Category Archives: On Writing


I know, only three posts here and I’m off somewhere else. However, between three blogs, an author site and life I needed to consolidate!

Here’s the link to where you’ll find posts on how the Acquisition Editor’s job is going:


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Posted by on February 1, 2013 in On Writing


1/27 Two(ish) weeks: Thoughts on Realism, Romance and Contests

Two weeks down and still working on finding that zinger that catches my interest. Several were close this week but didn’t quite deliver.

One repeating theme in the stories that didn’t work revolved around characters accomplishing unrealistic feats. As I’ve said before, I love Fantasy (capital F as I’m talking genre here), so I don’t have a problem suspending my disbelief for a story. However, for goodness sake, don’t screw up the basics of survival. These include walking incomprehensible distances (there’s a helpful and interesting discussion here on realistic expectations if you’re wondering), remaining physically active and fit while not eating & drinking for extended periods of time (say days), and surviving extreme cold in ‘everyday’ clothes – again while being active. Or, worse yet, doing all at the same time. This is pretty basic research, there’s no reason anyone should be getting this wrong. Of course, these weren’t the primary reason I said ‘no’ to any manuscript, this type of thing is fixable after all, unrealistic feats like these were just a common theme in my submissions this week.

I also received some questions about romance this week. I love Romance (note the capital ‘R’ here, because I’m talking about genre), but it’s not a genre that Curiosity Quills Press publishes. That’s not to say there can’t be romantic elements or a romance in the story, heck if we said that we’d have to forego a huge chunk of YA submissions. No, the point here is that, particularly for adult novels, it can’t be a Romance. And, what, exactly does that mean? You could, of course, look it up in Wikipedia, but for the sake of expediency if the entire plot revolves around the romantic relationship between two main characters, and the positive resolution of that relationship is both the main theme of the plot as well as the end goal of the story, you probably have a romance. Would the story exist if, say, the two were just friends at the end? Would the plot fall apart if, say, the couple didn’t resolve their differences? I will say it can be a bit gray, especially with YA since relationships are the heart of many YA stories. If you’re not sure, send it on in. But if you are sure, we’re probably not the publisher for you.

Finally, some thoughts on contests. The wonderful Brenda Drake held her semi-annual twitter pitch session. #PitMad, this week. I only belatedly remembered to ask for people to think of us, as well as target a couple of pitches I thought would do very well at Curiosity Quills. Next time I need to be on top of the situation, there we hundreds of pitches throughout the day. I’m thinking in the fall we may want to hold a special twitter pitch session ourselves to get pitches which fit our genres better. Hmm, need to talk to my boss about this. One thing about Brenda Drake’s contest is that it was was billed as pitching to agents (although I did see some other editors on there). And there is a certain group of people whom are actively pursuing being repped by an agent and will not consider anything else. Their loss. Some of their stories are wonderful but not quite mainstream and aren’t going to catch an agent’s eye. On the other hand, those stories are perfect for small presses like us. We like the quirky, we like the truly unusual, we like epic fantasy/sci-fi/cozy mysteries and noir thrillers. I hope these people wise up and change their expectations and come join us. We’d love to have them. (Oh, and we do take agented submission too, but most of our submissions are made directly to us)


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Posted by on January 27, 2013 in On Writing, Submissions


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Writing Advice for Fantasy Authors

I was surfing around the web, looking for discussions on trends in fantasy novels, and lists of ‘best of 2012’ (to see if I missed any!) when I ran across the Fantasy Faction blog. While I was searching their site (as I was also trying to find out how to get books reviewed/listed 🙂 ) I ran across some genre specific articles on writing. In particular, their article on ‘Show, Don’t Tell’  for fantasy authors, I thought was insightful. One of their points:

Fantasy stories will often include some very odd and unfamiliar things – from people, creatures and places, to magic and strange technology – more so than most other genres. A fantasy story will naturally be quite heavy on description. The reader may need more help picturing certain things than they would in another book. Remembering the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ rule will help to keep descriptions interesting and dynamic.

A fantasy writer may also feel the need to tell the reader what everything does and how everything works, but in most cases this is better shown than told.

Given that, in a fantasy story, you will have times you do need to ‘tell’ and not show, I think it’s even more important to be very circumspect and avoid ‘telling’ at all other times. And the one of the easiest ways to clean up your telling (and not showing) is how you inform the readers about emotions. This is also the ‘tell’ most often made by newer (and not just novice) writers.

They have a really good example on Fantasy Faction about showing anger. Here’s a quick example of ‘showing’ another emotion:

A lone, ignored tear traced a slow path down her tawny cheek, crisscrossing the salt tracks of those she’d already shed.

Her shuddering breath hitched and a small sob escaped.

Despite his slow, measured pace, he still stumbled over some of the names of the dead. When he came to the names of the children, he paused after each one, drew in a deep breath and swallowed before going on to the next.

Those are off the cuff and I apologize for grammar (not my strongest suit), but they all should convey an emotion without ever saying what that emotion is.

Of course there are exceptions. When you are writing in the first person you will run across times when your main character will think ‘I’m mad”. Or in dialog, “Last I saw him, he was madder than a bee stung rhinoceros that his niece beat him at table tennis.” However, generally, you never want to state emotions, you want to show them.

And yes, I’m still trying to figure out how to get books reviewed by the site.

(be sure to check out Fantasy Faction’s articles on writing, there’s more good stuff there)

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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in On Writing


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