April 28, 2015 • 57 Comments
Allow me to introduce Carmen Fox, a writer who has the absolute right stuff. Wondering what that is? Read on–her story speaks for itself! And be sure to leave a comment–she’s offering a great prize to someone who stops by! Not only does some lucky winner get a $15 Amazon gift certificate but also the chance to name a character in one of her books!
Thank you, Sharon, for giving me the chance to appear on your blog.
So who am I?
I’m an urban fantasy/paranormal romance/mystery writer who didn’t start out at the top of her game. My skills are learned skills. It is my strong belief that, given the right encouragement and input, everyone can learn to write well.
But what about natural talent? Some people think a writer puts down thoughts in the form in which they popped into his or her head. The problem with that attitude for me was that I’m a terrible speaker. Even when it comes to telling jokes I stumble over my words and am sure to mess up the punch line. Lacking this natural talent, would I ever amount to anything?
As I said, I don’t believe in this mythical gene that allows a few chosen ones to enchant their readership without trying. More likely, they got a head start simply by grasping the fundamentals at an earlier age. Their talent comes down to knowledge.
The best starting point if you want to learn something new, even in the age of the geek, is a good how-to book. At least that’s the path I took. After giving my wallet a rigorous workout, my shelves soon buckled under the weight of bound wisdom. What I discovered was that novels have a beginning, a middle, and an ending. Score! Armed with this knowledge, I fancied myself a writer and set about penning my first book, GUARDED (back then under a different title).
Fast-forward a few months. As part of an on-line auction, I bid on and won a partial critique by Sharon Ashwood. Yes, this Sharon Ashwood. She waded through my finished manuscript and, rather than the worshipping superfandom I expected, returned a rather sober verdict. She liked my worldbuilding and the humor, although not so much the slapstick moments. Sharon also struggled to aptly categorize my book as light PNR or UF, a task I myself wrestled with until I gave up and let the book stand as a mishmash of PNR/UF/mystery. But her comments significantly enhanced the quality of my manuscript.
Amid this critique discussing the good, the bad, and the downright awful, Sharon dropped a line that would mold my writing even more. She advised to invest in a course run by Margie Lawson, a teacher responsible for transforming many so-so writers into successful authors.
Since I had little to lose, I enrolled. Over the next three years I participated again and again, and Margie’s insights filtered through to me and into my next book and the book after that. Thanks to her, I twist clichés like it’s the 1950s and employ a wide range of voice cues, while putting body parts through painful acrobatics to show a character’s emotional state. Her personal feedback cemented my new-found understanding of language.
After Margie Lawson’s courses I moved on to Mary Buckham and many other wonderful instructors. Word after word, my style improved. In fact, it improved so much I was offered a contract for DIVIDE AND CONQUER almost as soon as I typed ‘The End.’
Stuff just got real. Shoot. My once casual pastime had morphed into a hobby with deadlines. What next?
Publishing a book is a slow process, where long periods of rest alternate with moments of panicked frenzy. In my off-time, I returned to GUARDED, the book I’d first sent to Sharon. The story’s characters occupied a place in my heart, and I couldn’t wait to dive into what became the mother of all edits. Yup, almost every sentence needed a re-write. The contrast between before and after more than once made me well up. It wasn’t that I used to be atrocious. I just wasn’t…good enough, an affliction that befalls many hopeful writers.
During my many hours of editing, the how-to books, now languishing on my shelves, mingled with Margie’s and Mary’s explanations, and things started to make sense. As it turns out, you need to know how to write before you can learn to write fiction.
Let’s take ‘show don’t tell’ as an example. Up to that point I’d associated this adage with ‘adding description.’ In my original e-mail to Sharon I even wrote, “I have no eye for detail when it comes to places or people, so coming up with sufficient specifics for “show, don’t tell” isn’t always easy for me.” How wrong I was. Rather, this principle is about respecting your readers enough not to TELL THEM THAT your character feels a certain way, but to SHOW THE PHYSICAL CONSEQUENCES of that feeling. Not to TELL THEM THAT your character is looking at something, but to SHOW THE SCENE your character sees. More specifically, stay away from “She watched an old couple walk up the street,” and instead write “An old couple walked up the street.”
I also discovered that ‘hooking a reader’ has little to do with formulating a clever first sentence and everything to do with resolving one issue while opening up another one.
With these sparks of clarity, I edited away, simplified the plot, and soon a new story emerged, the story I should have written at the start.
Five months in, my editor returned DIVIDE AND CONQUER, and my stomach jigged. While her comments focused on strengthening the emotional impact of my scenes, my re-read uncovered that I’d also told much of the story, and hooks were largely a no-show. I changed as much as I dared and returned the manuscript, still aghast at the difference between my old version of DIVIDE AND CONQUER and my new version of GUARDED. How can a few months make such a difference?
In hindsight, I’ve become rather proud of this initial discrepancy. DIVIDE AND CONQUER was released in March. GUARDED will be out in July. I still haven’t reached the top of my game, but both novels represent the best of my ability as it stands now, and I’ve been lucky to have found readers who love them. What about the future, though? Well, I want to learn more. Much more. I want to understand what it takes to make a reader cry in as little as two hundred words, and how to deepen conflict. My fervent wish for 2020 is that I’ll be able to look back on 2015 and see room for improvement. Because the secret formula to getting published is the same as succeeding in sports. Never stop improving your game.
Be sure to leave a comment–one lucky winner gets a $15 Amazon gift certificate and also the chance to name a character in one of Carmen’s books!
DIVIDE AND CONQUER, out now
Buy it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00U0W2BIM
GUARDED, coming July 31, 2015
About me, Carmen Fox
Carmen lives in the south of England with her beloved tea maker and a stuffed sheep called Fergus. An avid reader since childhood, she caught the writing bug when her Nana asked her to write a story. She also has a law degree, studied physics for a few years, dabbled in marketing and human resources, and speaks native-level German and fluent Geek. Her preferred niches of geekdom are tabletop games, comics, sci-fi and fantasy.
She writes about smart women with sassitude, about pretty cool guys too, and will chase that plot twist, no matter how elusive.
Expect to be kept guessing.
Visit her blog at www.carmen-fox.com.
April 7, 2015 • No Comments
The Wild Arc is a very special place, set on a 10 acre site west of the city. It’s run by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but its specialty is caring for our wild friends instead of domesticated animals. I was lucky enough to get to visit recently and see the indoor “hospital” as well as the outdoor places where wild critters stay wild while they’re getting back on their feet/wings/paws/flippers.
Because the object of the game is to keep the patients from getting too habituated to humans, we weren’t introduced to many of the furry guests. However, there was a bald eagle there (Huge!) and a wee hummingbird who had got accidentally bundled up as part of an Easter bouquet. There were also a few raccoons who let me take a picture.
What I found most interesting was the fact that wild baby animals need to be taught how to feed themselves, whether that means foraging or fishing. Many of them are also smart enough to get bored, and that means building habitats that have lots of challenges and learning opportunities. The staff refer to this as “enrichment” and it sounded as if the volunteers have a fine time coming up with games and puzzles for the animals.
We got a tour of different areas, including some with water features. Shore birds and mammals both take advantage of this. Not that long ago they raised some baby otters here, taught them to fish and then released them up the coast far away from human habitation.
The staff at the Wild Arc made a point about being careful when approaching baby birds and animals that appear to be in distress. Many kind-hearted people try to “rescue” them when in fact they are perfectly okay and just waiting for their mom to return. The best thing is to call someplace like the Wild Arc who can provide guidance. That way, babies are not accidentally separated from their mothers and those that do need help are given speedy care.
March 29, 2015 • No Comments
March 21, 2015 • No Comments
Spring is here! To celebrate the official start of a new season, I took some pictures as I walked to work yesterday! Enjoy!
February 19, 2015 • No Comments
I’ve had some questions about ebooks versus paperbacks, so I’m writing a post in hopes that it helps readers to get the format they want. It’s a little ironic because for the longest time my Dark Forgotten series was available only in paper and now I seem to be mostly on people’s ereaders! That’s all been fixed. I’m happy to say both series are available both ways.
Nocturne and some of the other Harlequin series have a different way of ordering paperback copies of the books.
Individual novels are available direct from Harlequin. Click here to order an individual copy of Possessed by a Wolf.
If you prefer to shop in a store or at an online retailer like Amazon, Harlequin releases paperback two-for-one books every few months. For instance, Possessed by a Warrior and Possessed by an Immortal were bundled together. You can buy the first two books in the Horsemen series here. These bundles are different from the ebook bundles, which can include different titles. Be sure to read the book description carefully!
Two other points to remember: First, the release date for the two-for-one paperbacks is mid-month and NOT the same as the ebooks. It’s a few weeks later. Second, not all stores carry the paperbacks but they will usually get them for you if you ask. Indie bookstores are usually really good about this. To be honest, it’s helpful for authors if you ask for a particular book or series, because sooner or later the stores who don’t carry us will realize there is a demand for our books. It’s one way you can help support the books you love and help your local store be more responsive to their customers.
February 17, 2015 • No Comments
I did an interview with Between Dreams and Reality, which reviews in both French and English. There’s a great giveaway there, so spread the word to any steampunk lovers!
The brooch is by Copper and Lace and I confess to wanting to keep it …
February 14, 2015 • No Comments
January 25, 2015 • No Comments
A writing friend caught a picture of Silks at Powell’s over the holidays. Thanks for sending this, Jennifer McKenzie!
January 17, 2015 • 2 Comments
For those wanting a hint at the next Horseman – here is the back cover copy of Possessed by a Wolf, coming to you on May 1, 2015. You know May Day is magical, right?
Wolves mate for life…and wolves never forget their first love
Royal photographer Lexie Haven wasn’t expecting to see her ex-boyfriend Faran ever again. She could accept that he was a spy, but a werewolf? No way. No matter how good they had been together, she has very personal reasons for steering clear of monsters. That is, until he literally crashes into a royal gathering in all his furry glory—and with a gunman on his tail.
Within minutes of seeing each other again, the two estranged lovers are on a collision course. For now, Lexie is a prime suspect in the heist of a priceless ring, and only Faran can help her find the jewel and restore peace to the royal kingdom. But first, Lexie needs to trust in second chances and the supernatural.