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I Write Like Neil Gaiman (or so I’m told)

A friend sent me the link for the “I Write Like” site, which analyses a sample of your writing and compares it to that of famous writers. My friend submitted a sample of her work in progress and got Margaret Mitchell. I used Chapter 1 of Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock and I got Neil Gaiman.

I’m pretty stoked about that, since Neil Gaiman is a writer-hero of mine!

I write like
Neil Gaiman

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

To have your writing analyzed, here’s the link: I Write Like

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It’s “Read an Ebook Week”!

Ebook train

From March 2 through March 8, readers can stock up on critically acclaimed ebooks during “Read an Ebook Week.”

All the ebook formats of my award-winning Waterspell trilogy are on sale. The Kindle editions are going for just 99 cents at Amazon. Because Books 1, 2, and 3 are the beginning, middle, and end of a continuous story, you’ll want to begin at the beginning with Book 1: The Warlock. Then there’s  Book 2: The Wysard. The trilogy concludes with Book 3: The Wisewoman.

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For Nook (.epub) books, head over to Smashwords. There, Book 1: The Warlock is on sale for 99 cents. And to get Books 2 and 3 for 50% off, you can use this code at checkout: REW50. The direct links are Book 2: The Wysard and Book 3: The Wisewoman.

Happy reading! THANK YOU for reading!


“What a brilliant and unforgettable story! I devoured this book … literally consumed by the originality and depth Deborah brings to her characters. She provides a strong balance between action, adventure, fantasy, and romance and Carin’s combination of pride and vulnerability make her a fabulous character! Quite frankly, I am just astounded by the emotions this book stirred in me. It is simply extraordinary.”
Feifei Le

“This was an extremely well written fantasy story … [it] flows well with a very readable style that holds your interest throughout. The world building is solid and intriguing, the magical aspects well drawn and versatile and characterisation is energetic so that you are immediately invested in their future. The ending with its wonderful cliffhanger will ensure that you read on … All in all a marvellous addition to the fantasy genre and I would recommend it for lovers of magical mystical tales.”
Liz Wilkins

“This book made me FEEL – and strongly! I also loved that this story was so completely unpredictable. It’s one that I’d find hard to forget … it is one of those rare stories that will stick with me.”
Ali’s Books

“If you like epic fantasy that sweeps you to amazing, immersive worlds and while following intriguing characters, be sure to add this series to your to-read list.”
Once Upon a YA Book

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Awakening Your Stylistic Instinct

From my friend Ruth Cauble, I inherited a book called COMMON SENSE ABOUT WRITING, by Thomas H. Cain. Its copyright date is 1967, making it a brand-new book when Ruth won it as a prize in a writing competition. She inscribed the flyleaf: “Rec’d for first place award in the Grace Gaylord Creative Writing Contest  — June 9, 1967 — R. Sammons Cauble.”

I’m endlessly interested in matters of style, so I turned first to chapter 7, titled “Expression: Style and Sentences.” Dr. Cain, who wrote the book when he was an associate professor of English at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, defined style as “the total effect of writing.”

“It is the effect achieved,” he wrote, “by the ideas, the order, the paragraphs, the sentences, and the words all working together harmoniously.”

Cain recognized that a writer’s style is a very personal thing. No two people will write exactly alike, or even agree completely on what constitutes good style:

“The reason may be that when you try to express your ideas in the best words, sentences, and sequences of sentences, a whole army of subjective human variables comes into action: personal factors, individual gifts, range of experience, reading background, discretion, sense of decorum, feeling for rhythm, and plain taste … style springs from just such individual sources.”
Style, then, is partly subconscious: it arises from a writer’s way of thinking. But by reading widely and intensively, we can sharpen our stylistic instincts.


We’ve all heard the advice to read widely in the genre in which we wish to write: picture books, chapter books, memoir, novels, etc. According to Alan Cheuse, author of novels, short fiction, and memoir:


“You can’t write seriously without reading the greats in that peculiar way that writers read, attentive to the particularities of the language, to the technical turns and twists of scene-making and plot, soaking up numerous narrative strategies and studying various approaches to that cave in the deep woods where the human heart hibernates.”


To help you read in the writer’s “peculiar” focused way, Dr. Cain suggested this exercise:


  1. From a book you especially admire, choose a passage of about 12 or 15 sentences. Read the passage silently.
  2. Note the structure of each paragraph.
  3. Read the passage aloud, listening to the stages in the paragraph structure and especially to the rhythm of the sentences and how they vary in length and emphasis.
  4. Now copy the passage slowly by hand (don’t type), sentence by sentence, first reading each sentence aloud and noting its pattern of emphasis and rhythm.
  5. Copy the entire passage again (typing it if you wish), listening for the way the sentences work together in groups of two or three.


“By the time you reach Step 5,” Cain predicted, “you will find that you have almost memorized the rhythm and scheme of emphasis in some sentences, even though you can’t quite repeat the words. This is enough. The whole point of the exercise lies in sensing when sentences sound right. It marks the awakening of the stylistic instinct that guides most professional writers as they write.”


I did this exercise with one of my favorite books, THE GOLDEN COMPASS by Philip Pullman. In analyzing a page chosen at random from near the middle of the story, I noted unusual similes, questions presented in groups of three (employing “the power of three”), specific and colorful word choices, strongly rhythmic phrasing, and the use of the conjunction “and” to create both a driving rhythm and a smooth flow. On just that one page, I identified and studied a wide range of the techniques that contribute to Pullman’s powerful and pleasing style.


Dr. Cain suggested doing the exercise one hour a day for a week or two. This kind of intensive reading isn’t a replacement for an extensive reading background, but it can be a useful crash course in developing your stylistic instinct.


(Thank you, Ruth Ann. I love the book.)


Reprinted from the May/June 2010 issue of The SCBWIs of Texas, the newsletter of the North Central/Northeast Texas Chapter of SCBWI.


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How Much Does an Editor Cost?

From time to time I’m asked how much I’d charge to edit someone’s book.

At present, I am not editing for individuals. As a freelancer for a national nonprofit organization, I stay as busy as I want to be just editing the assignments they send me.

Perhaps it will help some writers, however, if I quote the rate chart of the Editorial Freelancers Association:

Editorial Rates

Updated: June 2012

Common editorial rates —regardless of whether a project is flat rate or hourly— tend to fall within the ranges indicated below. These should be used only as a rough guideline; rates vary considerably depending on the nature of the work, the time frame of the assignment, the degree of special expertise required, and other factors. The industry standard for a manuscript page, however, is a firm 250 words.

Type of Work Estimated Pace Range of Fees
Editing, basic copyediting 5-10 ms pgs/hr $30-40/hr
Editing, heavy copyediting 2–5 ms pgs/hr $40–50/hr
Editing, website copyediting   $40-50/hr
Editing, developmental 1–5 pgs/hr $45–55/hr
Editing, substantive or line 1–6 ms pgs/hr $40–60/hr
FACT CHECKING   $30-40/hr
INDEXING 8-20 pr pg/hr $35-65/hr
$5.50-12/pr ind pg
Layout, books 6-10 pgs/hr $45-85/hr
Layout, newsletters 1-4 pgs/hr $40-100/hr
Layout, websites   $16-20/pg
PERMISSIONS   $40-50/hr
PROOFREADING 9-13 ms pgs/hr $30-35/hr
RESEARCHING   $40-75/hr
TRANSCRIBING variable $3-5/pg
TRANSLATING 300-500 wds/hr $40-50/hr
WEB DESIGN   $50-75/hr
WRITING 1-3 ms pgs/hr  
Writing, fiction   $40-50/hr
Writing, ghostwriting   $50-60/hr
Writing, grants/proposals/sales/PR   $50-60/hr
Writing, journalism   $40-50/hr
Writing, medical   $60-70/hr
Writing, nonspecified   $40-100/hr
Writing, technical/trade   $50-60/hr
NOTE   ind = indexable page, ms = manuscript, pr = printed, pg = page, hr = hour, wd = word

© 2014 Editorial Freelancers Association | All rights reserved |

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Traditions of Celtic Mythology: How Waterspell Fits

A reader and reviewer (she’s also an editor of long experience and impeccable taste) recently paid me an enormous compliment when she advised her Facebook friends to read my books because “the Waterspell trilogy is solidly in the class of great epic fantasy (e.g., Tolkien, George R. R. Martin); definitely not namby, trite fantasy, of which there is far too much.”

Humbled to the earth by such praise, I was moved to recall a similar discussion with an early interviewer during the long years I spent researching and writing the Waterspell trilogy. Below are excerpts (the full interview is here, on my oldest website).

Q: Does WATERSPELL take its inspiration from Celtic mythology?

A: Broadly and indirectly, yes. When I started reading the early Irish legends and Celtic myths, I was looking mainly for “the telling detail”—authentic figures of speech, colorful descriptive terms, gritty background textures. But as I read, I noticed that aspects of the mythology had their counterparts in this fantasy I was writing. Or vice versa. For instance, water often has mystical qualities in the legends—Irish rivers like the Boyne were held sacred. It’s pretty obvious from the series title—WATERSPELL—that water has magical properties in my story, too. The traditions tell of quests, leading into the Otherworld and back. “Other worlds” figure prominently in WATERSPELL—the premise is that what’s harmless in one world or reality may prove deadly if it arrives, whether innocently or by skullduggery, where it doesn’t belong. Also central to my work is the heroic quest, undertaken to gain information or wisdom, to bring healing, or to find or restore lost objects.

I am by no means an expert on Irish legends. Given the huge number of books that have been produced on the subject and the very few of them that I’ve read (see “Books”), I can barely claim a nodding acquaintance. My sole aim, in working into my writings details from the legends, is to make WATERSPELL “fit” into the world of Celtic mythology the way Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings fits with traditional Scandinavian mythology. Katharine Briggs said of Tolkien’s work: “The whole was not decorated but deepened by the use of traditional folklore which gave it that sense of being rooted in the earth which is the gift of folklore to literature.” That’s what I’m after: to create a fantasy world that’s rooted deeply in an ancient tradition.

Obviously I’m thrilled to have a reader/reviewer make the connection independently. That tells me I succeeded, at least on some level, in my attempt to pay homage to those great old Irish and Scottish storytellers who are a link to the Celtic mythology that underpins much of the fantasy genre.

Thank you, Shelley! ♥

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Frugality With Adverbs and Adjectives: Doing More With Less

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs,” says Stephen King in his excellent book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

When I first tried my hand at fiction, it took me a while to understand that adverbs and adjectives are methods of telling, not showing. Oh, I’d been warned away from adverbs since high school or before. In my writing I’ve always favored strong verbs over weak-verb-plus-adverb combinations: “race” or “sprint” is stronger than “run quickly.”

But as I made the transition from nonfiction and began writing novels, I somehow got it into my head that unusual or quirky adjectives would add layers of meaning and color to my nouns. I wasted time digging through thesauri and even crossword puzzle dictionaries looking for nifty adjectives that writers before me had seldom dared to use:

rubicund, benignant, recondite, brumous …

Well, maybe not these exactly, but you get the idea. For a while I was pleased with myself for taking the time to find exactly the right adjective to describe to the nth degree precisely what I wanted the reader to know about any given noun.

Then it came time to read my fiction aloud. Thank heavens I read my drafts out loud to myself before taking them to my critique group. Scritch, scritch, scritch — my red pen stayed busy striking through all those distracting, unnecessary adjectives.

The experience taught me that nouns and verbs show, but adjectives and adverbs tell. In any sentence, it’s preferable to use a solid, precise noun and a vigorous, precise verb. Tack on the modifiers only if they’re really, truly needed.

Don’t write: “The cat, predominantly white with red and black patches, snuck up on the green and gray bird.”

Write: “The calico stalked the parakeet.”

Noah Lukeman devotes chapter 2 of The First Five Pages (Fireside, 2000) to adjectives and adverbs. Lukeman says: “Most people who come to writing for the first time think they bring their nouns and verbs to life by piling on adjectives and adverbs, that by describing a day as being ‘hot, dry, bright and dusty’ they make it more vivid. Almost always the opposite is true … Adjectives and adverbs often, ironically, weaken their subjects. It is as if the writer were saying to the reader, ‘This noun (or verb) is not strong enough to stand on its own, so I will modify it (or build it up) with a few adjectives (or adverbs).”

Overusing adjectives was a passing phase in my fiction-writing career. Now with every read-through of a manuscript, I’m ruthless about cutting the modifiers. Keeping in mind that “Less is more,” I search for any word, phrase, sentence, or paragraph that I can cut.

“In composing, as a general rule, run your pen through every other word you have written; you have no idea what vigor it will give your style.” —Sydney Smith, Lady Holland’s Memoir (1855)


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99-Cent Book Sale!

Dec AIA saleWelcome to the Awesome Indies Holiday Bonanza! If this is your first time at Awesome Indies, we are a site dedicated to finding, evaluating, and promoting only the highest-quality independent fiction available today. All of the books on this site (and in this sale) have been evaluated by industry professionals for craftsmanship and narrative strength. Many of these stories have won awards and every one is critically acclaimed. Each is a bargain at its regular price, but in celebration of the holiday season and the beginning of 2014 – all of these titles have been discounted to next to nothing.

If you’ve just purchased a new e-reader for yourself or someone you know, you might be looking for books to fill it with. After all, an empty Kindle is not much fun. But it might seem expensive to load up your new device with current bestsellers. That’s why Awesome Indies has served up some breakthrough, cutting-edge, and popular fiction at bargain prices for you and that new digital companion.

We’re also giving away Amazon gift cards so that a lucky few can purchase some of these excellent books for free. Stay tuned to Awesome Indies to learn more about the giveaway. Check out the more than 60 ebooks on sale on the Holiday Bonanza Page.

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Schedule of Holiday Bonanza Events

December 27th – Enter a quiz celebrating literary creativity. Win one of three Amazon gift cards ($25, $15, and $10) – Winners to be announced on December 30th.

December 28th – A Celebration of Series. There’s nothing that twangs a reader’s heartstrings like returning to one of their favorite worlds. The Waterspell series is among those featured.

December 29th – Find out what’s coming to the Awesome Indies in 2014. We have big plans and you can be a part of them.

December 30th – We say goodbye to the Holiday Bonanza and the incredible holiday savings. We plan on going out with a bang, though! Also be sure to come back to see if you won a gift card.

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Opening Lines: Deborah Lightfoot.

I’m reblogging “Opening Lines” from On The Plum Tree with my thanks to Niamh Clune for featuring the first lines of Waterspell Book 1. It’s an honor to be excerpted on her outstanding book blog.

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Laurie Boris: Lessons Learned from Broken Characters

Today I’m hosting Laurie Boris, author of Sliding Past Vertical and other books. You can discover more about this award-winning author at laurieboris.


Guest Post by Laurie Boris:

file5721279006391I’m a bit different from some authors. Instead of outlining and building a character from scratch, I let one fall into my head. I follow him or her around as we find the story together. So sometimes (oh, who am I kidding; it happens nearly all the time) I get to work with characters who are a little broken, a little damaged, or who don’t always make the choices I want them to.

This means I often hear the same comment from my early readers: I wanted to SLAP her!

If it’s any consolation to them, sometimes I want to slap her, too.

Yet to write a book any other way, for me, would feel wrong. It would feel like I’m forcing a character to do something contrary to his or her nature. Readers can sense this. It can make the characters’ journeys feel fake, like the author is moving them around on a chessboard to suit the needs of the plot.

When Sarah Cohen popped into my head for Sliding Past Vertical, oh boy, did I want to slap her. Probably more than any of my other heroines. She meant well. Underneath, I could sense that she meant well, and didn’t want to hurt anyone, but some of her decisions had unintended consequences because she wasn’t thinking them through. I really felt for Emerson, who still loved her after she broke up with him in college. Stop hurting my book boyfriend, I wanted to yell at her.

But I had to let her do what she was going to do. That’s one of the most important lessons I learned from her. As I write a book (and for a while afterward), the characters feel as real to me as the people I come across in the supermarket, on the train, in the gym. That’s what some readers say they love about them. Yet real people don’t always make the best choices, especially if they are in trying situations. They make the ones that feel like the best thing to do at the time. And knowing this has not only helped me feel more compassionate toward other people, it’s helped me feel more compassion for my characters and for myself.

I haven’t always made the “right” decisions in my personal life. Who has? Through writing, and especially when I’m given the gift of a character like Sarah, it helps me grow and helps me learn more about forgiveness.

In a novel, though, if a character never learns anything or changes in some way because of what she experiences, well, what’s the point of having her in the book? It’s a question writers often ask themselves while a story is in development. Sarah, as much as I wanted to sit her down and talk some sense into her, deserved to stay because she had to go through a transformation. She had a lot to learn. I had to be compassionate enough to let her do that on her own, without pushing her around or making her be someone that she wasn’t. And maybe that’s why she came into my life.


This concludes the Awesome Indies Discovery. We hope you’ve enjoyed meeting these eight authors. Thanks for stopping by!


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White Chalk: Fiction With a Social Conscience

Today I’m hosting Pavarti K. Tyler, author of White Chalk, Literary Fiction that came out earlier this year.  Pick up a copy of White Chalk and receive a free ebook! Details below.


Guest Post by Pavarti K. Tyler:


WCFinalCoverChelle isn’t a typical 13-year-old girl—she doesn’t laugh with friends, play sports, or hang out at the mall after school. Instead, she navigates a world well beyond her years.

Life in Dawson, ND, spins on as she grasps at people, pleading for someone to save her—to return her to the simple childhood of unicorns on her bedroom wall and stories on her father’s knee.

When Troy Christiansen walks into her life, Chelle is desperate to believe his arrival will be her salvation. So much so, she forgets to save herself. After experiencing a tragedy at school, her world begins to crack, causing a deeper scar in her already fragile psyche.

Follow Chelle’s twisted tale of modern adolescence, as she travels down the rabbit hole into a reality none of us wants to admit actually exists.

White Chalk is a very personal story for me.  While it’s not autobiographical and I am not Chelle, I could have been.  So could you.  So could the kid sitting on the bus next to you on your way to work tomorrow morning.  The thing is, we never know what someone’s life is like behind the walls of their mind.  It takes very little to change the trajectory of a life.  A teacher who takes a special interest in a troubled child can save them, point them in a new direction, or take advantage and shatter their understanding of love.

Rachel Thompson, Award-Winning Author of Broken Pieces:

“Tyler combines shades of ‘Lolita’ and ‘Catcher in the Rye’ in a completely new way, drawing you in with poignant characterizations. ‘White Chalk’ goes deep into teenage angst with understanding and clarity. Savor, share, and use this poignant book as a primer on the brutal effects of abuse, neglect, and self-esteem.”

Buy it now:

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Kobo ~

And as a thank you, if you pick up a copy of White Chalk, I’ll send you a free ebook of Two Moons of Sera, my Fantasy Romance. Just email me confirmation of your purchase (PavartiDevi @ gmail)

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