Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dear Aspiring Authors...

Is the story good? Will I like working with this writer?
Those two questions, in general but all importantly, govern me as an acquiring editor.
As you know, dear aspiring authors, every editor, house and agent look for certain things specific to their needs and preferences in the submissions they receive. I’m talking “cold” submissions--not manuscripts sent to them by authors who’re already clients or on their rosters. Those lucky authors already know how to submit to get the Big A. So here are The Ways of Mary when diving into the slush pile.
First, I read the query. If it’s polite and friendly, I am so there, reading your manuscript. Every freakin’ word. I certainly don’t live in Utopia, but complete strangers in my town, when passing in the parking lot at the general store, smile at each other and say “Hi, how are you?” If someone’s coming out of the store with an armload, we hold the door for them and they say “thank you.” That simple politeness is the tone I look for in a query letter. A hint of snark, a one-line query--“I’ve attached my submission per your guidelines.”--and the hair on the back of my neck rises. Two, maybe three blurby paragraphs about the characters and major conflict in the story, and you’ve got me anticipating reading it. Easy, huh? Like Patrick Swayze said in Roadhouse, “Be nice.”
A big aside here-- Please, please don’t disregard the submission guidelines. That gives me an itchy feeling like I don’t want to bother with your submission. They’re not that different from other publishers’, after all. An impolite/offhanded query and disregarded guidelines combo, and my hair is standing straight up and I’ve got a rash. I’m done already. Your story had better be stellar because if I’m still willing to read it after that, my attitude is a solid “meh.” Now remember, I really really want to read your submission. Ya know the movie Puss in Boots, and he’s got the big pleading eyes on him? That’s me, wanting to read your sub but disappointed. And after having read hundreds of subs, many with the Combo of Death query/synop thing going on, I’m crabby too.
I don’t read the synopsis first, for two reasons. They’re hard as heck to write, so I give authors a break on them, but mainly I want to read your story as if I were a paying customer. Folks out in the world buying a book don’t have a synopsis, so the story that sucks me in will do that to them too. That may sound know-it-all-ish, but I read widely. Profusely. Even biographies when I get the chance and have time.
If the plot seems confusing to me then I go back and check out the synop. But if I have to read your synopsis to understand what’s going on in the story, you’ve lost me. The moral of this story, grab me in the first five pages. When I like the author’s voice or sense that “spark” to the writing in the first five--a certain turn of phrase or description that captures the imagination--even if plot confusion reigns, I’m there for at least twenty pages. Unless the writing needs major overhauling of mechanics or sentence structure, I’ll read on because I know if minor, those issues can be cleared up in content edits. To make me read every freakin’ word and imagine your characters in the world you’ve created, grab me in the beginning, hold me by the throat through the story and make me heave a big satisfied sigh at the end. Or want to read the next book in the series, as the case may be.
That’s a tall order. I know that because I’m a writer too. The agony of choosing the perfect word and figuring out how to “show not tell” the turnings of the plot--I’m there and still doing that. Consider this, though: I want your manuscript to be accepted, to be the one that makes my inner editor shut up and compels me to vote “Yes!” I’m a writer who’s an editor, and on your side.
’Kay, so you’ve got me now. Your query was friendly and polite, I love your voice and am sooo into the story. Maybe not quite at acceptance, though. Now things I’ll have to give detailed explanations for in content edits come under consideration, like point of view and the whys and wherefores of incorporating sentence variety throughout the manuscript.
Yep, my inner editor’s a bitch. Many, many subs after starting at Lyrical, I can now tell how much work will be needed should I accept yours. I’m weighing that, and the scales are tippy. Something else to consider, I’ve already been through this process with the authors on my roster. Their writing is beyond this point. Way beyond. A sub from them has depth to characters’ perspectives and plot turns that make me say “Oh my God, I can’t believe that happened!” out loud. When I’m done reading their subs, their characters remain in my thoughts for days afterward. No matter the genre or setting, they make me believe and live in their world.
“Well, how the heck can I win?” you’re likely thinking. You still can win. Of course you can. My doors are wide open; from your polite, “Hi, how ya doin’? Thanks for reading my story” query letter, you seem nice. Simple, huh? That, and the fact you finished writing the story, however many pages later, and made an attempt at mastering the big stuff fiction writing requires says to me you’re my kind of author. That you’re open to suggestions to make your story better--you’ve obviously been in a critique group--and are determined and dedicated. Heck, that we might have fun editing your book! If I suggest revising and resubmitting, I know you have the chops to give your best effort. I have faith in you. And your success, the Big A for acceptance, makes me happy. :-)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Daisy Banks is here!

Today I'm so happy to welcome Daisy Banks, dear friend and an extraordinary writer. She's an author on my roster, whose list of books published by Lyrical Press includes A Matter of Some Scandal, a historical romance, and Timeless, a contemporary paranormal romance that released earlier this month. Today we're talking about Fiona's Wish, her contemporary romance with fantasy/paranormal elements which was included in Lyrical Press's 2012 Irish Stories Collection. (Yes, I'm late late on getting to this, for which I grovel to all the fantastic authors who've been waiting for me to post their interviews and talk up their books.)

How about a look at her delicious cover, and a peek into the story?

Only the ultimate sacrifice will save her timeless love.

Left shattered by her lover, Fiona Murray believes not one good man lives on this planet. She leaves civilization to work on a lonely isle off Ireland's coast.

When lonely Selkie Ronan hears Fiona's passionate call, he can't help but answer her. She is all he desires, and for her, he will leave all he's ever known--the deep blue sea. But Fate and the sea are fickle mistresses, and want him back. Will he find the strength to surrender all he is to be with Fiona? 

And can Fiona, knowing her destiny without him, let him live the life he deserves?

Fiona's Wish is a new take on the age old Irish Selkie legend. I loved this story! Without further ado, here's what Daisy Banks said when we sat down to chat.

MM: what about Ireland made you want to set your story there?

DB: I chose an imaginary island off the Irish coast as the setting for Fiona’s Wish because I love the Celtic islands. I’ve found them fascinating since I was a child. I think they have a wonderful, majestic, appealing wildness and beauty. I must say as well, the call for submissions asked for stories set in Ireland which kind of influenced me a little too.
     Though, of course, to use Ireland as a setting for a story was no hardship. Ireland is full of magic, mystery, charm, legend and history. There is something so dramatic and powerful about the coast there it takes your breath. I sound like an advert from the Irish tourist board, but I believe it to be true. Ireland is a very beautiful part of the world and its coast, a treasure. Of course, the readily available Guinness and scrumptious soda bread may also have something to do with my admiration. I also find the people fascinating. Listening to them speak is like listening to music. Oh, and I love Irish folk music too.

MM: As a reader, your characters seem real to me. I see them clearly in my imagination as I read, can even hear their voices. Could you describe them a little for us? What traits do they have that you just love?

DB: Fiona Murray, the heroine of Fiona’s Wish, is a woman who’s suffered a broken romance which has destroyed her faith in people, men in general. Betrayal is a difficult thing for anyone to overcome; some people find it almost impossible. Fiona’s way to try to cope is to hide away, and her job on the Isle allows her to attempt to disappear and nurse her pain.
     As a Selkie, Ronan’s entire focus is to offer comfort to those who call for it. He answers Fiona’s wish, fulfills her needs in the best way he can and falls desperately in love with her. Rules and irrevocable laws don’t matter in the face of this kind of love.
     I enjoyed both these characters. Fiona’s initial doubts and how she grasps an opportunity to discover all she can about love, the way she steps into an emotional whirlwind knowing there are no certainties. I liked that courage about her.
     Ronan--he simply makes me sigh. I didn’t invent the myth of the Selkie; he is my imagination’s creation set within the limits of the legend. I enjoyed exploring the power of his emotions and his discoveries about the world. So far, this is the one character I have written who made me cry.

MM: If you could spend a month in Ireland on a dream vacation, what would you want to see, what places would you like to visit?

DB: If I had such an opportunity, I would like to tour the entire coast and take boat rides out to the islands. I’d also like to visit some of the religious sites in Ireland, both Christian and Pagan. Saint Bridget’s Well holds a special lure for me. St Bridget is an interesting character. I’d want to see those Cork and Kerry mountains, the ones in the song Whiskey in the Jar. I'd also like to visit one or two of the Irish whiskey distilleries. I’d want to spend some time in Dublin, and I’d like to enjoy the literary tour there. Ireland has a huge literary history, both in writing and in the traditional folk tales which have been told for generations. A trip to the Giant’s Causeway would be a very high priority too, as it’s such an amazing sight. I’d also like to have the time to do a little genealogy and try to find out about my husband’s ancestors and some of my own--both our families have Irish connections. My husband is dark Irish, dark hair and green eyes, whereas I’ve got the pale freckly kind of Irish coloring, with reddish hair.
     I’d enjoy the chance to sample some of the food delicacies from Ireland, including the wonderful shellfish. We all remember the song Mary Malone with her "Cockles and mussels alive, alive oh." Most of all I’d want to be able to soak up the atmosphere; breathe the taste and scent of Ireland and let myself be swept away by the legends of warriors and wizards, little folk and clever youngest sons, by the skills of bards and poets, the humor of people who can find the elusive laughter in the strangest situations. There’s a lot I’d want to see in Ireland.

MM: What was your favorite part of the editing process?

DB: I am afraid I have to put here the end of the editing process, which I am certain will make my lovely editor chuckle.
     Edits are hard work. I have yet to meet an author who doesn’t think so, but edits are also great learning experiences and I learned a lot from the editing process on Fiona’s Wish.
     I like the challenge of finding other ways to say something, looking for different words to describe and offer readers the sense of a place or an emotion.
     It is a wonderful experience to work with an editor you like and trust, a skilled person who you know will help you get the very best out of the story you’ve constructed. I feel both lucky and privileged to have that kind of relationship with my editor.
     There is something very special about getting a galley copy back from your editor and seeing your book all ready to go to readers. I get a real thrill out of that. It makes me want to email all my friends and say, "Hey, the book’s ready."

MM: I'm still chuckling, Daisy, but not in an evil editor sort of way. It's more of a "you poor dear" chuckle. Edits are hard work, and we have a blast while working on them, but it's draining, concentrating so intensely on how every word on the page should function. You always dedicate yourself to every word, and I love that about you. Thank you so much for visiting with me! What are you up to after this?

DB: My new story Timeless released with Lyrical Press in July. It's a full-length novel, my first classified as erotica, which has two of my favorite characters in it. I am looking forward to readers enjoying them. Timeless is a werewolf story, with links to the music industry, a magnificent Bentley Continental touring car and the English countryside at its most glorious. I so enjoyed writing it.
     I am also working on another eighteenth century historical, a story prompted by a visit to the caves once used by the Hell Fire Club. I discovered the gentlemen of the club were more interesting than we’ve perhaps been led to understand, and a story with links to them and their beliefs came to my mind. I hope to finish the story soon.
     There is also a story with a futuristic sci-fi kind of theme, which is almost complete. Very different from anything I have yet attempted, and I have to say, the hero has caused consternation among my critique partners, some of whom love him, some of whom loathe him. He’s provoked interesting responses. I hope to have that story finished and ready for submission too.
     I have a lot of work to do in promoting and advertising my stories, something I find rather difficult, being rather reserved. I am also working hard to increase my skill level, so I can offer readers the most enjoyable reading experience possible. My overall goal is to make sure if a reader buys one of my stories, they get the best I can give them.
     A few people have been kind enough to say they like my stories, which I find pleasing, and I hope more people will do so in the future. It’s been a pleasure to talk with you and thanks for the opportunity.

MM: Thank you, Daisy! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Charlotte McClain, one of our favorite authors at Lyrical Press, has done it again. I'm excited to announce we're working on another story, Melody Unchained, now in content edits. It's a smart, often funny, touching contemporary romance with all the elements we love about Charlotte's stories. She really knows how to create strong characters, and Melody and Jerry are wonderful. Jerry is a cop, kind and dependable, sworn to his duty to help people. And he's mega hot. He's also just coming back to the living from a long period of mourning his late wife. He cared for her through her illness to the end. Definitely one of the good guys. But he's not all cookie-dough and sweetness--he's reluctant to love again and doesn't want anything to do with Melody.
She is, after all, totally nuts, he thinks. He doesn't need that, a woman who claims to be a three thousand year-old genie...or does he?
But she is--a genie, I mean. Newly freed, spunky and always getting into trouble as she finds herself human again, she's looking for a new master. Jerry.
That's all I'm gonna say on the plot, but I will say this. The story has me riveted. And I'm already fantasizing about what the cover will look like. Or what Jerry will look like on the cover... There's just something about a hot cop, isn't there? Oooh! Makes me drool!
In the meantime, while you wait for Melody Unchained's release in 2013, Charlotte has a list of books sure to keep you happily reading.
Did I mention her heroes are mega hot?
You can find her books here-- http://www.lyricalpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=authors&authors_id=35&zenid=9a0424jb64c5396u452m85jog1 and at amazon.com and all the usual places to buy ebooks.

And here are a few of her latest releases. 

Sometimes a dream life is really a nightmare.

Rebecca has big plans. She's going to be a famous artist, even if she has to sell her soul to do it. And so far, it's working for her. She's gaining notoriety in local art circles, but the "crap art" she's selling makes her miserable. Ducking into the local fire station during a rainstorm, she finds the perfect way to distract herself--a hot firefighter with a big ego begging to be toyed with. 

Dan would be the first to admit he has a big ego, but there's something about Rebecca...

Hunting her down after that first kiss in the rain turns out to be the easy part. Making her happy might be impossible. But Dan is willing to do whatever it takes, including helping her buy back her soul. 

Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was the uniform. Or maybe Rebecca and Dan were simply struck by lightning. 

WARNING: Violent weather, workplace disasters, and life happening despite the best laid plans.

Who makes memory?

Beth Wilson has been caring for Nonie Bennetti for years. She can see the end looming, but she doesn't expect it to arrive in the form of Nonie's grandson. 

James is visiting his grandmother to hide from the publicity of a massive real estate scandal he revealed. While he's there, his mother decides it's a good time to audit Beth's handling of Nonie's finances. James wants to audit something else about Beth, but his mother is relentless. He's not hanging around anyway.

But Beth, and the small town his grandmother lives in, have a lot of appeal. Maybe it's time to stop moving around and start making some memories.

Contents warning: Meddling mothers, medical emergencies and little league games.

Love can't flourish in the dark

Fifteen years ago, Elaine fell in love with Johnny McMannus, the local bad boy. He was nineteen and she was jailbait. To keep them both out of trouble, Johnny left town. 

But years later his father's heart attack brings him back to run the family garage. Hoping to reconnect with Elaine, Johnny has to first fix the mess his parent's alcoholism has made of things. Before Johnny can deserve Elaine, he has to salvage his family's reputation, save their home, and rescue the business. 

Too bad Elaine doesn't want to be deserved. She wants to be loved. She never got over Johnny and she's done sneaking around with him as they had before. If he can't love her in public, to her way of thinking he doesn't love her enough.

Warning: Nosy neighbors, hypochondriac mothers and underage girls.