Tag Archive: Writing


My first review. . .

I have to admit, I was ill prepared for a review like this. It left me breathless, and hyper and ecstatic beyond words. I set my expectations very low so I wouldn’t be disappointed when they started rolling in. I’ve seen some good writers filleted by reviewers, and who isn’t a bit insecure in their abilities – I certainly am.

   
So when I took a moment yesterday morning to open my email, and I found my first review notice, I gulped, not really looking (or comprehending – I saw it but it didn’t compute) the four stars indicated in the email. I clicked the link and started reading, and it wasn’t until I was halfway through that I realized it was favorable. But the last paragraph – the last paragraph was stellar. What every writer hopes to hear from their readers and I nearly fell out of my seat.

    
Dear Claudia Rhyes over at Manic Readers – you made my day. Hell, you made my millennium!

      
4 Star Spinning
This book had it all, and even though I started off not knowing if I would truly like the content, I was blown away by how honest, true, emotional, and frightening it really was. Jane E. Taylor has spun a story that is sure to catch reader’s attention and hold it until the last page. If you are looking for a story that will keep you on the edge, make your toes curl from the eroticism, and make you feel love and sorrow, then I would highly suggest Survival Games. I can’t wait to read the other two books in what is to be a wonderful trilogy. Bravo Ms. Taylor! – Manic Readers

     
I’m still expecting that bad review and I’m sure it will come, but until then, I’m going to ride the wave of this one, the euphoria and the validation that I don’t suck.

     
Survival Games will be released on July 19, 2010 in both e-book and paperback. You can pre-order the paperback on Amazon.com (or at least sign up for notification of availability). I really hope you folks will buy the book in one format or another and nearer to the release date, look for information on getting signed paperback copies!

    
Ciao – and here’s to a wonderful weekend!
JET.

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Ok folks, pretend it’s Friday for just a minute. I was so intense in my quest to pound out 1k yesterday that I completely forgot about my blog. Oops. Sorry.

With that said, my first order of business is April shout outs: I’ve only got notice of two releases from my Backspace brethren and both roll out on April 6th: CLAUDE & CAMILLE: A NOVEL OF MONET by Stephanie Cowell and BETWEEN FRIENDS by Kristy Kiernan. So folks – check them out!

I expect the blogs to be short over April because I am involved in the April Backspace Marathon and have put out the 30k in 30 days goal for myself. That is very easy when I’m writing, however, I’m editing and trying to ADD that many words to two manuscripts that once comingled in a single novel. How am I doing it? I’m adding new scenes to up the ante and adding much more detail and internalizations to enhance the situation. So a thousand words a day is definitely a challenge!

Well, in the spirit of the marathon – I need to get back to work. Happy Easter everyone – hope you are enjoying this fabulous weekend!

JET

Patience, a virtue I lack . . .

I’m not very good at playing the waiting game. As a matter of fact I hate it in any aspect of my life. I’m thinking that comes from the utter control freak that resides at my core. I’ve learned to loosen up in a lot of aspects over the years, but impatience is not one that little pain in the ass will let go of.

There are a whole host of things I’m waiting for right now and they all have me on edge.

First, word from a publisher on my non-erotic thriller, Dark Reckoning. I’m trying to be patient – but it’s like asking a child who’s been waiting for the ice cream truck all day to wait at the back of the line because their mother hasn’t made her way to the curb with the money yet. Especially since I’ve worked out the cover with my favorite cover artist from down under, Willsin Rowe.

I’m waiting for a couple more author blurbs for Survival Games as well as the reviews to start rolling in – although I know on the review front that these can take up to 90 days – which is why I sent them out at the beginning of the month. All of which have me really nervous. The one blurb I did receive blew me away but I’m sure I’ll get mixed reviews from the masses because of the very dark subject matter. So I wait, with my nails bit down to the stub.

I’m also waiting to find out what’s next on the day job. What project are we going to tackle next? I don’t like ambivalent periods and yes we’re supporting a system we just implemented – which is an important task, but I’m getting anxious to start on the next creative challenge.

The last thing I’m waiting for is May 1 and the nice spring / summer weather – which don’t necessarily coincide. As I said last week – with the spring teaser, this has become a more pronounced want that I have to wait for. And with the return of the cold weather (we actually had snow flurries this morning) it just makes this that much worse.

Not one of these items is within my control and as I said before, the control freak in me is wigging out. More so this year than in the past – although spring is traditionally a restless time for me. Right now I’m feeling like a caged lion, pacing in my confines just waiting for the next chance at a great escape – or a tasty meal.

I just need to get through these last few days of March and then I’ll be knee deep in the Backspace April Marathon – which will take my mind off some of the idle restlessness. I’ve got at least 30k to add to the sequels to Dark Reckoning along with some refining editing before I can get them ready for submission and I have a few unfinished manuscripts that need attention.

I do have a few things to organize and iron out – like reaching out to bloggers to set up a blog tour for Survival Games – but unfortunately that won’t keep my restlessness at bay.

So folks . . . What do you do to keep your mind occupied when you’re impatiently waiting for something? Any words of advice, antic dotes, commiserations?

Also – anyone who has a book release in April, please shoot me a message so I can include you in my monthly shout outs!

Have a great weekend!
Ciao.

Spring Fever!

A’ight, it’s March 19th and this week the weather has been fantastic. Enough so that I’m getting antsy to get out in the sunshine and tan up. I hate being winter pale, don’t you?

This kind of weather makes it so hard not to break down and play hooky from daily responsibilities. I remember being in college and the first spring heat wave (or near spring) always brought on a beach run. Of course seventy degrees doesn’t necessarily constitute a heat wave – but after so many thirty-two degrees and below days, seventy seems balmy and the beach was always crowded with those of us who ditched school. If I wasn’t so damned responsible, I would have coerced some folks into a beach run today.
Ugh, being a grown up sucks.

But there is hope on the horizon . . . I have six weeks, count them, s-i-x weeks left before my husband takes his normal weekend trek with my father and brother-in-law to open up our campsite in Maine – which means, seven weeks before I can have weekends jogging on the beach again – and frankly, I need the exercise. Winter has not been kind to my ever expanding ass.

This kind of weather also degrades my concentration level to the point of less than a gnat because, frankly, I’d rather be at the beach.  Specifically, I’d rather be writing on the beach.

Spring cleaning is on the horizon too, and anyone who knows me knows how much I hate any domestic tasks. Cleaning, cooking, yard work. If I could get a maid, a cook and a landscaper, I’d be the ultimate happy camper. The old adage – Girls Just Want To Have Fun – well folks, that’s me. And the first hint of spring weather gets that mindset itching to be released from the bonds of responsibility.

Anyway – that’s my blog for this Friday – and this weekend, I’m planning on getting outside and enjoying the wonderful weather instead of staring longingly from an office cubicle!

Life without my computer. . .

Before I get into my normal rambling, I’d like to give a shout out for my Backspace friends and their March releases and March is a busy month.

March 1 had three releases, Claudia Gray’s HOURGLASS, Clea Simon’s GREY MATTERS and J. T. Ellison – THE COLD ROOM. March 2nd releases include Suzanne Dunlap’s ANASTASIA’S SECRET and Jonathan Mayberry’s THE DRAGON FACTORY. We’ve also got Carrie Ryan’s THE DEAD-TOSSED SEA on March 9th and last but not least – on March 16th, Jenny Gardiner’s WINGING IT: A Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Who’s Determined to Kill Me.

Now, onto the subject of my technology withdrawals. I did not realize how completely dependent I’ve become on my little netbook. It’s been in the shop for a week now and I feel so lost without that mechanical extension. I floundered, confiscating my son’s little Dell for my vicarious use, surfing the net, researching Europe in the 1200’s and getting some of my muse on paper. But even so, his computer isn’t mine; it doesn’t have the same speed or operating system for that matter.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, my computer’s due back on Monday and I can’t wait.

Anyhow, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do over the weekend both on the day job front as well as the writing front. You see, this weekend we have a major installation going in so my time is split between the writing and making sure things go smoothly at work.

In the meantime, I’m counting down the hours . . .

What editors want . . .

I figured since I’m knee deep in reviewing submissions for Allegory and operating as a content editor for both eXcessica and FIDO, I’d take a moment to talk about what I am looking for in a story. 

I lead a very busy life between my day job, my writing, my marketing efforts and operating in an editorial capacity, so when I sit down to read a submission, I want to be swept away. 

I want to forget about the ten gazillion things on my plate and get lost in the story. 

I want to feel something; love, hate, fear, sorrow, joy.

I want to be moved in some fashion by what I read. 

In order to do that, the writer must leave passive voice at the door.  Passive voice is the kiss of death in my book.  Telling the reader the story instead of letting them experience it for themselves is a cardinal sin and a lesson I learned with a little help from some very savvy and very patient writing friends.  

Let me give you a hideous example of passive voice from my own archives: 

This is from the very first draft of Survival Games:

They sat in solemn silence as the memorial service began.  The priest had inspirational words for the family about knowing that their loved one was at peace with God.  Family and friends shared stories of their experiences with Jessica and expressed how much they would miss her.

BORING!  No wonder why the original version didn’t get the fan fare I hoped for.  Frankly – it sucked.   At the time, I didn’t know better but as I said before, I learned.  Not only did I benefit from harsh critiques but I also invested in some fantastic on-line writing courses.  My favorite series by far is Margie Lawson’s Deep Editing courses, I highly recommend them for the beginning writer and even those more seasoned writers that want to dig deeper. 

After a long road from first draft to where I am today, I’ve learned to write with impact.  

Now compare the original with the same passage in the published version:

They sat in silence and the memorial service began.  The priest shared inspirational words for the family about their loved one being at peace with God, but it did nothing to fill the hollowness in his soul. He didn’t want to know Jessica was in heaven, he wanted her here to help raise their family, to watch them grow, to rejoice and celebrate year after year together.  He wanted his wife and as family and friends shared stories, Daniel listened with a bitter and empty heart.   

Twenty years together.

Twenty years gone in the squeal of tires and exploding gas. 

Twenty years and now he was alone.

This passage engages active voice and enlists rhetorical devices, letting the reader into the character’s head, thus making it a more compelling read than the earlier version. 

If something akin to my original version crossed my desk, I’d stop reading right there.  Basically, if the first page is riddled with ‘was’, ‘were’,  ‘is’, ‘are’, ‘to be’ and ‘had’, I won’t read any further and your story will be rejected.   I know that sounds harsh, but it is what it is. 

Another thing I watch for is info dumps.  The key with back story is to sit and write everything you can about a character and then read it with an ultra critical eye.  What does the reader REALLY need to know?  Will this information propel the story forward?  If the answer is yes to either of these questions, the info can stay, everything else should be nixed.  Too much back story brings the momentum to a grinding halt. 

The key to a fantastic read is letting your audience get into the main character’s head, into his hearts, feel what he is feeling, tasting, hearing, smelling and touching.  But this can be taken too literally, too far and what ends up happening is head hopping from one point of view to another, which is another faux pas.  The reader loses a sense of connection when the point of view is constantly switching. 

Each passage, chapter or section should be one character’s point of view unless your book is from an omnipotent point of view, but that is another challenge all together.  If you’re in Johnny’s head (POV) and he has his back to Sally, you shouldn’t show Sally’s facial expressions unless Johnny’s an alien and has eyes on the back of his head.  *wink-wink*

I’m usually a little more forgiving on this unless it starts to pull me out of the story, then like passive voice and info dumps – the story will end up on the rejection pile. 

The last thing I look at is dialog and the overuse of adverbs. Period pieces aside, if dialog doesn’t ring true, or sounds contrived or forced, you are dead in the water.  The best advice here is to read it aloud, that flushes out the more awkward phrases and such. Also, ask yourself if you would speak like that.  If the answer’s hell no – change it.    

And as far as adverbs – I’m of the opinion that these are the lazy man’s alternative to writing fresh and too many will land you on the rejection pile.    

I’m sure none of this is new or ground breaking for those who have been around the block, but for those new to the ring, I’m hoping this will help you step back and look at your piece with a more critical eye before submitting to any publication.  The writing has to be concise and compelling no matter what the genre. 

So, I wish you a sharp pen and an even sharper razor to cut the needless phrases, the passive voice and those pesky adverbs. 

Good luck and God bless!

JET.

A discussion about titles. . .

Happy Friday everyone.

I’ve been looking at my next pile of books to polish up and get into the land of the published. This is my FBI thriller series that starts off with a book currently called Mirror Lake. In comparison with the other titles in the series, this is pretty docile and a little boring. So I’ve been tossing around alternative titles and have honed in on one, the only problem is, I can’t seem to let go of Mirror Lake.

You see, I started Mirror Lake back when I was a freshman in college. I never finished it back then but it’s been sitting in a drawer and festering in my mind, percolating for twenty some years. During my writing jag of 2007 and 2008, this was one of the books I revamped and finished after I pounded out the Games series.

So calling it anything else is a struggle.

But title is just as important as a captivating cover, so this is one thing I have to divorce myself from. It will always be Mirror Lake to me BUT when it comes time to publish this sucker, it’s going to get a facelift. Mirror Lake is becoming Dark Reckoning.

It fits better with the titles I have in the series:
1. Dark Reckoning (formerly Mirror Lake)
2. White Fury
3. Vengeance
4. Hunting Season
5. Georgia Reign
6. Saving Face

Seeing the list with Mirror Lake was the eye opener and that’s what prompted the re-evaluation of the title. Seeing it with the new title has more of a punch, which is the whole purpose of a title. Now all I have to do is finish polishing these up and get them on the publishing train. 🙂

I only have two other titles beyond this, Crystal Illusions which my MC from the above series has a cameo and my science fiction story – Dome Warriors. Not bad on the title front – but once I go through and polish them; the titles may again be reviewed and tested against the story line to make sure they carry the right weight. After all the right title and the right zippy slogan to match is what marketing is all about!

The journey . . .

Another Friday – another blog. This time I asked my friends and fan base over at Facebook what they’d like me to talk about this evening. I got some great ideas but the first post intrigued me. For the others that piped in, I’ll tackle your ideas in subsequent Friday posts.

Anna Walls piped in with this gem:
As a relatively new author, I’m always intrigued with how my peers made that journey. Was it planned? When did you start planning if it was? That sort of thing. What did it feel like to see your own very first book in published form?

Was this planned – no not in the least, at least not the path my life took when I got married almost twenty one years ago. In college, I had dreams of being a writer, producer and director. My major was in Communications with a concentration in radio and television broadcasting. I loved it. I mean LOVED that world. When I got out of school, I went to work at a local television station in the capacity of a film editor. What that meant in the practical world is I reformatted movies to fit into the specific timeslots and took out scenes that were not suitable for broadcast television. I also helped out in the news room at times and on occasion wrote and directed kids news spots. It was a fun job, but it paid a pittance, so when the opportunity came to switch gears into the world of finance.

In all the years I worked and raised a family, writing was always in the back of my mind, but time just wasn’t there. But even during that time, my imagination stored all the ideas away into a “this might be interesting” file cabinet in my head.

The catalyst for change was in the beginning of 2007, my daughter asked the million dollar question.

If you could do anything, what would it be?

That was an easy question to answer. Write a book and get it published. And with that, my husband and kids gave the go ahead. For close to two years I wrote almost non-stop – every evening, every weekend, every vacation and I have eight manuscripts to show for that crazy brain dump. Since then I’ve written dozens of short stories, but my focus has been on refining those manuscripts.

I made the classic rookie mistakes with query letters, from the first batch which was really more like a typical business letter introducing myself and the stack of manuscripts I had written to the naivety of being sucked into those less than reputable publishers – luckily I got wise before I peeled off any cash.

The turn of everything happened when I met Lauren Baratz-Logsted on MySpace and she turned me onto Backspace (www.bksp.org) and the forum there. Talk about eye opening and humbling. I had a lot to learn and the folks there were exceptional at sharing knowledge and pushing me to write better, cleaner, more compelling prose.

That is when I started planning. I set up my own website, my own blog, branched out from MySpace to the other networking sites, and then started refining my pitch. I met the editor of Allegory and volunteered to be an associate editor on the E-zine and landed my first publishing contract myself. So now it’s a balance of branding my name, writing, editing and learning more about the craft. While I’d like to have an agent and get my more mainstream books in the hands of the big markets, I can’t complain.

As for actually holding my first book in my hand, it’s an amazing, surreal, joyous, unbelievable feeling that I can’t begin to describe.

Now all I need to do is find balance between my writing life and my family life. Once I find that, I’ll be golden.

Happy 2010!

Happy New Year. 

My new year resolution is to pay a little more attention to my blogs.  I’ve neglected them for too long.  So prepare for a weekly rant from yours truly.  

I received wonderful news a couple days ago, Mind Games, the second book in the Games trilogy has been picked up by eXcessica for release on November 29, 2010.  A little over four months after Survival Games goes live.  I’ll have to work on the last of the series which is appropriately titled End Game and hopefully that can get on the docket for early 2011. 

I also have a short story that is in the staff showcase over at Allegory in the January issue.  Armageddon.  So jump on over to www.allegoryezine.com and check out all the fabulous stories that made it into this edition.  There were some stellar submissions and I had the joy of helping Ty Drago narrow down the maybe list to the final eight.  It was a joy to read all the maybe’s but a bear to try and pare that list down for both the best and a balance of fantasy, science fiction and horror. 

Anyhow, submission period starts again in February, so we all get a breather to focus on our own writing.  Once I finish polishing End Game, I’ll start my focus back on the FBI series and start hunting for representation of that series.  I already have 5 books (that need work) and a partial 6th in that series and I’ve been away from them for too long.  It’s time to get Special Agent Steve Williams back into hot water. 

My wish for all the writers out there is for a prosperous and productive New Year!

Now that Survival Games is going to see the light of day, I can share some of the more amusing stories relating to explaining the plot to folks like my family and my co-workers.

This was the first book I wrote when my family gave me carte-blanc to go for it and I’ll tell you – after 20 years of not writing, the words sailed out. It took me less than a month to get the story on paper – of course after that it took two and a half years to refine it to what will be published – but the original book spilled out like a levy crumbling under a flood. And when I was done, I looked at what I created and had a ‘holy shit’ moment.

The book is dark and twisted, intense and graphic and I didn’t realize I had that level of darkness in me – and the first draft of this book was much harsher than what will be in print in July – but regardless, I figured I’d better get over the WASP-bred embarrassment of creating something so controversial and steamy.

So I asked my father to read it.

Yes, my father.

Well, I’m sure I shocked the hell out of him but he didn’t say much regarding how he felt about his little girl writing erotica or such a horrific tale. The one thing he did say is that it had a lot of sex – but he amended that by saying the subject matter warranted it and considering the plot line, he thought it was appropriate and not gratuitous. Overall he liked the story.

So after the slightly awkward conversation, he asked if I was done with the second book yet. He wanted to read that too – wanted to know what happened to the characters from the first book and as any writer knows, this is the best feeling in the world.

Ok – so I tested the waters with a co-worker and I’ll tell you, the looks she gave me after she started the book – it was all I could do not to laugh every time I saw her. And then one day she asked a priceless question – she asked if I could teach her to dance because my main character in the book knows how to dance.

I did laugh then, because I have no rhythm what-so-ever. Two left feet and then some. And she thought there was reality based in the book. The only shred of “me” in the book is the fact that my favorite color is described. That’s where reality ends; the rest is just a figment of my imagination and a reflection of my nightmares.

I said, “Oh honey, the book is FICTION – I can’t dance.”

Needless to say she was both embarrassed and relieved.

The next slightly awkward moment was right after I announced to my co-workers that I got a publishing contract. It was one of those not so politically correct moments. Most of my co-workers know I’ve got an unpublished FBI agent series, but most of them didn’t know about the erotica, so well, you can imagine the raised eyebrows.

My boss had announced to a group – did you know JET got a publishing contract? And of course, someone asked what type of book.

“It’s an Erotic Thriller.”

“Oh neurotic thriller? Like something by Woody Allen?”

I laughed and said “No – EROTIC thriller, like something by Jackie Collins.” Bad example – but all it was all I could think of at the moment and while I turned about five shades of red – my co-worker tripled that. To lighten the shocked silence I added. “But I’m the one who’s neurotic.”

So after tackling my parents and my co-workers, I feel confident I’ll be able to speak coherently and not turn sixty shades of red when I participate in a panel called “You write your mother with that pen?” at the Backspace Conference in New York City in May about incorporating sex scenes into your novels.

Anybody else have some fun stories about explaining their novels to friends and family? I’d love to hear them.