Thursday, October 30, 2008

Crimson Rose Month

October was a time to celebrate the paranormal side of life (go guys!!) with their big finale on Halloween. Hope you all enjoyed the Ball and that there were some fabulous costumes.

As we move into November, thoughts do begin to turn toward winter as we change seasons a bit. What is better on a winter day than curling up with a comfy blanket in front of a roaring fire with your drink of choice and a really great book? A cup of tea, a mug of cocoa, a glass of Chablis…whatever relaxes you. However, as you choose that really good book, how about a great suspense novel to help you snuggle down even more into that blanket and yet keep you on the edge of your seat?

November is Crimson Rose month and we would like to invite you to take a tour of the crimson page of our website— and then click on the crimson link on the left-hand side. We have some incredible works there now with more on the way.

We are announcing a call for submissions—Men in Uniform. We would like to fill our “store” with some brand new stories showcasing your favorite man in uniform. Cindy Green wrote a free read entitled A Girl, A Guy and A Goon to kick off Crimson Rose Month and the Men in Uniform submission call. Feel free to download it and catch a glimpse of Cindy’s favorite man in uniform. (Thanks for kicking us off, Cindy!)

Whether you have written suspense before or want to try writing this venue for the first time, we welcome your submission. This can be any uniform you find an intriguing story wrapped around. There are firemen, policemen, paramedics, military, doctors, and sports figures. There could also be sanitation workers, astronauts, pest control folks, computer geeks, humane society workers—the list is endless. Can women be in uniform? Absolutely, but we really would like the man to be in uniform, too. They can be from the same line of work or a different one. A police woman meets a humane society worker. The options are just too many to think about.

We have a special chat on Monday night, November 3rd, 8 p.m. eastern time where there will be an active discussion on some of our favorite men in uniform along with other fun things to try out for the Crimson Rose month.

I know I piqued your interest with that comment so here are some fun things for November. On Sunday, November 2nd, I will be starting a special blog specifically on men in uniform. All visitors will be invited to post comments. At the end of the month, there will be one lucky winner chosen at random from those comments. That winner will receive the crimson download of their choice.

But wait, there’s more. (I am a secret writer for infomercials.) For every individual who downloads Cindy Green’s free read, their name will also go in a random drawing for a free Wild Rose Press coffee mug.

Now, I am sure you are thinking that it can’t get any better than this but it can. (Cue drumroll to raise the suspense level.) Lisa Dawn from our phenomenal marketing department will be posting a poll every couple of days to the loop. With this poll, you will be voting for your favorite crimson blurb and cover art. I have to warn you this will be a tough choice because we have some great stuff out there. From each of these polls, a winner will be chosen at random to receive the download of their choice from the books in that poll.

Just a reminder, stop by the chat on Monday night. Let’s talk men in uniform along with murder and mayhem. So many thoughts, so many villains, so many ways for a heroine’s heart to race. And again, please visit our website to check out the crimson titles and if you have any questions, please feel free to email me a The Crimson Rose editing staff can’t wait to see what this calls brings.

Have fun and hope to see you at the chat Monday, the 3rd.

Senior Editor, Crimson Rose

Monday, October 20, 2008

Be Your Own Worst Critic (So Others Won't Want To)

(reprinted from the blog at

We all do it. We write a book we love. It's wonderful. Its characters made us laugh. They made us cry. They made us fall in love. "That book is my baby," we say.

Until that manuscript goes into a drawer for a month while you let the ink dry, and the objectivity comes back.

This is what you must do as a writer, to distance yourself from the books you've written. Only after you haven't seen the work for a while, can you read it with fresh eyes. And when you come back and hate the words you've put on the page, and you're ready to burn it, and you think you should never torture the world with your prose again ... then you're ready to revise.

Being critical of your work is not a bad thing. In fact, it will help you get the thick skin you need to be an author. Your worst critic--you--is about to become your best ally on the road to publication.

First and foremost, you'll need to look at the mechanics of your writing. Are the sentences structured properly? Are you using poor grammar only where it's done on purpose (There are such instances!)? Is your book loaded with adverbs? Too much telling and not enough showing? Remember: Unless you fix the mechanics, your reader won't be able to see past clunky writing to appreciate the great plot and characters of your book.

Next, look at characterization, POV, and flow of your storyline. Is everything consistent? Do a character's actions and reactions make sense for his/her worldview? Do the scenes flow nicely? Are some too short and others too long? Do you get to spend enough time in each major character's head to fall in love with him/her? Could a scene be written better in someone else's POV? Cut scenes, move them, rewrite them. You can save the whole enchilada as a new file in your computer, so that you have the old version on hand, should you want to change something back.

Do not be afraid to slash and burn parts of your book. If the core of your story is strong and moving, it will survive the editing process! And if an agent or editor suggests a change to your manuscript, consider it carefully. Most of them are experienced in what sells, and they want you to get the best bang possible out of your manuscript. They aren't out to tear up your work, I promise.

That's your job. :)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Rejection: Knowledge is Power

I have heard it said often that small presses—Ebook, royalty-paying publishers, in particular—will publish anything that comes across the transom. The proof for this is in the pudding (so the elusive “they” will say): Sub-par releases, under-average cover art, poor editing. These are the gripes. Because of this, I decided to analyze seriously our own submissions and titles to see if this viewpoint held water, or was all wet (Oh, and BTW, clich├ęs and IM abbrev’s are OK in a blog entry—but not in a manuscript unless your character is going electronic ). Here’s what I found: Several of our titles have received glowing reviews—and not just from “Miss Jane Doe’s Blog that nobody ever heard of,” but, awards such as four stars from Romantic Times Magazine, reader’s and/or editors’ choice awards, and the like. Our covers have won The New Covey Award, the Dirk A. Wolf, and others. Our books have won Eppies, and other well-recognized contests—and our rejection rate on submissions exceeds fifty-two percent across the entire company. If the proof is in the pudding, The Wild Rose Press is stirring up some pretty rich chocolate—lots of cacao and not much artificial flavour.

But, you may say, “That sounds very sweet; how about giving us some meat and potatoes data.” OK. Generalities won’t cut it. Here are the bare-bones numbers on my own stats: Sixty percent rejection to forty percent acceptance. However, of the forty percent I do contract, more than half of those (fifty-four percent) are from authors who have published with us before (sometimes with another line; most often, someone I’ve personally contracted). So what does that mean? It means, if you’re a new author querying me for the first time, you only have an eighteen percent chance of me offering you a contract. To illustrate, it means that for every one hundred manuscripts I see, sixty get rejected and forty get contracted—but of the forty which get contracted, twenty-two are return authors, and only eighteen are new to TWRP. Eighteen out of one hundred. Does that sound discouraging? Don’t let it be. Just think of it this way: Every one of the twenty-two I contract as return authors, were once first-time authors. What this information should tell you is this: I don’t contract everything that comes across my desk, so if you’re serious about your career opportunities with The Wild Rose Press, send me your best work, not that first draft you wrote fifteen years ago and haven’t looked at since.

I take my job as an editor very seriously. It’s my reputation on the line, as well as the company’s and yours as the author. I don’t want to disappoint readers. I want them to pick up your book and be awed, moved to laughter or tears—or both in the span of a few chapters. I want them to talk to their friends—not about how poor TWRP books are, but how they’ve found a keeper, a must-read—how they can’t wait for the sequel or the next new release from Author A at TWRP. That’s what’s best for you—and me. What this should also tell you is, when you get that contract offer, don’t write it off as something trivial—and don’t let your friends, either. TWRP may be a small press, but I certainly don’t offer contracts to everyone.

I’m sure you’ve heard the rejection rate at larger houses is much higher than what I’ve described here. That’s because they see more manuscripts, yet unfortunately, that doesn’t mean more good submissions. I can understand their dilemma. I’ve been with TWRP for quite some time now, and I’ve seen the tide of submissions ebb and flow. It would be nice if the more submissions we saw, the more contracts we issued, but that’s just not the case. It’s usually the other way round: The more submissions, the higher the rejection rate. This is a sad reality.

But, that brings me to a very important point, which I know I’ve made before: if I reject your manuscript, but give you an offer to resubmit, I’m not trying to be nice. Just like you, I lead a busy life, and I don’t want to see a manuscript multiple times if I know it is too far away from publication quality. I only offer to look at a manuscript an additional time if I see some promise in it. So, please, take me up on my offer. Incorporate my suggestions. Resubmit. As I write this, I can think of several manuscripts I’ve contracted which were initially rejected, but came back to me well edited and polished to contract quality. I love it when that happens!

Rhonda recently put out a note asking for more submissions. We are always looking for great stories. In White Rose, I’d like to see some Miniature length and Rosebud length really great inspirational stories—stories in which Christian people struggle with their faith, but still rely on God. Emotionally driven stories with a strong romance and a strong Christian principle. These stories can be contemporary or historical.

In English Tea, I’d like to see any-length traditional regencies, and stories with a gothic flavour. I’d also like to see medievals which feature feisty heroines and courageous knight-types where chivalry is celebrated and women can be strong but still feminine.

Our rejection rate may seem discouraging, but don’t let it be. I’m shooting for a hundred percent contract rate, so send me a terrific read. If you do, I’ll send you a contract, and together, we'll grow.

Nicola Martinez, Senior Editor
White Rose & English Tea Rose

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dear Editor: When Should I Give Up?

You've just opened your tenth rejection letter for your from-the-heart-and-soul novel. You've even written a short story that you sent out, but haven't heard back about yet.

Some of the rejections say, "Thanks but no thanks." Others have a note or two about craft improvements you can make. But learning what passive voice is and not writing that way--or fixing it where it lies, like stagnant water, in your 100K book--is anther story. You even got a critique group and four people told you six different ways how not to do what they say you're doing wrong and you have no idea what they're talking about.

Should you give up? Decide that your writing is crap, will always be crap, and no one will like it, you can't change how you write, and that's it? Time to go back to the day job and just exist?


Don't do that to your dreams.

Never give up. You can learn new tricks. Study books on grammar and style. Study books on craft. Buy used copies of your favorite novels and highlight the heck out of that author's crafty bits. Analyze. Imitate until the methods sink in.

And above all, keep writing. Practice, practice, practice.

Have you ever looked at a portrait drawn by an amateur or self-taught artist, and thought, "Wow, that's really good. I can ignore the fact that the facial proportions don't look right because I can't even do that good. Stick figures, baby." Compare that drawing with a professional portraitist's art, someone who has studied line, color, shading, proportion, and has specific tools for different jobs. Worlds of difference in quality, eh?

Writing is a passion and an art. Craft tools and proper structure will allow your passion to shine, just as that professional artist's work is worlds above the amateur's. Perhaps that amateur portraitist draws as a hobby and is content with art for fun and stress relief. That's wonderful.

Is your writing a hobby? Then where did those rejection letters come from?

That's what I thought. Now put on your big girl panties and study.
Kelly Schaub is an editor in the Faery Rose Line. She is also author Kelly McCrady. Check out her new book, "Martial Hearts," on sale at The Wild Rose Press tomorrow, October 15!

Monday, October 6, 2008

If Only I Could

I've always been an avid reader. Childhood memories include sitting at the breakfast table while scrutinizing cereal boxes, hitching a ride to the grocery store with my mother so I could have a quiet place to sit and read in the car, and hour upon hour spent with my nose in a book. Someone bought me a sweatshirt once with a crazy, old lady silk-screened on the front, declaring she was the Queen of Books. That was me at ten.

I suppose, deep down, I've always been an editor too, though I'm still new to this Garden. "Can I write on this?" is a phrase that frequently draws a sigh and an eye roll from my co-workers as I reach for my friendly blue pen. My twelve-year-old prefers to take her homework to her father, who spell checks and gives a cursory glance, rather than Mom, who rattles off rules and requires three re-writes. I can't help it. It's what I do.

I haven't read "for fun" lately. I've been so busy with work and kids and life, that I just haven't made the time to sit down with a book. Also, I'll admit that I'm one to pick up a book and not stop until I'm finished, two in the morning or not. (And honestly, I might as well go ahead and read until three, because if I don't, I'll lay awake all night, wondering what happens, anyway.) Ages ago, a friend of mine suggested a book that she, her sister, and their mother had all enjoyed. I looked it up at my local library and became patron number two-hundred-and-ninety-seven to request it. Of course, months have come and gone, and I'd forgotten all about it. I was surprised to receive a call from the library this weekend, informing me the book I had requested was now available. What book? I sent my husband to pick it up, and laughed when he returned with the book that two-hundred-and-ninety-six people had read before me.

Climbing into bed last night, I picked it up.

I leaned close to my computer...

I cringed. It's written in first person? Might take some getting used to. First person is hard because it limits the writer--and the reader--to one point of view, giving absolutely no insight to any other characters.

That dialogue is all wrong. Who's saying what?

I tried. My fingers itched for my pen. I am not editing this book. I am reading it. Read it.

But they were everywhere. Misplaced punctuation. Misdirected quotes. "Head hopping"--in a story told in the first person! Then/than mistakes. Their/there/they're issues. Inconsistencies abounded. They agreed to meet at Restaurant A, but discussed what a great first date place Restaurant B was. An "I'm sorry I didn't do this" speech, when it was clearly done on the previous page. A "When December came, it was as cold as I had ever seen it when December came," sentence.

I gasped. I bit my lip. I rolled my eyes. I mumbled, "Someone should have caught that," under my breath a hundred times.

And I loved the story. I loved it. It's fantastic and wonderfully written, but...

I wish I could turn that part of my brain off and lose myself in the story, like I used to be able to do. If there was a switch, I would turn it off for the chance to enjoy a book without groaning at punctuation. But there's no switch. No magic word. No blindfold for my brain.

So I'll keep reading. And keep editing. And pray that no one will ever say of a book I edited that it's wonderfully written, BUT...
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