Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reading Your Genre

What are the current bestselling novels in your genre? What are some of the all-time bestsellers in your genre? If you don't know the answers to these questions then chances are you're doing yourself a disservice by not reading your genre thoroughly enough. In this ever tightening market where publisher's lists are shrinking and competition is becoming fiercer, you need every advantage you can get. You don't have to write what sells, you can still write what's in your heart, but you must know what is selling. Knowledge is power.

When an agent or editor asks for comparables, you need to be able to give them accurate comps and the only way to do that is to be well read in your genre. If your answer is "it's completely original, there's nothing out there like it," chances are you may not be as well read as you should be. That answer is a red flag to agents and editors. Agent Ginger Clark recently tweeted something very similar to that statement. If your story is completely original (and it may be) that's great, but there are still comps out there. 

Maybe another author has a writing style that is reminiscent of yours, chances are it's someone you admire. I love lyrical novels with rich description and characters that I can clearly visualize, this is reflected in my own writing. Therefore my comps are novels that have a style which reflects those things. If you write in first person chances are your comps would be novels written in first person (though not always). If you write novels in multiple POV's, chances are your comps are novels that are written in multiple POV's. You can see where I'm going with this. There are always exceptions of course, but the idea is to know what's out there, know what you write, and support the industry you want to work in by reading.

On a personal side note, today is the last day to enter the Tour Of Secrets contest so if YA is your genre, stop by my blog to enter to win some great YA books or a gift certificate!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Can You Embrace Your Obsessions? Fool's Journey, Week 15

{To our readers on the East coast, we extend heartfelt wishes for weathering the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in as much comfort as possible. Hang in there! We are all rooting for you.}

Have you ever been writing along and taken a turn or two you didn't expect, pulled by one of your characters into a place you didn't plan to go and maybe didn't want to go? I suspect that if you write by the seat of your pants, rather than follow a detailed outline, this is more likely to happen. This suspicion might be false, based as it is on a certain level of envy I have for people who can write a whole novel using a detailed outline (and the assumption that they therefore don't get pulled off their planned path). But I can see how it might happen either way, and if you have had this experience, did it perhaps lead you into dark, murky territory that was difficult to navigate honestly and intelligently? Did the direction your character took you make you unreasonably angry, arrogant, dismissive, or scared; or just horribly uncomfortable? Ah, my writerly friends, that is, of course, where the good stuff is.

Tarot's Fool is about to demonstrate this point, by running straight into more 'good stuff' than he ever wanted to deal with in his lifetime.

He's just left Temperance, who blithely assured him that he, too, could learn to mix fire and water, and achieve alchemy, if he truly understood the power of opposites to create wholeness when properly blended together (Fool's Journey, Week 14). He doesn't doubt Termperance's truth, but mastery of such a thing is no small task, and it's really not part of his plan for achieving his quest. He'd much rather go the direct route, without the mumbo jumbo. (He's very tired from all his valiant questing, and has already grown greatly as a person on his journey. It would be really nice if the remainder of the path led straight to the Golden Fleece.)

He rounds a bend and stops in his tracks, so frightened by what blocks his path that he can hardly breathe. The Devil, winged, horned, and hooved, sits on a black pedestal, wearing an inverted pentagram as a crown. A naked man and woman stand before him, chained to the pedestal.

Staring, the Fool sees that the Devil is half goat, half god, and reigns over a massive black mountain. The naked people are engaging in every indulgence imaginable: sex, drugs, food, gold, drink. The Fool wants to turn and walk away, but he can't. He edges closer, and as he does so, his own earthy desires rise within him. Lust, passion, greed, obsession.

The Fool summons all his strength. "I refuse to give in to you!" he roars at the Devil. He digs his heels into the ground.

The Devil looks at him curiously. "I'm only bringing out what is already within you," he says. "Such feelings are nothing to fear, or to be ashamed of, or even to avoid."

"You expect me to believe such a thing?" the Fool responds. He gestures at the man and woman. "You say that even though they are enslaved?"

The Devil mimics the Fool's gesture. "Take another look."

When the Fool looks closer, he sees that the chained collars the man and woman wear are large enough that they could slip them off over their heads if they wanted to.

"They can be free if they wish to be," The Goat-god says. "It is true that I am the god of your strongest desires, but what you see here are only those who have allowed their base, bestial desires to control them." He points up to the peak of the mountain behind him. "You can't see those who have allowed their impulses and aspirations to take them to the top of the mountain."

"How did they get past you?" the Fool asks.

The Goat-god once again gives him a curious look. "Inhibitions can enslave as easily as excesses. They can keep you from following your passion to the highest heights."

The Fool realizes this god is not Satan, but Pan. He is a creature of great power, the lowest and the highest. He is both a beast and a god. Dangerous, but also the key to freedom and transcendence. Getting past him, scaling the mountain to its peak, is a matter of understanding that and using it well: embracing this knowledge, going for the gold by letting go of inhibitions, and then carrying the good that comes from that up the mountain. Once you have embraced your obsession and understood it, it no longer stands in your way, and neither does the Devil.

Whew. I need just a little break here so I can find my hand-painted paper fan and cool off a bit.

There, that's better.

Writers who are not afraid of going to their own dark places (or go there in spite of the fear) are the ones who can write those riveting scenes that have you cringing in recognition, eyes wide with horror at the ugly truth. Those are good. But the great ones go farther: they're about the state of grace that comes after the dark places. That state comes from respecting the ugliness, the obsession, because it's true; making the effort to understand it; recognizing its validity in their own lives; embracing it; and moving beyond it. If you've ever read a great writer who has embraced his or her obsessions so effectively that s/he can make readers empathize with any character, you can bet that writer has worn the yoke of chains, discarded it, and climbed the mountain.

Links to Fool's Journey posts:  0—The Fool1—The Magician2—The High Priestess3—The Empress4&5—The Emperor, and The Hierophant6—The Lovers; 7—The Chariot8—Strength9—The Hermit; 10—Wheel of Fortune11—Justice12—The Hanged Man13—Death; 14—Temperance

My interpretation of The Fool's Journey as it applies to the writing life is my own, but the journey is long-established from a variety of sources. Those I've relied on most heavily are: TAROT BASICS by Burger & Fiebig, AECLECTIC TAROT by Thirteen, and EVERYDAY TAROT by Fairfield

Friday, August 26, 2011

Writing a Pitch the Easy Way!

"Compliments of Robert Dugoni from the PNWA"

How many of us struggle with our pitch? More importantly, what do you say when someone asks, “What’s your book about?”

Robert Dugoni presented the easiest way on how to write a pitch, that I’ve ever heard.

Ask yourself these questions:

1.     Who is the protagonist?
2.     What is the protagonist?
3.     Where is the protagonist?
4.     What does the protagonist want?
5.     What stands in the protagonist’s way?

My answers:

Kathryn Jacobs was on a fast track in a career that she loved with the National Transportation Safety Board until her life took a different direction. Now, ten years later she lives with her husband, Captain Bill Jacobs, and their twin daughters in Seattle Washington.  

Haunted by her past, and yearning for the career she'd given up, Kathryn’s offered an opportunity of a lifetime—to return to the N.T.S.B. to investigate a series of airline accidents. Unfortunately, Bill has other plans. 

While her husband is campaigning for his airline pilots' union presidency, Kathryn secretly investigates the mystery of these unexplained crashes. And the only thing stopping her from discovering the truth is a trail of deception paved by her husband.

Willing to tell us what your book is about? Take a shot and answer the five easy questions. We would love to hear from you.

Enjoy the Journey!

~ Karlene

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

First Sentences Final Critiques

Thank you to the talented ladies who offered up their sentences and to everyone who took part in helping with the critiques in the comments section. Now it's the critique sisters' turn. Here we go:

Sentence #1
Author: Joy N. Hensley 
First sentence: Maybe if I was wearing something that said "My dad just died and all I got was this lousy T-shirt," people would know to let me bypass all the lines and just go on my merry way. 
Karlene: Sentence 1. Joy, I love the attitude and feel it in the character. But, I agree maybe a bit too long. I like what you're doing here. What if... Maybe life would be different if I was wearing "My dad just died and all I got was this lousy T-shirt," across my chest.  
Heather: Joy,  your character sounds fun, sad, and a bit snarky, which I love. Immediately I get a good sense of her. However, she also sounds like she's in a really selfish place. If that's what you were going for great, but it didn't make me feel sympathetic to her like I wanted to. Don't worry though, I think it's an easy fix and you have a great start. Perhaps you could show her frustration, maybe even tears (that would make me very sympathetic), let us see the lines, the area, and feel her frustration then come in with this sentence.
Linda: It's tough to critique this sentence because I have a strong feeling that the next few sentences are going to provide context to the voice that we don't have here. From the intro the writer gave us, I'm guessing the protag is angry, rather than sarcastic, but either way you can't tell from this one sentence, and the word 'merry' particularly seems harsh, given the circumstances. If I'm right, and anger is our way into a strong protagonist dealing with a very difficult situation the best way she can, then I'm interested in her, and I think the sentence is effective. If she's being sarcastic and self-centered, that's a different story. I'd definitely read the next couple of paragraphs to find out.

                                                                     Sentence #2 
Author: Grechen  
First sentence: I shift uneasily on the old wooden bench, waiting for the sunrise to give me back a sense of color. Karlene: Sentence 2. Gretchen I love this. I'm hooked. 
Heather: I love it too! This is a great first sentence. It could be tightened up just a touch better by dropping the adverb 'uneasily'. To read: "I shift on the uneven slats of the old wooden bench, waiting for the sunrise to give me back a sense of color." This uses the environment (the bench) to show her unease. Make us feel the unease instead of telling us about it.
Linda: Strong sentence. I have a clear picture of the speaker having spent the night on a bench, probably outdoors. I'm aware of the speaker's emotional discomfort. The sensibility that puts getting back a sense of color top of mind in this situation is one that I'm interested in reading about. Nice job!  If you want to make it clear in this first sentence that the speaker is outdoors, you could add another sensory detail, like a cold breeze, or grass beneath her feet ,or the scent of the air, etc. One cautionary note: first person present tense is seriously hard to pull off in a novel-length story. It can grind down the reader's interest quickly if the writing's not topnotch throughout, because it is so limiting. Hunger Games aside, it's not for the feint of heart if you're not an experienced writer.

                                                                     Sentence #3

Author: Dora Dee 
First sentence: (in italics)Why were her mother and sister doing laundry today of all days, the last day of St. Rocco's Feast? Sunday mornings were always loud and noisy at her house. She hadn't heard Grazia's high-pitched voice insistently asked her mother's opinion on what to where to church while desperately rummaging through their meager downstairs closet and her brothers were fighting over the bathroom like they usually did. 
Karlene: Sentence 3. Dora, I love everything "after" the first sentence (fixing the grammar). 
Remember, the first line should leave a question, not necessarily be a question. What if the first sentence said something like ... Julia couldn't believe her mother and sister were doing laundry, today of all days. Thank you ladies for your examples. They were great! I'm looking forward to reading your books!
Heather: This concept sounds really interesting and I think you have some great characters here. I'd move the first sentence to the end of the first paragraph. Show us instead of tell us, then have your character come in with that thought. I agree with Karlene's fix. Then you could follow up with showing us the commotion of Sunday morning, the boys fighting over the bathroom, and Grazia asking her mother's opinion (be careful here though. If she doesn't hear it then you can't tell us it happened if we're in her point of view.) You have a great start! 
Linda: The strength in this first sentence is in the implication that things are not being done as usual in the household, and if you can expand on the reason that that is significant, you will strengthen the sentence a lot (does it raise serious suspicions in the protag because of something she knows? would her mother never do such a thing without a dire reason? etc). I'd leave St. Rocco's Feast out of the first sentence altogether. You can add that in somewhere in the next few sentences to emphasize the significance of the change in household routine. Italy in the 1950s is interesting. Given a good story, I'd definitely read about that.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Is the Publishing Industry on Your Last Nerve? Fool's Journey, Week 14

Ay yi yi! What's a writer to do? We are at the mercy of Dr. Seuss's Push-Me-Pull-You beast. Traditional publishing or self publishing? They're both major players in the publishing industry nowadays. Do we ask for a push into the insecure, prickly world of traditional publishing with its hidden trap doors over sour grapes, and no decent advance, but the chance to work with still-present angels who will help us weather the storms affecting the industry with dignity and success? Or do we let ourselves be pulled into the seductive realms of self publishing where we can get our work out there when we want to, but without it being honed in the high-quality fires of the traditional publishing industry? With self-pubbing we can potentially create our own fabulous success if we work like crazy at marketing and all the stars align just so in the night sky. These days it seems like a big gamble either way. How do we proceed? We are writers, not publishing gurus.

It might help to remember that our turmoils and toils are not new in the world of personal journeys. In fact, they are the stuff of legend, the heart of darkness in every hero's journey. As long as we are engaged in this battle for self-expression and success, we are living the hero's journey. It's an intense, powerful process with no easy answers, but if you are planning to succeed, you must not lose your resolve. A flinch here, an exhausted flop into coma-like sleep there to revive the synapses, are acceptable. You don't have to be a superhero. But you do have to persevere, and pay attention while you're at it.

If you're ready for a little metaphysical support to buoy your exhausted neural pathways, Tarot's Fool has this bit of wisdom to share from his journey to wholeness.

The Fool has just emerged from Death's grip (aka rejections, not a damn thing working right, self-doubt on a monstrous scale). He's been transformed by new insights and given new strength. He had to give up who he used to be to gain this purchase. He had to burn his old self to the ground, but in that sacrifice he found his True North and rose like a phoenix from the ashes (Fool's Journey,Week 13).

He's wondering how to reconcile the opposites he's facing now, though. He knows what he wants to do, knows that it is truly within him to do it, and is toiling away to succeed. He's achieved moral victory by identifying and nurturing that within him which is worthy, but he wants more. And that's where the opposite of his enthusiasm and hard-won confidence comes into the picture. He still faces blank obstacles to translating his spiritual success into material success.

He glances up, and there, on the path in front of him, is a winged figure standing with one foot in a brook and the other on a rock, pouring something from one flask to another in either hand. This is Temperance. Fascinated, he moves closer to the creature and sees that what is being poured from one flask is fire, while water flows from the other. The fire and the water are blending!

"How can you mix fire and water?" The Fool whispers.

"You must have the right vessels and the right proportions," Temperance answers.

"But . . ." The Fool stares, but his eyes do not deceive him. "Can this be done with all opposites?" he asks.

"Oh, yes," Temperance says, "any oppositions can be made to harmonize. It is only a lack of will and a disbelief in the possibility of unity that keeps opposites, opposite. When you find the right proportions and the right vessels, you create possibility, alchemy." She sees that The Fool is not convinced. "Think of the bow and arrow," she says. "When you use them together, one is moving, one is stationary. Opposites. But they work in harmony."

Yes, The Fool thinks. The bow and arrow are useless apart, but together they are a formidable weapon. He begins to see that he is the one who has held his spiritual growth and his material growth apart. He had to, to find his grounding, but he has the power to merge the two worlds. All it takes is the right vessels, and the right proportions.

The message is the same for us. As writers, we can easily get lost in our imaginary world of ideas, feelings and craft, or be pulled completely away into the world of hard material reality, but the fact is that the whole world, spiritual and material, is there for us and always has been. Once we are firmly grounded in our craft, it's time to open our arms to possibilities, because at some point they are going to fly in. We need to recognize the ones we want and to know how to blend them.

That means being aware of and paying attention to our own needs: do we love or hate the idea of doing our own marketing, and having more or less control over our own publishing process? Are we comfortable, and/or thankful to have others to do the job professionally for us if they've got a good record? Do we feel the quality-of-the-writing support offered by the traditional industry is important to our work?

We have our core to guide us because we've spent time becoming writers who are ready for publication and have had to find that core. In all the shedding of things that no longer work for us, we have not given up Strength (Fool's Journey, Week 8). With self-understanding and strength, we can blend fire and water--combine what we've always wanted with what's available and making sense for us. We can string our bow, position our arrow, and let it soar. No one decision is going to do us in. We have more arrows in our quiver.

Links to Fool's Journey posts:  0—The Fool1—The Magician2—The High Priestess3—The Empress4&5—The Emperor, and The Hierophant6—The Lovers; 7—The Chariot8—Strength9—The Hermit; 10—Wheel of Fortune11—Justice12—The Hanged Man; 13—Death

My interpretation of The Fool's Journey as it applies to the writing life is my own, but the journey is long-established from a variety of sources. Those I've relied on most heavily are: TAROT BASICS by Burger & Fiebig, AECLECTIC TAROT by Thirteen, and EVERYDAY TAROT by Fairfield

Friday, August 19, 2011

More from the PNWA writers’ conference—Robert Dugoni.

People often ask me, “Who’s your favorite author?” I’ve never had an answer because I read so many different genres it’s hard to keep them straight. But if I had to make a list of favorites, Robert Dugoni would be on the top of that list.

During the PNWA conference, Robert presented part two of the ONE DAY WRITING SEMINAR.

Highlights from his talk, that we should all remember, include:
  • No preaching, it’s transparent. Cut. Cut. Cut.  
  • Research! But don’t show off by including it all. Bob only puts in about 5-10%
  • Avoid overblown prose. Don’t be “writerly”
  • Flashback stops the momentum of the story.
  • Avoid too much back-story—especially at the beginning.
  • Learn the craft by studying it. That’s what Bob did and it shows. 
  • With your first novel (and all those to follow) take yourself out of the protagonist and you wont’ be afraid your mother is going to read it.You will write better.
Robert Dugoni is not only an incredible author, but he spends a great deal of time helping authors achieve their dreams. He’s helped me more than I can say, and I’m not sure if he truly knows the far-reaching impact he’s made on the writing community. Not to mention he is one of the most genuine and kindest people I’ve met. On behalf of all of us, thank you Bob!

Robert’s books include:

Bodily Harm—Released May 25, 2010.
The Jury Master—Debut Novel and New York Times bestseller.
Damage Control—Number 8 on national independent booksellers’ list.
Wrongful Death—Sequel to Jury Master—“Among the best books of the year”
The Cyanide Canary—Washington Post best book of the year, 2004. Non-Fiction expose.

Robert Dugoni is just another reason joining the PNWA is something everyone should do. He is also one of the reasons I love the craft of writing—Authors helping other authors to achieve their dreams. Writers live in another world, and it’s great to be living in that world with wonderful people like Bob. 

Be proud to be an author—you’re among good people.  

I would love to add to Bob's list. If you have any wisdom on the art of writing, we would all love to hear it. Learning is a never ending process.

Enjoy the Journey!

~ Karlene 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

First Sentences For Critique

Three wonderful, brave ladies have offered up their first sentences for critique. Since you peeps are so awesome I know I don't need to remind you that we want constructive criticism only. Honesty is a necessity of course, but sprinkling a bit of what you liked about it in there makes the advice go down better. Please leave comments on any one you wish but lets be sure to spread the helpfulness around if you see on that isn't getting comments. Here they are in no particular order:
Sentence #1
Short description: GEMMA-UP OVER YA about a girl who goes to Australia to hike after her dad dies and finds out the mom she thought was her mom isn't at all. Her mom is Australian and her dad was going to introduce them when they hiked. 
First sentence: Maybe if I was wearing something that said "My dad just died and all I got was this lousy T-shirt," people would know to let me bypass all the lines and just go on my merry way. 
Sentence #2
Author: Grechen
Short description: FOXTROT is a novel about a girl who's name is no longer her own. She must decide whether to give up her old identity in order to maintain her government mandated life or hold onto the shreds that are left of her old life.
First sentence: I shift uneasily on the old wooden bench, waiting for the sunrise to give me back a sense of color. 
Sentence #3
Author: Dora Dee 
Short description: The main protagonist is a nine year old girl. My novel takes place in Italy during the late 1950's. 
First sentence: (in italics)Why were her mother and sister doing laundry today of all days, the last day of St. Rocco's Feast? 
Sunday mornings were always loud and noisy at her house. She hadn't heard Grazia's high-pitched voice insistently asked her mother's opinion on what to where to church while desperately rummaging through their meager downstairs closet and her brothers were fighting over the bathroom like they usually did. 

Thank you in advance to everyone who helps out and leaves a comment. In the meantime, the critique sisters will work on these and we'll post our results next Wednesday. Let the comments commence!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Debut Author Tori Scott

It's time to celebrate a wonderful new voice in the published writing community, Tori Scott. Tori is represented by Laurie McLean of Larsen-Pomada, who has her YA novel.  Today, though, we're focusing on the great short story she's recently published. It's called FOUR HOUSES.

Tori, welcome to Critique Sisters Corner, and congratulations on publishing your short story!

TS: Thank you and thank you. So happy to be interviewed!

It's our pleasure, Tori, and thank YOU for my copy of FOUR HOUSES. It's a fascinating premise—told in a haunting and surreal way, and yet very real in terms of its exploration of a seventeen-year-old's emotions about her (possibly) final choice in life. This story felt like a primal dream to me when I read it. How did it come to you?

TS: I had a vision of a girl standing in a field with four houses surrounding her. The rest unfolded as I lay in bed trying to sleep. Insomnia. It's a writer's BFF.

Ha! I can see how insomnia could be your BFF when your mind is swirling with a story like this. That vision certainly came out clearly on the page. Those houses are great metaphors for how we frame meaning in our lives. And I love how you've gone to the dark places in your protagonist's soul, as well as the yearning places. That is powerful. Does writing about our dark impulses come easily to you? Or was it a deliberate choice?

TS: Writing about the dark comes very easily, and it was a deliberate choice. I love exploring the wicked yearnings that lie in people's hearts.

Wicked yearnings. A good place to come from in storytelling. And it seems like a short story is a good place to explore them. I understand that you have a YA novel, THE COLLECTOR, with your excellent agent, so I'm guessing that you spend lots of time working on the long form. Did FOUR HOUSES come to you before you started that novel? Is there something in the short story that informs the novel in some way?

TS: It was actually something I wrote before starting THE COLLECTOR. I had just finished writing my first YA novel, VANITY, that my agent and I decided to table. I felt like I needed something to break up the doldrums of writing another long manuscript. A short story seemed the perfect solution. It rejuvenated my creativity and left me ready to tackle THE COLLECTOR.

That's inspiring. Those of us who write novels are all too familiar with those doldrums that sneak in and sap our creative energies. You're giving us a great reason to try writing a short story now and then.

After reading FOUR HOUSES, I can easily imagine you carrying that darkly humorous tone into your novel. How can people get FOUR HOUSES? What formats are available, and where do we go to find this great story?

TS: It's available as an estory through and Amazon. You can find links here:

Thank you so much, Tori, for stopping by at CSC to share your story with us. And the very best of luck to you!

Check out FOUR HOUSES, everyone. It's a fast read that will make you think about your own dark yearnings and leave you wanting more.


Friday, August 12, 2011

PNWA Conference Highlights!

Last Saturday I had the great pleasure of meeting Mr. Bill Kenower, and moderating his session at the PNWA Writers' Conference... The Three Narrative Arcs to Every Story

As writers we’ve all heard of the three arcs within every story. But each time this discussion arises, the arcs are described in a little different manner from the last. Today was no different, and Bill Kenower shared his version of the three arcs.

3.   Physical Arc: Boy meets girl /Boy loses girl/ Boy wins girl back.
2.     Emotional Arc: Girl feels inadequate / Girl feels ashamed / Girl accepts herself
1.     Intentional Arc: Love / Thy / Self


The intentional arc is all about 
what's guiding the choices your character makes. 

Motivation is the Intentional arc

Every character in our book must have motivation for the decisions they make. People want things— that’s why they do something—and every character must have a want. But this also applies to the author, and why we write our stories—The motivation behind them.

Ahh... motivation. I’m motivated every time I visit a writers’ conference because conferences educate and inspire, and we get to hear success stories. Stories from authors who’d been writing for many years - 5, 10, 17 - before they sold their first book. We learn that they ultimately find their success because of hard work, determination, and perseverance. But more than that I learned that success comes from finding your motivation—the story you need to tell.

The successful authors are characters in their stories called life, and they have a reason for writing. Not until they found their motivation behind their words, other than becoming rich and famous, was their story worthy of publication. When you have motivation... your reason for writing... your passion will explode off the pages.

Ask yourself this question… “Why am I writing this story?”

After Bill’s session, I asked myself that question. What fueled the passion behind my writing?—Aviation Safety. How much power is that?

My awareness of what is happening in the aviation industry, from behind the scenes, and the necessity of change for safety, inspired my novel Flight For Control.  I believe with the power in pen and the truth in fiction we can change the world. Why are you writing your story?

Thank you Bill for a great session!

Bill Kenower is the Editor-in Chief of Author Magazine. He writes, edits, creates web layout, etc.—there is not much he doesn’t do. He also conducts audio and video Interviews with award winning authors—a must see on Author Magazine. He is also the author of the novel One Year in Jeopardy.

Join the PNWA and sign up for Author Magazine—you will be amply rewarded. Bill is also an avid blogger with the motivation to inspire, support, and promote writers like us. Please visit Bill Kenower’s blog by clicking HERE.  Tell him the critique sisters sent you.

Enjoy the Journey!

~ Karlene

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

First Sentence Critiques

Summer is winding down which means the publishing world will soon be returning to their desks, reading those queries, partials, or fulls, and responding. If you're getting ready to go out on submission or are already out and waiting for a response then you need to make sure you're ready. An outstanding first sentence is a must, followed by an outstanding first paragraph, followed by an outstanding first page, you get the picture. But it all starts with that first sentence. What you learn by developing it, you can apply to your entire manuscript.

We at the critique sisters would like to live up to our name and help you critique your first sentence until it is outstanding. So what makes an outstanding first sentence? It must hook the reader's attention and then reel them in, getting them to read on. An extra set of experienced eyes is invaluable, and that's what we want to be for you.

We'd love to help everyone, and hopefully eventually we can, but for now we'll start with the first three people who would like help with their first sentence. Leave us a comment letting us know you'd like help, include a little about your novel (one sentence or two at most, it doesn't have to be pretty) and then leave your first sentence as well. Next Wednesday I'll post the first three sentences and open it up for feedback from our readers (constructive criticism only please). The Wednesday after that I'll post the three sentences with feedback from each critique sister.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Debut Author Heather McCorkle!!!

We are so honored and proud to be the first of many blogs who will help a fabulous debut author launch her blog tour and contest this month: our very own Heather McCorkle. Whoo Hoo!!!! I wanted balloons and champagne and, especially, noisemakers, but Heather is a dignified author, with an excellent plan. So here we go, into the Tour of Secrets for The Secret of Spruce Knoll. (We'll get to the noisemakers later, never fear.) First, a bit about the book:

Following the death of her parents, Eren Donovan moves to Spruce Knoll to live with her aunt. Little does Eren know the entire town of Spruce Knoll is filled with "channelers"—a magical group of people who immigrated to the small Colorado town when they were driven out of their own lands.

Channelers are tied to the fate of the world. As the world slowly dies, so do they—and they alone have the power to stop the destruction of Earth. Now, Eren learns she not only lives among them, but she is one. When she meets local boy Aiden, his charm convinces her that being a channeler may not be all bad.

Wow, Heather. I, of course, am one of the privileged few who've seen parts of this wonderful book. I love this story. And I understand that the tour encompasses a number of blogs, all of which will run the contest, with great prizes, that's outlined below. On each blog you will answer one question about one of your very own secrets! So, knowing how you loooove secrets, here's your question from CSC:  What is your secret obsession? 

HM: Oh, that's a fun one to start off the tour with! My secret obsession would have to be traveling. I LOVE it, almost as much as writing and reading. Something about going to new places and meeting new people is so exciting for me. I've been to several states in the US, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Canada, and Japan. Here's a picture of one of my favorite places in the world: Hawaii! I must admit, I love it there so much in part because it's where I first met the Critique Sisters.

Awww, shucks. I know I speak for Karlene as well as myself when I say, right back atcha. That was one great workshop. Nice picture of you, btw. But before we get too goopy, lets talk about the fabulous contest you're running in conjunction with your blog tour. Can you tell us about it?

HM: Absolutely. Here are the rules for the giveaway:

Heather's young adult urban fantasy, The Secret Of Spruce Knoll, is releasing this month! To celebrate its birthday she's doing a blog tour and contest followed by a live chat on YA Bound  August 30th with a separate giveaway. The blog tour and contest begins today and ends August 31st. Here's what you can win:

1st place: 
*$50 gift certificate to B&N (or the Book Depository if you're over seas). 
*Autographed copy of The Secret Of Spruce Knoll 
*Special swag bag

2nd place: 
*Swag bag filled with:
*Autographed copy of The Secret Of Spruce Knoll 
*Spoiled by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
*Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan 
*Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick 
*A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young 

3rd place: 
*Autographed copy of The Secret Of Spruce Knoll 
*Swag bag

You can earn extra points, but if you don’t want to, you don't have to. You can just be a follower of Heather's Odyssey and leave a comment saying you'd like to enter to win. But if you want extra points/entries here's how you can get them:
+1 for being a follower of Heather's Odyssey and commenting (+1 for each blog participating in the giveaway that you follow and comment on. Winners must follow Heather's Odyssey but aren't required to follow each blog participating, you just get more points if you do!).
+2 for adding The Secret Of Spruce Knoll to your To-Read shelf on Goodreads or Shelfari.
+3 for tweeting or posting on Facebook about the giveway.
+4 for Blogging about The Secret Of Spruce Knoll giveaway.
+5 for placing a link on the sidebar of your blog about the giveaway.

For the stops along the blog tour where you can earn extra entries click on Heather's News/Events page. Don't forget to list in your comment what (if anything) you are doing for extra points. You're welcome to come back at the end of the blog tour and leave your comment then if you'd like so you can hit all the stops and rack up the points.

This is amazing, Heather. Thank you so much for sharing your debut with us. May you get tons of participants in your wonderful contest and launch, and even more readers of The Secret of Spruce Knoll. They will be so happy they got the book. Wishing you the very best of luck. You deserve it!


Friday, August 5, 2011

PNWA Conference in Progress

Live from Bellevue Washington ... The PNWA conference is well underway. As with all conferences there is so much to do, see, and learn. And today is no different.

A great Thanks to All the people behind the scenes who work so hard to make this event spectacular.

Joe Beernink, Kelli Liddane, Andrew Stoute

On my way to the gym, when the rest of the world was sleeping, I met three fabulous people. The behind the scenes worker bees. You know the type. They're the last to turn out the lights at the end of the night, and the first to awake preparing for the day. They make conferences like this a huge success.

  • Joe Beernink event liaison extraordinaire.
  • Kellie Liddane managing director superstar. 
  • Andrew Stoute ex-board member continuing to give. 

Thank you all, and everyone else behind this fabulous event. 

Now... I'm flying to my next event. But next Friday I will be back with a recap and highlights of the PNWA conference. It will almost be like being here. 

Enjoy the Journey!

~ Karlene

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Evils Of Adverbs

This Monday's #WritersRoad chat on Twitter got me to thinking about adverbs and inspired me to write this post. A great man once said, "The road to hell is paved with adverbs," and I think he may be at least partially right. Who am I to argue with the King after all? ;) I'm guessing he read many of the same books I did while growing up (though not at the same time as he is many years my senior), books that are riddled with adverbs.

If you have books on your shelves that date back more than ten years, pull a few out and take a look at them. Most likely you will find a plethora of adverbs. Some will be tagged onto the end of dialogue, others will be gratuitously sprinkled throughout the sentences, fattening them like bloated corpses (sorry, a bit of the King's influence I'm afraid, the corpses, not the adverbs). So, if it was so accepted then, why is it no longer? I'm glad you asked.

Many will say it is that people's attention spans are not what they used to be, and that's part of it. But the more important part is that writing has evolved. We no longer need excessive words that only end up repeating what was already said (she ran swiftly, she mumbled quietly). Such things bog down a sentence and take away from it's power. Adverbs have their place and I certainly don't think we should do away with them altogether. However, if we use them sparingly and with careful wisdom, then we unlock their power and the magic of a truly great novel.

On a side note, I want to welcome our new followers! Thank you for connecting with us, we look forward to getting to know each of you more.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Like a Phoenix from the Ashes: Week 13 with Tarot's Fool

FoolHave you ever reached the point in your journey to publication where you want want to scream and break things, or maybe sit quietly in a dark corner with a bottle of Grey Goose? The half-gallon size? I know you have! Welcome to the writer's life. These days it seems like there are more barriers to successful publication than ever, but as Tarot has advised us, sometimes truth is in the angle from which we view things. And to achieve that illuminating angle, at some point it is necessary to strip ourselves down to bare bones. To incinerate our preconceived ideas and all those defensive reactions that built up over time as one barrier after another was put in our way. Incinerate them. Only then can we rise from the ashes and thrive anew. (Yes, this happens in every darned journey.) If you're ready to be a phoenix, Tarot's Fool has this bit of wisdom to share:

Poor Tarot's Fool! He's been through some harrowing trials, and it doesn't look like they're over yet. Just as he's gained all knowledge, temporal and spiritual, from his self-sacrifice and deep contemplation, he learns that the reward for this is Death. How is that fair?

His head hasn't yet cleared of the visions he experienced while hanging upside down from a tree (Fool's Journey Week 12). Now, as he walks across a fallow field, desolate and cold, he sees a skeleton in black armor, mounted on a white horse, waiting for him.

"Have I died?" he humbly asks.

"Yes, in a way," the skeleton, Death, says. "Through your sacrifice, your old world and your old self are gone."

"How sad," The Fool says.

"Yes, that is true." Death says. "But if you look closely at this field, you will see that it is littered with the discarded parts of yourself. Some of them are taking new root. Pay attention to those."

The Fool feels a twinge of hope.  "What should I do?" he asks.

"Here," Death says, "take my scythe. Study the field. Let go of everything that is withered and fruitless. Turn your back on those things. Burn them. But harvest the new growths. They are ripe and worthwhile. A new sun is rising, and this is a time of great transformation for you. You have been brought low, but only so that you can go higher than ever before."

The Fool gets busy in the field. As he swings the scythe he notices that the sunlight has turned luminescent, the pain of using his muscles to harvest is connecting him to a new reality and creating new strength, and he's beginning to feel joy once again.

Ah, yes, The Fool's journey is ours. Not to put too fine a point on it, we need to recognize that Death is a necessary part of our journey. But also know that Death, per se, is an illusion—it is actually Transformation.  The scythe is for harvesting, not for killing. To that within us which is worthy, we give new life. It is about finding our True North.

We are not, at this stage, like newborn babes. We have experience. We've conceived ideas, nurtured them, allowed our deep minds to contemplate our truths. We've had the backing of Luck (Wheel of Fortune), which we, ourselves, made possible through hard work, passion, and readiness for our ship to come in.

We are ready for a new emotional beginning, and that is what Death grants us. Our new beginning is garlanded with vivid dreams. It invites us to drink from the Cup of Life again. We have set fire to that which is no longer meaningful in our lives, and can now rise from the ashes, like the phoenix we know ourselves to be.

Links to Fool's Journey posts:  0—The Fool1—The Magician2—The High Priestess3—The Empress4&5—The Emperor, and The Hierophant6—The Lovers; 7—The Chariot8—Strength9—The Hermit; 10—Wheel of Fortune11—Justice; 12—The Hanged Man

My interpretation of The Fool's Journey as it applies to the writing life is my own, but the journey is long-established from a variety of sources. Those I've relied on most heavily are: TAROT BASICS by Burger & Fiebig, AECLECTIC TAROT by Thirteen, and EVERYDAY TAROT by Fairfield