Sunday, October 30, 2016

FEEDBACK: A Great New App for Writers Coming Soon!

With three successfully published novels to her credit, mystery author, Kristina Stanley and her team have developed Feedback, an app to help writers navigate their way through the rewriting process. It’s a privilege to be able to introduce her new project on this blog! So, here’s Kristina, who asks,

Do You Need Help Rewriting Your First Draft?

Whether you’re a plotter or a panster, you’ve completed a first draft. Congratulations! Now what?
If you’re anything like me, you’re asking yourself:
  • Where do I start my manuscript rewrite?
  • How do I keep track of all the writing tips I’ve read and apply them to my story?
  • What should I change to make my story better?
  • Am I ready to share my manuscript with others?
Wouldn’t it be nice to have an app that would help you through the rewriting process?

But First: What is Rewriting?

A comprehensive rewrite is the first step in the self-editing process. I’m not talking about copyediting or proofreading. You can do that after you’ve completed your rewrite.

Rewriting your first draft means analyzing your story from a high-level perspective and fixing any weak areas. You want to make sure that the story structure makes sense, the scenes are tense, there are no plot holes, and you haven’t left any subplots unfinished.

During the rewrite, you also take a hard look at your characters. How often do they appear? What are their goals? What gets in the way of their goals?  Characters will drive the tension in your story, and tension is what keeps a reader reading.

Finally, the rewrite should examine your settings. Do you make the most of your settings? How often do you use the same setting, and is it too often? Do your settings help with the tone of your scenes? Settings are key to keeping your reader engaged, so don't ignore them.

How can we help you?

We’re building Feedback, an app for writers that provides a guided approach to tackling comprehensive rewrites.

With Feedback, you can focus on plot, character, and setting. You can evaluate on a scene-by-scene basis or on overall novel structure. Feedback will show you the most important structural elements to work on first.

Feedback will guide you through the rewriting process by asking you questions specific to your manuscript, enabling you to evaluate your own story.

Once you import your manuscript, Feedback automatically captures information such as word count, number of scenes per chapter, character names, and chapter and scene breaks, using this information to create the first set of reports. Any updates to your manuscript will still need to be completed in the writing app you used to create your first draft.

Feedback helps you visualize your manuscript. Forget about yellow stickies or white boards. Feedback will draw character arcs, provide reports on scene evaluation, and show your rewriting progress.

Feedback is a learning tool. If you’re having trouble with a certain element of fiction, just click on the rewrite tip associated with that element and find out how to improve your writing. There’s no need to search through dozens of writing books to find the piece of advice you need.

On the technical side, Feedback will be a secure, web-based app. This means you will be able to access Feedback from any device you use.

Find out more:

Our goal is to launch Feedback in the spring of 2017. In order to create an app that is truly useful to writers, we'd like your input on building Feedback. By signing up to our newsletter, we’ll send you updates on the development progress and ask you the occasional question to help define the product. As a bonus, we'll send you rewriting tips available only to our subscribers.

Are you as excited about Feedback as we are? Show your support by helping us spread the word and share this post.

You can find us at

Your support means a lot to us, so thank you!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Deadly Accusations, Second Edition Ebook is Here!

Last month, I mentioned that I’m reissuing the first four books in my Casey Holland mystery series, so I’m very happy to announce that the second ebook edition of Deadly Accusations is now up and running.

For me, the process is far more than copying the manuscript into a new document. It’s about going over every word and line, catching the occasional typo, ensuring that formatting is consistent, and rewriting the blurb until I’m satisfied.

Converting the book into different platforms means that occasional technical glitches need to be fixed. For instance, I have no idea why a small section of text will decide to double-space itself in the converted ebook when the formatting looks identical in my Word doc., but at least it’s fixable.

I’ve been preparing Deadly Accusations nearly every day for five weeks, which isn’t a long time, but the hours certainly add up. Since I’ve always liked the covers, I acquired the rights to use them as well, so the ebook versions will match the print copies.

Here’s the blurb:

Transit security cop Casey Holland is back investigating acts of violence on MPT buses. Someone is constantly smashing bus windows, while racial hatred between pre-teens are erupt into all-out war on another route. But the murder of Casey’s colleague turns her world upside down.

Coworkers and friends come under suspicion. Threats directed at Casey’s young ward, Summer, and the children of a coworker, prompt Casey to take a closer look at friends she’s worked with for years. The killer’s always one step ahead, though, and the police want her to back off. What price must Casey pay to keep loved ones safe before the killer strikes again?

“The novel’s short, punchy chapters whisk the story along to a thrilling climax, while the characters’ relationships and rivalries provided a strong emotional anchor.” - Quill & Quire

And the links:

Stay tuned for book #3, Beneath the Bleak New Moon, next month, I hope!

Friday, October 21, 2016

New Publication and Award

The Southern Indiana Writers Group has just published our twentieth anthology. There should be excerpts from all the stories at the SIW website, but our lazy rotten webmaster (me) hasn't put them up yet.

The theme was XX; that could be interpreted as twenty, kisses, double-cross, platinum, cross-purposes, crossed arms, poison.... We're envelope pushers, in SIW.

Meanwhile, here's an excerpt from my story in the anthology, "Still Life With Peanut Butter."

Oh, the anthology is XX: SIW GOES PLATINUM.

Mamie is catering her own wedding reception, and is shopping for locally sourced ham.

Mamie is Intrigued

excerpt from "Still Life With Peanut Butter"
by Marian Allen

Mamie parked between the farmhouse and the locker plant just as Jackson Avery putt-putted up on a tractor. He was a big man, built like a Budweiser horse in overalls and a ratty straw hat, face creased with age and sun, fingers gnarled by work.

"Hi, there! You must be the bride." He stuck a hand out to Florence, then grinned at Mamie and said,

"And you must be the proud mamma."

Both women laughed. Mamie took his hand and said, in a tone meant to convey her gracious forgiveness for his blunder, "Everybody makes that mistake. I'm the bride. Florence is my baby sister-in-law-to-be."

"Oh! Oh, sorry," Avery said. "Ripe peaches are the best, am I right?"

They all laughed again.

Avery kept up a line of cheerful patter as he showed them around the farm. He deferred to Mamie, which would have been flattering if she hadn't felt patronized, as well. Florence was being patronized but not deferred to, but that was because Florence was young, which made the respect he showed Mamie due to Mamie's being . . . not young.
"So that's the operation," Avery said. "Let's go back to the office and talk some turkey. I mean ham."

Florence and Mamie giggled as if they didn't realize he said the same thing every time he negotiated price with a customer.

They followed him along the dirt path to the barn-shaped building that held the smokehouse, industrial freezer, Country Store and office. As she followed Florence inside, Mamie caught a glimpse of a green car pulling up and a flash of blue and red hopping out. She paused, inspecting and smelling the white clematis climbing the lattice by the office door, and watched the red and blue figure.

It was the man they'd seen at Jumbo the night before‑‑Pete, the night watchman.

What's he doing here? Moonlighting? Or is it sunlighting, if you take a second job besides night work?

He glanced her way, then closed his car door soundlessly and glided through an entrance farther along the building. If she remembered correctly from Avery's tour, it was the holding room for the deliveries from Jumbo.

Hmmmm. Sneakiness is always intriguing.


XX: SIW Goes Platinum is the latest from Per Bastet Publications, of which I'm a third of the partnership. Per Bastet just won the Sizemore Award for small press excellence and promotion of local authors. We are, naturally, exceedingly chuffed.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Thanksgiving Thoughts

I’m not writing to promote anything today, or upcoming events, or goals for the rest of this year. Today, I just have an overwhelming sense of thanks and gratitude for all the good things in my life. Ups and downs are inevitable, but Thanksgiving means stopping to take stock and focus on all the positives.

I live in an enviable part Canada where hurricanes are as unique as paralyzing snow storms, where ethnic diversity is welcome, where people can live the lives they choose. Of course, it’s not perfect. Conflict and disagreeing values are inevitable, but basically most of us get along just fine.

Today is our family Thanksgiving dinner, although it won’t be the traditional turkey I’m used to cooking. Given that we’ve torn apart our living room and dining room for renovations, dinner will be ham and side dishes and gathering into the kitchen and family room.

I’m thankful for my family and for a healthy life. I’m thankful for my passion for writing, and for the best part-time day job I’ve ever had. And I’m thankful for all of the people I’ve met this year. I’m very thankful to be able to donate to charities like the Union Gospel Mission. I was once one of those children who wasn’t sure when or what the next meal might be. I’m now grateful for those tough years. It’s made me a better person.

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Defeating Monster Fears and Relentless Self-Criticism

Let’s face it, negative self-talk can be a crippling experience for writers. I suspect that it’s an inevitable part of being human. I also suspect that the problem’s compounded when writers face internal or external pressure to write well and quickly in order to earn a living from their words. It’s a wonderful goal, but it’s often sabotaged by all kinds of thing, including ourselves.

Fear and self-criticism have been on my mind lately, as I grapple with my first foray into fantasy writing, a genre I love and read widely. I’ve outlined only up to a point and I’m now winging it, which is both exhilarating and scary.

While I work on the book every day, it’s only perhaps for forty minutes before heading out to the day job. I’m also trying to finish up other writing projects. The deeper I go with the fantasy, though, the more uncertainty I’m feeling. I’m nearly 200 pages into the story, and I’m beginning to forget what I wrote in the first 100 pages which is worrisome.

I find myself thinking that completing this novel to be publication-ready will difficult and take much longer than I thought. This isn’t helpful self-talk, but I’m working on more of a can-do, it will get done approach. The thing is, it all boils down to a fear of failure, right?

You’ll understand why I’ve been drawn to two blogs from writers who have thoughts about fear and self-criticism. The first is a short piece by ToddBrison who found freedom from fear through six words, nobody cares what you are doing. For him, this was a freeing experience that allowed him to get back to writing.

The second blog is by Maria Popova and is more of a dense essay, but an interesting one that discusses the important difference between critical thinking and critical complaint, which she also refers to merciless self-criticism. There’s plenty of food for thought in this piece.

I expect that writers will never banish self-criticism, and perhaps we shouldn’t, but the danger is in taking things to an irrational realm that destroys potential. I have no intention of letting that happen. I’d rather try and make mistakes—even big ones—then be too paralyzed by fear to try at all. As mentioned, though, paralysis lurks in my conscience these days. I can feel it waiting to strike, and that’s the monster I plan to defeat.