Monday, March 31, 2014

Editor's Notes: See You Soon!

Sooner than you think. In fact, you'll hardly have time to miss me.

Not that anyone is likely to forget this (because practically everyone I know on the Internet is involved somehow), but tomorrow marks the beginning of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. Since I'll be posting daily in April (with the exception of Sundays), I'm not going to bog everyone down with Editor's Notes on Mondays until May.

Instead, I'm going to be spending the entire month of April visiting friends. Old friends, new friends, friends I may never meet in real life, but friends nonetheless.

I'd suggest you visit them, too. I'm not selfish with my blogging friends. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Coffee Chat 12.0 with S.K. Anthony: Going on Vacation!

Today’s Coffee Chat is where we finally answer some of the questions our readers have asked. I can’t believe how many there are! I’m really overwhelmed, considering how many people there are who don’t follow my blog. But hey, S.K. dragged in a huge mail bag yesterday so we could have it all ready to go for this morning, and I have coffee brewing, homemade cinnamon rolls in the oven, and my laptop ready to type out our answers.

While I wait for her to arrive, I want to remind all of you that we’ll be taking a Coffee Chat vacation during the entire month of April since we’re both participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. We’ll have short posts on our blogs each day except for Sundays, and don’t want to bog down the blogosphere with extras. It’s funny . . . ever since I got my posts ready for the A to Z, I seem to only be capable of doing certain things in alphabetical order. I tried to pack my bags for our vacation and found myself filling my suitcase with an accordion, a bullhorn, coffee, dog biscuits, earplugs, French fries, grease remover (because of the fries), a hammock, icicle lights—

SKA: He-he-heyyyy everyone! I’m in such a good mood, I’m ready to go through our fan mail, Lynda. Wow! [Stops and looks around at the mess in Lynda’s house.] You’re packing all of this? What on earth would you need a bullhorn for?

ER: The bullhorn is for anyone who doesn't like my accordion playing. It comes in handy more often than you'd think. So how do you want to do this? Take turns reading the questions to each other?

SKA: Oh, well, okay then . . .  Why don't I read the questions and you type?

ER: I don't mind taking turns, but—hey! [S.K. grabs the letter.]

SKA: So first question, Lynda, for you: “What do your elves . . . ah . . . kids . . . do for fun?”

ER: My kids are musicians, so they spend a lot of their free time with guitars in their hands. If not that, then they're . . . I don't actually know what they do. Maybe I should actually pay attention to them once in a while.

SKA: Eh, I say let them be. Ooh, this one is for me: “I love you! You're awesome! What do I get if I was both naughty and nice?” Oh, dear fan, thank you. I'm blushing. I think if you are both naughty and nice, then you live a balanced life. You get to read my books, that's what you get!

Next one is for you, Lynda. “Why didn't you bring me—” Umm, okay, let's skip this one; we have too many to answer anyway. Here: “Why do you always wear red?”

ER: I wonder how our fans know I love to wear red. Huh. I guess it's just a good color on me. It went well with my hair when it was brown, and now it goes nicely with the grey. These are kind of . . . interesting questions. I thought they'd be asking about our writing or something.

SKA: Oh, you know fans. They’re out there. Okay this one is for both of us: “What brought on your passion for making and giving away toy—umm, drinking coffee?” Our passion for drinking coffee, Lynda. I read that wrong, sorry.


For me it was lack of sleep and low energy, to be honest. When I started college, I realized staying up late doing homework, watching TV, reading, and studying for tests gave my body a need to start an addiction of something. I chose coffee. I did ease up a bit after I graduated . . . but then I became a mother and the addiction took a whole other level. It has a life of its own, I think.

ER: I started drinking coffee at a young age; and the only change is a better quality of coffee now. I can get by without it if I have to, but I really enjoy the taste. Caffeine is a bonus, but there's just something about coffee that tea drinking can't replace. I like the ritual of walking around with the mug, and sitting around with my hubby in the morning, catching up over a cuppa.

Are you sure you don't want me to read some of those letters? They're all on such colorful paper. They look like fun!

SKA: They . . .  are colorful and pretty, but they’re in Spanish. I’m translating them for you. [Clears throat.] So . . . this next one wants to know why you skipped him last year, oh . . . okay these people are weird. Let me try another one. [Shuffles papers around.] This one is asking what we do the rest of the year. [Frowns.] You know, maybe one last try or we give up. Hey! What–

ER: [Grabs bag.] Give me those. Hey! These are letters for SANTA! They’re not even in Spanish. What in the world are you doing with a bag of letters to Santa Claus? I thought these were from our fans!

SKA: Umm . . . those who love Santa love us too! Fine. Let’s just answer the real questions then. :(

ER: Do we have any real questions?

SKA: Yeah. [Slumps down on a chair.] You have them . . .

ER: Sigh . . . well, let's get on with it, then. This one's for you: “If you could write a book with a social message, what would it be?”

SKA: Good one! A little tough, but good nonetheless. I can stay general and say, “Make love not war,” or be specific and say, “No more bullies!” But in my opinion, I can write just one small message that can make the same impact for one or both: Believe in yourself. I think changes start with and within a person, but unless he believes he can achieve his goal—like bringing world peace, standing up for victims, following dreams, or just promoting love—he will simply not get too far. I think you have to be passionate to stand up for something. I’m not even sure this counts as a social message, but I still believe you can’t achieve much unless you set an example for anyone who wants to follow. First you start with yourself.

Don’t even ask me how I would go about writing this message in a book . . . this caught me off guard. I was mostly prepared to answer questions that were directed at Santa.

ER: I'm not knocking the Santa questions. It would be pretty nice to be that popular. The question for me is asking what my favorite books are to edit. I can honestly say I don't have a favorite so far. I've done paranormal, science fiction, horror and urban fantasy and have enjoyed them all. Of course, I will always enjoy the books more if I don't have to adjust as much, but even that is fun, knowing I'm helping an author to say what he or she intended in the clearest manner possible.

All right, now we have a riddle. This one's for you. “If you're in a house and all the windows face south, what color is the bear outside your window?”

SKA: Oh that’s easy! The color of the bear is scary. I don’t discriminate against bears and their colors, I’m scared of all of them equally. [Laughs.]

All right, seriously, white. If all the walls face south, the house is at the North Pole, so the bear is polar. A polar bear that is, not a bipolar bear. Though, it might be bipolar . . . I’m not finding out.

ER: Bipolar bears end up at the South Pole with the penguins. You know, two poles? Bipolar? Don't let anyone tell you they're not there. Now here's a twist on the final riddle. The answer is: an egg. What is the question?

SKA: Don’t act up, Lynda. These riddles are for us; I take one, you take one. So . . . what IS the real question? ’Cause my question would be, “What did you cook to go along with my bacon?”

ER: But I already answered it, so if I ask the question, I'll . . . oh, forget it. Question: “A box without hinges, key, or lid. But inside, a golden treasure is hid.”

Um . . . hmm . . . this is a tough one. I'm going to guess the answer is . . . six lines above this one. An egg. No surprise there. I guess that worked out for the best after all.

SKA: I knew because of The Hobbit, but you asked me the question and I didn’t think it fair I give you the question/answer/question after giving the last answer, even though you gave me a question and then an answer . . . wait, what just happened? Where is my Dear Santa bag?

ER: I kind of liked the Santa ones better . . .   So this is our last Coffee Chat until April is over, right?

SKA: Sadly, yes. We’ll be taking a Coffee Chat Vacation. A forced one, I have to say. Before we sign off on our last chat until May, here’s the last question of the day: It’s from a “fan” and it’s directed to you, since this is your blog. “What’s wrong with you people?”

ER: That . . . that is an answer for another post. Maybe a series of posts.


As always:

You can find S.K. Anthony in a number of places. She's on Twitter @SKathAnthony, her website is www.skanthony.com, her Facebook page is S Katherine Anthony, and on occasional occasions, she'll be right here with me, drinking coffee and laughing it up over our latest plans and schemes. And possibly even talking about books and writing. 


You can find me here. I'm always here.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Stop, Drop, and (Eye) Roll

What pulls you out of a book? Are you able to stay immersed in the fictional world no matter what happens, no matter how far-fetched?

I love a good book. I love losing myself in a mythical world, becoming the heroine in an adventure, being scared out of my wits, or remembering the whole falling-in-love process.

What I don't love is when my fictional-world-immersion is brought to a screeching halt by bad writing, whichever form that bad writing takes. This can happen in a variety of ways.

  1. The obvious: mispeelings, badly grammer, and punct'uation issues. Ugh. That even hurt to type. I'll bet it hurt to read, too. "Then" and "than" are not interchangeable. People don't "shutter," nor do they keep their eyes "pealed" for danger. Your girlfriend's "bear" arms are not sexy, trust me. I see it once? I hope it's a typo. More than once and I'm closing the book.
  2. Characters who don't stay true to their personalities. A tough-as-nails FBI agent melts into a puddle of goo when her apartment is broken into. A young girl gets pregnant, has the baby and raises it alone while putting herself through medical school, and yet falls right back into the arms of the deadbeat boyfriend as soon as he comes back to town, years later, even though he's still a jerk. A tough guy suddenly can't make a decision, eat, sleep, or work because a hot girl came into his life for one night and disappeared. A snotty teen who is suddenly comfortable with the geek gang at school because . . . oh, I don't know why. The list goes on. People change, but they don't change instantly and it should actually look like a struggle if they're trying.
  3. Impossible scenarios. Two people "in love" have a misunderstanding and somehow, one of them manages to move out of town without the other knowing it—in a small town where everyone knows everyone else's business (and everyone assumes, of course, that Person A knew about Person B moving away SIX MONTHS AGO). Two people hate each other for decades but get locked in a building of some type overnight—implausible enough—and suddenly realize they love each other deeply after eight hours of conversation.
  4. Emotionally abusive/stalker behavior portrayed as intense love. Sorry folks. Not love. Not even close to love. This is even worse when it's in YA novels and intense jealousy and controlling behavior are played off as protectiveness. Don't teach young girls this is what to look for in a relationship.
  5. Finding "true love forever" . . . at age eleven. When characters fall in love only to have circumstances separate them, and then meet up after twenty years apart, I expect those characters to be older than thirty. I can't count how many NA books I've read that employ this plot line.
  6. Too much street slang. It's dialogue. It's "real." It's gritty. I get it, I do. But if the dialogue is so slang-y that I can barely decipher it, I'm quitting. I want to read, not struggle with a foreign language. What's the point of being so "real" that nobody knows what the heck you're talking about?
  7. No research done by the author. If you're writing about high school kids, know that the football captain doesn't have practice in April. iPhones don't "snap" shut. People in Victorian times didn't use phrases like, "Oh, crap." Someone who is failing every class with a month of school remaining is not likely to graduate on time. Children in medieval times didn't make parchment paper airplanes during playtime. 
I've seen all these things and more, and they've jarred me out of a book as effectively as my alarm clock drags me from sleep.  The only way to survive is to follow the drill:

STOP reading.
DROP the book.
ROLL your eyes and move along.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A to Z Theme Reveal!


I'm Italian. Well, I'm half-Italian, actually. What does this have to do with blogging and editing? As far as editing, it means I know wordiness when I see it, and can pull out the Red Pen of Doom and slash with the best of them. As far as blogging, it means I can't follow my own advice, and write much in the same way as I speak. Quantity (sometimes over quality) and tangents.

This leads me into trouble more often than not as I decide what to write and what to eliminate in my blog posts. I usually have my friend and Coffee Chat buddy, S.K. Anthony, look at my drafts so she can tell me when I should have shut up. She has a good eye for these things, telling me to “save this part for another post” or “this sounds like you’re whining.” Once in a while, I’ll send her a blog post that fits within the less-than-1000-words rule, and she has the nerve to think I’m joking. Harrumph.


In fact, when I signed up for the A to Z challenge, her first words of advice were, “Write a regular blog post, and then chop it into four or five separate posts. That’s how short these need to be. Do you think you’re going to be able to do that?”

Yep.

Come back in April to see the proof. My theme?

FIRST DRAFT TO BOOK SALES: AN EDITOR'S TIPS FROM A TO Z

See you on April 1. No foolin'.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Coffee Chat 11.0 with S.K. Anthony: Everything and Nothing from A to Z

Good morning! S.K. and I are having a tough week. Things have been busy on all fronts, with S.K. working on Static, and me . . . doing something important, I’m sure. I can’t tell you exactly what I’ve been doing, but it sure has kept me occupied.

S.K. will join us in a moment, after her first cup of coffee has been completely consumed. I’ve already had two, which is probably the only reason why I’m typing with any coordination at all. Busyness makes me tired. I think there are certain seasons when we’re busier than others, and for me, March (or spring in general) has always been that time. Even though I have that frantic “gotta get the inside projects done before the weather gets nice” feeling, I’m still not able to channel all that into actual productivity.

We’re going to keep this short this week, and I’ll tell you why. Oh, wait, here comes S.K.! Hey, happy day to you and all that.

SKA: Get yourself together, S.K.! Ahem, sorry, I needed to have a self-talk-to. Hey, Lynda! You don’t know how happy I am that these chats are not in video. Feel free to ignore the bird nest that is my hair. It’s all the static from Static staticking me around . . . I can’t breathe! Coffee. I need more.

[Walks around in circles.]

Yeah . . . so, I might be in the middle of a Static-breakdown. But you know, what’s up with you? Are you not telling us what you’ve been up in fear of blowing our minds?

ER: I wouldn't say mind-blowing. Perhaps mind-numbing. The mundane is threatening to overtake me. I'm drowning in a sea of Post-It notes. What I've been working on is—[Looks up and gets a good eyeful of S.K. for the first time since she's entered the room.]—Yikes! You look as bad as I do! And why are there socks sticking to your back? I'm fighting the urge to shout, "Twenty-three nineteen!" and stuff a cone over your head.*

And readers, if you ever see us doing a video blog, you'll know we've hired 20-something, glamorous supermodels to portray us, and not because they're dead ringers for the way we look every day.

Anyway, S.K., I know you've been working on Static a lot, but I also know you've been busy with some of the same things I have. My busiest moments over the last couple weeks have been getting my blog posts ready for the A to Z Blogging Challenge that starts on April 1st. Has it been the same for you?

SKA: Umm, yeah. It seemed like the last sixteen letters went on forever. And ever. And ever.

ER: Hallelujah! Hallelujah! . . . uh, sorry, I was caught up in the moment.

SKA: [Glares.] But eventually I finished them and I think it will be clear to people which letters were the most problematic. You might think I have time to fix them and make changes, but if I do, I’ll be robbing my few readers of some serious eye rolls. I don’t want to do that. I’ll let them have their moments 'cause I’m that nice. (And that tired.)

I also have my post ready for tomorrow’s BIG A to Z Theme Reveal. I’m excited to find out what everyone will be posting about in April.

ER: I had the same issue: I had ten more letters, and I did a whole lot more and had . . . nine more letters. And then I did a WHOLE lot more, and still had nine letters. I'm still not sure how that worked out. But now they're done, done, done, and just waiting in my "scheduled" folder for their own days in April. I'm excited to visit new blogs, familiar blogs, you name it. I've been scouting out a few each day to see which ones might interest me most. There are over 1200 participants!

I'm ready for tomorrow, too, with my A to Z Theme Reveal. There are almost 270 participants in the reveal, so we'll get a lot of sneak peeks.

SKA: Oooh! Can’t wait to make the rounds. My laptop is charged, coffee is set, and my fingers are all stretched and ready to go!

ER: All right, then. Let's get a good night's rest so we can handle all the excitement tomorrow. Next week, we'll be answering the questions we've been receiving, so if you have any more for us, either put them in the comments here or send them to Lynda.





As always:

You can find S.K. Anthony in a number of places. She's on Twitter @SKathAnthony, her website is www.skanthony.com, her Facebook page is S Katherine Anthony, and on occasional occasions, she'll be right here with me, drinking coffee and laughing it up over our latest plans and schemes. And possibly even talking about books and writing. 

You can find me here. I'm always here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

How Badly Do You Want to Write?

I realized, while thinking about this week's Monday post, that today marks my 50th post since starting this blog. Bloggers are sometimes authors, writing full-time or part-time with the hopes of making a living from their writing. More often than not, though, they're people who want to share thoughts, ideas, political views, or creativity. Bloggers are a little more informal in nature; some post inflammatory opinions; some post a photo with three lines of text; some, like me, have a hard time keeping posts limited to 1000 words or less.

Because my blog is centered around books, writing, and the writing process, I thought I'd share a little bit about a man who had his own style of informal writing: my dad.

My dad used to write poems when he needed to de-stress. Sometimes the poems rhymed; sometimes they were inner conversations or deeper thoughts. Some of them were observations on life, like how long he’d wait outside the bathroom door in a house full of women, or his thoughts on what butt cracks were good for. (Yes, he had quite the range of topics.) He’d write the poems on scraps of paper and tuck them into his basement workbench drawers. Once in a rare while, he’d give one to someone specific, usually when he was bothered by an event and worried about the person involved. It was his own way of encouraging by expressing his feelings in a non-verbal way. We'd always figured he wasn't a big talker because my mom was (and still is) the talker in the family, but I think he came from a generation whose men trained themselves not to react too extremely to anything—don't cry, don't move too quickly, don't talk too much or too loudly. (And with my mom's Italian side of the family, don't try to get a word in at all. You can't compete.) 


He was once given a blank journal to write in and never used it, claiming that its formal nature made him feel as if he had to write "better." Too much pressure. He was content with the free 4x5” tablets given out as freebies from drug reps, those campaigning for local offices, or advertising their appliance repair businesses. It didn't make a whit of difference to him whether he had pen or pencil, spiral-bound paper, post-it note, or a scrap of napkin. He wanted to write and that's all there was to it.

He never wanted to make money from it (and to be honest, his writing was not the type that would have made him any), and was almost embarrassed when anyone wanted to see what he'd written. He needed that outlet—but for him, it was a personal thing, not to be commonly shared.

The ups and downs of his life were journaled, one small paper at a time, from his younger, single-guy years in the military (with Elvis!), all the way up to when he died after a lifetime filled with wife, daughters, grandchildren, pets, neighbors and friends. He wrote about all of them. 

How badly do you want to write? Stop making excuses. Stop waiting for the perfect moment. Start getting the words out.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Coffee Chat 10.0 with S.K. Anthony: Into the Nightmirrors with Raymond Esposito

Hi, everyone! I’m really excited about today’s Coffee Chat, because Raymond Esposito is going to be joining us to discuss his newest book, The Devil’s Hour. I sent S.K. to pick him up—oh, shoot! I forgot to tell him she was coming—but no matter, they should be here any minute. Actually, they should have been here a while ago . . .

Here’s the thing: I never know what kinds of adventures S.K. is going to get herself into, so this time, I took the small precaution of putting a return sticker on her. That might sound strange, and a bit degrading to some, but I think it’s just plain practical. It would have been easier to meet at Raymond’s house, but he wouldn’t tell us where he lived. I don’t know why. Thank goodness for Google.

[Hears a knock at the kitchen door.] Yay! I’ll bet they’re here!

[Opens door to find Raymond, holding a dripping wet S.K. by the hood of her sweatshirt. The look on his face is quite indescribable.]

Um . . . well. Hi, Raymond. Welcome to my house. I’m sure there’s a story behind this, but it’s probably best told over coffee. Come on in and we’ll get a towel or two for S.K. [Sighs.]

SKA: Or a blanket . . . err, thanks for returning me, Raymond.

RE: Hi, Lynda. Sorry we are a bit late. First I had to figure out why a strange woman was running around on my front lawn getting soaked by the sprinkler system . . . then I had to explain it to my wife before she dialed 9-1-1. I can attest that S.K.'s superpowers do not extend to being waterproof . . . or staying on the walkway.

ER: I guess the important part is that you're here now. [To S.K.] Why didn't you just go in the garage when the sprinklers started? You could have stayed dry.

SKA: Are you insane, Lynda? I’m not going in there! Didn’t you read what happens in The Devil’s Hour in the garage? I don’t trust it . . . or you, Raymond. I’m pretty sure at any moment you’re going to open that bag and throw diabolical bugs at me or something.

[Trembling.] I . . . I’ve been having nightmares. I can’t even look you in the eye.

ER: Let's reassure you: Raymond, how about showing S.K. what's in the bag. Did you bring us chocolate?

RE: S.K., of course I didn't bring diabolical bugs. I gave those to the demonic clown that is hiding under your bed. What I did bring is chocolate-flavored coffee because I think comfort foods . . . well, in this case, beverages . . .  go so well with Horror. I know that sounds crazy, but for me some of my fondest childhood memories are of watching horror movies and reading horror novels.

SKA: Demonic clown under my bed? O_O At least it’s not spiders, but umm . . . I’ll take that chocolate-flavored coffee while I set up my new bedroom in Lynda’s house.

ER: Great. Now I have a permanent houseguest. And thank you, Raymond, for reminding me of the demonic clown . . . because I had FINALLY gotten that out of my head for five whole minutes.

What got you hooked on horror? Can you trace it back to a certain time or event?

RE: It's interesting that as a kid I hated roller coasters, but loved being frightened. My mom was a big horror fan. She took me to see The Omega Man at the drive-in when I was, like, five. Together we consumed every creature feature program on television. I think horror is my drug. In fourth grade I did a shadow box on "The Tell-Tale Heart." In middle school I did book reports on John Saul's Suffer the Children, The Amityville Horror, and Peter Straub's Julia. When I discovered Stephen King's ’Salem's Lot, though, that's when I realized I wanted to write horror novels.

[Looks around.] Umm . . . is S.K. going to be okay with the coffee? She had a hard time operating the door bell, and coffee makers are a little more complex.

ER: I'd better check on her . . . she's usually okay with coffee (I think she can make it in her sleep) but this whole clown/bug thing has her pretty wigged out. I thought she was going to tackle you to the floor when she realized you had a bag in your hand.

SKA: I’m okay, I’m okay! I’ve been hiding by the door trying to keep an eye on Raymond. [Looks at him.] You don’t look all that dangerous, and this is awesome coffee, so I forgive you. Don’t give me that look. Your book petrified me, and you should be a little sorry. And now you’re laughing? Fantastic! 



ER: Okay, so let's talk about The Devil's Hour. People always say, "Write what you know." This makes me wonder about you just a little bit. Did you write this book in the bathroom while your friends and family tried to break in and kill you? 'Cause that would leave me with a permanent twitch, and I have to say, you look pretty serene for a horror writer.

RE: I think I do write what I know. Horror is just actual experiences ramped up with imagination. Fictional demons to exercise the real ones from the past . . . in my opinion. As a kid I often barricaded myself in a room while a real-life demon tried to get in to kill me . . . figuratively kill me, of course.

ER: Ahh, yes, the brother who ate the cereal full of ants . . .

RE: My childhood was a great world of imagination and fun, but it was also filled, like many people's, with my fair share of not-so-great experiences. There are as many psychological aspects to my story writing as there are "scary" things because I've always thought that horror is the celebration of human character and strength . . . even when it doesn't end well, it's about standing up.

SKA: Standing up? Sure, I can see that. But I’d rather run to my new bedroom, curl up and hide under my blanket. Speaking of running, originally I would have been all for going after the SUV to get away like they did in the book, but after what happened in the garage . . . I don’t know that I would still try to get the car out; I still have goosebumps.

RE: Well, I think courage is a situational thing. That's what I love about horror—take the worst situation and see which characters rise and which fall. It's a great world for the reader to ask, "What would I do?"

SKA: What was your favorite scene to write, Raymond? Or one of your favorite lines?

RE: I'm going to cheat a bit and say there wasn't one particular scene, but TDH is one part mystery and I really enjoyed weaving in the clues. I'm hoping when the reader gets to the end they go "a-ha."

But the demon under the bed was one of my personal childhood nightmares.

ER: The under-the-bed stuff was the same for me. No matter how hot it was, I couldn't allow my hands or feet to hang off the side of the bed because I knew something would grab me. I also had a fear of the killer bees after I'd read a National Geographic article. I was convinced they were coming up from South America to kill me. I was so happy you didn't have a swarm of killer bees in your book! I would have needed therapy.

Since I got the manuscript in parts, I had a lot of "a-ha" moments because of your excellent clue-weaving abilities. I couldn't wait to reread it for the final proof so I could look at those moments more purposefully.

Speaking of your abilities, I think you have the creep factor down pretty well. No need to work on that. Something you and I talked about during the editing process was the horror aspect of this book and how it was a little different than your other works. Can you elaborate on that?

RE: I remember the "killer bee" scare and the made-for-television movie. It gave me nightmares. And to answer your question, that's what TDH was about: nightmares. I've written a lot of short stories, but to date my novels are zombie/infected related. I really wanted to write a straight-out horror story. Something that would let me talk about all the nightmare stuff that scares me. I wanted it to be one of those books that fits the classic description of horror without relying on blood or guts or slasher-type elements. I'm hoping readers will find at least one thing in it that visits them when they lie in the dark and sleep won't come . . . but I guess that's every horror author's goal.

SKA: Let me assure you, your goal was achieved. I love everything zombies, so I’m probably okay with blood and guts. But the creepiness you have in TDH? That was not expected and I’m pretty sure most readers will agree with me. My skin is still crawling. And the fact that I finished reading at 3:00 a.m. didn’t help matters with me staying awake after reading The Devil’s Hour. What are the odds? Needless to say, I lay in the dark and sleep did not come when I was done . . .

RE: I think the odds are about right—maybe it was a warning. [Laughs.]

ER: Did it end up being therapeutic, or creating more nightmares for you? I'll bet you don't have any happy clown nightlights in your house.

RE: Unfortunately, no, it wasn't therapeutic, because the more I've seen of this country and the more I've learned, the closer I come to believing that maybe these fictional "fears" have some truth. It does seem everything we imagine comes true—like flying, magic potions that cure disease, space travel. So perhaps the monsters are real. Maybe they're just good at hiding . . . until that one time they grow tired of waiting . . . that time you forget to look under the bed or you chance not turning on the light and you reach into the darkness. Maybe I don't have a good imagination, but instead, maybe I just know something that's hard to explain any other way but in stories . . .  Okay, I just creeped myself out. See? Horror is an itch but it’s like poison ivy: the more I scratch, the worse it gets.

ER: You're creeping me out, too, and making me want to run, screaming, into S.K.'s new room. You said you were going to bring a movie for us to watch. Pleasepleaseplease let it be something like The Sound of Music or The Princess Bride.


RE: Sure. It's just like those movies. Nothing to fear at all . . . just turn off the lights and have a look.
It begins with a car accident and a mysterious wall of smoke. Something horrific has arrived in Sam Drake's neighborhood—something that will unleash their every nightmare and test the limits of sanity. Sam and his friends must find a way out . . . a way to survive the terrors in the darkness. But every neighborhood has its dark secrets and some nightmares are inescapable . . . when the hour comes.


ER: Not . . . The Princess Bride . . .

You can get your own copy of The Devil's Hour on Smashwords or Amazon. In fact, Raymond has provided a coupon code (WS98R) to get it FREE on Smashwords if you're one of the first 25 people to get there and grab one. 

You can find Raymond Esposito on his own blogs, Writing in a Dead World and Nightmirrors. You can also find him on Twitter @Nightmirrors666.

As always:

You can find S.K. Anthony in a number of places. She's on Twitter @SKathAnthony, her website is www.skanthony.com, her Facebook page is S Katherine Anthony, and on occasional occasions, she'll be right here with me, drinking coffee and laughing it up over our latest plans and schemes. And possibly even talking about books and writing. 

You can find me here. I'm always here.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Editor's Notes #10: Good, Bad, or Ugly? My Editor's Private Life


I would never consider myself to be a celebrity-watcher. Most often, I couldn’t care less what strangers do in their spare time, whether they’re famous or not. I don’t know them and they don’t know me. Would they be fascinated by a photo of me, grocery shopping? No? Well, then, why should their grocery-store photo fascinate me? Because they dared to shop without a face full of makeup? Give me a break. They’re regular (albeit obscenely rich) people, and they shouldn’t have to be “on” all the time.

That said, allow me to add that who a person is should not change whether someone is looking or not. I’m not saying they have to show their most private emotions to the public, but a little consistency would be nice. To see a public figure (whether international celebrity or local police chief) present a pleasant face to some, while privately being abusive at home, is disheartening to me.

What does this have to do with editing, you ask? Perhaps you’re getting the idea that I think I’m famous. Perhaps you want a photo of me at the local grocery store so you can judge me on whether I’ve bought organic food or not. Perhaps you’re even wondering why a serious editor would be buying a MAD magazine. (The answer: because I can’t help myself.)

The thing that has me pondering public lives versus private lives—and what that has to do with editing—is this: I think it’s a good idea for people to check out an editor’s social media interactions prior to hiring that person. I don’t mean that you have to agree politically with that person, but there are a few things to consider.
  • Does the editor promote the authors he works with? Although this isn’t a necessary step, I think it’s a polite and helpful thing to do. When I’ve finished an edit, I do a blog post about the book’s release, and I promote it on my Facebook page. Often, I’ll tweet about it, too. I know it’s difficult to reach a large audience, and I want to help in any way I can.
  • Does the editor talk about the authors or their books in a derogatory way? I lose respect automatically for people who publicly trash others. I'm not talking about those times when someone is frustrated and says something like, “Boy, I’ve been so busy with edits that I haven’t had time to clean my house or work on my own novel.” I’m talking about when you open your Twitter page and a friend says, “Check this out.” You go to his link and see a tweet from your editor, moaning about the YA dystopian fantasy she’s editing (which can only be yours from the description) and how boring it is and how she wants to gouge her eyes out. She mentions specific instances and phrases which confirm that it is, indeed, yours, and openly ridicules your work, never thinking you’ll see it…or never thinking at all. If other potential clients see that, they probably won’t want to take the risk that she’ll talk about them if they hire her.
  • Does your editor tell the truth about his work? I once had a friend show me a tweet from a guy who had been one of a handful of betas for one of her books. The tweet talked about “pimping my clients to build up new business” and the person listed books he’d edited. My friend’s book was listed. This person had not “edited” the book he was claiming, and had only provided beta feedback early in the process. Beta feedback is important, but it’s not the type of editing he was talking about in the tweet, and he knew it. Any potential client could have looked in the front pages of that book and seen a completely different name listed as copy editor, but many would take his claim at face value.
  • Is your editor’s social media filled with things you’d rather not be associated with? If his page on Facebook is filled with hate speech or things like, “Those reviewers don’t know a good book if it smacks them in the face. We should all trash their Goodreads ratings and undermine their Amazon profiles. Who’s with me?” then you probably don’t want to be involved with that editor. What about a status that reads, “Too hungover to bother rereading the final three chapters of edits. Hey, I already have my money anyway.” If that’s the person he’s comfortable with presenting to the public and close friends, then that’s the person he is. Do you really want to be giving your money to that person?

Those are only a few examples, but I think they’re pretty important things to consider. I don’t think you have to agree on every political, religious, and economic view, but if there are things that send up red flags in your mind, heed them.


I hope I’m consistent in my life, whether personal or professional. If I’m not, I hope someone calls me on it. The last thing I want to do is to cause someone to feel they can’t trust who I tell them I am.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Coffee Chat 9.0 with S.K. Anthony: Stephen Fender's Latest—Traitor Winds


Ooh, I can’t wait to show this to S.K. [Reading the back of a new book.
“The President of the Unified Collaboration of Systems, along with hundreds of the civilians, had been ruthlessly murdered. There was little need to speculate who had done it—for the instigator was quick to take full credit for the act:
The renegade Sector Command Admiral, Maros Krador.
While Sector Command forces search in vain for the traitor, Krador begins to amass a fleet of warships from a secret base, setting himself on a course that is sure to leave a wake of destruction throughout the entire Beta Sector.
The last team of elite covert agents sent in to eliminate Krador was never seen again, yet the Unified Council and the secretive Office of Special Investigations knew what needed to be done. They would need to try again . . . and there was only one agent they could trust to get the job done.
Unfortunately, Angelika Jordan wanted nothing to do with it.

Hey, everyone! It’s Thursday and the coffee is brewing. I’m waiting for S.K. to arrive, which is kind of strange, because . . . well, I don’t want to talk about her while she’s not here, but usually she’s at my place bright and early on Thursdays, waiting outside my back door with her green coffee cup. Actually, she’s usually tapping on the door with the cup, and there have been a few times when I’ve just found her in the kitchen. If I’m not fully awake, it gives me a little bit of a start. But she sent me two large bags of Rain City Crunch for my birthday, so I am pretty sure I’m going to keep her around for the rest of my life.

I think I’d better call her to see what’s up. [Calls S.K.’s cell.] Hey, S.K.! Why aren’t you here yet?

SKA: I’m busy.

ER: I had something really cool to show you and thought we could talk about it while we had our coffee today, and now you’re going to miss it. Stephen Fender just released his new book! It’s called—drum roll, please—

[S.K. obediently taps the phone for a drum roll, while performing a flawless eye roll.]

Origins: Traitor Winds.

SKA: I know. That’s why I’m busy doing . . . oh, who knows? Something. You found another “S” in your life, and I don’t know how I feel about this.

ER: Another “S”? Wha—? Oh, Stephen. He’s just . . . he’s just Stephen . . . um . . . I don’t know why you’d feel anything but excited. It’s a book! A new book! [Making happy faces . . . over the phone. Realizes what a huge fail that is and stops.]

SKA: But, but . . . I feel threatened and you want me to be excited? About Traitors?

ER: Well, yeah, because I’m not a traitor. And Stephen isn’t, either. He just wrote a book about one. And he didn’t come for coffee. Did you think—

SKA: Oh, but I thought—

ER: No, no, no. You have NOT been replaced. Not a chance. I just wanted to take a moment today to tell everyone about his book, because I finished it. I mean, I finished editing it. I didn’t write it, after all. But I invested a significant portion of my time in it. Well, not as much as Stephen did. I’m pretty sure he worked more hours on it than I did. He said he did, anyway. Come to think of it, he had a smart answer for everything I said. You’d think he owned it or something. Oh . . . wait . . .

Um . . . so it’s a book! A new book! [Makes happy faces again. Stops abruptly. Again.]

SKA: Oh wow, okay. That does sounds awesome! And what was your favorite part? If I like it, I might just read it.

ER: Here’s one I think is funny because it reminds me of people I know who hate to fly. Listen to this:

Angelika Jordan, her slim fingers curled securely around the edge of her armrest, hated flying with a passion. It was one of the few things in life that she truly loathed, and she put it at the top of her personal list of dislikes, right above people who absently popped bubble wrap or drivers who failed to yield to oncoming traffic. Given the right time and proper equipment, she could easily handle the latter two. However, because she had yet to master her fear of flying, the interstellar transport she currently found herself encased in was a necessary evil in her life. With all the tight turns and stomach-turning descents, the pilot of this particular craft seemed to be the devil himself, treating the graceful shuttle like it was his personal sleigh ride into the pits of Hades itself.
“We’re descending through three thousand feet now, ma’am,” Satan chimed serenely over the craft’s address system. “We’ll be on the ground in just under ten minutes.”
Angelika closed her eyes just as a final blast of turbulence rocked the craft. She offered a silent prayer—the same as she’d done a thousand times over a hundred landing pads on dozens of worlds—that she would land safely, just as she had nine hundred ninety-nine times before.
. . . and then they (of course) land safely, but she's still pretty tense . . .
The shuttle touched down without incident, and it wasn’t until Angelika heard the high-pitched whine of the engines’ reverse thrust that she realized the craft had landed. It was then that Lucifer’s voice came over the PA once more.
“We’ll be maneuvering out to hanger sixteen in just a moment, ma’am. Please remain seated until the transport has come to a complete halt.”
Remain seated, Angelika scoffed as she brushed a strand of hair behind her ear. As if I had any intention of doing otherwise, you sick, sick maniac. Where did you learn to fly, anyway? Besides, I’m the only one on the shuttle, and you’re sitting less than ten feet away. Why use the bloody PA when you can just as easily turn around, talk to me, and pretend you’re human and have a soul? Yet with all her internal bickering, all she said was, “Thank you, Captain.”
SKA: Ooooh, Angelika . . . I can’t wait to meet you.

ER: You’d like her. She’s a tough cookie.

SKA: Okay, I’m in. You got more for me?

ER: Oh, yeah. This one sort of sets the stage. The Sector Command forces are in space, in the middle of a war, and realized they’ve walked into a trap. The ships in Captain Rothchild’s fleet are either dead in space or on their way to being there. As the captain prepares to make the most of what little time they have left, the crew finds themselves facing an unknown ship—a late entry to the battle.

Rothchild pivoted his chair toward Quel-Sa’s sensor station, intent on asking her what had just happened, when she likewise turned to him to make an announcement.
“Captain, there’s another ship entering the quadrant.”
It was too much to hope for a miracle, but Rothchild made the query anyway. “One of ours?”
Quel-Sa’s dark eyes narrowed as she studied her display. “No, sir. That is, I don’t think so, sir.”
Stephen had never known Quel-Sa to give such enigmatic answers. The fact that she seemed unsure was more than enough to enhance his curiosity. “Explain.”
“The design of the hull seems to be a conglomeration of UCS and Jidoan technologies.” Talia Quel-Sa then turned to face her captain with a look of apprehension. “We don’t have anything like that in the fleet, sir. At least, not that I’m aware of.”
With a heavy sigh, Stephen turned to regard the view of empty space stretched out before the cruiser Tripoli. There was only one answer to the riddle, and he instantly knew exactly who that ship belonged to and who was captaining her. He felt a sense of satisfaction at having achieved the goal originally set forth to him by Sector Command several months earlier. The reports about the traitor being on Jido were spot-on, and now Rothchild had confirmed it, but he also knew that he probably wouldn’t live through the day to report it to anyone in the Unified government.
I
Set several years prior to the events of the Kestrel Saga novels, Origins is a new series that chronicles adventures taking place during the Great Galactic War between the Unified Collaboration of Systems and the Kafaran Alliance.

Not only is Traitor Winds now available on Amazon, but The Kestrel Saga, a three-in-one Kindle compilation which includes The Army of Light, Icarus, and Second Earth, will be on sale this Saturday, March 8, for half price all day. Get the whole set!

Stephen can be found at www.stephenfender.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter @StephenAFender.

As always:

You can find S.K. Anthony in a number of places. She's on Twitter @SKathAnthony, her website is www.skanthony.com, her Facebook page is S Katherine Anthony, and on occasional occasions, she'll be right here with me, drinking coffee and laughing it up over our latest plans and schemes. And possibly even talking about books and writing. 

You can find me here. I'm always here.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Angry and Ranting

What is it that makes someone think he can put out a product for consumers to purchase, and not a single person in the entire world is permitted to dislike it? 

Does everyone buy Coke instead of Pepsi? Does everyone have to love polo shirts? Heaven forbid we were all required to love Fifty Shades of Grey or else be subject to a sharp rebuke. People feel free to express their love or hate for Tolkien, Hemingway, or Poe, perhaps because they’re already dead. Last time I checked, Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't pop out of the grave to haunt someone because a reader didn't find the Little House books captivating. Nor would I expect that she sat in her home, writing nasty letters to those who weren't her fans while she was alive.

I'm so angry I could just spit. It's one of those rare times when I'm furious about something that's not my business and not in my control—when I'm indignant on the behalf of people I don't know, whose lives will not change in any way, regardless of my anger.

Yes, I'm talking about life on the Internet.

A few days ago, I witnessed two author meltdowns on Goodreads. As is always the case, they started off with being on the receiving end of a one-star review for each of their books. Follows basic procedure, right? Read. Like or don't. Review. The end.

Wrong, wrong, and wronger.

Not the end. An end would be merciful.

The final step these days has moved right along from "review" to "defend your review/rating and then have your name smeared across every social media available."

I want to call out the first author in question, but I don't even want to give her any recognition by typing her name out here. A review was posted, and she jumped right in and attacked the reviewer. Friends on both sides joined in.

The reviewer had posted portions of the book so all could see why she rated it so low. It appeared to me that the author had somehow ingested a thesaurus and vomited all the words four syllables and higher into a manuscript. Truthfully (and I'm a big fan of the thesaurus, myself), I was glad the original reviewer explained some of the passages featured, because I would never have gotten what was being said.

The author removed all her own comments from Goodreads, but moved over to Facebook. There she began to spew some horrid stuff: shouting out names of people she deemed trolls, posting links to their Amazon profiles, and encouraging others to harass this reviewer and anyone who showed support of this review. She stooped as low as to call one of the reviewers "The Creature from the Black Baboon."

The part that made me the most angry—and believe me, it was tough to choose just one—was when one of the author's friends commented on one of the Facebook posts, saying, "[Author name], you really should take a step back and get some control. You're doing a lot of damage here, and may be alienating your readers with this type of stuff," and the author replied (and I am NOT kidding you here), "Don't worry. I know what I'm doing. My sales are going through the roof since this started."

What?!? She was creating a horrible situation on purpose? And reveling in it?

Apparently she was, because she began repeating the mantra, "Even 'snublicity' is good publicity!" and thanking her "trolls" for all the free promo. She accused them of creating Amazon accounts simply to trash her book, ignoring that they all had established accounts with multiple reviews of other books and products. Facts were not needed or welcome.

As I was in the middle of writing this post, a second author started another attack on a reader who dared to mark his book as a "don't want to read" based on her reading of the sample of his book.

Mr. Author attacked the reviewer on her own blog, calling her names in the comment section of a recent post. She responded with facts and restraint. He went back to the original review and began a long list of insults against her on Goodreads. Her only response at first was to copy his posts for the record, since we all know the pattern by now: hurl insults today, remove all your posts tomorrow. His posts (mostly unanswered) continued to come, sounding more and more unhinged with each moment.

I finally got to the point where I just couldn't take it anymore, and decided to stand up for the reviewer. I need to make it clear here that I do not engage in Internet arguments as a general rule. People are not going to have opinions/life beliefs changed when shouted at by a stranger online, and that's all there is to it. But I can't sit idly by while someone attacks an innocent party, and I feel it's important to show support in those situations.

I was embarrassed for the attacking author, because he was making a colossal fool of himself by acting worse than a child. There was no reason, other than immaturity and a bruised ego on the part of the book's author, for any type of response. If she had rated it four stars with no explanation, I don't think he would have attacked her, shouting, "Why?"

The man was not rational. He kept going whether anyone was responding or not. He even went to another thread to complain, thus ensuring that more people moved over to "his" page and were witnesses to his ranting. I should probably mention that his author profile had been deleted after a tantrum two weeks prior, where he’d gotten a GR member banned for bullying that didn’t actually occur, so he had created a new profile as a non-author and was using that for his attacks.

It’s a shame, really, that there are selfish authors like these two who are unable to accept the fact that not everyone out there will be their fans.

Most self-published authors have more class than that, and are concerned with next year’s sales in addition to today’s. They’re insulted that the actions of a few are tainting the reputation of the many, because they have to work twice as hard to get people to even look at their books, much less review them.

I will never forget the names of those tantrum-throwing authors and will be quick to discourage others from supporting their work. I won’t paint the others with the same brush, but there are many who will, and who have already dismissed SPAs as too much bother and high drama. What a shame for all those who work hard to put out a high-quality product, only to have a few bad apples spoil the reputation of all.