Author Archives: Rayna Vause

Self Editing: The Last Check List Before You Submit by Tere Michaels

Heir Apparent by Tere MichaelsI’d like to welcome Tere Michaels to Attacking the Page.  She is the author of  the Faith, Love and Devotion series.  She is a freelance editor. I also have the pleasure of calling her my friend.  Today she’s going to put on her editor hat and talk a bit about self editing.

Self Editing: The Last Check List Before You Submit

The last draft before your submission to an editor or agent is that razor’s edge between “so excited I could puke” and “so freaked out I could puke”. Basically – it is accompanied by a whole lot of nausea. You want your very best work to be read, the finest example of your capabilities to catch their attention and hopefully get your entire manuscript read.

So what can you do to cover all your bases?

Put the manuscript away for at least five days before going through this final checklist. It’ll give you time to forget the little details – because you need as clean a slate as possible. Look at it with fresh eyes.

Give yourself time and be honest! Better to find the holes and gaps instead of having an editor point them out.

Nothing is perfect – there’s no such thing. But give your story it’s best possible chance by presenting the best possible manuscript.

Ask yourself:

  •    Is the dialogue natural? (Read it aloud.) People don’t talk in paragraphs, they don’t use a person’s name repeatedly and they don’t use perfect grammar in conversation.
  •    Are the facts straight? Double check things like time zones! Don’t pull the reader out of the story with something you could have confirmed with a two second Google search.
  •    Does it open with a character waking up, flashing back or dreaming? Are they looking in a mirror and describing themselves? These are warning signs of a new writer. Don’t do it!
  •    Info dumps are the quickest way to turn off an editor. Parse out information about your characters and plot as naturally as possible, through dialogue and through actions. Ask yourself – what is the most pertinent information a reader needs to know about these people and this situation in the first three chapters? Then only give that information – because unless it’s integral to this opening, I don’t need to know the hero’s relationship to his first grade teacher or the heroine’s eating habits.
  •    True angst and conflict should evolve from the characterization. Don’t throw things into the mix just to up the drama. Contrivances will sabotage your story. Beginning a story with some drama or intrigue is a good way to hook readers into continuing – but a cheap trick (a false alarm, a situation that isn’t as dire as it seems) doesn’t build much trust with the reader! Give them an honest reason to continue.
  •    Are your characters too perfect? Too angsty? Extreme characters don’t endear themselves to editors. Make sure you haven’t loaded your characters with too much perfection or too much drama on the front end.
  •    Ask yourself this – is it more important to know the hero’s eye color or how he handles himself in an emotional situation? You are trying to build a connection between character(s) and reader – think about what details will help that along.
  •    Why today? Why is the story starting in this place? What makes this day different and how are things going to change direction?  If you can’t answer that question, you might not be starting in the right place.

The last question is this – how does this chapter make YOU feel? There’s a quote that sits on my desktop as a reminder to myself about what is truly important.

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” Robert Frost

If you don’t feel something, you can’t expect your readers to!

Tere Michaels is the author of eight novels, including the popular Faith, Love and Devotion series and her latest book, Heir Apparent (all titles available at http://www.loose-id.com). She frequently teaches writing workshops at various conferences around the United States. For contact information, check out www.teremichaels.com.

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Yet Another Vampire Novel by Author Elisabeth Staab

hunterbynight-300I’d like to welcome my friend, Elisabeth Staab, to Attacking the Page.  She is the author of the Chronicles of Yavn vampire romance series. Here’s a little about Elisabeth.

Elisabeth Staab started hunting zombies back in 1842… Oops, wrong bio… Elisabeth Staab still lives with her nose in a book and at least one foot in an imaginary world. She believes that all kinds of safe and sane love should be celebrated but she adores the fantasy-filled realm of paranormal romance the best. She lives in Northern Virginia with her family and one big scaredy cat, where she loves to spend time with good friends, good music, good beverages, and good books (when she isn’t making characters fall in love, that is).

Take it away Elisabeth…

So… I wanna thank Rayna for inviting me to guest today. Of all the questions and trivia topics I’ve been asked, she managed to hone in on a slightly more obscure tidbit. Why did I call my series the Chronicles of Yavn?

Okay, well… Hi, my name is Elisabeth, and I write vampire romance.

I get asked “Why vampires?” an awful lot. The genre, pardon the expression, is done to death. Right? And when I started writing my debut novel, King of Darkness, the fanged-heroes mushroom cloud had already exploded. Twilight was on the big screen. Cat and Bones were all the rage and True Blood was in the works. J.R. Ward had just let us know that someday Blay and Qhuinn would someday get their happy ever after. A billion other fantastic series that had preceded mine were still going strong. The agents I pitched to told me mine wouldn’t sell unless I changed the species.

Well, phooey.

But I loved vampires. To my core. Vampires brought me back to loving romance after a violent attack in a public library while checking out a stack of Harlequins had me thinking I’d never touch another romance novel for as long as I lived.

I could give you a bazillion other reasons (hush you, “bazillion” is too a real number): the fangs, the hot alpha males and that forbidden interspecies vampire-human love that dare not speak its name, their awesome preternatural strength and the fact that they bond not just emotionally but on a physical level by blood. Some say gross, I say neat-o. After all, it creates a fantastic element of complication for us writers.

I wrote my first novel, King of Darkness, because I kept trying to scratch that certain itch for more. As a reader, I knew I couldn’t be the only one with that itch. One night while rocking my newborn, I had a not-so-lucid dream about a guy standing in a smoky warehouse party, looking for someone he needed to find like he needed to breathe. I had to know his story, and I had to write it down. So, I just did and the Chronicles of Yavn were born.

So about the series name, Chronicles of Yavn? In my vampires’ world, Yavn is an old family name. The king in King of Darkness is Thaddeus Yavn Morgan, Thad for short. Yavn also happens to be an acronym for Yet Another Vampire Novel.

Because… Yeah. Nobody had to tell me the market was flooded when I started this journey. The Yavn name was my way of poking fun, acknowledging that it could be an uphill climb remembering not to take anything too seriously. It’s also sort of my guiding compass: Vampires will probably always be my favorite paranormal creature. I’m not out to carbon copy what’s out there, nor am I out to make vampires into something brand new. I tried to choose a few classic commonalities and give them some new twists that would make my world a familiar but fresh story: a new voice, a new a made-up town outside Washington DC, superpowers in a modern setting , some old-school tropes made new, and my own brand of dark humor. I like to think it worked out okay.

I think that’s kind of the key with vampires. Or weres, or fairies, or firefighters, or any other “creature” that’s been “done.” At the end of the day writing is a business, but it helps when you have passion. And if you love a thing, then love it enough to find the special world within a world that allows you to make it your own. And for God’s sake, have fun.

About the Chronicles of Yavn:

kod_webKing of Darkness (Chronicles of Yavn #1):

ETERNAL COMMITMENT IS NOT ON HER AGENDA…
Scorned by the vampire community for her lack of power, Isabel Anthony lives a carefree existence masquerading as human–although, drifting among the debauched human nightlife, she prefers the patrons’ blood to other indulgences. But when she meets the king of vampires this party girl’s life turns dark and dangerous.

BUT TIME’S RUNNING OUT FOR THE KING OF VAMPIRES…
Dead-set on finding the prophesied mate who will unlock his fiery powers, Thad Morgan must find his queen before their race is destroyed. Their enemies are gaining ground, and Thad needs his powers to unite his subjects. But when his search leads him to the defiant Isabel, he wonders if fate has gotten it seriously wrong…

Amazon | B&N | BAM | Indiebound | Discover a New Love e-Book Club

princeofpower-300About Prince of Power (Chronicles of Yavn #2):

This Fight Is Personal…

Wizards and vampires have been mortal enemies since the beginning. Now Anton, son of the Wizard Master, has one last chance to steal the unique powers of the vampire king’s beautiful sister, Tyra…and then kill her. But when he meets Tyra face-to-face, everything changes…

Tyra will stop at nothing to defeat the wizards, until Anton saves her life and she suddenly sees an opportunity she never could have imagined…

As the sparks ignite between them, together they could bring an end to the war that’s decimating their people, but only if they can find a way to trust each other…

Amazon | B&N | Target | Walmart | Indiebound Discover a New Love e-Book Club

hunterbynight-300About Hunter by Night (Chronicles of Yavn #3):

A supernatural war is about to ignite a scorching hot romance.

Lee protects his vampire race, and hates humans as much as the wizard enemies he kills. Just as he’s assessing new recruits to join the vampire king’s army, all hell breaks loose. The estate’s security system fails, wizards are heading their way, and human-hating Lee is stuck protecting Alexia, the queen’s human best friend. But as dangerous obstacles force Alexia and Lee closer, an undeniable attraction is revealed, and the two must find a way to compromise.

Amazon Pre-order | B&N Coming soon | Add to Goodreads TBR

 

Thank You from the Conference Chair

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Thank you flowers from LSF Writers. Aren’t they lovely?

Yes, I am tooting my own horn, but IMHO this weekend’s Create Something Magical Conference went wonderfully. There was so much energy, excitement and enthusiasm in the air from start to finish.  I have to give a huge thank you t o my conference committee. They are an amazing collection of individuals and I certainly couldn’t have pulled it off without them. Because I did have such a great committee I was able to set the conference chair on the shelf for a few minutes and pitch my manuscript.  I received multiple requests for my work SQUEE! Go Me.  But in all seriousness, the conference ran as smooth as it did up to and through the actual day of the conference because of my fabulous committee.

I also have to offer a HUGE thank you to Jonathan Maberry. He was an incredible and inspiring keynote speaker plus he’s been a great support of the Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference from the beginning.  There are not words enough to thank him.

Much gratitude goes out to all of the speakers who offered their time and expertise.  I’ve heard nothing but great things about every workshop.

To all of the editors and agents that attended we so appreciate you give up your Saturday to join us. Thank you for listening to pitches and for speaking on panels and offering your insights on the industry.

Thank you to all of the attendees, readers and writers alike. The conference certainly wouldn’t happen without you and all of the excitement and energy you bring with you. To all of your who pitched I wish you much luck on your submissions. For those who didn’t next year will be your year.

Finally, I’d like to send a mega shout out to Kim Rocha and all of the Book Obsessed Chicks. You throw one heck of a party, ladies. I was thrilled to have you there.  Next year, I’ll have to make a point to get in on at least one line dance. 😉

It really was a magical weekend. I hope to see everyone back next year! For now, the conference chair is going to take a nap.

~Best
Rayna

Setting the Mood with Music

1374422_headphones_1The other night I was chatting with author Carolyn Gray on twitter. She was mostly satisfying my idle curiosity about the legal plausibility about some things I’d seen happen on a television show, but then I had to have a fan girl moment. If you know anything about my reading preferences, you’ll know I’m a real sucker for two things: rock stars and secret babies. Carolyn is the author of a very angsty, m/m romance  entitled  A Red Tainted Silence which features rock stars (but no secret babies unfortunately). Suffice to say I loved the book.

During our brief discussion, the subject of mood music came up. She mentioned to me that while righting Red she’d been listening to Savage Garden. Me personally, I have a hard time writing while listening to music. I spend more time singing then writing,  plus quiet helps me focus. It lets me hear my characters so to speak.  But I can understand setting the tone by listening to music before you actually sit down to write. So, what’s you’re stance on mood music for writing? Are you the type to plug in your headset and blast the tunes or do you have other ways of getting just the right atmosphere for the scenes you want to get down on paper? If you’re a music person what’s on your writing soundtrack?  Or, do you have other means then music to help you get in the right head space?

 

The Conference Comfort Zone

banner300x300The Liberty States Fiction Writers Conference is only a few weeks away. I just bought my plane ticket to the Romantic Times Convention,. I’ve had conferences on the brain lately and I must say I do love them.  I love the energy, excitement, and even the touch of nervousness in the air. Writer and readers events are opportunities for me to shed the evil day job persona and enjoy being a writer for a while.  It also gives me the chance to get together in person with friends that I may only connect with online.

Most importantly conferences give me the chance to network with industry professionals , other writers and readers. While I do enjoy meeting new people, it’s also difficult for me.  It’s practically a requirement of an author’s job to mix and mingle, yet I find that’s often where I struggle. I’ll be the first to admit that striking up conversations with a stranger is less then comfortable for me. I think most of us are concerned about suffering from foot in mouth disease and I’m no exception. I’m also, by nature, a reserved individual until I get comfortable with a person. I suppose the catch is you can’t get get comfortable and find common ground with someone without engaging in a little small talk.  Now each time I go to a conference, I set a goal for myself to try and meet at least one new person and not stay latched to my friends. I try and step outside of my comfort zone and strike up a conversation with someone who is probably just as nervous as I. By stepping out of that box, I have been fortunate enough to meet some pretty great people. It’s still not easy but at least I’m trying.

Are you like me and meeting new people is tough for you? Maybe the thought of pitching to an editor or agent make you want to hyperventilate? What aspects of conference going make you nervous? What do you love?

Dancing with Self Doubt

815492_computer_frustrationI totally forgot about posting yesterday, but then I’ve been a bit of a Swiss cheese brain lately. I’ve got a boatload of things on my plate the least of which is organizing a conference.  I went to karate class last night as I do on most Mondays and had was lucky enough to get promoted to Advanced Brown belt. While it’s very exciting and thrilling there is still a small part of my brain that asks how the heck I got here because I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.  I watch some of the other students and for them the moves just seem to flow so naturally and that is no not me.  I more often then not feel about as awkward as a new born deer stumbling my way through the moves. I swear if I were ever in a real fight and some point I would say Stop, I screwed that move up. Let me start over.  I have to assume though that I’m doing something right or my sensei wouldn’t keep promoting me. I try to keep telling myself that with time will come fluidity. That the more I do it the more second nature the moves will become.

It’s funny though, I often feel the same way when it comes to writing. I feel like I grind and struggle with my stories while everyone around me is flowing along leaving pages of brilliant prose in their wake.  The logical part of my brain knows I’m not the only one banging my head against a wall, but it doesn’t stop those moments of self doubt and frustration. I think it’s part of the creative personality type. Still how do you combat those moments. How do you keep them from stopping you in your tracks. Honestly, I wish I had a good answer for that, but I don’t.  I tend to muscle and stubborn my way through.  I love my stories. I love my characters and their stories and I want to share them.  If that’s what I want then I just have to keep at it until eventually I get where I want to go. Of course, when I get really frustrated I go to karate class and hit something.

I now pose that question to you. How do you keep moving forward when those voices in your head are making every efforts derail you?

Merry Christmas

 MerryChristmas

All of us here at Attacking the Page wish you all a safe and happy holiday season and a very Merry Christmas. Since I’m sure we all have a ton of things to do to prepare for tomorrow, I found a short by fun holiday video for your entertainment. I love Christmas lights display synchronized to music and I found a pretty cool one to share. I hope you in enjoy it. Travel safe and have a wonderful Christmas.

Keeping Warm This Winter

When I woke up this morning it was 29 degrees outside my front door. A bit too cold to snow, thank goodness, but darn cold nonetheless. Despite my intense dislike of winter, it’s here to stay for a few months.  While, I’m desperately hoping otherwise, I fully expect to get slammed with a snow storm or two in the coming months.

With recent occurrence of Sandy, I started wondering about my preparedness for other types of inclement weather, in particular snow storms. To that end I found myself on Ready.gov, a FEMA website that gives you information about dealing with all manner of extreme weather.  Here’s just a little bit of what I found about being ready to deal winter storms and extreme cold.

The National Weather Service refers to winter storms as the “Deceptive Killers” because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm. Instead, people die in traffic accidents on icy roads and of hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold.

  • Before winter approaches,put together emergency kits for both your car and house. You can visit Ready.gov for details on what to include in both kits.
  • Make a Communication Plan. If your family isn’t together at the time of the storm make sure you all know how to contact on another and what you will do in case of an emergency.
  • Listen check your  local news channels forl information from the National Weather Service. Stay up to date on changing weather conditions.
  • Travel only if necessary and  keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle. Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If your car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  • Bring pets/companion animals inside during winter weather. (They may have fur coats but they need warmth just like us please bring them inside during the winter months.)
  • If you must go outside during a storm, wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. The outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent.
    • Wear mittens, which are warmer than gloves.
    • Wear a hat. A hat will prevent loss of body heat.
    • Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.

Should you get stranded in your car in a storm:

  • Pull off the highway. Turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the radio antenna or window.
  • Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you. Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter.
  • Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. When the engine is running, open a  window slightly for ventilation and periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe. This will protect you from possible carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Exercise to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion. In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers, and floor mats for insulation. Huddle with passengers and use your coat for a blanket.
  • Take turns sleeping. One person should be awake at all times to look for rescue crews.
  • Turn on the inside light at night so work crews or rescuers can see you.
  • Leave the car and proceed on foot – if necessary – once the blizzard passes.

Stay safe and warm out there this winter.

~Rayna

Listening to Our Muses

Four MusesA short while ago, I got together with a group of friends, most of whom were readers not writers.  It’s always fun  to get together with people who are strictly readers because they are always so fascinated by the creative process.  The things that are mundane to a writer, because that’s just how we operate, hold endless wonder for readers. I think that’s so awesome. When reader/writer gatherings occur, without fail, the question Where do your ideas come from? always gets asked. All artists have muses. They provide us with fodder for the next project constantly. Inspiration for stories is all around us everyday. Any little thing that sparks our interest can be the spring board for an entire novel, be it a news article, the scenery around you, an off hand comment from a friend/family/colleague.

What I find more interesting as both a reader and writer is how those ideas are in turn communicated to us.  I have writers friends that talk  about having characters pop into their heads and start talking, telling their story.  While I sometimes wish it would, it does not work that way for me at all.  I get movie clips in my head of these terrific scenes. It’s then up to me to translate them from an image into words. I have to figure out how bring the scene to life  so that a reader can generate their own version of that scene.  I probably function this way as a byproduct of being plot driven more so then a character driven writer. However, once I have the scene, then the trick becomes figuring out what characters are right for that scene and the story as a whole.
So I pose this question to all the writers out there, as I find is infinitely fascinating,  how do you get your story ideas? Do you see movie clips? Do you have characters wondering around in your head in search of the right plot? Please share.

~Rayna

 

 

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo LogoI’m glad to say that my little corner of NJ survived Sandy with little incident. My heart goes out to all of those who have been devastated by this storm. I sincerely hope they can start to get back on their feet soon.

It’s November 1, do you know what that means? It’s day one of NaNoWriMo. If you’re a writer, you probably know what that is, but for those who don’t. November 1-30 is National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words by midnight on November 30th.  There’s even a website that has forums and tools to help support you in you quest. Check it out here at www.NaNoWriMo.org. This can be a really great motivator because there are so many people across the country working towards this same goal with you and encouraging you along.

Whether you get to 50k or not this endevour can be a great way to get your story out on the paper. It’s about speed versus finesse. It’s a month long spew. Regardless of what you put on the page, by the end of the end of the month you’ll either have the skeleton of a novel or a solid beginning. As someone once said, you can’t edit an empty page. So, even if, in your opinion, what you produce is a flaming pile of cud, at least you’ve got something to fix.

Personally, I’m thinking I’ll do it this year. I’ve got something that I’m working on that I’d really like to knock off my plate and this may be just what I need to get it done. So who’s with me? Who else is going to take the NanoWriMo plunge?

~Rayna