A teen girl movie stunt double goes to film on location and shipwrecks on Atlantis!

Out NOW from MolliePup Press!

Ebook - Amazon
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Rob from the rich to give to the poor, right?

I made 1/3 less last year than I did the year before, but I owe $100 more in taxes? 
How is that even remotely possible?
Darn tax laws.

BUT! Being a freelancer means I get to do work all year long 
without pants on, so there's that… 


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Still not dead…

Have you noticed that since Google Reader was closed down that blogs seem to be on their way out? It seems like Tumblr is the way to go these days.

I have a tumblr but I've never quite got the hang of it so I haven't used it much. Just got the email that my Tumblr turned three years old yesterday, actually. But It's been like a year since I've posted anything. If anyone's got a Tumblr for idiots guide, please pass it my way.

Instead of 'guide' just then above, I first typed 'guy' which, um, nothing to report on that end.

Nicole and Jason are moving home. They're probably on their airplane at this very moment. It's bittersweet. I liked knowing my best friend was living an amazing life in Scotland and that I always had a place to crash should I find myself across the pond. Not that that's happened in the last five years, but still.

It's brought up a lot of feelings from when I had to leave. I didn't realize there was such residual anger there. I'm mad that I didn't get to stay, that I didn't go back, that things didn't turn out differently. I mean, I can't argue with owning my own home and having the best job and getting to cuddle with MolliePup everyday, but…

And while I'm on the topic of feelings, I think I've been depressed since last summer. Back during undergrad I went through a phase where I was completely numb to everything, even cutting (which, thanks to being numb, it didn't stick, thank God) and it took a long time to come out of that one. I surrounded myself with friends and through myself into work and slowly I found myself happy again.

I can't really do that this time though. I don't have any real life friends. I mean, Nicole, but she's going to be in Ohio for awhile I suppose. Mollie and I got to see Olivia at McDonalds the other day and she said hi, but it's not like we hang out or anything. I almost considered signing up for that thing just to find friends in the area. But it being a visual site and for finding romance, I doubt I'd make any matches.

Even my online friends are hard to talk to. We're supposed to meet Tuesdays and do video chats and I keep missing them for stupid reasons. I know to be home, but I'm not. I fall asleep. I'm watching a movie and think, 'just ten minutes more and I'll join them' but then it's two movies later and they've all gone. It's just… frustrating.

I used to go tanning, just ten minutes twice a week, to help with SAD, but there isn't a salon within 25 miles. I've been sleeping a lot too. Like 15-20 hours a day some days. If I take a vitamin B complex supplement it sometimes helps, but otherwise… *snooze*

I haven't written a word since last summer. What kind of a writer hasn't written in six months? First it was the reno stuff, then it got cold and I've been cooped up in my bedroom (so I haven't even had time to enjoy the new room!) and the depression stuff and having a huge plot detail that I needed to work out. I think I've decided what it is that needed to be figured out, but I'm swamped in work at the moment too, so I've got no time to work it out. I should have both edits done in the next couple of days, but then Jr has ten days off work for his birthday and we'll be traveling and visiting family for that and Lord knows what else he'll want to do. So maybe the week after that if things aren't so busy anymore, I might get a chance to at least look over what I've done before. It's been so long, I don't even know if I'll like it anymore.

And speaking of not liking things, I've been out of love with the cover for STARS for ages. People always ask if those are my feet on the cover (no) or why the moon looks funny (it's not a moon, it's a cog) and I wanted to try to distance the book from being described as steampunk, because it's not a steampunk novel, it just has elements of being steampunk. Anyway, I did a new cover:

What do you think?

It feels good to be a little creative. I know it's kinda formulaic, but if that's what sells, maybe… eh. I've had a hankering to do more painting stuff. Thing is, I can never think up things to paint. Show me something else that's already been done and I can copy it like no other, but as for thinking up my own stuff… What are some of your favorite paintings?

I've just got a huge stack of books requested at the library and that usually helps on the stalled writing front so who knows, maybe in a month or two I'll be back at writing my own book.

I'm "working" on a futuristic retelling of Jane Austen's NORTHANGER ABBEY in space.

Perhaps after that I'll work on a sequel to STARS. My family (Grandfather Jim's side) keeps asking after one. One of these days…

That seems to be the reigning thought, "One of these days…"
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I'm not dead yet...


I know it's been ages since I've updated, but I promise I haven't keeled over.

Some things I've been up to:

1. I have not one, but TWO sets of contractors working on my house. One set is replacing the front porch, putting insulation and vinyl siding on three sides, and replacing two windows. The other is remodeling the bathroom, replacing the kitchen cupboards, fixing up the shed, making new storm doors for the cellar, building a lean-to for the lawn mower, and replacing the drywall in the storage room (doubling the size of my usable living space! Squeee!). It's a TON of work. And my house is over 100 years old so there are no right-corners and everything takes twice as long to do.

Fortunately, they come cheap so we're getting as much out of limited budget as we can. We're trading firewood to the siding guys and the second guy is more of a handyman than a company and his rates are super low. This means that when I get my work done around 6-7am like I normally do and want to go to bed, they show up and pound and saw and hammer and I have headaches and sleep in longer than normal. Getting them so cheap means that I have to go get supplies myself, and I'm the only one insured to drive my truck (cheaper insurance rates!) so I have to get up and do that whenever they holler.

This is the "new" room! All that space will be mine to play with!

2) Getting work done on your house means that you are required to spend at least an hour a day scanning pinterest and houzz and other decor sites to find nifty things and ideas. I've narrowed my paint choices down to a grey for one of the rooms and a dark navy and white theme for the second. There's a HUGE window being installed and lots of bookshelves and a window seat being planned. Its all so exciting and I just want to stare at the plans and daydream and pick which books are my fav so I can do this to the stairs:

3) My brother brought the plague home from some buddy of his at Walmart where he works stock and gave it to me. I was out cold for like a week, exactly the week when promo edits came in (like several sets of 50 pages from the Brenda Novak Diabetes Auction, etc) and I had two big edits from clients. Of course my paid edits came first and I was barely keeping up with those. I gave them all extra attention to make sure my Nyquil-addled brain wasn't missing something, which meant extra time spent on those when I was already behind. Then I had the promo edits. Then the edits from my writing group, The Constellation Society. Then my writing.  Guess which ones I had to put on the back burner? My writing and, by extension, my writing group. If I have nothing to give them, I can't fully participate, right? It's been a horrible month now of seeing them all excited about reading chapters for one another and me all sad that I'm missing out. I hope to get back to my own writing soon and start participating again.

4) This summer has been wild with new editing clients. The last few years has seen the winter months being the heaviest for work load and the summer months are lighter (when vacations are taken and things supposedly slow down) but this year has been topsy turvy. The first few months were sorta bare and now I'm having to turn even projects I really want to work on to other editing buddies because I just can't do everything. I'm totally not complaining about this, I think it's wonderful! (and please, do continue to inquire if you're interested in my freelance editing services!)

Now that I'm all better from the plague (other than a lingering cough) I'm caught up on edits but I'm still finding it difficult to work with the time demands of the contractors. You'd think hiring a few people to get stuff done for you would give you more free time, but alas. I've considered hiring an employee to do copyediting for me so I can take on more clients but I haven't found the right fit yet. One of these days... :)

5) It's the friggen summertime! That means taking Mollie out for walkies and gardening and just being outside. It's important to get outside. It's also important to eat firecracker popsicles and post the corny jokes to Twitter. That takes time, don'cha know.

A bit of an old photo, I should take new ones. But it's full of weeds now so... :P

So yeah, I'm on twitter. Molls has a twitter too, at @MollieBarks. If I don't update the blog again for awhile, know that you can find me on twitter and most of the major chat platforms like GChat, Google hangouts (I love video chats!), AIM, and Yahoo.
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STARS hit the top 20 for urban fantasy and top 30 for YA fantasy!

Wow! THE STARS FELL SIDEWAYS has hit the top 20 for urban fantasy and top 30 for YA fantasy!

Edit at noon: top 20 for both categories now! And nearly the top 1000 overall! Thanks guys, you're awesome!

Edit at 6:30p: Under the top 15 for urban fantasy and inching towards under 1000! Just 21 more spots to go! Thanks so so so much!

Edit at 9:30p: #12! SO so so so close to the top ten! And 1019 overall!

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Writing Dynamic Queries

In my edits over the past year, I've noticed that the queries are getting a little flat. Seems like most of you have the basics down, the three to four paragraphs of plot/about the book, one of bio, and a polite sign off.

We're all told that voice is so important in our MSs and the same can be true for queries as well. Great voice needs natural language, sensory details, action verbs, sentence variety, and varying sentence lengths to help bring your words to life. Queries get read so quickly and it's vital to make a great first impression in a clear way.

So how do you make your query more dynamic and really stand out?

1. Natural language - I know queries are supposed to be business letters, but that doesn't mean they need to be stuffy. Using clear, natural words helps them to feel like conversations rather than legal documents. This is especially important if you've got awkward wording like fantasy names or fancy phrases. If it causes someone to stumble and have to go back and read it again, they just might not and you'll have lost them.

2. Sensory details - Using the five senses is something I harp on about all the time in full edits and the same is true in queries as well. They really help bring the story to life in an easily accessible way. When you've only got these short paragraphs to grab someone, you gotta really hold on tight! On this same note, setting the tone by using words that lend themselves to your book can help too. If it's a horror story, try mentioning fog or mist, eerie sounds--creaks, moans--and dark colors. If it's a contemporary love story maybe you'll mention hands, red or heart-shaped things, flushed cheeks, comforting things like blankets, bright colors, and kissing.

3. Action verbs - It's easy to use the cliche phrases like, Mary must discover what made her lamb bleat before it's too late but it would be more active to say something like, Mary missed the bleat of her lamb the most and she'd do just about anything to hear it again--and she just might have to.

4. Sentence variety -  While this can include varying sentence length, it also means adding in a bit of the character voice too. Say you've got a character set in 1993 that is being bothered by a boy she might not be all that attracted to. You'd probably say something like, and Derek just won't stop mentally undressing her and licking his lips all suggestively. As if! That little As if! bit is the voice. In two short words you've let the query reader know that the lewd attention is totally unwanted and that your character has opinions on the matter too.

If you'd like a sample of what I mean by adding all this stuff into a query, check out mine below. It's for my current WIP. :)

Dear [Agent name],

At the age of seventeen, all the kids in the galaxy travel across aethics of space to compete for work placement. For Coral, this means leaving the orderly and protected Wiltshire hub and traveling to the apprenticeship battleground: Bath sky hub. Her competition and roommate is feisty Siren, who has designs on Coral's older brother Kelp. Worse, Coral becomes the unwanted recipient of affection from Siren’s repellant brother Reef. Just knowing he’s in the same skyhub activates her introvert tendencies and makes her itchy.

Coral begins to read fiction books--an unpopular pastime back home--and her imagination releases like an anti-gravity chamber. When The Great Ship Northanger docks nearby, unsettling rumors spread about it and her intense Commander Barnacle. What's even more frightening are Coral's new feelings for Barnacle's son Tidal. Her lips go numb even just thinking about kissing him.

Coral wins a coveted place on Northanger but to her horror discovers that something as black as dark matter is going on in the bowels of the ship. Only Coral can figure out what's haunting Northanger and scaring her crew--and what's keeping Tidal's sister Shore so close to home when there's a great wide universe waiting to be explored just outside the ship’s thick hull.

THE GREAT SHIP NORTHANGER is my futuristic retelling of Jane Austen's NORTHANGER ABBEY in space. It is complete at 70,000 words.

In 2008, I completed an MA in Creative Writing from Newcastle University in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. I have been a freelance book editor for four years with clients publishing at Sourcebooks Fire and HarperCollins, among others. I am also on staff at [redacted] Agency for rights reversions. I live in the boonies of Michigan with my dog Mollie.

Per your guidelines, please find the first [#] pages following. Thank you for your consideration.

Cassandra Marshall


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When To Give Up On A Book

Several people have emailed me lately asking when they should give up on their books. One even asked if there was a certain number of drafts or rejection letters that you had to hit in order to give up.

The honest answer? You don't have to ever give up.

Seriously. You could spend the rest of your life revising and rewriting the same idea, querying every new agent out there, requerying the ones who expressed interest in previous incarnations, etc. You don't ever have to stop writing that one book that's in your heart.

But if you're a writer, there are going to be more shiny ideas. Sometimes they'll rise up from the ashes of another book like finding sea glass on the beach. Sometimes you'll be able to scrap the idea you have and go with this new idea, using bits and pieces of the old stuff to build the bones of the new.

Sometimes all you need is a break. Drawer the book for a few months, a year, however long it takes for you to work on another project. Maybe you'll go on to land an agent and a book deal for that new project. Maybe your publisher will even take that old book as the option in a two-book deal.

Sometimes books just aren't saleable. Sometimes they are too different, or too similar to other things out there and publishers just can't take the chance on you. You have the option of waiting a few years to see if the trends come back around again, or self-publishing it. If you've got great CP's and a small budget for editing, you can put your own book out for very little cost. Use Kickstarter to find that niche of readers willing to back you. Prove those non-risk-takers wrong.

The point is, it's up to you when you want to stop working on a book. I can't tell you that twelve revisions means it's time to give up. Getting that 100th rejection letter isn't a death sentence.

If Howard Schultz gave up after being turned down by banks 242 times, there would be no Starbucks.

If Walt Disney had quit after his theme park concept was shot down 302 times, there would be no Disneyland.

If JK Rowling stopped after being turned down by multiple publishers for YEARS, there would be no Harry Potter.

Edison allegedly said, "I have not failed 1,000 times. I have successfully discovered 1,000 ways to NOT make a light bulb." And eventually he figured it out.

And it's great to remember that even if you quit one book, it's not a forever sentence. Years from now you are more than welcome to pick it up again and it will open it's arms for you like you never went away.
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New Client Book: THE GRAVE WINNER by Lindsey R. Loucks!

I'm so thrilled to be part of the cover reveal for Lindsey's new book, THE GRAVE WINNER, not just because this is a fab book (and I'm not just biased) but because Lindsey was an editing client of mine and I'm soooo happy when writers write to me and share their successes!

Huge HUGE congratulations to Lindsey!!!

And now, THE COVER!

Click to embiggen, the details are fab!

Author – Lindsey R. Loucks
Publisher - Crescent Moon Press
Release Date - May 15, 2013

Leigh Baxton is terrified her mom will come back from the dead -- just like the prom queen did.

While the town goes beehive over the news, Leigh bikes to the local cemetery and buries some of her mom’s things in her grave to keep her there. When the hot and mysterious caretaker warns her not to give gifts to the dead, Leigh cranks up her punk music and keeps digging.

She should have listened.

Two dead sorceresses evicted the prom queen from her grave to bury someone who offered certain gifts. Bury them alive, that is, then resurrect them to create a trio of undead powerful enough to free the darkest sorceress ever from her prison inside the earth.

With help from the caretaker and the dead prom queen, Leigh must find out what’s so special about the gifts she gave, and why the sorceresses are stalking her and her little sister. If she doesn’t, she’ll either lose another loved one or have to give the ultimate gift to the dead – herself.

Lindsey R. Loucks works as a school librarian in rural Kansas. When she's not discussing books with anyone who will listen, she's dreaming up her own stories. Eventually her brain gives out, and she'll play hide and seek with her cat, put herself in a chocolate induced coma, or watch scary movies alone in the dark to reenergize.

She's been with her significant other for almost two decades.

Add The Grave Winner to Goodreads.
Check out Lindsey’s website.
Follow Lindsey on Facebook.
Follow Lindsey on Twitter.