It Takes a Village to Raise a Book

The process of getting The Darkness of Light ready for publication has made  me realize that it really does take a village to raise a book.

When I started writing it, I had no idea how many people would be involved in developing it and perfecting it. So far, I’ve needed the aid of 6 beta-readers, 2 critique partners, 1 professional critique, and a copy-editor. Then there is the cover designer, and a second editor that will do a final read through just before publication.

That makes 12 people who have had a hand in the creation of my book.

Whether you’re publishing traditionally, or going the self-publishing route, it’s pretty amazing to look back at that moment you sat down at your computer and wrote the words “Chapter One,” and now you have a completed novel, and a team of people trying to help you push your book to the surface.

No matter which way you choose to move forward, publishing a book is certainly not a one man/woman show.


Follow me on twitter @tamzwrite

Genre Confusion pt. 2

Here is a list of popular genres and their definitions. If you’re a writer and having trouble deciding which genre your book falls into, follow the steps below.

Step 1 – Pick your category. What age group is your book written for?

Middle Grade (MG) – Age 8-12

Young Adult (YA) – Age 12-18 or higher.

New Adult (NA) – Characters are 18-25 with a focus on growing into adulthood, phases of life.

Adult – Intended for adults. Main characters can be any age. It’s the content that determines the category.

Step 2 – Pick a genre. This is where people get frustrated. There are so many different genres and sub-genres out there. I’ve chosen to focus on the ones I see most commonly referenced on twitter and on shelves in book stores.

If you are querying your novel pick your category and 1-2 genres i.e. YA Contemporary, YA Historical Fantasy, Adult Paranormal Romance, Romantic Thriller etc…

If you are self-publishing pick up to 2, but you can tag your book with as many genres as you like on websites like Amazon and Goodreads. So don’t stress!

The Genres

Speculative Fiction known as Specfic or SF (sometimes confused with Science Fiction) is a broad term that encompasses the following genres.

Science Fiction

A genre that uses science and technology (usually imaginative or futuristic) as the main part of the plot.

Popular subcategories for scifi include:

Steam-punk – Takes place in the Victorian/industrial revolution era and features steam-powered machinery.

Time Travel – Character travels forward or backward in time.

Alternate History – Taking real historical events and altering them with a science/technology element. (This can also fall into a non-science fiction category).

Parallel Universe – A universe that exists alongside our own

Super-human – Superhuman characteristics or abilities induced/aided by science/technology.

Space opera – An adventure novel set in outer space. Usually has romantic, melodramatic elements (John Carter).

Space Frontier – Themes of innovative space travel/exploration.


Uses magic, supernatural, mythological elements/creatures in a world that is somehow different from our own.

High Fantasy/Epic Fantasy – Takes place in an imaginary world (Game of Thrones).

Low Fantasy – Usually set in the real world or has real world elements. There can be fictional/magical places within the real world (Harry Potter).


Usually set in our world with characters such as Vampires, Witches, Werewolves, Shape-Shifters, Angels, Demons, Fairies, Elves, or the Undead.


Stories intended to frighten, horrify, startle, and disturb. Gothic fiction can fall into this category and combines romance with horror.

Superhero fiction

Incorporates characters like those found in comic books.


Explores social and political issues in a futuristic/alternate real world setting. Utopian is an ideal setting. Dystopian is an unhappy, degraded society, usually with a tyrannous government/world order or no political structure at all.


Something threatens the existence of humanity. Apocalyptic takes place as the threat is happening. Post-apocalyptic takes place after and focuses on the survivors.

Magical Realism There is some debate as to whether or not this falls within the Speculative Fiction umbrella, being that the main characteristic is a real world setting.

The plot/setting is completely recognizable and realistic with very minor magical elements. The presence of the fantastical element is usually neither directly addressed nor explained. It blends the everyday with the miraculous (The Green Mile). This is often a characteristic of Latin American literature (One Hundred Years of Solitude). While Life of Pi is listed as a fantasy adventure, it can also be considered Magical Realism because the events were merely a creation of the character’s imagination.

Commercial/Mainstream Fiction appeals to a wide audience and has many subgenres.


Any form of crime fiction. A characteristic of mystery usually includes a detective-like main character that must solve a mystery.


 These novels are fast paced, action packed, and usually include a powerful antagonist that the main character must defeat.


Suspense novels create a feeling of anxiety and uncertainty for the reader. The plot uses tension as a device to lead up to the final big event.


Takes place during the American Old West.


The primary focus of the plot is on romantic relationships.

Erotic Fiction – Focuses on sexual relationships intended to arouse the reader.


Addresses issues that interest women, and modern womanhood. Main characters are women dealing with jobs, family, relationships, and phases of life.

Contemporary Fiction

Takes place in present day and deals with present day issues.

Historical Fiction (Can fall under commercial fiction or literary fiction).

The story takes place in a specific historical time period.

Literary Fiction Is introspective fiction examining the thoughts and feelings of the character/characters. This is a character driven novel as opposed to a fast paced, plot driven novel. Sometimes considered the “snob” of fiction, this genre is said to cover serious subject matter, have literary merit, and stand the test of time. (The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Kite Runner).


If you’re still having trouble deciding how to label you book, pick a book that is comparable to yours and google the genre.

Here is a link to Genre Confusion Pt 1. It began as a twitter conversation.

Hope that helps!

Follow me on twitter…NOW! @tamzwrite

The First Draft HAS to suck!

I’ve had a hard time pushing through the writing of Boy, which is a novel about an Elizabethan child actor.

The more I struggle with it, the more I want to abandon it. I keep telling myself that this project is too ambitious, that I can’t pull it off, that the history is too hard.

Then I remember the first draft of The Darkness of Light.

The very first, off the top of my head draft, sucked BIG TIME! In the first 3 chapters the characters were 10 years old. Then I came to the conclusion that they needed to be older from the start in order to have a shorter story. I skipped chapters. I knew what would happen in them, but I didn’t know how things would unfold.

So instead of fighting through the hard parts, I would write (in red font) an outline of the chapter and what I knew needed to happen. Then I moved on to the next chapter and it began to flow.

By the time the first draft was done, it was completely unreadable, inconsistent, and a grammatical mess! But I loved it! And I was so excited to write the next draft.

I have to keep that in mind as I continue to write Boy. I really want to get to the part where Mathias arrives in London. So in order to get there, today I wrote some notes and jumped chapters.

Tomorrow will be Mathias’s first day in London and I’m really excited to go there with him. The rest can be dealt with later. As long as I get a shitty first draft written, then at least I have something to work with. If I abandon it, I’ll have nothing.

The Lesson: A shitty first draft is workable. Giving up is not!




Sequel writing thoughts

I should really be working on my manuscript that is completely unrelated to The Darkness of Light. I know I should. Especially considering I have no idea what will happen with TDOL as it makes its query rounds.

But the sequel is so much easier to write than the new one.

Here’s why…

I already know my characters.

If you ask me “What would Malcolm do?” I totally know the answer to that!  If I start on a new book, I’m going to have to struggle through getting to know my new characters. That’s always fun, but it’s stressful too.

I already know my setting.

With all the research I did for the first book, I better damn well know the setting! Sure, I still have to ensure my facts are right. I still have to look things up. I still have to scoot over to google earth from time to time. But I am comfortable with the era, the landscape, the wildlife.

It’s so easy to write about a place you feel like you already know. My other novel is set in Elizabethan England, and even though I’ve studied it thoroughly,  bringing that world to life with accuracy is daunting.

I know where I’m going.

While I may not be 100% sure how I’m getting there, I know where my characters will end up. That didn’t happen with the first book. I had to write several drafts before I was settled on an outcome. It was a good learning experience, but it was nerve-wracking at times. If I start working on a completely separate book, I’ll be back in that space of uncertainty, sleepless nights, minor freak-outs.

So what does this tell me?

While it’s okay to work on The Darkness of Light sequel, I’m too comfortable in that world. I need to step back and give the new book a go. I need to challenge myself to keep my mind sharp, to keep learning, and to make sure I am constantly perfecting my writing skills.

Starting next week I’ll be setting aside my comfy slipper-like sequel for the painfully high-heeled walk with my new project.

When my students are frustrated or don’t understand the material, I tell them, “If you’re not struggling, you’re not learning anything.”

It’s time I take my own advice…

In Need of a Critique Partner

Any writers out there want to team up with me? I could really use a CP.

My novel is a historical fantasy, but it is set in a historical real world. The fantasy aspect comes more from the use of mythology than the setting.

I am open to critiquing pretty much anything except Middle Grade fiction, and I can promise to give constructive feedback. I have worked as a freelance writer, studied English Lit, and I currently teach Pre-GED English Lit.

Anyone interested?

The Rules of Writing…Made to be broken?

*WARNING* I probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

Recently I’ve seen a lot of blog posts relating to the dreaded “Rules of Writing.”

Like most aspiring authors, those words make me cringe. I’m not talking about spelling and grammar. Those rules are hard and fast. They are almost unbendable, so don’t try.

But what about the other rules? The subjective ones? The rules we see our favourite authors break time and time again, and yet we are barked at to follow.

What rules am I talking about?

Well how about…

Adverbs – Why do we hate adverbs, especially in dialog attribution?

While I try to curb my use of adverbs, I can’t entirely discount them either. I LOVE THEM! Anne Rice uses them – A LOT! James Reese uses them, Ken Follet uses them, Phillipa Gregory uses them.

I like when I know a character said something “acidly,” or when a normally grumpy character says something “pleasantly.” Without that adverb, I may have misunderstood the tone of voice.

Thought Verbs – (Thought, Knows, Believed, Wants etc…). Before anyone jumps down my throat about these, please hear me out.

Too many thought verbs can be annoying – it’s true. This falls under the whole “show vs. tell” umbrella…. BUT…sometimes I just want to KNOW what the character is thinking. Too much “show” causes me to get bored and skip over sentences just to get to the damn point. (*Note – I will contradict myself on this point once I get to description).

It’s okay to tell me sometimes.

Suddenly – Is it a crutch?

I have very strong feelings about suddenly. I’ll admit – I use it. My favourite authors use it. Some of them use it a lot. Does that make their book any less likeable? Did it stunt the flow of the prose? When I’ve finished reading do I put the book down and say “Man, that book had way too many suddenlys”….No. No, I don’t.

I can see the need to use suddenly sparingly, but do we have to condemn it? Sometimes it just fits. It just sounds good in the sentence. I think we need to give suddenly a break once in a while.

Detailed descriptions of places and characters – Well hell. What’s the point of reading if we aren’t given a picture of the setting? Without books, I would have no idea what 16th century Rome looked like, or 18th century Britain, or Greece, or France, or any other place/time I have never been.

I find myself drawn to books with detailed descriptions. I want to see, and smell, and feel what that place is like in detail!

Some authors are praised and renowned for their detailed descriptions.

As far as characters go, some authors choose to use very limited descriptions. This can irritate me. I think there is a thin line between telling me what the character looks like and telling me nothing at all.

When I am reading a book with little or no character description, my mind doesn’t always hone in on one image. I find that my perception of the character changes as the book progresses. And then half-way through the book, I discover the character has blond hair when I was imaging him with black. It’s frustrating.

I want to know what the character looks like. I want to know if the author imagined him with dreamy eyes, a sharp nose, or brown curly hair.

Give me something to work with, at least.

In conclusion…

I am no expert on writing. But I am definitely an expert on reading. I know what I like and what I don’t, and my issue with these rules is that if every author followed every single one of them, reading would become boring – for me anyway.

I think these rules are repeated and repeated with the best of intentions. They aren’t necessarily meant to be carved in stone like the 10 commandments, but they aren’t to be ignored either. I worry that some aspiring authors will take them too literally. They’ll feel trapped by them, oppressed by them, and frustrated by them.

I know I do.

So when I’m writing I try my best to keep these rules in mind, but if the urge SUDDENLY strikes me to break one of them, I do!

It’s always fun to be a little bad, isn’t it?

Follow me on twitter @tamzwrite


When your character speaks to you

My character was speaking to me last night…

While book one of The Darkness of Light is making its query rounds, I began working on book two in the series as well as another unrelated book.

I had a plot for the sequel to The Darkness of Light, but when I started to write it something wasn’t working. I got as far as chapter 6 before I decided to walk away from it for a bit. I had to think on it and let the ideas come to me instead of hunting them down.

My biggest problem in moving forward was my character, Malcolm. For those who haven’t read the book, Malcolm is the antagonist. He is awful. Truly awful. I instilled in him all of the characteristics that I truly hate in people.

But in the process of creating him, and living with him, and getting into his mind something strange happened…. I began to like him (I use the word “like” gently).

It seemed that my beta-readers liked him as well. Not because he is likeable, but because he is so utterly unlikable.

My struggle for book two then became: How do I keep you, Malcolm? I know I can’t redeem you, I can’t keep you as you are, but I don’t want to change you either.

This was the challenge.

So I waited…

And last night, as I was in that place halfway between being awake and dreaming I heard his voice! I heard it like someone was whispering dialog in my ear. It was so weird!

I listened carefully. Malcolm was telling me his thoughts. He was explaining to me that while he is inherently evil, he is not entirely lost. He told me what he needed to do and how he needed to evolve in order to keep going through this second book.

When I finally woke up I grabbed my notebook and jotted down 4 pages of plot notes, questions, and solutions.

Now I feel more confident about moving forward!

It’s so strange; I’ve never heard Malcolm like that before. When writing book one it was Mara and Corbin who told me what to do. Now it seems that Malcolm wants to dictate his own journey.

If that’s how we’re going to get book two done, then that’s how we’ll do it.

I know this all sounds a little crazy. And I’m definitely not speaking figuratively. I heard his voice as clear as my own.

Does that happen to anyone else?

Follow me on twitter @tamzwrite

Genre Confusion

I came across a tweet the other day from Sarah Lapolla (@sarahlapolla) of Bradford Literary Agency that read:

 “Reminder: Your manuscript can’t be both fantasy AND magical realism. The point of magical realism is that it’s *not* set in a fantasy world.”

This got me thinking about genre confusion. For the first few queries I sent out, I was touting my manuscript as a historical fantasy, but then I got to wondering…is it?

So I tweeted Sarah back: “so is that the difference? The setting? Mr/fantasy/para gets confusing. #askagent

Ms. Lapolla’s reply: “Basically. Fantasy = 100% made up. MR = real w/ subtle fantastic elements. Para/UF = real world, fictional creatures/abilities.”….. “MR & UF use elements of fantasy (or horror – e,g. “vampires”), but they are 3 separate genres.”

There were others that joined in on the conversation. Another tweeter (@jessicaleahurt) asked: “So is HP [Harry Potter] fantasy or mr? The story goes back and forth between the real world (England) and the wizarding world?”

Ms Lapolla’s reply: “HP is fantasy/”low fantasy”. It’s magical realism if Harry was just a kid who thought he was a wizard living in London.”

What I gather from this is…

Fantasy (low) includes or takes place in other/fictional worlds (Harry Potter).

Magical realism is real world with very minor magical elements (think, Odd Life of Timothy Green).

Paranormal is set in the real world with other creatures, abilities, i.e witches, vampires, fairies etc… (Twilight, Vampire Diaries).

So if I go by these guidelines then I am fairly certain my manuscript is more Paranormal than Fantasy, but it might still fit in the gray area in between.

The Book Industry Study Group has a list of genres that are helpful when trying to determine your book’s genre. The link button on my blog is not working at the moment, so you’ll have to copy and paste the address in your browser (

Have a look. Hope it helps.

Follow me on twitter @tamzwrite

Yay for small victories!

I have been querying my manuscript for 2 months now and for 2 months the rejections have been trickling in. But on the weekend I got an email from an agent. At first glance it looked like a rejection, so I wasn’t expecting much when I opened it, but to my surprise, it was actually a request for a partial.

Now, I know this is not indicative of anything, really. I know it doesn’t mean the agent will like it, and I know another rejection could be following right behind it. But at least my submission was enough to peak someone’s interest.

That’s enough for me for now. I won’t expect anything from it, but I will hope.

At least it made me smile.  🙂 

Wish-List Agent Rejection – Ouch!

Yesterday was a rough day. It started out pretty well. I got some editing done, I wrote a new chapter for a new project, and I read a fantastic book (Lillian and the Leaping Man by Ciar Cullen –check it out).

But then things went downhill. Down, down, down.

It began with a rejection to a query that I sent out earlier in the morning. The agent’s guidelines asked for a query letter, a synopsis, and 3 chapters. Exactly how they had the time to read all of that in such a short period, I don’t know, but I got a rejection that same day.

I wasn’t bothered – yet.

Then my Ipod broke. Dead. Died. Gone to the grave. So I couldn’t listen to my favorite play list as I edited. Okay, I can deal with that.

And then my central air cut out. I live in SC, so you can imagine my panic as the temperature in the house slowly but surely climbed to 80+ degrees. And of course no contractor was available to come out and look at it. OF COURSE NOT!

So that was that.

And then… at 8:18 pm, as I was sweating my figurative balls off, my phone beeped. Email!

I looked at the subject and it said Query: The Darkness of Light, from one of the few agents on my wish list.

Instantly I felt sick. It was obvious that the universe was against me that day. I groaned to my husband, and sunk down on the couch before even opening the email – but I knew.

I made a drink, sat back down, and clicked on the email which said… “Thank you for your query. Unfortunately”….

Oh, the horror! Okay, okay. I am being totally melodramatic; I know that, but still… That one hurt more than I expected.

I will confess that I did throw myself a little pity-party for the remainder of the night. I said I wouldn’t do that, but I did.

Now that I’ve gotten the first hurtful rejection over with, I will brush off my sleeves, raise my chin, and keep pushing forward.

I still have a few more agent wish list queries to go before I swallow the bottle of turpentine (kidding!).