Friday, November 23, 2012


According to, the winner of the drawing for a signed ARC copy of C.J. Redwine's Defiance is...

Teresa Y.

Many thanks to everyone who participated in this month's giveaway. ^_^

For those of you who have an interest in the Urban Fantasy genre, stay tuned--December will feature a new debut author and giveaway!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Interview With C.J. Redwine -- Signed ARC Giveaway!

Today, I'm interviewing author C.J. Redwine. Don't miss your chance to win an ARC copy of her recently released YA Dystopian, Defiance!

Author Bio: C.J. Redwine loves stilettos, lemon bars, and any movie starring Johnny Depp. She is the author of Defiance, the first in a post-apocalyptic fantasy trilogy from Balzer + Bray/Harper Collins. C.J. lives in Nashville with her husband, four kids, two cats, and one long-suffering dog. To learn more about C.J., visit her website at:

Some of you may know what I had to say about her debut, Defiance. But for those of you who missed it: RedPeril's Review O' Defiance

Blurb: Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city's brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father's apprentice, Logan--the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father's survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city's top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor's impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

To start out, could you tell us a little bit about your journey toward publication?

"I've been writing stories since I was in second grade, but I didn't seriously begin pursuing publication until I was 30. I'd kept waiting for life to slow down (Four kids! Part time job! Life!), but after fighting cancer at the age of 30, I realized it was foolish to wait around for life to be perfect before I followed my dreams. I finished my first novel and started querying. After receiving a slew of rejections, I realized my first book wasn't going to get published. It was a training ground for honing my craft.

"My next book garnered me my fabulous agent, but it took two more years, and two more books, before I landed a publishing contract. I'd started to feel like the girl who couldn't sell a book to save my life, but I figured I could either quit or take on the project that felt almost too big for me and keep trying. When my agent called to tell me an editor was going to make an offer on Defiance, I just sat there and cried. I could hardly believe it!"

I doubt anyone could argue you didn't already have a full plate before you dedicated yourself to writing. Clearly, it's been a hard-fought victory.
Looking back at all you've undergone up to this point in your career as an author, what would you have done differently?

"I'd have figured out faster that I function best when I shut out other voices--reviews, opinions, chat etc--and focus on just my writing and what my trusted team of critique partners and my editor have to say about it. Learning that has been so freeing for me."

Noise-canceling headphones, eyes off the reviews, clicker off the social media, and faith in your hand-picked cohorts--gotchya!
What does your writing process look like?

"My books live in my head for a long time before I start writing. At any moment, I have 6-8 books in my head, slowly taking shape. Once I do start writing, I usually have a first draft in about 3 months. Then, I rip it apart and revise, revise, revise! The magic happens during revision." :)

Ah, so you marinate in your ruminations. I bet you're plotting even now...
What made you choose Young Adult as your preferred writing genre?

"It's the genre I love to read, so that felt like a natural fit for me, plus I just love the immediacy in the YA genre. It's the first love, first heartbreak, first step away from home, first real risk ... and it all feels life or death. YA is such an amazing age range because it's just on the cusp of figuring out who we'll be as adults. Nothing is yet set in stone so anything can happen. I also adore that the YA genre has so few restrictions. If you can execute the story well, you can write it. There really aren't many boundaries, and that's perfect for a speculative fiction writer like me."

Well, thank you--you've just put into words what I've always had trouble articulating. There's really something to be said for getting to experience new things along with a character you're rooting for.
Would you tell us a little about your current Work In Progress, and what you have in mind for your next project?

"I'm currently co-writing a middle grade book that is kind of like Grimm meets Howl's Moving Castle. I'm super excited about it! Once I finish that, I'll be writing the third and final book of the Defiance trilogy."

Ooo...Grimm AND Howl's Moving Castle? You have my attention, Madame. 

Irrelevant, nonsensical questions:

If you could have any Disney sidekick creature as a manifestation of
your muse, which one would you pick and why?

"Pascal, from Tangled. He just GETS me."

A loyal, comedic chameleon. Sounds all shades of fitting. ;)
Paper, plastic, or BYOB (bring your own bag)?

"Paper. I love paper bags. I know that's weird. I accept it."

I hear acceptance is the first step on the road to recovery...
If you were left stranded on an island infested by zombies, what two items would you want to have with you?

"A machete and Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, complete with his sword."

There you have it, folks. She's hands-on in the Zombie eradication department, AND she has impeccable taste in male protagonists.

Now, for those of you who'd like to procure your very own ARC copy of Defiance, you have one week to enter this drawing! And for you oft left-out international peeps, I want to assure you that I am willing to ship this book anywhere that is not currently facing U.S. sanctions. :D (Winner will be announced after 9am on Friday, November 23rd. Winner will have 48 hours to claim or otherwise leave me contact information via a comment--after that, I will have to redraw.)

     For more information on C.J., The Defiance Trilogy, or any of her other projects (I strongly recommend query-prepping authors pick up a copy of her instructional guide: ) , please help yourself to the following linkage:



Twitter: @cjredwine


Friday, August 10, 2012

What's In A Name?

I can't be the only author who takes the art of character naming seriously.

I mean, how often have people read a book and been thrown off by the name of one of the major characters? The weakly named hero, or the heroine you're supposed to love, but who unfortunately has the same name as the kid who bullied you in high school . . . Or maybe the gender ambiguous name that's more confusing than intriguing. Personally, I have trouble if one of the main characters shares my first name -- I see/hear it enough as it is, thank-you-very-much. :)  

Not every possible factor can be considered in the naming game, but there are a few practical considerations I try to start with:

*Ease of recognition/pronunciation.
*Appropriateness to region/genre/culture/time-period.
*Not already taken by someone who is either a) Famous. Or b) Prone to lawsuits.
*Doesn't begin with the same sound as other character's names.
*Doesn't rhyme with the surname, or other character's names.
*Sounds like a legitimate name when shouted. (Also helpful with naming children.)
*Fitting to the character's personality.

And then there are the slightly more subjective considerations . . .

-Hero names should, in theory, inspire strength and confidence. (In romances, this often shows up in the blatant 'alpha male' designations that conjure the image of a) Weaponry. b) Predatorial/Mythical animals. c) Royalty/Nobility. d) All of the aforementioned.

"Allow me to introduce Sir Griffin McDirk . . ."  >.> (Okay, -slight- exaggeration.)

-Villain names are most memorable when they inspire fear . . . or at least, intimidation. Consider the feel and cadence of some of the more famous literary bad guys: Moriarty, Hannibal, Hyde, Ratchet, Sauron . . . 

Not-so recommended villain names: Whitney, Lloyd, Edgar, Gordy, Francis, Milton . . .

-And while I do advocate carefully chosen character names, there is such a thing as trying TOO hard. (i.e. Unless you're going for humor, please refrain from gifting your sultry villainess with a name like: Trixie Vixentrot.) 

I began collecting and researching possible names for my theoretical children a good decade prior to their conception. So, I suppose it only makes sense that I would put a similar amount of care into naming the invisible 'people' who may one day be as much of a legacy as my own flesh and blood. For me, the traditional wisdom of owning a baby name book gave way to the practicality of relying on online sites like and .

Thanks to my fascination with name meanings and origins, I stumbled upon a printing press that specializes in this type of research. Not only is it a great place to find personalized gifts for anyone with a more exotic or obscure name, but the owner was so kind as to hunt down information on a character name I was kicking around at the time:

In the final analysis, it seems to be all about sound and sentiment. A name has to roll off my tongue, and its implications need to 'fit' the character (either in actual meaning, or at least in my mind.). I've been known to use names of people I know, or have known, while writing my first draft. I'm not above harnessing the power of mental association if I feel the thought of them summons the right emotional response, or aids in getting me into that character's head. Of course, just as with borrowing physical descriptions from real-life people, this method is a bit of a no-no when publication time comes around.

But hey, that's what the 'find and replace' tool is for. ^_^

Now, I'd like to see a few other people weigh in . . .
How do you go about naming your characters? :)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Best YA Book Of The Year, So Far . . .

This morning I wanted to take a quick moment to recommend a Young Adult novel, which initially caught my attention for it's oh-so-pretty cover. I mean, come on, just look at it!

I was delighted to have the opportunity to receive an ARC (Advance Read Copy), and this is what I had to say about the story:

4 1/2 Stars!

"Defiance is a well-paced, heart-wrenching tale of loyalty, courage, and love – set in a darkly dystopian world some readers may find reminiscent of 'Reign of Fire.' Redwine presents convincing teenaged characters with potent prose and palpable emotion, all while never underestimating her audience. 

Admittedly swayed by the gorgeous cover, I went into this book thinking I would immediately love the fiery heroine. Not so. It actually took this reader until about 1/3rd of the way through to get past the crippled grief and bullheaded impulsiveness to fully warm up to her. But that was okay, because instead, I immediately connected with Logan. Rational, studious, and noble, he was a far cry from the quazi-mysterious, angsty badboy archetype that so annoy me about many recent YA novels. 

The author captures masculine vs. feminine misunderstandings and awkward moments with with a believable and authentic candor. And in doing so, she conveys a concept that will ring true for those who've lived in close quarters with pain: that even in the middle of unfathomable stress and tragedy, humor still crops up to provide us both guilt and relief. The tunnel may be long, but there is always a light at the end of it.

My one complaint would be the Commander didn't quite feel fleshed out by the end, his brand of malevolent, ego-maniacal evil feeling just a bit one-dimensional. It was a little hard to believe someone wouldn't have assassinated him by the time the story takes place. But he's far from the only obstacle involved, and the intensity of the internal character conflicts makes him easy to set aside."

Favorite quote:

“Silent acquiescence in the face of tyranny is no better than outright agreement.”
--Logan {Defiance}

Hopefully I will be interviewing the Author, C.J. Redwine, somewhere close to her August 28th, 2012 publication date! Stay tuned, there may very well be a FREE BOOK and/or swag involved.

In the mean time . . . on to the next book! Tell me about the best book you've read this year, so far. :) 


Friday, June 8, 2012

To Contest, Or Not To Contest

I've been hitting the contest circuit again this year. And I'm pleased to say, my third year in the game is going much better than when I first started out. Of course, my initial attempts were more like firing a shotgun into a dark forest on a moonless night. There are a lot of things I wish I'd known--targets I didn't think to aim for. So I'd like to take a moment in hopes of sparing someone else a bit of time, money, and frustration.

I've entered a few contests outside of the RWA, but personally, I wasn't happy with those experiences. Primarily because, once you send your entry (and money) off, odds are you'll never hear from them again (unless, of course, you happen to win.) RWA contests are hugely advantageous in that you will receive feedback to help you polish up those all-important first pages/chapters, even if you don't final. So for the purposes of this post, I'll be referring to RWA sponsored contests. But worry not--many of these contests are open to non-RWA members at a slightly higher entry fee.

If you haven't heard of the site already, Stephanie Smith keeps an extensive and up-to-date list of writing competitions, both within and outside of the RWA:

Now that you can see what's out there, you may be in the same position I was when I first laid eyes on this cornucopia of options: Overwhelmed.

But when it comes to deciding which contests might be worth it to you, it all comes down to doing your homework. Let's start by considering some potential reasons for wanting to enter a contest in the first place...

*You are about to query your manuscript and want it in the best shape possible.
*You are querying your manuscript around, and have noticed one of your 'dream agents' is judging a relevant category in a certain contest. (Finaling would guarantee getting your MS in front of them.)
*You are querying, or about to start, and suspect placing in a contest would bolster your bio qualifications. (i.e. the bookworm equivalent of 'street cred.')
*You are a glutton for punishment in the form of literary criticism.
*You are just starting a manuscript, and would like some idea of how it may be received.
*You are hoping for the validation--some sign that you may be ready for publication.
*You are seeking fame and fortune. {Insert hysterical laughter here}

Whatever motivational reasons you come up with, you may want to write them down for later reference.

Now, to narrow your choices to those best suited, here's a list of questions (all of which, the contest's 'Rules & Regulations' section should answer.) You may want to design yourself a checklist.

Contest Screening Questions:

1. Does the contest have a category that fits your manuscript specifically?
(Some contests aren't large enough or simply don't have a judging pool that can support the slightly more peripheral genres like Young Adult, or Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Paranormal.)

2. How many pages does the contest call for?
You can expect a range from the first 5, up to the first 35 pages. Entry fees tend to vary accordingly. (Some contests focus on specific scenes, and can be a great tool to help you hone the impact of things like: The opening hook, The first meeting; The first kiss; The dark moment; etc.)

3. Which Editor or Agent will be judging the finalists in the genre you're targeting?
(If the judge happens to be someone who has already rejected your work, there's no sense in trying to get it in front of them again.)

4. What do they have to say about their first-round judges?
Are they trained/experienced? Can they promise at least one of them will be a published author?

5. Does the first-round scoring process involve dropping your lowest score?
(I generally recommend looking for this advantage when narrowing down your contest options. You just never know when one of your judges might have had a horrible day, and ends up inadvertently taking it out on their contest entrants. Nobody wants a fluke score to be the thing that crushes their chances.)

6. What do the formatting requirements look like?
(Mind the format requirements before you pay your entry fee: Most contests have a standard of 1-inch margins and Times New Roman/Courier, with a font size of 12 . . . but this isn't always the case. Remember, a higher font size requirement will result in less of your manuscript being read.)

7. Does the contest allow a corrections period for finalists?
(It's a tremendous bonus to be able to survey your first round judge comments and make adjustments before the final judge sees your work.)

And then there's the consideration I'll refer to as: The Swag Factor


Noun:    An ornamental festoon of flowers, fruit, and greenery: "ribbon-tied swags of flowers".

noun.  loot - booty - spoil - prey - plunder

In short: What perks does the contest you're considering have to offer its finalists and winners? The possibilities can range from a cash reward, to a frameable certificate, to a complementary badge or banner you can place on your website, to a membership/workshop discount, or even a 50-page critique by a renowned agent.

So how have contests helped (or not helped) you? Do you have any contest suggestions you'd like to pass on?


Friday, May 11, 2012

I Reject Your Rejection (and substitute a smiley face) :)

Most of you are aware that my first foray into Query-Land began a number of months ago. I knew it would be slow going for an untried author, despite the completed/edited manuscript (thank you, Zootie!) and stellar query letter (thank you, C.J. Redwine!). As I've been keeping up with my goal of active queries and responses have been trickling in, I've had the opportunity to compare notes with my RWA guildmates and make a few valuable observations...

I've also recently recalled something I'd repressed for years: This isn't my first round with literary rejection.

When I was 13, I was coming off the high of having finished my first book. It was written by hand using 3 spiral bound notebooks, edited by the cutest boy in the entire 6th grade (Yes, I paid him. It was probably the only way I could get him to talk to me in the first place), and carried the title of: Island Of The White Rhinos. (Or something equally embarrassing like that.) And no, that manuscript will never again see the light of day. Not even for a good laugh.


Having realized I could actually complete something, my ambitious little self came across an article on how to get one's work published. Deciding I should start small, I pulled out a poem I was very proud of and polished it up. I then compiled a list of magazines and non-profit organizations that could potentially make use of my piece, and sent them all letters explaining who I was and offering to let them use my poem for free. It was, after all, aimed at a heartfelt good cause.

I did include my age in the introductory letter--not so much because I thought anyone would be impressed by my prodigy-like efforts, but because I hoped it would garner me a little patience... Possibly even a dash of humoring inspired by pity.

If memory serves (which, it obviously didn't until the flashbacks started) I sent out 11 letters with my poem, and received back 7 replies. All of them rejections. Kindly worded no-thank-yous, to be sure, but rejections all the same.

Let's just say that my dermal and intestinal fortitude were both adversely affected.

After all, if nobody was interested in my work when I was giving it away, they'd certainly never pay me to produce more of it. And thus, my 13-year-old self decided to euthanize a budding dream. Four years later that dream would be resurrected into a zombie-like (yet operational) state by a well-meaning Creative Writing professor...but that's getting into a story for a different post.

The point is, I've blazed this trail before. And I'm now much older, wiser, better equipped, and (as my husband will gladly attest) irrevocably bull-headed. There will be no throwing in the self-esteem towel this time around. I can now rebuff the notion that a query rejection is somehow a rejection of me as a human being. (Although, the bolstering encouragement from cohorts and loved one's is still welcome. ^_^)

I've also realized that there seem to be six levels of response an author can expect when sending out one's query. And here they are, just for fun--in order of desirability:

*The full manuscript request. (This doesn't mean you're in, but it means they're legitimately interested. Go ahead and *squeeee!*)

* The partial request. (This is interest, but tentative. Polish those first 3 chapters until they shine. Discreet high-fives may be in order.)

*The personalized rejection (Not only is it addressed to you instead of 'dear author', but they've taken the time to give you some idea of why the project isn't right for them. Cherish every word.)

*The form rejection. (Cut. Paste. Repeat. Hey, at least that means they spelled your name right.)

*The lazy form rejection. (From some underpaid secretary: Dear Author...whatever your name is.)

*The 'no response means no.' (A trend that is becoming increasingly common. If you find this a touch disrespectful, you'll want to read all of an agent/editor's submission guidelines carefully--they typically post a disclaimer about their response policy.)

Now, if you're feeling brave, I'd love to hear about YOUR experience with rejection and how it's shaped you. :)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I Predict A Hit

Have you ever encountered something and immediately recognized it was destined to be a 'big deal?' Maybe you picked up something like Harry Potter or Twilight when they first came out (before the teaming, obnoxious hordes of fandom)...or perhaps you acknowledged the genius of leggings before they became an official fad (the first time around). That's how I felt after reading 'A Hint Of Frost' -- like I'd just made a privileged discovery and now had only to wait for the rest of the world to catch on...

I know I've never posted any of my book reviews here, but since my last post was centered around a few loose pointers on the how-tos of book reviewing, I figure I owe you an example. In doing so, I'm going to kill two metaphorical birds with one equally metaphorical stone. You see, it also gives me the opportunity to introduce you to the best book find I've made since I began reviewing for RT.

A Hint Of Frost - by Hailey Edwards

(Paranormal/Fantasy Romance)

4 1/2 Stars!

Review: 'The author spins an action-packed story of intrigue and betrayal, with an endearing romance at its heart. I adore a good marriage of convenience tale that turns into much more – and this one is exceptional. The dialogue is strong, the storyline compelling, and the prose artful. I nearly devoured this book in a single sitting, I was so hesitant to put it down once I'd been caught in its web.

Though a bit more physical description would have helped me initially to immerse myself and distinguish between characters, the detraction was minimal. The fantasy world setting is vaguely familiar in a brutal, medieval sort of way, but still satisfyingly foreign. I found the idea of humans with spider-like characteristics to be both original and fascinating. And the concept, along with the culture, was handled with elegance.

Lourdes is competent and relatable heroine, in spite of circumstances, counterbalanced by a keen hero I was happy to root for. I was also pleased to see the author juggle a number of children/adolescent side-characters, and volatile sibling relationships, with a deft authenticity. If this book heralds a series, I will happily be keeping an eye out for the next one.'

If you're even remotely interested, bear in mind that the release date is this coming Tuesday, April 17th, 2012. And on that day, I'll be hosting a special interview with author Hailey Edwards. She's been so kind as to offer up a FREE EBOOK for one lucky commenter! So be sure to check back.

See you Tuesday, peeps! :)


Friday, March 9, 2012

Read Any Good Book Reviews Lately?

Book reviews are of vital importance to the publishing industry. Readers need someone to be their advocate--aid them in making informed consumer decisions. And authors deserve to be given a fair shake through the sieve of opinion. But to be frank, not all book reviews are helpful.

I'm sure you've noticed by now that reviews can vary drastically from person to person. Just about anyone can sign up for an account on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, or Goodreads--there are no competency qualifications beyond figuring out how to register. And so, the quality of reviews can vary from eloquent and thorough essays, to the ever rousing: "THIS BOOK SUCKS!!!!!!!"

There are a number of reasons why I decided to become a book reviewer:

I was already doing a good deal of reading, and the chance to be one of the first to read an up-and-coming book had a certain appeal to me. As did the prospect of discovering a new author whose style I might particularly enjoy. And then there's the perk of expanding my personal library and feeding my addiction...

While I was initially concerned that reviewing might become yet another time-sucker -- devouring precious minutes I could instead devote to my own work -- I've discovered along the way that my writing has benefited from the investment. On default, reviewing trained me to dissect and study what I was reading. Picking out the strengths and weaknesses in other people's works has gone a long way toward taking off the blinders--helping me review my manuscripts with more objectivity. I'd heard that reviewing could have this effect, but now, I can vouch for it personally. If you're looking for a way to strength your writing, consider reviews as a possible tool for honing your craft.

(And don't worry! If you're afraid of losing friends and alienating people with your honesty, however mild and well-intended, there is always the option to review under a separate moniker. :) )

When I started out reviewing books, I kept a pen handy and marked my place with a blank sheet of paper. As I went, I'd jot down any notes or thoughts that I was even remotely tempted to write in the margins. I then used a few personal guidelines when it came time to organize my accumulated commentary. I put them together after reading countless reviews--trying to determine what made them either helpful or useless to my ultimate book purchase decision.

#1. I will not limit my review to one or two sentences.

I almost always end up ignoring excessively short reviews. Whether they be glowing endorsement, or venomous denouncement, they tend to be emotionally charged and unlikely to express what people actually need to know.

#2. I will avoid extremes in rating, unless I REALLY meant it.

1-star and 5-star ratings have always made me a little suspicious. Okay, a LOT suspicious. Whenever someone raves/rants of how a book was the best or worst piece of literature they've ever laid eyes on, a snarky little voice in the back of my head goes, "Really? And just how vast is your pool of reading experience?" Yes, that would be the little voice I have to (and should) switch off when I get down to doing my own reviews. Ah, tact...the final frontier. >.>

In my mind, everybody gets 1 free star just for finishing and publishing the book. They get another automatic star if they've had enough respect for readers to have the book edited in any credible capacity. All additional stars must be earned, preferably in 1/2 star increments, through prose, plot, finesse, emotional conveyance, guile, etc. It's pretty rare that I hand out a 5 star rating to anything that isn't in some way a classic. (For the most part, you need to be dead and/or happen to have the last name of Tolkein, Lewis, Bronte', Herbert, or Lee. I assure you, it's nothing personal!)

#3. I will justify my rating without giving away the ending.

Spoilers. I sometimes have to let a minor one slip here and there--particularly when I'm taking issue with logic or consistency points. I might even express my rapture or dissatisfaction with the story's sense of closure. But I have no desire to be 'that goober' who ruins the mystery for everyone.

Those were my basic rules of review conduct, up until I took an extensive 3 week workshop on the art of book reviewing. (Many thanks to Lowcountry Romance Writers! ) Since then, I've been able to add a bit more structure to my methods. My new and more comprehensive modus operandi looks something like this:

Hook + Summery + Analysis + Closure = Book Review

The breakdown:

-A hook statement, fact, quote, etc.--draws readers in and, in a more professional capacity, can potentially give authors a snippit to work with later in their promotions. (Unless, of course, I don't have especially positive feelings about the book overall. Then I will likely be more bland with the opener.)

-A quick summary of content, preferably without repeating what is readily available in the book blurb.

-An analysis of the writing itself (comments and criticisms), providing a detailed evaluation along with justifying examples. The goal being to touch on at least half of the following: Plot, descriptive elements, dialogue, target audience, grammatical & editing elements, characterization, character development, conflict, pacing, prose, flow, and point-of-view.

-A closing statement serves to tie everything together. This is also an opportunity to supply one last encouraging push of recommendation or, in some cases, regretful warning.

Given everything I've picked up recently, I think I have a few old reviews to go back and adjust. Ah, well. We learn by doing. :)

Tell me about how book reviews affect you! Do reviews have any bearing on how you decide to spend your time and money? Where do you like to get your reviews?