Sunday, January 14, 2018


21 years ago, Preditors & Editors Poll was born.  The site began as Critters, an on-line workshop/critique group for serious Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror writers, then grew into a set of workshops for every other kind of artistic endeavor and the now-famous Polls.
I have interest in three divisions of this year’s polls and would VERY much appreciate your vote if you have a minute to follow the following links:   – Her General in Gray – a Ghost & Mrs Muir type romance that is now also available in audio!! – Simon – my dear son is nominated in the Artist Category.  He did this cover for an anthology published by Class Act Books. – Gylded Wings  – Forgiven or forsaken? An angel’s quest to soar once more on golden wings…a dark fantasy.

Please take a moment to vote.  🙂 It’s quick, easy & painless.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

#Setting or World Building by Diane Burton

Setting is so important in a story that it’s often called the “other” character. We also call it world building. We create the world our characters inhabit. When we create that world, we must think logically and base that world on our own. Depending on what genre we write in, the world can be a small town, a metropolis, another planet.

When I write cozy mysteries, I base my fictional resort town on real ones. That’s easy. But what about a setting after an apocalypse? We can only imagine the devastation after, say, a nuclear war. Yet, we have some examples in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. While those cities were hit by atomic bombs, not nuclear, we can use what we’ve seen in pictures and videos. Devastation from natural disasters (fires, mudslides, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes) can also give us vivid images.

But what if we set our stories on another planet? Now, we need to develop a lot more. Climate, geography, history, government. That sounds more like high school classes than writing. LOL However, what we learned in those classes may come in handy.

For my science fiction romances, I created planets with a central government. I could make each planet different from anything we’ve ever seen—even via Hubble or its soon-to-be-launched successor the James Webb telescope. 

credit: NASA
But if humans are to live on the planet I create, I have to obey certain laws. The humans need a conducive atmosphere. Breathable air, water, and a temperature that isn’t too hot or too cold. What’s called a Goldilocks planet. Earth is just such a Goldilocks planet.
credit: NASA
Our research can fill file drawers (or digital files), but while we as writers need to know all this information, and more, our readers don’t. I think of research as an iceberg. What we share with our readers is the tip of the iceberg, while what we know is that vastness below the water’s surface.
credit: Wikipedia
Our readers want an enjoyable story with likeable characters. And a strong plot. How my starship gets from one planet to another isn’t as important as the fact that it gets to that other planet. Sort of like my car. I don’t know how it works. But when I get in it and turn the key, I know it’s going to take me to the store or Up North (as we Michiganders call traveling up I-75 toward the Mackinac Bridge).

Enjoy the research. Find out as much as you want about your world. Then carefully, like sprinkles on Christmas cookies, scatter just enough info to make your story interesting.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Deadlines, Laundry, and Yowling Cats by Jane Kindred

That’s what my life consists of right now. Book 5 in the Sisters in Sin series, Kindling the Darkness, is due to my editor on Wednesday. I managed to finish the first draft on Christmas Eve, but since 40,000 words of it were written during NaNoWriMo, it’s requiring a LOT of work to get it submission ready. My revision process involves reading through for typos and errors and making comments on the big things that need fixing. Then I take all of the comments and put them in a to-do list. This one had 41 to-dos, ranging from “add more mentions of the weather and time of year” to “why are there no guests at this B&B, ever?” to “what is the nature of the hell beast and what is it actually doing in this town? Delete all of this and try to make sense!”

Mentions of the weather I can fix pretty quickly. The B&B is now a bookstore and café, because guests would only get in the way (which is probably why I forgot to have any). But the nature of the evil that’s hunting my heroine and being hunted by her? Probably should have figured that out on page one. Sigh.

I’ve fixed all but five of these disasters (and added three, because, sure, let’s change the damn bookstore again), but the big one is still looming. I’ve worked out the beast’s nature, but the actions it’s taken are still a problem. That’s okay. I have one last weekend and two day job workday evenings left. I can do this.

But not if this cat doesn’t shut up. Have you ever had a seventeen-year-old, half-deaf cat? This one is bored, clingy, and loud. And he does not approve of writing novels. Or blog posts. Or answering email. He pretty much only approves of being fed and sitting on my lap while I watch television. (No reading Twitter while the cat is sitting, please!)

Despite the feline disapproval, I had a good start on the revisions this morning. But it was laundry day, and with only one pair of clean underwear left, I could no longer put it off. (I seriously envy anyone who actually owns a washer and dryer. I’ve been going to Laundromats for 34 years and I am really, really tired of it. When you reach your 50s, you get tired of a lot of stupid things. Like this virtual doughnut of fat that’s collecting around my middle. But I digress. Because doughnuts. Dammit. Why did I think of doughnuts??)

So I’m back from the laundry, and I remembered another deadline: writing this blog post. How does it always manage to surprise me each and every single month? Well, lucky you, you got to read about how I ended up writing about deadlines, laundry, and yowling cats.

I would like to say that my New Year’s resolution is to write my blog posts in advance, but that would be an utter lie, so let’s just pretend my resolution is not to eat any more doughnuts.

As a bonus, my favorite line from Kindling the Darkness: “Well, actually, hell isn’t really that different. It’s just on another…” He stopped and rolled his eyes. “Oh, for f***’s sake. I’m devilsplaining. Never mind. Let’s eat, drink and be merry!”

Friday, January 5, 2018


Dang! It's cold everywhere and the tune running through my head is, "Baby, it's cold outside!"

Please, forgive my lateness. I got up, adjusted heat, fed porch kitty (who refuses to come in out of the cold), let the 2 wild fur balls out for a bit, and then I crawled back beneath the covers pulling them snuggly up around my head surrounded by my older furbabies! But, here you go with just a little about another disciple's descendant.

Simeon - Disciple's Descendants 4 is now available at Amazon.

Simeon is the invisible man of the descendants and, though he doesn't know it yet, Gage Harrow, his leader, has plans for his future!

Simeon Zeals is invisible to humans. Hell, just one disciple aside from Gage Harrow masters the ability to keep up with his movements so taking what he covets poses no problem. Until he meets someone who is out of reach. Gage and Zeb protecting her only makes Simeon want the woman more. He doesn’t give a damn she isn’t a descendant. He hasn’t even thought past bedding her for more than one night—maybe two… Or three.
Nancy Cannon unknowingly stumbles into disciples frequently at Arrogant Bastards, but when she hit a solid wall of invisible muscle, her life careens out of control. Meeting the flesh and blood version elevates her senses, has her feeling and wanting things Nancy never even dreamed of. Caught in his web of desire, she begins to spin a few of her own.
Each silken thread of passion slowly tightens around them.
Her head fell into the crook of his shoulder and she rested there until the key rattled in the door. Pulling up his pants, he lifted Nancy and she was amazed at how easily he bent with her in his arms and snatched up her shoe before entering a stall, slamming the door, and latching it behind them. “Damn, I don’t want to leave you.” He rained kisses on her face, nibbled her lips, and sucked her neck. “I’ll be sitting there watching you walk this sweet ass to the table.” He slapped her butt hard. “Hurry.”
Nancy thought she was ready to handle a disciple but she didn’t expect what happened next. Surrounded by white light, Simeon vanished. Gone. The outer door opened and she heard steps across the floor to the empty space beside her. “Jesus Christ, oh God!” she shrieked, covering her mouth but her hand was too late to smother the words.
“You okay?”
The voice on the other side of the wall jarred Nancy to her senses. “Uhhh, yeah, umm, there’s no toilet tissue in here.”
“Jeez, I thought it was a rat or something the way you screeched. Here.” A handful of wadded paper appeared beneath her stall.
I said hurry. His whisper so close to her ear shocked her.
“Go away!” she yelped, this time dropping her sandal into the toilet. “Shit.”
“Lady, do you need help?”
Opening the door, Nancy took a wobbly step to the counter and looked in the mirror as she shook her sandal and put it on. “Eww.” It was wet but thank goodness, the toilet water had been clean. Peering back in the glass, she noted swollen lips, flushed cheeks, and her pussy still tingled. The beginnings of a hickey stained her neck. “Juvenile.” She grunted at her reflection. Reaching in her bag, she grabbed a tube of lipstick and swiped it across bruised lips just as the other stall door swung open.
A petite redhead studied her and inquired again, “You okay?”
Nancy’s hand, still holding the lipstick, flew to the mirror, and started writing. ‘Juvenile wants to fuck you’ was emblazoned across the mirror in bright red.
“My goodness!” The redhead turned and ran from the bathroom without washing her hands.
She thinks you want her.
Simeon’s prank doubled Nancy over with laughter. “You’re crazy.”
Hurry before I take you again.
“Get out!” she squealed still chuckling. This time she watched the door open and shut.
Yeah, she could handle this.

It's cold outside, snuggle up with a good book!

Other books in the series include:

Growl and roar-it's okay to let the beast out. - J. Hali Steele

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Productive Power of The Pause

by Maureen L. Bonatch 
January is a magical time of renewal for many people. A time to think about the year ahead and all the fabulous tasks we aim to accomplish. Whether it's to lose weight, finish writing or reading a book, or exercising more, we jump in the year envisioning how much different, or better, our lives will be by December.

I’ve set goals and resolutions many times over the years, and usually don’t succeed at meeting all my high expectations. This year I’m doing something a little different. Some people make resolutions. Others choose a focus word for the year. I’ve never chosen a focus word, but last year, one chose me.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Bad Book Reviews: 5 Good Lessons to Learn from Them

Bad Reviews—UGH. Like gremlins in the cupboards and pixies in the sugar jar, they sneak up when you least expect them. For writers, the best way to deal with bad reviews is often to ignore them. I certainly never, ever, ever, ever reply to them—no matter what. That way lies madness.

I write reviews only occasionally and very reluctantly. I don’t write bad reviews. They hurt my soul. I think most writers feel this way—we hate to get bad reviews and so we don’t give them.

Not that writing bad reviews about a book is the mark of Satan. Objective reviewers feel duty-bound to provide an honest account of their experience and that is a good thing. A number of bad reviews tends to bring problems to the attention of potential buyers. Writers can learn lessons from bad reviews as well—but only if those bad reviews deal with things within our control to alter.

I wanted to see what I could learn from bad reviews so I got a plate of cookies and a large bottle of cheap brown liquor and dug in.

I looked at some of the top 100 books in the paranormal romance genre. I wanted to see what reviewers said about books that generally got good reviews.

Here are a few items that made me shake my head (and take another slug of that brown liquor.)

  • Didn’t like the binding—Right, I bind each and every book with a needle and thread. I also use a quill pen to illuminate each manuscript before I store it in clay pots in the basement.
  • Poor paper quality—All my books are printed on paper I make myself by munching wood into pulp and drying it on a screen rack.
  • Liked the author’s other books better so I rated this one low You give and you take away
  • No dust jacket – Who the hell wants dust jackets? Seriously. Didn’t you learn to make your own out of paper sacks in grade school? On the other hand, if you pay upwards of $15 for a book, it better come with all the bells and whistles—including dust jackets. 
  • Slow shipping/shipping cost is too much—I’ll speak to my horde of book-delivering minions and get this straightened out. 

  • The book cover is not the same color as the one in the picture – The reviewer gave the book a 1-star for this with no mention of the content. I guess he/she wanted a book to match the room décor and not to read.

A self-published author has some control over the quality of the binding and paper and maybe even the shipping. I’d say even the smaller publishing houses would be receptive to such feedback. So even these seemingly non sequitur comments might yield a lesson.

More importantly, reviews that mention the following items are fodder for reflection.

1. Bad Editing/inaccurate details. This is by far the greatest complaint I saw in my highly unscientific review of reviews. Every author NEEDS an editor but many feel they can skip this vital step. Complaints about bad editing are also important to an author who has a)paid for an editor or b) used the editor provided by a publisher. Consistent and justified complaints about bad editing can mean the author isn’t getting her money’s worth.

2. Slow paced or depressing.
Since I read The Yearling in grade school, I’ve been wary of sad books. If you’ve not read it, I won’t spoil the ending except to say prepare yourself for a soul-killing experience from which you will take years to recover. Bringing a social injustice to light in fiction is a time-honored tradition and serves a useful purpose—think Charles Dickens’ many works which illuminated social injustice in 19th century Britain and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird which illustrated racism in the Deep South. But even these heavy subjects were presented with humor and humanity. Authors can use this complaint to determine if they need to insert a bit more humor. Lighter moments actually heighten the drama.

3. Unlikable protagonist. Have you ever been happily reading along and discovered the protagonist is a needy, shallow, whiny tart? Yep—me, too. Now, it is possible to take an unlikable character and use their unlikeability as a device. Readers might be drawn into the story just to see this character get their comeuppance or they might hang on hoping for the character’s redemption. But either way, readers need to see something in the character or the plot that they can root for. If you see this complaint too many times, you may need to work on character development to make the protagonist more human and more relatable.

4. Too much backstory. Huge chunks of backstory or world building will send readers running for the TV remote while your book gathers dust in a corner. If only your book came with a dust jacket. At least a 50/50 ratio between narration and dialogue seems prudent, but I prefer more dialogue with action tags. Show the characters moving through the world and let them describe  the world in dialogue. One bit of advice I use every day is “Tell (or show) the reader only what they need to know right now.” If you do that for every scene, the world builds itself.
5. Too poetic. Purple prose is still a thing. Sometimes a reviewer just doesn’t get the snazzy metaphor or allusion you slipped in there. Let them go in peace. Most of the time, purple prose comes from forgetting your novel is really a conversation with other real people. Imagine you’re telling the story of your novel to a friend. If the snazzy metaphor fits, keep it—but if it sounds pretentious, you may very well find yourself in dire need of an additional portion of your favored aperitif as you slaughter your darling word babies.

Even bad reviews have a purpose, but don’t linger in the land of bad reviews for long. After all, you can use that time better by creating artistic dust jackets and chewing up pine boards to make another ream of printer paper.

Tell me—do you review books? What do you like to comment on when you do? What would a review need to say to make you rush to buy the book?