Thursday, September 3, 2015

Kickstarter Campaign for WOMEN IN PRACTICAL ARMOR

Editor Gabrielle Harbowy is a long-time supporter of this blog -- and a personal friend and mentor.  Please take a moment to read about this EXCITING NEW PROJECT:

It's the final push for the WOMEN IN PRACTICAL ARMOR kickstarter. This is an anthology of 20 fantasy stories about the kind of already-empowered female warriors who know to cover their bellies when they go into battle. Edited by Gabrielle Harbowy and Ed Greenwood, to be published by Evil Girlfriend Media, this anthology met its crowd funding goal in the first 48 hours.

So why does it need your help? Because we've got just hours to go. And if we hit our next stretch goal, less than $2000 away, we'll be able to fund the second anthology in the series: WOMEN IN COMFORTABLE SHOES, stories about empowered female rogues, thieves, assassins, and other women who aren't afraid to do it solo, silently, and in the shadows.

Every dollar helps, and even a $1 pledge keeps you in the loop for everything going on with this exciting series, and goes toward further books from an award-nominated editorial team committed to showcasing emerging authors.


ON THE BLOCK: Submission Guidelines

Submissions for our first ON THE BLOCK auction are on Thursday, September 10--one week from today!


  • Submissions are via WEB FORM ONLY.  Please note:  We still don't have a link for the web form, because we still have to run tests.  I WILL PUBLISH THE LINK THE DAY BEFORE SUBMISSIONS.  I will also update this blog post with the correct submission link.
  • Your entry will consist of a LOGLINE and the FIRST 250 WORDS of your COMPLETED, POLISHED MANUSCRIPT.  No WIPs.  If you wouldn't send it to an agent, please don't submit it to this contest.
  • Your logline should be 50 WORDS OR FEWER.  You are allowed to have up to 75 words, but YOU ARE STRONGLY ENCOURAGED TO WHITTLE YOUR LOGLINE DOWN TO 50 WORDS OR FEWER.  (Note: The bot will not be able to distinguish between your logline and your submission.  So, if your logline is 125 words long and your submission takes up the rest, you won't be rejected--but I won't be too excited by your entry, either.  Same goes for having a really short logline and then adding more words to your first page.  My eyeballs are going to be tired.  Please don't make them MORE tired.)
  • The submission window will open at 8:00 am EDT and will close at 10:00 pm EDT.
  • All categories (MG, YA, NA, Adult) and all genres except erotica and erotic romance will be included.  Unlike the Baker's Dozen Auction, there will not be separate submissions dates for children and adult entries.  It all goes into one big pot, and I will pick the 24 strongest entries from that pot.
  • There is a $21 entry fee, payable via Paypal.  (Note:  You do not have to have a Paypal account to enter.  You may choose the "use a card" option on the Paypal screen.)  Your entry will not be processed until your payment is received.
  • You MAY ENTER if your entry was included in any Secret Agent Contest.
  • You MAY NOT ENTER if you were in any of the Baker's Dozens.  WHY?  Because MANY of the agents from the Baker's Dozen are participating in On the Block.  They DO NOT want to see and bid on the same material!
  • You MAY NOT ENTER if you are agented!  This contest is for unagented authors only.
  • I will accept a maximum of 250 entries.  
  • WINNERS will be notified by email on Monday, November 2.  If you do not receive an email, that means your entry was not chosen.  I regret that, because of time constraints, I will not be sending rejection emails.  If you enter the contest, please make sure to add facelesswords(at) to your address book/contacts prior to entering the contest.
  • The 24 winning entries will post on Friday, November 6.  At this time, the agents (and lurking editors) will start reading.  Also at this time, all readers may begin to leave feedback.  Each entry will be assigned A TIME SLOT for the actual auction.  This is the 10-minute window during which the agents will be bidding.
  • On Tuesday, November 10, the entries will post in 10-minute intervals.  Bidding for each item will only be open for those 10 minutes.  
  • Winning bids will be posted on Wednesday, November 11.
I THINK THAT COVERS IT!  If it doesn't, please ask your questions below.  I will modify these guidelines as necessary.

This is going to be a high-energy fun time for all.  Seven days and counting!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Fricassee

Back when I was a fledgling novelist, Mr. A would read my chapters out loud and comment on them.  This was one of the best tools ever for winnowing out bad dialogue.

It also led to a lot of fighting.

As is true for pretty much all new writers, I became defensive if he questioned anything, or indignant if he didn't understand something.  And if he suggested I do something differently?  Heaven forbid.

It's embarrassing to think back on, really.  The guy invested a lot of time in me and my not-so-hot novels.  His "character voices" for my bad dialogue made me belly laugh.  As in, doubled over in pain because I couldn't stop laughing.  (He still quotes them.  It never goes away.)  Yet I gave him such a hard time if he started questioning me.

Then I grew up.

I learned that, if somebody doesn't understand something in your story, it's because you didn't write it clearly.  Or because your logic is flawed.  Or because you didn't take the time to flesh out your world properly.


Everybody has to start somewhere, right?  So we can give ourselves a little grace when we look back on our "formative years" (such a stuffy term).  In the beginning, our stories feel bigger than life--as in, LOOK WHAT I JUST DID! I WROTE A NOVEL!  IT'S THE BEST THING EVER!  Because we haven't learned how to build a world, much of our story exists in our head, and we assume that anyone who reads it will also "see" what we do.  Except, they don't.  And if they try to tell us?  Well, we might get upset.


Problems arise when we stay in that place--when time passes, we write another novel or two, and we're still not really listening to anyone who dares to question anything we've written.

Mind you, this doesn't always come off in the form of an argument.  Sometimes it doesn't even sound angry.

It might sound like, "Oh, well, you really can't see where her character arc is going yet, and right now she's in denial, so that's why that dialogue sounds so awkward."

Um, no.  The dialogue sounds awkward because you wrote it that way.  Awkwardly.

Or, "Nobody understands how the magic works yet, so it's confusing.  It's supposed to be."

No again.  It's okay if your characters are confused, but if your readers are confused, IT'S YOUR FAULT.

Or how about, "I'm leaving this in because it's funny!  Probably you just didn't get the joke."

Well, that might be true.  But it's more likely that I didn't laugh because it actually wasn't funny.  Mind you, the situation or comment or whatever it is that you think should produce laughter might actually be funny IF YOU WRITE IT WELL.  If you're just learning your craft, there's a high likelihood that something isn't funny just because you think it is.

And even if you're a more seasoned writer, there are still going to be times when things just don't gel.  They're confusing.  Or unbelievable.  Or just...not good.  At this point, if you're still trying to justify things instead of taking constructive criticism, YOU WILL NEVER GROW AS A WRITER.

Not ever.

Why am I saying all this today?  Partly it's an outgrowth of my experiences as a freelance editor.  And partly it's because of a wonderful experience I had the other day--an experience I never could have had when I was a fledgling author.

My beloved Jodi Meadows spent two and a half hours Facetiming with me about the first two chapters of my current project. (Okay, full disclaimer: I was a little terrified.  Always before, Jodi simply sent notes, like everyone else.  This time, she wanted to talk.  So of course that must mean EVERYTHING WAS REALLY BAD.)

Aside from the fact that I am overwhelmed by Jodi's kindness (though not surprised), I'm also keenly aware that, a few years ago, I would not have been able to have this kind of conversation with Jodi (or anyone).  I would have been fighting back tears.  I would have been drowning in a sea of "I can't write I can't write I can't write".  It would have been...challenging.  For both of us.

But wow!  Our conversation was so energizing--so helpful--that I came away from it even more inspired and committed to finishing these revisions.  Jodi GOT my story, GOT my characters, GOT my world.  And then she pointed out a thousand things that could be better.  Or more clarified.  Or approached differently.

She asked questions.  She made me think.  She told me what she liked (which is, yanno, important, too).  She affirmed my story while at the same time challenging it to go deeper. Farther.

And and and she pointed out this huge THEME that I didn't even see, and she was absolutely right.  And THAT is probably the most exciting thing of all.  (It was almost like a psychotherapy session for my novel.)

All that to say -- THESE are the dialogues that happen when we finally let go of our stranglehold on our work and put it out there with a completely open heart.  When we say, "SHOW ME ALL THE THINGS" and really mean it.  When we KNOW that it actually does take a village to create a novel.

So, that is my challenge to you this Friday.  Ask yourself, "How tightly am I holding onto my work?  How willing am I to actually take criticism into account?  How open am I to admitting that someone else might see something more clearly than I do?"

When you get to that place, you will begin to soar. And when you soar, all things are possible.

Love and hugs to you all!  Go forth and write, and have a fabulous weekend.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

On The Block -- MORE INFO!


Submissions for our first ON THE BLOCK are two weeks from tomorrow.  Final submission instructions will post on Thursday, September 3.  At that time, I will have a submission link for you.  Right now, that link doesn't exist, because the fearless Michael, the developer of our wonderful automated system, is hard at work creating an entirely new bot.  This is a labor of love for him--his way of continuing to give back to the writing community.  If you have a moment, find him on Twitter and thank him!

For now, though, here are the basics, so that you can continue to prepare your entry:


Submissions will be via web form only (we are retiring the email option).  Your entry will include a logline and the first 250 words of your completed manuscript.  Loglines should be no more than 50 words long (up to 75 is allowable, but discouraged).

The submission window will open at 8:00 am EDT and will close at 10:00 pm EDT.  (Note:  I have changed the start time from 6:00 to 8:00, due to requests from folks on the west coast.  So if you live in LA and you've already set an alarm on your phone for 3:00 am on September 10, you might want to change that!)

All categories (MG, YA, NA, Adult) and all genres except erotica and erotic romance will be included.  Unlike the Baker's Dozen Auction, there will not be separate submissions dates for children and adult entries.  It all goes into one big pot, and I will pick the 24 strongest entries from that pot.

The submission instruction post on September 3 will include the date that winners can be expected to be notified on, as well as any other needed information.  Please remember that there is a $21 entry fee.  It's set up via Paypal, but you do not have to have a Paypal account to enter.  Paypal will prompt you to choose the "use a card" option.  (Though, sometimes Paypal gets a little ornery.  Let's be very nice to Paypal so that it doesn't do that.)

Remember that we've got FIFTEEN AMAZING AGENTS ready to bid!  And three AWESOME EDITORS that will be lurking about.


A common question I get is:  "If I've queried some of these agents, can I still enter?"  The answer is YES!  It happens time and time again -- an agent who has rejected someone's query ends up requesting the material after reading the opening page here on the blog.  JUST ENTER.  You honestly never know what will happen.

If any new questions crop up, please post them below!  Submission day will be here before you know it.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Fricassee

Sometimes it feels as though there weren't any other days between Friday and Friday.  Today definitely feels like that!

So, a couple things:

1.  K Callard's LOGLINE CRITIQUE SESSION is alive and well and on her blog.  The imitable Holly Bodger has been leaving her top-notch critique along with everyone else's, and you all know how good she is at dissecting loglines!  (Okay, maybe "dissecting" isn't quite the right word...)

Please stop by some time today or over the weekend to offer your critique!  Or just to read--because we can learn so much by reading feedback, as you all know.

2.  ON THE BLOCK submissions are on Thursday, September 10 from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm EDT.

PLEASE NOTE:  Because some folks on the west coast expressed some concern about my original start time of 6:00 am EDT, I've pushed the start time back a couple hours.  I did not push the end time back, though, because I REALLY NEED TO BE AWAKE until it closes, to be available for any issues that may arise.  And I'm not a midnight sort of gal.

That's it for today--short and sweet!  On a quick personal note--I have been in a state of euphoria with my revisions this week, to the point at which it feels almost surreal.  I know haven't gotten to the Big Messy Part yet, but even Mr. A said, "You keep saying that.".  Which is true.  I honestly thought the Big Messy Part would have started by now.  But I'm going to hit it any day now, and then my euphoria will be a bit tamped.

But, oh.  It feels good to have worked so hard on the WIP From Hell, gnashing my teeth and lamenting to anyone within hearing distance about my undying hatred for this torturous story.  Now?  I'm in utter love.  The revisions so far have felt nearly effortless, despite the fact that they include a tense change.  (I must be a glutton for that.)

Isn't it wonderful when hard work doesn't feel like hard work?

Anyway.  When I hit the Big Messy Part, I won't be smiling anymore.  But the key here--and this is huge--is that I'm not dreading the Big Messy Part!  I'm ready to dive in. It must be the euphoria.

Here's wishing you some euphoria in your writing this weekend!  We all deserves those moments of bliss--they keep us going.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Another Indirect MSFV Success Story

Emails like this are like fresh flowers in my inbox.  Enjoy!

Hello Authoress!

I've been a reader of your blog for several years (at least 4!) and I wanted to let you know that my first YA novel will be released next week.

It's been a loooooooong road to get there and I owe a debt of gratitude to your website. I had participated in several contests over the years (Baker's Dozen and First words and Log line critiques). Here I will note that although I NEVER won a contest, the feedback and advice was invaluable. And the support helped keep me going as I faced another rejection. I stopped keeping count after a hundred or so....

I wrote a YA sci-fi novel in 2009. Then it got rejected by every agent I contacted. I revised in 2010 - still more rejections but also more advice and help. I drastically changed the book in 2011 and that got me an agent 5 days after submission.

Needless to say I was thrilled.

Thought I had arrived. You know how it goes.

We did revisions and edited and went on submission.

Nothing happened.


The book didn't sell (did come very close). So then I had to write something else. So I did. I wrote and wrote. I wrote almost two full books, but nothing was happening.

My agent found me some IP auditions, but I never was picked, although the editors had a lot of good things to say about my writing.

I thought, "This sucks. Or maybe it's just me. Maybe I suck." I felt bad, mainly because my agent was so supportive and I felt like I was wasting her time. Honestly, I felt like a fraud.

Then she heard about a new series Simon Pulse was developing and told me it sounded right up my alley. It was a survival genre story - I could write about whatever I wanted.

So I did. I wrote 30 pages and sent it on. I really liked it. I liked the characters, the setting, the idea of this type of story, which is not a type of story that I had ever considered writing before.

My agent sent it over to the editors.

I didn't hear boo. And so I forgot about it for a few weeks.

Turns out, they loved it. They wanted me to write a book! In 4 months!

I thought, "Crap! How do I do that?" It did help that I had written a synopsis.

So I just did it - I hunkered down and wrote a book, page by page. Four months is fast for me.

And now, finally, next week that book (STRANDED) will be released by Simon Pulse!

So my path to publication was definitely not standard, and the one thing I did learn through the process was to say yes. Yes to other possiblities, yes to other types of work and other ways of trying. The more you say yes to things, especially things that scare you a little, the more opportunities start opening up.

So thanks again for all you do and all the support you give!


Melinda Braun

Monday, August 17, 2015

Submissions for Logline Critique Are Now Open!

If you want to enter your logline in K. Callard's logline critique round in preparation for ON THE BLOCK, you're in luck!


Please follow the instructions posted on her blog.  And have fun!  These critique rounds are great learning experiences for everyone.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Fricassee

This is happening:  I'm heading out for a little overnight getaway with my sweetie to celebrate our wedding anniversary--and I AM NOT BRINGING MY LAPTOP.

Maybe that makes me sound a little horrible, as though I can't have a relationship without my technology.  But the truth is that my husband doesn't like to get up in the morning.  As in--I'm awake and dressed and ready for the day and HUNGRY...and he's asleep.  Which can be awkward and restrictive in a hotel room, right?

So if I have my laptop with me, I can WRITE.  It's a wonderful use of my time, and besides--there's something super-productive about writing in hotel rooms (am I right?).  But Mr. A and I are in dire need of technology-free time together.  So instead of bringing my writing, I am bringing THE ORPHAN QUEEN by Jodi Meadows...because it was supposed to be my vacation read, but I was too busy seeing all sorts of people, and my reading time sort of didn't exist.

PLUS, I've got the juicy ARC of THE MIRROR KING whispering at me from my bedside table, so I've got to finish this one so I can get to that, after which I will be GIVING IT AWAY.  (So definitely stay tuned for that!)

So, yes, I'll be sitting on a hotel balcony tomorrow morning with a steamy cup of coffee and THE ORPHAN QUEEN while my husband snoozes.  Probably I will have a few pangs for my work, but I'm fairly certain that immersing myself in Jodi's amazing world will cure me.


Remember that K. Callard is hosting a logline critique session on her blog!  The submission window is Monday, August 17 at 9:00 am EDT to Wednesday, August 19 at 5:00 pm EDT.   This is to help you prepare for your ON THE BLOCK submission, which will need to include a logline.

HERE ARE SOME MORE DETAILS.  I will post the link to her blog post on Monday.


All the itty-bitty details about ON THE BLOCK submissions and what to expect from the auction.  If you're new around here and haven't subscribed to the blog, I would encourage you to do so!  It's the best way to keep abreast.  That, and FOLLOWING ME ON TWITTER, where I always shout about things.

Oh, and if you have a burning question about ON THE BLOCK that you would like me to address next week, please leave it in the comments here.  I want to make sure you have all the information you need in plenty of time to prepare your submission.

Okay, I'm outta here!  Have a glorious weekend.