Sunday, January 31, 2010

Review of SUGAR AND SIN by Stella and Audra Price

Sugar and Sin is the first novel in the “Eververse” series. It follows the love stories of, mainly, four characters. There is Astrid, a really hot witch from France and Fallon, a teleport demon. Then there is a side romance between Fallon’s best friend, Feyd, a telepathic demon, and Ashlyn, a lower level fire-demon. The reader is also granted a tantalizing glimpse of many side characters, subplots and further stories to come.

The beginning of the book was hard to follow, but as I gradually got to know the characters and the various subplots, I became hooked. I compare it to watching a TV show in the middle of the series and becoming addicted, despite missing out on some information. The “Eververse” series will quickly become a guilty pleasure.
Warning: This series has a lot of hard-core sex in it. If you prefer less graphic love scenes, then I wouldn’t recommend it. For those that like books that get down and dirty, I have three words: Hot. Hot, HOT!

Another disclaimer: There is quite a bit of infidelity in this book, but it is consensual infidelity, so I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I prefer faithful men, but on the other, it is a gratifying fantasy to be able to “play” with other hot guys and I appreciate the authors allowed their female characters to have fun on the side as well. If only the men cheated while the ladies sat docile at home, I would’ve quit reading.

SUGAR AND SIN also ends with a cliffhanger ending and despite its disjointed and confusing beginning, I am eager to read more of this series that goes places that few dare to venture.

Stay tuned, for soon I get to interview a character from the Eververse series: Archady Morrison. He's an incubus, so we know it'll be fun!

Here's the purchase link for SUGAR AND SIN:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On Queries and Researching Agents:

I made a TON of mistakes while querying my first novel. I have since learned from them and the results of my submissions for my current novel have much improved. I figured I'd share what I learned. Get your paper n'pen & hold on. You'll need em even more after reading this.
An important thing I learned is that the internet is almost a must if you are an aspiring author. And not just because many agencies now only take e-queries)
Oh, and if your manuscript is not complete and polished to its very best, QUIT READING NOW AND GET BACK TO WORK!

First off, perfect your query letter. If you think it is perfect, you are probably wrong. There are multiple sites and blog posts on how to write a proper query letter. There are some that show examples of good and bad ones including comments about what an agent loved or hated about a query. QueryShark is a great one! You can find a lot of info when you just google "query."

Find people to critique your query: The best site I've found for this is You have to join to be able to post your query on their forum for people to critique, but joining is well worth it, for there are multitudes of other great resources on that site, which I will mention soon.

While working on that, it is time to research agents. QueryTracker and other such sites have vast online databases in which you can look up agencies based on genre. But DON'T stop there. It is a big waste of time for you and the agent to just willy-nilly pick agents off these lists and go straight to the email address listed to send a query. These databases almost always include a link to the agent's website. That's because you're supposed to check that first!

Take some time to study the agent's website: Don't just skim through the submission guidelines and then jump into "compose mail" in your email program. Agent websites are filled with priceless gems, including more specific info about what they are looking for, links to their blogs and recent interviews, and articles about perfecting your submission.

Research a prospective agent's clients: Besides the fact that it is important to know if an agent HAS published clients, it is very useful to know how close the books they rep will fit in with yours. When an agent says they rep Romance, that doesn't tell you enough. For example: An agent expressed interest in my previous novel, which would fit in with novels like Sherrilyn Kenyon or JR Ward. I'm not querying her with this one because it is more along the lines of Judith McNaught-meets-Virginia Henley-meets-Maggie Shayne. I couldn't find who reps those lovely ladies, but I found some McNaught fans =)

Enter contests! Contests are not only a great credential if you win, but they are also a great opportunity to receive agent feedback. Many blogs, such as QueryTracker and Miss Snark's First Victim have them regularly.

I entered Miss Snark's First Victim Secret Agent contest last year with my previous project. Not only did I get great feedback from the agent, but when she was revealed, I discovered that she sounded like an excellent fit for my current novel. Needless to say, after further research she was bumped to the top of my query list.
And last week QueryTracker hosted a contest for romance, and that very agent was the judge! And.......I WON THIRD PLACE!!!!

Follow agent blogs and follow them on twitter: You really get to know agents as people as well as get priceless information on their response times, their pet peeves (Many hate the .docx format because it's a pain in the ass for them to convert) and valuable tidbits on the publishing industry. Many agents get together often on twitter to host an "#AskAgent" session. You can ask them anything but questions about queries. Follow that hashtag!
But remember, for the love of god, DON'T PITCH YOUR NOVEL TO THEM ON THESE SITES! They hate that, and for good reason. Agents tweet and blog in their rare personal time and get their chance to be people. They don't want it ruined by some schmuck who can't follow the rules.

Be professional, courteous, and patient in your query as well as everywhere else online. Agents receive 100's of submissions a day. They also have to work with their existing manuscripts, pitch to editors, and attend conventions and conferences. And they also have families and personal lives, which I have no idea how they pull that off. Don't bug them EVER about the status of your query and only nudge on partials and fulls if you have waited long past the agent's stated response time.
As for your online presence i.e. facebook, twitter, blogs, etc. Remember: AGENTS DO THEIR HOMEWORK TOO. If they google you and see that you are posting rants bitching about rejections or waiting time, they will likely hesitate to work with you. And if you tweet "Dude, I was so WASTED last night!" EVERY day, well, a few might frown on that too. Still, don't be too scared to be yourself. Agents do want to know who you are. And if they dislike you for your political leanings, spiritual beliefs, or sexual orientation, then they likely wouldn't be a good fit anyway. Still, it would be best to keep your bedroom habits and other too-personal details to yourself.

Handle rejection gracefully: First off, don't publicly rant about them and DON'T SEND ANGRY HATE MAIL! This will not do you any favors and will damage your chances at a writing career. I still can't believe how many agents still get regular nasty letters. This is why they don't give personal rejections most of the time.
Rejections are not only depressing, but they can also be infuriatingly mysterious. One of the main reasons for rejection is when the author did not follow submission guidelines. Typos are another one (holy crap, so I revised my query with a kick-ass closing sentence- and then sent it off with 2 mistakes *headdesk* I still garnered a request, but the agent said I almost blew it and I should have known better)
If you rack up a lot of rejections with very few requests, it is likely a sign that you need to revise your query and/or your manuscript. And be sure to double check your revisions as I learned earlier.
A scary theory on some rejections: I don't know about you, but I have book cravings. Sometimes I want something dark and deep. Sometimes I want light and cheerful, other times I want a kick-ass heroine and blood n'gore. Maybe agents also have cravings and your submission didn't fit that day's craving. Of course, maybe some cosmic force helps with that to ensure you get the right one =) I can dream, you can't stop me.

Anyway, there is a lot more info on agents and valuable resources at your fingertips, so go out, do your homework and do your damn best to be sure that your submission is in the cream of the slush pile. Good luck to you all!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dealing with a too low word count while avoiding "fluff" (revised and reposted)

An lovely agent requested a partial of my manuscript, but stated that it was too short. Since I need to work on adding to my MS and I've been doing posts on the writing and editing process, I decided to repost this.

When I finished the first draft of "BITE ME, YOUR GRACE," The novel clocked in at a paltry 50,000 words. Great for NaNoWriMo, (Ironically, this novel was finished a week before that fiasco) but not good for the market, where desired word count is 70-100K

Still, when the draft was finshed, I put it away to "marinate" for a few weeks thinking that when I picked it up again I would find enough plot holes to fill and add to the word count. Alas, it did not work that way. The story flowed fine as it was and all I could find were things to cut, such as cliches and adverbs. I sent it on to my beta readers and received excellent adivice on where to add words. I was able to get it up to 60K.

What does one do to add to a third or fourth draft? Most editing advice is all about cutting. When do you add to a story? Where and how much? I don't want to put down a few thousand words of extrapolations on the blue of the sky, the green of the trees, and the fine architecture of the buildings in my setting. Some authors can get away with this, but I am not Anne Rice. I feel this would slow down the plot. I don't want to do an accessory by accessory run-down of everyone's wardrobe, I am not Laurell K. Hamilton.

My novel is a Regency Paranormal Romance. It was a blast to write. For inspiration I reread a few of my favorite Regencies and after a few hours of agony thinking I could never match such greatness, (Do any of you do that too?) I noticed a few patterns that enriched the stories and contributed to word count. Here are a few ideas.

1.) What are the current events happening in the story? Can you tie it in to the setting/ plot? Example: My story takes place in England in 1821. King George IV was crowned in July of that year. Perhaps the characters could have a scene during the coronation! (And I did. Lots of intrigue and scandal)

2.) Are you involving all five senses in your descriptions? I seem to neglect taste and smell a lot. Perhaps my character can complain about the stink of the Thames, since solid waste was dumped in it back then.

3.) Is there a transitional paragraph in the book that could be livened up into a dialogue scene? I had a paragraph in which I described my heroine's scandalous behavior which resulted in her being shunned by some crowds. Perhaps I can replace it with a funny scene in which society matrons are gossiping about her.

4.) Remember to "Show" and not "Tell." I know, I know. That declaration is made in every work regarding the craft. Because it's damn good advice. I repeat hear for the simple fact that "Showing" usually takes more words. i.e. "She was angry" vs. "She threw the vase, missing his head by inches." (I know, that's a cliche and I didn't use it, fun as it is.)

5.)Use more dialogue tags/ breakup the dialogue. I went through the ms again and I found a few scenes that were just dialogue. I've been told I'm damn good at it, but that is no excuse for "talking heads" Have your characters do stuff while they're talking. Are they drinking, smoking, pacing, looking out the window, looking down someone's dress?

6.) Do you have an epilogue? I think epilogues are a necessity in romance novels, especially if you are planning on writing a series. I had one, but I hated it and cut it. I forgot to write a new one. I have a better one in my head that ties up a loose end.

7.) And of course, your characters could have more sex.
After all, this blog is about supernatural smut! Just be sure that your heroine spends more time on her feet than on her back...please. We are writing romance, not "Hustler."

That's what I have so far, and I'm now eager to get back to work. I welcome any new tips you all may have.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Editing Process

Besides a few strange people (in the case of my last book, I was one of them) many writers cringe when the spectre of editing looms over them. I think I've worked out a process that eases the anxiety and is sometimes a little fun. As in my last post, I have borrowed heavily from Stephen King's ON WRITING. Again I will say, BUY THAT BOOK! It is awesome.

1.) In my last post in the writing process I mentioned that one should put their first draft away for at least six weeks. It really works! Now, pull it out and read it all the way through. Try to do it in one sitting if you can. It should seem to be an exhilarating combination of new and familiar to you and hopefully you fall in love with it all over again. DON'T make any corrections yet. Just make notes. When finished reading it, put it away for at least a day, but keep it churning in your mind. Meditate on it.

2.) Now, with your notes and whatever new thoughts you have, proceed with your corrections, scene cuts, revisions, and additions. Try to accomplish this as fast as possible, keeping the story as a whole part fresh and vibrant in your mind.

3.)Remember those beta readers I mentioned? Now is the time to deliver the second draft to them. I sent mine to six: 2 fellow writers, 1 college English professor, 1 elementary school teacher, and 2 test audience people who read my genre.

Be sure to let them know what you want out of their critique (and you better be willing to critique their work in return!)From the professor and fellow writers I wanted corrections on grammar, sentence structure, character motivation, plot, and places to cut/add word count. From 2 ladies who live or lived in England, I wanted them to catch me if I used American phrases. From the test audience I wanted general info..What did they like, what did they hate, etc.
Be sure to give them a reasonable deadline, and don't hold your breath waiting for all to make it.

4.)While waiting to hear back on the critiques you can occupy yourself with critiquing other writer's projects, beginning your query letter and synopsis, and of course, beginning a new project. Do NOT pester your beta readers. A casual, "how's it going" reminder is okay if it is close to the deadline, but remember that you likely want to use their services for your next book, so don't be annoying.

5.)When you get your critiques back: Likely you will not get them all back at the same time. Feel free to read them as they come in and make notes, but don't open your manuscript and revise until you've heard back from at least three.

The easy part: See which comments and opinions are the same. If all three have issues with the same scene or character, the changes needed should be easy and obvious. I had a scene involving characters that hinted at another book, but they hijacked the scene and ruined it instead of tantalizing the reader. Armed with the feedback from my betas, it was an easy fix.

The hard part: Some things your betas will disagree on. What to do? Just remember that the tie goes to the writer. There was a chapter that one reader thought was unecessary, one loved it, and the other two didn't comment at all, which I took as okay. I liked the historical value of the chapter, so I decided to keep it.

When debating on whether to change something or not, always keep in mind: What is your story about? How do you want it to progress? Which suggestions fall in with that and which take it somewhere else? Another reader thought my main character got away with something too easily. She wanted me to add in more conflict. Since that scene was relevant for characterization and theme, but not a major plot issue, I did not want to slow the story down. But I compromised and added a paragraph that gave my character a close call.

6.)Using all the suggestions from your god-sent betas and the ideas they gave you, proceed writing the third draft. It should be easier than the second. If your readers had issues with the majority of the book, you may want to send them the entire third draft. But if you are lucky, you can send them only the makor scenes you revised along with comments such as "I changed this, or cut that." Be sure to thank them all profusely. I learned the hard way that without other readers, your book will suck.

7.)After you've heard back on your revisions, Go through the book one last time with a fine-toothed comb and polish.

Now you should have a sparkly wonderful book ready for the next test: Agents.
My next post will be about researching agents and the querying process.

Hope I helped and please comment on ideas and suggestions that I missed.