Red Pencil ThursdayYes, It’s Thursday and yes, we’re supposed to have a Red Pencil Thursday critique, but unfortunately, without a volunteer to offer up his/her first 500 words, we’re dead in the water. From unpublished newbies to New York Times bestsellers, I’ve had authors at every point in their career in the RPT hotseat. So far, everyone says the experience was useful to them and I know the rest of us have learned from their work.

When I used to sing professionally, I was often invited to participate in Master Classes. I’d sing an aria before a packed room and then a seasoned operatic pro would pick my performance apart.

“A little more nuanced interpretation here.” 

“A trick pianissimo would work well there.”

The master would give me a bath in public as we tore apart the music and reassembled it after about a half an hour of fits and starts. Finally, I’d get the chance to perform the same piece once more and it was always an improvement over the original. Not only did the exercise help me, it benefited all the other singers in the audience who were taking copious notes about how to use what they’d learned for their own singing.

That’s the idea behind Red Pencil Thursday but you aren’t limited to my opinion when you submit. Lots of my writer buddies drop by to offer their expertise. So if you’d like to participate, please send me an email and we’ll schedule your visit to RPT! 

Now to the topic at hand–picking the right title for your book. Why is this so important? Because your title is something that makes readers pick up your book.

The title is your foot in the door. It’s the first chance for you to show the reader what kind of story they’re going to get. CL Wilson’s Lord of the Fading Lands isn’t likely to be mistaken for a contemporary comedy.  Why? The title is too reminiscent of Tolkein. This is one place where it’s ok to be like something else. You want to call an image to the readers’ minds that will tell them where your book falls.

  • It’s true that authors have no final say on the title. That’s up to the publisher and more specifically the publisher’s marketing department, but make up a good one anyway. I sold Stroke of Genius based on nothing more than the title and a paragraph. Why is it a good title? First it’s a play on words with a sensual double entendre. It also gives readers their first hint about the main character—an artistic genius.
  • Use something familiar—Play on movie titles: Karen Hawkins does this with Sleepless in Scotland and The Scot who Loved me. Then there’s Kieran Kramer’s clever Cloudy with a chance of Marriage. Play on TV shows: Elizabeth Boyle’s How I Met My Countess echoes How I Met Your Mother. Play on song Lyrics: Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Ain’t She Sweet? is a prime example. Play on familiar sayings: My own Between a Rake and a Hard Place fits this category.
  • Series titles—To show books are connected, the titles need to have some elements in common. Evanovitch’s One for the Money kicks off a series that’s only limited by how high she can count. A is for Alibi still gives Susan Grafton 26 bites of this particular apple. Sarah MacLean uses numbers and a rhyme scheme to catch readers’ eyes with her 9 Rules to Break when Romancing a Rake, 10 Ways to be Adored when Landing a Lord, and 11 Scandals to Start to win a Duke’s heart.
  • Alliteration—People respond to patterns. Christie Craig’s Divorced, Desperate and Dating has a great rhythm. As does Tammy Falkner’s Tall, Tatted & Tempting (which is a FREE download right now for your Kindle! Click through and get it now!)

So now it’s your turn. What title do you think really works? Why?

Order of the MUSESince my blog guest today writes for Entangled Publishing, I’m thrilled to confirm that I just signed a 3 book deal with Entangled for my Order of the M.U.S.E. series. It’s sort of a “Psychic Leverage team meets Jane Austen in King George’s Court.” (Check out the blurbs on my Coming Next page for the details. And don’t worry. I still have books coming from Kensington & Sourcebooks!)

One of the loveliest things about writing for multiple publishers is getting to know a new group of fellow authors. When I joined the Entangled family, debut author Stacy Reid was one of the first to welcome me. I know you’ll love her!

Listen in on our cyber-chat:

Mia: Hey Stacy! I know making stuff up for a living is the best job on earth, but if you could be anything but a writer what would you want to be?

Andrew LincolnStacy: An actress working beside Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes) in The Walking Dead, but my character would have to be Rick Grimes love interest. The characters would need to get a lot of smooch time and in the contract they shouldn’t be able to kill off my character. Of course, I would also be casted in major action blockbusters, such as, Avengers, Fast and the furious, and wanted, as a kickass heroine or major supporting character.  

Mia: I’m always fascinated by how other authors work. What can you tell us about your workspace/writing process?

Stacy: I so wish I was one of those writers that listened to music and went into writer’s space. I tried it once and ended up singing and jamming for hours (I am a horrible singer by the way). I work best in silence of the night. So when it comes on to my workspace I am a bit of a vampire. I write when all is quiet, in the bed! My pillows tucked behind me and my laptop on my lap with the only noise being my hubby’s snoring. And when I see the sun rising and hear my neighbor’s cock crow, I shut off and go to bed. Of course there are times I write in the days, but I am way less productive when I have distractions.

Mia: Wow! I’m in awe. My brain shuts down after a certain hour at night and I’m sure all I’d produce would be gibberish. I’m a bit of a lark myself. The hours before the sun rises are my most productive. What do you think is the hardest thing about being an author?

Stacy: I think for me it is wondering if my work is good enough. Even though people have heaped on praises, I still have that ugly doubt sometimes. I do tend to kick it in the butt, but it always resurfaces. I was told by many other awesome authors that it’s quite normal. But I wish to be abnormal and not have any doubts at all….simply be confident and unaffected by negative reviews if or when they come, because I know there are going to be uber awesome ones as well.

Mia: Humans tend to retain negatives more than positives. Writers tend to be a little “other-centric” when it comes to judging our work because we’re too close to it to be unbiased. However, if we use that insecurity to goad us to always delivering the best story we can, we can turn the negative into a positive. Now, what have you found is the best thing about being an author?

Stacy: Wow. There are so many awesome things. While I love when readers adore my work, I think I am just crazy over writing the stories I dream about. I feel like I have the best life in the world…being able to put on paper what is in my head…and having people love it! Ummm yeah awesome stuff.

Mia: And now for our lightning round:

- Favorite Food? Ackee and saltfish. I will eat this everyday and with any sides. Yum.
- Favorite Vacation Spot? I have only ever vacationed in my home country. This is a hard one. Anywhere in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
- Favorite TV Show? The Walking Dead!! And Vikings is second runner up.
- Favorite Paranormal? (witch, vampire, zombie etc)  Definitely shape shifters.
- Coffee, Tea or Hot Chocolate? Hot chocolate
- Favorite Ice Cream Flavor? Rum and Raisin!
- Favorite author? I have several. I love C S Lewis, Jim Butcher, Lora Leigh, Gena Showalter, Kresley Cole, Laurell K Hamilton, James Patterson, Amanda quick, Elizabeth Lowell…I have too many and I cannot just pick one, cause I have equal love for them all!

Stacy Reid

Stacy’s Bio:

Stacy is an avid reader of novels with a deep passion for writing. She especially loves romance and adores writing about people falling in love. Stacy lives a lot in the worlds she creates and actively speaks to her characters (out loud). She has a warrior way, never give up on her dreams. When Stacy is not writing, she spends a copious amount of time drooling over Rick Grimes from Walking Dead, watching Japanese anime and playing video games with her love, Dusean Nelson.



And now for Stacy’s newest release:

The Duke’s Shotgun Wedding

DukesShotgunVictorian Era England…

As far as rash decisions go, it was formidable. But Lady Jocelyn Rathbourne’s will remains strong. If the only way to save her family’s estate and reputation is by aiming a small pistol at the Duke of Calydon, then so be it. For Lady Jocelyn demands satisfaction – and she will have it at any cost. Even if it means demanding the hand of the intense and foreboding Duke himself…

But she’s made the first move against a very dangerous opponent…

For Sebastian Thornton is no stripling to be trifled with. The lady has played her hand. Now it’s his turn. For Sebastian is in need of a wife. And to find a wife with spirit and fire – even if she means to only marry for his money – would be a great prize indeed. And he intends to thoroughly take his pleasure with her… and demands his own satisfaction in return.


Buy Links:  Amazon | Barnes and Noble Amazon UK |   Amazon Canada Kobo 

Stacy: Thank you, Mia!

Mia: My pleasure, Stacy.

The Prize

And now, dear reader, you get a chance at Stacy’s big drawing for a $50 gift card. Here’s the link to enter: Stacy Reid’s Shotgun Book Tour! If you leave a comment or question for Stacy and me here today, you’ll also be entered to win a digital copy of one of my backlist books–Winner’s Choice! I’d offer a print one, but frankly, I’m in the middle of boxing up the condo in preparation for our move in early May. All my books are packed. Heavy sigh! And since I left my Kindle at my parents’ house in MO, I’m reduced to reading on my phone. But, that’s ok. I’m so swamped, I’m going to have to start listening to books on tape.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about YOU! Stacy mentioned the joy of feeling encouraged by readers who enjoy her work. Share the last time you felt encouraged by someone or something. Or maybe you’re the encourager! Either way, you’ll be entered in my drawing. Be sure to check back on Sunday for the results–or you can sign up to receive my blog posts via FeedBurner. Just click to subscribe to our RS feed and type in your email address. (Be sure to confirm when you get an email letting you know your request has been received.) That way, you’ll never miss a moment!

Red Pencil ThursdayWe don’t have a volunteer offering the first 500 words of their WIP today, so I thought I’d share a little about what I look for in those all important opening paragraphs. Writers only have a few seconds to hook their reader into their fictive dream so in the beginning of a novel, every word counts.

If you’re a writer and would like to take part in Red Pencil Thursday, please check out the details on how to submit your materials for a future online critique. And now to the essentials for an engaging opener…

The Title

Even though your publisher has the final word on how a book is eventually titled, it behooves the writer to come up with a dynamite title. This is your first hook, your first promise to your reader about what sort of story they’re going to get. I finally settled on a title for my New Adult/RS WIP. It’s The Warning Sign. I like this for a couple of reasons. First, since my heroine is hearing impaired and uses ASL, the “sign” portion has a double meaning. And “warning” telegraphs danger, which is certainly coming in this story.

If you’d like to check out The Warning Sign and get a fresh installment each week, I invite you to sign up for Mia’s Muses.

The First Line

Ever since Barbara Vey of PW’s Beyond Her Book christened me “the queen of first lines,” I’ve felt an obligation to come up with something surprising for each book. Think about openings that have stuck with you.

“Call me Ishmael.” ~ Why is this Moby Dick opener a great first line? It introduces our narrator and tell us something about him. He addresses us casually, inviting us to befriend him. But is Ishmael his real name? No one ever calls him by that in the whole massive novel. By identifying himself as Ishmael, he tells us he is the outcast, the one who’s out of favor with his father like the biblical Ishmael.

“To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.”  Deanna Raybourn’s beginning of Silent in the Grave made me an instant fan. It’s clever, evocative and I already love the dry wit of the narrator, Lady Julia Grey.

What first line grabbed you so tightly you had to hold on for the next 400 pages?

In Medias Res

This is hoity-toity Latin for “in the midst of things.” What it means is you should drop your reader into the middle of an engaging and unique moment in the life of your protagonist. Then give your reader only enough information for them to keep up as the story powers forward. Think about how you can introduce your hero/heroine in such a way that your reader will follow them happily into their further adventures. The opening sets the tone for the entire novel. Begin as you mean to continue. Check the opening of my RITA nominated Plaid Tidings for an example

Hooking for Fun & Profit

I mean writing hooks, of course. (What were you thinking?) Your title is your first hook. The first line is the next. You need another at the end of each chapter, but before you get there, you’ll need to sink several embedded hooks into your narrative.

A hook is a tantalizing bit of information that raises a question in your readers’ minds and literally pulls them through the story as they try to discover what’s really going on. Please don’t confuse them. You want to tease, not confound.  In my novella Plaid to the Bone, the prequel to Plaid Tidings, there are several in the first chapter, usually in the form of my heroine’s internal dialogue. The real trouble will start once we arrive is an example of an embedded hook.

So those are some of the things I look for in an opening. Now it’s your turn to share. What book do you think is the best example of a perfect opening?