Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Blogger and Author Blast Giveaway

Hey everyone!  After all those author promotions, the time has come!  We are now having the big "Blogger and Author Blast" Giveaway!  We have many different prizes that we are going to giveaway today!  Remember to follow the rules and thank the awesome authors and bloggers who helped make this possible!

Other Bloggers' Links:
Violet Patterson - http://emeraldseer.blogspot.com

Author/Blogger Appreciation (Message from the writers of EBR):
Thank you to all the authors who have helped made this possible.  Because you allowed us to add the books to this giveaway, you also allowed us to make this happen.  Without you amazing authors, this wouldn't have been possible. EBR's first "Blast" is completely dedicated to you (including other bloggers) and we are grateful that you can join us for our first one.  I hope that we can all work together in the future!  I would also like to thank the bloggers who have joined this.  Without you guys, again, this wouldn't have happened.  We wouldn't be able to spread the word of all the new bloggers and authors out there.  I also hope that some day we can work together again.  Whether we host another Blogger Blast or a Blog Tour (if that ever happens LOL), I want to work with everyone again!  We have been through a lot to get this work done, so lets do our best and expose our blog and these amazing authors!

Prize 1 (US Only):
- Night Sea Journey by Paula Cappa (ePub)
- Knight of the Purple Ribbon: A Novel by Jennifer K. Lafferty (Kindle)
- Little Red Riding Corp. by Tiffany Reisz (Hardcover)
- Entwined by Heather Dixon (Paperback)
- The Van Alen Legacy by Melissa De La Cruz (Paperback)
- Down to You by M Leighton (eBook)
- Ryder on the Storm by Violet Patterson (Paperback)
- The Upside of Ordinary by Susan Lubner (Hardcover)
- Alice In Zombieland by Gena Showalter (Hardcover)
- The Last Girl by Sangu Madanna (Hardcover)
- Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron
- King's Warrior by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt (Paperback) 
- My Wishful Thinking by Shel Delisle (Paperback) 
- Must've Done Something Good by Cheryl Cory (Paperback or ebook)
- We Have Confidence! by Cheryl Cory (Paperback or ebook)

Prize 2 (International):
- Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder (Paperback)
- The Trickster by Serafima Bogomolova (eBook)
- Angelfall by Susan Ee (Paperback)
- $25 Amazon Gift Card
- Love All by Kelly Hashway (PDF)
- Anew by Chelsea Fine (eBook)
- Lacrimosa by Christine Fonseca (eBook)
- Down to you by M Leightom (eBook)
- The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (eBook)
- The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (eBook)
- The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (eBook)
- Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta (eBook)
- Daughter of Smoke and Bones by Laini Taylor (eBook)
- Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor (eBook)
- Reminding Me of You by Kathy Bosman (eBook)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For Secret phrase click Terms and Conditions at the bottom of the rafflecopter

*We are not responsible for the damages, lost prize, etc. We are NOT the ones who mail the prize to you, therefore, Ethereal Book Reviews is solely not responsible for anything.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Guide to Writing Contests

It's not-so-humble brag time... Okay, I'm really excited - this week I won a RWA writing contest! When I found out I'm not ashamed to admit I danced around the house. If you know me you know why this is funny. Picture a monkey having a seizure; that's me dancing.

Have you ever wondered why you should bother entering contests? They can be costly - especially if you're not winning. They can also be morale crushing experiences. But, get it right and the payoff can be huge!

I know countless writers that have found their agents, gotten publisher interest, or had something result from a contest/pitch-contest that has directly resulted in agenting/publication. The thing is I have not always had great luck with contests - but I have learned heaps on how to approach them!

So here are my suggestions on how to chose the contests that are right for you, avoid disappointment, not waste money, and learn where you might find them.

If you're going to enter a contest you need to figure out why you're really entering and what you want out of it. There are tons of reasons to enter aside from simply 'winning'.

Get professional feedback - BEST CRITIQUERS EVER
It takes a while to get fabulous critique partners. But nothing beats having a professional look at your work and give you feedback. Contests judges are usually industry professionals (always read contest T&C to see who is judging) and generous enough usually to give comments on their scoring and tips for improvement. I will confess right now that nothing has influenced or improved my writing so much as having those valuable insights. Reason enough for a new writer to enter, even if it's not to win.

Gage where your writing is
I found it impossible to gage my writing initially without professional insight. If you are querying sure you may be getting rejections - a good indication that something needs work. But what? How far away are you? The form letter rejections that writers usually receive do little to shed light. Writing contests (especially RWA) often have an ready-for-an-editor rating where professional judges will provide scoring in terms of how far away they believe you are from publication. Their opinion obviously but valuable. They may also give comments as to why. I once had a judge give me a great tip about the marketability of a particular concept that made me reconsider how I approached my entire MS!

Build your writing credentials
Obvious but important. If you are like me; a relatively new writer, do not have a masters in writing, do not work in the writing/publishing industry, what do you really have to put in that all important bio section of your query? I had 'diddly-squat' that's what!
The thing is thousands of people query agents/publishers and they are looking for professionals. Many don't even accept pages - they go by Query Letter alone! So you have that one page to prove you have what it takes. Having any credentials is a step forward.

Get publisher/agent interest
For me the real prize is not winning a contest. The real prize is getting work in front of the editor it was written for. I know several writers who have won their agents this way. Lots of people get picked from slush-piles but it is easy to get lost in them. Anything that puts your work in a new context or highlights it for an agent/editor to see it has to be a plus.

Once you know your goal you will be able to make much better decisions and save yourself some time, money and heartache. These are my tips for achieving your goals.

Publisher Interest
This is what it has all been about isn't it? Getting published. Check judge details on EVERY contest you enter. They vastly vary. This is my most important criteria. Chose the contests that give you a chance to show your stuff to the publishers you want.

Agent Interest
This is the same as above. Chose contests that give you the best opportunities. Are judges superstar agents or big six publishers? Better yet is a judge one of your dream agents who you have been too afraid to query? What if you could not only get your work in front of them but have them give you feedback?

Recognition/Writing Credits
If your goal is recognition, you may want to stick to the most credible and perhaps prestigious writing contests.  For romance you cannot beat the Golden Heart, but there are other well known contests for other genres. I suggest researching this with your local writers association. There may be reputable National contests depending on where you live. (I'm an Aussie if you didn't notice)

Money can flow both ways in contests. There's the money you fork out to enter and the money that can be won. Personally, I am more concerned with not spending a fortune than winning money. My advice is to enter less but enter smarter.  Some contests (readers digest being one) have large monetary prizes. If that is important to you then look at prize details before entering. Usually contest that offer large prizes are huge and competition is fierce so keep that in mind.


Know your Genre
Some contests are open to a variety of Genre's but sway to a particular persuasion. If you want to have the best experience possible and improve your chances of winning try to focus on contests that lean in your favor. Some of the pitch ops I recommend here are fabulous, I have entered them in the past, I know people who have signed agents as a result of them, but I no longer enter. Why? Simply because I did not feel that my work fit in - in fact much of my work being of a romance/erotic nature would be inappropriate in those particular forums. But that one is more my own personal feelings.

Know your Audience
This is as per above. Know whose judging and what they like. This next bit is hard. I learnt the painful way that my 3rd person work received a much more positive reaction from romance judges than 1st. I now only enter my 3rd MS's. I'm not saying that everyone should do this or 1st can't win that is just my experience. The fact is that particular POV styles and tense rub some people the wrong way, or have prevalence in particular genres. For example in YA 1st person is very popular. Your style may sell well but not judge well. Just something to keep in mind of you enter a few contests and don't understand the reactions.

Do not enter every contest ever conceived
This is simple. It will cost a fortune (RWA contests are generally $20-30 per entry), and not all of them will benefit you. Learn to choose wisely. Another reason is it may not be the best idea to continually shove the same MS under the same group of agent/editors noses. You'll likely burn those bridges. I have noticed especially within the Pitch contest circuit it is a similar group that participate regularly.  Even if winning I know I want to be a professional writer not a professional contestant - just saying.


There only needs to be one point here. Judges are just people and it is all completely... wait-for-it... subjective! We have all heard that word a billion times but really it's true. I have had published agented judges give me a perfect score, give the most amazing feedback of all time and miss out on finals because to another judge thinks its 'Meh'. They dont like that POV, tense, style, theme, kind of character, the list goes on but we all have personal tastes. Remember that and don't go crazy over other peoples opinion. Do however consider how negative feedback might help you improve.



My picks for Agent Pitch Contents

  • http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com.au/ you can't go past Brenda Drake for her Pitch Madness, Pitch Wars etc pitching opportunities. If you write YA or MG fiction this may be of particular interest.
  • As the name suggests consider this a matchmaking service for writers and agents but with a fierce competitive element. More like the literary version of 'The Bachelor' Where writers nut it out to win their literary crush. http://cupidslitconnection.blogspot.com.au/

Now most of this boils down to my learned experiences and a dash of common sense, but I remember feeling a little lost in the beginning. Most of all I hope this helps you on your path. 

I am happy to maintain this as a list of useful contests so please do comment if you have suggestions and I will add them.


Monday, 18 March 2013

Scene Transitions - Advanced polishing

I was fortunate enough to be gifted three fabulous critiques from professional published writers/editors that participated in Evil Auction, a fantastic fundraising event.  Having just received the first critique back, it provided the validation I needed and also great advice in tightening an area I was not confident in -  POV change scene transitions!
It was helpful for me so I thought I would share it with you, and also some of my own tips for stellar scene transitions.  

My tips for writing un-put-downable scene transitions 
1. Never let the reader off the hook
You know you have to hook the reader when you open your story, and you know they need to stay hooked. The beginning AND end of every scene should serve to propel your story, keep it moving, dig the hook, keep those pages turning!
  •  End every scene on something that keeps the reader hanging or emotionally invested. That means not your heroine "drifting peacefully to sleep". Oh, she can be going to sleep but end with a question, a promise of what's coming, something to keep them tuning those pages. Have your heroine drift to sleep, "blissfully ignorant of the horror about to befall her".

2. Always start POV scene transition by showing whose skin we are in BY NAME!
Sounds obvious right? Sometimes we think the reader will realise we have changed POV, or that we have made it obvious enough. Don't assume; make it clear! There are few things quite so jarring to a reader than realising the scene is not in the POV character they thought it was.
  • Identify character by name in the first sentence.
  • If you have referenced the characters at the end of a paragraph rearrange it so it's at the start.

3.Ground your reader in the new scene
Let your reader know immediately where they are.
  • Establish passage of time; even if you have to write "two weeks later she..." etc 
  • Identify place/event

4. Use scene change to switch POV
  •  It is confusing to the reader to have the POV change mid scene; or worse mid-paragraph. Wait until a new scene. The character can always reflect back to show their reaction.

Tip-to-me on POV scene transitions
  • Begin POV scene transitions by having hero/heroine reference what's just happened in the last POV to connect the characters. In romance this becomes a crucial element in showing the hero and heroine reacting to each other. This was not something I was accustomed to doing in scenes that did not directly relate to the previous POV scene.

And those are my tips for scene transitions. Hope you enjoyed. Helpful?

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Perfect Beginnings

Once you set out down that twisted, winding road to publication, one thing becomes clear; the importance of your opening pages. They must be perfect, more perfect than anything else. But how do we do that? I mean beyond tightening and polishing, what do agents and editors really want?

Let me share a tweet I saw yesterday from Kate Cuthbert, Managing Editor of Escape Publishing (E-Harlequin Australia)

"I'm still knocking back a ton of submissions because the narrative starts chapters ahead of the story, and mires the reader in exposition"

When I first read this tweet, I sighed... It's such a loaded statement, and one that pretty much addresses the two biggest things holding almost everyone I have ever critiqued back! At least in my humble opinion it is. Where your story should begin, and introducing the complex and layered world you have created without drowning your reader in exposition (otherwise known as info-dump/back-story).
I can see how learning these two concepts has taken my own writing from - "not quite there " - to - "getting there", to the kind of place I was hoping to be.

It's been hard, really getting it has meant I had to shelve my first two beloved MS's and focus on my latest two which are on the right path.  

Where to begin your tale?

My first two MS's began in my heroines day-to-day life. I introduced the characters and set up the story. I had some lovely feedback, but they didn't seem to be getting anywhere in competitions, and the few queries I sent out came back to me with form letter responses.

It was then that the contest feedback proved invaluable. I got some wonderful advice; cut the lead up - begin by throwing your heroine right into the middle of it. I did, and that's when things started to improve a little, almost finaling, and personalised rejections.

More Twitter/blog stalking Editors and Agents and further key first page ingredients were thrown in the mix;

·         OPEN WITH YOUR HOOK Can I emphasise this any further?

Your opening pages must hook your reader, force them to keep reading. They must be dying to find out what is going to happen! Your heroine running late for work, or stuck in meetings all day, or hanging around with friends is not going to cut it. Ouch, I felt that, been there.

·         Get hero & heroine together asap (on first page usually). Essential for romance. Yes, more pain, more great pages of character building going to the trash heap where all boring beginnings go to die.

·         Establish whose skin you are in immediately. This means the reader must know who your character is AND connect with them immediately. That means not starting with "the man", "the girl", or "I sat" etc, for three pages until we learn who the character is, and why we should care. Unless of course, it's one of those suspenseful antagonist POV preludes.

We have the ingredients! Yay we're there!!! Kind of, almost, no not really. Having applied these elements to my work, and imparting them to my CP's, there was one more thing creeping in to crush our dreams... EXPOSITION!! That second part of Kate's tweet, and perhaps the trickiest.


So now instead of having artfully set up the context of story, we have ruthlessly cut all that out and have our hero dangling precariously off the edge of the cliff. Therein lies the temptation to dump all the set-up on the reader in a great explanation!! We all know what showing and telling is, but usually still struggle with back-story.

The hero is dangling off the edge of the cliff because he is a secret vampire prince on the run from vampire hunters who have finally caught up with him...

How can you get this across without drowning your reader in info-dump?

It's easy once you get your head around it. You delicately lay down clues... Just hints, they tell the reader so much more than we think. Remember - readers are clever.


Instead of telling - Show the hero clinging to the cliff in a feat of superhuman strength. He is glancing at the horizon, his un-dead heart pulsing furiously, as the morning sun begins to rise.  

See? No telling words, no explanation, but most people will get that he is a vampire, and about to be fried vampire in a life and death literal cliff-hanger (hook).

Car doors slam and flashlights flicker over him. He slips into a crevice in the rock.

Without explanation we know the hero is being searched for, but does not want to be found. We also get the clue that they are human and do not possess his skills, as they require searchlights to find him and cannot scale the cliff themselves.

I could go on, but you get the point. It's all about clues and letting the reader work it out.
You would be surprised how much information you can impart with a glance, a single line of internal narrative, and cleverly phrased dialogue.

It's something having applied to my writing has turned a corner, finally making finals and getting the responses we like to get. I am still to see what will come but at least I know I'm starting with the right kind of bang.

Was this helpful? How has the way you approach beginnings evolved?