Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Writer Wednesday: Riding the Roller Coaster with Heather Sunseri

Today I welcome the lovely Heather Sunseri to Writer Wednesday. Heather is smart, funny and a damned good writer. I hope you enjoy her post as much as I did. And I look forward to reading her books, Mindspeak and her new release, Mindsiege. Why not pick up a copy for yourself? Links are below.


Heather Sunseri,
Author of Mindsiege & Mindspeak

Hi, I’m Heather Sunseri, and I’m a recovering rule-follower-aholic.

Somewhere along the path to becoming a writer, someone insisted that I had to follow a certain set of rules if I had any hope in succeeding as a novelist.

I was told that I had to write 1000 words each and every day; I had to be a consistent blogger and blog often; I couldn’t introduce more than two characters in the first scene of any novel; it was imperative that I join a critique group; I would never make money with writing; traditional publishing was the only way to give my writing any merit; and the fact that I don’t like chocolate is the main reason I would never succeed as a novelist.

I kid you not. (Although someone may or may not have been joking about the chocolate. I’m not sure.) All of the above and many more absurd statements have been said to me on the bumpy road I’ve traveled to become a published writer. I’m sure you’ve had your own list of demands put upon you as you strive to reach a goal, whether it be in the realm of writing or something else entirely.

I realized one lovely September day more than two years ago as I sat in front of an agent (who I will not name) at the ACFW conference that I was done. D-O-N-E. I had hit my rock bottom of following all the rules.

It truly wasn’t that I didn’t respect the professionals that I had paid hefty conference fees to hear. The problem? The publishing world had hit a tough time. Really, the entire U.S. economy had hit a tough time. Agents were not accepting very many new authors. Publishers were not making deals. The outlook for aspiring writers was bleak. And with the odds further stacked against writers, I believe agents and publishers were frustrated and had nothing positive to offer many writers. And I got a full dose of this frustration when an agent read one page of my manuscript, looked up at me and said, “Your writing is good, but this will never sell. You’ve introduced like four characters on the first page.” And he went on to say other discouraging, you-didn’t-follow-the-rules-type statements.

This agent meeting came at the end of a long few years of blogging, writing according to what publishers and agents were “looking for,” trying to connect with certain authors and publishing professionals the way I read I was supposed to, and following many other rules. This meeting was my rock bottom, and I knew I had a choice to make.

I could stay the course, or change with an industry that was rapidly transforming, and is still racing at the speed of light to an unknown destination.

I had someone tell me not that long ago, “I feel like I missed the boat to self-publish.” My response? “It’s not a boat. It’s a never-ending roller coaster. You just have jump on while it’s on the uphill and enjoy the ride after it hits one of its peaks and then prepare for the next peak and hang on when it goes upside down.”


Here’s another thing. It’s no longer a debate about whether to self-publish or query agents and traditional publishers. For me, it never was. For me, it was a decision to make career choices that were best for me and what I wanted to write. And not be afraid to make a different choice the next time.

After I left that conference, I reassessed my writing career and aspirations, and realized I had been following all the wrong rules and advice, and for all the wrong reasons. My goal had been to win some publishing game — follow someone else’s arbitrary rules, play a game others had made up, and win some prize that no one could even define for me. A prize I wasn’t even sure I wanted anymore.

That was when it all changed for me. I began listening to my own voice. I thought about the books I enjoyed reading. I envisioned a certain audience that might enjoy my voice. And then I wrote the book that I wanted to write with no consideration as to whether agents or publishers would be interested. I stopped listening to all the publishing rules and wrote to entertain.

Mindsiege, by Heather Sunseri
I’m not sure I’ve gotten it completely right yet, or if I ever will. But I know that I’m enjoying the ride. And I also know now why following the rules was so frustrating for me once upon a time. While I was busy following the rules, the game was changing. And that’s the decision we writers face every day: Are we going to play the game created by others yesterday, or are we going create a new game based on the rules that continuously evolve?

Heather Sunseri was raised on a tiny farm in one of the smallest towns in thoroughbred horse country near Lexington, Kentucky. After high school, she attended Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, and later graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in accounting. Always torn between a passion for fantasy and a mind for the rational, it only made sense to combine her career in accounting with a novel-writing dream.

You can connect with Heather in the following places:


Sign up for her newsletter at http://heathersunseri.com/newsletter

Heather’s latest release, Mindsiege, the sequel to Mindspeak, is available now. You can read blurbs about either and find out where the books are available on her website: http://heathersunseri.com/mindspeak-series/. The Mindsiege page will be constantly updated as Mindsiege goes live on each of the bookseller sites.



Friday, November 22, 2013

Welcome to Metaphysics Friday

metaphysical
Welcome to Metaphysics Friday! What, you may ask, is Metaphysics Friday?

Let's start with a definition of "Metaphysics." Merriam Webster defines metaphysical this way:
"[O]f or relating to the transcendent or to a reality beyond what is perceptible to the senses. Supernatural."
Ever since I can remember, I have been interested in all things supernatural. In elementary school, I devoured every book the library had about ghosts and poltergeists. My childhood fascination with the subject continues to this day and finds its way into my writing.

The Akasha Chronicles, my first book series, draws on my deep love of all things metaphysical. Emily has magickal powers and encounters other dimensions and non-human entities. But Emily's journey is also a spiritual journey. For that layer of the series, I drew heavily on teachings from both ancient and modern wisdom and spiritual philosophy.

For my next series, H.A.L.F., I'm psyched to explore another realm of metaphysical exploration: aliens! I think that ufology, ancient astronaut theory, and the search for extraterrestrials falls into the realm of metaphysics. At least for now as we do not yet have what most would consider "proof."

Here on my blog on Fridays, I'll share with readers tidbits from my own metaphysical studies and adventures. I'll review books and movies that fall into the supernatural or occult realm. I may post interviews of others who have had mystical or supernatural experiences. You may also see spell recipes, interesting research about ETs or UFOs, or anything else that falls into the category of metaphysical.

Do you have a personal story of a metaphysical experience? Do you practice a magickal craft and have a story to tell about how you have manifested intentions? Have you had an experience with a UFO or other unexplained phenomena? Have you seen, heard, or otherwise experienced anything that can be classified as supernatural?

If so and you'd like to share your experience via a recorded video interview, please contact me at NatWritesYA (at) gmail (dot) com. I'd love to hear and share your experience(s) with the world.

Need incentive? Every person that shares their recorded story will get a nifty prize ;-)

Stay tuned and please come back each Friday for #MetaphysicsFriday!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cover Reveal Fanged Outcast by Elisabeth Wheatley

Today I welcome the amazing Elisabeth Wheatley to the blog. Elisabeth is a teen author pouring out action-packed stories for readers to enjoy. Please check out her newest novella offering, Fanged Outcast. And make sure to enter her giveaway - Rafflecopter is below!

How much would you sacrifice for a love that wasn’t yours?


Hadassah managed to befriend her kind’s worst enemies and save her brother and the human girl he loves from the Vampiric King—once. After a month spent in quiet hiding under the protection of the Huntsmen, a surprise attack from a band of Kaiju shatters their brief reprieve. Faced with new challenges and new threats, Hadassah and the others must once more fight for her brother and the girl who stole his heart. And this time, the Vampiric King isn’t the only one they need fear…

Action, suspense, humor, and romance collide in this anticipated sequel from teen author, Elisabeth Wheatley.




Elisabeth Wheatley is a teen author of the Texas Hill Country. When she’s not daydreaming of elves, vampires, or hot guys in armor, she is wasting time on the internet, fangirling over indie books, and training her Jack Russell Terrier, Schnay.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Writer Wednesday: 3 Editing Tips for More Polished Prose



I am frequently asked to read and review books published by other Indie Authors. I'm happy to help other writers out. I love meeting a new story for the first time, and I'm in awe of the creativity of today's independent authors.

But I'm going to say something honest. It's a  truth that is mostly left unspoken.

Most self-published books aren't done baking yet. Authors rush to hit the upload button before the manuscript has received the attention that it deserves. The result: books that read like a unpolished manuscripts and fail to inspire readers. Readers may not finish such a book and if they do, will likely either not review it, not recommend it to their friends or worse, give it a negative review.

You may think this doesn't apply to you. Odds are, it does. Sorry, but statistically speaking, this probably applies to you.

I have downloaded over 200 samples of self-published works on my Kindle since I got it (about 2.5 years ago). Of those samples, I've been moved to purchase only about 10% and of those purchased, I can recommend only a handful to friends, family and other readers.

Lest you think me a book snob, understand that my unscientific stats of my  purchasing habits jibe with the habits of the general reading public. Like other readers, I'm drawn in by the covers and clever, well-written descriptions. I'm excited about the story and download the sample. But most of the time, generally within the first three chapters, I'm unwilling to continue.

Why? It's not for lack of interesting story or creativity. We Indies ooze creative ideas.

The problem, my writer friends, is not the pitch or the plot but the lack of punch to the prose. Okay, sometimes it's the plot too and the ubiquitous telling rather than showing (I feel another post coming on).

But even when the plot is kicking and the characters don't annoy the shit out of me, most Indie books lack polish. Before you roll your eyes at me and tell me how polish is overrated and doesn't matter, allow me to bitch slap some sense into you and tell you that polish does matter to readers. Passive voice, head hopping, inconsistencies, redundancies, typos, and poor grammar weigh down your story. The reader tends to lose their steam for an amazingly creative story when the lack of polish continuously jolts them out of the storyline.

Before you accuse me of being a self-righteous bitch, let me admit that I am guilty as charged. I published Emily's House, my first book, without taking it through the polishing phase that I now apply to my manuscripts. If I had taken the time to apply to Emily's House the tips I'm posting here today, it would have been a stronger book from the start. I'm not saying it would have been perfect or hit the NYT Bestseller list, but it would have been a more enjoyable read for anyone who was drawn in enough to purchase it.

But one of the truly wonderful things about self-publishing is that you can fix your mistakes. I first published Emily's House almost two years ago. Since then, I've written three more novels, gone to more writing workshops, worked with several more editors, and read and studied many more books both on my own and with writer pals.

I've learned a lot and grown exponentially as a writer. To honor that growth, I recently applied the editing and revision tips I've learned to Emily's House and uploaded a new edition (complete with a new ending!).

BUT, I don't recommend doing it that way. You only get one chance for a good first impression. It takes a lot of effort to find a reader and once you have them you don't want to squander the opportunity and end up turning that reader off, maybe forever, to your writing. Give readers the absolute best book that you can the first time. Take a few more weeks or even months to polish your manuscript. The result will be a much more successful book. I guarantee it.

If I've made you feel insecure and worried, good. That's the way you should feel. Somewhere inside that feeling like you've been punched in the gut lies the testament of your devotion to your craft. If you didn't care, you wouldn't hurt so much you want to puke.

After you cry in your coffee, wallow in your ice cream and decide that writing a novel is a crazy, foolish vocation for someone far more nuts than you, pull yourself up out of that pile of melted Phish Food and get back to work.

Before you hit the upload button, take a step back and apply these tips and  polish your prose. If you do, you will be rewarded with an eminently more readable, a.k.a. enjoyable, book.

And that, my writer friends, makes for happy readers. And as we all know, happy readers come back for more of your work, and that makes for happy writers.



Let me know if you use any or all of these and how it worked for you. And if you have editing tips, please leave your tip in the comments. Need an incentive? I'll choose one random commenter to win a nifty prize :-) Make sure you leave your e-mail address in order for me to contact you about your prize. Prize will be announced on my Facebook page and the winner will be e-mailed on November 13, 2013.

1. The Find Function is Your Friend

This is a super easy thing to do but time consuming. It's perfect for a day when you feel brain fried but you have time and will feel guilty if you don't work on your novel.

Use the "Find" function in your word processing program to seek out superfluous words. I've got my own list but feel free to add:

  • Just
  • Even
  • Then
  • Began
  • Start(ed)
  • Now
  • Some
  • -ing

Example: 
I fried a whole package of bacon then drained it on some paper towels then began to eat the entire pile of greasy, smoked pig.
Let me try that one again:
I fried a whole package of bacon, drained it on paper towels, and ate the entire pile of greasy, smoked pig. 
Do you see the difference? Do you agree that the second sentence flows more smoothly?

Did you notice the -ing in my list above? That -ing means that you should root out and eradicate as much passive voice as you can. I've lately been driven nearly insane by the passive voice in self-pubbed books I've picked up. There are appropriate times to use passive voice. But if every verb in every paragraph ends in -ing, you are using too much passive voice. Try this. Take one paragraph from your manuscript that's loaded with passive voice. Rewrite it  in active voice. Have a friend or family member read both out loud to you. Which sounds better to your ears? Which flows better?


Now imagine that you have cleaned up your entire manuscript this way. This incredibly simple step will tighten your prose and make it more enjoyable to read.


2. Grammarly

It seems to me that we now have two camps of writers when it comes to grammar. The first camp is made up of curmudgeonly grammarians that take pleasure in knowing each and every archaic rule of grammar and in pointing out to others when they have gone astray.

If you are a Grammarian, you can skip this tip. It's not for you. It's for those of us who are mere mortals (and who likely have not studied grammar since, you guessed it, grammar school).

The second camp contains writers who flip off the Grammarians as they happily write run on sentences, squint their modifiers and gleefully dangle their participles. The camp two Grammar Rebels think that grammar rules are terribly outdated and, for the most part, unnecessary. "Hey, as long as they know what I'm saying, who cares?"

And you know, the Grammar Rebels have a point. What is the point of grammar rules if not to ensure that all who read your work can understand what you're saying?

But listen up Grammar Rebels, grammar rules still matter. Yes, there are some that you can ignore because to follow the rule will make you - or your character - sound like a pompous ass (unless you want your character to sound like a pompous ass in which case apply as many old-school grammar rules as you can when writing their dialogue). The rules that can be kicked to the curb are the exception, not the rule.

"Is the grammar and spell check in my word processing program enough?" you ask.

No.

If you have been out of grammar school more years than you've owned your current car and you're not a Grammarian, I highly recommend that you invest in Grammarly.

Grammarly will not only point out grammar errors but it will tell you the rule and give you examples of both the correct and incorrect use. I found this very helpful to not only clean up my draft, but also to learn how to do it better next time. Trust me, after you've been told that you have squinting modifiers about a hundred times, you start to get the drift. I have found that using Grammarly consistently has helped me to avoid some of my most common errors in the first place.

But the program also checks not only for spelling errors, but it will also point out places where you can sauce up your word choice. For example, the program highlights the word "good" and suggests more descriptive words you could use instead.

Neat, huh?

Grammarly has a plug in for Word for Windows. If you use Mac, you'll have to cut and paste the text you want to check into the web-based program, make your changes, then cut and paste it back into your document.

After you've applied tips 1 and 2, time to move onto Tip #3:


3. Story Time


Have you ever read your entire manuscript out loud? If you haven't, I highly recommend you try it. Even after all the revision, tweaking, editing and re-writing, you will be amazed by how much you change as you read aloud.

As you read and speak at the same time, your editing brain is engaged in a different way than when you are merely reading silently. Things that have slipped by you (and maybe even an editor or two) will jump out at you. You'll find typos but you'll also notice redundancy and inconsistency.


Are any or all of these tips news to you or old hat? Do you have others that you recommend? Please leave your comment below :-)


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween, Samhain and Day of the Dead!


~Halloween

~Magickal Graphics~

SamhainIf you follow my blog, you know that Halloween is my favorite time of the year. And I made sure to have both of my first two books take place during this spookiest of seasons!

In Emily's House, Emily and crew traipse around an old, Irish graveyard at night during a full moon with ravens squawking. And Emily's timing is perfect. She attempts to open a portal to the Netherworld on October 31 when the veil between the worlds is thinnest.


Emily's House may have a chapter titled "Things Go Bump in the Night", but if you really want to get your scare on, check out  Emily's Trial. In Emily's Trial, Emily and friends once again lurk in a graveyard on Halloween. But when Emily tries to open a portal, things don't go as planned. Emily's Trial is set in a world of terrors where worst fears come to life.



Emily's Trial, Book 2 of the Akasha Chronicles
by Natalie Wright
In the upcoming third book, Emily's Heart, I didn't set the book during Halloween. Instead of focusing on one spooky day, the entire novel is set during an Apocalypse. Terror is Emily's 'new normal'.
Emily's Heart, Book 3 of the Akasha Chronicles
by Natalie Wright, Launches Feb 1, 2014
In celebration of Halloween, let's get some scare on. Please enjoy the trailer and just after it, an excerpt/teaser of Emily's Heart, launching February 1, 2014.

Happy Halloween, Samhain and Day of the Dead!



Here is an Excerpt from Emily's Heart, Coming February 1, 2014!


The Apocalyptic World

Isabella ran swiftly. Her long, sandy brown hair swung from side to side as she gained distance from it. She was surefooted, not a wobble in her step. She’d make it to her house and safety. A hundred more yards to go. The shadow that followed her was quick, but she had been quicker. Today, anyway.
Fifty yards from the door. Her mother waited on the other side of that door, ready to embrace her, smooth her hair and tell her, “It’ll be okay, baby.” Fifty yards to go.
Her choice to run had been pure instinct. A cold, clammy feeling overcame her. The shadow seen out of the corner of her eye. A small but powerful voice inside beckoned her to run.
But less than fifty yards from safety, Isabella’s curiosity made her turn her head. She had to see. Her mind had to understand. A casual look behind her to see what could create such a long, wide shadow.
In an instant as fleeting as one flap of a hummingbird’s wings, she saw it. The shadow, darker than any she’d ever seen. A shadow that was not just a product of the light from without but something that came from within. And the shadow was connected to a man.
The moment Isabella glanced behind her, her eyes met his. She had wanted to see, and she saw. The man’s eyes were completely black and devoid of light. His thin lips were pulled back in a terrible smile that revealed perfectly even, white teeth.
In that moment, Isabella knew. She knew that she had looked into the face of a devil. Maybe not the devil, but into a face as evil as any human has ever seen. Into the face of the demons that she had worried might lurk under her bed at night. Isabella looked into the face of the bogeyman and into the face of death.
She knew she would never reach the door. She knew that she’d never see her mother or father or her dog, Smarty, again. She knew that she’d never again kiss her baby brother’s soft, downy head.
Before Isabella could scream, cry or utter a single protest, the shadow was all around her. It enveloped her. She felt as if the air had been forced from her lungs, her screams unable to take flight in the airless void. She heard her backpack fall to the ground, but it was muffled, as if in a dream. She knew her eyes were open, but she saw nothing but darkness. She was smothered by a black so complete that she was suddenly unsure whether she was standing up, lying down, or floating in a dark cloud.
Her skin prickled as she felt the shadow caress her. She knew a person couldn’t feel a shadow. Her brain told her it was a dream. Shadows don’t kill people. But as she thought this, the squeezing of her lungs increased. The soft caress of the dark shadow gave way as it pinched and pulled and slapped at her.
Dread spread throughout her tiny body like a supersonic cancer. The fear cut through her like icy knives. As her terror grew, so the shadow’s grip tightened. It was in her ears, her nose, her eyes and her mouth. She swallowed the shadow like a pill, and it dug deep, deep, deep into her.
The shadow filled her. She was so cold, bereft of warmth.
The shadow will kill me, she thought. As the cold spread and took over every cell of her body, she prayed for death. She prayed to God to let her join her grandpa in heaven.
Her small body could take no more. The shadow had used her energy. Her prayers were answered. All was done. Her tiny, cold corpse littered the ground as the shadow swept down the sidewalk in search of another filled with light.

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