Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Blogging for Books, J

J by Howard Jacobsen

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this book, ruminating on this literary take on dystopia.

First, I must say that Mr. Jacobsen’s use of language is deft. There is a gentleness and lyricism to his use of words that is almost tender, father-like. It makes a lovely counterpoint to seriousness and violence of story, underscoring its importance.

Both main characters, Ailinn and Kevern, were delights. Their love story was beautiful, even though it is clear early in the novel that both characters are destined for unhappiness because of their own personalities and the government’s interference.

Despite the many wonderful aspects of the novel, there were times when the pacing lapsed, particularly during the trip to Necropolis, and I had to force myself to continue reading the story. Thankfully, the pace did pick up again.

In the end, the story is a philosophical exploration of identity, hate, and history. In considering how these issues affect Kevern’s and Ailinn’s final decisions, it is difficult to come away with concrete answers. But I suspect that the most any author can hope for is that his or her readers ask the right questions.

N.B. I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Free Book!

To celebrate Thanksgiving, Screwing Up Babylon is FREE on Amazon through Saturday, November 29! Click here.

Babylon, one of the most powerful and notorious empires ever, is the last place Mark wants to go. But when he discovers his girlfriend Miranda has been kidnapped and given to the king as a concubine, he travels through the colors of time to rescue her. It won’t be easy, not when the Hanging Gardens are a trap, his life is the prize in a game, and time is a prison. It will take all Mark’s cunning, the help of his friends, and a crazed chimp to free Miranda. When he does, time itself begins to unravel, and a life must be sacrificed or no one will survive.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Writing A Sad Book

Photo by Evan-Amos. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
About 18 months ago, I started writing a new novel. No big deal. Writers do it all the time. I’ve done it nine times before. But this would be different. Though in my hubris, I didn’t realize it at the time.

The difference is that this novel would have a sad ending. I’d never written that type of book before. There’s a good reason that the vast majority of books end happily. One of them is that sad books are HARD to write.

Imagine with me. First of all, you have to get the reader to desire something very, very badly. Then, you have to take it away. And make them like it. It’s like holding out a Tootsie pop to a two year old and saying, “These are some yummy. There’s chocolate inside the candy. You’d really love it.” The two-year-old reaches for the Tootsie pop and you pull it away. And here’s the trick. The kid can’t scream and cry. He must say, “I really wanted it, but I know this is best.” Yeah, highly unlikely.

That’s pretty much what a sad book is like. And it all comes down to the ending. And I blew it.

The first ending I wrote, I refer to as the T.S. Elliot ending, “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.” In other words, I dragged my reader through 80,000+ words and then the main character lost everything and slunk off into the sunset. My beta reader was incensed.

I rewrote the ending so that it would be stronger. I now refer to this as the King Lear ending because after reading it, the reader’s heart lies panting on the floor. The second beta reader said, “This a great ending, but wow, there’s no hope. Don’t you want some hope?” (Clearly, she did.)

At this point, I did what I should have done at the very beginning. I talked to a friend who’s made her living writing sad books. (Why didn’t I do this first thing? But “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”—Alexander Pope) She told me that it’s important to make the ending strong, but there must be hope at the end. So I checked the endings of some of my favorite sad novels (anything written by Khalid Hosseini). Strong endings with hope.

I did another revision and with great trepidation sent it to beta reader number three. After she finished, she emailed and said, “I love the ending.”

Score. Now it’s time to eat that Tootsie pop.

N.B. For those of you who read the Screwing Up Time series, this book is not part of that series. So don't worry.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Style Sheet, You Need One

If you’re a writer and you haven’t heard of a style sheet, it’s time. You need one. (It will help you make your book consistent, which is incredibly helpful if you self-publish. And it will be a HUGE blessing to any copy editor if you can give them something to start with.)

A style sheet is a listing of the elements that make up your book’s style so that it will be consistent through the entire manuscript. (Yeah, I know never define a word using that word.)

Here are a few of the things that a style sheet should include:


    1. British vs. English (there are grammar differences too).

    2. Names (Catherine vs. Katherine vs. Catherin vs. Katheryn). It also helps a copy editor (or your super helpful beta reader). That way if you’ve made a mistake somewhere and typed in the wrong spelling, the copy editor (or beta reader) can correct it.

    3.  Made-up terms or place names, etc.


    1.  Serial comma vs. no serial comma.

    2.  Comma after introductory word/clause (Some publishers no longer use a comma after a "short" introductory clause or word. Personally, as a reader and copy editor, I HATE that. Just sayin’.)

    3.  Hyphenated terms: anything that is specialized to your book.

    4.  Anything that breaks standard usage—that way the beta reader or copy editor knows that you haven’t made a grammar error. I can’t tell you the amount of time I’ve wasted correcting the same grammar errors over and over while wondering if the error is intentional. (If you are weak in this area, beef up your skills by visiting the Grammar Girl site or Daily Writing Tips.)


    1.  Do you want your coined words capitalized?

    2.  Do you want nicknames capitalized if they are real words? (For example, a character is called “Bobcat.”)

Plot Details:

    1.  Jot down the characters’ names and relationships, i.e., Margaret, mother of Anna. (I once changed a character’s name midway through a novel—not on purpose. But my amazing beta reader caught it. Thanks, Misha!)

    2. To help with consistency, keep track of things of like characters' hair/eye color, the type of car they drive, brand of cigarette they smoke, their pets' names, etc. It's also wise to keep track of the chapter or page number when these bits of information are mentioned.  

Here's some more information about style sheets: Here. And Here.

Here's an example of real style sheet.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Zombies Love Apostrophes

Okay, I have no idea whether zombies like apostrophes. But because everyone appreciated last week’s “Passive Voice and Zombies” so much, I thought I’d do another grammar-made-simple post.

This one is about apostrophes. They’re actually simple.

Ownership: We all know that apostrophes show ownership.

Singular Nouns: You take a singular noun and slap ’s on the end. (Even if the noun ends in an s.)
The zombie’s leg is broken.
The bass’s fin was torn. (Yeah, it looks dumb. But it’s correct.)

There are a few exceptions—most you will never run into unless, like me, you are a copy editor. And even if you do, most people don’t know the rule, so no worries.

However, one exception you might see is in traditional phrases.
For goodness’ sake
For Jesus’ sake

But, Jesus’s apostles. (Yep, looks weird. But it’s correct.)

However, if it looks too weird or you’re not sure, just reword it. (You don’t get extra points in life for knowing weird grammar rules.)
The apostles of Jesus… The fin of the bass…

Plural Nouns: With a plural noun ending in s, all you do is add an apostrophe.
Example: The zombies’ arms were missing.

With plural nouns not ending in s, just add ’s.
The children’s beds were not made. (Hmm. Sounds like our house.)

Once again there are some unusual exceptions. If you’re not sure or it looks weird, just reword it. The bottom line is while you may know the grammatical rule, if the word looks odd and draws the reader out of the text, you’ve failed. The point of style and grammar is readability. Period.

Use an apostrophe to show where letters have been omitted.

Don’t (do not). Simple.

It’s (it is). You never use an apostrophe with the possessive pronoun its. Possessive pronouns never take apostrophes. (Remember: you’d never write hi’s for his.)

The ’90s. The apostrophe goes before the 9 because there are numbers missing. It’s an abbreviation. Easy-peasy.

If you write, please note that the apostrophe always is open. It looks like this ’. When you’re typing in Word and a word starts with an apostrophe, Word will make it look like this ‘. But that is wrong—that’s a single quotation mark, not an apostrophe.  ’Tis a night for zombies. Not, ‘Tis a night…

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Passive Voice and Zombies

Yesterday, I was reading an article in a national writers’ magazine in which an author discussed his editing strategies. He recommended that writers do a global search for “was” because this would help find incidents of passive voice. Then, he gave this example, “He was taller than me.” The author said this needed to be edited because it was written in passive voice…

Now the sentence may need to be rewritten. But it’s NOT passive voice.

So here’s a quick tutorial on passive voice.

In passive voice, the object of an action is the subject of a sentence.
            For example: The ball was thrown.
(The ball did not do the throwing, so it’s passive voice.)

In the example the author gave, the verb is intransitive (which means there is no transfer of action), and it shows a state of being.

If you aren’t sure whether something is passive voice, just apply the “zombie test.”

Attach “by zombies” after the verb and if it makes sense, it’s passive voice. And you’ll need to rewrite the sentence. Here are some examples: 

The ball was thrown by zombies. (Makes sense. Passive voice.) Change the sentence to active voice. The zombies threw the ball.

He was taller by zombies. (Doesn’t make sense. Not passive voice.)


N.B. I don’t know who originally came up with the “zombie test,” but it helps kids remember.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


My blog posting has hit the skids this past summer and autumn. However, I'm hoping it's all for a good cause, i.e., my latest novel. Right now, I'm doing some last minute editing of the book (an upmarket women's fiction) before it goes to the first beta reader on Friday.

That is always a nervy time. It'll be the first time anyone besides me lays eyes on the novel. It really is like showing your baby off to the world and hoping they don't say, "Uh, well, yes, that is a baby."

I'd love to polish it more and even do a read aloud before my beta gets out her red pen. But that really wouldn't help the book. Just my pride.

The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with.
- William Faulkner

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Blogging for Books, Bittersweet

I received a free copy of Bittersweet from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

I have mixed feelings about this novel. I enjoyed the languid pacing, which matched the summer vacation setting, with just enough tension to keep me reading the book. I really appreciated use of Paradise Lost as a parallel text as the protagonist faced her own personal temptation as well as the inevitability of what she chooses to do. Though I was a bit disappointed by how neatly and positively the ending was tied up and I felt that the family’s money source at the time of the bankruptcy was a little underdeveloped.

Finally, there is a definite “ick” factor with several sex scenes and at the close of the novel when the reader discovers what characters knew and did/didn’t do.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A 15 Line Ripple

Every few weeks, I get an email with the first fifteen lines of an anonymous best seller. The idea is that I’m supposed to read the lines and decide if I was an agent (or editor) who’d received this submission, would I continue reading. And since the lines are anonymous, I’m not supposed to be swayed by the title or the author’s name. (Though, of course, you do know that normally it’s a NYT bestseller.)

Photo by David Croker, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Check out the ripples!
 Most of the time, though not all, I would read further. Even books that aren’t in my genre preferences.

Before we ask why I’d keep reading, you might want to know why 15 lines (sentences). Why not the first chapter? It’s not to keep the email short. It’s not because of copyright issues. It’s not even to give action novels a leg up. It’s because most agents and editors decide within the first fifteen sentences whether or not they’re going to continue to read the novel. If you’re a writer, you have 15 lousy sentences to hook your fish. And that’s why so many novels start off in medias res or with a dead body or a cheating spouse—though I don’t believe that’s necessarily the answer. For example, I remember reading any opening to a book where the narrator was out mowing the yard in bikini (clearly the author had never had a mower kick up a rock at her) when a dead body fell from the sky. Now that’s a very bold, attention-getting opening. But really, how do you build tension after that?

And tension is the point. After reading lots of 15 sentences openings, I’ve noticed that they all have one thing in common, regardless of the genre...they are all very cleanly written and they all have a “ripple.”

Imagine an irenic lake. The surface is glass. This is what I mean by “cleanly written.” Every sentence is smooth—put together in the best way possible with the best choice of words. You hardly notice you’re reading. And then, the ripple. The glassy surface moves. A ring spreads out in the perfect pond. And you can’t help but think, “Is it a fish, is it a whale, or is it (wait for it) the Loch Ness monster?”

I suspect that’s what we as writers need to go for. You don’t need a body falling out of the sky. If the writing is strong and clean, a ripple is sufficient. The point of the ripple is to create tension. To show the reader that beneath the surface of this lake lurks something that will destroy the peace. It leaves the reader fretting, and it’s what drives him to the next fifteen lines. As the first ripple moves out, another begins, driving the reader to the next fifteen pages. And then, the next fifteen chapters.

And then, you have an audience.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Exotic Thriller

The Catch by Taylor Stevens

(I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

Coming into a series in the middle is always a dicey proposition. I’d never read anything by Taylor Stevens and this is the fourth book in the Vanessa Michael Monroe series. But I could not resist the exotic setting of Djibouti, Kenya, and Somalia. Not to mention hijacking and pirates.

The book did not disappoint. Michael is a complex character, nuanced and tough. She is a blend of spy-for-hire and language lyricist. The pace was excellent. And the details of life in East Africa made me feel like I was walking the dirt streets, watching for khat addicts and pickpockets.

But in a thriller, as important as character, pacing, and setting are, the book lives or dies on plot. This book lived, and lived well. Stevens tells a good yarn. There were enough twists, double crosses, and betrayals I found myself picking up the book even when I didn’t have time to read. Well done.

I’ll definitely be reading more of these books.

Author Bio for Taylor Stevens.

TAYLOR STEVENS is the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of The InformationistThe InnocentThe DollThe Catch, and the novella The Vessel. The series featuring Vanessa Michael Munroe has received critical acclaim and the books are published in twenty languages. The Informationist has been optioned for film by James Cameron's production company, Lightstorm Entertainment. Born in New York State, and into the Children of God, raised in communes across the globe and denied an education beyond sixth grade, Stevens was in her twenties when she broke free to follow hope and a vague idea of what possibilities lay beyond. She now lives in Texas, and is at work on the next Munroe novel.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Image result for twitter iconYesterday was PitMad (Pitch Madness). It’s a Twitter based literary pitch festival, starting at 8am and running through 8pm ET. Basically, you pitch your novel on Twitter using the hashtag #PitMad and a genre tag (#YA for young adult, #WF for women’s fiction, etc.). Agents scroll through the tweets (i.e., Twitter posts) and if they’re interested in your novel, they “favorite” your tweet.

Anyone with a Twitter account can get involved by “retweeting” a tweet that they liked. So writers/readers get to put their two cents in too. (As one agent said, The next book you love might be here.) I know I retweeted a few excellent tweets. Strangers retweeted my tweets, and I even got a message from someone saying “I would totally buy your book.” J

Easy peasy. And loads of fun. Except for writing the Tweets. If you don’t use Twitter, the rub is that any tweet must be no longer than 140 characters—that includes spaces, punctuation marks, etc. And given the hash tags that were necessary for PitMad, you’re left with 130 characters. Now try summarizing an 80,000 word novel in what amounts to 20 words. We’re talking one sentence. Two if they’re short.

And Twitter doesn’t like repeat tweets, so you have to craft several tweets to avoid Twitter rejection. (Yes, you can do tricky stuff like move the hash tags to the beginning of the tweet.)

So the bottomline is you have to summarize your novel, including conflict, setting, and hook in one sentence. Gulp.

I dusted off a novel I’d shelved (which I really love) and crafted a few pitches. And some agents requested the novel. Squee! Here’s one of my pitches:

As WW2 takes Holland, a young mother must chose to love her missing husband, hide her Jewish niece, & embrace death to survive. #PitMad #WF (Exactly 140 characters.)

If you’re interested, you can go to Twitter and search for #PitMad and see what it’s like. If you’re a writer and want to participate, PitMads are held quarterly. The next one is scheduled for December 4. Even if your novel is ready, join the fun. Retweet your favorite pitches and see how the game is played.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Interview with Author Gina Holmes

Please welcome, novelist, Gina Holmes in the blog today.  Gina is the founder of popular literary site, novelrocket.com. She is a two-time Christy and ECPA Book of the Year finalist and winner of the INSPY, Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and Carol Award. Her books regularly appear on Christian bestseller lists.

Gina, tell us a little bit about your newest release, Driftwood Tides.

Driftwood Tides tells the story of an aging, alcoholic driftwood artist turned beach bum, Holton Creary, and young Libby Slater. Libby grew up with an absent father and a loving but cold, socialite mother. Leading up to her wedding, Libby and her groom-to-be go through genetic testing and she learns her blood type doesn’t match either of her parents. She confronts her mother and is reluctantly told that she’s adopted. She goes searching for her mother, Adele, only to find her husband, Holton Creary lying face down on the carpet of his Nags Head beach shack.

She lies about her real identity until she is finally found out. Holton does not welcome the news. He never knew the wife he had given saint status to had given up a daughter for adoption. Together the two search to find the truth about Adele, Libby’s father and themselves.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

At its heart, Driftwood Tides is really about discovering who we are, whose we are, where we belong and the need to accept and bestow forgiveness.

Why did you set the novel in Nags Head?

Oh, how I love that place! I’m not sure there’s a more peaceful setting in all the world. And the further out I get from civilization, the happier I am. I love the sand dunes, the untouched nature, the quaint towns. Just everything! (Well, except sand in my bathing suit maybe J)

You seem to have a recurring theme in your novels about absent fathers, if it’s not too personal, why do you think that is?

It is too personal, but I don’t mind answering (wink!) When I was 6 years old, I was packed up by my stepfather and driven to my father’s house. Overnight I had a new Mom, new sisters and brother, house and life. It was as traumatic an experience as I can imagine. There were few explanations that made sense to me and I missed my other family desperately. I think ever since I’ve been trying to settle some pretty deep-seated questions. Writing books is wonderful for that.

The novel you’ve written that seems to be a fan-favorite is Crossing Oceans, do you ever see yourself writing a sequel?

I love that book too. Makes me cry just thinking about certain scenes. I would love to write a sequel, prequel or off shoot stories. I love those characters dearly. I’m under contract for three different novels, so I’m not sure when I’ll have the time, but I’d love to explore Craig’s story and of course, Bella’s. I miss Mama Peg very much!

You’ve said that your favorite novel you’ve written is Wings of Glass. Why is that your favorite?

Well, for storyline, I think Crossing Oceans is the strongest. I think my writing in Wings of Glass was my best, plus when I was very young I watched my mother in one abusive relationship after another, and then two of my sisters. I had been there too, despite thinking I was better than that. I know the mindset that keeps a woman (or man) in a relationship like that and I wanted to give insight to those who don’t understand. I’ve received enough letters to know I did what I set out to do.

You’re originally from NJ but write all your novels from the South, why do you set your novels down South if you’re from up North?

Ha, you found me out! Yes, I was born and raised in NJ. As much as I love my friends and family, I am definitely more suited for the slower pace of the South. I’ve lived in Southern VA for half of my life and I plan to spend the rest of my life here if I can help it. I try to write books from settings that make me happy. So I write where I want to be. (Although, I’ve got to say, NJ food is amazing and you’ve got to love a boisterous NJ laugh!)

What do you like most about being a writer? Least?

Most, I like being able to have a platform to share lessons I’ve learned in my life that I know others would benefit from. And more than that, I just love to tell a good story.

Least, would be the unpredictability of the business. Sometimes it seems so random and the lack of control makes me uncomfortable sometimes. (Which is probably right where God wants me!)

Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists?

My advice is pretty much always the same. 1. Write. So many people want to have written but don’t actually do the work. 2. Get to a writers conference because there’s so much  you don’t know, that you don’t even know you don’t know. If you don’t you’ll be spinning your wheels for years, wasting valuable time. 3. Run, don’t walk, to the nearest bookstore and buy yourself a copy of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. Then apply it. (Best money I ever spent!) 4. Join a good critique group and get a nice thick skin, ‘cause you’re sure going to need it!

If you could go back to the pre-published writer you were, knowing what you do now, what advice would you give her?

Well, I wouldn’t have told myself how many novels I’d write that would never see the light of day, because I would have given up. I wouldn’t have told myself how little money there is actually to be made or how lonely writing can sometimes be. I wouldn’t have told myself that I’d still have a day job with 4 novels out in stores, including 3 bestselling novels… okay, but that wasn’t your question… I would tell myself to relax. Some of this, most of this is, is out of your hands, and that’s okay. It’s not going to be at all what you think it is, but it’s going to be so much more. You won’t get rich, but you will touch lives. At the end of the day, that’s going to be exactly what will fulfill you.

Where can readers find your books and more about you?

Thanks for asking. My books are in B&N, BooksaMillion, Amazon, Lifeway, Parable, Family Christian and hopefully a good number of independent bookstores. You can find me at Ginaholmes.com. Thanks so much for hosting me!

Here are links to the e-book and paperback on Amazon.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Masterful Journey through the Human Heart


(I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.)

To me, a perfect book is something written in breath-taking language with a plot that drives the reader onward. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is one of those books.

The unusual title comes from a medical textbook’s definition of life. And that what this novel is, an examination of life across the years in the war-torn Chechnya amid people scarred both on and beneath the flesh.

These characters broke my heart with their sacrifices and betrayals, plumbing the heights and depths of the soul’s struggle to survive and still remain honorable.

At the beginning of the novel I wondered if the author could maintain the novel’s countless plot threads and interconnections. But he wove together them in a web as delicate, yet every bit as strong as a spider’s web. Even the minor mentions of a frozen wolf carcass at the beginning figure in the end.   

I would heartily recommend this novel for its literary merit and as an epic journey through Chechen history and the human spirit. I am eager for the next Anthony Marra novel. Five Stars!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Discounted Book Sites

Both readers and writers are always on the lookout for sites advertising discounted books. Readers, because everyone likes to buy cheap books and what better way to discover a new author. And writers, because they are always looking for sites to advertise their book sales.

Here are some sites to check out.

E-reader News Today (ENT)

The Midlist

Pixels of Ink

Indie Author Land

Kindle Books And Tips

Most of these sites have Facebook pages you can "like" to get updates or signup pages that will email you the latest deals. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Release Day for The Year of Chasing Dreams.

Today is the release for LurleneMcDaniel's new book The Year of Chasing Dreams. Congrats, Lurlene!

Book Blurb:

Ciana Beauchamp hasn’t seen or heard from Jon Mercer in months. Until now. He’s back in Windemere to see her. Deep down, Ciana is filled with joy and relief. She’s never stopped loving him. It’s proof of Jon’s love that he has returned, but what will their future be?
Working hard to maintain the family land that her grandmother left to her, Ciana is approached by a real estate developer who offers her a deal that could benefit the Beauchamp estate and possibly the entire town, which has seen better days. But Ciana is determined not to sell—for the sake of her heritage and the honor of her grandmother.
When tragedy strikes, almost no one in Windemere is left unscathed. Tragedy has a way of bringing people together, but it can also tear them apart. Ciana can hardly face her choices, but she knows she must, and there are now people she can turn to for help if only she is willing to ask.
Intertwining a family saga with a grand love story, The Year of Chasing Dreams is sure to elicit joy and sadness as McDaniel deftly depicts ordinary people dealing with extraordinary circumstances.
Connect with Lurlene on Facebook,  or her website. (BTW, there's a signed book giveaway going on through 8pm tonight.Click here.)
My review.
I really enjoyed The Year of Luminous Love. So I was eager to read The Year of Chasing Dreams and find out what happens to Ciana and Eden. And I wasn’t disappointed.
One of the things I love about this book is the development of Ciana and Eden—they both become women in their own right, struggling with love, tragedy, and tears. (After all, this is a Lurlene McDaniel book and I can’t read through one without laughing and crying.) The plot is engaging with some twists and turns. The writing is clean and the pacing spot-on.
An excellent summer beach read, or if it’s winter, read it curled up next to the fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Soulless Cover Reveal

Today, I have the privilege to share the cover of Crystal Collier's new book Soulless.
(Isn't it lovely?)

Have you met the Soulless and Passionate? In the world of 1770 where supernatural beings mix with humanity, Alexia is playing a deadly game.

SOULLESS, Book 2 in the Maiden of Time trilogy

Alexia manipulated time to save the man of her dreams, and lost her best friend to red-eyed wraiths. Still grieving, she struggles to reconcile her loss with what was gained: her impending marriage. But when her wedding is destroyed by the Soulless—who then steal the only protection her people have—she's forced to unleash her true power.

And risk losing everything.

What people are saying about this series: 

"With a completely unique plot that keeps you guessing and interested, it brings you close to the characters, sympathizing with them and understanding their trials and tribulations." --SC, Amazon reviewer

"It's clean, classy and supernaturally packed with suspense, longing, intrigue and magic." --Jill Jennings, TX

"SWOON." --Sherlyn, Mermaid with a Book Reviewer

Crystal Collier is a young adult author who pens dark fantasy, historical, and romance hybrids. She can be found practicing her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, three littles, and “friend†(a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. You can find her on her blog and Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

COMING October 13, 2014

PREORDER your print copy
Sign up for Crystal Collier's newsletter to receive release news and freebies.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


It's Wednesday and I'm supposed to have a blog post. And I do, sort of. The problem is it's only partly written.

Why? I've been editing, and I'm on a roll. If everything continues as it has been, I will have edited a third of a novel in one week. (Or even more--squee!) This is unheard of for me, especially since we're not talking about last-minute polishing. This is get-down and get-dirty editing--add a new scene/rewrite the transition editing. And I'm loving it.

I'm actually stunned because normally I'm not that fond of editing. But I'm rolling with it.

I think it must be the Charleston vacation that started it. Hmm...I think I should go on more vacations. All for the sake of art, of course. ;)

Here are some photos.
Middleton Place. This was a plantation,
and there were alligators in the water behind me.
Magnolias--the BEST restaurant. (Watch out, Paris.)
This was fried green tomatoes over cheese grits with a white wine reduction and a sweet coulis. To die for.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Crack for Readers, The Accident

A dangerous manuscript, a literary agent, the CIA, Zurich, and Copenhagen. The perfect set-up for a thriller—crack for readers. And it only got better once I started the book.

At the beginning, I was concerned with the plethora of characters and viewpoints, which often turns a novel into a confusion of characters where you have to turn back to earlier chapters to remember who is who. But Chris Pavone does a great job of making each character memorable enough to keep straight.
It is the choices of these characters that drive an intricate plot, which unwinds in a frenetic twenty-four hour period. Not only are the plot and characters well-written, the writing itself is clean and free of the clichés that often find their way into thrillers.

The Accident is a perfect weekend read or, in my case, excellent treadmill reading. And I have to give five stars to any book that makes me lose track of how far I’ve run.

N.B. This book does contain some adult situations and language.

(I was given a free copy of this novel by "Blogging for Books" in exchange for an honest review.)

A Conversation with Chris Pavone 
(Edgar and Anthony Award winner and New York Times bestselling author) 

Q) Your debut novel, The Expats, was widely praised, both in the national media (New York Times, 
USA Today, Entertainment Weekly) and by some of the biggest names in the industry (John 
Grisham, Patricia Cornwell, and more), was optioned for film, sold in 18 countries, and debuted on 
the Times bestseller list! You’ve worked in publishing almost your entire career; were you prepared 
for that kind of reception for your first book? 
A) I was completely prepared for absolutely no one to buy, read, or review The Expats. If there’s one 
thing that’s seems hard for a publisher to do, it’s to launch a debut novel successfully. Why would anyone 
buy it? But if publishers don’t take flyers on first-timers, sooner or later there won’t be any novels at all. 
I’m amazed and immensely grateful that my vulnerable little boat wasn’t completely lost in the sea of the 
hundred-thousand-plus new books published every year.

Q) You were inspired to write The Expats while living abroad in Luxembourg. Your current home, 
New York, features prominently in The Accident, but parts of the novel are also set in Europe—
Copenhagen, Paris, Zurich. Was this new novel also inspired by your travels? 
A) Yes, my travels have definitely inspired my writing. And it’s not just the traveling: My first book was 
based on my experiences as an expat stay-at-home parent, suddenly without the self-definition of a career, 
trying to invent a new version of me, while the new one is drawn from my two decades in publishing. But 
The Accident is definitely not about book publishing, just as The Expats wasn’t about Luxembourg. The 
Accident is about ambition, and the permanent weight of decisions made in youth, and the ways we 
become people we didn’t intend to become. Plus—as with The Expats—spies and crimes and a great deal 
of duplicity.

 Q) The world of book publishing figures prominently in The Accident. Was it fun to dissect the 
many aspects of the business? Any details with which you took creative license? 
A) I have great admiration for book-publishing people, who’ve all chosen careers that are dedicated to 
helping other people—authors—achieve creative dreams, and to entertaining and enlightening readers, 
and to do all this for very little money or recognition; there’s not really such a thing as a rich or famous 
book editor. So The Accident isn’t a satire, and I have no ax to grind. I do admit to taking a bit of license 
in a few minor particulars, mostly to avoid an excess of exposition, and to keep my cast of characters 
down to a reasonable number. 
Q) I imagine it must be hard NOT to draw on personal experiences, having worked with many 
authors, editors, agents, and publicists in your line of work. Are any of the characters in the book 
based on real people? 
A) Yes, but I won’t say who. I hope that for some readers, part of the fun of The Accident will be 
Q) The protagonist in The Expats, Kate Moore, makes a small cameo in The Accident, while Hayden 
Gray, a peripheral character in your debut, features prominently here. Why? 
A) I absolutely loved everything about The Wire, and in particular the way the seasons related to one 
other: different narratives populated by mostly different characters set in different milieus, but all within 
the same interconnected world. I think this is a brilliant way of telling fresh stories with satisfying 
connections, from the same viewpoint, while avoiding the pitfalls of sequels and prequels and the 
constrictions of a traditional series. I’m trying to do something similar with these books. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Windthrow Book Release

Today, I'd like to welcome A. B. Keuser to the blog. She's been a writing/blogging friend for a long time--I can't even remember when/where we first met, but I'm thrilled to tell you she released her first novel Windthrow. Check out the book blurb, Q & A with A.B., and links to her novel and social media sites.

Book Blurb
Ash Larkwood has run her private freight business long enough to know there is only one hard and fast rule in the galaxy: stay as far away from the heartless, war-like xy as possible. When she reluctantly takes Rand Fife on as a passenger it seems breaking that rule is inevitable. He’s gorgeous, paying her a ridiculous fare, and yet things are not the proverbial piece of pie she hoped. When a xy destroyer sets upon them demanding she hand him over and a pair of the skeletal aliens sneak aboard her ship, she knows it’s time for some answers. A pretty face is no excuse for the bucket of lies he’s tossing on her.

What is unique about your novel?
In Windthrow, I've created a multicultural cast that dismisses erroneous stereotypes and allows for diverse heroes. An Asian woman owning her own freight company, the ruler of a galactic-wide empire who is not a white man, and a black woman owning and running the system’s largest mine while her husband keeps house, are not out of place in the worlds between these pages.
My non-human antagonists are super awesome (and awesomely gross) aliens who’s skeletal bodies are made of a metallic keratin and whose neural pathways run throughout all their cells (they have no actual brain).
Also, fun things with trees and a dragon festival.
Tell us about your main character.
Ash Larkwood is an entrepreneur fighting an uphill battle in an industry dominated by men. She’s adventure seeker who longs for the freedom space gives her but loves and misses her family and home planet. Independent, creative and tough, she’s built a network of friends to keep her sane. Her taste in men can be horrible, her taste for drinks leans toward the sweet. I’ve always imagined her actor stand-in as Fan Bing Bing.
How did you start writing?
Boredom. I know it’s not a very fun answer, but I needed something to occupy my time and keep my fingers warm in a freezing office. My first book was written very quickly –130,000 words in the space of a month – and extremely poorly. But that atrocious first novel made me realize how much I love telling stories, and now I’ve got a dozen complete drafts under my belt, and I couldn’t be happier.
Why do you write Science Fiction?
I’ve always loved SF. My dad and I watched two things when I was little, Westerns and Star Trek the original series. I think there’s something completely wonderful about the freedom science fiction gives you with plot, setting, and even genre. I almost feel like it should be a category that other genres can fall into. I love playing with those options.
I lean toward space-bound SF because I love the fact that space is its own tertiary antagonist. There’s a whole lot that can go wrong in the void and you always have to be mindful of that.
I deeply want society to advance because I love what I see in the innovations of science and love the idea of what could be. I also love exploring the things that can't be fixed by technological advance. The deeply ingrained human flaws that last the test of time…in all their ugly and disgusting glory
What’s your method of writing? Plotter? Pantser? Does your character build the story? Etc.
My writing method changes around quite a bit. I’m mostly a plotter, but the first draft of this novel was completely pansted. Over the course of 20 days in August of 2010, I tapped out the 70,000-words that would eventually become Windthrow (at that point the file was titled “SF”). And then, it was revised, and revised again, and sent to crit partners, and revised again, and again… and here we are almost 4 years later and at about 110k-words. (That four years is why I usually plot my books out in advance)
What’s your favorite childhood book?
The first books I remember loving in elementary school were Anne of Green Gables and The Wizard of Oz. Both were well worn tomes in the Milner Crest library, and I’m sure I helped crack their spines further. Later, I got lost in the Goosebumps books, The Horror at Camp Jellyjam was one of my favorites. But by middle school, I was already on the Thriller bandwagon and devouring Clive Cussler novels.