Sunday, June 30, 2013

Collaboration: fiction without friction

This is nothing to do with spying. This article’s about how to approach a book collaboration without coming to blows.

Collaboration is quite the thing these days. I’m seeing more and more joint books by siblings, old school pals, husbands and wives … When I started writing seriously a few years, it was to avoid the ‘empty nest’ syndrome, but suddenly, it’s become very important to both of us. In my case, I worked with my husband Robert Deeth on a ‘film noir’-inspired mystery called Half Life set in Norway before the Nazi invasion. A group of scientists at a nordic research institute is set on cracking the ultimate mystery of nuclear fission, but darker forces are afoot …

Now, with a background is in journalism and languages, what on earth was I doing setting a story in Norway, during the 1930s and based on physics?

Thanks to a work trip of Rob’s (he's a professor in inorganic chemistry), we had the chance to go to Tromsø, 200 miles or so north of the Arctic Circle. 
From the moment I arrived, I was hooked. It was such an atmospheric place, with its brooding mountains, Northern Lights, fascinating history of Polar exploration … Suddenly, I was plotting. It was only when we returned to England that I came up with the science institute plot scenario. Why not use in-house expertise?

This was our first unwitting step. We never actually planned to work together so closely.

So, at first, Rob was a casual consultant. I looked up some history and then ran it past him. However, as the story became more complex and the book grew, we realised we were, in fact, collaborating on a joint project.
Our backgrounds and interests couldn’t be more different, but there are overlaps. Film noir, 1930s-40s drama, and spy stories are right at the top of the list, so that was fine. More importantly, perhaps, we do talk to each other a lot, about everything. We always have, from the first day we met. Not for us the scenario of the married couple in a pub staring morosely at a half pint, wondering what to say. We never stop talking. Communication is the key to a good collaboration.

It was time for some ground rules. I'm guessing that every collaboration is different, so we made it up as we went along.

First thing we had to tackle was timing. I’m a stickler for deadlines. Rob, well, isn’t. I like to write fast, blasting away, avoiding details about east/west, cigar or cigarette, time of day … and then I fill them in later. Rob likes to get the continuity straight from the off. So, it was important to decide who was going to be 'lead'.As I’d already written a few manuscripts, I became the time manager. I set the schedule, based on both our work commitments. At times, I had to be indulgent, for an academic’s life can get stupidly busy.

Next, we worked on the outline plot. Lots and lots of science. Rob would spout while I keyed in his thoughts, to make sure the science was sound. Later, I’d go back to my scenario and twiddle.

One aspect was especially tricky. Thorium, to be precise. Just don’t mention that element in my daughter’s presence, unless you want the primordial adolescent GROAN. Lord, did we both read up about thorium. Rob even got down to doing some serious calculations to make sure our story was plausible. They were eerily accurate … If it had been just me writing, I would never have gone into such detail, but his professionalism was at stake.

Once we had the broad outline, I went on to develop a detailed chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the story which I like to do before I get going. Although I put this together, I needed Rob’s constant input to make sure the action flowed, and that I didn’t have the same person in two places at once (a personal weakness of mine). This we achieved piecemeal, chatting as we drove to the cinema or off on our holidays.

As 'lead' writer, I could spend time when I liked, but I wanted the experience to be fun, not a chore, so I always chose my discussion times with care.

As the manuscript grew, I realised I needed more than just particle physics. Anyone who knows Rob also knows his obsession with flying. In the 1930s seaplanes were big. Oh, boy. Did I pick his brains about seaplanes! This from one who will only fly when required and sweats in a panic if stuck in the window seat. He got so enthused,it seemed apt to work another of his interests into the story – and I believe it’s stronger and more authentic because of it. My original plan was to produce a book that would appeal to men and women – so why not mix it up a little? My favourite movie is Casablanca. That says it all.

Back to the collaboration. I started writing. Now, chemistry professors are busy. We did a deal. I’d do some words and whenever I got stuck over, say, a gun, a lorry (truck for US readers), a seaplane, a cyclotron, German dialogue, how you get out of fist fight … well, I’d chat to Rob.

Forget annotated manuscripts – and we avoided track changes like the plague, partly because Rob’s writing style is so different from mine. (Next time, he’s going to write and I’ll make helpful suggestions!) We kept it simple. We’d just chat over What We Laughingly Refer To As The Breakfast Bar. That’s its name. We’d sit, over a nice G&T, maybe some nuts on a good day, and thrash over Thorium until our daughter complained.

Even when the manuscript was done, there were tweaks. So, the next step was more frenetic note-taking. I’d set Rob off. How do you start up a Junkers-style seaplane? Or can you explain the nuclear physics behind the Half-Life concept of radioactive elements? Well, he’d say. Stop, I’d say. Let me get to the laptop. Flex knuckles. Type furiously until he stopped. Or until the beeper announced dinner was ready. Daughter having left room in disgust.

So, the book got written. By me. Then came the editing. My goodness, I didn’t know my husband was such a perfectionist. I nearly said pedant, but that’s unfair. Maybe it’s something to do with chemistry, or the fact that he’s a bloke, but I wasn’t allowed to get away with A THING.My favourite blooper was when a villain started a scene smoking a cigar and finished it by stubbing out a cigarette. Professor Continuity sorted me out on that one.

Some final touch-ups followed. German dialogue. Molecular quibbles (I kid you not). Endless (and I mean that in the deepest respect), endless chances to watch Youtube videos of seaplanes landing, taking off, landing, taking off … Yup. I did it all. Actually, I now think seaplanes are cool.

When MuseItUp accepted our manuscript, we discovered that a joint celebration is much more fun. By the time the editing began, we were in our groove. I’d go first, then ping the manuscript back to Rob. He’d put in his pennyworth, then it was back to me to tidy up, and then back to our lovely editors.

The collaboration also worked brilliantly when it came to the cover. It must be tough for designers when working with two writers, but, in fact, we both had a similar design in mind. When we saw the version you see now, we both knew it was just right. Whenever we see it, we both get such a buzz.

So, here are our Ten Golden Guidelines for a successful collaboration:

  • Choose a lead writer.
  • Set the deadlines jointly.
  • Allow each person to play to his or her strengths.
  • If things get bogged down, go out or do something! Movies, TV documentaries, museums, galleries, a different dog walk. Anything to break the pattern usually works.
  • If you can’t agree on a fine point, ask your editors, a relative or friend – a third-person POV is invaluable.
  • If you ask for advice, be prepared to take it.
  • Never stop talking but keep technical discussions away from other parties. They won’t care until the book’s published.
  • Have fun. Try to make sure it’s never a chore, but a shared pleasure.
  • Split up the research and do it between you.
  • When the book gets published, celebrate by going on holiday together ­­– to plan the sequel.

Pamela Kelt and Robert J Deeth are co-authors of Half Life (, out in August on MuseItUp. This is Pam's website and blog for more information. Pam's first book for MIU was Dark Interlude, released on 21 June.

Friday, June 28, 2013

World Building for Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Hi there, 
Previously Margaret Fieland's post WORLD BUILDING 101 focused on creating a Science Fiction world. Today I am offering a simple creative writing exercise to demonstrate how we can utilise the information she suggested for Fantasy as well.

Today's exercise is one where you can let your imagination run wild. The beauty of writing Science fiction or Fantasy is the removal of parameters. You make the rules. The concept of 'world building' enables the author to share their ideas with  readers while making the fantastic believable.

When an author picks up their pen to create a scene in any genre they must bring the readers into their world. Most contemporary genres can rely on 'assumed knowledge' or 'acquired knowledge'. The mention of a city or an event can conjure a complete atmosphere for the reader. 

In Fantasy and Science fiction the author needs to not only tell a gripping tale, but they must build the world where the action takes place. As Margaret explained the author must understand how the unique world's geography, culture, language, science, customs, creatures, flora and fauna influence the landscape and lifestyle. Climate, crops, clothing, architecture, religion, politics, weapons, transport and motivation are all part of this creative process.

Sounds overwhelming? Believe me, to a the Fantasy or Science Fiction author this is the fun part of writing. This simple creative writing exercise will hopefully show you how to let your imagination run wild and in doing so create a world and tell a story.

Remember for this exercise ANYTHING goes... 

WHAT sort of creature or character are you going to create? Imagine a character and give them a background. Gender, form, occupation.  They don’t have to be human characters. 

ONE: They have been whisked through a portal… to arrive in the world of your making. 

It can be contemporary, science fiction, or fantasy. 

For this exercise think outside your usual genre. Cast your character into an exotic location, whether across the globe today, or back in time, or across the universe and into a complete new world.

Record what your character is experiencing as they wake in the world you have created. Remember to address the five senses. 

What do they See,    Hear,  Smell,  Taste,   Touch,  don’t forget Sense

TWO: What is your character wearing?
Are they naked, clad only in fur, scales, or wearing clothes? 

THREE: Your character wakes…WHERE is he/she/it?
Cave, castle, forest, city, space station? Anything goes.

FOUR: Your character is hungry. WHAT are they going to eat? 
Meat, wheat, fruit, carbon based life forms? 

FIVE: As your character goes rummaging around for dinner he stubs his toe on an object. A useful object. DESCRIBE the object. Is it a weapon? A gem, a magical spell, a creature, a chest… 

SIX: Our character continues on to find his dinner… An unsettling event occurs. They feel the ground shake, or hear a noise, or smell an odour, or sense a disturbance in the force. DESCRIBE the experience and your character’s reaction.

Racing to the door, or the entrance to their cave, or castle, or the edge of the forest clearing they examine the landscape.

SEVEN: WHAT do they see? DESCRIBE the fauna, flora, geological features and/or weather.
As the disturbance settles your character beholds a threat.

EIGHT: DESCRIBE the threat. 
Is it a dragon? A tsunami? A neighbouring war lord? A door to door salesman? A magical nymph intent on stealing his will… 

NINE: Using your created character and information  from this exercise write an ending where you describe how your character reacts to the perceived threat by using the ‘useful object’ they found. 
Remember this is fantasy… and you are creating the world which can include magic. ;)

Characters can avoid conflict… or face it. 

While writing your story consider the world you created. Is there enough information for your reader to visualise the surroundings, character/creature, threat and resolution? 

Please feel free to share your results here in the comment section.
One way to check on aspects of world building is to consider the
Dewey Decimal Classification. It has often been described as how a caveman would view the world as he moves out of his cave. 

What motivates your character is vital to create believable personalities and conflicts/resolutions. In worldbuilding, the author must know the background and motivation of every character to write believable responses.

The hardest part of world building is once the world, its history and geography are clear in the author's mind, they need to avoid the dreaded 'infodumps'. Knowing the background behind every war, ritual, creature or geographic anomaly is important but must be introduced with extreme care. Glimpses can create atmosphere or explain reactions without long winded histories or descriptions that don't push the plot, create atmosphere, or add to a character's development. 

Hope you have enjoyed this journey into another world.
Thanks for participating.
Feel free to share your ideas in the comments. 

Rosalie Skinner.
Blog: Ramblings from Lady Rosalie
Facebook: The Chronicles Of Caleath

 Exiled: Autumn's Peril On special this month 99c. 
SIX titles from the Chronicles are now available through MUSEITUP.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

World Building 101

When you create an alien world for a science fiction or fantasy novel, there's a lot to consider.
It allows the author to create an entire universe tailored to their specifications -- but it can be a lot of work. The author needs to know the timeframe relative to the present day, whether the characters are human, alien, or a mix of both, and the planets/stars/universe they inhabit.  Here are some questions to answer to help get you started:

Science versus magic:
Are you going to base your universe on some version of the laws of science, some kind of magic? Some combination thereof?  Can you make your reader believe it? If you're creating a fantasy based on magic, you will need to establish the laws of magic and how they work.

Scope of your universe:
Stars and planets? If so, how many? Planes of reality? If so, what are they?

Describing the planet:
What is the geography? Climate? Plants and animals?  Continents, oceans, etc. Do you need a map?

Culture?  Level of technology?  What is the history?  Political organization? Cities?

Society and values? Arts? Economic organization? Laws?  Language?

You need to describe both the physical features of your aliens and their culture.

What do they look like? What do they eat? What are their families like? What are their homes like? How do they govern themselves? How do they interact with humans? Can they interbreed with humans, and if so, can you make this believable?

Conventions of the genre:
Speaking of language, science fiction novels often include "futuristic" vocabulary, replacements for everyday words, perhaps FTL travel or other futuristic technology. You'll want to create words and explanations that will encourage your readers to believe the action takes place in the future but also be understandable to present-day readers.

If your action takes place in the future, you will also need to establish, at least to some extent, the arc of history between the present day and the era of your story. How much you need depends on what you write.  What do you think is the hardest part of world building? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. Good luck, and most of all, have fun.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Kids Say the Darndest Things

If you've ever been around kids of any age, you know it's true--they say the darndest things! These days it seems kids have a language all of their own--"whatevs" and "totes" makes my grammarian skin crawl, but kids continue to say it--even my own (to my dismay!)

As a middle grade author, giving my pre-teen characters an authentic voice is important. Luckily, I've been told that I have a knack for hitting middle grade dialogue on the head. So what are some tips for achieving appropriate kid lingo?

1. Hang around kids! I have a middle grade son, so I'm able to eavesdrop on his conversations with friends and even look at the texts they exchange (stimulating stuff, let me tell you). And it's not just what they say, but how they say it--the inflections and tone of their voices, which comments they laugh at and which comments warrant an eye roll. I pay attention to how they talk to me (which is very different than how they talk to their peers). What is their thought process and what type of logic do they use during an argument? (My son should go to law school!) Perhaps middle grade dialogue comes naturally for me because I'm around it 24 hours a day. Maybe when my kids are in high school I'll try writing a YA novel! (OMG!)

2. Watch the TV Shows Kids Watch! If you have kids, you probably try to tune out the teeny-bopper shows on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel that are always on your TV (I know I try to!) However, these can come in handy as another source for picking up on what kids say--especially if you aren't around kids very often. Once you look past the cheesy plots and bad acting, kids identify with these shows for a reason, and we can learn a lot by watching them (just an episode or two--I'm not advocating setting your DVR to record a whole season of iCarly!)

3. Pay attention to Social Media! I realize most middle graders aren't on Facebook or using Twitter (nor should they be) but most of them know what they are and talk about popular culture. Many middle graders are already texting and familiar with that language. Even if you don't use it in your writing, it's a part of our children's world and will become even more so. Don't get left behind!

4. Remember When You Were a Kid! I grew up in the 80s listening to the Material Girl, wearing jelly shoes, and flipping my collar up on my hot pink Polo shirt. I was like, totally obsessed with my hair and pretty much boy-crazy. I remember using words like "parental units" and boys asked if you wanted to "go" with them (which meant be their girlfriend). Even though kids today might not use the same vocabulary, I can recall the feelings associated with activities and events and draw on my experiences as a middle grader.

For example, let's say a middle grade girl is getting ready to go to a school dance. She's worried about her outfit and her hair. As an adult, we might say, "I hope I'm not overdressed."  But a middle grade girl might say, "I will just die if Suzy is wearing the same thing!"

Obviously, what your middle grade characters say also depends on their individual personalities. For example, in the Harry Potter books, Ron and Harry always say, "yeah," whereas Hermoine always replies with a very proper "yes." (I'd be floored if my kids did that!)

For your exercise, take the following lines of dialogue and see if you can turn them into "kid speak." Try it several ways, maybe once as two girls talking to each other, again as two boys, or even mixed gender.

"What would you like to do after school today?"
"I'm not sure."
"Would you like to go to a movie? The new Tom Cruise flick received rave reviews."
"I really like Tom Cruise. That sounds like fun. Oh no! I just remembered, I have practice after school. I won't be able to go to the movie."
"That's too bad. Maybe another time."

When it comes to creating authentic kid dialogue, really scrutinize every line they say. Ask yourself, does this sound too "adult?" Would a kid really say that? And if all else fails, put in a bunch of acronyms and emoticons--chances are, you'll cover about 75% of their language right there! LOL, TTYL! :)

Kathy Sattem Rygg is the author of the middle grade novel ANIMAL ANDY, available from MuseItUp (currently on sale for only $2.50!) She can be found at, on Twitter @kathyrygg, and on Facebook under KSR Writer.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Vicki Batman: You are so Funny-- Really?

You are so Funny-- Really? 

I never knew. I grew up a shy child. Mom always said she could get my youngest sister to go in the convenience store and buy milk before I would. I couldn't stand being embarrassed and was uncomfortable about doing stuff. Yep, nowadays, we say immature and that was probably the case.

Eventually, I grew up and learned no doesn't mean no all the time and I wouldn't die doing things. I developed more confidence in my capabilities. I married Handsome. After kids came, two girlfriends and I went on an overnight getaway to a small town which holds a Christmas home tour. Après dinner and seeing the houses, we put on our jammies and settled in to good ol' girl talk. One friend said, "You are so funny."

 I had no words. That kind of compliment had never floated my way. Astonished, I replied, "Really?"

 "Yes, you are."

 I never knew.

So when I began writing, the funny stuff seeped into my work. I love writing witty banter. The greatest compliment I've had is when people say "you made me laugh out loud."

How do I do it? I'll give myself credit and say some is natural. Mostly, I work hard to pick the perfect word, words, phrase, sentence. I even make up words.

For example, in my latest story, "San Diego or Bust," the hero finally proposes to the heroine (only she doesn't want him after the trip from hell). Here's what I wrote:

I inhaled. “No, it can’t wait. We need to talk right now about you and me.”

Still staring down the street, he rolled his hand. “And?”

“We’re finished. Done. Over.”

Slowly, he rotated my way and removed his glasses. Confusion passed through his eyes. “Finished?”

He couldn't be this dense—could he? “Yep. Adios. Hasta la vista.”

“I don’t get it.”

I spelled it out. “We...are not...going to date...anymore.”

Davis cocked his head. “Is this because I didn’t propose?”

He really was that dense.

He dropped to his knee and removed something from his pants' pocket. “Jill, will you marry me?”

Oh. My. God. My hands clapped my cheeks. This was surreal. Three days ago, I’d hoped he’d propose; only now, I didn’t want it. Our marriage would have been one big, huge, horrendous mistake.

A quick look at the others in the holding area told me they were staring at the scene unfolding between us. My body sizzled with heat. “Davis, please get up.” When he shook his head and didn't move, I said, “Your pants will get dirty.”

You might note that Davis is a tad dense ('cause he's a little self-centered) and my heroine spells things out to him. She says "Yep" (not yes), Adios (not good bye), and for more emphasis "Hasta la vista." So three times. In design, three elements are more pleasing. I figured that could be so in writing as well.

Then Davis said, "Is this because I didn't propose?" And our heroine thinks, he really is that dense--something we already know-and where is this going anyway? Uh oh thoughts begin to surface.

Let's look at the phrase "big, huge, horrendous mistake." Again the three times and each word is bigger than the last. Can't you imagine someone holding their hands and letting the space between grow large and larger until…explode!

So Davis proposes. Our heroine says "no" and he still is down on his knee. Earlier, I painted the picture of Davis always looking perfect. On one knee for a long while, he might begin to look funny.  People are staring. And when he shakes his head and won't get up, the heroine said the one thing sure to get him to his feet, "Your pants will get dirty."

He-he-he. That sentence always has me in stitches. I have to say the line just hit me in the head when I read through (one of a bazillion times). I HAD to add it.

So riddle me this, do you write funny and if so, do you have tricks of the trade? Do you like to read romantic comedy?



Find Vicki Batman with a diet Coke and lately, gourmet malt balls, typing away and doing dastardly deeds to her characters at   OR at: . Find "San Diego or Bust" and "Store Wars" at:    .



Monday, June 17, 2013

Do You See What I See?

by Mary Waibel

I love being immersed into another world when I read. Whether it's a mystical place the author has created from deep in their mind, or a story set right in my back yard, the words used have the ability to carry me away from the real world and into theirs.

I've found an author engages as many of my senses as possible, it truly lets me feel as though I am there with the character.

So, how do you do this in your own writing?

Obviously, sight is the easiest. Colors, physical descriptions of objects and people are the first places I turn to set up my world. But, I try not to stop there.


These other senses can be incorporated to flush out your world.  Let's work with this example:

She stood in the middle of the woods. The trees moved with a gust of wind and she shivered. A hand clamped over her mouth.

Okay, not so very descriptive. So, how do we add the senses in to immerse our reader into this world?

Let's start with the visual description of where the girl is.
Trees surrounded her, their straight, wide trunks narrowing to thin points as they rose so high it seemed they would touch the sky.

Now, what does she hear?
A gust of wind blew through the grove and the branches creaked, their eerie moans sending shivers down her back. A twig snapped behind her. She jerked around, her heart thundering in her ears.

What does she smell?
The scents of pine and earth surrounded her. She took a deep breath. Beneath the comforting aromas  of the forest was another smell, something out of place, yet familiar.

What does she feel?
She stepped back, ramming into the tree behind her. Her palms stung where the rough bark bit into her tender skin. A heavy weight settled on her shoulder. Before she could let loose the scream building in her throat, a hand clamped firmly over her mouth.

What does she taste?
She jerked her head, trying to break free of her captor's hold. Her teeth scraped against her lip, cutting the soft flesh. The coppery tang of blood filled her mouth.

As more senses are added, it allows the reader to truly feel like they are in the story with your character.

I gave this a more sinister feel, but you could easily make it a happy moment, depending on your word choices.

Now, it's your turn. How would you have fleshed this out, using as many of the five sense as you can, to immerse your reader in the world?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

You Think Your Book Is Ready, But It's Not!

What is the best part of writing a novel? For me it is the time when the book ends and I realize it might be ready for other people to read. With my first novel, when I got to the ending I felt very emotional. Even after many readings of my own book I still choke up a little at the ending. However, after writing my second novel I didn’t get that kind of feeling at the end. Instead I had a real exhilaration as if the character was finally free.
So I decided to give my novel to my daughter, who was so helpful with my first one.

Thinking it was finished I expected to get some criticism, since this was also critiqued and read by many people in the past. In fact, I spent an entire summer exchanging chapters with someone who helped me a great deal. Yet, even after that I didn’t think it was finished. It had all the right ingredients, but somehow I wasn’t satisfied. So I gave it to my daughter to read and she read it fast. As I said, I expected to get some comments, but I wasn’t prepared for what she said.

She told me she didn’t like the plot and that some of the characters were not strong enough. She said that the main character and the secondary character were not real. I was very disturbed, since I was not expecting to change much in this manuscript. However, after her comments, I realized that she was right. I had to change the plot and add something to the mix so it made more sense. I went back and rewrote some of the first chapter and than found I had to rewrite almost every chapter to fit my new plot. As I rewrote I saw what my daughter meant. My original plot had no drama, except for the main character and even that was fairly contrived. The new plot takes care of this problem and adds drama. It heightens every character and makes them more real. I even added a scene that showcases a secondary character who had been more in the background. Then I went back and reread the ending and it all made much more sense. 

Now, I’m sure you want me to tell you what I am talking about, but I haven’t sent it in to be accepted yet. The whole idea of this post is to tell you that you need to go back and have your novel reread by someone you trust before you send it out. Also, don’t be afraid to make changes, even drastic changes to your novel at any time. Nothing is finished until you truly feel it is the best you can do. If you have even one doubt about your work you should definitely get someone else to read it. As you can see, even having a critique group and a beta reader didn’t help me to see the flaws. I will say, though, that getting that criticism was like a punch to the gut. As I read all the things she had to say and then heard them again from her, I felt angry. However, as we both went over what she meant and bounced ideas off of each other, it gradually became less awful and I was happy she had been so honest. 

Of course, now that the plot is changed, I have to go back and rewrite the synopsis too. Also, my daughter hasn’t reread the finished manuscript, so I think it’s finished, but there may be more rewriting. I am hoping, though, that it is where it should be and I can send it in to my editor. Changes to the title were suggested too, but I like it and will keep it the same: When My Life Changed. Here is  some of the first chapter of it, if you are interested. Remember, it is still a WIP, so there may be more changes. 

Excerpt from When My Life Changed:

The phone rang as the ball left the pitcher’s glove and in a second as I saw Mom’s tears, I forgot all about the game. My life changed while the TV blurred and turned into a nightmare kaleidoscope. The moment it changed has been indelibly pressed in my thoughts. 
My sister, Diane, was upstairs hunched over her computer as usual. She’s not a baseball fan at all. But I lived and breathed for the Mets that Fall. They had such a great chance of getting the pennant and maybe even winning the World Series. I obsessed about the Mets and of course, Joey. 
Joey, my best friend from kindergarten, was always there for me. It’s hard to imagine a recess without him by my side. He’s bigger than me and always looked a little older than he was. Mom liked Joey, because he reassured her he would obey her rules. Maybe it’s his easy smile or his clear gray eyes.  
Lately, though, Joey and I weren’t so close. It happened during the summer when he was a counselor at this camp and  he hooked up with this girl Amber who goes to our school. So now he spent a lot of his time with her and we barely saw each other. We used to watch the Mets all the time together too. So I missed him being there with me, and his comments about the players. 
But all that was pre-phone call. Pre-pc my deepest thoughts centered on the Mets and finding the sweet spot for the ball in my new baseball glove. Pre-pc my world was worrying about homework getting done and wondering what lunch would be like on Monday. Oh and of course thinking about how to beat the next team we were up against in softball. I’m a starting pitcher this year and I want to show my coach she can believe in me. I’m only a sophomore, but I hope someday to play college softball so I can get a scholarship to go. My parents have already told me they can’t swing it without one.
Let me go back and tell a little bit about myself. First of all you might be thinking I’m a boy, but you’re wrong. My name is Lauren. I’m 15, and my sister is 17 and I’m one hundred percent female. We learned about stereotypes in social studies and thinking sports can be only a boy’s thing is one of those. The teacher used blondes and how people think they’re dumb or playing dumb. We had to come up with a few stereotypes of our own as our ticket to leave that day. It was then I realized that my own parents thought in stereotypes. 
I go against the stereotype for girls. I’ve always loved baseball and Joey loves it even more than I.
Our friendship goes against the stereotypes too. He and I clicked in kindergarten when on the first day of kindergarten Joey and I sat together and didn’t stop talking the whole morning. My parents told me when the teacher tried to separate us we both put our feet on the ground and refused to be moved. She let us sit together for the rest of the year. But the next year the teachers were onto us and separated Joey and me for the whole year in different classes. We’d see each other in the hallway and wave. Sometimes I’d have a little tear in my eye when I saw Joey and it didn’t go away for a long time.
Before the pc there I was, eyelids drooping, in front of the TV about to go upstairs to bed. Mom joined me for the last couple of innings. It looked like the Mets might do it.  Though I tried, I couldn’t keep my eyes open and raised my tall, lean body off the sofa placing one foot on the floor when the phone rang. Dad usually called Mom late when he worked nights, so I handed the phone to Mom and started upstairs. I didn’t get far. As soon as my foot touched the first step I heard Mom screaming into the phone. 

My first novel, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor is available at the Muse Bookstore, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Kobo and Smashwords

Check out my blog, Barbara's Meanderings for interviews with many Muse authors and some who are not.:)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Grabbing the Editor’s Attention: Is the attention you’re attracting positive or negative.

First let me say that while I am a Senior Acquisition Editor and author at MuseItUp Publishing, everything within is my own opinion. We all bring to the table our experiences and life baggage and for this I am forever grateful to you all.

I’ve been thinking on this topic for a number of weeks, even started writing a few days ago. However, here I sit at 8:23 p.m. the night before I’m to upload my piece and I don’t have anything finished. Adding here that at 9:38 a.m. the day this is due, I’m still writing and tweaking.

The first piece started with guidelines and checking you’re submitting your genre piece to the correct genre publisher, but that should be common knowledge by now. And if you’re following the rules then surely your manuscript and opening email is grabbing the editor’s attention…positive attention, right?


I’ve read submissions which were perfectly composed, followed every guideline to the “t” and still left a sour note in my mouth. There have been a few submissions which did a hit and miss…and totally out of the ballpark no idea about guidelines…and they sang to me.

So, what was the difference?


Yes, that’s the word I’ve been searching for…attitude. Your positive, believing in your dream, faith in you’re taking a chance attitude. I’m not talking ego. I don’t mean a stiff professional voice that has me picturing a formal boardroom meeting. I mean the simple “Hi, I’m so-so and…”

And, no, not the “Hi, I’m so-so. Please read my manuscript.

The submission emails I remember were all ones where the author talked to me, not at me. They didn’t drone on like a form letter…oh how I hated sending form letters when I was a secretary. Now, some form letters like…congrats here’s your contract…those I don’t mind. I love sending those.

You’re introductory email speaks volume. Your personality, creativity, passion, even future work habits do show through; they should shine through.

You don’t need to embellish or get all fancy. We want you. We want you to talk with us, be friendly. Give us what we’ve asked for, but share yourself, too. Whether you’re a newbie or an author with hundreds of books under your name, we’re here waiting to yell “Welcome to MuseItUp!” We want you as part of our family.

That’s it? That’s what it takes to grab positive attention from an editor? It’s been a common denominator in conversations I’ve had about submissions. Even when we’ve had to send out a decline (rejection, but that’s such a harsh word) the impact of the author’s email has left its imprint on us.

Those who have left that sour taste, I don’t remember their rejections. No they were not rejected for a bad introductory email attitude. But how one comes across in this first contact is a pretty sure gauge of how their manuscript reads. Allow me to rephrase, their voice of this first contact is a pretty good gauge. Not whether they’ve rambled or were concise or missed a detail…their voice.

Quickest way to put me in your corner? Follow the guidelines (hey, you knew that was coming). Be polite (no, not as common as you might think). Be friendly professional (I know you’re not a robot and neither am I). Share your nerves…been there, too. Actually, I get those excited nerves opening each and every submission.

Be yourself.

As I look at my current word count…754 and growing…I’m going to stop here and ask you three questions.

Question 1: Whether regarding writing or not, what attitude has anyone’s email or social media comment, directed to you, left that sour taste for you?

Question 2: Has there ever been an email or social media comment you have made, which you now believe may have caused that sour taste?

Question 3: What do you, as authors, believe are assessing editors’ pet peeves.


And, thank you for reading.

Chris Speakman

The writer: Christine Irene Steeves – writer:
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Editor Chris Speakman lives here: MuseItUp Publishing
Reviewer Chris Speakman, well, the easiest address is ChrisChat Reviews at
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