it into an aesthetic piece of work that’s worthy of the masses, it’s gone through a lot of changes.

The thing everyone needs though is that light bulb, that lightning bolt idea that wakes them up in the middle of the night and makes them grab for the first piece of pen and paper they see. For me, I have a journal on my headboard, and a pen. No need to get out of bed and rummage through drawers looking for something to write on. I’ve got it all right where I need it.

Most people do the counting sheep thing when it comes to finding inspiration for a book. They have some talent with writing, but they have nothing interesting to write about. Nothing that they think other people would want to read about. These people are often the ones that fall into the stereotypes and write about them.

I used to do it too though, I wrote a story about a rich boy falling for a poor girl and then running away from his parents to be with her.

Also wrote a horror story which was mostly gore and no real storyline.

My ideas weren’t very fleshed out, I wasn’t being very creative. What I was doing was just finding things to write about. In the beginning that’s how it has to be, and then as you explore life you’ll find things to write about. Sometimes you just need to grow up to find these things, other times you just need to find a slant.

A few ways to find an idea that’s useable:

1. Read what’s out there. It’s hard to come up with an idea and say it’s original when you don’t know what else people are writing. Sooner or later you’ll find out that your idea has already become a book. So read books to make sure you’re not overlapping. This is kind of a double edged sword too because no doubt what you read will also influence what you write and how you write. Still, reading is the way to become a writer. Only Beethoven could compose amazing music without ever hearing a single note.

2. Look at yourself, your life experiences, the people you know. I have a short story on the table based on a guy I actually met. Bloodletting is based on a guy from Arizona that was so awesome I HAD to write a story about him. Observe the people around you, everyone has a story to tell, you just need to figure out which story you want to tell. Finding a “bestselling” story is impossible, but finding a story that’s important to you is easy.

3. Begin with a basic idea and expand on it. This is where you start stereotypical, and then throw in twists and turns that even you’re not expecting.

4. Think. I know this sounds stupid, but after reading The Hunger Games I wanted to write a dystopian novel. I know, I sound like a cliche, but it’s true. What I did was I sifted through things in my mind that I had thought about before, Loch Ness Monsters, Pirates, The Soviet Union, Time Travel, Nuclear Bombing, etc. etc. I wrote some notes, wrote a prologue and then stopped. I hit a wall and didn’t like where my idea was going. I left it and then later I came back to it and turned it into something that became a short story.

5. Realize that not all your ideas need to be long stories. They can be short stories too. I wrote a contemporary short story about my Dad for instance. It’s one of my favorite pieces.

6. Create your own reality. A lot of people get lost in world building, but if they have a concept, they can go from there. Lauren Oliver’s concept was “what if love was a curable disease?” and Maggie Steifvater’s was, “what if a girl was in love with a boy that turned into a wolf in the winter?” it’s simple things like this that build on books. Mine was “what if a ferryman fell in love with a girl that was a weapon?”

7. Folklore. I know we all balk at J.R.R. Tolkien for taking things from Norse Mythology, but why not? A book my crit partner is writing is based on Japanese culture and she came up with a lot of interesting ideas because of it. I can’t wait to see it actually! Go back to your cultural roots, were there tales you were told as a child that you could work into a story?

8. Take something fairly stereotypical, but put a slant on the writing style. This is probably the hardest thing to do, but Moira Young and Nova Ren Suma managed it just fine. What this is is a literary style. So you take a ghost story about a reservoir and you shift the voice so that it’s creepy and interesting. Or in Moira’s case, take a journey to find a twin, and change the writing style so it’s more the way the characters speak, think and write. It’s a submersion technique, almost like method acting. In this case, you make your writing take on a new skin, kinda like Robert Downey Jr. in Tropical Thunder.

Either way, you need an idea that is unique, different and that gets YOU excited. It needs to be that light bulb going off, that lightning bolt through your skull, that idea that you HAVE to write about. You can’t sit around counting sheep and randomly pick sheep number 16 that’s white and fluffy and think it’s original. You need to wait for the black sheep or the neon green sheep to show up. *sigh* Plain white sheep aren’t good enough.

Either way Alec, I hope this is helpful and I hope you find an idea you can use. I personally think I have too many ideas and not enough time to write all of them.


WRITING: Reject me so I can get published

Boy oh boy there’s a title for sore eyes, but it’s an honest one.

Query round three began and ended July 11th, 2011. This round was with a more salable product that had been beta tested, critiqued by a literary agent, rewritten again, and edited again. I sent out a query letter that had been hacked to bits by the ladies at and admittedly I did it because I felt like I had to do it.

When talking to said editor who is interested in my project, I told him I was querying to cover my ass. If any of the 14 that haven’t flat out rejected me without even reading the whole book get back to me wanting to take a look they can.

It doesn’t mean I’m going to sign a contract with them, but getting noticed would be nice.

Getting rejected would be better so I can get on with it and get published.

This query round was more to ensure that any of the beta readers that have a) the edited book and b) the query letter off my website, can’t go to the literary agents and try to query my project. (I can’t tell you how stupid that would be since most people who know me will see my blog or my twitter account or my facebook page, etc. etc. They’ll see the teasers and trailers I did for the book and um, yeah, but again, another precaution right?)

And so the thought in the back of my head during this round was, “If one of these agents turns out to be awesome, then sure, if they all hate me, then GREAT, I can query the small press people I KNOW PERSONALLY and go from there.”

I don’t need to explain the fact that running a comic con gives me links to a lot of people, namely people IN publishing. Not huge big 6 publishing, but still. I know people who work for Marvel, DC, Darkhorse, etc. etc. I had completely forgotten about that in May and then with Wizard World backing out of C4, I suddenly remembered. So while on the phone with the editor in chief of one of the smaller publishing houses that comes out to C4 every year, we got talking about my book and then he asked to see it and then he said he’d publish it for this year’s con if he likes it.

Which is pretty damned good in my books.

And then around the same time, I was on the phone with my artist friend Tommy Castillo down in Florida and I mentioned my books and he says, “Uhhh Rhi? I DO BOOK COVERS SILLY GIRL. LET ME DO YOURS FOR YOU.” and that was the extent of that conversation, along with hanging out with him when I’m down in Florida.

And then add Jello who is a cosplayer who makes her own costumes and can make dresses and cloaks and stuff like it’s nobody’s business.

Add Sam and Ayla who are film students who can edit, do special effects, and shoot video like pros.

Add Kramer who is awesome at composing instrumental music.

Add Ted who’s our C4 photographer who’s also a professional wedding photographer and cosplay photographer.

And there you have it.

When it comes to publishing these days, I think people need to look more at their personal capabilities because yes, while the big 6 can put your books on the shelves, they’re NOT getting book trailers, posters, book signing tours, convention appearances, bookmarks, or other marketing / advertising going for YOU. They’re doing the basics, editing, formatting, binding, pricing, foreign rights, film rights/optioning, ARC reviews, and distribution.

Frankly? The big different between small press and the big 6 is 6 figure advances.

And half the time the author will fall into obscurity if they don’t do something to make themselves.

Books these days are becoming more of a use all your talents and do what you can to get yourself out there. Not wait around for a big publisher to take you and make you a big thing.

So please please please reject me literary agents. Reject me so that I can get published.


WRITING: 10 Signs your writing is improving


I’m currently in the editing cave, really sorry, but I should have some news for everyone soon, very good news I hope!

Often writers talk about getting better, and the old adage is that your first million words are crap, and everything after that is gold. Well, I don’t know what I think about that other than the fact that I’m over the million word mark now for sure!

But here are some signs that your writing is actually getting better and not worse.

1) You use bigger words in casual conversation and then have to explain them to your friends because they don’t know what the heck palpable, or nefarious or dichotomy means.

2) You hate absolutely everything you’ve written six months or a year ago.

3) You find yourself groaning at other people’s work when they use the same elementary word choices you used once upon a time.

4) You use more than you use

5) Your newer work is littered with metaphors and observations you’d never noticed as much as six months to a year ago.

6) You read more than you have before, and you pick out interesting words that other authors have used.

7) Sometimes you think in prose, and then you HAVE to go to the computer, find a notebook or even type it into the notebook on your phone just to remember it. You know, for later use.

8) When you buy new music, you’re thinking about how great it’ll be to write to this music.

9) Everything that happens to you could be turned into fiction, and you’re always memorizing details about people because they could be used in your characters later.

10) Your house is as messy as mine is and you have no intentions of cleaning it anytime soon.


WRITING: Why don’t you try to get that published?

Good afternoon,

I’m around the blogosphere and the twitterverse I promise.

Ange asked me today in a comment on my Beta Reader Contest, why I don’t try to get my book published.

I don’t know how to answer that without a lot of foaming at the mouth and a string of nasty insults, but I’m going to try, because I’m a nice person and I DO want you to keep following my blog. So I’ll try not to stick my foot in my mouth.

The thing is, it’s really hard to get published right now. We’re talking millions of aspiring writers around the world flogging the poor literary agents with stuff they just don’t think they can sell, indie authors taking over and pubbing on their own, publishers putting books out there that flop big time, and otherwise a whole lot of hulla ballo for nothing.

All it equals is a lot time, money, blood, sweat and tears spent, for an outcome that isn’t much of an outcome.

I used to be of the wait my turn approach, and to a point I still am. I think it’s important that I do the slow build thing. Nobody has to tell me my book is good anymore, I KNOW it’s good. It needs a copy edit, but it’s good.

The reason for the slow approach is because I know my book is too good to just throw it to the first person that will take it. I don’t know how much other writers covet their possessions or their writing, but on a scale of 1-10 I’m a 10 in terms of coveting my own work. I’d rather sit back, analyze my best options over and over again, and only take careful pre planned steps that will lead me closer and closer to my goals.

I’d rather not publish my book at all if nobody is going to read it.

So, just so nobody thinks I’m totally off my rocker or something, here’s the run down of what I have done already, and while this isn’t the entirety of my master plan, it should at least make everyone more comfortable that yes, if you want to read the book, you likely will be able to at some point.

1) I wrote the book, this one, and its two other sequels. I officially have a trilogy. I’ve also outlined a novella that comes after the third book, and also outlined the last three books in the series. You see how ahead of the game I am? I knew I was never talking one book, but six and a half books to any publisher, agent, or editor is really scary, especially if it’s not done already. If it’s done well then, that’s a different ball game altogether.

2) I BETA tested the book with some close friends, and rewrote the book.

3) I queried in 2010. I hit up 100 agents and 1 read 50 pages of my book and told me it was good, but not good enough to keep him hooked.

4) I enlisted the help of a group of cosplayers / film students / friends who did up some professional photography, costuming, and filming. We did up two book trailers for the series. I’m now working with them to get 3 more trailers done because they have the free time and they’re forever fans of my books because they get to cosplay the characters in the books. For instance, that pretty cover you see, is one of the girls from the cosplay group, she plays Kaliel, my main character, and she also edits video like you wouldn’t believe. That photo was from the shoot in June 2010. I happen to be friends with a wedding photographer that does a lot of charity things for fun.

5) I wrote the second book, and then I rewrote the first book to fix some of the things I learned from reading like a motherfucker and also from writing the second book.

6) I began blogging like crazy, also joined twitter. I began to meet booky people in the community, and I began studying, watching what others do. I wrote down stuff I like in my notebook.

7) I researched the agents more, followed them on twitter, read acknowledgments from my favorite authors, wrote down the people that repped them. I also bid on a Full MS Critique during the Japan Crisis and I donated a boatload of money and got a Full MS Critique from Jennifer Laughran. She wasn’t enthusiastic about my book, but she did tell me what was good and what wasn’t good. She was incredibly fair and she also critiqued it in less than 2 weeks, because she’s a superhero.

8) I waited, and I was patient. I went back to the first book and pieced it together based on Laughran’s suggestions. I edited the second book in the series and tried to fix some of the mistakes Laughran pointed out from the first book, stuff I hadn’t rectified in my writing yet.

9) I BETA tested again and this time my BETA reader had nothing to nitpick at regarding the book. She just loved it.

10) I was patient. I lived through the knots growing in my stomach that Miriam Forster got signed by Laughran and sold HOUSE OF ONE THOUSAND DOLLS. (Yeah okay, it hurt, sue me.) I also watched Ginnifer Albin get picked up, watched Tahereh Mafi get a 6 figure deal.

I stayed quiet as a mouse.

11) I distracted myself by writing the third book, thinking, “If I start this, I’m not stopping until it’s done.” Sure enough, May 21st, through to July 1st, I was writing. 133k later I had a first draft of a third book.

It’s my favorite book of the series.

12) I queried 16 agents on my list of agents. I crossed off some I no longer wanted to query.

13) I read some Indie books, bad and good, and somewhere in between. I read some Trad pubbed books, some bad, some good, and somewhere in between.

14) I came up with the idea to put up the Beta Reader Contest to see what would happen.

15) I listed the book on goodreads to see what would happen.

Things are happening.





What is it that they say? Slow and steady wins the race?

I’m the tortoise.

And this book will always be good, whether you get to read it today, or tomorrow or thirteen years from now. It’ll always be the same story, the one that’s rested in my bones, the one that’s curdled my blood, the one that’s kept me up at night, the one that’s hurt me, the one that’s made me cry, the one that made me laugh, and the one that made me lie on my living room floor thinking it’ll never be good enough, it’ll never. be. good. enough.

I think it’s your turn to be the judge of that . . . and my turn to be quiet, to be friendly, to be approachable and welcoming.

It’s my turn to wait while things happen, in no particular order, in the wrong order, or in the right order. I’m no longer picky about it.

My only concern is that this book doesn’t fall into the hands of the wrong people, the haters, the harsh critics, the thieves, the people who would tear it apart and change it, make it theirs and not mine, the editors that would rip it to shreds and make me stitch it back together by hand, pricking my fingers the entire time, or the people who would put a new cover on it and try to sell it themselves . . .

I’m trying to invite the good, and weed out the bad.

I hope you understand . . .









WRITING: The Potter Factor: Being original without being original

Hey everyone!

Have you noticed lately that you pick up a book and you find yourself reading a snapshot of every other book you’ve already read? Only there’s maybe a different spin on it, or slightly different characters? It’s not technically plagiarism which is a whole other bucket of fish, but books that are increasingly redundant don’t help readers grow as people.

Every book I pick up has to have something that connects with me, that shows me a new side to myself. I want to feel like a different person after a book, like my insides have been carved out and arranged on a pretty dinner plate – I’m sorry I started resembling a serial killer there for a second.

I’m not that creepy I promise.

Either way, there’s a few things that a book has to do to be original without being original. There are plenty of things it could do to be original and actually be original too so I’ll mention those ones too.

1) Voice

Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls wouldn’t have been what it was without Chloe’s voice. She’s a very unique and mysterious character and the fact that she’s telling the story is even better. I found it awesome being in the head of a girl who isn’t sure whats’ real and what isn’t. And who notices the small details and the gritty and dirty details too, all the while walking through her life like it’s a fog.

Your book, that WIP sitting over there on the desktop needs to have its own voice. It might have characters and a plot and even a setting, but it needs to have a voice. Is it a sad book? A tragedy? Is it an action book? (and if it’s a book that reads like an action movie, I’ll say it now that I probably won’t like it) Is it philosophical? Intense? Mysterious? You need to come up with the emotions of you book.

When I was writing Flame of Justice, I used to think about where my characters were living. This was a figure of speech, “where this lives” and I think I got this phrase from music class actually, surprisingly enough. The question in my mind was about the tone of the book, it was the level of emotion within each character I touched. I write in third person limited and so it goes without saying that I had to go through a bunch of character’s minds. Not unlike my day job mind you, but it I had to be clear about where everyone lived. And it was “on what level are they living?” that was important. Were they in the basement, in the gutter, shocked, angry, disturbed? Were they lost, broken? As you can tell, this is a sad book, most of this series is a sad series.

But your book might be light and fluffy, it might be like Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which is about triumphing over adversary and coming into your own. It might be like The Hunger Games, which is about survival even through the worst case scenario.

Once you decide the theme of your book, and “where it lives” then you’ll be able to breathe originality into the pages that you might have otherwise missed.

As an added bonus I also relate this to astrology and energy patterns. I always tell people that if I know someone’s zodiac sign then I’ll know much more about what the energy is saying. If you think of energy as words on the page, then you can make the correlation. If this book were a Pisces it might be written in English but the words would be strung together differently than if this book were a Leo. You sort of predetermine your word choice when you choose your voice. You also choose your analogies, and believe me, the way a Pisces sees the world is a lot more beautiful than the way a Leo sees it.

Ex. (because I’ve read a good number of Pisces) Pisces: “The sky was like a symphony of coloring, all string quartets of white blues and brass of deeper sky blues. I could get used to this sky, a never ending sky that reached into the horizon with ghost like fingers.”

Leo: “The sky was blue, with those wisps of clouds that make you think of ice cream dripping down the side of an ice cream cone. Speaking of which, I needed to get ice cream today, that would make me feel better about what was going on.”

2) Scene Choice

This isn’t one you’d readily think about, but it’s important. Please don’t write a book about werewolves and vampires that go to the prom. High school scenes are overdone, kissing on beaches is overdone.

What you want with your scene choice is to surprise the reader. You need those slightly different scenes that make that light bulb go off in your reader’s head, thinking, they’ve never been here before.

And touche, they haven’t read another book where the characters first kiss is in a greenhouse on the top floor of a church. (That scene care of City of Bones by Cassandra Clare)

Also, you want to surprise the readers and catch them off guard. So you need to get creative. Your characters might be teenagers, but if you ever find yourself writing a scene that’s making you yawn because you can imagine at least three other characters in the same type of location and you keep running over their lines instead of the lines your characters are supposed to be saying, you need to skip that scene and come up with something a little more unique and different.

With Flame of Surrender I had the advantage of thick forests, waterfalls, merfolk, castles, orchards and cabins to go with. Yes, there were bedrooms and stables and bushes but I liked my choices in terms of where things happened, where the characters went, the things they saw, etc. etc. I always found myself thrilled by it, instead of bored.

Copy me on that one.

3) The Little Things

Your characters need to have awkward quirks. I loved it when Maggie Stiefvater was talking about Samuel Roth and what makes him emo. She said that to get readers to really love him she had to add things about him that were just heartbreaking. Hence his musicality, and his poetry, and his childhood memories. They were all things that made readers hearts knot a little more for him.

Think about the little things that make your characters who they are. Sure, you might have a super hot guy as a character, but the little thing about him is that he could also be a total cheating jerk, or he might have a fear of cats. Again, go back to voice, decide what would apply and then apply it.

In my instance, Kaliel is rather inquisitive and curious. She’s also wistful, like she knows the secrets of the universe and she’s a lot older than she physically is but she never lets on in her actions, it’s just in gestures, the way she moves through the forest and trips over her own foot sometimes. It makes her endearing.

4) Villains

You know how I said it’s all been done? Well in this category it has really all been done. You can’t surprise your audience with a villain anymore, and so you need to choose once and for all what type of villain you’re going to go with.

a. it’s the stranger nobody knows.
b. it’s the butler, it’s always the butler.
c. it’s voldemort and everyone is afraid to say even his name.
d. it’s the best friend that betrays.
e. it’s the creepy guy across the back lane that has no nose, just a hole where his nose used to be.
f. it’s the new friend to the pack, the one that tries to turn all of you against each other.
g. it’s your arch nemesis at school, the one with the too perfect skin, turns out, she’s an alien after all.

This list damned well goes on, and on into infinity I think. The point is to pick your poison because it’s all been done before, and THEN, avoid doing certain things with your villains.

a. Cheesy lines. They always get the worst lines ever. “Ready to die?” uh, HOW many times have I heard that one?
b. Monologuing. I hate it when the villain has to explain their evilness. We get it, get it over with already.
c. Taunting. They don’t do anything evil but they talk about it incessantly.

In my books my villains are either of the creeptastic kind, you never know that they’re poisonous until they are, or they’re the come at you and don’t top to talk variety. I rarely give them lines unless I can think of something good. And in some cases, I go for twisted or fierce if they do need to talk.

5) Logistics

So you want to write something supernatural but you don’t know the rules. You need to know the rules. You need to know how your characters become vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, whatever, and it has to be compelling.

You also need to figure out how your supernatural characters act. I mean where do they live in this book, what type of supernatural characters are they? I mean we can’t have blood sucking vamps or romantic vamps all the time. We can’t have emo werewolves, and trickster faeries. That doesn’t always work. Having one stereotypical secondary character is great, but then the rest need to have some clearly defined rules.

Life is different for everyone, there are thousands of perspectives to choose from, and you need to choose your perspective. You need to choose how these people see sucking blood, or playing tricks, or doing magic. I loved the Sookie Stackhouse books because it was very southern. Same with Beautiful Creatures, that southern feel was there. But vamps in New York or even elven vampires would act differently.

Choose your poison on the supernatural, get your facts straight, and get your angle on them quickly.

And that’s it for the original without being original section. Here’s three things you can do to be even more original.

1) Write in a style that nobody else will write in. Moira Young has capitalized on this in Blood Red Road and it works for her.

2) Write about characters that are off the beaten path that nobody writes about a lot of the time. Like Kraken, or Chupacabra, or Zulu tribe masters, or Santeria priests and priestesses. Again you’re picking your poison and you’re choosing to learn about their culture, but if you want to be original don’t go with the norm. Don’t write about a normal girl discovering vampires, or a vampire slayer falling in love with a vampire, or actually, just don’t write about vampires. Anything but vampires. There’s plenty of folklore out there, and why haven’t we seen a lot of it? There are plenty of good giant stories from the Norse and even more awesome stories of the heroes in Ireland. Pick up some of the old myths and write something original. I personally went with Ferrymen and Flames.

FYI: Ferrymen are sexy.

3) Create a plot that’s unique. Don’t use the usual story arc where it builds, finds a climax and then tapers off towards the end. Spike randomly, do things nobody else does, think outside of the box. What I usually do is watch my scenes, I usually have an idea of a beginning, middle and end and then I put in scenes that entertain me. That’s right, I think about them, I watch them in my head, and those scenes make me feel something, I squee, it’s great. I then write them out and usually it results in more squeeing. Write scenes that make you squee. Think of things that could happen that would be random (Like cows crashing into the lab on the day you’re supposed to be cured, Lauren Oliver, Delirium) Be daring and different.

And that my friends is how you’ll be noticed in the book world. My last piece of advice is my motto and this is what you should all be doing with your writing.

“Is it better to write for the self and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”

Make yourself happy with your writing first, make it a book that YOU can’t put down, a book that YOU want to read again and again, a book that YOU think about and dream about, and literally have pouring out of your veins ALL the time. Write a book that makes you think about your characters when people ask you who your favorite book characters are. If you can’t do that, then ask yourself why you’re writing in the first place?


WRITING: The Jace Factor: Bringing Sexy Back

Let’s talk about sexy . . .

Not sex because sex in YA is about a one in every ten books kind of occurrence. Let’s face it, it often gets interrupted, cut short by teenage insecurities or the characters end up deciding to be abstinent, etc. etc.

One thing that makes YA so popular is the sexy.

And that’s why this article isn’t featuring a Edward Cullen. I don’t find him sexy.

Jace Wayland, Morgenstern, Heronsale, Lightwood from The Mortal Instruments?

He IS sexy.

And the thing is, there haven’t been any sex scenes in The Mortal Instruments books . . . yet. But the character is already sexy.

And there’s a few reasons why. Jace doesn’t try very hard, he knows he’s good looking, he doesn’t flaunt it, it’s just a fact. He’s also blunt, sarcastic, and snarky, but not to the point where he separates himself from everyone around him. Those who know him best will know him as caring, trustworthy, loyal and protective. His contrasting personality is what brings the sexy.

And the fact that Jace has the best kissing scenes ever. (so does Clary) Case in point, click the link.

And so the question for aspiring writers out there is: How Do I Be Sexy?

I have to say that while reading The Mortal Instruments series I kept thinking “damn this is good.” “damn this is better than what I could write.” “Damn my characters have to do something like that.” And so on and so forth. I also kept thinking “Epic Win.” because of all the YA novels I’ve read recently NONE of them come close to capturing sexy the way Cassandra Clare does.

(Maggie Stiefvater is a close second though.)

And so because I’m almost finished this WIP and because it’s a love story, I thought I’d explain how I’ve brought sexy into my fiction.

1) What’s sexy to me.

Gestures, smells, erroneous areas of the body, kissing (tongue, no tongue?) dialogue, positions (not sex positions, but making out positions, standing, sitting, lying down?) etc. etc.

2) What’s NOT sexy to me.

Looks, smells, gestures, kissing, facial features (no moustaches, no frilly pirate shirts), freezing cold skin, feverish skin, fangs, claws, flying, super strength, etc. etc.

3) What could potentially go wrong.

Braces locking, heads bumping, noses bumping, tripping, stumbling, falling, stuttering, shivering, etc. etc. (Myra McEntire uses a lot of these in her romance scenes, and they work really well.)

4) Who my characters are.

How they would do it, what they would say, what they would do, what would come natural to them, what wouldn’t, etc. etc.

I tried to envision every sexy scene between my characters before it happened so I knew where they’d be, what they’d say, how they’d move, and what they’d do. When I sat down to actually write the scenes, I already had my sexy inspiration sitting in front of me, I just had to be sure to do the following things:

1) Don’t make it weird and monotonous.

2) Don’t make it too short.

3) Make sure to stick to the character’s personalities, let their quirks shine.

4) Let the characters enjoy the moment as much as possible. (Because it’s a book and no doubt they’re going to have some tragedy to go through after this.)

And that’s ALMOST everything, but I need to add the last things that bring sexy back to fiction.

1) Characters thinking about doing things with other characters.

Ex. Elder in Across the Universe kept thinking about kissing Amy.

2) Characters noticing sexy intricate things about other characters.

Ex. Clary trying to sketch Jace while he slept.

3) Characters being the opposite of sexy around each other, building tension for the right time and place for the sexy to happen.

Ex. Grace watching Sam in the woods when he’s a wolf, for six years before she meets the boy he is.

4) Characters doing bad things in hopes for a chance at sexy with other characters.

Ex. Lena lying to her parents so she could catch Alex at the cove.

And if you’re still lost, try watching some of the following videos. I love how sex in movies isn’t porn, but it’s close enough. That’s sort of the idea in books too. It doesn’t have to be hard core porn, but it can walk a pretty damned fine line.

Arthur & Guinevere – Camelot

Blair Waldorf & Chuck Bass – Gossip Girl

Maggie & Jamie – Love & Other Drugs