Legend of the Liberator UPDATE

If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you likely already know my latest decision. I was still putting off searching for an agent, mostly because of the dreaded query, summary, and all the other things a writer must put together for an agent. The other half because I just wanted to write. After some thought and recalculating, I’ve decided to step back into the self-publishing game.

The crowds just went wild right? Alright…maybe not.

Still! It is true. I’m going to try to use what I’ve learned and do things differently this time around. The number one thing I’m changing is speed. Therefore, since Among the Flames is ready for publication save for a cover, I plan to put out the entire Legend of the Liberator series this year! Which means finishing Into the Storm by July and Through the Mist by October.

Now will the crowds go wild? Hey. Where are my crowds? (Oh yeah…I went off the map for a while.)

So I hope to keep you updated and share cover reveals, release dates, and more here soon! If you watch my progress bar on the right, I’ve updated them recently. Into the Storm, book #3 of the series, is 27% written in the first draft! Dance party!

Well I’ve got to get back to writing. But I wanted to share the good news. Are you excited? I’m excited.

Let’s do this.

A Degree Richer

Alright, so not quite a post on my book progress, but I figured I’d still check in so any readers know I’m still here. I graduated! I now have my Bachelor’s degree in Educational Studies. Yay! It only took me 8 months through Western Governors University, a competency-based school. It’s like being able to test out of college courses because you already know the material, WGU only requires you pass a test or assignment(s) to demonstrate competency. As all college should be, in my opinion. What does sitting in a desk for several hours a week prove? Nothing. It’s passing the test and proving you have the chops that means something. If this sounds like something for you (only for the very self-motivated) then look into them. Anyhoo, endorsement over, what’s next? Obtaining my TEFL certificate. That should take about 3 months. Then I’ll be certified to teach English as a second/foreign language!

With regards to writing, I’m still working on Into the Storm (book 3 of Legend of the Liberator) as much as I can. My plan involves heavily pursuing a literary agent within the next six months to two years. With any luck, within that time frame I’ll have some good news and we’ll see more LotL books on virtual, even physical, shelves. In the meantime, I just keep writing and staying the course.

Other than that, what else is new? I’m moving this weekend. Ick. My landlords decided they want to sell the house we’re renting. Joy. But moving has its highlights. Moving is a change. And I LOVE change. I get bored of the same things all the time and I need a change in scenery. This will be good. How’s that for enthusiasm when it’s farther from work and more expensive?

So what have you been up to? Reading any great books? Experiencing any changes you’d like to bemoan/celebrate? How’s Spring Cleaning coming? Let’s chat!

Character Interview: Cole Balain

I’ve decided to change how I do my character interviews. I want to show you the character you won’t read in the book, the character outside of doing…heroic stuff. Let’s get deep, let’s get dirty, let’s get real. I’m going to ask Cole a variety of questions and he’ll answer. And away we go!

  1. Favorite Color: Hmm…does it have to be a color? How about steel? That’s sort of a color. So simple, so real. 
  2. Favorite Food: Well that is easy. I love meat. Particularly meat with potatoes. Ooo with some gravy. Does this all count as one food?
  3. If you were an animal, what animal do you think you’d be? An animal…an animal…I don’t know. Maybe something like a wolf? Ugh, this is a stupid question, next!
  4. A man just stole something from a stall. What do you do? A guy just stole something? Well that depends. Did anyone else see him? Was he a beggar? Do we know why he stole something? Do we know what he stole? Without all the details, I can’t say. If you want to assume it’s a common thug, then I’d chase him, obviously.  But turning him in…that depends on those details.
  5. Views on religion: Oh boy, now we’re getting deep. No one wants to know this about me. *Sigh* Okay, I think religion is great for those who need it. I think if it makes you feel better that someone is watching you, that someone has a plan, that things happen for a reason, then you should think that. But as far as what I believe? I believe there is a lot of suffering and a lot of pain in this world. I believe if there is something to believe in, we haven’t found it yet or things wouldn’t be so screwed up. I believe if there was truly something greater, there wouldn’t be so many mixed opinions on it. We’d all be in the same school of thought. Until then, we’re just grasping at anything and naturally everyone has a different opinion.
  6. Your most embarrassing moment: Embarrassing moment? You realize I’m the masculine hunk, right? Mighty’s sake, let’s see. Embarrassing moment…embarrassing moment…Oh, okay.  Once while I was training, I must have been about nine or so, this girl came to watch us train. She was cute and dainty and I liked that once. But I wasn’t trained long and hardly had any experience with a sword. I sliced at the dummy but then I couldn’t get it out. I finally pulled so hard, the sword released and smacked me right in the forehead. Knocked me out cold. I woke up a day later in the infirmary. There, you happy? You’ve opened up old wounds.
  7. Favorite thing about the opposite sex: Ladies, eh? Hmm…what won’t make me look like a prick? You’re setting me up, Shelby, I swear it. Favorite thing…I like the way they look at the world. Laugh all you want but it’s truly fascinating. They see things so differently. They are gentle, they want to understand, they want to love every little thing. They think things through, over think them till they’re blue in the cheeks. It’s amazing to me and I can’t help but love that about them. Also, their hips.

Thank you, Cole! I hope everyone enjoyed seeing a side of Cole. Get to know more about him in my book, From the Ashes, to be published May 3rd. If you are interested in an advance copy in exchange for an honest review, contact me!
More questions for Cole? Leave me a comment!

Character Interview: Aia Wynnald; From the Ashes

Let’s meet….Aia! The Heroine of From the Ashes.

This will be a new series I’ll be starting. It doesn’t have a schedule or any guidelines except that I shall post future posts with this same category as a way for you to get to know my characters from future books. So let’s get started!

Shelby: Today I’ll be interviewing Maia Wynnald, goes by Aia. She is the heroin of From the Ashes, the first book in her story. Thanks for coming today, Aia. I’m glad you could make the trip all the way from Tharien.

Aia: *sighs deeply, sheepish smile across her lips* I’m more than happy to get away from Tharien, even for a silly interview. So the pleasure is mine. *laughs*

Shelby: So tell me Aia, if you could describe yourself in one word, what word would you choose?

Aia: *looks around, cheeks puffed* I honestly have no idea. *laughs* Truthfully, I feel like I don’t really know myself. I think everyone in my life would use a totally different word. Some might say nervous or weird. Some might say kind or brave. Some might say ordinary, others ambitious. I guess I’m a little bit of all of those. But being honest with myself, the word I’d use is phony. *laughs* Fake? Boy, I sound like a great heroine. Good job, Shelby. *laughs*

Shelby: Aww, Aia. Those are terrible words. I know there is more to you than that. Give me another. Something less pathetic. Show the readers what you are really made of. Don’t be modest.

Aia: *laughs* I’m sorry. I suppose even with my secrets, I do have some qualities that are me through and through. So, how about…cunning? Determined? Ooo, how about selfless? Is it still selfless to identify yourself as being selfless?

Shelby: *laughs* Of course it’s okay. And I’d agree with that analysis. That’s what gets you into trouble, isn’t it? You trying to help everyone. Cunning…determined. Yes those all are great words. See? I knew you had it in you.

Aia: *blushes* Now, you’re making me blush. Next question already.

Shelby: *smiles* Who do you most admire?

Aia: *softly grins* This, I actually have an answer for. My mother.

Shelby: Why?

Aia: Because she is everything I want to be. She’s brave, she’s honest, she knows who she is. She doesn’t let others push her around. She isn’t afraid to break the rules.

Shelby: And you are? Afraid to break the rules, I mean?

Aia: *burst of laughter* Are you kidding? Who isn’t? When breaking the rule could mean death, you’d be crazy not to be afraid of breaking them. Which yes, means my mother is crazy. But she is so supportive and protective and loves me, despite knowing what I am. She’s the only person in the world, apart from my father, who would love me knowing what I am.

Shelby: *smiles* It looks like you have more of her hidden inside than you acknowledge. Perhaps we’ll see some of that come out in your first book, From the Ashes.

Aia: *shrugs* Hopefully. I’d like to see some of her come out in me.

Shelby: Okay, so this is a loaded question, I know, but let’s go for it. What is your philosophy on life? Your outlook?

Aia: *laughs* Boy, you are trying to make me look pathetic, aren’t you? You should really ask one of your other characters these questions. You know, one who isn’t living every day in fear and pretending to be someone she isn’t.

Shelby: *laughs* I just want our readers to get to know you. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.

Aia: *rolls eyes* I’ll answer. May as well warn them about the *finger quotes* heroine you wrote about, right? My philosophy is… you are as happy as you tell yourself you can be. Your life is in your hands and no one else’s.

Shelby: *considers* That’s not pathetic. I like that.

Aia: *cracks up* You like it? A little cross between diluting yourself and being optimistic.

Shelby: Well that’s really what we all do most of the time, isn’t it?

Aia: I suppose it is. Oh, Shelby. You make me feel so much less pathetic than I really am. I like you.

Shelby: *laughs* Moving on. What is your greatest goal in life?

Aia: * saddens* My greatest goal…is to be free. To be who I want to be. I know that sounds like I’m asking for the impossible. But there it is. I don’t want to describe myself as a hypocrite. I don’t want to hide. I don’t want to live every day in fear. I don’t want to control everything I feel and think. I just…want to relax. Be me.

Shelby: Doesn’t sound like you’re asking too much. Though I know you are. And soon our readers will learn you are as well. But I’d say that is a worthy goal to have as we follow your story.

Aia: *brushes away a tear* I certainly hope so. Ugh, *wipes another tear* next question.

Shelby: Okay, if you didn’t live in Tharien, where would you live?

Aia: *eyes brighten* Oooh, this is a fun question. Albeit, a fantasy question. I’m unable to leave Tharien. And I suppose the only logical Kingdom I could could would be Trier, since that is the only Kingdom with humans. And I don’t mind that being the only feasible option because they treat people like me so much differently. *eyes sadden* I could probably be free there. Maybe. At least I wouldn’t be as afraid as I am here. It wouldn’t mean instant death if I was discovered.

Shelby: And what if there were humans everywhere? Anywhere else you’d be interested in living? Just for the weather perhaps?

Aia: *smiles* Sirabell is beautiful. Though I understand it’s hot. I’m not crazy about the heat. Pyeri is scenic but a bit too wet. And Khar is just rocky. Nope. I’d still have to say Trier.

Shelby: Fair enough. Maybe someday.

Aia: *laughs* Maybe.

Shelby: Well I think our time is up. But I want to thank you, Aia, for joining us.

Aia: *stands* It was fun. A bit awkward–you can tell I don’t do interviews–but still fun. *hugs Shelby*

Shelby: Visit again to read more about Aia’s upcoming book, From the Ashes, which will hopefully be out at the end of 2015 or early 2016. More updates will be posted every month.Check back to hear about more characters, more about the world of Dyel and other tidbits about the From the Ashes series.

Media Bistro Copy Editing Certificate Program Verdict

Happy September all my writers and editors!

Well it has been less than a year but I did finish the Media Bistro Copy Editing Certificate Program I enrolled in in October 2012. Ladies and gentlemen, if you take one piece away from this post, let it be this: stay far away!

After taking three Copy Editing Courses, two Grammar courses, and a course on Freelance writing, I should be able to at least edit a paper with confidence, right? I thought so too. Unfortunately, these classes were not at all what I had hoped and expected. I read the “reviews” from people who had supposedly taken the courses, read the impressive biographies of the teaches and was confident in the syllabus of each course. Until the courses began.

If you’ve read my previous posts Media Bistro Copy Editing Cert…So Far and Media Bistro Copy Editing–another update then you already know of the horrible “lessons” and how much of a joke the “class times” are. So if you are interested in this program, I highly suggest at least skimming these posts for a more thorough review.

If you have been following (or if you just went and read them and came back) then I’m here to wrap up and give my final verdict of this program.

I finished with glee, hey the classes were a joke but I worked and submitted my assignment every week. I was looking forward to adding Certificate in Copy Editing to my resume and proudly displaying my Certificate in my office. Until the certificate came. By email.

No, that is not the cover page. That is the actual certificate. The certificate Media Bistro claims is “suitable for display”. You tell me: would you display that? Not be Miss Braggy-pants (since I don’t really like her but she does have a point sometimes) but I’ve received participation certificates that looked more professional than this. If you thought it looked like a Power Point slide, you weren’t alone. Not only that, but it is digital. Yep. Another detail conveniently left out.

I have expressed my concern and frustration with my “counselor” who has been asking me for reviews. After telling her my feelings, she suggests if I had participated more I would have gotten more out of it and offered to send a print version of that horrid certificate. No offer for a refund, no taking my valid my concerns, no defending their canned courses, nothing. Why? Because they know these courses are a joke. They know poor people like myself will buy them because we can’t afford huge school loans for simple copy editing.

If you are still considering Media Bistro for your Copy Editing Certificate needs, consider this: I signed up October 2012 and paid $1500. I noticed several times in the lessons that these were the same lessons year after year and offered no “voice” of the teacher, as they all sounded the same and one even left the date in. The exact same certificate course today, September 2013, is now $1650. For the exact same classes and I guarantee the exact same PDF lessons. So why they are charging more money? My question exactly.

I’m sorry to say, if you are looking for an affordable option to obtain a certificate in copy editing, it is not this. You will end up in my exact position: with no more confidence, a shoddy “certificate”, and $1500 in debt. Oh and if you wanted to at least see if you learned anything, you’ll be disappointed. No final test is offered. Correction; no test is offered at any time to mark your progress. Shocker! The scammers strike again!

5 Tips to Become a Copy Editor

I have been asked by one of my readers ( I love you!) on some suggested tips to becoming a copy editor. Now while all of you know, I am no master Copy Editor just yet. Though I can tell you what classes I DON’T recommend….*cough*….*mediabistro cough*. I had a large email ready to send to her when I thought of others out there that might have the same questions. So here was her question:

“As someone who’s also looking to break into the field, I wondered if you had any advice for me about where to look and what to do to get started.”

This reader already had a BA in English mind you. So here are my top 5 tips for gaining, at the very least, some great, honest experience copy editing to nail that dream job.

1. Internships!!!

This often means “free labor”, but this also means real experience. After only looking for a little over a month I scored an internship editing short stories. I did it from home, in my spare time, and emailed with questions. It was easy and I was gaining real experience with a real publishing company. My recommendation: Internships.com

2. Current Place of Work

Even your current job can help you with your dream endeavors! I work for an online company, so I knew they have a website and also produce literature/brochures for people. I offered (for free) to proofread their work. I only proofread their outgoing literature before I was given a query letter to proofread/edit and asked if I could help write their online content and fliers. So it got my more writing work too, but I was able to prove myself.

3. Current Printed Material

Interested in editing magazines/newspapers or brochures/fliers? If you are interested in marketing materials or newspapers, a very direct route is by purchasing a news paper (or finding) or grabbing those free fliers/brochures at the store. You sift through it with your red pen, circle any mistakes and input your corrections. Then you mail it back (preferably if you can find the name of the editor) simply with your contact information/business card and the corrected printed material. I haven’t tried this method yet, but that’s because I want to edit books, fiction books specifically.

4. Books

The library can be a breath of knowledge for you, just lurking on those dusty shelves. One or two books on grammar can oftentimes provide you with the exact same knowledge as a college course….if you quiz yourself. (Trust me, I’m in the classes now!)

5. Classes

There are free and paid classes all over the Internet, not to mention plenty of quizzes. Google “proofreading quizzes” “proofreading practice” etc. Substitute “proofreading” for editing, grammar and punctuation. After taking my own classes, I do feel that I already knew a lot of it from these websites and quizzes.

So just get started anywhere and you’ll be surprised how fast it takes off and how much your skills are needed.  You don’t need to spend a penny if you don’t want to! Post if these work for you! Good luck!

How Much Should You Read as a Writer?

Hello all my writing buddies!

I hope you are enjoying the spring weather as summer starts to head our way. I know I am! I don’t really have any funny anecdotes like other bloggers, so I’ll just jump right into the post. After all, that’s really why you are here anyway. So!

How much should you read as a writer?

I’ve been asking myself this question over and over again. I’m sure I still don’t have a solid answer. In my research and reading of writing self-help books I have come across that you should, as a writer, be a voracious reader. Oops. If your cheeks are red, we’re in the same boat. If you are nodding proudly as you glance at your towering stack of novels in the corner of your room, I envy you. You, like me, have probably read in dozens of places that you should read, read, read and read some more if you want your writing to improve. But the question is: when do you read if you are always writing??

When writing became my calling, I used to read books by the armful. This was in Junior high mind you. Then high school came and I was overwhelmed with Debate, Newspaper, Collage courses, AP courses, Sr. Class Officer work and a host of other extra-curricular activities. Time for reading swirled down the toilet. But my passion for writing did not! Now away from school (apart from online school) I have the chance to really bring my writing around and in focus. Yet I now realize…I haven’t read “voraciously” in a long….long…*blush*…long time. Partly because I can hardly ever find a book I really like. If it doesn’t grab me and hold on, it isn’t worth my time. So now that I have the time, what is my deal? Why aren’t I reading like crazy again?

Don’t Read The Same Genre As You’re Writing

I’ll tell you what my deal (and possibly your deal too) is: I am writing! That’s right, as simple as it is. I am writing. I once read in Robert’s Rules of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know that if you read while you are working on your book, you will take on that authors style and it will effect your work. I thought, will this is the first I’m hearing about this, but guess what? It has stuck! And then I noticed…I was reading  The Relic (Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child) and I noticed the urge to write. Then a few weeks later, the book long finished, I re-read what I had written. Guess what? Sounded just like Preston and Child’s style. Ugh!

I will say this: I notice a HUGE difference in my passion, inspiration and style of writing (my own, just improved) when I read. I know my passion for writing was at it’s best when I was devouring books like a starving book cart. So, my method, I’m reading in between books as well as during. I feel if I read the book quickly, I won’t get fixated on that particular author’s style. I also plan to read genres not like my book, so I don’t have a tendency to steal ideas or events subconsciously. If you are writing a fantasy, read a romance novel. If you are writing a mystery currently, pick up a Sci-Fi book. Your writing will still improve but the books are so different, you won’t have to worry much about the similarities creeping up. Besides, an edit or 20 will always even out your style if you have a chunk of book that sounds dark (becuase you were reading The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo at the time). Anyway, I hope I shed some light on that. No, I didn’t have an easy answer. But I wanted you to know you aren’t alone if you feel this way. Just try, try, try to get that reading in. Speaking of, I’m off to read my current book- The DaVinci Code! *Please don’t hurl rocks because I’m just now reading this for the first time.*

So…what are we to do? Read while we work? Read in between work? (Which, let’s be real, once you finish book one, you know you’re supposed to be working on book two.) What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Do you disagree? What is your system?

Media Bistro Copy Editing Certificate Course -Another Update

Hey there all you writers! My goodness, I’m excited about this weather! In my blissful spring state, I was propelled to drive home from work with the windows all rolled down, something I feel the need to do when the weather is over 60. So I’m driving along and a bee gets sucked into my car and hits my face. Yeah. Little freak out. Don’t worry, no one was hurt. Except the bee maybe, in my panicky state it’s no wonder. Anyway, that was my highlight.

Okay, so I’m now on class number three in my Copy Editing Certificate program from Media Bistro. Feel free to see the previous two posts to follow from how I chose this program and my first update.

So I just finished the Grammar and Punctuation course. It was fine, but I wished I could have learned more. I don’t really feel like I’m getting my monies worth. The class lasted four weeks. Each week is one lesson. Which basically is a 3-5 page PDF “lesson” and then a 1-2 page assignment. Doesn’t feel like much of a lesson or much of a practice/assignment. I feel like they could be giving us a lot more instruction or testing our skills a lot more than they are every week. Guess one of my electives is going to have to be Advanced Grammar. Ugh. That probably wasn’t proper grammar. See how much work I need?

Today was day one of Copy Editing Intermediate. My first lesson was pretty lame. It was supposed to be on hyphens, en-dash and em-dash. We were gold a basic explanation of when to use each, which wasn’t something I was wondering about. I know that hyphens are for compound words, en-dash is for ranges and em-dash is interrupting a sentence. I was hoping to learn how to type those, which I didn’t. (update: I do now know how to do it.) I was also hoping to learn when to use em-dash vs parenthesis vs comma. You know:

My brother, who is extremely lazy, sleeps all day.
My brother (who is extremely lazy) sleeps all day.
My brother–who is extremely lazy–sleeps all day

I can’t tell you how may things I’ve had to look up online that I felt I should have learned so far from this schooling.

The assignment after, which I thought was going to be a series of sentences where you choose which to use, was a news article from a magazine or news paper that we had to edit. It had absolutely nothing to do with the lesson. Ooookaaay….

So my impression so far isn’t very good. I thought I was going to be so happy: I saved money and will learn from the media experts! But I don’t feel like I’m learning all that I should. I can’t even say I’m going to a real school. But listen to me complain! For $1,500 I don’t know what I expected. More I guess. But I don’t work for Media Bistro nore am I getting paid to endorse anyone. I’m just trying to provide an in-depth review of this program from an actual student. So if you do enroll, you may feel similar feelings. The only testimonials I read were raving about the great teachers. What teachers? How can you really praise a teacher for an online course? One chat night a week and they’re amazing? I must be missing something.

Either way, I’m still pursuing more education and experience to lift my editing business off the ground. I have just been accepted into another internship (since apparently my first one is on an “as-needed” basis). It’s at a real publishing house, editing books and poetry! So my schooling, experience and passion must have meant something!

Anyway, keep reading if you are still debating whether Media Bistro’s Copy Editing Certificate Program is for you. I’ll post again soon!

Writing Self-Help Books: My Worst Enemy

Writing self-help books. Are you as addicted to them as I am? I swear, I’ve read too many for how many completed novels I have. Which is what again? Oh yeah. A big fat 1. One. O. N. E. A lot of good all that reading has done! So my epiphany: Writing Self-Help books are my wost enemy!

I try to tell myself that I only read a billion writing help books because I’m dedicated to my novels and want them to be the best they can be. Which is true. Partly. If you’ve spent even five minute on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, browsing books about writing, you know the selection is MASSIVE! And I mean massive! Like female-hygiene-isle-in-Walmart massive! But I was so determined to improve my writing dramatically that I got a sample of just about every book in a several hour period. I quickly started plowing through them and deleting ones I didn’t like, so excited about how much my writing was going to improve. I bought a few, then rented some more from the library, then sampled a few more, then add twelve to my wish list. I have a huge notebook which I keep as my “writing improvement” book for all my notes. Which is a GREAT idea if you don’t have one already! No more flipping through dozens of books for the highlighted sections! So here I am, dedicating several hours a week to reading and taking notes, when I had an epiphany.

Yesterday, I wrote over 2k words in my novel. It is on its third draft (I know, 3rd!) and I’m still changing huge chunks of it. When I finished, (mostly because I got antsy and my wrists hurt) I looked at how much I had written. It was double what my daily goal was. Double! I realized just how much time I was wasting on reading all those books, never getting a chance to put their tips to use. Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t really a “waste” since I got some great notes. But when I’m trying to be a novelist, not an expert on writing novels, it seems to get in the way and by the end of a couple hours, I feel like I accomplished nothing. But oh boy, when I finish writing a couple thousand words and actually working on my novel, I feel so accomplished I could yell it from the rooftops! And I have!

I decided that I will improve my craft once a week. That is all. The rest of the time, I will be working on the actual craft. I will get the novel on paper. There is time to perfect when I’m in the revising stage and cleaning up the copy. I realized I will never learn all there is to know. I will never read every book on writing there is. Even if I did, that doesn’t mean it will automatically make me an amazing writer and I’ll be able to zip through my next novel like J.K. Rowling. I must write. For that is the goal. So I’m sharing this nugget of wisdom with all you fellow writers that feel you can never learn enough about the craft and find yourselves reading writing book after writing book, but your novel stays the same length. We are procrastinating. We are afraid. I know I am.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a novel that is calling! And so do you! Or at least you should! Stop putting off the writing, sharpening that character, improving that plot line and just do it. Finish the book you’re reading and then write! Learn a few tips every month so that you are always improving but don’t forget what is most important: your novel. We learn by experience. Your second book will be better than your first. And your forth book will be better than your third! That isn’t due to a ton of writing books. That is due to you actually writing and finding out what works, what your readers like, what you like, etc. Wow, I sound a bit like Tony Robbins. You’d think I’d have actually published a book with the way I talk and lecture. Nope. Not yet. Just a writer trying to share her epiphanies with other writers. Here’s to your novel! And keep an eye out for some tips coming soon from books I’ve read so you don’t have to!

If you want to know my favorite self-help writing books: click here!