Happy Valentine’s Day!
I hope everyone is stocking up on flowers, candy and all that good stuff! My niece got me some yummy chocolate and my honey bought a bottle of champagne. You know what else is great for a Valentine’s Day gift? Song of the Sea, because it’s released today! And, to celebrate the release, Soul of the Sea is running free for Kindle users today and tomorrow. Click here to grab your copy.
But wait, there’s more!
In celebration of the Valentine’s Day release of this exciting paranormal sequel, I thought I’d show all the readers out there how much I love them by giving away a few copies of the Curse of the Sea set. I’ve got 5 ebook copies of Soul of the Sea and Song of the Sea to give away to readers willing to post an honest review. First come first serve, so leave me a way to contact you in the comment box below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Not sure you’re interested? Click on the book covers below to read previews of each book.
Stress and negative vibes got you feeling weighed down? Below are a few quick meditations that you can do anytime, anywhere, especially if you practice them first.
Black Ball Meditation
1. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to center yourself. Feel your mind slow down to allow you to concentrate. Once you have the right amount of focus, visualize a black ball of energy in front of you. Imagine the ball absorbing everything that bothers you. Pour all of your stressors into it and feel them leave your mind and body. Now, visualize the black ball slowly turn white. When every bit of black is gone and the ball of energy is completely white, let it float out of sight and end the meditation.
White Light Meditation
2. Close your eyes and take a few steady breaths to relax. Imagine a brilliant white light pour over your body from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes. The light is vibrant and pure, reenergizing. Feel the warmth of it. Allow the light to become brighter and brighter. Now, imagine this light washing away your stress. I usually picture the stress as muddy water that’s flushed out by the light. Hold the image in your mind until you feel relaxed, and then end the meditation. (Note: if you have trouble visualizing this one, try tilting your head towards a light in the room or the sun.)
Water Under the Bridge
3. Again, close your eyes, center yourself and begin to relax. Visualize yourself in a field of flowers and tweak it to your preference. You can make this field as detailed as you like. In front of you, there is a path and you step onto it, allowing the path to lead you down a grassy hill and to a bridge. Stand on the bridge and look down at the water below. It’s crystal clear and running smoothly. Now, pick a visualization that represents your problems. A black orb of energy works, or maybe a chain that’s weighing you down. Whatever visualization you choose, drop it into the water below. The water, the Earth, can handle these things that you cannot. Do this again and again until you feel like the problems are no longer with you. Turn and head back up the hill. Once you reach your starting point, end the meditation.
These are a few that will work in a pinch. I’ll post more in the future, so if you like, please subscribe.
Normally, I don’t get very personal on this blog. I try to remain professional and to me, that means leaving my personal opinions and struggles off the net. But, something’s been bugging me lately and I just need to get it out there.
For many reasons, this has been a hard year for me. I saw my dreams come true when my books went into print, but in a way, I’ve lost even more than I’ve gained. After some moping, I went on a soul-searching mission to discover the true Jasmine-away from writing, away from taking care of family, away from my neurosis. Who am I really? That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out.
So, I started practicing yoga and meditation, and through meditation I realized that my true fear is not knowing what’s beyond this life. What lies beyond what we perceive with our conditioned-to-be-practical-eyes? What happens after death? The way I see it, if I can demystify those things a little, then I can finally live a life that’s not consumed by fear.
Then I discovered Wicca, where death is never the end, where there’s no Satan plotting your eternal damnation, where the bad things that happen to you are luck or fate and not one of ‘God’s Tests’. I know religion is a touchy subject, so I try not to even go there, but I was raised in the bible belt. As a child, I sat in church where a preacher with a beet-red face yelled about how sinners will burn in hell for all eternity. I’m talking full on yelling, jumping up and down talking about how we don’t deserve God’s merciful love, or his wrath and about the dangers of hell and living in the ‘worldly ways’. Is it any wonder my life was consumed with fear?
But, I digress. Now, I haven’t gotten as deeply involved with Wicca as I was with Christianity. But it’s my choice-one I have the right to make-and I’ve been taking it slow, discovering at my own pace. And I feel free. I feel worthy. I feel like my life is in my own hands. I feel at one with the Earth, the Universe and the Divine. Wicca’s become very important to me, but because of the controversial nature of anything that’s not Christianity in my family, I kept it to myself and I didn’t mind that. I mean, who needs to know about my religious beliefs anyway? So, what’s the problem?
Awhile ago, I posted to twitter asking fellow Wiccans what phase of the moon we were in. It’s innocent enough, I wasn’t at the computer and I couldn’t see the moon and no one I know in real life (except for my sister, who already knew about my path) follows me on twitter. I’d forgotten that my twitter account is linked to my facebook author page and bam…suddenly my uncle is asking my mom what’s up with ‘Jasmine’s Wicca thing.’ My secret, outted when I wasn’t ready. Oops.
When my mom asked me about it, I tried to explain to her how important Wicca’s become to me, and she said we’d talk about it later. That was fine, I needed to prepare myself for the speech, anyway. Weeks go by and she says nothing, but I got the vibe she was disappointed in me. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and just said, “Mom, I want to talk about Wicca.” And do you know what she said? That I’m going through a phase and I’ll grow out of it. I was so offended I was literally speechless. (I’m a writer, how often does that happen?)
Sure, I went through phases (orange nail polish my sophomore year, heavy-metal music my junior year, racoon eyes my senior year, Nora Roberts last year). Wicca is not a phase for me. It’s not a rebellion, or a statement. It’s been an awakening. After being so freed, after learning to love myself and the world around me, how can I possibly go back to a religion I felt so stifled by? And the fact that she equates this life-altering discovery I’ve made to my orange nail-polish phase hurts. I feel like, in a way, it undermines everything I’ve learned about myself and the great-beyond.
That probably doesn’t sound very awakened. But, I’m human and I’m new at this, and I accepted her unconditionally when she lived a life that was unconventional and ‘sinful’ by view of our lovely (note the sarcasm) church. I can’t make her understand that I still believe in God, just not the same way she does. I’m never going back to the religion I was raised in, for many reasons. It’s just not for me. I’ve found my path. And now, I risk not being accepted by my own mother. I know she’ll still love me, but I’m bothered that there might be parts of my life she can’t come to terms with and I don’t know what to do.
So, I figure I can’t be the only person in the world who’s gone through this. Have you ever had your religious beliefs come between you and your family? Have you ever felt repressed by your upbringing? Leave me a comment and let me know, because I could really use some support here.
I’m a big fan of using multiple points of view. It just helps me get a broader view of the story, so that’s my preference. There’s some important things you should know about using multiple points of view, though.
- Don’t switch POVs during the same scene. This will leave the reader feeling disjointed and most often, irritated, especially if it’s a dramatic scene. To avoid this, add a scene break (usually the three asterisks, centered ***)
- I’ve heard there’s an exception to this rule if the scene is between two lovers. Like, if it’s a love scene or an important moment for both characters, usually in a romance. What do you think? Are there exceptions to these rules?
- I’m not a huge fan of switching POVs if the story is in first person. Although, I recently worked with an author who pulled it off. Her trick? Chapter breaks, with the POV character’s name as the chapter title.
Had and Have
I see these words a lot, and usually out of context. I didn’t even notice how improperly I used them until my editor for Soul of the Sea pointed it out to me. Usually, this happens when a character needs something. They ‘have to’ have it. Most of the time, these ‘had’ and ‘haves’ can be replaced with a word like ‘need’ or ‘want’ or ‘must.’ The key here is to boil your sentence down. What do you really mean when you say a character had to do something?
Here are a few examples:
- I have to go see him.
- She had to have known I was stopping by her house.
- She had long black hair.
- He had an evil grin on his face.
Ways to fix:
- I need to go see him.
- She must’ve known I was stopping by her house.
- Her hair was long and black.
- He wore an evil grin on his face.
Dead words are words that occupy space in your story without adding to it.
I felt a chill crawl up my spine.
I saw a plane fly overhead.
I heard an owl hoot in the night.
The words above (felt, saw, heard) only take away from the story. Your words will have a bigger impact if you keep things action oriented. Think of it this way, your reader knows that if you describe something, the protagonist is feeling, seeing, or hearing it, too, because they’re the eyes and ears of your story. In other words, the “I saw” is a given.
A chill crawled up my spine.
A plane flew overhead.
An owl hooted in the night.
This is another one of those things that’s best to focus on once you have a full draft of your novel. If each sentence in a paragraph begins the same way, your reader will get bored quickly. This is a tricky one to explain so I’m going to give you an example. This is from one of my most recent projects, and as of now, is untitled.
She didn’t know what to say to him. She knew there was nothing she could say to him. She just stood up and walked quickly away before she let the pain show. She was alone now, that was the worst part. She stood outside the den, with her back pressed against the wall and let the silent tears slip down her cheeks. Why did this happen?
She didn’t know what to say to him, but there was nothing she could say that’d change his mind. Admitting defeat, she stood and walked quickly away before she let the pain show. The worst part—the unbearable part—was that in the midst of all this pain, she was alone. Standing outside the den, with her back pressed against the wall, she let the silent tears slip down her cheeks. Why did this happen?
The key here is to really let your creativity flow. Mix things up. Find your style. Which brings me to my next topic.
- The most important thing to remember is not to become bogged down in nit-picky editing details so much that it cramps your style. Some rules are meant to be broken, that’s why we write novels instead of essays. Sometimes, breaking certain rules gives your story that extra edge, that something different. I like using sentence fragments for emphasis sometimes. Everybody has his or her own little writing quirks—it’s called your voice. So, it’s your job to decide when these ‘nit-picky’ so-called problems add to your story or take away from it.
If You and Your Editor Disagree
I haven’t been editing for World Castle long, but I haven’t run into this problem. Most of the authors I work with are excited to learn and usually appreciate my input. On the author side, though, I’ve worked with editors that I’ve disagreed with. Let me tell you, there’s nothing more aggravating than arguing with someone who acts as though they know what’s best for your story. Naturally, you’ll get defensive. These characters and events are very important, very real to you and every editor understands that, most of them (at least that I’ve encountered) are writers themselves. This situation can be tricky. For example, you think a character should sacrifice himself for the greater good, but your editor thinks audiences will be angry because they love the guy and wants you to find another way to solve the problem.
How do you know who is right? The important thing to keep in mind is that your editor is only trying to improve your book so it will sell more copies. That’s their job. They’re not just tearing it apart for no reason (unless they’re really cruel.) But, sometimes, you won’t just see eye-to-eye. What you should do here is take a step back, try to open your mind and really consider each aspect of the situation. Ask yourself these questions:
- What, exactly, is your editor’s problem with the story and is there a compromise the will please both parties?
- If you went with your editor’s suggestion, would it open up other possibilities for the story?
- Have you grown so attached to your book as-is that you don’t realize its full potential?
If, after asking these questions, you’re still torn about what to do, seek some outside advice. Contact another writer friend through Facebook or Twitter. There are writing groups and chats all over those social networks, so you could poll people and see which option has the most appeal. If you’re concerned about giving away spoilers, contact a writer friend you trust privately, preferably one with a little more experience or one who’s worked with the same editor. If, at that point, you have mixed feelings and you and your editor just disagree and can’t come to an amicable solution, contact your publisher. Do this carefully, though. Your publisher is very busy and, although they want what’s best for your career, they don’t have time for petty arguments, so use this as a last resort.
When e-mailing your publisher about an editing disagreement, keep it brief and simple. Don’t rant and rave about every little thing your editor’s done to offend you. Be polite. Say something like: “[Editor] and I are having a disagreement and we can’t solve it. She thinks this should happen, while I think it should go this way. Which option do you think will appeal to readers?” Remember to thank them for their time. Chances are if your publisher and your editor agree, then you’re not stepping back far enough to view the big picture. Sometimes you just need to bite-the-bullet and make the requested changes.
And, Happy Release Day to me! Soul of the Sea comes out today and to celebrate, the first person to comment wins a free e-book version. Ready, set, go!
I’ve been editing a lot of manuscripts lately. Some have been assigned by World Castle Publishing, and others I do for friends. After doing this, I understand why I’ve gotten so many rejections. There are some things you can do that will just get on an editor’s nerves. While it is your editor’s job to fix all the little problems in your manuscript, there are some simple things you can do to make it easier for them. I’ve compiled a list of the most common problems I’ve seen.
- Wrong: “Don’t do that.” She said.
- Wrong: She said “don’t do that.”
- Right: “Don’t do that,” she said.
- Right: She said, “Don’t do that.”
- Remember, place a comma between the end of your sentence and the quotation marks, unless you’re using a ‘beat’. (where an action identifies who is speaking)
- Like this: “Don’t do that.” She slammed her hand down on the table.
- Or: She slammed her hand down on the table. “Don’t do that!”
If your story takes place in modern times, contractions are crucial to making your dialect sound authentic. How many times have you heard some say “I would not do that” unless they were putting emphasis on ‘not’? “I wouldn’t do that” sounds more time-appropriate.
Other words you should always contract:
- Should have—should’ve
- Would have—would’ve
- Have not—haven’t
- Could not—couldn’t
- Will not—won’t
Note: Don’t avoid contractions for the sake of word count. Your editor will see right through that.
This is my biggest pet-peeves. There are tons, tons, tons of words in the English language. With that much variety, there’s no need to repeat the same word on one page. There are certain exceptions to this rule of course, like character’s names, or in some cases, ‘she’ or ‘he’. But verbs, adjectives and adverbs shouldn’t be repeated. I’ve pasted a segment from one of the first drafts of my first manuscript. Let’s take a look at how many rules I broke (ironic, since this story is called Breaking All the RulesJ)
Shane Rivers sat behind the counter of the gas station, his feet kicked up on the counter, idly flipping through a magazine. It was late at night, and the store was getting ready to close. Chad was in the back, stocking shelves.”You could get off your lazy ass and help me, you know?” Chad called from the back.
“Can’t.” Shane said, flipping a page. “Might get a customer.”
The bell above the door to the gas station rang. “Sorry, we’re clo-” Shane began as he sat up and plopped his feet down, but the word caught in his throat, the remainder of it coming out in a harsh rasp as his eyes began to dance over the body of the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen…the girl he never thought he’d see again.
His magazine plopped to the counter as he gawked at her. It was hard for him to conceive which part of her he liked the best as he watched her ruby-red hair wave around face, creating a beautiful contrast to her ivory skin as she stepped into the store. As the door swung shut, the wind from outside touched her hair just slightly, making it caress her lips in a way that made Shane tremble. Her eyes blazed emerald green and pierced right through his soul.
Wow. So, you see? It’s easy to repeat words without even realizing it. And, I’ve been through this story 1,000 times and I’ve just now caught a missed word. Did you spot it?
Shane Rivers sat behind the counter of the gas station, his feet kicked shoes propped up on the counter tabletop, idly flipping through a magazine. It was late at night, and the store was getting ready to close.
Chad was in the back, stocking shelves.“You could get off your lazy ass and help me, you know?” Chad was in called from the back, where he was stocking shelves. Chad called from the back.
“Can’t.,” Shane said, flipping turning a page. “Might get a customer.”
The bell above the door to the gas station rang. “Sorry, we’re clo-” Shane began as he sat up and plopped his feet down, but the word caught in his throat, the remainder of it coming out in a harsh rasp as his eyes gaze began to danced over the body of the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen…the girl one he never thought he’d see again.
His magazine plopped to the counter slipped from his grasp as he gawked at her. It was hard for him to conceive which part of her he liked the best as he watched her ruby-red hair tresses wave around her face, creating a beautiful contrast to her ivory skin as she stepped inside. As the door swung shut, tThe wind from outside touched her hair just slightly, making it caress her lips in a way that made Shane tremble. Her eyes blazed emerald green and pierced right through his soul.
I’m not happy about the use of ‘tabletop’ but you get the idea. Word repetition is tricky, so it’s not something you should worry about during the first draft. When you go back in with your editing glasses, just highlight the repeated words like I did and then interchange or delete or reword.
I see this one in almost every single manuscript. “I sat there, gaping in shock.” “I stood there, smiling.”
I used to do this all of the time, until I let an English teacher critique one of my stories. She wrote out in the margin “Where?” So, every time I catch myself doing that, I just ask myself that question and “I sat there, gaping in shock” automatically becomes “I sat in the chair, gaping in shock.” or even “I gaped in shock.”
I cringe when I see this word. Just say it aloud for a second—it sounds ridiculous. This may be a personal thing that doesn’t bother others, but there’s always something else that can be substituted.
“I got up” becomes “I stood up.”
“We got candles from the store” becomes “We bought candles from the store”
“He got angry” becomes “He grew angry”
Have you picked up any tricks of the trade, or do you have any writing books to share? What most common mistakes do you find in your manuscripts?