5 Things To Be Grateful For--Debut Author Edition - Crystal Collier

Hey, gang! I know we're headed into a busy holiday week for some, so I wanted to take the chance to wish all of you safe travels and loads of fun. Also wanted to share some things to be thankful for--with a writerly slant, of course.

So author-friend Crystal Collier put together this great post. Crystal's debut novel, Moonless, is out now, and what a great way to stuff your own stocking this holiday season! (Okay, on the proofread that came out unintentionally tawdry … but I'm leaving it because it also made me snort-laugh like a 7th grader.)

With that, how about I just let Crystal take it away.  :D

Five Things (Or So) To Be Grateful For--Debut Author Edition

E.J., thank you so much for having me here today! It's amazing, as you look back over a period of time, how many people influence your life and help you grow. As a debut author, I've been marveling at how I got where I am, so I want to share the things/people I'm MOST grateful for (publishing wise):

1. The Editor. Have you met the amazing Bethany Kaczmarek at A Little Red, Inc.? My publisher let me choose my own editor, and after much research and communication, I met Bethany. Her style and taste directly complimented my story, and she not only kept me laughing while editing, but caught absolutely EVERYTHING. Some people edit because they can. Some edit because they have a gift. She's the latter--and I'm exceptionally blessed for being able to work with her.

2. Critique Partners/Beta Readers: The biggest support has been my creative partner and husband. He reads everything--even if it's not his genre of choice--and even brainstorms with me. Best. Thing. Ever. I don't know what I'd do without Rachel Hert--from exchanging cheesy emails (where she locks me in a basement to work and keeps me alive with cheese dropped down the laundry chute,) to the continued support. Similarly, T.C. Mckee has been the wind beneath my wings. Her optimism and encouragement gave me the courage to get out there. My writing coach, Sharon Johnston (whose book, Sleeper, releases December 2), bequeathed me with a new title and helped fashion this story so literary agents were clamoring for it. My mom and sister read multiple times.  Lastly, for my amazing beta readers in 2009 (all 32 of you), I am intensely grateful--and especially for your amazing weekly feedback.

3. Readers/Reviewers: Every time someone says they've read my book, every time someone is kind enough to leave a review, I feel like breaking out a turkey and having Thanksgiving dinner.

4. Blog friends/Writers/Support Groups: WriteOnCon connected me with Rachel. (LOVE YOU WRITEONCON ORGANIZERS!) There have been innumerable writers who've been an example of what to (and not to) do. I've been blessed with amazing support groups (WriteOnBuildOn, DayDreamers Anonymous, Writers Support 4U, my Goodreads groups, and YaLitChat)--you've kept me going and taught me so much. Lastly, my bloggies--including the Insecure Writers Group, and What's Up Wednesday peeps, you have been an immense support/staple in my developing career. I'm intensely grateful for Rachael Harrie with her Writers Crusades...ahem, Campaigns, and my buddies with the Choose Your Own Adventure bloghops.

5. Goodreads/Amazon/Cheese: Reading is the key to good writing, so I'm grateful for all establishments that sell books, but especially for Goodreads and the real-world recommendations that keep me in the know. And of course, cheese keeps the brain pumping.

Who and what are you most grateful for this year?

Crystal Collier, author of MOONLESS, is a former composer/writer for Black Diamond Productions. She can be found practicing her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, three littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. 

You can find her on her blog and Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

Alexia’s nightmares become reality: a dead baron, red-eyed wraiths, and forbidden love with a man hunted by these creatures. After an attack close to home, Alexia realizes she cannot keep one foot in her old life and one in this new world. To protect her family she must either be sold into a loveless marriage, or escape with her beloved and risk becoming one of the Soulless.

MOONLESS is Jane Eyre meets Supernatural.

"MOONLESS is powerful, compelling, and packed with soul." --Bethany Kaczmarek, editor at A Little Red, Inc. 

"I fell head over heels for the characters." --TC Mckee, BookFish Books 

"Power-packed action, heart stopping mystery, unpredictable twists and turns..." --I Am a Reader Not a Writer

Buy MOONLESS HERE or add it on Goodreads.

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Writing With Voice: What's Your 'Thing'? Do You Need One?

Hey, gang! Hope this post finds you all doing well and, especially if you're of the NaNoWriMo kind, pushing toward your goals. :)

One thing I always try to stay aware of as I revise a story is voice. (I know, my hackles rise a bit when that word gets mentioned, too … but stay with me!) I want to figure out what's going to take it from being A story to being MY story as it were. 

This is at least partially because I'm writing urban fantasy, and there are lots (and lots, and lots more) of stories about vampires, werewolves, etc. these days, and I want my work to stand out in some small way.

Now, I was just as confused as everyone else when I first began trying to figure out what voice was all about. I'd read all of these articles, books, and interviews from various-amazing-authors that seemed to give it an almost spiritual quality. 

Apparently, voice was this ethereal ball of gas floating in the subconscious writing portion of our brains that couldn't be contained, only harnessed. And only the wisest and most determined writers would be able to master it.

Yeah, I felt totally screwed. I'm not the wisest writer (by a wide, Grand Canyon-esque margin I'm afraid), and writing--for the most part--for me isn't a very spiritual process. 

When I'm writing, I tend to swear at my computer, drink ridiculous amounts caffeine bang my head on tables, stare at ceilings, curse my dull brain--well, let's just say it isn't all that Zen-like. 

I'm more of a construction foreman for a highly-emotional, chaotic, and never-ending road project than a high priest quietly orchestrating a beautiful religious ceremony.

But I am determined, so something had to give, right?

What I learned was this: Voice isn't abstract, or at least the components that make it up aren't. In fact, it's the furthest thing from it! Is it hard to apply? Yes … mostly … well, just more tedious until you get the hang of it I suppose.

Voice is your personal flavor. It's your spice of choice. Just like how you take your coffee (or iced tea in the South), voice says, "That one is mine."

But it shouldn't be confused with just being description, which is something I did early on. My thought was, "I'm the only person who can describe a sunset the way I see it, so that has to be what will make my writing unique." 

That was only part of the formula. The rest of it includes pacing, dialogue, action/reaction, humor, plot choices, and pretty much everything else that goes into a story. 

Ultimately, how you apply all of that results in your voice, or your "thing". And that's where the discussion gets a little philosophical in my opinion, because that "thing" is pretty much open for interpretation. 

What I think is clever, you might find trite. What scares me, won't necessarily keep you up at night. But when a writer has a thing, we know it--even if we can't agree on what it is, and maybe even if we don't like it.

Think about some of the great "voice" authors out there. Here are examples from a few of my favorites. These are completely random finds from books sitting on my shelf. I'm not looking for a specific paragraph. See if you can guess the authors based on the excerpt:


"I worried about it for a moment as I held the bottle by the neck, but I wanted to trust her, and so I did. I took a minor sip, and as soon as I swallowed, I felt my body rejecting the stinging syrup of it. It washed back up my esophagus, but I swallowed hard, and there, yes, I did it. I was drinking on campus."

If you're a fan of his, you probably immediately recognized John Green's handiwork in Looking For Alaska. 

Components that make up his voice: Long, protracted sentences. (He doesn't get super-clippy unless it's dialogue.) A very mature and pragmatic character perspective (for YA … "I did it. I was drinking on campus."). Using a big, and probably anatomically correct, word like "esophagus" instead of the simpler "throat".

Here's another!


"He could be as quiet as a Viet Cong guerrilla creeping through the bush, but her ears had gotten attuned to him over the last three weeks, and tonight, as a bonus, there was a moon. She heard a faint scrape and clatter of gravel, and she knew where he was going. Ignoring her aches, she followed. It was a quarter after ten."


This one is a little trickier, but Stephen King (The Stand) can create tension like no other. 

Components that make up his voice: Non-lavish, but highly evocative descriptors ("quiet as a Viet Cong", "a moon"). Also, how little he gives the reader in terms of perspective and motivation, yet still manages to convey direction and purpose in the scene. ("she knew where he was going", "It was a quarter after ten.")

Last one--this one has a giveaway if you're a fan, but it's a great example nonetheless.


"I'd made a vampire cry. Great. I felt like a real superhero. Harry Dresden, breaker of monsters' hearts."


Jim Butcher (Storm Front, Dresden Files Book One) is a real case study for anyone looking for examples of voice in first person storytelling. 

Components that make up his voice: You could take almost any paragraph from one of his books and find the same sarcasm and gloomy humor woven throughout.

As I said earlier, and the examples hopefully illustrate, voice isn't an abstract concept. By evaluating things like word choice (are you the type of writer who uses throat instead of esophagus?), description, and tone you can force voice into your work. 

But here's the (another?) thing: There are many talented authors and great stories out there that don't have a strong voice. In fact, I'd argue that many genres of fiction rely heavily on the author NOT pushing their own style overboard. 

Much of the science fiction and fantasy I read is intentionally left bland, forcing the reader to put their own personality into play. There are risks involved with such storytelling, because it can lead to undefined and uninteresting characters. But when the focus is on the world and sociology, I don't believe it's always wrong to let the reader paint the canvas you've given them.

Two of my favorite authors in those genres, Tolkien and Orson Scott Card, aren't overly ham-handed with their style. They simply tell a good story. 

So that leaves me with a bunch of questions: How important is voice? Do we need to have a definitive writing style, or is telling a good story enough? How important is it to readers? 


I'm On Trial For Troll Abuse!

Hey, gang! Yes, this is absolutely as serious as it sounds. I'm taking part in one of the awesome Realms Fair events this year, and as you'd expect, I've already gotten into some trouble.

Seems some folks take issue with how the main character from my Moonsongs series (Jenny) handles the monsters she encounters. We're pleading our case over at Sheriff Gwen Gardner's blog today, so please stop by and help me win my freedom! 
She's meaner than she looks!
I'm afraid Jenny, while well-meaning, might be hurting my cause more than helping. She's a little agitated at being torn away from her video games to argue on my behalf. Plus, she REALLY hates trolls. :)

Also, be sure to check out all of the fun Realms Fair events going on this week. There are giveaways, but frankly they're just a blast. 

Events: Joust ~ Drench-a-Wench/Soak-a-Bloke ~ Stockade Brigade ~ Dueling Bards ~ Phasers ~ Masquerade Parade ~Collective Performance ~ Castle Jumble ~ Dragon Hunt

"Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my--oh hell, just get me out of these things!"

IWSG - NaNoWriMo Edition - Easy Ways To Get More Writing Time

Hey, gang! Time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post! What is IWSG? A collection of awesome writers who get together once a month to share our vulnerabilities and encouragement. You can learn all about it (and sign yourself up) by clicking the image below.

Carving out writing time--and not folding laundry, feeding kids, playing with dogs, catching up on Walking Dead, going to work, showering, etc., etc.--can be tricky. Why? Because not everyone sees it as such an essential activity as we writers do.

This gets particularly tricky if you're doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) types of things, because you're not just ducking out for a quick nip with the keyboard every now and again, but doing the equivalent of a month-long Rocky training montage with your WIP. 

So what's a writer to do? Well never fear, cause ol' E.J. is here to help you out. The next time you need to write and someone tries to stop you, just respond with one of the following--

A world needs saving, and I'm only a quarter of the way into figuring out how it's going to happen.

I have leprosy from 8-10 PM every day.

There are monsters in our (insert writing spot here), and it's going to take a few thousand words to flush them out.

I can't wear pants or remove this clown mask until I reach my word count. However, I'm happy to do whatever it is you need me to do sans pants, clown-mask-on until then.

Our computer was taken over by a gang of vicious cyber-terrorist, and if I don't write they're going to share (insert embarrassing photo memory here) on Facebook.

There are two versions of me: Writing me and pissed-off-bat-crap-crazy-homicidal-depressed-hates-puppies-never-cooks-slaps-babies-sets-fire-to-ALL-the-things me. Which do you prefer?

I'm Facebook chatting with your (insert most annoying family member here) so she won't call. This could take a while. Would you like me to tell her to call you instead?

I've agreed to donate $1 of your money to the local animal shelter for every word I fall short on my goal. Between dirty diapers, work, and getting our eldest child's foot sewn back on, I'm probably going to need around $45,000. Or they've agreed to let us adopt this abandoned litter of 13 very cute--but very feral--kittens instead (show ANY picture of numerous kittens running amok). OR I could TOTALLY just write some more.

This year's NaNoWriMo prize is the producers of Lost will finally tell us what the last episode meant.

This year's NaNoWriMo prize is Miley Cyrus will no longer stick her tongue out. 

I'm working on math story problems--want to help?

You ever read (insert WIP title here)? No? Really? (pull out tuft of your own hair and set it on fire) IT'S BECAUSE I HAVEN'T FINISHED WRITING THE DAMN THING!

You ever read (insert obscure book title here)? No? Really? Let me tell you about it: There's this writer who is frustrated because she never has time to write. So she decides to start acting out her stories instead. It's great, you should read it. But I really need to get back to writing my story. It's about a wife/mom/sister/friend who does horrible things to people's food. Or I could make you a sandwich and we can keep chatting.

Are you NaNoWriMo-ing this year? If so, are you on track to meet your goal? If no, what are you working on? In either case, hope this bit of fun helps brighten your day and keeps you going. :)


Coffin Hop Winners & Blog Changes!

Hey, gang! Hope everyone had a fantastic Halloween weekend, or at the very least enjoyed that extra hour of sleep. (I just got up at the same old time--now an hour earlier into my day. -_-)

Just a few things on the docket today…

Winner! Winner!

Thank you to everyone who left comments on my Coffin Hop posts last week! Had a lot of fun reliving some of my favorite horror stories and movies and sharing some tips for writing scary fiction. 

I did a giveaway for the hop and entered everyone who left a comment on any of the hop posts. (If you left multiple comments, you were entered more than once.) Below is a list of the winners (selected by assigning numbers and using Random.org) and their winnings:

Digital copies of the entire Moonsongs series to date (Anthology + Dragon's Game - 2 winners)

William Kendall
Donna Hole

Signed paperback of Moonsongs, Anthology 1

A.F. Stewart

Paperback copy of the Death By Drive-In anthology

Julie Flanders

Digital Copy of Death By Drive-In

Shannon Lawrence

Congrats to all of the winners! I'll be in touch. :) 

Blog Changes

Y'all might've noticed a I've put a fresh coat of paint on the joint recently. I'll be rolling out an "official" author website soon and wanted the blog to have a similar feel--but more on that to come in days ahead.

I've also made something of an executive decision regarding cover announcements, book blasts, and other promotional things I do for other authors. I've decided to give them their on page on my blog.

I'm doing this for 2 reasons --

1) So folks can easily find all of the new stuff authors are sending down the pipelines. There are so many new releases, etc. now that they get sprinkled in with all of my other posts and, I fear, get lost in the shuffle. 

Now you can simply click the "All About Books & Authors" tab above and see everything "new" I'm sharing on a weekly basis. Plus, there are usually giveaways associated with these things, so if you're on the lookout for chances to win cool freebies, this'll make it easier to do.

2) I want to keep my posts separate so it's clear what content is coming from me, and what content I'm simply sharing for others.

I'll be sure to highlight everything I've shared on the books and authors page on the main blog page, so don't worry that your announcements aren't going to get noticed.  They'll just actually exist in two different places now. (Once in link form, once in full-post form.)

So what'll you find under the books & authors tab right now?

Echoes by Amy Evans  - Amy is releasing the followup to her YA eco-fantasy, Clicks, with Echoes. And the cover is gorgeous! 

Time On Her Side by Shelly Arkon - Shelly is offering up her latest FREE on Amazon right now, and it's currently #7 in the 'time travel' category. I just snagged my copy and recommend you do the same (tomorrow is the last free day). 

Be sure to click over for a look at the fantastic cover, book description, and more on Shelly if you aren't already acquainted with her. She's a fantastic writing-blogging friend to have. :)

That's it for today! I'll be back Wednesday for IWSG!