Thursday, December 12, 2013

Scarred Beautiful: Cover Reveal Awesomeness I'm a teensy bit late...but I am so excited to be participating in author Beth Michele's cover reveal for her new book: Scarred Beautiful. This is Michele's third book, and follows on the heels of two amazing debut books: Love Love and Lovely.

Scarred Beautiful comes out January 28, 2014.

Genre: N/A Contemporary Romance with language and mature sexual content (Thanks, Beth!)

Cover Design: The lovely and talented Regina Wamba at Mae I Design and Photography 


Love believes in second chances.
Francis Heller lives with two truths. Love hurts and beauty is only skin deep.

With midnight black hair, moss-colored eyes, and traceable curves, Fran is the picture of beauty and confidence...on the outside. But deep down she is tormented. Not just by the jagged scars that line her body, but by the horrible memories that cloud her mind and haunt her dreams. The ones that make her want to flee from herself and from the devastating pain. The ones that cause her to placate herself with sex. Anything to make her forget. But for Fran, there's nowhere to hide from the darkness that swallows her whole. 
Matt Dixon is the gorgeous brother of her best friend's fiancée. He's suffered losses of his own and isn't willing to let anyone in until his unexpected encounter with Fran Heller, the girl who challenges him and causes him to take a second look, not only at her, but at his own life.
But Matt has scars of his own.
Together can they help each other discover that second chances really do exist? That love doesn't have to hurt? Or has the damage they've both suffered cut too deep to ever heal?

And now...for the beautiful cover...Ta-da! Isn't she just dreamy?

About the Author
I am a wife, mom, an author, and a lover of all things chocolate, well, anything sweet really.

While stuffing chocolate in my face, I enjoy reading young adult and new adult novels furiously, and spending time with my husband and two adorable children who keep me on my peppermint pink painted toes. Those same children who inspire me to tell silly stories that cause hysterical giggle to tumble from their bellies.

I love to laugh and love to have a good cry, especially after reading a novel that stretches my souls, one that makes me feel, and lingers in the corner of my heart.

I'm a hopeless romantic and a happy ever after fanatic, and I love to write about LOVE.

I began writing when I was in middle school, penning anything from short stories, to poetry, and then later moved on to write children's books. I have now endeavored into New Adult and Contemporary Romance novels and am loving every minute of it. My first novel, Love Love, was released in May, 2013.

Connect with Beth
Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Thanks for letting me share in this amazing Cover Reveal with you, Beth! Can't wait to read it now! 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Woman Who Lit the Match

Welcome to PART TWO of the Ignite Blog Hop Blast & Book TOUR

Visit THIS ARTICLE if you are looking for my treasure hunt word, links to the other participating blogs, and LINKS TO OVER 40 PRIZES -- including a Kindle Fire and Vegas trip! 

By now you know I'm buried up to my thigh-highs with the Book Blast & Blog Tour for the light erotica anthology Ignite. One of my favorite things to do during a book tour is an author interview. It helps readers connect with the book on a much more intimate way when they hear, see, feel (well, you know what I mean) a writer up close and personal.

Today, I am thrilled to have the esteemed owner of Brickstone Publishing with me on my blog. Author Lori Verni-Fogarsi not only wrote a saucy little story for Ignite, but she's also its executive editor and kicks off my week of showcasing several different authors from the anthology and getting to know them better. But first, let's get started today with the big cheese! Welcome, Lori. I am so honored that you're starting off this great big blog tour shebang here on my humble (but super dope) blog. Let's jump right in and get wet together.

Q: You have a story in the Ignite anthology called "Just Like Old Times." Is this your first pass at writing tasteful erotica, or have you written in this genre before? Your other three books ("Momnesia," "Unexpecting," and "Housetraining Puppies & Adult Dogs") are definitely not erotica! 

A: This will be my first published erotic story. I like the idea of we women cultivating, maintaining, or sometimes rediscovering our sexy sides. It's so easy to get caught up in work, parenting, and taking care of everyone else!
Q: What inspired your story? Is it complete fiction, or did you draw on any personal experiences for inspiration? 

A: Honestly? My story was inspired by my own ongoing desire to keep things fresh in my own marriage. I'm always looking for ways to do that. I thought to myself, "What would be a huge turn-on?" The date in the story was one we actually had when we were dating. As to re-creating it now? That was the fictional, fantasy part. 
Q: What readers may not know is that you juggle about ten different hats when it comes to "Ignite." You are not only the owner of Brickstone Publishing (which is the publisher of "Ignite"), but you also contributed your own story to the anthology, selected and managed ten authors, juggled PR and marketing, oversaw cover design, coordinated logistics such as interviews, blog hops, prizes, and giveaways, and much, much more, I'm sure.
How do you manage all of that, and does it leave any time for romance in real life?
A: You're right, it has been a lot. But it's work that I enjoy and having done it for three books before, it's become easier due to not having as much of a learning curve. As for romance in real life, I think my husband Mark and I do a pretty good job of it. We dedicate a lot of effort to our four children, but we also make it clear at times that we are having a glass of wine and watching our own movie (or whatever). Also, because this is our second marriage, we do have every other weekend without the kids, which gives us time to just be a couple and stay connected.
Q: What was the motivation or inspiration behind Brickstone Publishing's venture with the "Ignite" anthology? What "sparked" the idea to tackle such a large undertaking and in such a spicy genre?

A: I really feel strongly about the need for we women--and moms in particular--to take care of the "woman" inside of us. It's so easy to put passion on the back burner when in the throes of parenting, working, cleaning, and all else that we do. I'm hoping that "Ignite" may be a way for moms to stay in touch with our sexy sides. To have a little something for our selves.
Q: Now that you've published in this genre, have you been bitten by the erotica bug, or was this a one time toe-curling dip in the pool?

A: I already have plans in mind for another book! I'd like to do a book of erotic short stories about couples keeping their relationship hot! I'd like to title it "Rekindle." We are waiting to see how well received "Ignite" will be before formally moving forward with the submission process.
Q: I have to ask, as I do with all my interviewees: Are you a fan of thongs or bikini panties?

A: I am a thong girl all the way. I mean really, what it all boils down to anyway is less fabric giving you a wedgie!
Q: What's one quirky writing habit you have?

A: I have no plan. At all! When I write, I just write as the muse flows. Then, at other times when the story is not flowing, I use that time to work on organizing, editing, etc.
Q: Do you have a favorite writing quote for inspiration?
A: It may not be a writing quote so to speak, but this quote applies to just about everything in life: "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." ~Getty Lee, from the band "Rush." In fact, I feel so strongly about this quote that not only do I refer to it in my own life, but it's referred to (with permission) throughout my novel, "Momnesia!"
Q: You were once a newbie, too. Any advice for beginning writers?
A: Yes, and it's very simple. Just write your book! Don't worry about what you're going to do with it later. If it's not written, it can never be published! Also, for those who are self-publishing, use a professional editor before releasing your book to the public. It will pay off tenfold.
(Eh-hem...I'd have to agree ten-fold. But I promised no money changed hands for that ringing endorsement of using quality, I don't know...maybe the Grammar Babe? Just sayin'.)
Q: Other than a much needed break, what can your fans expect next? Do you have any novels in progress as we speak?
A: Yes, and I'm very excited about it! My novels, "Momnesia" and "Unexpecting" do really well as stand-alone books, but they're part of my Find Yourself series. I've been working on the next book, "The Husbands." It's about three men, three marriages, and their three ways of making it all work out. It will be released in spring 2014.

Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog! I will look forward to getting to know your readers...maybe in the comments section below?

And thank you, Lori for being so open and honest about your writing, your next steps, and a reader favorite, your underwear! You ROCK!

Want more?
Support Indie. Buy Ignite today while it's on sale, too!


VISIT BRICKSTONE PUBLISHING'S Web site for the Rafflecopter giveaway to win one of over 40 different prizes, as well as a full list of participating blogs to get all of your treasure hunt words.

Click HERE for the Kindle Fire Giveaway.
Click HERE for the Las Vegas Giveaway.
Click HERE to order any other Brickstone title for the reduced rate of $1.99.

Buy Ignite on Amazon.
Review Ignite on Goodreads.
Share Ignite on Facebook and Twitter.

Happy (and I mean OOOOOOOOO so happy) reading!

Come on Baby Light My Fire


Welcome! You've arrived at the Ignite Blast Hop & Tour!

"Whether you’re a woman who has put passion on the back burner, or you’re a hot mama who has been keeping things aflame, these stories are sure to light your fire!"  

I always love a BIG...challenge. So, I was one of the first to wave my hand (I volunteer! I'll be a tribute!) to be an ARC reviewer and blog post stop when I found out about Author Lori Verni-Fogarsi's unique and intriguing erotica anthology. Let me preface this by saying, if you know Lori, you know that she's done it up right and it's tasteful while not holding back any of the spice on us. She's managed to serve up a hot little book with a wide range of temptations and fantasies for all types of women.

Ignite is published by Brickstone Publishing, with ten separate light erotica stories specifically geared toward busy, overworked moms in desperate need to find and protect some much needed alone time. 
You can read my full reviews of Ignite over on Goodreads and Amazon.

The ten participating authors are a mix of established, published authors, new writers who publish under other pen names, and clean, spankin' new erotica-writing virgins! Now how's that for some toe-curling fun? 

Treasure hunt word: curling (as in: toe-curling, 'cause these stories will cause your toes to curl!)

The authors featured in Ignite are: Michael Braken, Alice Bright, Katherine Crighton, Jen Lee, Lori Verni-Fogarsi, Julianna Darling, Shennoah Caroll-Brad, JR Reed, Kelly Lawrence, and Lizzie Richards.

In the following days, I'll be highlighting one new author a day on my blog and sharing some light biography facts and links to how you can find out more about the author or connect, so stayed tuned for that as well.

I also get to share a fun little cheat sheet with you. During this week's festivities and ultra awesome kick-off party on Facebook, "Ignite" will be only 99 cents until the 8th.
One of the things Lori--the book's executive editor as well as a contributing author--did exceptionally well, was to find a nice blend of stories that all compliment each other while being diverse in their approach. Some are softer and more of a body-worshiping style of making love, while others are made from lusty moments of scuffles across a boss's slick desk when the moment can no longer bear another ounce of electricity before clothes are flying off.

The common theme is this: These are all normal women, normal mothers--just like you and me. They are all driven by the primal need to feel sexy again, rekindle romance and passion in their lives, and find a missing part of themselves in some way. 

The situations in this book are for those over 18 years of age, they are heterosexual (only) stories, and they are BDSM-free. It's a rare glimpse into the lives of others and what lengths women may go to in order to re-IGNITE their passions.  

Stay tuned for professional reviews, author interviews (including mine today with Brickstone Publishing's own author-editor extraordinaire: Lori Verni-Fogarsi), and a TREASURE HUNT (as mentioned above). Here's what you do:

1) Grab a pen & paper.
2) Visit each of the blogs listed below to see their reviews, interviews, and articles. 
3) While there, write down their treasure hunt word!
4) Scroll down to the prize entry form below and get tons of extra entries for inputting the treasure hunt words. 


*** To Enter in the Rafflecopter prize giveaway for OVER 40 AWESOME PRIZES, click here to get to the Brickstone Publishing web site and scroll to the bottom of the page to enter your information into the Rafflecopter form.***

Click HERE for Ignite Kindle Fire Giveaway.
Click HERE for the Las Vegas Giveaway.
Click HERE to order any other Brickstone title for the reduced rate of $1.99.

Buy Ignite on Amazon.
Review Ignite on Goodreads.
Share Ignite on Facebook and Twitter

And don't forget your treasure hunt word: curling for a chance to win cool prizes! Happy (and I mean OOOOOOOOO so happy) reading!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Open Letter to Faith Christian Academy of Orlando, Florida

Recently, I saw an article on Facebook via Yahoo Shine that absolutely appalled me and I thought, surely, this is just a shock feature, but untrue. Sadly, the answer seems to be no.

While others may skim by this article and not say anything, it goes against everything I believe in, and I cannot stay quiet on behalf of the brave and beautiful Vanessa VanDyke. I am literally shaking as I write this open letter because my heart is aching for the atrocity that this school completed, hiding behind a shield of God.

For readers who missed the article, according to Yahoo, Faith Christian Academy of Orlando, FL has issued an ultimatum to twelve-year-old VanDyke: shape and cut your natural hair, or be expelled from school.


Did I just read that right? Coming from a CHRISTIAN school? In the year 2013? I understand that the school may be focused on academics and a nurturing learning environment, but according to the article, VanDyke is also an honors student and violinist at the school. Check.
They are hiding behind rules written by man (their student handbook), quoting that VanDyke's hair is distracting. Who cares? Did Jesus turn away disciples because they looked different? NO. He embraced them.

He marched right into all communities and took the underdogs under his wing. Stood BESIDE the poor, the blind, the broken, the weak, and even more -- was THEIR VOICE. Did he condemn them for their hair, their clothes, the color of their skin? Did he judge them? The Jesus I know wouldn't do that. Or tolerate a school doing that in His name. For any reason. Rules made by men can be changed by men. They can be altered when they are wrong.

Why is the school even focused on her hair? The real issue is the fact that VanDyke complained to the school that she was being picked on about her hair.  Yes, she was being BULLIED. And what does the school do? Appease the parents of the children who are "offended" by her hair and issue an ultimatum. INSTEAD OF ADDRESSING the REAL issue. Which is intolerance.

This is a CHRISTIAN school, people. Everyone reading this should be as outraged as I am. This is a damn fine time for the school to teach a lesson to its students about valuing and appreciating what's on the inside, instead of making fun of someone for what's on the outside. It's about appreciating character and strength. About standing up for what you believe in. Which is what VanDyke had the grace to do at only twelve years old.

According to the Yahoo article, VanDyke said, '"It says that I'm unique," she tells WKMG. "First of all, it's puffy and I like it that way. I know people will tease me about it because it's not straight. I don't fit in."' 

Here's what I say to VanDyke:

Vanessa, you are too beautiful to fit in. You were BORN to stand out and be a leader. Stand behind your beauty and never let a school, friends, or society condemn you because they are too small to appreciate diversity and uniqueness. You are smart, beautiful, and brave. NEVER CHANGE WHO YOU ARE. Jesus would love your tenacity, fortitude, and heart. Continue to remind and teach others about acceptance and love based on what's inside, which is more important than our outer appearance any way. Your insides are golden, just as your outsides are - you are truly beautiful just the way you are. I love your hair. And your spirit.

And here is what I say to Faith Christian Academy:

You should be ashamed of yourselves for forcing a little girl to change her natural appearance. Instead of focusing on the "victim" you should be listening to her complaint. Hear that she has been ostracized by your very students and address the bullying issue with the entire school. Teach your students about tolerance and acceptance--no matter what a person looks like on the outside. Tell them that bullying is not okay. Jesus would not turn a student or disciple away if she had dreadlocks, or orange hair, or green skin. He would embrace them. Teach them. Celebrate them. Heal them. Give them ALL the glory of God's UNCONDITIONAL love. Perhaps you should open your hearts as well and consider banishing a senseless rule and worry more about the why behind the issue instead of the what. You're focused on the wrong issue and penalizing a bright young student for your limitations as adults, Christians, and role models.

Here is the silver lining in this story: VanDyke (gasp!) has confidence and inner poise. So does her mother who is willing to stand up for her and fight the unjustness of the situation with her. A parent who supports her daughter's decision and backs her, because she knows the issue is bigger than just her daughter's hair. No matter what the outcome of this story, this little girl will go on to be successful. She is too bright of a soul not to. But this is setting a very sad precedent if this kind of small-minded behavior is allowed. Whether it's a private school or not.   

I understand that schools need to teach. I understand that some students may be distracting. (But, come on...that's not really the case here, and we all know it.) But when you thrust conformity onto children, they need to find a small outlet to express their unique beauty and allow their personalities to shine. A yellow bow, dreadlocks, pink hair...who really cares? What's the harm?

Instead of letting it become a distraction, why not teach tolerance instead and let kids express themselves in this small way? Why do we want to white-wash our kids any way? Jesus opened his arms to the masses. Shouldn't we be teaching, and certainly at CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS, our next generation to be more tolerant? To accept that not everyone is the same, nor should they be? It's what makes America great. It's what makes us learn more from each other and have OPEN HEARTS, not closed ones based on superficial things like appearance.

Note to Faith Christian Academy: It's what's on the inside that counts. And it looks like a twelve-year-old girl just served you a lesson.

Photo courtesy of Hinterland Gazette.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Sea of Tranquility (or what happens when you lose your heart while reading)

You know that all consuming feeling you get when you can't put a book down, because it's just that freakin' good? 
It's like finding a new boyfriend you're obsessed over, then discover how much you really--and I mean, really--like him. Then your feelings move into appreciation and swoon-worthy moments that turn friendship into love. And then, before you realize it, your life will never be the same. You can't remove the echoes of your memories created together. You can't mend your heart when it breaks into a thousand little pieces because the one you love is so perfectly flawed and beautiful.

That's what my experience was like while reading The Sea of Tranquility, by "new" author Katja Millay.

How can you not fall in love when she dishes out an opening like this:

"I hate my left hand. I hate to look at it. I hate it when it stutters and trembles and reminds me that my identity is gone. But I look at it anyway, because it also reminds me that I'm going to find the boy who took everything from me. I'm going to kill the boy who killed me, and when I kill him, I'm going to do it with my left hand."

Woah! Have you ever read an opening so compelling? As a writer and editor, I am blown away by the genius and craftsmanship of such an opening. It sucker punches you right in the gut and makes you ache for this girl and her yet unrevealed trauma. What happened to her? How did she die? Who did it? Why? Will she really find him and kill him? Will I want to cheer her on when she does (and with her left hand to boot)? An opening like this is gold. Pure gold.

The Sea of Tranquility is a Young Adult, coming of age, romance story that while is centered around the main character, Nastya/Emilia/Sunshine, it also delves deeply into the flaws and character analysis of friends Josh and Drew--and why they are the perfectly messed up kids they are as well. Millay spotlights the reality of how we all have things that have damaged us, and how many teenagers feel like outcasts, but why there is always a story behind them feeling that way. Each character's storyline is so unique and heartfelt and endearing, you just want to be a savior to each and every one of them, even though only they can truly save themselves. 

The summary one-liner on Amazon is spot on: "The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the mira­cle of second chances."

Second chances. I admit that while reading the book, I was skeptical about whether Nastya would find hers. What Millay does beautifully is she weaves Nastya's story together slowly, so you can savor each raw, emotional piece, a little at a time--because it's dark, and hard to read her horror (what makes her want to kill that young boy). And it's not what you think. And that's what I loved. It's unexpected. Original. Raw. Heart-wrenching. Horrific. You have to wade through Nastya's grief, self-pity, despair, pain, rebirth, one paragraph at a time. One scene at a time. It's like watching a beautiful flower unfold petal by petal until you get to the core: the delicate, fragile heart of the flower that is its essence, its true core and character. And there is hope. Hope throughout. Even as she self destructs as you know she is bound to. You cannot carry that much hurt and horror inside, and not be self destructive.

But all that said, and though this is a dark book, it is also a beautiful book. As a lover of words, and how I'm constantly amazed at how the best authors are able to string them together in such a way that shoots right to the reader's core and pulls them in, I was floored by the brilliance and beauty that Millay brought to the game. I've highlighted over fifty passages on my Kindle of words that were so beautifully strung together, it's as if language was reinvented again.

I listed some of my favorites in my Goodreads review. But I wanted to list a few more that left me breathless here, so you can hear the poetry and raw, honest emotion captured in each of her carefully chosen words.

"I think I'll stay in pieces. I can shift them, rearrange, depending on the day, depending on what I need to be. I can change on a whim and be so many different girls and none of them has to be me."

"I don't have any special powers. I'm certain of that, because I've spent a lot of time lamenting my lack of them. I do have an uncanny capacity for bitterness and misdirected rage, but I don't think that counts. I feel a little mislead. I spent a crapload of time over the past couple years reading books and watching movies, and in all of them, when you die and they bring you back to life, supernatural abilities are just part of the deal. Sorry you didn't win the grand prize of eternal peace, but you're not walking away empty handed!"

"And maybe it's a mistake, because when I look at her now, I think, for just one second, that God doesn't hate me so much after all."

"So I sit in the dirt. Under the trees. In the place where he beat me."

The one thing that makes a reader love a book the most, above plot, above anything else, are the characters. If you can get a reader to become invested in the characters, to HAVE to know the outcome, the hook, what caused the tension point, and to see the character get some sort of win in the end--whether that's personal growth, the boy or girl, a HEA, whatever it may just have to be invested 100%. And that's what readers become when they read The Sea of Tranquility. That's because of Millay's genius ability to nail the YA audience and voice, while holding the adult readership as well, and while NOT underestimating her YA audience. She gives them a voice, a story to relate to, one that doesn't caricaturize them, or make them feel petty or trivial. One that acknowledges and validates the very real things teenagers face every day that make them grow up well before they ought to. Like Josh. And Nastya. It also reminds us of the beauty and hope in even the most damaged people. And how friendships and relationships can break even the hardest and highest walls down.

This book is going on my top 10 favorite books of all times list.--it was that good. I wish I could give some special books ten stars instead of just five. I hope you 're as moved as I was while reading The Sea of Tranquility. Just be warned, you will not be able to put it down once you start. It pulls you along in a well-paced cadence, but despite its intensity, its unique beauty and raw honesty makes it unforgettable and unable to set down. Draws you in to learn her secret, hope and pray for peace, and then flings you down the path of breaking into a million pieces with Nastya and her family when her moment comes and she has the biggest decisions in her life to face: to remain broken, and damaged, or to believe in her worth and stop feeling sorry for herself so that she can forgive a monster and let herself heal.

The Sea of Tranquility is an epic love story meets unforgettably horrific tragedy resulting in the biggest hurdles to overcome and the most satisfying novel ending of the year.

Find out more about this novel and Katja Millay at:

Goodreads | Facebook | Amazon | Twitter | Author Page

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Flash Fiction Writing Contest

Halloween Writing Contest!

Okay, my lovelies. Many of you know, I love Halloween. The fall is my favorite time of year (maybe because my birthday is the day after Halloween, aptly on All Saints' Day - just sayin'). My son's birthday is just around the corner, too. And autumn in my neck of the woods is pretty darn spectacular, and even more so if you want to drive a few hours to the North Carolina mountains and see the leaves change colors.

In honor of my BIG 4-0 coming up tomorrow, and my love of Halloween, I decided to have a spooktacular little flash fiction writing contest. Don't be scared, I know you're up for it!

Here are the rules:

1) Must be a new, unpublished anywhere else piece.
2) You must be the author. (It can already be written and unpublished, or you can write it!)
3) It can't exceed 1,000 words.
4) It can be of ANY genre, but nothing too racy because I'm primarily a YA/children's writer, though I support all genres on this site. But there's no level of gruesome too gruesome - it is Halloween after all. *Halloween or something Halloween related must be the central theme.* 
5) Please submit by 10 pm tonight (EST).
6) I will pick my three favorite stories and post them, then share the hell out of them and get you as much FREE PR and recognition as I can!
7) READERS will vote on the winning story and one of you will be named (and be given a cool, graphic badge for your Web site) Scarowriting King or Queen 2013.
8) Not only will you get this awesome honor and the badge for your Web site, but your work will also be published and highlighted on this site and PRed like crazy. In addition, I will do an interview with you (if you want), and you will win a prize pack with a $25 Amazon gift card and a bag full of candy!
9) Please submit to cmalbertwrites (@) gmail (.) com. Thanks!

Recap: Original, due tonight 10 pm EST, under 1K, best of three, winner crowned, prizes. Got it? 

Hoooooooo's up for this spooktacular writing sprint today? Please share with all of your writing friends and let's get some great shorts out there for people today! 

The contest starts...3...2...1...NOW!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What Corporate America Taught Me About Writing & Editing Novels

Some of you know that in my "past life" I worked for fourteen years in corporate America; thirteen of those years were spent with a Fortune 500 company (technically it's on the 25 and under list, so I'll just call it a Big Ass Company) and one year was spent in civil services. While working at said Big Ass Company, I had a variety of roles and worked on many teams; mostly in the communications, writing, editing, and training design & development areas.

Most people think of corporate writing as non-fiction and therefore not relatable to fiction novel writing. But this couldn't be further from the truth. No matter what you are writing, or editing, there are some fundamental truths we can all learn from that cross over. Every day in my "new job" as a fiction editor, and writer, I find lessons I learned from corporate America bleeding over into my work. So I wanted to share just five of them with you today.

1) Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) - Doesn't sound very nice, but the point is clear. Believe it or not, at said Big Ass Company, we aimed our writing to a 10th grade reading level. You might be scratching your heads thinking, why in hell would you do that? To keep it simple. It wasn't always achievable (especially when throwing around technical jargon), but the point was to make it easy for the reader to absorb and apply. Why use a convoluted word when a simple one will do? 

The same goes in fiction. Sometimes, (I'm just sayin') writers try too hard. While there is a time and place to pull out a thesaurus and break out the big kid words, if it's over done, it will come off as contrived and awkward instead of having the impact you wanted. Some writers complain when they hear this and say they don't want to write to the lowest common denominator, they want to sound "smart" in their writing, and they are tired of using simple, clichéd words. All of which are valid concerns. But you don't want to lose your readers, or your message, by making them have to stop reading and pull out a dictionary all the time either.

I'm pretty well versed in language and words, but every once in a while one of my authors will use a word I've never heard of, which is why I share them with you. But most people aren't as word nerdy as I am; not even avid readers. Keep them in your story. After all, isn't that what we aim for? Readers who just get lost in our books and can't put them down? This doesn't mean you can't ever use "big words." That's not what this is about. But if there's an easier, more direct way to say something, then say it so that the reader will understand. You want to be relatable and not come off as too academic and snobby in general/mainstream fiction--unless you're a highbrow author and that's your audience/readership. But if you are a clever and strong enough writer, your novel will still sound smart anyway. Big words or not. 
2) Passive vs. Active - When you use a passive voice, the action happens to someone as if they have no control over it. It also sounds softer and weaker and can be unclear who is performing the action being placed upon the character.

When you use an active voice, it is very clear who is doing what in the sentence, because the subject (or character) is performing the action. It is a more direct, simpler, and cleaner sentence that leaves less confusion.

As an editor, I actually don't correct every passive sentence if it's unnecessary. Because like with most grammar/style rules, there's a time and a place for everything. But when you can, and where it makes sense, active is most often preferred by both editors and readers because it tightens up the writing and is more clear about who is doing what.

{Check out the Grammar Girl's blog post for a much more in-depth look at Active vs. Passive Voice, including examples.}

3) Breaking the Law - As writers and editors we all rely on some sort of "rule" book to help guide us. It helps both the writer and the reader better understand each other and our intentions. In Big Ass Company, I created our Style Book for my team (whenever I joined a new team), so that everyone was working from the same set of guidelines. There's a reason for this, and it's called: consistency. For most novelists and editors, the "style book" of choice is the Chicago Manual of Style. It is our Holy Grail, our Bible. Among other things, it tells us where to put periods, how to use Em dashes, how to avoid comma splices, and whether to use their, there, or they're. 

You knew there was a "but" coming, didn't you? 


Rules are meant to be broken. Yes, I'm an editor. And, yes, I really did just say that. Hear me out.

About 95% of the time, I follow CMS's editing "rules," as should most authors. However, my fundamental belief in any writing is to have it make sense to the reader first. The reader is more important than "following the rules."

Let me say it again: The reader is more important than following the rules.

I have heard about editors having knock-down-drag-out fights over CMS usage and whether a certain point of punctuation is right or not. Really?!* 

Some of the best authors in our history broke free from the restraints of grammar tradition (think e.e. cummings, for one). The point of any writing is: readability and impact. Instead of getting too hung up in the minutia, consider:
  • HOW does it make your reader FEEL? 
  • WHAT do you want your audience's reading pace to be (fast, slow, jilted, lyrical, trotting)?
  • WHAT will happen if I don't follow the rule? (God won't strike you down with lightening, but yes, you may get a few trolls vomiting on your reviews--but they would do that anyway, because they're trolls.)
Don't mistake my intention here. I'm an editor, and I will tell you what the "rule" is. But I will also offer suggestions on when it's better for the reader to break it. I will probably get hate mail from some editing purists on this one. But my focus isn't on them. I'm not trying to make THEM happy. I'm trying to make readers everywhere happy. I want them to stay in the story. I basically want punctuation to disappear (unless you WANT IT IN THEIR FACE!) so that the reader can focus on the story and keep rolling the wave of your beautifully written prose.

You don't want something to be so jarring that it pulls the reader out of the world you've created for them. And sometimes, following grammar and punctuation to a T can do that and come across as overly stiff and unlike true dialogue. Break the rules judiciously. But don't be afraid to, as long as you are consistent throughout your book (and have consulted with an editor about whether it's one worth breaking or not!).   

4) No Twins Allowed - Have you ever found yourself unable to express a thought without using the same word over and over again?

It happens to the best of us, and is often unconscious. For most, it is hard for us to spot when we use duplicative (or redundant, or to KISS: "the same") words within mere paragraphs from each other. (That's why we use beta readers, critique partners, ARC reviewers, and editors!)

In Big Ass Company, it was especially hard to communicate technological changes without repeatedly using the name of a system or the name of the change. In fiction, most readers will notice if you repeatedly use the same word too much; this is especially true the more uncommon the word is. As writers, we all have what I call "word crutches." Mine is "just." I'm sure I've used it at least five times in just this one blog post.

So what can you do? If you notice a pattern during an edit, especially in close proximity, change one of the words. Find a new and refreshing way to say the same thing. {Check out Word Hippo for fun alternatives, but remember to KISS.} Consider if there is a way to reduce or combine a sentence.

I've read works in progress with the same word being used on average more than once per page for the entire book! Wouldn't you notice if you saw the word jack-rabbit (for example) 350 times in one book? Yeah, me too. So, do a Find and Replace before you send your baby out into the world (an editor helps, too!). It's not that we don't like twins (and, sometimes, repetition can be beautiful, impactful, and lyrical in writing) but, again, use it judiciously for impact; and when you can't, kill off the other baby. 

5) Elevator Pitch - In Big Ass Company, we needed to sum up a complex change that we were implementing that may be costing millions of dollars, and impacting thousands and thousands of employees...all in one teeny, tiny paragraph. If you can't simplify your over-arching "story" in just a few sentences, you're over complicating things. This doesn't mean it's easy. It's not. It just means you need to work on it. Consider it your pitch line (to an agent or publisher), consider it your book blurb for the jacket or Amazon, or consider it your elevator pitch for when friends and family ask, "What's your story about?" But you need to be able to concisely summarize your plot at some point.

Hope some of my time and experience in corporate America has been of help today. I look forward to hearing from you about what you've learned from your job and how it's helped your writing! Please leave stories in the comments below!

* Exception to rule: As a general rule of thumb, I will fist fight to protect the Oxford Comma. Read some pros and cons from The Best Shots Fired in the Oxford Comma Wars. And, with that, I'll leave you on this note: