Back Cover Blurb

My cover designer asked for the back cover blurb. And here it is…

At the dawn of the sixth century, in the aftermath of her mother’s brutal execution, Mara Black is forced to flee the only life she has ever known.

     Mara can tell she’s different, but isn’t sure why. After she encounters two mysterious strangers, she discovers her secret is but a drop in an ocean of many. She is a Dia, a descendant of ancient gods, and her mother sacrificed herself to protect Mara from their past.  

     Summoned by an uncle she didn’t know existed, Mara thinks she’s found the family she’s always wanted, and Corbin, a love she never thought possible. But not everything is as it seems. Her uncle has other motives for protecting her, and her mentor, Malcolm, becomes so jealous, he’ll do anything to get what he wants. When tragedy strikes, and the true darkness among them comes to light, Mara discovers that sometimes love can give you everything, and obsession can take it all away. With her powers gone, and destiny calling, she has to look deep within to find the courage to save herself. Mara, along with Corbin and her newfound family, must fight to get back what was taken, or die trying.

The excitement of getting an agent “OFFER OF REP! (and why I said no)”

OFFER OF REP! (and why I said no).

I came across the above blog post by @LucasMight last night on twitter and immediately my interest was piqued.

My initial thought was He got offered representation and said no! Why? How? Why? What?

It’s no big secret that while writers write because it’s their passion (as it should be), they also tend to obsess about finding an agent, getting a book deal, and…gasp…seeing their book on the shelves one day.

It’s also no big secret that it was probably easier for Frodo to get to Mordor than it will be for many authors to get published.

If traditional publication is the path we wish to take, then we’ll likely need the help of an agent -the gatekeepers of publishing.

So when getting an agent is the first goal, the thought of rejecting one was almost unthinkable to me…until I read Lucas’s post, that is.

It’s not often that we see stories like this. I don’t think it’s because they don’t happen, but because they’re just not talked about.

Like talking about rejection while querying, publicly opening up about rejecting an agent has a certain stigma to it. And when I opened the blog, I was anxious for Lucas. I wondered what others might think of this revaluation. Would other agents read this and think less of an author because they shone a light on a bad offer?

But then I read the blog, and all of my concerns vanished. This story is candid and insightful. I also thought it was incredibly brave, not only because Lucas took the risk of putting the story out there, but because it shows that he had enough faith in his work to want only the  best for it. And incidentally, while getting an offer for representation was a great moment, Lucas was smart enough to know that all that glitters is not gold.

This is a valuable lesson for all aspiring authors to be wary when it comes to signing with an agent. Bad representation can be the death of your book. That’s not to say that the agent pursuing Lucas was a bad agent, but if an author isn’t careful, their book could end up in purgatory.

As for the blog’s reception, I can see that there’s been an overwhelmingly positive response. Writers (including me) are grateful to get a head shake, to know that it’s okay, and necessary to turn down an offer if it doesn’t feel right.

I also think that agents will commend Lucas for his honesty and  reiterate the message. It’s important to research an agent’s merit before querying them, but it’s even more important to use caution when representation is offered.

While landing an agent might be the dream, landing the wrong one could  be the nightmare.

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

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

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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 (http://www.bisg.org/what-we-do-0-136-bisac-subject-headings-list-major-subjects.php)

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.  🙂 

Anne Rice –If you had never written…

Anyone who knows me is well aware that I am a huge fan of Anne Rice. I have been since I was 12 years old when my mom gave me a copy of Blood and Gold for Christmas (not necessarily age appropriate, I know, but my mom didn’t, thank goodness). Had it not been for that gift, I may have never had the inclination to write, or pursue writing professionally. This is the impact one author can have on a person. How incredible is that?

The first time I read Blood and Gold I was mesmerized by it. I instantly fell in love with the way the book was written, the worlds it transported me to, and the characters it brought to life. Marius was and always will be my favorite character, and I still read this book at least once a year. I felt a connection to the characters that no other book had given me before, and a fascination with history that persists to this day. While I may have been interested in history and the craft of writing before this book entered my life, it was only after I read it that my fate was sealed.

What amazes me, however, is that not everyone has felt the same. A quick look at Anne Rice’s Wikipedia will tell you that even talented authors like Mrs. Rice have faced self-doubt and opposition. I still find this hard to believe. How can anyone pick up any of Mrs. Rice’s books and not instantly fall in love? How can anyone bemoan the style of her prose or the construction of her stories? Are they blind?

According to Wikipedia, “following its debut in 1976, Interview with the Vampire received many negative reviews from critics, causing Rice to retreat temporarily from the supernatural genre.”

Whether this statement is true or not, it’s hard to imagine that such a remarkable novel could receive such polarizing reviews. Thank goodness she didn’t listen to her critics; otherwise we would have never known Lestat, or Armand, or Pandora, or Marius, or David, or Vittorio, or any of the other characters that she has brought to life.

On numerous occasions I’ve seen Mrs.Rice post on her facebook page words of encouragement to aspiring authors. She tells them not to give up, to ignore critics, and to do what they love. Once I was fortunate enough to receive an email response from Mrs.Rice regarding my own journey with writing. It read:

      “I wish you every conceivable blessing with your writing.  You know, I’m sure that this life is worth the courage and the nerve it takes, the sheer nerve it takes to be a writer.  I hope all goes well with you.  We have to forgive those who try to discourage us.  They are mostly talking about themselves and their own fears and limitations when they tell us we can’t do what we want to do.  Take care, and thank you again, Anne Rice”.   

I read and reread that email every time I feel down and insecure about my writing. If an amazing, talented writer like Anne Rice must face criticism and opposition, then so must we all. There is no way around it. It’s part of being a writer. Sometimes I need to take a moment and remember that in order to keep pushing forward.

If Anne Rice had never written her novels, or had given up writing after Interview with the Vampire, I’m not so certain I would be as inspired and determined to write as I am today. Maybe I would have given up when someone told me writing was a waste of time, or that I have no talent. It’s amazing how influential authors can truly be to those that wish to follow in their footsteps. I think that’s something all writers need to remember when they feel like giving up. You might be the one to inspire another.

After all, where would I be if Anne Rice had never written…

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