End of Mae Took #67 out of 198

Cover End of MaeLast spring I entered my first novel contest with Critique My Novel.

I didn’t win, but as I looked over my results I’m pretty pleased. End of Mae is my first book, and honestly I had no clue as to what I was doing. I’m excited to move on and see what else I can do. To rank where I did I am thrilled. Here’s the results – what do you think?

Mae score

I could give you a blow by blow of all the scores but that would go on forever, so I’ll just share what the judges said. They each had excellent insight and critique and I will be considering what they said as I move forward with my career. Here’s their comments:

Judge #1:

-Having the character’s name so many times becomes distracting when Mae is the only character; use pronouns more instead of her name. (Where there is another character, you can use her name more to keep them straight when needed.) Having her name every (or every other) line is too many. (There are 6 in one paragraph on pg. 11, two of them in one sentence!)

-When Miss Prym first woke Mae up for dinner, I felt that Mae overreacted. For all she knew Prym could be a nurse who was helping her. Once they begin fighting, Prym’s true nature comes out, but I didn’t think Mae should be so hateful at first, unless she senses something. She notices cold stares and unfriendly face, but


So there needs to be more that pushes her to act out so violently.

-Great job getting drop into the perceptions and POV of each character.

A chilling beginning.

Thanks for allowing me to read part of your novel.

Judge #2:

Great story; I wish I could have read more of it.

Some of your scenes stretch a bit long. When she’s almost dead, that seems to carry for a very long time.

Show what she senses from the maid who is coming in to help her. She obviously senses the evil before we see any proof of it, so let us in a bit earlier. Otherwise Mae seems to be flipping out for no reason.

Judge #3:

Your story is well-written (always room for improvement, of course) and rather intriguing. I’m curious to find out more about these characters and wonder how Mae is going to get out of this predicament (seems like she’s indebted to the devil now). I actually think it should just begin with her waking up to Prym… just an idea. Weave some of the more enticing details from what happened that brought her there (like the man saying she must live) later on. Overall I’d say you have a marvelous story in the making here.

• Setting: The setting of the opening scene is very hard to visualize. I was imagining it taking place in an alley or something, beneath a streetlight. Later it is said that it happened in the woods. Add more details to make the setting clearer and easier for readers to visualize.

• Description and detail: This story could use a lot more. Slip them in here and there. Show us what

Mae and these creatures look like. Bea’s description was pretty great, but I want to see other characters as well. Especially the thing that attacked her. What does he look like in the light? Those details should be given as soon as she really sees him for the first time.

• What exactly is she looking for in the beginning? Give more details about the rumor or whatever.

It’s awesome that she’s looking for a good story—that bit is believable—but what led her to that particular place? I feel like readers would be more intrigued if they heard just a few more details about the story she’s looking to write about.

• It’s really hard to visualize the events of the story at times as well; it forces readers to go back and read through it again. Make sure the events in the story—the actions—are written clearly and simply so that your readers never feel lost.

• It throws me off a bit how much you have body parts doing the acting, instead of the owner of the body parts doing it. Example: Red eyes stared… In some cases it’s okay—good even—but I think it’s in there a little too much and I would highly recommend changing some out for: He stared at her body with his red eyes.

• Show don’t tell. Give us little details. What about his body makes it perfect? Be precise, but not overbearing. Paint a masterpiece with words.

• Consider implementing more pronouns; it’s distracting how many times Mae’s name appears when it could be a simple “she” instead in a lot of instances.

• But also be careful when using pronouns. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who, or what, is being referred to. Read through to catch places where this occurs.

• At times it’s difficult to differentiate between what’s metaphorically happening, and what’s literally happening. (Was her heart really torn to shreds?)

• Take time—a sentence or two—to introduce each character as soon as they come in. Give us a way to identify them (unique characteristic, a name, etc.) so that we can easily keep track of them.

Judge #4:

I like the character more as time goes on, but at the beginning I don’t really feel very emotionally attached to her. I’ve only barely just met her when she’s suddenly in a very bad situation. I sort of feel like

I’ve come into the story in the middle. Your story seems to assume that the reader is already familiar with the legend of the Jersey Devil, which is probably not the case with many readers. Think about how to address that early on. And is either the master or the servant actually the Jersey Devil? Once she gets caught, that whole thing gets dropped and leaves me wondering.

Great action writing, but the pace seems a little unrealistic. The scene keeps rapidly changing. The beginning in particular moves a little too fast—I’m not really emotionally involved yet in the story when the big action starts. Also, make sure that you read over your story again to check for consistency. For example, when the creature attacks Mae, “a dark blur shot out of the box,” but then a little later “whatever held her was coming out of the box.” Wasn’t it already out of the box? When the story doesn’t quite fit together smoothly, it really distracts the reader from the storyline. There are also pretty frequent grammar and spacing issues (particularly two words that are missing the space between them) that need to be fixed.


Posted in Writing Life | Leave a comment

Leftovers Get a Second Chance


Near death experience – these leftovers came back from my culinary morgue better than ever.

One of my worst bad habits in the kitchen is leftovers. Every night I make enough of something new to feed a football team. After dinner the leftovers usually go in the fridge, still in their original pot.

In a week, when I need the pot back, the leftovers often get tossed because no one wants to eat them.

Last night I decided to look at the leftovers. I put them all out on the counter: a bit of homemade pasta sauce, some fried rice, chipolte ranch dip, a quarter of a green pepper and a tube of pizza dough I bought by mistake.

I mixed everything up in the fried rice pot and added some shredded mozzarella cheese, layered it in a small casserole and covered it with the pizza dough. A sprinkle of garlic, cheddar cheese and oregano on the crust completed the experiment.

Twenty minutes in the oven at 350 and I pulled out my “best dinner ever” according to one son. The other judged it, “Mmmmmm… really good!” in between bites.

I saved time and money and got kudos? That’s inspiration enough to me to stop ignoring my leftovers. The best part was there were no leftovers of my leftovers to deal with.

Posted in On A Personal Note, Survival Economics | Leave a comment

… Homework

First day homeworkThe first day of school began with a rainbow for us, and now I think it was an omen of the pile of rainbow colored forms both my boys brought back for me to sign. Not only do I now have a list of teachers to email so they can put me on their contact list and so on, now I have the supplemental supply lists and donation requests.

I think I have more homework then both of them combined…

Posted in On A Personal Note | Leave a comment

School’s Back In

First Day of SchoolAh, the first day of school.

Moms and dads all over the country are excitedly plotting what they will accomplish with all their new free time.

Tears are being wept by some as some little ones go for their first day of their first year and others are shedding a few sentimental tears as their older kids are heading in for the first day of their last year.

I’m one of the latter – at the close of this school year I will be saying so long to middle schools.

As both my boys were heading off this morning a brilliant double rainbow sprang to life over our house. I’m taking it as a good omen – may this school year be a good one for us all.

Posted in On A Personal Note | Leave a comment

End of an Era

SilverJinx living it up at Camp LeConte in Gaithersburg, Tennessee.

SilverJinx living it up at Camp LeConte in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Photo credit Camp LeConte

This week saw a major change in our lives. We sold our 1968 Airstream Land Yacht to a new home up in Tennessee at Camp LaConte, a beautiful place that boasts an amazing “glamping” experience.

It was hard to see her go. I finished End of Mae in that camper and she inspired a children’s book that I’m not at liberty to talk about quite yet. We wrestled with whether or not to sell her for awhile, but in the end it was the realization that we can’t give her the love she needs anymore.

On to new adventures – SilverJinx is gone but not forgotten. Now we have an excuse to go “glamping” in Gatlinburg.

Posted in On A Personal Note, Writing Life | Leave a comment

Defend the Right to Cheap eBooks

A call to arms for authors and readers of ebooks – I just read this letter from Amazon and I have to weigh in on the side of cheaper ebooks. All my ebooks are .99 or less and I don’t want to be forced to raise my prices. Ebooks allow me to get my work into the hands of more readers quickly. I can give them away without going broke. They are environmentally better with less wasted paper and need no shipping.

At the bottom of the letter their is an email address to contact Hatchette and tell them what you think. I urge all of us, reader and writer alike, to send a message defending our right to price our ebooks as low as we like. If we don’t watch out, next someone will be trying to regulate garage sale prices… now please, read, write and defend.




Kindle PrizeFrom Amazon:

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read).  A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures.  And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com

Copy us at: readers-united@amazon.com

Please consider including these points:

- We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
- Lowering e-book prices will help – not hurt – the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
- Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
- Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.

Thanks for your support.

The Amazon Books Team

P.S. You can also find this letter at www.readersunited.com

Posted in Writing Life | Leave a comment

1,440 Chances to Try Again

How You Look at ItIf everyone were rich, no one would be. If everyone were happy, there’d be no joy. If everyone were sad, it wouldn’t exist. Both sides must exist for there to be a coin.

Today wasn’t the best of days for me. An alarm malfunction caused me to wake an hour late on a day when I needed to be a half hour early and plenty polished. I felt two steps behind, fatigued and spent. Friday is when the challenges stop coming and we get a break but knowing my Saturday was crammed full made me feel trapped. I drove home, a human time bomb. My left eyelid twitched to count off the seconds before I blew up.

As soon as I walked through the door I was met with a mess, a line in the complaint department, a yowling cat that wanted to be let in and a whining dog that wanted to get out. I lost it. Badness- words, temper, the works- jumped out and everyone fled but the stubborn, yowling cat.

Angela Deer

That guy isn’t worried…

Of course I felt bad. No one wants to be the villain and we are always justified in our shortcomings… in our minds. After I calmed down it hit me how lucky I was. A crappy day now means my mundane tomorrow will be great by comparison. Tomorrow is guaranteed to shine thanks to today’s gloom.

And then I realized… I don’t have to worry about whether I have a good day or bad. Twenty-four hours is way to much to manage all at once. All I have to do is make sure I have a good next minute, and then repeat that 1,440 times. If I fail, I get a brand new chance to try again in 60 seconds.

That seems more manageable.

Posted in On A Personal Note | Leave a comment

Getting Back on Target

I have a pretty good spread for a beginner (as long as I stay close to the target)

I have a pretty good spread for a beginner (as long as I stay close to the target)

Lately I’ve taken up archery. It seems crazy to try to squeeze another thing into a schedule I am desperately trying to loosen up, but I find I need the calm.

There’s a moment before the arrow flies that requires the shooter to stop, clear the mind and relax. The string is taut with potential, the target waits ahead… but to reach it I have to exhale and whittle my focus down to only see that bulls eye.

Life is like that as well. I love my job at the newspaper and have been learning new skills and new things about myself. The last year has been a whirlwind I’ve been caught up in, just trying to keep up.

I find myself needing that moment of focus in all areas of my life outside of archery.

Posted in On A Personal Note, Writing Life | Leave a comment

Blog Share: Penny Pinscher

imageFrom Penny Pinscher:

“No… to me success is nothing like a leap of faith, at least not in my situation. Its hard to picture anything good coming out of leaping blind into an endless hole with no destination in sight. What sort of message does that send?

Metaphorically, I imagine it to be more like a staircase and I’m standing at the bottom looking up. In fact, its nearly exhausting to try and view myself at the top. That is how I could see my risky choice laid out in front of me.

As I reached this epiphany, other questions began to surface. If success is a staircase, what if one of the floor boards are loose? What if I trip and fall? What if I don’t have the strength to climb all those stairs?”

Read the rest at http://pennypinscher.blogspot.com/2014/08/staircase-to-success.html

Posted in On A Personal Note, Writing Life | Leave a comment

Save the World: Read

Read a book, save the world?

Read a book, save the world?

This interesting graphic has been causing quite a stir on Facebook lately, and I agree with the statement about the more a child reads, the better they understand human emotion.

Were it not for voracious reading as a child, I would have grown up into a dysfunctional adult incapable of joy. Instead, I read. Ingalls taught me about family, Dickens taught me compassion and thrift and Tolkein taught me about the rewards of risk.

Is it possible that the answer to a better future is simply a return to literacy? People that understand the emotions of others are less likely to commit crimes against each other. Ignorance breeds hatred, distrust and prejudice. On the flip side, intelligence promotes philanthropy and good stewardship.

Could it be that simple – read a book, save the world?

Posted in Writing Life | Leave a comment