October 16th, 2012 by Sasha White
Every now and then I reach out on Twitter or Facebook to see if anyone has any subjects they want me to blog about. Last night I did that, and Jaime brought up editing and word counts. She asked….word count before editing vs. Increased (typical) word count after? So you stop at one? Why? Does story lack if you stop?
So here’s my thoughts on this topic…
Word counts are a guideline, and a tool. This is my opinion, and yes, it can get me in trouble because I am often (almost always) short on my wordcounts. The reason I think of it as a guideline is because to me, and I believe to readers, it’s the story that matters, not how many words it takes to tell it. They’re a tool because they help publishers figure out where to put the story (in an anthology, on it’s own, as a special release) and what price point it should be sold at.
I also think wordcounts are an authors tool for when they are plotting, or planing, or looking at pacing. What I don’t believe is that hitting a wordcount is more important than making the story the best it can be. I don’t believe in adding words, or scenes, just to hit a certain wordcount.
By that I mean, I hate it when a critique partner, or an editor, says “Just add another sex scene” when I’m looking for ways to increase my works length. I think that just adding scenes, for the sake of increasing wordcount can actually hurt a story if they are simply filler. Each and every scene in a story should add something to the story for the reader. It could be plot, emotion, humor, description…it really doesn’t matter what it adds, as long as it’s adding something. For this reason, where you edit, (as in while you write, or if you prefer to do drafts) is a very personal choice. And for me, it can vary from story to story.
Some stories just need a little tweaking and fleshing out as I write, and others need to be read, rewritten, read again, and rewritten again.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe that readers would rather have a full, well-rounded story that is a bit short on it’s wordcount, than one that hits the right number of words, but has too much description, or lags in places due to un-needed scenes. I know thats how *I* feel as a reader, so it’s what I keep in mind when I write.
There’s no wrong or right answer to Jaime’s question. What it all comes down to is individual style, and whatever works to make the story the best it can be.
October 15th, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
I have three trunk novels that I sometimes talk about. These are the three novels I wrote, revised, polished, and sent out to try to get them published, before actually selling my fourth. I stopped sending them out fairly quickly, after just a few rejections each. I was always working on something new, I could see how much better my writing was getting, and I knew the newer work had a better chance of selling. In hindsight, I think I probably could have sold them, if I’d kept sending them out and cast my net wider than the major publishers. But I’m really glad I didn’t.
I get asked sometimes if I’d ever dig up those novels and try to get them published now, and the answer is. . .maybe. Because I do think about those early novels sometimes, and I still like the characters and stories. There’s something worthwhile in them, or wouldn’t have spent as much time working on them as I did. But I wouldn’t want to publish them as is. They need a lot of work — there’s a reason they were rejected. I really want to go over them, beef up the plots, polish the writing, make them the best they absolutely can be. And I just don’t have time for that right now because I’d rather move forward and work on all the ideas that I’m getting now, that are super exciting and make sitting down at the computer worthwhile. Did I mention I’m a much better writer now? As interesting as it would be to apply the ten-plus years of writing experience I’ve accumulated since setting aside my trunk novels, and as nostalgic as I am for those stories, I think it’s much more worth my time to work on new stories.
I don’t consider those trunk novels wasted time that I ought to try to salvage. After all, they taught me how to write novels. They taught me that I could write novels. More than one, even, and I didn’t know how valuable that knowledge was until later. When I sold my first novel and suddenly had a two-book contract and had to write that sequel right now, I knew I could do it. No qualms at all. I didn’t have to contend with that second novel anxiety that strikes some authors who sell their first novel and suddenly have to confront, under deadline and with money on the line, the issue of whether they can do it again.
And there’s no better compliment you can get in a review of your first novel than hearing that it doesn’t read like a first novel. When people tell you you have more skill than they expect to see in a first novel. That your first book isn’t just good “for a first novel,” but that it’s, you know, good. Because it isn’t your first, really. But you don’t have to tell them that.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s no shame in having unpublished trunk novels lying around. They’re my million words of crap (well, more like that last 300,000 of the million words of crap), and they served me very well indeed.
October 13th, 2012 by Ken Scholes
Happy Saturday and Howdy Folks!
I’m writing to you from San Francisco where I get to participate in SF in SF with (gasp) Tad Williams. I’ll be rolling out the prelude to Requiem, the fourth volume in the Psalms of Isaak, at tonight’s reading. I test-drove it on a SFWA audience last winter and it went over pretty well.
Sitting here in the hotel overlooking the bay, I’m a bit amazed at all of the changes I’ve faced in my life — not just as a writer but as a human — and it takes me back to the P’Andro Whym quote from Lamentation: ”Change is the path life takes.”
I don’t like change very much.
Well, some change. I don’t mind very much the change from the disillusioned Baptist Preacher Boy reading his best pal’s copy of The Dragon Bone Chair in 1994 to the Wholly Secular Writer Boy who 18 years later is reading and sitting on a panel with one of the masters of fantasy. That was a pretty good change. But along the way, I surely didn’t appreciate or comprehend what was coming and all the changes that went with that.
When I was writing Lamentation, that mantra stuck with me and it became a constant reference throughout the Psalms of Isaak. Change is the path life takes. It’s just a fancy way of saying “evolution happens.” And when we’re in the thick of it, change can be hard and painful and full of uncertainty but it can also bring us to unexpected places…like tonight.
Not long ago, I received a note from a fan telling me that my book had changed his life. I was stunned. I don’t think of my books as life-changers at all. But this fellow told me that it had showed up at a dark time in his life and that those words about change really rung true for him. So true that he made them into a bookmark (which Jen has suggested we consider doing to market Requiem). I was really touched that he took the time to share with me both his experience and how those words from my book helped him.
When I look back on the last 18 years, there’s been an ocean of change. Some of it terrifying. Some of it glorious. Some of it stealthy as a Gypsy Scout at first then wild as a knife-fight with an enraged Jin Li Tam. All of it has ultimately been worthwhile.
Still, I don’t like change much. But I love life and I’m good with the path it needs to take in order to carry me further along the way.
And one thing hasn’t changed: I’m still a Fan Boy peeing himself a little about hanging out anywhere near Tad Williams.
Trailer Boy out.
October 12th, 2012 by Diana Peterfreund
For excerpt week, I’m sharing the opening scene from my short story “Burned Bright”, which is part of Random House’s new FORETOLD collection (edited by Carrie Ryan). It’s a prophecy-themed collection, and contains all kinds of stories from a group of incredibly talented authors like Laini Taylor, Heather Brewer, Kami Garcia, Margaret Stohl, Malinda Lo, and Richelle Mead. The stories run the gamut from fantasy (Saundra Mitchell’s high fantasy story “The Chosen One” is an awesome surprise) to science fiction (the inimitable Meg Cabot’s “Out of the Blue” is a fun take on aliens), to… well, I’ll let you decide about mine for yourself. “Burned Bright” is a bit of a departure for me, as you will soon see:
By Diana Peterfreund
Tonight, the lodge will shake off its foundation by the power of our prayers. Tonight, it will glow with our devotion and burn with the strength of our love. Tonight, the souls of the faithful will rise from our bodies and enter the kingdom of heaven. We will be free from illness, from death, from the suffering that will befall the billions of unbelievers on this sad, sorry Earth when they’re left behind. Tonight, everything I’ve been waiting for my entire life will come to pass.
The air in the lodge wavers before my eyes, thrumming in time to the rhythm of the hymns in the air. Around me, the righteous sit with their families, hands clasped together, faces turned toward the rafters. Others stand, swaying to the beat of the music that’s been playing ceaselessly since sunset. At least two of my sisters lie prostrate on the ground, overcome by the spirit. Earlier, they spoke with the voice of angels, but now they’re spent. I’m sorry for them, sorry they’ll be asleep and miss feeling the moment when we’re all swept away into the firmament, to glow forever among the ranks of the blessed.
“Any hour, any minute, any moment,” my father croaks into the megaphone. “Judgment will come.” His voice is beginning to fail him at last. In sixteen years, I’ve never known my father to lose his voice, and he’s preached for longer than this many times. I wonder if it’s a sign. Perhaps his voice will go first, and then his soul. “And then… we will be vin… dicated.”
He pauses, trying to summon enough moisture in his mouth to continue. He’s been fasting all day — the whole family has, since hunger brings clarity to our righteous purpose. It burns within me now, shining like a spotlight to illuminate my father and the faithful, dimming at the edges of my vision so as not to distract me from my focus.
I look around the room, shining this supernatural focus on the faces of each of the faithful, one by one. I know them all so well. I love them all and am grateful they’re joining us in the kingdom of heaven. There is Bethany, who cared for me in the nursery. There’s Sam, who always smiles at me in prayer circles, and little Erin, who never regained her sight after the illness that swept through the compound when she was a baby. I look at them all in turn, old and young, sick and well, happy, sad, anxious, joyful. Their faces shimmer with sweat, their hair hangs in wet snakes on their brows or frizzes up around them like the halos they’ll soon wear. Tonight, they’ll all be saved, and I’m so ecstatic with it I could burst. Spirit rises within me and I feel the need to cry out. I hold up my arms and my father gestures to me from the across the stage. Of all his children, he knows I am the most holy, the most committed to his cause.
“Come here, Bright.” His voice, ragged as it is, envelops me like a hug, carries me aloft to his side. “You have something to say?”
The words pour from my mouth into the microphone, but they’re not coming from me. They’re coming through me, filling my lungs and rushing forth through the mercy of a might not my own. My tongue is not equipped to shape the language of the angels and it comes out gibberish, but the meaning is clear in my mind:
“It’s coming. Can you feel it? Can you feel it coming? Judgment, coming, sweeping over this earth. We few, we here, we present now, we’re the only ones who have seen the light. Come to us now, and you will be saved. Join us, and you will be spared. This is the last day of Last Days, this is the night that will never give way to a day. The hour is near. The time is now. Declare your faith and live forever among the blessed!”
Hands are there to catch me as I fall, and the spotlight narrows, blackness closing in. Is it time? Is it now? Were those the last words I’ll ever speak? My limbs are shaking as the spirit gushes through me. I try to fight it, but it’s like fighting the current of a river.
No! I wanted to be awake. I wanted to be awake to witness the end.
The spotlight vanishes and I’m plunged into black…
My skull feels like it’s been cracked with a hammer. I reach my hand to my head and try to sit, but the pounding increases as I change position. A wan, uncertain light comes from gaps in the wooden walls, and the slits beneath the eaves. I’m still on the floor of the lodge.
I’m still here. On Earth. Alive.
The hammer moves down from my head, slams into my stomach with enough force to shatter my spine. I retch, hunched over, but there’s nothing to bring up, not even bile.
I’m still here. I’m still here. This can’t be happening.
I lift my head again and look around. There are a few other unconscious people scattered about the floor of the lodge, but the building is otherwise empty. The others must have gone to heaven, body and soul. And left me behind.
With effort, I push to my feet and stagger toward the door of the lodge, hands pressed to my head to reduce the pain of each jarring step. Outside, everything is white with mist. It must be dawn, if there’s still a dawn. I shuffle through the dust toward the creek — or where the creek used to be. Who knows anymore? My throat is desert-dry. If the water hasn’t turned to blood, I’ll drink. I’ll drink, then figure out what to do next.
I wasn’t supposed to be here, to watch the world end. I was supposed to be saved. My father promised we’d all go to heaven together.
What did I do wrong?
You can purchase FORETOLD at any of these fine retailers:
October 11th, 2012 by HelenKay Dimon
This is excerpt week. Since I have a contemporary romance coming out on the 22nd – LEAN ON ME – this seemed like a perfect time to give you a little look. Cassidy is down on her luck and moving back to town after a career implosion. Thanks to an interview she gave about the place, she’s not exactly the town’s favorite daughter…and she knows it:
She turned, ready to bat away any flying tomatoes that might come flying her way, and stared into a dark gray T-shirt straining against a firm, broad chest. Her gaze wandered up and over an open plaid shirt and a set of impressive shoulders underneath. Then she got to the face and the smile with the sexy cheek dimple.
This guy could throw anything at her and she’d be fine so long as she got to stare at him for a few more seconds. Maybe run her fingers over the dark stubble on his chin and cheeks. He had a five-o’clock shadow at two in the afternoon, and, boy, wasn’t that the sexiest thing ever.
Nice to know her girl parts still worked fine even on an unwanted limited-calorie diet. “Yes, may I help you with something?”
“When did you get back into town?”
Figured he’d have one of those deep, husky voices that vibrated right down to her…yeah, she wasn’t letting her mind wander there. “Yesterday.”
He put his hands on his lean hips. “Are you staying at the house?”
Something thunked in her brain.
His eyebrow lifted. “Cassidy?”
“I’m sorry.” Boy, was she sorry. “But do we know each other?”
“We dated in high school.”
Read the rest of this entry »
October 10th, 2012 by J.A. Pitts
So, this is excerpt week. I’ve decided to give you a bit of the opening for the fourth book in the Sarah Beauhall series — Hearth & Home. I hope this whets your appetites.
Katie was looking pretty good despite the fact she’d been throwing up blood an hour before the party. The color was back in her face and she didn’t look like she was going to collapse, for now. She thought maybe she was getting an ulcer or something, but I knew better. It was the magic. Her songs were growing more and more powerful and they were wrecking her body — eating her up inside.
She was getting weaker, frailer. It was the little things, like when she had to catch her breath after tying her shoes or wringing her hands like she was in pain. She faked it well enough. Didn’t think anyone noticed, but I did. I loved her more than breathing.
Stuart had told me how she had nearly collapsed while battling the cultists during the winter solstice. Jimmy had found her face down in a pool of her own blood after the battle. I hate thinking about how close I came to losing her that night. They kept her in the hospital overnight. Gave her two pints of blood. Thing was, she had no real symptoms. They just got her stabilized and suggested she see a specialist.
We had another appointment later this week just to rule out anything mundane — like cancer or something. I hated it. This would be the third specialist visit in as many months. I wasn’t dealing with the ambiguity too well. This wasn’t something I could stab or punch, or hit with a hammer. I couldn’t bend it to my will like iron, or wrestle it to the ground like a dwarf. One thing I knew about myself, something I didn’t need any shrink to help me figure out, was I did not take too well to feeling helpless.
October 9th, 2012 by Sasha White
SInce it’s excerpt week I thought I’d share one of my favorite scenes. It’s from WICKED, the fourth of what has become my Dungeon series. In WICKED, we have Karl, a ‘lifestyle’ Dom, who’s grown a bit weary of it all, and Lara, a jack-of-all-trades sorta gal who’s got a wide independant streak….and well…I think the tagline of “who wants to be on top tonight” says it all.
TO set this scene up for you, I’ll let you know that Karl and Lara’s first date did not go as Lara expected. When they run into each other after that date, she tries to one up him, and things get very hot and naughty in a back alley. After that Karl, despite himself, couldn’t get Lara off his mind, so this is officially date 2…
Warning: Coarse Language and Subject matter. Adult Only
Lara was already at the pool table when Karl entered the pub. He stood and watched her from a distance for a few minutes. She was good, but he could beat her. She played her opponent more than the table. Bending, stretching and smiling flirtatiously.
Her tight leather vest plumped up her cleavage deliciously, and her short skirt showed off legs that every man in there wanted wrapped around his waist. No, she was no sweet submissive miss – but she was a dirty girl through and through. One who was willing to try anything once.
When she flipped back her hair, bent over, and sent the eight ball into the corner pocket with a sure stroke, he stepped forward with a small smile. “Nice work.”
She winked at him as she tucked the bills from the edge of the table into her hip pocket. “Thanks. You wanna play?”
He couldn’t hold back the images that flooded his mind at that invitation, and he grinned. “Oh yeah, but not pool. Let’s grab a seat.”
He pointed to a booth near the back corner and they headed toward it. When she slid in one side, he fought his natural urge to slide in next to her, and settled in across the table. The waitress was there immediately, smiling at him and bending over the table to give him a good view down her little tank top. “What can I do for you tonight?”
“Lara?” he asked.
When she ordered a cola, he ordered a beer and sent the waitress away with a lazy smile.
“Do women hit on you everywhere you go?”
He slouched back in his seat and cocked an eyebrow at her. “Do men hit on you everywhere you go?”
Her husky chuckle filled the air between them and a knowing look passed between them. They were a lot alike.
“You don’t like to play pool?” she asked.
“I do, but there are other games I’d rather play with you. Ones that will help us get to know each other better.”
She leaned forward, her eyes sparkling, her smile wicked. “Do you really want to get to know me better, or do you just want to fuck me?”
What did he want from her?
He didn’t bother checking out the cleavage displayed so temptingly before him, he knew she was sexy. Instead, he gazed into her eyes. Searching past the spark of desire therehe saw the walls she’d built to protect her thoughts, and he wanted to knock those walls down. He wanted to know what lay beneath the surface.
And he wanted to bend her over and sink his cock in deep.
“Both,” he told her. “I think you and I can embark on a journey together – a very pleasurable one.”
Tilting her head to the side she narrowed her eyes at him. “Stop talking like a lawyer.”
“I’m not talking like a lawyer. I’m talking like a Dom, sugar.”
She sat back, surprised. “A Dom? As in, tie me up and spank me?”
He chuckled. “Something like that, yes.”
The waitress arrived with their drinks and Lara watched as he paid her, tipping heavily before sending her away with an absent smile.
Damn, that sorta sucked, she’d been looking forward to having that delicious cock of his buried deep inside her. She hadn’t had a good hard fuck in way too long, but she wasn’t into being spanked.
“I don’t know,” she said, shaking her head slowly. “I am not a submissive person.”
“I think you might surprise yourself. You enjoyed sucking my cock the other night right?”
His small smile was starting to irritate her. “Yeah, but that’s not a submissive thing. Men are ruled by their dicks. If I can rule the dick, I can rule the man. That’s not exactly a submissive way of thinking, is it?”
“So you got no pleasure from hearing my groans of pleasure, or words of praise? No satisfaction in feeling my cock throb against your tongue as my come filled your mouth?”
His words filled her head, clouding her thoughts as the memory of the other night filled her mind. His hand in her hair, his cock in her mouth, his voice being the only thing she heard beyond the pounding of her own rushing blood as he growled his satisfaction.
She’d swallowed for him. Something she’d never done before. More than that, he was right, she’d enjoyed the whole thing. Walking away from him then had been a point of pride she’d paid for when she was alone in bed with her vibrator.
She’d never shied from a challenge before, yet Karl’s words didn’t feel like just a challenge. They felt like an … invitation? She gave herself a mental head slap. Did it really matter? She wanted him, and she would try anything once.
So she straightened her spine, thrust out her breasts and boldly met his gaze. “Do I have to call you Master?”
“Master, Sir, Karl.” He shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. You can call me what you want, whatever feels natural.”
Excitement heated her blood and kicked her pulse up a notch. “Okay, how do we do this?”
“Why don’t we start with something simple?”
“I’m ready when you are.”
His voice lowered. “Are you wearing panties?”
Adrenaline surged through her. “Yeah.”
“Take them off, please.”
She started to slide out of the booth only to be stopped by his foot blocking her way. She glanced from the black boot to the man across the table, her forehead wrinkling. “Excuse me?”
“Stay here and take them off,” he commanded softly. “You proved the other night that you were adventurous when it came to taking risks in public, this should be nothing to you.”
He was right – it was nothing. So why was her heart suddenly pounding so hard it vibrated through her chest?
Without bothering to think about it, she shifted forward on her seat a little and reached under the table. Keeping her eyes locked with his she slid her fingers up her outer thighs and under her denim skirt. She planted her feet on the floor, lifted her hips and tugged at the elastic until the thong slipped from between her cheeks and down her legs.
Bunching the lace in one fist she felt the damp proof of her excitement against the palm of her hand, and pride zipped through her.
“Can I get you anything, sir? Another beer?” The waitress stood at the edge of their table, eyeing Karl.
Deliberately, Lara put her hand on the table between them, and opened it up, offering Karl her panties. Karl smiled his approval and reached for them while he spoke. “No thank you. I have everything I need for now.”
Lara tried not to smirk as the waitress stomped away. When she saw Karl lift the bundle of lace to his face and inhale, her moment of satisfaction faded into a blur of uncertainty.
“You smell wonderful,” he said. “Already turned on, are you?”
“Yeah.” She shrugged. Trying not to let him see just how affected she truly was.
“Yes,” he said.
“When I ask you a question, I’d like you to answer clearly. Yeah, isn’t a proper answer.”
“Okay.” She nodded, feeling like a chastened child.
“Okay isn’t acceptable either.” His body didn’t move, but the energy around him shifted. Becoming almost palpable in its force as he stared at her. “Clear communication is essential, Lara. So is honesty. You always have the right to say no, or stop, at any time, and I will honor your choice. But you have to be clear. Yeah and okay imply uncertainty or disinterest, and that does neither of us any justice.”
Her nipples ached and she squeezed her thighs together. He wasn’t touching her, and his words weren’t particularly dirty or sexy, but her body was reacting in a big way to his tone of voice.
Pushing the heady clouds of lust away from her brain she focused on what he’d said. “I can say no at any time?”
“But aren’t I supposed to do whatever you say?”
“Only if you want to. That’s what makes the power exchange of D/s so potent. It’s a free exchange, one that is meant to give us both what we need.”
Need. She nodded, even though she didn’t really understand what he was saying. She’d understood she could say no at any time, and that was all she cared about at the moment. Need was flooding her pretty damn fast and she hoped he was going to do something about it soon.
Oh hell, he wanted honesty. She licked her lips and leaned forward. “I need you to fuck me, and soon. Is that clear enough?”
Heat flashed through Karl, straight to his cock at her words. “Very good. Shall we go then?”
He slid out of the booth and waited for her. Lara’s eyes widened and she stared up at him. “It’s as easy as that?”
“It is tonight,” he said as she slid out of the booth and stood in front of him.
Bad-boy divorce attorney Karl Dawson has seen all the ways love can go wrong. That’s why he’s given up on it. Jaded and feeling restless, he has playmates, not girlfriends. A leather-clad Dominant, he comes and goes in the city’s after-dark playgrounds as he pleases. That’s how he likes it.
Lara Fox is an independent jack-of-all-trades who can do anything she sets her mind to – except that falling-in-love thing. She’s got a need for control too strong for most men, and an inability to walk away from a challenge. Including a challenge like Karl. He’s cocky, arrogant, and demanding. That’s how she needs it.
They’re perfect for each other. But what begins as a sensual battle of wills turns into a journey neither is prepared for when Lara is threatened and emotional walls start to crumble.