Red Pencil Thursday

Once again, I’m outside my wheelhouse for Red Pencil Thursday. Our volunteer today is Lisa Medley, a paranormal/urban fantasy author on the cusp of publication. Her first novel, Reap ‘Em & Weep, has been acquired by Harlequin Digital First. Check her blog for details. But the fact that I am not a “paranoramal princess” (Lisa’s term) means I really have to rely on the RPT gang to help us out today. Please leave your comments and suggestions.

Red Pencil Thursday

Check out the details for how YOU can become a Red Pencil Thursday volunteer!

I’m happy to report that I do have another volunteer in queue for next Thursday, but the week after that is wide open. Remember, we can’t have RPT without our intrepid volunteers who are willing to take their baths in public and let us all go to school on them. Seriously, this is as safe a hotseat as you’re likely to find. Our goal is always to help and encourage. No snark allowed.

Reap & Redeem
Chapter One

Kylen kicked the head across the floor of the dark, windowless room with his steel-toed boot. Blood dripped from his scythe. He straightened to his full height and tilted his neck side-to-side, listening to his spine crack and pop. This was getting too easy.

Mia: Wow! This is a take-no-prisoners beginning. Terrific first line. However, it might have more punch without the ‘of the dark, windowless room.’ Setting is less important than action at this point. You’ve established Kylen as a badass protagonist and raised a number of questions. A strong start.

Lisa: Thanks! That is my best start ever, but I see your point. Shorter and punchier will make it stronger.

“You don’t have to keep killing them you know,” Deacon said, grimacing at the black ooze spilling out of the neck.

“Yeah, I do.” Kylen turned and walked to the door, facing out into the darkness. A blood trail followed his hulking form.

Mia: Good job of showing Kylen’s determination instead of telling.

Lisa: J

“Three-for-three. You have to admit, he’s efficient.” Nate picked up the head by the hair and dropped it into a black garbage bag.

Mia: Whoa. I was  a little surprised by a third person. Can you mention him earlier? Maybe…

Kylen turned from Deacon, and his other teammate Nate, and walked to the door, facing out into the darkness.

Lisa: I agree this would be a better way to introduce them.

“That’s one way to look at it.” Deacon placed his hand, glowing with Reiki energy, against the center of dead male’s chest directly over his heart chakra. Orange light radiated from him, encasing both him and the body in a soft sphere of light. The demon boiled forth in a thick black torrent of haze. Spreading his arms wide, Deacon summoned the stream towards him and the mist penetrated through his sternum like the arc of a welder as orange light sparked and crackled. His body shuddered and the glow intensified to supernova status strobing in the darkness then winked out. He consumed the many smaller streams of gray that flowed forth from the body behind the demon.

Mia: It may just be me, but I’m a little confused as to who is the demon here. I think it’s the bit in the last sentence about “the body behind the demon.” Also, this is a pretty dramatic moment. It calls for shorter, punchier sentences. Try something like this:

Spreading his arms wide, Deacon summoned the stream. Mist penetrated his sternum like a welder’s arc, sparking and crackling. His body shuddered. The glow intensified to supernova status, strobing in the darkness. Then it winked out.

Lisa: Nice! See you have a paranormal princess inside you after all ;)

Mia: These are your words, Lisa. There are just less of them. Mark Twain once said “A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.” We must be ready to be ruthless with our red pencils.


“Is it done?” Nate lifted the feet and legs of the body onto the tarp he’d laid beside it.

Mia: Is what done? ‘It’ is such a weak little word and we have no idea to what it refers. We want to lay enough hooks to pull our readers forward, and sometimes that means creating questions in their minds. But we don’t want to confuse them.

Lisa: Good point. This is exactly the sort of thing I need pointed out to me. Teach a man to fish…

Deacon frowned. “Yes.”

“How many?” Kylen asked, standing guard in the doorway and refusing to release his watchful gaze from the cemetery grounds.

Mia: You don’t need to tell us Kylen asked. Use his action as the dialogue tag, like so:

Kylen stood guard in the doorway, his watchful gaze scanning the cemetery grounds.

Lisa: I’m constantly working on reducing tags and increasing action. It’s one of my rookie problems.

Mia: It’s one of every writer’s problems.

“Six souls.” Deacon rose and grasped the body by the shoulders. “And the demon.” He hefted his end onto the tarp as well.

“No wonder the guy looks like Hell. He’s been a very busy boy.” Nate said, pulling a roll of duct tape from his backpack.

They rolled the man tightly in the tarp and taped the ends so none of the body fluids would discharge in transit.

Mia: This is the first instance where you’ve identified the dead entity as a man. I’m a little confused. Is he a demon? A possessed soul? Inquiring minds…

Lisa: A human possessed by a demon using his body to poach souls.

“How many more demons do you think there are?” Nate carried the head and tools towards the door.

“Grim thought at least two dozen.” Deacon reminded him.


Mia: You started out firmly in Kylen’s POV. Since Deacon did his voodoo with the dead guy, Kylen has faded a bit. We have three possible POV characters now and no solid idea whose eyes we’re seeing through at the moment. When you pick a POV, stick to it, tight as a tick. It’s how we’ll develop empathy for your hero. The strongest hook a writer can set is an emotional one. We need to know how Kylen is feeling. Tired? Sickened? Angry that there’s so much more to do?

Lisa: I was actually a little worried the POV was weak here since he’s watching everything play out after he’s done his part. I can definitely improve that! I don’t want ANY room for doubt.

They didn’t bother cleaning up the black ooze or the blood trail. The way to make sure the scene was completely clean was with fire. Arson would draw more attention to the mower garage on the edge of the cemetery than what now looked like oil and fuel staining the floor. None of them were worried about the law. There were worse things to worry about.

Mia: Think you’re missing a ‘were’ in the last sentence. It’s so easy to do. I find reading aloud helps, but even that isn’t foolproof since I tend to read what I intended to write, not necessarily what’s on the page.

Lisa: Yep, it was missing. Sometimes in editing I do more harm than good, ha! Or it may have just been in my head and never made it to my fingers.

Mia: Since fire is the only way to cleanse the site, I’m a little uncertain whether they’ll torch the garage or not. Remember the Writing Prime Directive: First, be clear.

Lisa: Fire would remove the evidence, but they weren’t too worried about being tracked down. I agree it could be more clear.

They’d burn the body at home to make sure no recognizable bits remained. This host’s disappearance would never be explained. Good thing, since his head was detached.

Mia: Ok, I think I’ve got it now. The dead guy was a host for some brand of evil. For the uninitiated, like me, you might want to explain that a little earlier.

I really like Kylen. He’s a strong, determined protagonist who’s willing to do what’s necessary. Very appealing qualities. If you give us more from him by pulling us into a tight POV, we’ll follow him anywhere.

Lisa: Thanks, Mia! This was a great help! I’ll work on tightening the POV. Kylen is a dark hero for sure. Lucky for him, there’s a good woman around the next corner ;)

Mia: Lisa has a tough needle to thread here because this is the 2nd book in a series. That means there will be some readers who already understand her special world and others who haven’t a clue. The trick is to give enough info to satisfy the new readers without boring the old.

Do you have some suggestions for how she can weave in the particulars without an info dump?

Lisa MedleyLisa Medley’s Bio: Reader and writer of paranormal romance/urban fantasy novels about monsters in love. Reapers. The grim kind. Reap ‘Em & Weep, my paranormal romance/urban fantasy novel is soon-to-be published by Harlequin Digital First.

Love beasties of all sorts and have a farm full of them in our southwest Missouri home including: one child, one husband, two dogs, two cats, two handicap bunnies (don’t ask), six hens, thousands of Italian bees and a pissy rooster.

Lisa Medley Reap ‘Em & Weep, soon-to-be published at Harlequin Digital First

President Ozarks Romance Authors 2012-2013

Romance Writers of America, PRO Member 2012-2013 Lisa Medley, Author Blog Life in the Big Cedars Blog , Facebook ,  Twitter.


P.S. There are only a few more days for you to leave a comment on my serialized online novel from The Order of the MUSE series. I’ll be choosing a random commenter who will receive their choice from my Rock*It Reads on April 1st. Click here to enter. Oh! And I’ll be posting Chapter Three then too.

Order of the MUSE

21 thoughts on “Red Pencil Thursday

  1. LOVE your first paragraph, Lisa. Make the changes suggested here to tighten things up and clear up confusion and you’re right–this page will sparkle.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Hi Sharon! Thanks for dropping by.

  2. Lisa Medley says:

    Wow! Thanks for all the great input everyone. This first page will sparkle like a scythe in the moonlight when I’m finished ;)

  3. Marcy W says:

    Wow, what a start! Totally got my attention! Then I did get a bit confused, so the comments above would help. I like not having Nate there (all of a sudden), and bring him in thru Kylen. Mostly, for those of us who haven’t read the first book, we need a bit more info about who these guys are and why what they’re doing is okay. That said, some of your descriptions about the paranormal aspects are very good … the orange light scene made me feel ‘there’ … what Mia means when she talks about using all the senses. This sounds like a book I’d like to read, although my paranormal choices are usually a bit less violent. Please be sure to give more info about demons etc in your next 500 or 1000 words, so I’m not still wondering where/when I am :). Other than that, I’m hooked!

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Why what they’re doing is ok…That’s really a big one, isn’t it? After all, our hero just lopped someone’s head off. We do need reassurance that it had to be done.

  4. This was some great advice, Lisa. With me just being a layman but lover of the paranomal,Mia was really saying things that I was unable to put into words. I’m sure it will turn out to be an awesome read! Even if I am your aunt, I think you have done great and look forward to all these reaper men! They are HOT and you Rock!

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Thanks so much for dropping by, Brenda. We love to have input from readers here. After all, without you, we’re all just talking to ourselves.

      And how cool that you’re supporting your niece in her literary aspirations. So many families don’t. YOU, m’dear, rock!

  5. I did an 8 hour workshop with Donald Maass. He said narrative descriptions suck –we knew that– but to get around that, try to make the description thru a characters pov. Cuts down on the snooze effect. We need narrative descriptions but make them intersting (or less painful) to reader. And ramble on. Keep short and sweet.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      I still look at my notes from the Donald Maass workshop at NEC a couple years ago. The man knows his way around a story.

  6. 2 more comments– weaving info from previous book. I’ve written series and this is what you do… add it tiny bits and leave short explanation when necessary. (For example: Susie, her oldest sister, OR Jack, the man who once tried to kill her, Do you see what I mean? And don’t give any spoilers from 1st book away. Like the resolution cuz people who read 2nd book will want to read 1st.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Good ideas all. We need to provide just enough info to allow the reader to move forward without confusion.

  7. I may need more room than this. 1. Great opening. 2.I’d only delete “dark” 3.I disagree about earlier mentioning of Nate. It’s only line 8. How much earlier can you get? (Unless Nate’s head it the one being kicked LOL) BUT I would delete the 3rd person from this whole scene. Easier working with 2 people in the beginning. Can you merge them into 1 character or leave 1 back at home? 4.Para”one way to look at it” m too much clutter -start new para with “orange light etc 5.You dropped main characters pov into no pov as scene goes on.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Pat, we’re so lucky to have you with us today! Having only two characters to begin with would make it easier to stick with Kylen’s POV since he’d have to interact with Deacon. When he goes to the door and looks out, perhaps he’s looking for Nate then.

  8. Hi Lisa and Mia
    Am I correct?
    Book one was Deacon’s story and this second book is Kylen’s story?
    Re: arc of a welder-I like “orange light” in the sentence. Because it gives more punch to the sensation going on here. Also you imagine the welders torch. Making a strong association to the action. Plus that contrasts to the gray in the continuing event of emptying the body of the stolen souls.
    Just my opinion.
    Enjoy seeing your comments, Mia. Enjoy your books.
    Lisa, Glad to see you here. You have a great future as an author.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      The welders arc is a particularly strong image.

      But I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up my first critique partner, Darcy Carson’s pet peeve. She’d always say, “I can’t smell this scene!” The point was that all the senses need to be engaged, not just visual.

      1. Yeah, and if you have a problem with one of the senses, then add it in when you revise. I have the senses written down as I plan the scene and go thru what is my pov character seeing, hearing, smelling AND how does that make him/ her feel. What emotion it brings to person’s mind.. Ex: the sound of rain on the window can be soothing, depressing etc It all depends on the pov’s sense memory he/ she associates with that sight, smell etc

  9. Berinn Rae says:

    Holy crap, Lisa, this is great! I’m looking forward to reading this novel when it comes out!

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      It is a very strong start, isn’t it?

  10. Wanda says:

    Wow, Mia, you’re good. This is my first visit to Red Pencil Thursdays and I came because I know Lisa. She has brought these pages to ORA critique and I don’t think any of us caught as much as you did. Way to go Lisa for seeking out Mia’s expertise. I’ve got nothing to add.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Thanks, Wanda. Hope you’ll come back next week too. Guess I should remind everyone that my observations are just my opinions and Lisa is free to disregard them. Only the author knows how to tell her story, but if I’ve given her some things to think about, I’m happy.

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