Thursday, June 28, 2012

Good, bad, even ugly: Refining your writing

The newest guest blogger in the “best and worst I have ever done — as a writer” is Michele Chiappetta , known to her fans and Twitter followers as the Chipper Muse. As usual, my guest post will appear on her blog — but read her words, first. You’ll be glad you did!

A quick glance at the best sellers list often makes it seem that quality is in the eye of the reader—that mediocre books written still manage to sell magnificently. (I’m looking at you, Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.)

And the stories of writers having tremendous success in self-publishing imply that all you need to do is write it, and they will come, emerging from the cornfields of Iowa with their e-readers. Especially if you’re selling something for 99 cents.

In today’s publishing environment, does it actually matter whether your writing is good, bad, or ugly?

For any serious writer, I think the answer is yes. Writing is a business and an art; you have to know what is good and what is bad because it affects your sales, and because it shapes how you pursue your artistic vision.

But since your definition of good and bad writing may not be the same as the readers who buy the books, you have to figure out how you’ll evaluate yourself so you can improve at your craft and satisfy your goals.

Obviously, good writing begins with the basics, the things we all can agree on: using correct grammar and spelling, proofing your work to make sure you didn’t leave out words, using proper paragraphing, laying out your book so that it is easy on the reader’s eye, and so on. But beyond that, what makes your writing good, bad, or even ugly?

I’d say good writing is something I’m proud to put my name on. It rises to high standards of quality. It contains creative, musical phrases that entice without being exhaustingly purple. It catches the reader up into a magical swirl of catharsis. It entertains. It’s accessible. It honors reader expectations of the genre. And most importantly, it conveys the message I want to share.

I’ve had plenty of personal experience with the good, the bad, and the ugly in my years as a writer. But you know, if you hit bottom, you can only go up, right?

When I was bad

My personal worst piece of writing was the first draft of a short story I created for a weeklong creative writing seminar at Manhattanville College. I wrote the piece in second person, present tense, as an experiment, and I have since shredded the original, horrible draft for my own sake. I don’t want the evidence to condemn me or, God forbid, be published after I’m dead.

But let’s just say it sounded something like this. And bear in mind, since I shredded the actual draft, this is just my own recollection of its contents, and the original was much, much worse:

You walk along the lonely streets, noticing how dirty they are, noticing the stink of garbage and thinking that your whole life stinks just as bad. You hate your life, you hate how unfair everything is, and you just wish it would all end. No one has it as rough as you, and you know it. But there’s nothing you can do, and no one cares.
I shared this piece with the class. Man, they hated the old guy, absolutely loathed this depressed, critical, grumpy old man. In fact, they hated him and the overall tone so much that no one wanted to read any further. And who can blame them, right? Whiny people are annoying.

Unfortunately for me, I was trying to create empathy instead of loathing, so I failed miserably. And what’s even worse: the readers thought my protagonist was an elderly, depressed man, rather than the teenager I’d meant him to be.

Yes, my bad. Literally. My bad writing. I don’t think you can get much worse than thinking you’re writing about a likable, self-absorbed teen only to be told, “Nope, sounds like a hateful geezer. I hope he dies.”

But I learned several important lessons about making my writing good that day:
  1. Sometimes the critique group is right. Sometimes, the truth is harsh, and you’ll be humiliated, but that’s okay. It won’t kill you. If you learn from it, you’ll be better off the next time you write.
  2. Sometimes what you think you’re doing only works in your head, and not on paper. And if it doesn’t work on paper, you didn’t do your job, so you shouldn’t be surprised when you don’t get published or paid, and your readers want your character to die.
  3. Good writing takes effort. It’s not easy. Don’t expect it to be. Instead, do whatever it takes to fix what isn’t working. That’s what makes you a writer instead of a wannabe.
Good writing, like a lot of things, is a combination of many factors: a unique voice, tone, theme, compelling and believable characters, dialogue that entertains and drives plot forward, eye- and ear-catching descriptions, a sense of how to make the tropes of your chosen genre work for you… If you want to be good, you’ve got to work at it.

And that means you have to risk being bad, even ugly, before you get good. You can’t afford a whole lot of pride, because it doesn’t lead to good writing. If you want to get good, you have to spend the effort, listen to others, do research, learn how to turn feedback into effective edits…

You must develop your craft by any means necessary

It’ll take many hours and a lot of words you’ll never publish, but you’ll eventually arrive at the point where you write something you don’t mind sharing on a guest blog, like this piece of a scene of my novel-in-progress:

The sheathed sword rested in an umbrella stand by the door. Hard rain drummed against the door and windows, creating a pleasant, sleepy rhythm that soothed the little girl as she stared at the sword and thought about what she wanted to do. She crouched comfortably on her heels between the washing machine and the wall. It was one of her favorite hiding places when her mother and father argued, as they did now, in the back bedroom they shared. They had obviously forgotten all about their daughter, and had given her no orders at all for a change. Their voices drowned beneath the storm’s thunder and drumming rainfall. And so she had a moment’s peace.

Which was why the sword called to her now.

She had always wanted to see it up close, to touch it and understand it the way her father did. He spent much of his time with it; he checked each day to make sure it was where it was supposed to be. And many times, he took it and disappeared into the fields with it, perhaps to practice with it or clean it in secret. The little girl was never sure what he did. He didn’t allow her to accompany him when he took the sword out. She tried to follow him often enough, but he always managed to leave her behind and evade her spying eyes. His legs were so much longer than hers that she couldn’t keep up with him. And he was cunning.

“You’re only five,” he said to her. “You don’t need the sword yet. You’ll see it one day, when you’re ready.”
I know that piece is not perfect. But it’s a hell of a lot better than the grumpy old man fiasco. And if I continue to learn and practice, I can only go up from here. My writing will get gooder.

And yeah, I know that’s not a word. But I couldn’t resist. (That’s why good writers need editors, but that’s another guest blog post.)

Copyright © 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the author.

M.A. Chiappetta has been writing since she was a kid. And sometimes she’s even good at it. She writes full-time as a nonprofit PR person, and part-time as a novelist and blogger. You can find her at The Chipper Muse blog, which covers writing, creativity, things that make her laugh, books and movies, and anything else that catches her attention. And be sure to like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter, where she likes to chat real-time about real things, so that she can get to know you.

Monday, June 25, 2012

What makes writing good?

Why do so many best-selling books fail the stylistic standards of commercial publishers?

How do EL James, Stephenie Meyer and Stieg Larsson get away with such bad writing when the very companies that publish their books turn down manuscripts on the basis of poor writing quality?

Many book reviewers at major publishing firms sneer at “self-published” authors for having poor editorial quality, and they’re not just talking about the mechanics of spelling and grammar. Major publishers and the “literary” crowd write about deep characters and themes, and castigate writers for using description or writing “suddenly.”

Last weekend, I heard Canadian writer Tom Gallant, author of The Lord God Bird, in an interview on CBC radio. He said he had gone through his book in advance of his interview with Shelagh Rogers and found no metaphors and only one simile. Is this necessarily good? Should every English-language writer try to emulate Hemingway?

There are a lot of places to get advice on how to become a good writer. There are any number of blogs, books, websites, courses, seminars and workshops that profess to turn you into a good writer.

With the number and range of sources, you’d expect to find a range of opinion. Yet, there’s a certain sameness to the advice. It’s as if everyone has decided to follow Elmore Leonard’s 10 famous rules, like never writing “suddenly” or starting a story with weather.

I have a lot of respect for writers like Elmore Leonard and Tom Gallant. They’ve shown mastery of their art, and have achieved success as authors. But there are a lot of best-sellers that defy these standards. Three come to mind immediately: Fifty Shades of Gray, Twilight and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Book fads

I haven’t yet read Fifty Shades of Gray. It seems to elicit two kinds of response: readers either love it or hate it. Some find it new, fresh and honest.

Writers mostly hate it. I don’t think that’s sour grapes—writers can’t begrudge every successful author, or we’d just be too depressed. But many writers point out that the writing style is heavy, wooden and unoriginal. The author, EL James, admits that she based the characters on Edward and Bella, the lead characters in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series (which itself has been criticized for its writing style). And I’m sorry, but as far as characters or personalities go, no one can tell me that either Edward or Bella is original.

Several reviewers have criticized James’ overuse of description and metaphors. “Someone needs to take this author’s thesaurus and hide it someplace safe” wrote blogger Jessica on Read React Review.

James’ inspiration, Stephenie Meyers, herself is no stranger to criticism of her writing ability. Apparently, Stephen King said Meyer “can’t write worth a damn.”

Last year’s book phenomenon was Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Each book in the series is far too long at over 800 pages. And they’re not filled with complex plots or deep characterizations. Instead, we read about what kind of sandwiches and Billy’s Pan Pizzas the characters eat, the details of laptop computer specifications and Ikea purchases.

Other than the girl of the title, Lisbeth Salander, and maybe her boss, Dragan Armansky, I did not find any of the characters at all believable. Instead, they’re flat renderings of roles in action movies: the thoughtful, plodding cop; the intrepid investigative reporter (in which role the author doubtlessly saw himself), the sexy female boss.

So what do readers want?

Why did these books catch on? I guess if I could answer that, I could rule the publishing world. Obviously, they each hit something the reading public was looking for at the time they were published, and could not find anywhere else. (Well, duh.)

I haven’t read Fifty Shades yet, and I don’t ever want to read a Twilight book. I’m not pre-judging either of them, and I’ve only quoted what others have said about them. But I have read two of Larsson’s books (unfortunately), and I found them ponderous, annoying and completely unentertaining.

What Larsson did right was create the character of the title (interestingly, that title was chosen by the Swedish publisher after the author’s death; he wanted to call it Men Who Hate Women). She is compelling: her pathological social inability is complemented by her tiny body. In other words, she should be completely helpless. Do you see Larsson’s oh-so-subtle social commentary, yet? Isn’t he clever? Salander makes up for it with a genius for hacking other people’s computers and savage determination for revenge.

That’s the chord that Larsson struck. Salander does things we all wish we could do: she exacts revenge on anyone who ever hurt her. By using the latest technology in an age fascinated with digital technology, she grabs our attention even more firmly.

Admit it: you’d love to hack into the email of that bitch two cubicles over who criticized your idea at the meeting last month. Find out just what she’s really doing when she’s supposed to be working on company time, and get your revenge.

Not having read the book, I’m taking a big chance by analyzing Fifty Shades, but I’ll suggest this: James has answered the same urge in readers by creating a character that does what her readers would love to do: surrender sexually and have a dominant personality reassure them that, no, they’re not really perverts, that what they would love to do is all right, they’re not bad for wanting them, and ultimately, they’ll end up in control.

So what do we do with this?

Is that the answer to blockbusting books — characters and situation that play out the fantasies of millions? Okay. But the next challenge is always the biggest one: getting the word out to all those millions of people.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Independent book review: You Wish

You Wish, by Terry Tyler

Published 2011

I admit it, I am probably not the target audience that Terry Tyler had in mind when she wrote You Wish. I’m the wrong sex. But I still liked it.

You Wish could be categorized as “urban paranormal fantasy.” Set in the southern part of the UK and spanning a period from the 80s to 2010, You Wish is about Ruth, a woman who scrapes out a living as a psychic advisor at county fairs and other events, and some of the people she comes into contact with.As a girl, Ruth finds a magical wishing stone: supposedly, if you touch it and make a wish, the wishes come true. Ruth is deeply conflicted: on one level, she laughs off such a possibility; on another, she’s afraid of the power of an object to grant wishes and keeps the stone hidden most of her life.

However, one day her young daughter sets up a little display at her parents’ psychic display at a local fair; for a charitable donation, anyone can make a wish on the stone. Three people wish on the stone. One, Petra, wishes she could fall in love like all her friends do; Sarah wishes she could lose weight to achieve her lifelong goal of wearing Size Zero clothes; and a childless couple wishes they could conceive a baby.
The story traces how events conspire to realize these wishes—and the horrifying, yet easily foreseeable effects on the characters’ lives.

Independent author
Terry Tyler

What I liked

Tyler skillfully weaves the separate stories of the characters together, even bringing some of them back together near the end. She also brings tells Ruth’s back-story well, showing how the young Ruth acquired the wishing stone and the emotional roller-coaster a school-age girl goes through. I have to admit, I’ve seldom had much patience for the drama of the average teenage girl in fiction, but Tyler really knows how to make her reader see through Ruth’s eyes. In a few chapters, Tyler also shows very believably exactly what Ruth is afraid of the stone’s power.

Another thing I really liked is the realism of the story. All the characters were three-dimensional; no one was just an evocation of Tyler’s favourite TV show characters. And the marginal lives of the modern psychics, pathetically selling paintings and psychic readings at fairs and conventions to supplement their social assistance cheques, skimping to raise two children while finding money for dope, shows me that Tyler is not only a skilled observer and reporter of life around her. She doesn’t buy the romantic line that psychics and marginal artists sell. She also shares (I think) my own understanding of “magic.”


There were very few things about this book to criticize. Sure, there were occasional typos and awkward sentences, but I defy you to find me any book without a few. (Stieg Larsson fans, give up now.)

There were some long information dumps, about the back-stories of Petra (the girl who wished to fall in love) and, to a lesser extent, Sarah. Tyler wrote several passages about Petra’s pursuit of her true love as if she were summing it up for a book report. Many critics have told me to “show, not tell” in my own writing, and for the most part, I think they’re right.


Overall, however, this is an excellent story, skillfully told. Congratulations to Terry Tyler for proving, yet again, the independent authors are producing excellent books.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Master Koda virtual blog tour: Brad Fleming

This week's guest blogger is Brad Fleming, whose first novel, Role of Dishonour, will be published by TriDestiny Publishing. He's here to tell us about his favourite author. And as always on the Master Koda—Tasha Turner Virtual Blog Tour, I have a guest post, this week on racy Laci Paige's blog, Laci's Place. But read Brad's piece first.

I’m delighted to occupy the guest spot on Scott Bury’s site today. He’s a new friend and I’m glad to make his acquaintance. I have to confess I carried out a little gentle reconnaissance on his site and I can thoroughly recommend it. I know I’m in safe hands.


Narrowing the field down to one favourite author is quite a task. In the end I had to imagine I was a guest on the long-running BBC radio show Desert Island Discs where each week a celebrity is invited to choose eight favourite records – and one book. That concentrated the mind considerably and I realised it had become a simple choice.

This man has been my best-loved author from childhood. I have read, and re-read, all his books, not only for the marvellous stories but for his writing style, for his ability to tell a good tale and for his knowledge and appreciation of humanity.

That man is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, chiefly remembered for having created the great consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, in the opinion of many the most famous character in all fiction. Add to that a succession of historical romances, the Professor Challenger stories, including The Lost World, and his work as a war correspondent and his output was staggering. Only Dickens and H Rider Haggard were more prolific.

I have his four Sherlockian novels and his canon of short stories in one volume and that is the book I would choose. As Holmes himself may well have said, “The choice is elementary my dear Watson.”

Why not let Scott know about your own favourite book or author? I know it’s a toughie so I’m sure he won’t limit you to just one.

Thanks Scott for inviting me to your place.

Thank you, Brad! Brad's blog is Writer's Den. Check out his books, too!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Get it for nothin’

Image courtesy Sodahead

Except your time.

I’m giving away FREE electronic copies of my novel, The Bones of the Earth, for the rest of this month. But there’s a catch: first, as with all contests and games of chance in Canada (and maybe elsewhere, too, but I only know the rules in the former Lady of the Snows), to win, you have to answer a skill-testing question. Or in this case, a knowledge-testing question.

The question follows the previous blog post: name two of the rules, conventions or tropes of fantasy writing that I broke in The Bones of the Earth. I promise you, you’ll find more that two. How much easier could I make this contest?

“Easy? How can I tell you what those rules are, if I haven’t read The Bones of the Earth?” you ask. “And if I buy the whole book, why would I be interested in a free one?”

That’s an excellent question. Very astute of you.


All you really need to answer this is to read two excerpts. You can get to Chapter 1 by clicking the tab at the top of this page, the one labelled “Sample: The Bones of the Earth.”

You can find Chapter 2 excerpted on the Featured Books Excerpts page on Wodke Hawkinson’s excellent blog, Find a Good Book to Read, here.

And if you still need more hints, check out my previous post as well as this guest post on genres and boundaries at Find a Good Book to Read.

Want one more hint? Find out about the personality of my main character, Javor, in this deep character interview on Laurie J.'s Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews blog.

How to answer

"Okay, smart guy, I've figured it out. How do I enter this contest and get my free book?" you ask.

Another excellent question! It just goes to show how smart the readers of this blog are.Click on the Comments list, describe the two rules (or more, if you like), and leave your contact information (email address, Twitter handle or other link). Also, tell me which electronic format you prefer: e-pub or mobi.

That’s it! I told you this would be easy!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What is it about genres?

Image courtesy Maggie
I recently read a post from one of my blog’s followers that simultaneously saddened and angered me. Andrea Looney posted on her blog, The Written Word, some feedback she had received from beta readers and other “supporters” for new writers, about her manuscript.

The main objection, she says is

my voice is too modern for historical fiction. Although I love my book which is about the Salem witch trials, I think I am going to chalk it up to a learning experience. I don't have the voice for historical fiction so don't waste my time writing them.

This kind of comment really gets under my skin. Who is it to say what the “right voice” is for historical fiction, or any other genre, for that matter? And shouldn’t any writer try to develop a unique voice?

How would anyone alive today know what voice is correct for historical fiction? Sorry, your complete DVD collection of Little House on the Prairie does not make you an expert.

About a year ago, I submitted a still-unfinished portion of my book, The Bones of the Earth, to a little competition on Brenda Blake’s YA blog. One reviewer wrote “it doesn’t feel like YA to me.”

That’s the point. I don’t want my writing to read like another author’s style. I want to give readers something new.

Genre fan, tear down this wall!

Image courtesy John
Genre books comprise the biggest selling type of fiction, according to many questionable sources. But that makes sense. Most of the real estate in the big bookstores that’s still available for books and not for CDs, vases or other useless crap is devoted to genres: mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, history, travel, business. And all the shelves are full. Obviously, there’s a demand.

And you can see the same sort of thing in online stores, as well. Even among “mainstream” or “contemporary” fiction, you HAVE to have noticed the trends and the copycats: sexy vampires, self-actualized teen girls who love shopping, their self-actualized older sisters who are building the perfect personality-free boyfriend, self-actualized divorcĂ©es shagging their way around the world.

Following the genre conventions leads to a homogeneous sameness within genres. To some extent, it’s understandable. These books sell, so writers who want to sell books (I’ve heard there are some) write books that follow those conventions, that stay well within those boundaries. Then there are critics and self-described experts who ruthlessly carp about anyone crossing the boundaries or even bending the rules.

As a result, the genre gets narrower and narrower, fracturing into sub-genres and piling the shelves higher and higher with the same old.

To me, some of the most interesting writing is a book that crosses genre boundaries. Steampunk was a good example when it started, but it’s getting straightjacketed with conventions and tropes: airships, cantilevered mechanisms, icy blondes, oak-panelled, smoky clubs.

One of the many goals I had for my novel was to break some rules. Why not set the story in a place that readers probably haven’t read about before? Why not have a hero with a disability? Why not put sex into a story for young adults?

How do you feel about rules, conventions and limitations in your reading? What would you like to see in the next book you read?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Guest post: Aurora Martinez on The Avengers

This week's guest blogger from the Tasha Turner Virtual Blog Tour is Aurora Matinez.  For her "normal" blog post introducing us to her blog, she's decided to review a top movie Take it away, Aurora!

I recently went to see the movie, Avengers. It is the story of several, flawed heroes thrown together to fight against the ultimate super villian.  The star star studded cast was brilliant with:

  • Chris Evans as Steve Rogers (Captain America), the super soldier
  • Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark (Iron Man) the bright, selfish, philanthropist in an awesome suit
  • Chris Hemsworth as Thor, demi-god, lightning master and ruler of Asgard
  • Jeremy Renner as Clinton Barton (Hawkeye), Assassin who's deadly with a bow
  • Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanov (Black Widow), Assassin
  • Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner (The Hulk), the genius and scientist
  • Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Thor's brother, nemesis and leader of the invading alien armies
  • Clark Gregg as the dorky, Agent Coulson
  • and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, the one-eyed leader of the Avengers
  • with Joss Whedon directing.
 I absolutely had to name the entire group because without each actor shining in their prospective roles and the direction of Joss Whedon, this movie could have been a cheesy flop. However, with this group of people the movie was riveting, action-packed and full of character growth and the surpise humor of witty lines. I recommend this for everyone who loves action or sci-fi. I have never even opened any of Stan Lee's comics that contain these characters, yet I have become a huge fan of them all and will be seeking out the comics.

As for the digital affects, they were completely flawless and could not be determined from the actual sets and actors. This movie receives the highest marks that I can give... 5 Nerds.

About the blogger:

I have always been a writer. When I first learned to write in Kindergarten, I wrote about pigs who "groo" wings and became "butterfys." I knew way back then that I would have a love affair with writing. I have no great dreams or illusions of becoming a best selling author but I do hope that my stories connect with people of all ages, genders and races. All it takes is a good story to unite people who wouldn't normally be on the same side.

Twitter: @AuroraThe Nerd

Friday, June 08, 2012

Creativity can kill

The best and worst of Valerie Strawmier

Valerie Strawmier blogs and tweets as Miss Wordy ( and @Miss_Wordy), and she has submitted to my nefarious campaign I mean, graciously agreed to participate in my “best and worst” blog tour.

What’s the best that Valerie Strawmier does, as a writer? She says they’re the same thing.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times—sounds like a story I once read….oh wait, that’s my life!

Everyone has their skills, things they really excel at, as well as weaknesses. My strength and weakness are kind of the same characteristic—the one thing that really hurts me is also the one thing that makes me crazy happy!

Enough stalling…I admit it, my creativity kills me.

You know those times when your brain gives you this awesome story line while you’re lying in bed? This is the part where I grab a notepad and a pen and turn on the lamp (dimly, so as not to disturb the hubby) and start writing as quickly as possible to get it on paper.

Another great example is being right in the middle of a writing project when another inspiration springs out of nowhere and shines so brightly you can’t focus on what you’re doing. Out comes the pen….you get the picture.

These brilliant flashes of inspiration are wonderful and they keep me going. They give me a new twist on old ideas and help me share things in a way that’s unique to me.

Then again, the brain can only take so much. All that enthusiasm going in several different directions results in several bunny trails that never get fully explored.

When you have all those unfinished projects lying around, it can have the opposite effect and make you think you’ll never get any of them done—talk about a downer.

So my cure for this has become the very tool that helps to cause it in the first place—my pen and paper.

This doesn’t mean that I neglect to write down my ideas or creative inspirations. On the contrary, I have all of them written somewhere depending on where I was when lightning struck.

It does mean that I now have a priority system in place. Somewhere in the brain there’s a drug that’s released every time you get to check something off a list—at least there is in mine. Every completed task now gets a check—but only when it’s done in the right order!

Now, each day, I take a look at everything on this list. I put numbers by each one based on how important it is and whether it affects any current projects I’m working on.

If so, and it’s going to improve what I already need to finish, then I mark act on it immediately.

However, if it’s going to slow me down and only apply to the next project, it receives a lower rating.

This is how I have learned to organize my brain, channel my enthusiasm and take the cure for the creativity-killer.

All that lightning is surely going to fry more than a few brain cells if I don’t direct it into productive channels. That’s why the pen and paper were invented and that’s why they are now my best friends.

I am a very happily married (17 years!), mother of two beautiful kids, and I love to write! This site lets me connect with others who enjoy the same thing and may be looking for help. Thank you for reading!

Valerie Strawmier blogs at Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Wordy.

My guest post on her blog is about my greatest challenge as a writer. Now that you’ve read her post, read mine.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Win free books from top indie authors!

Update—June 7th, 2012

As of today, the contest is over. But check out these great books from these great indie authors, anyway!

One-day BOOK PUSHJune 6th 2012

Four authors determined to bring their books to the world and to see them climb high in Amazon’s Ranks are holding a contest, and they've hijacked I've graciously offered my blog to help.

So don't miss out! There's a Zombie-ish apocalypse with a splash of romance, a romantic suspense with a dash of humour, a thriller with a huge helping of action and a YA-paranormal with a mystery blended in.

Something for everyone!

Sundered, A Zombie-ish Apocalypse





Red is an Attitude

—romantic suspense


— thriller/action-adventure

Cassidy Jones and Vulcan’s Gift

YA/paranormal mystery

And you, dear readers, not only can help, you can WIN BIG while you’re at it.

The run-down

Purchase any ONE (1) of the books, and send your receipt to us and you’ll be entered in for a grand prize of $50.00 in Amazon Gift Cards! PLUS if you purchase all FOUR (4) books, not only will you have four entries, you’ll also be in for an additional SECRET DRAW.

Now, we can’t tell you what the draw is, because that would ruin the whole SECRET thing. But we will give you a hint. IT’S FABULOUS!

Okay, you want another hint? Hmm. How about doubling the gift cards?! Oh, right. Secret’s out.

What are you waiting for?

More stuff?

Well, If you insist.

Four randomly drawn entrants will win back their purchases. FREE BOOKS. Crickey!

Send all purchase receipts to Winners will be drawn randomly, announced on June 8 at

For additional information regarding this contest contact

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Independent book review: My Temporary Life

My Temporary Life
Martin Crosbie, 2012

This was so good.

The traditional publishing model is broken indeed if a string of publishers rejected Martin Crosbie’s excellent first novel. I can’t imagine what made them turn it down. The plot is engaging from the beginning, filled with grabbers like high-school bullying and drunkenness and a strong statement about child abuse.

It’s traditional publishers’ loss, and Crosbie’s gain. He published the book himself and took it to number one on Amazon’s paid list for a whole day last spring.


My Temporary Life begins with the narrator, Malcolm Wilson, at age 13 in Kilmarnock, Scotland. He and his best friend, Gerald, spend their days trying to avoid being picked on by the tough kids and the teachers, while somehow being noticed by girls. Crosbie skillfully reveals Malcolm’s back-story in dialogue: his mother came from Canada, met his father, Alex, in Scotland, and about nine months later Malcolm came along. After a few years, Malcolm’s mother moved back to her home town, Vancouver. Malcolm stays with his father, a part-time construction worker, through the school year, and visits his mother and her temporary boyfriend for the summers. Malcolm is left feeling that everything is temporary: he’s only with his mother or his father temporarily. Even when he wishes that his life could be the way it used to be, when his family was united, he realizes that was a temporary situation, as well.

When Malcolm is 13, after a particularly humiliating episode of bullying, Malcolm’s father teaches him how to fight. The next fall, he begins his teen-age growth spurt and discovers his ability at track running. After that, the bullying of Malcom stops—but not so for his friend, Gerald. Nicknamed “Hardly” after he’s found drunk in school, Gerald is not only bullied by his classmates, he’s beaten regularly by both parents.

Malcolm moves to Canada after getting a scholarship to attend a private high school on Vancouver Island. Alex Wilson takes Gerald in to save him from his abusive life, until Gerald is old enough at 15 to join the Army.

At that point, the book jumps ahead about 20 years. Malcolm is now in his 30s, successful in his career as an accountant and a failure in romance. He meets Heather, a 20-something woman with the apparent confidence to dye her hair green and wear high boots even when they’re not in fashion or even in keeping with the weather (it’s set in Vancouver, where you need galoshes more than high boots). Heather draws Malcolm into her attempt to reunite with her 10-year-old daughter.


Crosbie’s style is exactly what publishers say they’re looking for: clear and so smooth you don’t even notice it. Without calling attention to his command of language, Crosbie brings you into Malcolm’s world and his heart.

His dialogue is nearly flawless. I can hear Alex’s brogue and Malcolm’s lilt.
His characterization is just as good. I can believe in characters like George and Rosie, and even Malcolm’s mother, because I feel like I’ve met people just like them before.
The only part that’s hard to believe is the way Malcolm won the scholarship. The whole episode seems too convenient. On the other hand, Crosbie, the author, was born in Scotland and moved to Canada when he was young, so maybe the episode is autobiographical. Still, it was the one weakness in the book.

Bottom line

This is an excellent novel, and I’m looking forward to Crosbie’s next book — which he promises for the end of the year!

I can’t wait.

Find it on Amazon.
And visit Martin's blog.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

MasterKoda Virtual Blog Tour, week 2 - Music to our words
Music is the focus of the MasterKoda Facebook group virtual blog tour — songs that go with our books. Allison Bruning found inspiration in three songs for her books, Calico. Over to you, Allison:

He Would Do Anything To Save Her

Music, it stirs the plot bunnies and muse of the writer's very soul. It speaks to the deep emotions of our characters and drives our story forward. I, like many authors, have used music to help in my writing. My book, Calico, was written with inspiration from three songs. My blog posting this week will only focus on two of those songs.

After the death of his father, Little Owl begins to realize his feelings for Calico, eleven years his junior, have been displaced. He doesn't hate her. He loves her and he would do anything to save her. The song, No Matter Where You Are from the movie, Last of the Mohicans, really inspired me with the struggles Calico and Little Owl faced. Calico has a hard time trusting Little Owl because in the past she feared Little Owl would one day kill her. Although he is her husband, it is that lack of trust that threatens to tear them apart. While the evil man continues to beat and rape Calico, she won't reveal the name of her assailant to Little Owl. Most men would have walked away. Little Owl holds his ground and preservers. No Matter Where You Are, helped inspire the determination Little Owl felt to save the women he loves. Toward the end of the book, when Calico is captured by the British, it was that song that played while I wrote about Little Owl hunting down the people who had kidnapped his wife. I could see him running through the woods, desperate to find her. I could see him confronting the soldiers. I could see him locking eyes with his beloved, the look of war on his face, killing anyone who stood in his way.

The other song that inspired was from the movie Eragon. Sung by Avril Lavigne, Keep Holding On spoke more about Calico and not Little Owl. Let's face it, Calico is young and naive in this story. While she struggles to understand how a man who has hated her all her life and now declares his love for her, she is also facing another man she has trusted her entire life only for him to abuse her. A long-term abusive relationship can wear down a person's spirit. Eventually Calico becomes suicidal. She's ready to give up even if it means she'll go to hell for it. But there are several people in her life that are working behind the scenes to save her. Her spirit guide, Little Owl, both her uncles, the Shawnee and her adopted mother all try to encourage her. This song spoke to the strong support system Calico has in place. Without that support system, all hope would have been lost for Calico.

The first book of my series is filled with plot twists, suspense, romance, and the paranormal. While music wasn't the only source I had received inspiration from, it was an important one. The music I listened to drove many a scene in Calico. My book wouldn't have become what it did without them.

The Executive Director of the Kentucky Young Writers Connection, a non-profit agency of writers who promote young authors throughout the state of Kentucky. Allison originally hails from Marion, Ohio. Her father, Roland Irving Bruning, was the son of German immigrants who came to the United States at the turn of the 20th century. Her mother's family had been in the United States since the 17th century. Allison is a member of the Peter Foree Chapter of the Daughters of American Revolution. Her linage traces to Private Reuben Messenger of Connecticut. Her educational background includes a BA in Theater Arts with a minor in Anthropology and a Texas Elementary Teaching certificate. Both acquired at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. Allison received National Honor Society memberships in both Theater Arts and Communication. Allison was also honored her sophomore year with admission into the All American Scholars register. She holds graduate hours in Cultural Anthropology and Education. In 2007 she was named Who's Who Among America's Educators. She is also the recipient of the Girl Scout Silver and Gold Awards.

Allison lives with her husband in Kentucky. Calico is book one from the series, Children of the Shawnee. It is available at She is currently working on the sequel, Rose. She is also working on another series, The Secret Heritage, which traces the life of her great great grandmother at the turn of the 20th century in Ohio. Allison's interest includes Ohio Valley history, anthropology, travel, culture, history, camping, hiking, backpacking, spending time with her family and genealogy. Her genres include historical fiction, paranormal, romance, and suspense.

You can reach her at:


Facebook Fan Page

Twitter: @emeraldkell



YouTube video links
Clannad, I Will Find You,

Friday, June 01, 2012

Just between you and I — I mean, you and me — Edwards is not credible

John Edwards says God has a plan for him, specifically. If that's not
hubris, what is?
John Edwards’ self-serving apology illustrates a lot of things: hubris, political weaseliness, and a very common grammatical mistake. See if you can spot it: “It's me. It is me and me alone."
Points to those of you who know Edwards should have said “It is I and I alone who is responsible.” There are many bloggers who have other ideas about what Edwards should have said years ago, but this blog’s purpose is not to criticize behaviour or politics. That’s just a side benefit.


Using your “I” without lenses

To be fair, most people use “it’s me.” I do, in everyday conversation. But don’t you remember your Grade 7 English teacher trying to explain copula verbs and objects to you? In sum, the verb “to be” does not take objects. I don’t know why — I didn’t invent this twisted language. That means you have to use subjective forms of pronouns to follow “is,” “was,” “am,” and “were.”

Remember how your proper grandmother tried to get you to answer the phone, “this is she”?

That rule leads to a lot of confusion. How many of you say or write “just between you and I.”

I once heard Peter Mansbridge (Canada’s handsomest newscaster, according to the Royal Canadian Air Farce) say that, years ago. But I forgave him because he was talking to Ralph Benmergui.


Here’s the problem: “between” is a preposition, and prepositions are followed by objects. That means you have to use the objective form of the pronoun — in this case, “me.”

“Just between you and me, Ralph, John Edwards’ speech about God didn’t do him any good.”

Another example — which of the following do you think is correct:

• “Set up the meeting with coffee for the manager and I.” 
• “Set up the meeting with coffee for the manager and me.”

The second one is correct.


Don’t believe me? Here’s the way to test it: take out the other noun in the phrase.
  • “Set up the meeting with coffee for the manager and I.” 
  • “Set up the meeting with coffee for I.”
That doesn’t sound right, does it?

Let’s watch out for this one. Remember, in a prepositional phrase, use the objective forms of pronouns:
  • for x and me
  • between you and me
  • for Iris and him
  • among Lara, Bogdan and her.
Still doubtful? Why not put your troubling sentences into a comment, and I’ll work it out for you.

Looking forward to it!