Giveaway for Shadows Wake

Hey there. :) Just a couple of updates. Kirsten’s first novel, An Irresistible Shadow, is now out in paperback. (Click on title for buy link.)

Also, I’m giving away five digital copies of Shadows Wake over at my place. Here’s the link for the giveaway and here’s a link for more information about the book.

Shadows Wake Giveaway


The Freelance Editor Dilemma: Hiring a Good One

Winter Bayne recently did a post about available freelance editors and kindly mentioned me. At this point, I’m well aware that writers have different views on hiring editors for their work. However, once you choose to find an editor, then some amount of research will inevitably be necessary.

So where can you find freelance editors?

These days, every writer and his mother seems to have an “editor” sign over the door, but are they trustworthy and capable?

The Freelance Editor Dilemme: Hiring a Good OneOne of the first places I’d start looking is the Editorial Freelancers Association. If an editor is remotely serious about editing, then the $145 a year membership fee is a price worth paying. In addition to offering editorial webinars and other continuing education classes, they have sample contracts, price ranges, and a wealth of other useful information. By finding an editor who has willingly paid that fee and invested in those services, you’re more likely to find someone who does quality work — or at least someone who is serious about what they do. I’m not saying that all members of the EFA are good editors, but it’s one way of narrowing down the field.

Also, ask around. Look at the work of other authors you admire and see who edited for them. As with anything, recommendations can go a long way.

What about qualifications? Should your editor have any?

Well, in theory, yes, though most qualifications don’t come in the form of editing degrees or certifications. Many freelance editors, including me, haven’t ever worked in the traditional business. Some of us may have done internships with or worked at publishing houses for a while, but most of us have probably gained experience simply by taking on more clients or by learning from other editors. The fact is that anyone can be an editor, which can make sorting the good from the bad somewhat of an endless chore, and if you’re not careful, you could end up investing in someone who simply can’t do the job.

If you’re looking for a “qualified” individual, consider the following:

  • Find someone who has participated in editing courses — seminars, webinars, classes — anything to suggest that they care about furthering their editorial education. Don’t be afraid to ask for their resume and/or references.
  • Know what kind of edit you’re looking for before hiring an editor. There are many different types of edits, and most editors are probably better at one kind of edit than they are at another. It is essential to find someone who can fit the current needs of your novel.
  • Find an editor who reads what you write, especially for developmental and content edits. A good editor will tell you that they aren’t the best person for your story, but not everyone will be honest, especially if they are just starting out. An editor’s best education, like a writer’s, is from reading what’s out there.
  • Ask for a sample edit. A freelancer should be more than willing to edit a small percentage of your work for free before you have to sign the contract. Use this to your advantage. Don’t be afraid to look elsewhere if they don’t meet your standards.
  • As a former English major, I feel I should mention this: English majors don’t necessarily make good editors. English majors can be exceptional analyzers, but to be honest, we don’t have a lot of experience with “genre” fiction. Most probably never even took a grammar class, either. So I feel it’s fair to advise you to take the “English major” background with a grain of salt.

These are just a few suggestions. Different people have had different experiences. Newer, greener editors will be more affordable, but you will be taking a bigger gamble on their actual editing capabilities. A more experienced editor is doubtlessly going to be more expensive, but you’re paying them for just that: their experience. Either way, no matter your budget, your goals, or your story’s needs, I suggest doing the research to find the editor who works best for you. Best of luck!

What can you tell me about your search for editors? Do you have any to recommend to other SM readers? Do you have any other suggestions?

Podcasts for Writers

TSM Recommends: Podcasts for Writers

As writers, there are a tremendous number of resources available to help us learn everything from basic craft and grammar to marketing. Blog posts, classes, books, and more can overwhelm us with choices.

Some of us prefer to read, some prefer to do, and some prefer to listen. I’m always surprised how much knowledge I can absorb just by hearing it. That’s where podcasts shine. Chances are you can find a podcast on any subject that interests you. For example–well, never mind. We’d be here all day. (I’m also trying to convince the other Muses that a podcast would be fun to do).

So, for writing, I’m recommending six podcasts. Don’t let the titles fool you into thinking these are only for indie authors. topics include all aspects of writing and publishing from story ideas to process, from editing to marketing, and many of the guests on the shows are traditional or hybrid authors as well.

The podcasts are in no particular order. Most if not all are on iTunes and other formats as well.

Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn: Interview format. Her podcast is fantastic and her YouTube Channel is a great resource on all writing topics.  Joanna provides a tremendous amount of resources on her website and shares what she learns as she moves forward in her own publishing career.

The Self-Publishing Podcast (Johnny B Truant, David Wright, Sean Platt), Sterling and Stone: They do some interviews, get in depth and real about process and marketing, and are open about their successes and failures. I’ve “known” Sean and Dave since they started their first blogs, back when I used a different name, and admire their work ethic and fan-based orientation. Warning for language. The Sterling and Stone Youtube channel has lots of fun tidbits.

Simon Whistler,  Rocking Self Publishing: Interview format. YouTube channel is here. I like the questions Simon asks and the way authors open up and get specific. Always great information.

The Story Telling Podcast (Garrett Robinson, Crissy Moss, ZC Bolger, Scott Hamilton): writing topics from process, tips and tricks, to covers and publishing. Here’s the YouTube channel. Warning for language.

Buddy Gott, Buddy’s Writing Show: Interview format. This is a newer one for me but he’s already interviewed writers I like on a personal level (Dave Wright, Melissa Donovan, etc). He also has a fantastic beard.. His YouTube channel is here.

Late addition: I recently started listening to the Self-Publishing Roundtable, but wanted to hear at least 15 casts before recommending them. I have, and I do. Hosts vary but include Carl Sinclair and Wade Finnegan, Trish McCallan, John Ward, and Kevin Michael. Interview format. YouTube channel here.

Do you have a favorite podcast centered on some aspect of writing and authorship? Please share in the comments. We’re always looking for good resources.

Location, Location, Location

(c) Leele

(c) Leele

There is a joke in the real estate industry:

In establishing the value of a house, what are the three most important factors?

Location, location, location

The location in which your story is set is an integral and key component to story crafting.  Without a setting, your story cannot be anchored, leaving your plot and characters to float unmoored in the vacuum of space — given your setting is not the actual vastness of space.  A setting is what gives your character depth and forces him or her to react to outliers that are not within his or her own development.  A setting can wreak havoc on a character’s growth or it can be that one aspect which enable his or her transformation.  Use your story’s setting to lead your characters on the path that you have laid out for them.

The following is a list of my 13 favorite setting archetypes.  Again, as with all of the other archetypes that we previously discussed, the list can be endless.

1. The Underworld: the location where the protagonist confronts fear and / or death

2. The Threshold: the location that begins the protagonist’s transformation and growth (see The Journey of the Hero)

3. The Castle: this location has several facets –

  • may hold a quest item, like a princess or treasure
  • may represent a place of safety
  • may serve as a place of bewitchment or enchantment

4. The Tower: this location may represent two different facets:

  • may be a place where evil or something sinister resides
  • may have the protagonist or another character locked away from society, where society can be viewed out a small, inescapable window

5. The River: the location defines and represents the flow of time

6. The Forest / Wilderness / Space: the location represents a place where rules do not apply and characters are free to run wild.

7. The Garden: this location represents a place of harmony with innocence, nature, imagination, and / or fertile growth

8. The Wastelands: this location represents discord, poison, loneliness, despair, and / or the lack of growth

9. The Labyrinth: the location may represent a point of great uncertainty or it may serve as a quest for the protagonist to find the “monster” within himself or herself

10. The Winding Stairs: this location may represent either a:

  • difficult and long descent into the dark unknown
  • treacherous ascent to paradise / heaven

11.The Crossroads: this location either:

  • defines suffering
  • forces a character to make a decision / identifies the needs for a decision

12. The Desert: this location represents “the lonely quest” or it may represent purity and solitude

13. The Sea: this location may represent:

  • good and evil at the same time, for the location can be filled with treasures and danger
  • infinity / eternity

Like sweeping unsightly dust bunnies under the rug, authors, especially those of short fiction, sometimes leave the details to be dwelled upon later.  Often times, the details of the setting are never returned to and are left lacking substantial substance within a story.  Always make sure to leverage the setting in any story, because the setting combined with other archetypes will make your story that much more memorable.

BDSM: An Introduction

Let’s get one thing straight. I’m not in the lifestyle, but I am fascinated by it and have friends who participate in various levels of the BDSM lifestyle. So before you think I’m all kinds of kinky, crazy…allow me to redirect your focus.

I won’t post pictures here. Nor will I go into explicit detail. There are sites for that, and you’re more than welcome to tempt the Google Image gods for those curiosities. *crosses self* Enter that domain at your own risk, what has been seen cannot be unseen.

That being said, be aware of the mountains of misinformation about the lifestyle floating around the internet. I will also not be discussing the-book-that-shall-not-be-named.

Great, now that’s out of the way, I can give you a basic introduction to BDSM.


Image found on BDSM Wikipedia.

There’s your breakdown of the acronym. There are many subcultures that fall under the umbrella of BDSM. I myself have only touched the surface of understanding the dynamics and guidelines of the lifestyle.

Bondage and Discipline

Domination and Submission

Sadism and Masochism

Sounds like fun, right? Well, not for everyone. The fantastic thing I learned from the various people I’ve talked to who are in the lifestyle is you do what works for you. This isn’t about being tied up, beaten, tortured, teased, whipped, flogged, spanked, or humiliated. (Although those are all kinks…things that turn people on.) You do what works for you, when it works for you, how it works for you, and only with someone you trust.

Ahhhh, I’ve touched the keyword. In my mind and to most in the lifestyle, BDSM comes down to trust. How can I make myself vulnerable to someone and allow them to fulfill my fantasies if I don’t trust them? In my opinion, you can’t.

That’s where the basic “law of the land” for BDSM comes into play. Safety and consent. When a couple decides to enact a “scene” or “play” together, they have already discussed and agreed upon certain elements of the activity BEFORE they begin. They have come to an agreement prior to the event. Triggers, health issues/limitations, off-limit zones, turn on/offs, boundaries, and restrictions should be established, also, a safe word chosen.

Sounds like a lot of thought went into this, don’t you think? Yes, and this is as it should be.

So what does this have to do with writing? For me, a lot. Most of my stories have hints, fleeting elements of BDSM. I don’t dive into the lifestyle like some authors do…and kudos to them for taking on such a challenge. I’ve read some fascinating stories by some fantastic authors which allow the reader to glimpse into the true world of BDSM. And I freaking love it.

You can’t write something if you don’t do the research. <—-This is a law I live by.

My goal is to tie in these elements in a broad way to the relationships of my characters. The power dynamics, the attraction and the chemistry…they move my characters forward in not only their own personal growth but in their blossoming relationship. In my mind, it all comes back to that basic component of trust. Isn’t that what we strive for in our relationships?


I would like to touch on the power dynamics in my next post. What do you think? So now I’m super curious…What would you like to know about the BDSM lifestyle?

If you could care less, just keep scrolling. I won’t have hurt feelings, but please keep the comments engaging and pleasant. This is a discussion and an exploration. What two consenting adults decide to do in the privacy of their home is no one’s business. We’re not here to judge.

Thanks for stopping by.

<3 Jen



A Writer’s Journey and The Lord of the Rings

For me, the writer’s journey, from first word to final manuscript, is a long and dangerous one (at least as far as sanity is concerned). Living inside the heads of so many characters can’t be good for my health but like Frodo, the ring-bearer, it’s my cross to bear. I recently likened my protectiveness towards a first draft manuscript as characteristic of Gollum. I liked the comparison at the time but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that, as I forge my way through the landscape of the novel to that elusive final draft, I invoke many more members of the Fellowship.

The Hobbit Phase (Planning and character development)

Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins (image from Wikipedia)

Everything is shiny and new, the ideas come thick and fast and excitement is at an all-time high. I feel as carefree as the hobbits frolicking in the Shire. Life is good and nothing can ruin the feeling. But, there are dark clouds gathering on the horizon, something big is in the making and I know little of the tumultuous world beyond my home (outline).

Frodo Phase (1st Draft)

Writing now begins in earnest; a grand adventure from the outset. Soon I am hounded by temptation at every turn. The lure of new projects or simply procrastination (blogging, as I’ve come to call it) is great, issuing forth its Siren call. I get an almost constant feeling of being out of my depth but, like our hero, I’m driven, single-mindedly, by one goal: destroy the one ring…I mean, finish the story. So, I plow ever onwards despite the difficulties.

Gollum Phase (Transition period)

Gollum (image from Wikipedia)

This is the worst time for me. The first draft is now complete and I must let it rest, forget about it for a time. It’s around now that I start to hide in dark corners, stroking my manuscript (keep it clean) and cooing ‘my precioussssss’. I grow very (over)protective of it and can realise a potential for violence if it gets misplaced or taken from me. These are not the only traits I share with this anti-hero, there’s also the matter of our stunningly-good looks.

Gimli Phase (2nd Draft – plot holes and pit falls)

The manuscript rested and my temptation with other projects sated, I can now start my first read-through and second draft. Heroically, I wade into the thick of it, wielding my mighty dwarven axe to cut and hack at sentences, even whole scenes, which don’t hold true to the story. This phase can be short skirmish or a lengthy campaign but it always ends the same way – piles of dead words at my feet (or spilling out of the litter bin).

Legolas Phase (3rd Draft – sound and flow)

With the broad strokes taken care of, subtlety comes into play. Now, I’m keen of eye and ear using both to hunt and track errant words and scenes from the story with precision, surgically removing them with my white-handled blade (red pen). This is a time for ensuring the narrative flies straight (figuratively) and true like an arrow loosed from my bow, that no obstacles or humps are encountered which may way-lay or deter the reader from seeking the end of their quest, the end of the novel.

Gandalf Phase (4th Draft – grammar and spelling)

Gandalf the White (image from Wikipedia)


The fourth draft is purely a proof-read for grammar and spelling. I stand on the precipice and scream: “You [poor wording/spelling errors] shall not pass!” This is a time where the wisdom of experience is most sought after, to apply the final shine and coax any overlooked potential disasters into the light.

Aragorn Phase (Final manuscript and submission)

The journey is finally over (for now) and I feel like the king of all that I survey. It’s a new world out there just ready for the taking.

3 Reasons to Think of Your Writing as Music

“If … a poem remains predominantly writing, never coming alive to voice and to sounds as voiced, it will remain only a sketch of a work.” – Susan Stewart

3 Reasons to Think of Your Writing as MusicIf you think about it, the words we put down on the page are but symbols of the sounds we make via speech. In that sense, letters are representative of sounds, a cluster of letters forms a word, those words then form longer structures, and voilà, you have sentences and paragraphs and novels. Though your readers will not physically hear the sounds of the words you write, they will feel them.

That’s why, even if you’re writing something “simple” — even if you’re writing genre literature where the plot tends to (but certainly not always) take precedence over the use of language, the way you use words, if used well, will still pluck the strings of your reader.

So what does all this have to do with music? Like music, writing relies on sound and rhythm to bring life to our work. With that said, I think the above quote is applicable to all realms of writing (and music, too), not just poetry: if our work remains mere writing, without utilizing the tools of (in this case) sound, then it does not truly live.

Think of your story as a song that needs to stay in key

Music, like language, relies on a string of sounds put together in specific patterns to form rhythm, harmony, etc. Even a listener who has had no previous musical education (like me) can hear when someone hits a bad note, or when a note doesn’t quite go with the others. It’s the exact same with readers. If a writer hits a “bad note” — a word that doesn’t quite work with the rest of the prose, for instance — the reader will notice it. This will draw them out of your story, and you risk losing their attention.

Knowledge of this is especially important for writers, because it’ll better enable you to see areas where your prose falls flat. A good line editor, too, will ‘hear’ it and be able to help you find the strongest way to use your voice to emphasize the emotion and music of your own work.

The way things sound together matters

If you want your words to sing to the reader, your prose needs to feel right. This means rhythm is going to be your best friend. Writers rely on intuition for a majority of their written choices. Every time we select a word, we are selecting it among thousands of other possibilities, which in turn changes the possibilities for the rest of the sentences that come after it. Each word hinges off the last; each word influences the next: the way the sounds wrap around one another. Afterwards, these sounds begin to represent something bigger — the actual meaning (both literal and figurative) as well as the emotional direction in which we wish to move your reader.

Do you have a scene that needs to express a state of panic? Like music, you must speed up your use of language. You must control the rhythm if you wish to convey these feelings to your reader. Find a way to harmonize between the beat of the sentences and the sound of the words and then merge them with the character and the scene.

As with notation in music, punctuation is a marker of rhythm and should be used effectively

You can influence the rhythm of your prose with punctuation. Just as certain musical notation marks the length of a beat when sung or played, punctuation marks show the amount of time a reader should pause, thus lengthening the bridge between one word and the next (which then translates to the length the reader subconsciously holds onto ideas). Each punctuation mark conveys a certain aspect of rhythm, whether just half a beat or a full breath pause. Not only does it vary the sound of what you’re writing, but it also gives you a certain amount of emotional power over your reader.

To use the example from before — a state of urgency –you could use short declarative sentences to show the speed with which events are transpiring. Then, by using a dash, for instance, or repeating words (in moderation), you can use this rhythm to then link the rest of it with the character’s own state of mind.

In conclusion . . .

There are a lot of ways to compare music to writing. As a sort of reminder, think of the way music dips in and out of our emotions, the way it holds us. This is what you want to do to your reader—this is why writers are so powerful. Because when we manage to use the sound of our writing effectively, we are in control. A good writer wraps the reader in a web of words; a good writer doesn’t let go, even after the song has ended.

Do you have any comparisons to make between writing and music? What are your experiences?

The Life Cycle of a Manuscript.

The Life Cycle of a Manuscript“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.” ~Winston Churchill

We start out with a shiny idea and develop that idea into a plot with characters.

The shiny idea becomes a draft in progress. We love it at first, resent it at some point, but we get it done. It then becomes the shiny new draft.

We play with the shiny new draft, fixing plot holes, adding description, tightening our dialog until it becomes the shiny completed draft.

Take a moment to enjoy this feeling because you only get it once in the lifecycle of each book. Be proud.

The shiny completed draft goes to the alpha reader (or in some case beta readers) for comments and feedback. That feedback, if it is honest, turns the shiny completed draft into a sullied, tattered shyte draft.

This is normal. Expect it. The sooner you move from “I write crap” to “let’s get busy revising,” the better you’ll sleep.

The shyte draft goes through changes. The stakes are defined (or raised). The duplicate words get changed. The character’s motivation gets clarified, and much more. It metamorphoses into the Final Draft.

And then it goes to the copy editor. And what we thought was a final draft becomes just another draft. We make the changes, send it back and forth until it’s polished and complete. This becomes the Novel.

And the novel is released into the world with a feeling that’s almost as good (and often better) than the feeling we had holding our shiny new draft, because the shiny new draft is but a shadow of what our words have become.

While our novel finds its readers, we get another shiny idea and repeat it all with a new project that will one day become the new novel.

And the cycle continues.