Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Let’s talk about a subject that is very near to my heart. One that can get an author querying her work rejected faster than a ballplayer can hit a home run.

Yes, I’m using baseball terms because in the scheme of things or your manuscript, you, the author, have the choice to use the point of view of your choice. However, if you are writing romance, for the most part publishing houses prefer third. Although, I have read some really great work with a first person point of view.

Now, how to you decide what to use, well that can be as confusing as who’s on first, who’s on second, or who’s on third as my husband use to say just to make me crazy.

It doesn’t have to be hard, however it does have to be right, no matter what point of view you decide on. My preference if you are querying the Faery Rose line is third. I like to see the hero and heroine’s pov. I also, don’t mine the villain or an occasional secondary character if it moves the story plot along.

A good rule of thumb when you are writing third is to make sure that you only describe what you can see. You can’t see me so if you were to make the statement Amanda Barnett’s hair is up in a ponytail, unless you were in the room with me, you would be wrong. However, you can say that due to the band left behind when I take my hair down, you believe I wear my hair up a lot. That might not be the best scenario, so let’s try this one.

We will use one of the editors on Faery, I’m sure Frances Sevilla won’t mind. If she and I are having a conversation and she walks out of the room in anger, I can only guess her hands are clenched in fists, or she’s mouthing off unfavorable attributes toward my innocent self. Yet, if I hear a thump on the wall and then hear her yell, I can safely assume she has used one of those same fists to punch the wall. Poor Frances.

Remember, you need to view point of view as you would by peering into the lens of your digital camera. You can only capture a picture of what you can see. Not hard at all, is it?

First person you can only guess at other character’s thoughts because you are not in their minds, and neither is your reader. You must show if they are sad, angry, etc, by remarking on how their eyes flash or tears are rolling down their cheeks.

I hope that makes sense. I will not be addressing the issue of using second as a point of view. I only want to make sure that the authors who are reading this realize that when we evaluate a manuscript, if you which point of view frequently, head-hopping as some call it, then you not only confuse the reader, meaning an editor, but also pull a reader out of what could be an important part of your work.

So instead of running the bases at full speed, take time to decide if the point of view you are using is right for your work, and if it is done correctly. YES, I know there are NY Times Best Selling authors who do have more license when it come to flipping back and forth, but your goal is to deliver the best work you can to get an editor interested in contracting your work. Believe me, the fundamental basics are a key part when I look at someone’s baby.

Take care and write on!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Relating to Chickens (and other experiences)

While racking my brain over a topic to blog on, my chickens sidetracked me. Anyone who has had any sort of conversation with me knows I can always bring the topic around to chickens. Imagine my delight when it dawned on me I could combine two of my favorite things in the world (chickens and reading) into a blog. So what do chickens have to do with reading? Read on and find out.

I read. A lot. I am the proverbial girl with her nose stuck in a book. I walk through the house at bedtime to let the dog out and in, feed the fish one last time, give the cat a treat—all with a book in my face. I can’t help it. My husband doesn’t get it. My parents are not readers. It’s just the way I am.

So, those chickens. You don’t often come across books with chickens. Everytime I read a book with chickens in it, I can tell whether the author has real experience with chickens. The details of the sounds they make, their movements, and their personalities—if you have spent any time with chickens, you will learn their idiosyncracies (taptaptap—don’t worry it’s just the hens begging at the back door), just as you would with any other pet. What? You don’t have pet chickens? I highly recommend them. What other pet lays your breakfast?

I have recently read two books where chickens had some sort of role. One has a single hen who is favored by a goddess. The hen makes little chirrups and I can hear her when I read those passages. My hens make the same noise. The other story’s climax and resolution take place in and around a henhouse, and the hens pop up throughout the story, usually in trees (ever seen a chicken in a tree? Ridiculous sight!). The hens put up an unholy racket during the big scene, and I laugh every time I think of that scene (usually at 6:22 am when my hens start demanding their daily release into the back yard).

Both of these stories will always stick with me. I will enjoy them again and again, as well as recommend them to others because I identified with story elements. I always find I relate to a book and identify with a story’s characters if we have something in common. It could be the smallest detail (the hero has a chipped tooth? So does my husband!) to something important (the heroine dislikes conflict and acts as a mediator in hot situations? So do I!). These details are what round out a character and give them lifelike qualities. I delight in authors who pull on real life experiences and inject those experiences into their story. Those details are what pulls the reader into the book. It’s why I avoid non-fiction. I want to be in the book. I want to know the characters and escape to their world.

My advice? Write down all those funny stories and memorable experiences. Draw on your life’s experiences for ideas and inspiration. Better yet, go get a chicken.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Whew! Has it been a year?

Less than 8 days before RWA Nationals and I'm still looking for shoes. Has it been another year? I could have swore last year I'd shop the sales and have my bag packed and ready to go.

I'll be in New York next week, taking pictures of the many ways RWA does chicken for lunch and blogging Nationals for TWRP.

If you see me, stop by and say "hello!" I'll be in the lobby of the Keynote Luncheon Wednesday afternoon, an hour before the doors open. I'd love to meet you, and hope to see you in New York!

Monday, June 13, 2011

You Want Me To Actually READ My Final Galley? Isn't that Your Job?...words of advice from Nan Swanson in Production

Do you ever wonder what happens to your book in those weeks between the last time you see the galley and when you get a final version with the release date?
You thought you had polished to perfection before you ever submitted your manuscript to The Wild Rose Press, after all. And the editor must have thought it was pretty good, to offer you a contract for it.
But then she sends you an edited copy with track marks all over it – a comma here, a word there, a question, a comment, a quibble... Okay, so you fixed every one of those little problems and even saw a few other spots that could use some tweaking and tweaked them and sent it back.
Lo and behold, back it comes from your editor in a little while with a few more questions and comments, and again you fix and tweak and return. Isn’t it about done now?
Next she sends you a galley, or maybe what she calls a pre-galley, and she asks you to read through and if you see any typos or anything you want to change...oh, but wait. You can’t just change this copy. It’s made so you can’t do anything to it.
What did she say? Make a list with the page numbers and the line numbers? And maybe some words or a phrase so she can be sure what you want to change? Well, you guess you can do that. But it’s a pain, and you get about halfway through the book (at the most) and figure that must be good enough. You haven’t found much of anything you want to change, and you haven’t noticed anything wrong with punctuation, just that one quotation mark that’s two spaces away from the end of its sentence. There can’t be any errors in the last half of the book, can there? Your editor is going through it, too, so she will catch any other errors, surely. And didn’t she mention a copy editor going over it? Well, it will most definitely be perfect. Nothing to worry about. Anyway, you’re busy writing on your next great romance novel and switching gears to proofread the one that’s nearly ready for publication is just such a bother...
After you send in your list, your editor puts in your corrections, asks you to approve the copy she has attached, which you do without even looking at it, really – it doesn’t have any marks on it, to direct your attention to any problems, so why worry? – and she sends the edited manuscript to the copy editor. If the copy editor finds any typographical errors or other problems, she hashes it out with your editor (wonderful person, isn’t she, to deal with all these picky little things!) and gets a final galley from the production department.  
You have already approved it, so can there really be any need for you to look at this final galley, as your editor requests? But you skim through, and it looks lovely with all the margins lined up and everything, the chapters all starting at the same place on their first pages. The dedication makes you cry a little. You do wonder about the paragraph about the author on that page at the end; does it make you seem rather colorless, uninteresting? Hmmm. It could use a little more work. After all, you haven’t even thought about it for months, not since you sent in that form that came with the contract. And is the excerpt at the very beginning quite the right thing to grab a reader? Maybe you should look for a better scene to put there. As you flip through the book to find a better excerpt scene, you happen to see a paragraph you can’t possibly have written. It’s the idea you had in mind, but surely you didn’t write those words. It would be much better said this way...and so you write the improved version (in a separate document, of course, since you can’t change this thing the editor has sent you). Gosh, would there be any more paragraphs like that in here?
You feel the need to check, and you end up reading the whole book and finding a dozen more places where you are sure you have a better idea for the wording, and you write those into your notes for the editor, too. Well, it’s a good thing you happened to see those, isn’t it? You feel sure your editor will be delighted with the improvements you’ve made, and you send them off to her with a note saying, “Approved with these changes. Could I please see it once more, to be sure?” It’s only ten pages of items for her to coordinate with what she has already.   
That strange sound, like steam escaping from a valve, is evidence of your editor’s “delighted” surprise. How many times has she asked you to check the copy? How many times have you had the opportunity to read through the entire manuscript to make any changes in wording that you would like to make? And now you are rewriting? More sounds of hissing steam from the production person as she makes yet another galley copy for your editor because of your belated changes.
To answer the original question: once that final galley copy is made and double-checked for formatting accuracy and approved by you and your editor, it goes to the final production department, where it is assigned a release date. A final release copy is made and sent to you along with the date. A lot goes into making that final release copy. Having to change it is a major operation, so we hope you won’t again find paragraphs you’d like to change to sound a little better. We’re always happy to make necessary changes, although we would like them found earlier than the release copy. But rewriting? revision? word, phrase, and paragraph changes? Please do that during the regular back-and-forth editing, read and re-read carefully whenever your editor asks it of you, and then you can breathe easily when you draw the line on such modifications after giving your approval to a galley. 
...Nancy Swanson, Production Coordinator

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Technology is our Best Friend and our Worst Enemy

I love technology.  I mean I truly do.  I'm not a geek nor do I even attempt to pretend to be.  I know what I know and what I don't know definitely goes over my head but I completely and thoroughly love being a part of this world where technology changes literally overnight.

The fact that I can sit here looking out over beautiful Lake Ontario on a Saturday morning and send a note to someone in any country I choose and they will get it instantly amazes and impresses me.  When my son was deployed in 2009, being able to "talk" with him on the computer literally a world away from him saved my sanity.

However, when that technology fails us, life can be very very scary.  This past week, The Wild Rose Press experienced a severe malfunction when we switched hosting companies and our email system completely shut down for 8 days.  It was as if someone had put me in the middle of the dessert with no food or water or cell phone!  Looking at my inbox as it lay empty or worse seeing the "bounced" replies come back as I tried to reach out to staff members had my heart racing and not in a good way.

We should all plan for disasters even if we don't like to think about them.  At The Wild Rose Press we planned for a complete breakdown in technology.  We have back-ups of all our files, every manuscript ever published, cover art, contracts, everything backed-up in a secure location.  We also require our staff to have  back-ups of their computers. But we never thought about the email system. It was secure, it worked fine, why would it ever not work?  We never thought to have a secondary system in place in order to communicate with staff in the evening of a situation like this.  We were naive.  This was a serious wake-up call and showed us that with all the technology in the world at our fingertips, we could be brought to our knees in seconds.

Its always good practice to save your most important documents, manuscripts, digital family photos, anything like that somewhere secure and offsite. It doesn't necessarily have to be a bank safe deposit box -  although that's the best answer in my opinion - but it could be as simple as the home of someone you trust - another family member or best friend -  anywhere that is not the same physical location as your computer.  In the event of a natural disaster you would have peace of mind that your back-up was safe.

Another alternative to that is an online storage facility that for a small fee will allow you to back up your entire computer online. I believe there's a company called that will automatically back up your computer on a schedule you set for an annual fee.  If something were to happen you could access everything you need.  Think about it.  Its one less headache after all if you have to deal with something truly out of your control.

The Wild Rose Press emails are all up and running as of this morning.  If you sent in a query or an email to any of us between June 2 and June 10, please resend.  We look forward to being in touch with all of you.

Rhonda Penders

Sunday, June 5, 2011

One of the things I most enjoy as an editor is meeting author’s characters. We all have our favorites. Characters who become family. We love to visit them within the pages of books. Wondering about them long after the story is over or waiting impatiently for the next installment of their lives.

What draws us to these characters? What makes them become real enough that we want to know more about them? To know their stories? To invite them to dinner? And in some cases wish we could be them?

As both an editor and a reader, I look for depth. For layers that give a character the feeling of reality. We all know people who are a bit mysterious. Those friends or family members that make us want to dig deeper. The same can be said for characters on the page.

Young girls often dream of their prince charming. The actual specifics differ for each dreamer, but for the most part we want handsome, charming, strong, loyal and while we are young we want perfect. Then as we grow wiser, we know that no one is perfect.

Heroes and heroines need to be a bit “messy.” Something that makes them less than perfect. While the idea of “character flaws” may seem a bit cliché, there is a lot of truth behind the statement. We look for flaws. And when we don’t find them, we become suspicious. Someone who is too perfect is someone we can’t trust.

As an editor, I look for characters I can relate too. As an editor in Black, I admit to favoring hero’s who have a bit of the “bad boy” hidden inside them. Or even in plain sight. There is nothing more attractive than a hero who is rough on the outside and tender on the inside! A character that struggles, learns, and grows is much more likable than one who remains stagnant.

Characters also have to have consistency. While there is nothing wrong with a surprise or two, reader’s need to feel that a character’s actions or feelings are true. A hero who is afraid of snakes (think Indiana Jones) who jumps into a pit full of slithery critters to save his love is much more believable than one who suddenly decides to keep snakes as pets. A heroine who has always been afraid of heights who suddenly scales a cliff in order to save her child and lover is someone we all can connect with. But changes in behavior that have no understandable basis will leave the reader dissatisfied.

I like a character that has history but not too much. As a reader, I want enough background that I feel that I can understand a character’s motivation. Those little things that make him or her tick. At the same time as an editor, I don’t want to be buried under unnecessary back-story. There is definitely a balancing act to keep in mind when character building.

I have to shamelessly put a plug in here for Black. Though this applies across the lines. We are looking for strong and sensual characters in Black. Our guys and/or gals are otherworldly and as such, we like them to be sure of themselves. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with a heroine who needs to grow into that strength or a hero who may battle what he really is. Bottom line, we want characters we can relate to.

I look forward to meeting your characters. To inviting them over and hopefully visiting them again and again.

Lill Farrell
Black Rose Editor
The Wild Rose Press