Now Offering: Editorial Services for Novels

Please email me at if you’re interested. I’m looking to edit large-scale manuscripts. I am able to do line-editing, overall structure, character development, etc. As a teacher of English and creative writing, I have a wide breadth of editing experience. I also am writing my own novels and work tightly with a critique group in my community. Here’s what I’m offering:

– First 10 pages critiqued for free. From there, you can decide if you’d like to use my services in the future.

– Fair, competitive prices. I’m looking at a lot of the mainstream editing websites. Several of them charge nearly $1500 for manuscripts longer than 50,000 words. I would be looking for significantly less than that.

– Deep and insightful commentary on your novel’s structure, line-by-line writing, and developmental content.

Please pass this along if you know those that would be interested!

Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

I’ve already sprinted through three solid books in 2015, and have several around the house half-read, but Golden Son?

I devoured Golden Son.

It has the kind of compelling storytelling that demands your attention until the ride is over. For those that haven’t already discovered Red Rising, you should start there. Not only is the first installment amazing, but a massive bidding war was won by Universal and I’m pretty sure the movie will turn this into even more of a cult following than it already is.

I reviewed Red Rising (Post found here: ) if you want to read about it. Anyways, on to Golden Son and why Pierce Brown did it the right way.

1. Why not make your characters do the most interesting thing every time?

That’s what it started to feel like as I made my way through Golden Son. I wondered how Brown could follow an action-packed opening in a world without some of the constructs that the first book relied upon. The first novel involves an arena much like the type we see in Hunger Games and other dystopian stories. As we’ve also seen in those dystopian books, the authors struggle to maintain our interest as they remove the rapid-paced action of their original arenas.

Pierce Brown had no issue with that. The story takes us spiraling through one action scene after another. Betrayals are compounded by new alliances, new threats, and new challenges. In some ways, Brown is served by the populace he is writing about. The Golds in this society are simply lethal. There natural proclivities toward war and their insatiable hunger for power provides him the perfect backdrop for Darrow’s maneuverings. It really seemed like Brown was following one rule: do the most interesting thing. In each scene, he has his characters ratchet up the heat of what’s happening. Raised stakes, multiplying enemies, plots within plots. It makes for a joyride of a read.

I was at the World Fantasy Convention this Fall and Christopher Golden had high praises for Pierce’s work. He said that, in some ways, the story itself wasn’t something new. We’d seen lowly man rise up from the dust before. But he claimed Pierce’s writing and style and ability to drag us through his story at 150mph is just too good to pass up. I agree.

2. Internal Monologue

I always admire a writer that succeeds in their internal monologue because I find it so difficult to create. Genuine, internal feeling is difficult to conjure from thin air because, frankly, we have enough problems figuring out how we are feeling from moment to moment. Pierce has me feeling every emotion of his main character through genuine and provocative internal monologue. I simply love the way that Darrow considers others around him. At some points, the purpose is to analyze the threat they represent to his plans. At other points, he seeks to answer questions that each and every one of us ask about what it means to be human. He’s an easy main character to follow.

3. Present Tense

I’d love to analyze, at some point, how many authors write in the present tense. I’m not sure of Pierce Brown’s reasons behind choosing to write in this style, but I really find the present tense fitting for his purposes. Every scene seems to orient around dramatic actions, fighting, and moment to moment shifting in power. The present tense that’s employed in this story launches us forward and leaves us feeling active in the scene. I might as well be sitting at the war table or clawing through the mud after Darrow.

4. Sentence Structure

Recently, I noticed Joe Abercrombie discussing the topic of sentence structure on Twitter. He was lamenting the fact that we look at long, winding sentences as the “beautiful” parts of prose. In reality, a short and crisp sentence that fits the necessary tone can be just as lovely. The example attached to his post was Cormac McCarthy and his use of short sentences to emphasize, disrupt, and draw the attention of the reader to certain emotions. I really think the same thing is accomplished in Brown’s first two works. Really love the variance and I really hate that people will likely attack his use of short sentences as “uncomplicated” or “prosaic”. He knows his stuff.

Lastly, I will conclude by saying how much I loved his acknowledgements section at the end of the book. Sometimes, you just forget how much an author has gone through to get published. I just finished my first book. I had one very respectable agent take a long look at my novel (including rewrites and a second read), but we didn’t connect. Now I’m waiting to see if anyone will take my book on. I’ve just completed a second book, and I’ll begin a whole new process with it. It’s easy to read Red Rising and Golden Son, recognize the transcendent talent of the author, and think that there are just some people who it all comes to more naturally. Seeing the road he’s taken to get where he is was super impressive. It just shows that, if you really love doing something, you should continue to fight for your right to do it.

Either way, I highly suggest you get hold of this series before every single person you know is bragging about how much they like it. Someone once told me that it was the White Person’s Mecca to find a great band before everyone else does. I think it is EVERY reader’s journey through Middle Earth to stumble upon a great work of fiction that none of their friends have heard of. For me, that’s been Red Rising and now Golden Son.

Go get it!

A Guide to Cussing in Alternative Universes

No, this isn’t a blog biography of Gene Hackman.

While our culture’s realistic books and movies are sometimes jam-packed with every cuss word under the sun, it is the fantasy worlds we so love to escape to that often give us words that flit somewhere between dangerously corny and delightfully fun to say. Being someone that doesn’t cuss very often, it is always a treat to get hold of a new word from fantasy and drop it into casual conversations. Sometimes, I’m so ingrained in the fantasy world that it comes out in daily conversation. Sometimes people stare. Sometimes.

My first experience with the alternative cuss word of a far-off galaxy came in the form of Spongebob Squarepants. The genius writers of one of Nickelodeon’s most successful cartoons did a wonderful job removing well-known cuss words without removing the “I’m clearly cursing something right now” element. When Spongebob stubs his toe or forgets to do something or is terrorized by Plankton, it is common to hear him shout, “Oh, barnacles!” What an easy, kid-friendly replacement for cursing.

Sometimes, simple changes are the most natural and hilarious. In The Fantastic Mr. Fox, writers replaced cussing with… well, cussing. In a scene between Badger and Mr. Fox, we get to see the full extent of their verbal weaponry:

Badger: In summation, I think you just got to not do it, man. That’s all.

Mr. Fox: I understand what you’re saying, and your comments are valuable, but I’m gonna ignore your advice.

Badger: The cuss you are.

Mr. Fox: The cuss am I? Are you cussing with me?

Badger: No, you cussing with me?

Mr. Fox: Don’t cussing point at me!

Badger: If you’re gonna cuss with somebody, you’re not gonna cuss with me, you little cuss!

Again, not particularly in your face and a wonderful replacement to make a movie accessible and fitting within the universe of thieving foxes and talking badgers. But what about the truly alternative worlds? That’s where the necessity for newer and differently-originated cuss words comes from. We have our world and our languages and they developed a certain way. But if I’m diving into a different universe with different people and languages and development, well, they’re not going to have some of the same words. We suspend reality for certain things, but we also are forced to get creative when imagining how someone would curse in our sub-created universe. Here are some great examples I’ve encountered in my own reading:

1. Bloodydamn- Not too far from the beaten path, but a slight adjustment to a common word bleeds originality into the cuss words of Pierce Brown’s characters in Red Rising. As he would say, you’ll bloodydamn love his book.

2. ‘Kent-kissing- The inspiration for this post! I’ve been reading Brian Staveley’s new book, The Emperor’s Blades. In it, characters toss this word around in necessary situations (Example: I need a ‘Kent-kissing break from my ‘Kent-kissing job).

3. Belgium – In A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Belgium is “completely banned in all parts of the Galaxy, except in one part, where they don’t know what it means, and in serious screenplays.” To direct this word at someone else is both unthinkable and, if we’re honest, hilarious.

4. Merlin’s beard!- Just one of many clever twists in J.K. Rowling’s world, but the ancient and well-known wizard finds himself inserted into the cursing of modern day wizards in both this and the also-popular, “Merlin’s pants!”

5. Frak-  Perhaps the most popular and well-known cuss word in fictional universes, this sanitized Battlestar Galactica TV swear word may be the nerdiest and most used of them all.

So, what are some of your favorite alternative cuss words? Or how have you seen fantasy language impacted by world and setting? Thanks for reading!

It’s Pronounced “Rank-In”

If I say my name, people can’t spell it. If I spell my name, they can’t say it.

Reintgen. R-E-I-N-T-G-E-N

My name is a collision. Either the T or the G ran a red-light, and both consonants were driving fast enough that the metal twisted around each other like hesitant tongues. The wreckage is enough to leave everyone confused. Telemarketers, friends, first dates… they all stumble out of the car in a daze. They forget what they were going to ask as they try to make sense of shattered glass and bent fenders. Their words, like so many shocked victims, come out halting and unsure: Ring-con, Raintagen, Rennigan, Rhine-gen, Ring-a-tang?

When I was in kindergarten I told Ms. Honea that I wanted to be famous. When she asked me why, I told her that I was tired of people pronouncing my name wrong. I always thought I was a little young to already be tired of things. At age 10, I considered marriage off-limits because I didn’t want to condemn someone else to my fate. At age 15, I got really into Germany and history and my heritage. At age 20, I broke up with a girl who misspelled my name in a love note. At age 25, I’m considering pen names to make the life of my readers easier. Names, I’m discovering, are a touchy subject.

So now that I’m a teacher, I take names seriously. I scan my roster, practice each name, and beg kids to correct me if I get it wrong. Sometimes, I’ll get students like Anijah or Bekweh or Mamadou… And I’ll say their name wrong. Looking at their faces is like looking in a mirror and I know that pained expression on their face is a practiced one. Sometimes they tell me its okay or that they don’t care how I say it and I put my foot down. Confuscius said that the beginning of wisdom is calling things by their right names… and even though you can measure what I know in teaspoons, I’m still trying to get a little smarter each year.

“What I Was Made For”

I still am figuring out how to write as a Christian. I don’t know that I’ll ever attempt to write direct allegory or painfully, in-your-face morality… but I want my pieces to be packed with what I believe and with who I am… The Breach might be the piece I get to do that the most. Here is an excerpt from that story:

The world vanished.

The empty, open air of the desert was replaced by the intimate cool of a cave. Ohone saw walls around him and lanterns lit ahead. He did not know why he was here, but he knew that he should walk. So he did.

At the end of the tunnel, a door. It was a circle, big and fat and round as an apple. Ohone was surprised to find that the door was open. A faint line of light sliced into the hallway. Something about that light told him he had been invited. He did not need to knock, and he did not need a key, he was simply expected to enter.

He set a tentative hand on the door and shoved. It slid open on oiled hinges. Before him was a vast cavern. He could not have said how deep or how wide or how long the room was, but it seemed full. Ohone walked past golden goblets and decorated armor and canvas paintings with intricate swirls. Not one treasure seemed the same as any other. Ohone thought the fullness had less to do with the treasure, and more to do with the reflective golden sheen they gave the room. There was a music, too, something rich and deep and on the edge of knowing.

With each step, the music grew louder and the objects grew brighter. When he had reached the center of the room, he stopped. There was a word for all of this, for this grandeur and splendor, for this brilliance and brightness. He felt that he knew the word, but he also felt like saying the word would have spoiled it somehow.

This, he realized, is what I was made for.

There was no transition back into the open plains, no shedding of golden walls, or fading of golden treasures, or softening of golden music, but a sudden and painful and forceful return to the present. Swati was there, of course, his hands warm and his smile sincere.

“What was that?” Ohone gasped.

“One day, you will understand that and so much more,” Swati said. “Do you trust me now, Ohone Beru?”



Thoughts from a GREAT Writing Group

I was trying to figure out why my writing group is so successful and why it has made such a valuable impact on my writing and life. These thoughts concluded, as well they should have, on the fact that the people that make up this group are awesome. So I wanted to note what I love about each of these people and how they add to my writing. Maybe this well help you in your search for a similar group. Maybe it will help you in how you critique and view others’ work:

1. B- This person is incredibly insightful and may have one of the most expansive understandings of popular literature and cinema that I’ve encountered. Their ability to relate our works to other pieces, whether to praise what we’ve done or to give us ideas for what we could do, is unparalleled. I also think this person has a great sense of the “bigger picture”. I find myself so honed in on scenes sometimes, and they have an uncanny ability to zoom out and provide feedback on my piece and all its interconnected parts. That’s so valuable.

2. K – This person may be one of the best line by line critics I’ve met. When I’m going back through edits, I typically pull up their critique and make almost all of the line changes that have been noted. Then I go back and use their commentary to guide my connecting changes to the other critiques I’ve received. This person is also one of the most affirming people I’ve met as a writer. They do not hesitate to say, “This will be published” or “You are ready to be a published author”. Encouragement is great.

3. E – This person probably gets excited the most about my work. I genuinely feel like I’m writing a book and a good book when they respond to some of what they’re seeing with giddy joy about what a character is doing or will do or BETTER not do. They also seem to catch everything that everyone else misses.

4. P – This person is writing in the same genre as me and often points out where I’m following too closely to certain tropes, or happily notes where I’ve broken free of them. I often find this person has a fond appreciation of my work because we’re working in similar styles with similar stories and characters. This person also manages to find awkward inconsistencies. That’s an important thing that sometimes will slip by most people.

5. R- This person has a very, very unique writing style and tends to think technically about things. I can always rely on them to pick apart paragraphs and point out when sentence structures are being repeated too often or phrases are too common, etc.

6. J – This person doesn’t seem to BS anything. Not that anyone in this group ever seems to do that… But he is pretty blunt… Which is fantastic. I know that the things he sees as confusing were genuinely confusing. I know the things he thought were awesome were genuinely awesome. He also has a knack for writing some pretty hardcore characters and can give me great advice on how to push that envelope in my writing.

Now… does it make sense that this group, reading my work week in and week out, could make me better? Does it make sense that their understanding of literature and culture and life would have a positive impact on how I write? I could flounder about on my own, or I could dive further and deeper into the writer I was meant to be. I choose the second one.

Goals for the Summer

It’s always good to have writing goals. These are a few of mine over the summer:

1. Editing and adjusting Grey Harbor. While agents are reviewing my work, a few of asked for certain edits to be attempted. I’ll be juggling some of my chapters and seeing if I can’t do just that.

2. Finish Make Bright the Arrows. This is book two in the Question and Answer series. I’ll probably work closest on this.

3. Get The Bonebreaker’s Daughter published. Just a short story, but one that I really loved to write and one that I think is a good snap shot of my ability.

4. Write at least 30,000 words in The Breach.

Those are my writing goals… With several trips planned and several weeks working at Duke Young Writer’s Camp, I’m not sure how well I can pull it off. But goals are needed to keep going, and now I have them. What are your goals?