Don’t Embrace The Boulders – Keep Chasing Your Dreams

The highway of life is filled with mole hills, bumps, potholes, and occasionally boulders. Big, fat, road-blocking boulders that fill all six lanes of your highway and stop forward momentum at fatal velocities.

Potholes are someone else’s choice interfering with your forward progression, like the CEO embezzling a few billion dollars and your company going bankrupt. You have no control over this, and it’s definitely going to throw you off your stride for a bit.

Mole hills are little things that may look big, like losing those last three pounds or remembering to get birthday cards in the mail by Friday. At the end of your life a mole hill is a trivial thing that’s easily forgotten. Bumps are also small. They rattle you, but they won’t kill you.

Boulders… those are a different beast entirely. Boulders are huge things that stop you from moving. Career-ending decisions. Dead end jobs. Addictions that throw you out of the loop of life and down to the sidelines.

Boulders take many forms. Sometimes they’re an addiction. Sometimes they’re a lifestyle choice. Sometimes the boulder is something we have very little control over, like a cancer diagnosis or clinical depression. Sometimes the boulder is something entirely of our own making.

Whatever the case, don’t embrace the boulders.

I see too many people who see a boulder on the road of life and assume it’s the end of the road.

The teen mom who’s life came to a screeching halt because she had a kid, and fourteen years later she’s never dated, never left home, never done anything but let one choice dictate her entire life. She’s embraced the boulder and refuses to move on.

Or my alcoholic uncle who has lost his family and friends to his abusive drinking, who lives on the edge of poverty because his paycheck goes straight to the liquor store, and who doesn’t understand why no one is excited that he’s decided to try home brewing. Alcoholism is his boulder. He’s embraced it. He has decided that alcohol is more important than anything else in life, and that he can’t cut back on it because being an alcoholic is what he is.

The author who throws in the towel because on publishing house rejected their novel that came over the transom. ONE. Not hundreds of rejections. Not dozens of rejections. ONE REJECTION, and the author wants to quit because Sad Author wrote the book with that publisher in mind.

It makes me want to set my hair on fire!

I get it, I really do. Some of these are very hard things to deal with. Addictions aren’t something you can always handle alone. Certainly a cancer diagnosis isn’t something you can shrug off. Depression sucks, I know, I’ve got it. But, Dude! YOU ARE NOT DEAD.

It’s a boulder. It’s blocking your way. But it is not the end of the road.

Don’t embrace the boulder. Don’t sell yourself short and let a mistake or a low point in your life define you. You are so much more than the obstacles you face. You have infinite potential to do good and help others. You have the unrivaled ability to create something wholly unique and wonderful. Don’t throw that all away because of a boulder.

Previously Published November 2012

How To Be A Good Critique Partner (reprint)

Critique groups abound, especially as NaNoWriMo wraps up. The crisp, cold weather of winter combined with the frenzy of writing a novel in a month spawns writing groups like there is no tomorrow. New writing groups are wonderful, but not all critique partners are created equal.

The horror stories about bad critique partners turning a book into a chimera are all over the place. If you have nothing better to do one day, ask me about it on Twitter when I’m in a talkative mood. I have stories. But this post is about how to make yourself a better critique partner.

1) Know the Expectations
Before you start any editing project you need to know what the author wants. The wrong critique at the wrong time will kill many a good book before it’s finished. Ask the author before you start what they want. I offer levels…
— “Just a look” where I read it over and give a thumbs up or down. This is perfect for rough drafts and cheering on an author struggling to complete a project.
— “Look for plot holes” where I read and point out inconsistencies in the plot line, plot holes, and correct basic spelling and grammar errors with a note (ie – note: comma before proper names in DL)
— “Shred it” where you nitpick every single word and flaw. This is an edit for a final draft. Every word and movement is under the microscope for nuance and meaning, and I only do this with an author who is subbing the piece in the next 6 months. I wouldn’t attack a first draft like this ever.
— “Final Edits” reading the piece out loud and looking for grammar and spelling errors exclusively. This is for a clean copy that’s days away from being submitted. It’s not uncommon for authors to add a spelling error while editing.


2) Know the Audience
Before you can critique you need to know where the manuscript is headed. As a critique partner the book isn’t written for you, it’s written for a reader somewhere out in the great, big world. You need to be the reader’s advocate and make sure the book turns out well enough that someone who doesn’t know the author can enjoy it.

3) Know the Market
Fuss all you like about artistic rights. If an author wants to publish a book they need to know the market expectations (word count, content, common tropes, ect) and so does their critique partner. A good critique partner is going to red flag a mid-grade manuscript that goes over the 60,000 word limit. You also need to be familiar with the genre your partner writes in. What happens if you and your buddy both write horror and then, one day, your partner decides to write epic fantasy YA? You either start reading epic fantasy YA, or you find your buddy a new critique partner who knows the genre. Trust one who has been mismatched with critique partners before, it’s not pretty when someone edits a sci-fi manuscript with YA expectations. *shudder*


4) Trust The Author -or- Don’t Cut To Early
Never tell an author a scene doesn’t need to exist until you’ve finished the book. There’s a habit in writing groups to rip and shred before reading, and it doesn’t work. Yes, that opening line needs to be amazing, but the only legitimate comment you can give about the validity of an opening chapter is, “This works, I’m hooked.” or “I’m not hooked yet, I’ll keep reading and maybe there’s a better opening.” (Hint: check chapter 3)

5) Leave The Voice
The novice mistake of critiquing is to rewrite the book in your own words. Resist the urge. Every author has a unique voice, don’t squish it into oblivion because you’d compare love to a summer’s day and the author compares love to a rosy sunset.

6) React
Ninety percent of the notes on a good critique are reaction notes. “Oh My Gosh!!! I can’t believe Character just did that!” … “Love it!” … “I laughed here.” … “I’m picturing him naked, which I know is wrong. Rewrite.” Reactions let an author know if things are working. A large, and often overlooked, portion of editing is leading the reader down a path of emotions and reactions. If the author wanted a scene to be warm and cuddly and it’s coming off with a stalker vibe, the author needs to know. Don’t get caught up in the But-The-Author-Told-Me trap. Readers are not going to have a two hour conversation about this scene with the author. They won’t know that the author wanted the guy to be authoritative and demanding. The reader will see a stalker scene, not an authoritative male being Alphahole-ish but sweet.

Do you have anything to add? What makes a critique partner great? Hit the comments and tell me all about it.

Previously published December 2012 on www.lianabrooks.com

Dialog Choices and Slang – a writing post

Dialog choice, or the words your character uses to describe the world around them, is a major deal breaker for books. If all the characters sound the same they lose their individual personalities. One of the big places where you’ll see a variation in a shared language is in slang words. Slang changes much more rapidly than the rest of the language. It’s okay, sometimes encouraged, to create slang for your new world.

Negative slang usually reflects major religious beliefs and social fears (damn, hell, comparison to being a dog, or stupid). Positive and affirmative slang is less codified but usually comes a subculture of some form before being adopted and adapted by a wider group of language users (wicked, cool, hot, lit, ect).

Buzzfeed did a pretty decent video on the evolution of American slang. Keep in mind that what you’re writing isn’t 100% American culture so your subcultures are going to be different. Even within our culture slang can vary by family or friend group. They can come out inside jokes or even typos. So, while you’re writing, make sure the slang you use is appropriate for the time, venue, culture, and character using the language.

Saying Goodbye to the Impulse Buy

For the better part of two years each Tuesday morning has been accompanied by the Impulse Buy Book of the Week. A new (or at least new to me) book that is priced under $5 for the ebook. It’s been a great way to explore new genres and introduce readers to books I love.

The early response was great. People enjoyed the books. Authors reported a boost in sales. Everyone seemed happy.

Over the last six months that hasn’t been happening. Fewer readers are tuning in for the weekly postings. Fewer people are opening the emails. Readers no longer seem interested and that’s okay. There are a lot of great book lists, and so many ways to reach readers, that often authors don’t need the extra push from the Impulse Buy. Maybe you already knew the author. Maybe you were tired of reading newsletters. Maybe no one is in the mood for books.

So, it is with fond memories and a touch of sadness that we say goodbye to the beloved Impulse Buy. Our weekly book will be missed.

The Impulse Buy was originally started as a way to promote the books published by the HarperVoyager Impulse line of science fiction and fantasy books. These books were all e-book first with an e-book at a low price point that allowed readers to give new authors a try. It was a fun idea and the Impulse Buy newsletter was our unofficial outlet that welcomed a variety of authors over the years.

Some of those authors hit the bestseller lists. Some of them didn’t. In my personal opinion they were all fun books.

I want to thank all the readers who have read the Impulse Buy, bought the books, and encouraged the careers of these wonderful authors (including me!). Readers make all the uncertainty of publishing worthwhile. When an author has a bad day, it’s you they think about. It’s that one reader who you know needs this book that you write for when you would otherwise succumb to doubt and rejection.

Thank you for reading.

Now, as much as I love books and love talking about books, I’d love to find another way to share books that I love with you. Hit me in the comments and let me know how you find your books, and what you’d like to see on the blog in the future.

Liana

Hanging The Plague Flag

Last week I caught a nasty cold and it’s rapidly turning into bronchitis. I’m officially hanging the Yellow Jack on the blog and calling it a week. Sleeping is taking over my blogging time.

I’ll be back to my regular posting schedule as soon as I can.

– Liana

A Season of Change

The first green of spring.

Spring break up is here, bringing black ice, snow melt, and 15-hours of daylight. I’m finally shaking off the seasonal depression and have packed my happy lamp away.

Which means it’s time to assess the damage depression has done.

We sometimes think of depression solely in terms of emotional damage. People focus on lost happiness, lost relationships, lost time… but there’s a very physical toll to depression. The lethargy and the fight to survive a period of depression means that the physical body is neglected most of the time. This results in either unhealthy weight loss or unhealthy weight gain, loss of muscle mass, loss of routine. And those things matter.

For me, it’s very stressful looking at what I’m left with physically after a bought of depression. Last fall – before the seasonal depression hit – I was walking a couple miles several times a week, my only major dislocation problems were on my right leg, and I was inching closer to my goal weight. Winter hit, I survived, but the physical toll is severely damaged ribs that have been subluxing and dislocating almost daily since December, loss of shoulder stability, and my sedentary habits of winter have led to weight gain even while I was trying to eat healthy. That’s depressing all on it’s own.

There’s also the psychological toll of depression, which for me looks like higher susceptibility to stress, anxiety, and negative self-talk.

So, while Alaska is shaking off the last chill of winter, I’m looking to take back control of my life from depression. I want to shake off the lingering ills of winter and move forward with more focus.

One of the things that I do fairly regularly when not dealing with depression is yoga and meditation. For whatever reason, when I hit a depressive state I lose me-time very early on. The depression tells me I’m selfish to take time away from work and family and friends for quiet time. There’s an overwhelming guilt that always accompanies my depression, and it always becomes this crippling belief that nothing I do will ever be enough.

Depression looks different for everyone, and so recovery will look different for everyone, but for me I need to bring back the element of control to my life. I need barriers between work and home. It’s so easy to let the two lives stream together when you work from home, but it isn’t exactly healthy. At least not for me.

I need to find an end of day for work. I need specified times for writing and editing for myself and editing for clients. I need time for my kids, time for my husband, and time for myself.

But not time for dishes, because I have kids and they are old enough to clean house without me. We all have our hard limits, and that’s mine. 🙂

Obviously this is a struggle-point for me. I’m not good at managing my time and making time for myself. This is step one: setting a goal. Feel free to follow-up with me throughout the week and see if I’m actually taking time off from work.

This is the first step of recovery: recognizing the problem and making a plan to address the problem.

Wish me luck!

The Scent of Memory

It’s wrong to say I woke to the smell in the pre-dawn light, because mid-April in Anchorage means 15 hours of daylight and the sun was up well before I was. But it was the wee hours of the morning when I woke to a familiar smell. The memory of cold, wood smoke, and the lingering aroma of last night’s fajitas remind me of my grandfather’s house.

There’s a scent missing though. Under the familiar smells the bitter note of coffee is absent. I don’t drink it. I don’t like the smell of fresh coffee, but the fading scent of coffee brewed before dawn and long finished is part of my childhood.

Today, with the chill of winter crawling along the tile floor, the house smells like my grandfather’s in Texas. We always visited him in winter. A quiet Christmas on an island outside Houston where luminaries lined the walkway and chilies hung on the tree. A few years later it was Christmas in lake country outside Austin, with skittish deer leaping over frosted grass. But always the scent of wood smoke, grilled food, and the memory of coffee.

It’s been years since I traveled back to his adopted homeland to visit (grandpa was born somewhere in Europe between the wars… all he remembers is barbed wire and empty trenches). Alaska is too far away for him, although he’d love the views. Texas is a lifetime away from me, a place of blue bonnets and sorrows. But for a moment, in the cold of the morning light, our worlds touch and we share a breath even though we are a world apart.

Impulse Buy Book of the Week: LIMELIGHT by Krista D. Ball

Anna Lainey is a successful author who values her privacy. The last person she would imagine herself dating is a movie star–yet when she meets Benjamin Worthington on the set of a major motion picture, sparks fly–and before she knows it, she’s caught up in a very public whirlwind romance.

But Anna has kept herself distant from others for a reason–she has a secret, crippling panic disorder. When Ben’s fans turn against her and begin stalking her, her worst anxieties have come to life. She doesn’t want to live without Ben–but she can’t live in the limelight either.

$4.99 on Amazon

Krista is an adorably trusting Canadian who allows other people to write her bios for her. When she isn’t cooking amazing – and historically accurate – feasts or chasing her small army of teenagers she works with the homeless, helps young authors find their Voice, and writes. She’s an unapologetic geek who likes cosplaying as Spock, and if you visit she will try to force you to appreciate poutine (french fries with gravy and cheese curds… no, we can’t explain, it’s a CANADA THING). She has a B.A. in British History from Mount Allison University and will talk endlessly about historical accuracy if you let her. Find her online at Twitter and on her Website.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page | New Release Newsletter

No Manuscript? No Problem! Carina Press is taking proposals!

LOVELIES! This fabulous announcement came across my Twitter feed this morning and I want to share so you can have a look. Being able to pitch a book on proposal, and sell it like that, is a great opportunity if you know you can write on a deadline and work better knowing someone is expecting your book. If that sounds like you, go check out Carina Press’s proposal and see if this is the lucky break you were looking for!

Confused about what the difference between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy is? There’s a great break down HERE.


From April 13th to June 4th, Carina Press is accepting proposals for paranormal romance.

Maybe you’ve heard that no publishers want paranormal, that paranormal is dead or that readers aren’t buying paranormal romance? Wrong! Carina Press is actively acquiring and publishing paranormal romance—and readers are buying it. So bring us your shapeshifters, your vampires, your fae and demons and witches. We want to read your paranormal romance proposals, because we love this genre and readers do too!

Details on this limited-time-only proposal call can be found below. You can also keep an eye on our blog and Facebook and Twitter pages to stay up-to-date on all our submission calls.

Submission link: https://carinapress.submittable.com/submit/82046/paranormal-romance-proposal-call

Closing date: June 4th, 2017 (all submissions due by 11:59pm Eastern on this date)


Requirements for this proposal call:

  • Your book must fall within the paranormal romance subgenre, but can be of any heat level or pairing, including same-sex/multiples.
  • Paranormal elements should play an important role in story development, plot and characterization.
  • We will look at paranormal romances in different time periods and unique settings—they do not need to be contemporary or based in the US.
  • Your proposed book must be a completely new work and not have been previously published in any form, whether self-published or released via digital or traditional publisher. Only new material will be considered during this submission call.
  • You cannot submit a project you have submitted to Carina Press before.

Materials needed to participate:

  • A query letter with a 1-2 paragraph book description, plus an introduction of yourself as an author/your writing and publishing history.
  • Three complete, ready-to-send chapters of a WIP. If you have more than three chapters, you can certainly send more!
  • A thorough, well-thought-out synopsis that is at least 5 pages long. The synopsis is extra important with a proposal because we need to see progression of plot, character arc, storyline and, also really crucial—how it ends! See more about writing a synopsis here.
  • You may submit more than one project! However, please submit only one proposal per series.

How to submit:

  • If your book meets the guidelines above and all your material is ready and properly formatted, please use this link to submit.
  • Direct your submission to the editor who has advertised an interest in seeing manuscripts like yours! In doubt? Direct your submission to Editorial Director Angela James or Senior Editor Kerri Buckley.
  • We will consider all proposals that fulfill submission call requirements and are received by 11:59pm EST on June 4th, 2017.
  • All eligible proposals will receive a response within 12 weeks of submission.

Not going to be ready in time? Not to worry. We remain open to full manuscript submissions all year long via bit.ly/write4cp, and more submission and proposal opportunities are coming in 2017.

For questions about this call for submissions, please email us at submissions@carinapress.com.

For more information about Carina Press, and to read our submission guidelines, please visit bit.ly/write4cp.

 

Need help getting your proposal ready? Ask me about editing specials!

Mother of Teens: How To Write With Little Kids At Home

On one of the writing forums I belong to someone asked how anyone could possibly write with little kids around. What they really wanted to know was: CAN YOU WRITE WITHOUT PUTTING YOUR KIDS IN DAYCARE? Not everyone has a partner, nearby family, or the money needed to create a kid-free environment when they want to write.

There is a myth that you can’t write while you have little kids around. Or that you need to have a partner who will take care of the entire household while you sequester yourself with your muse to commune with pen and page.

And, like all other myths, it’s a big, fat lie told by some author desperate to get out of watching Frozen for the fifteen-millionth time.

You can write with kids at home. You can write with kids in the room. You can write with kids on your lap.

My first story (Even Villains Fall In Love) came out the same year my son was born. That means my two youngest kids have never known a time when Mommy wasn’t a published author. I wrote a trilogy between the time my daughter was born and the year she turned four. Four kids, three cross-country moves, and three books. If I can pull that off, so can you.

HOW TO WRITE WITH KIDS AT HOME
1 – Set reasonable goals and set acceptable reasons to miss writing. If you stress out because of impossible goals, or because you’re trying to write with a newborn, you’ll make yourself miserable. Don’t.

2 – Steal what time you can. When the baby naps, while CARS is playing for the 3rd time today… I’ve finished novels with babies nursing or a toddler on my lap. Use a boppy pillow and run spellcheck.

3 – As kids hit the Needy Years (3-5) where they nap less and need attention, make a writing space for them. My 5yo isn’t in school yet, but she’ll give me a quiet 30 minutes if I give her a dry erase board, markers, paper, and a place to sit near my desk. Thirty minutes usually means 500-1000 words. Thirty minutes daily means a novel is finished in 3 months.

4 – Prep to write so that when you sit down to type that is all you need to do. Outline, use note cards, use sticky notes, whatever… just make sure that computer time is spent writing, not trying to think. Check out the plotting session I did to get you started. 

5 – Give yourself 30 minutes a day. You might get 300 words, you might get 1000, but with 30 minutes a day (weekends off) you can write a novel in 6 months.