Reviews of a lovely new fairy tale for children.

Lavender cover final

I’m very proud to share these reviews of a book that I edited: “Lavender Blue & the Faeries of Galtee Wood.” Author Steve Richardson poured his love into this story, and worked very hard to bring the draft he first showed me, up to a storytelling level that would earn him reviews like these. His choice of Larry MacDougall to illustrate his story makes it a prize for anyone who loves fairy tales.

Kirkus Reviews is especially pleased, calling the story an “impressive debut,” and adding, “…the paranormal elements are engaging, as are the book’s reassuring, simple morals of loyalty and doing anything for your friends. ” You can read the full review on Kirkus here. has also posted a 4 star review which you can read here. IndieReader’s reviewer agrees that older readers will be captivated by the story.

So enjoy the reviews, and if you know a reader of any age that loves fairy stories, this one would make a beautiful gift!

Peter Stenson on How to Write a Novel in 90 Days

Here’s my current dirty secret: I’m afraid to tackle a novel. I haven’t written a novel draft in a couple of decades — though between my worldbuilding blog and my published articles, I’ve probably written the equivalent of at least ten non-fiction books.

But a novel is different. You can put together a non-fiction book by doing the research then organizing the material in any of half a dozen ways. A novel, though, can’t be organized that way. It has to grow, organically, and what you’re growing is not a potted plant nor even a patch of flowers, but a very big tree.

mother elm

So yeah, I’m scared to tackle a novel, even though I have ideas for 2 or 3 different novel series in separate genres, in 2 separate universes. Because right now, I’m having trouble finishing even a short story unless I have a firm deadline set by some editor who is not me.

This spring, I realized that it was time to make a committed start on the series that’s currently burning a hole in my imagination. I’ve started some serious outlining and worldbuilding, to work out the chronology of the Earth colony of New Colorado, 200+ years from now, on a world something like Mars if it still had liquid water and an atmosphere. The outlining is essential right now, but eventually, I’ll get to where I have to stop playing with the research and the outlines and actually start writing a draft. And how will I do that without getting scared or overwhelmed or losing my way? Continue reading

Unread Submissions, Insider Secrets, and Other Publishing Myths

“Guess what? I happen to know that many of those manuscripts [in a slush pile] will not even be opened, let alone flicked through.”

This assertion came from a poster on a LinkedIn writing group’s discussion of how to get a publisher’s attention in the submission process.

You do often hear this claim that “publishers don’t open all their submissions,” usually paired with the explanation that “publishers aren’t interested in books from new and unknown people.”

I can think of only two situations where the claim actually is true: if a magazine or publisher says they’re closed for submissions, and if they only accept submissions from agents. If you send your manuscript to either of those, then you can expect it to go unread, and probably unacknowledged. And you deserve it, for not treating the submission guidelines seriously.

Apart from that, don’t believe it. I’ve been around the industry for a long time and have numerous friends who are professional editors, editorial assistants, slushpile readers and published writers. I’ve heard many professional editors and agents give descriptions of what happens in the slush pile, and have read slush piles of my own. And I’ve never heard even the busiest editor or editorial assistant say, even in private, that they don’t at least look at everything they receive. Continue reading

Six Ways to Make Editors Love You

If you’re writing for traditional publishing markets (by which I mean anyone who has an editorial staff to choose their content, such as book publishers, magazines, newspapers and multi-author websites and blogs), your real client is not the reader, but the acquiring editor. Editors, of course, want to make their readers happy, but they also want to work with writers who make the editor’s job easier, not harder.

Last year I posted six ways to show that you’re not a professional, thereby making sure that editors will never want to work with you again. Today, I want to tell you about the writers of the 10 stories in Paramourtal 2, and what they did to make their editors so happy that we would be delighted to work again with every one of them.

So here are six ways to make your editor happy:

1. Read the guidelines and follow them precisely. Continue reading

Announcing Paramourtal, Volume 2

paramourtal-2_cvr-thmParamourtal, Volume 2, the second anthology of paranormal romance from Cliffhanger Books, is now available in paperback format. It’s a great read, not only for people who like romances, but for anyone with a taste for adventure fantasy.The 10 stories included cover the full range of paranorma, from dark fantasy on the edge of horror, to straight-out goofy humor.

You can read descriptions of the stories included on the Cliffhanger website, and order Paramourtal 2 in paperback at your local bookstore, at Barnes & Noble, or on Amazon.  We expect to have ebook editions available soon.

As an editor, I had a great time working on this book, not only because the stories are so entertaining and unusual (not a vampire or werewolf among them!), but because the authors were, one and all, a dream to work with. In my next post, I’ll give you some reasons why. Until then, happy reading!

What does a good story do?

Last month, fellow writer and editor Tarl Roger Kudrick of On the Premises said on Facebook that he hadn’t updated the OTP blog, because he hadn’t thought of something interesting to blog about. So I proposed this topic which has been occupying my mind recently:

“I’ve seen a lot of discussion lately on the “literature vs popular” theme (maybe because of the last Twilight film?). Is it a good story only if it is well crafted on every level from grammar to themes, or is it a good story because people enjoy it regardless of any traditional literary standards of merit? I’d be interested in your thoughts on this.”

Tarl took up my challenge immediately, and I looked forward to a good and thoughtful answer from the editor of one of my favorite ezines (and a man with the good taste and literary discrimination to buy one of my stories for his second issue). I didn’t quite expect what I actually got: one of the best discussions I’ve read in recent years, of what elements make a story work or not work. Continue reading

Should You Ever Write for No Pay?

Not long ago, the online review site New York Journal of Books posted a LinkedIn discussion soliciting reviewers of science fiction books. The post described the NYJoB’s prestige in glowing terms:

“Our reviews for some time now have been quoted in large and small publisher promo, on book covers, etc., typically alongside, and often more prominently, than long-established reviews… Our standards for reviewers are high. …we care about books a great deal. The art of the book review has been withering and it is our aim to keep it alive and flourishing.”

But then there’s this:

“This enterprise is a “labor of love.” Reviewers all set their own pace for submitting reviews. This is not a paid gig [italics mine].”

Sure enough, the site has a lot of content that appears to be of good quality. It also has a lot of high-end advertising, which means income. The three principals appear to be highly successful business professionals in marketing, finance and publishing. Not the kind of people who work only ‘for love.’

So why do they think it’s all right to ask people to contribute unpaid content, when they are clearly earning advertising revenue from that content? Continue reading

Six Ways to Convince an Editor You’re Not a Professional

All of these are either real editorial correspondence, or real questions from novice writers on various writing forums (details changed in some cases for anonymity).

I’ve written 17,000 words of a YA romance novel. How much more do I have to write for this genre?

If I tell you that a YA romance is 50,000 words, are you going to write exactly that many words then stop, even if you’re in the middle of a scene? Write and revise the story until you think it’s finished and as good as you can make it. Only then should you worry about which publishers accept novels in your genre, at the length you’ve written.

Here are 5 story ideas. Please tell me which one you like best so I can submit it to your anthology. Continue reading

How Much Description Is Enough?

There are two kinds of writers: those who describe too much, and those who don’t describe enough. I’m of the former variety, though I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) to curb my inclination to spout pages of beautiful descriptive prose instead of getting on with the story- which is, of course, the usual problem with long passages of beautiful, descriptive prose.

Yes, many excellent writers do flood their narratives with long descriptive passages, among them Tolkien, Bradbury, and Michael Chabon. Unless you’re one of them, pipe down and keep reading. (Besides, I know plenty of Tolkien fans who skim right past those long blocks of description, anyway.)

Description is especially tricky in speculative fiction. If you’re writing a contemporary story, you can assume your readers are familiar with most of the details of your world. They know what a lawyer and a mail carrier wear, how a city street looks, and how a cell phone works. You only have to mark out what’s different about this particular mail carrier, or this particular street, to create a specific image.

But suppose you’re writing about Martians? Continue reading

English Rules and the Grammar Police

If you participate in writing discussion boards of any kind, you’ll often see a novice writer ask a question about some rule of English grammar or style, which leads to a huge debate among the pros. One of the LinkedIn writing groups I belong to has been discussing the serial comma for over 3 months!

English does have a lot of firm rules, mainly relating to punctuation, grammar (subject and verb should match, don’t change verb tenses in the middle of a sentence, always use a determiner with a noun); and syntax (adjective goes before noun, modifiers should go as close as possible to the noun or verb they modify). All of these exist as rules because when the rule isn’t observed, the meaning changes or becomes unclear or is grammatically incorrect.

But what if you encounter a “rule” that writing professionals can’t agree on? Continue reading