Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Seeking Author Donations for My Anniversary Giveaway

Are you an author who would like to get some free promotion and be a part of a huge giveaway I'm hosting in March to celebrate my one-year anniversary of my first published book? I'm looking for donations to be included in three prize packages that, as of right now, will include:
  • A signed copy of Lover Awakened, by J.R. Ward
  • A signed copy of Lover At Last, by J.R. Ward
  • A signed copy of Edge of Dawn, by Lara Adrian
  • Various author merchandise, such as T-shirts, keychains, etc.
  • Books by a few of my fave authors
  • Swag from my own collection.
  • [Fill in your book or swag info here] 
[If you know of other authors conducting virtual signings right now, I would be grateful to hear about them, by the way].

I'll be posting details soon, but my goal is to have three awesome prize packages to give away, and I'd love to have book and swag donations, such as bookmarks, keychains, pins, etc., to add into the prizes. Anyone who makes a donation will receive free promotion during the course of the celebration, which will run from March 18-31, so I'll need all items in my hands by March 13. The earlier the better so I can build a picture library of each prize package.

If you're interested in participating, please email me at and put "Anniversary Prize Donation" in the subject line. Include in your email what you would like to donate, and I will reply as soon as possible.
Thank you and happy reading!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Passive vs. Active Voice - The Most Effective Tip I've Ever Read

If you're a writer, you've likely heard over and over that passive voice is detrimental. You want to write actively, not passively. But what if you don't know what passive voice is from a hole in the wall?

I read a lot of writing books so I can hone my skills. The latest book is The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier - How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing, by Bonnie Trenga.

The first lesson in the book was about detecting and correcting passive voice, and this was probably the best example of attacking passive voice I've ever seen anywhere. Let's break it down:

There are three clues you've used passive voice:
  1. You've used a form of the verb to be (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been).
  2. You've used a past participle (the past tense of a verb: washed, stolen, ripped).
  3. You've used the word by.
That last one is a dead giveaway in my opinion, and I'd never heard that the word by was a passive identifier. At any rate, let's continue with the lesson.

NOTE: the word had was not specifically called out as a dead giveaway for passive voice. Some people have tried to teach this to be the case, and preach about eliminating all occurrences of the word had from your manuscripts. I have a friend who was told to do this, and God love her, she was in fits over it. You can't eliminate the word had 100% of the time. I've tried. But as a writer who uses past tense as the present (Micah looked at Sam with love in his eyes. He welcomed her into his world, ready to be her mate and a father to her children until the end of time.), when I need to dig my characters further into the past, the only way I can do that is with the word had (Micah had welcomed Sam into his world six months ago, and now she was his forever.). To eliminate had altogether would confuse readers as to what time period I'm referring to, present or past. Sometimes had must be included. It is not automatically passive. An example of had as passive: A good time was had by everyone. Active: Everyone had a good time. See, had is in both sentences, but one is passive and one is not. The active sentence may not be the most interesting sentence, but it is active.

Back to English 101, an active sentence is one in which the subject performs the action and the object receives it:

The cat attacked the dog.

Subject: cat
Action: attacked
Object: dog

If you turn the object of this sentence into the subject, you create passive voice:

The dog was attacked by the cat.

Ouila! Instant passive voice. Do you see all our clues in that sentence? We have a form of the verb to be (was), a past participle (attacked), and the word by. In this sentence, you have taken the action away from the perpetrator and loaded it onto the recipient.

In school, I remember lessons in English class where we were taught to invert our sentences to make them more interesting. Obviously, these lessons weren't directed toward clear and concise writing, because with just this one quick lesson in Ms. Trenga's book, I learned that inverting a sentence to put the object first is a big no-no in the writing world. This is the most effective tip I've ever read about identifying and correcting passive voice.

Here's another passive sample:

The football was kicked by the punter.

How could you make that passive sentence active? Let's flip it around and attribute the action to the subject:

The punter kicked the football.

Sometimes a passive sentence will contain all three of our passive elements, but sometimes not. The only element that will always appear in a passive voice is the past participle. Let's look at a few more examples.

Passive: The radio was turned on to drown out Tom's snoring.

Here, the word by is missing, but this is still a passive sentence. Additionally, a subject is missing, which is one of the bad side effects of passive voice: it allows you to eliminate the subject. We don't know who turned the radio on here, do we? The radio sure didn't turn itself on, right? This makes the sentence unclear and vague, as well as passive, and writers should always strive for clear writing, so by eliminating passive voice, clarity will naturally follow. 

Active: Kimberly turned on the radio to drown out Tom's snoring.

Here's another example from the book, and this gets a bit trickier:

Passive: Driven to the crime scene, the psychic led police to a viable suspect.

We don't have the word by or a form of the verb to be, but this sentence is still passive. Furthermore, it is extremely vague. This sentence could confuse readers. Did the police drive the psychic to the crime scene, or did a vision lead her there? Making the sentence active clarifies this.

Active: After a dream drove the psychic to the crime scene, she helped police identify a viable suspect.

Why You Should Avoid Passive Voice
Besides the ambiguity it creates, there are three other reasons for eliminating passive voice:
  1. Passive voice allows you to omit the subject (thus contributing to the ambiguity)
  2. Passive voice forces you to use lots of weak verbs (was and were, etc.)
  3. Passive voice is wordy.
Here's a sample to illustrate all three points:
Someone who looked like the suspect was rounded up, but he was released after his alibi was checked out.
(no subject, lots of was verbs, and wordy)

Here's the same sentence, only active:
The authorities rounded up someone who looked like the suspect, but they released him after checking out his alibi.
(we have our subject, authorities; we've eliminated was, and the wordiness has been replaced by clarity and a more visual representation.)

When It's Okay to Use Passive Voice
You can't eliminate all incidents of the verb form to be. I've heard people say that they need to eliminate all occurrences of the word was, but that's impossible. Sometimes you need am, is, are, was, were, be, being, and been. The only time you should strive to eliminate it is when it is creating passive voice in conjunction with a past participle and the word by. Just because you write, What was he going to do? doesn't mean you're automatically passive because you used the word was. This could just be a character's internal dialogue.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't become obsessive about eliminated all incidents of a given word just because some text somewhere said it could contribute to passive voice. It could, but that doesn't mean it does 100% of the time.

So, when else is passive voice okay? Well, when you've made a conscious decision to use it for effect:

1. You want to focus on the object, not the subject.
The piles of snow, which had aggravated Florida residents for days, finally melted.

2. You don't care who did what, it's obvious who did it, or you don't know who did it.
The department's new policy states that only candidates with police training will be hired.

3. You intend to omit who did what.
Mistakes were made in the investigation.

In my latest book, Rebel Obsession, I included intentionally passive voice in one of the early chapters because I didn't want to reveal one of my characters, yet. I wanted to keep him in the shadows for a few pages until I was ready to announce him. This is one instance where passive voice is okay to use, because it's being used for a specific purpose.

I hope this helps all you writers out there.

Happy writing!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Release Day At Last! Rebel Obsession Is Here! #BlogTour #Giveaway

I've been a busy author for the past week, getting my latest book ready for release.

Rebel Obsession is the third novel in my All the King's Men (AKM) series, and tells the story of the ill-reputed playboy, Io, as he finds himself lured out of his Casanova ways into uncharted territory: monogamy. As you can imagine, for Io to discard his womanizing lifestyle, which he was quite content living, takes a pretty special female. Enter the king's daughter, Miriam. She's one such female, and not because of her royal connection. Io was smitten with her even before learning she was the princess. Unfortunately, her father stands in their way of being together, and when a rebel like Io goes up against the king to stake a claim to his daughter, sparks will definitely fly. But it sure makes for an entertaining story as we follow along and see how Io will overcome the adversity King Bain represents to take what's his, Miriam.

Rebel was a labor of love, the hardest book I've written to date, but the one I feel the most proud of. This story morphed numerous times through about a dozen edits, partial rewrites, and proofs, finally closing up at 114,800 words. It's the longest book of the series by a mile, and it's chock-full of action, as well as a couple of juicy sub-plots. New enemies are introduced, and a couple of other new characters come into play who will play pivotal roles in future books.

A special thank you goes out to cover model, Zach Tesar, and photographer Joem Bayawa (Joem Bayawa Photography in Chicago). Between the two of them, they gave me the perfect Io for the cover of the book, and Zach captured Io's rebellious, protective essence brilliantly. You can find Zach on Facebook here: Zach Tesar. Joem Bayawa has an impressive portfolio on Facebook, and you can see all his shots of Zach and so many more fabulous models here: Joem Bayawa Photography. Many blessings and gratitude to them for helping make the cover of Rebel Obsession a fan favorite. Make sure to swing by and tell them hello when you get the chance.

I hope you enjoy my latest installment, but be sure to follow the blog tour (schedule below) for a chance to win a free copy of the book, along with some swag, and make sure to pick up copies of the other books in the series:

Book 1: Rise of the Fallen
Currently FREE!
Barnes & Noble
All Romance ebooks

Book 2: Heart of the Warrior
Barnes & Noble
All Romance ebooks

Novella Supplement: Micah's Calling
Barnes & Noble
All Romance ebooks

Blog Tour Schedule

Jan. 2 - I Smell Sheep
Jan. 8 - United by Books
Jan. 12 - Pimpin' Reads