Sex Toy Story (Advent Calendar, Day 15)

Kate Richards wrote to me a while ago, asking what she could contribute to the Advent Calendar. I thought for a bit and suggested, “How about a gift certificate for sex toys?”

I think she picked herself off the floor a few hours later.

Today, we’ll be doing something a bit different. Kate has set up a story scenario, and at my request has deliberately chosen non-gender-specific names. You can write F/F, M/M, M/F, F/M…whatever your heart desires! You can write your own story response, or you can add to a response someone else has already begun.

Please try to keep references to sex and sexual acts…ahem…discreet, shall we say? 😉

(Disclaimer: Neither Kate nor Governing Ana has received any compensation, financial or otherwise, for mentioning Adam and Eve in this post or offering the gift certificate as a prize. Adam and Eve won’t know if you look at other sex toy online stores…because we know how awful it is to make you look at sex toys. :P)

I often wonder how it would be to win a really nifty prize…like the Advent Calendar’s 50 dollar Adam and Eve gift card. And as I always do when I try to figure out how something would work, I wrote a story about it.

When Lee and Sam met, it was all fireworks and rock-the-earth passion. But time passes, routines build and even the most passionate lovers can drift into a familiarity that drives the excitement out of life. Yes, even Lee and Sam…once envied by their friends as the Couple of the Decade. One evening, after Lee put away the leftover meatloaf and tater tots, waiting for Sam to finish watching yet another reality TV show, an event happened to change everything. Lee clicked the computer mouse to play Candy Crush Saga and…well, here’s what happened:

Lee and Sam…and the Magnificent Prize!

Lee, leaping up and down in glee: Honey, I won a fifty dollar gift card from the fabulous Advent Calendar event held by the even more fabulous Anastasia Vitsky.

Sam: You’re blocking the screen.

Lee, scooting to the side: Sorry, but this is a life-changer.

Sam, in a disgruntled voice: Who really thinks these things are real? And look at the outfit on that one…do you think they make them dress that way? What a bunch of idiots.

Lee, crestfallen: But I won! Don’t you want to help me pick out my prize?

Sam, distracted: This is my favorite show. I need to see what happens.

Lee: Okay…but if you don’t participate, there’s no telling what I might buy….

Sam: That’s nice, bring me some ice cream if you’re having some, okay?

Lee: Do I look like I’m having ice cream? I’m going shopping.

Sam: Make it chocolate, thanks. Hey, don’t let him talk to you that way. Who puts these shows on TV anyway? Do they think we’re dumb enough to just sit here and….

Ut oh, dear readers, I got stuck. I need your help! Well, Lee and Sam do.

Clearly, our loving couple has fallen into dire straits. Can even a 50 dollar Adam and Eve gift card save this relationship? Return them to the couple who made love on the hood of their car on Mulholland Drive, overlooking the lights of Los Angeles and didn’t even notice the police arrive…on the night they met? Who went to Tahiti for the weekend on the spur of the moment? Who didn’t come out of their hotel room the entire time and never did see the beach there? Who brought one another little gifts, stuck love notes in brown bag lunches (because after Tahiti they were broke for a long time, ever price last minute trips to Tahiti?)?

It’s up to you to save them! Finish the story, what does Lee do to save the day? There is a prize in it for the best scenario. So use your imagination…and the Adam and Eve online catalogue… to show how winning such a fabulous prize can change everything.

Look for the much-anticipated sequel for Ana’s Advent Calendar 2014! “Sex Toy Story 2: Now With Improved Buzz Lightyear!”

What is domestic discipline (DD)? (Advent Calendar, Day 13)

Today, I am joining forces with Spanking Romance Reviews to present my part of the roundtable discussion. Each month, anyone can sign up to present his or her views on a topic related to spanking. Next month, on January 17, I’ll host a roundtable discussion on fantasy versus reality. This month, the discussion topic is one many people here know, practice, or have begun practicing. We even have a brand-new DD-er amongst our Advent Calendar players, don’t we? 🙂

What domestic discipline?

A committed relationship in which one person guides, supports, and gives correction to another.


That’s it, folks. It’s really that simple.

You may find other descriptions elsewhere that emphasize corporal punishment, sexual intimacy, or gender roles (“A husband spanks his wife”), but these are all extraneous. Domestic discipline is a connection between two people. That connection means one person takes responsibility for guiding, supporting and correcting. The other person takes responsibility for submitting, learning, and growing.

“Mentorship” with extra motivation

“Spanky life coach”

“Old-fashioned relationship in which one person takes charge and protects the other”

All of these descriptions can be true.

Do two people have to be married for the relationship to count as domestic discipline?


Does DD involve sexual intimacy?

It can, but it doesn’t have to.

Can DD only be practiced by a husband and wife, or a man and a woman?

Absolutely not. In fact, all of my books except Editorial Board contain DD (yes, even Becoming Clissine) and all but one feature F/F relationships. DD is a connection between two people, not two sets of genitals.

Do the two people have to live in the same home?


Does DD involve spanking?

Probably. Most likely, in fact. Does every interaction involve spanking? Not necessarily. Discipline within “domestic discipline” may include non-spanking actions such as setting limits or giving guidance.

How is DD different from BDSM?

Sue Lyndon posted this great article on the differences between BDSM and spanking/DD fiction, so I won’t try to repeat what she has said so well. But I will say that BDSM more often (but not always) happens with multiple partners, is negotiated carefully within boundaries of consent, and often (but not always) includes spanking, flogging, or other similar acts for the inherent pleasure of doing so, rather than correction. DD is more likely to be monogamous, intertwined with daily life, and focused on building a long-term relationship that will extend outside of the context of DD.

What does DD look like in practice?

Look around you, read blogs, talk to others who practice DD, and read some stories. Discipline and Desire as well as Bethany’s Woodshed are great sources of a variety of spanking stories. Much of what you read will be unrealistic, but not all.

But in ordinary life, DD also looks very ordinary. It may be a “clearing of the slate,” a spanking to deal with issues such as neglecting self care, needing help working through an emotionally difficult time, disrespecting mutual agreements, or violating boundaries.

Isn’t that childish?

Possibly. Some couples include sexual intimacy in the mix, but sex does not prove something is not childish. (Think ageplay, for example.)

What DD gives is a clear road map for how to handle conflict, how to address and prevent potential conflicts, and how to establish clear communication. One of my favorite books about DD is Kate Richard’s The Switch. She describes a couple who want to save their troubled marriage and turn to DD. Of course, they go overboard before learning how to deal with their situation realistically. The spankings and contracts drawn up may seem childish on the surface, but good communication is never childish.

Let me repeat that. Good communication is never childish.


Why would someone want to be in a DD relationship?

There are as many reasons as couples. Kat, the heroine (fictional, Michael!) of my Kat and Natalie series, grew up shy and lonely and young for her age. Spring, another heroine (a bratty writer), is a loose cannon and unable to control herself. She makes herself miserable in the process. Leila submits to her partner and best friend because they balance each other.

Why would I want to be in a DD relationship?

Because I want help becoming a better person.

That sounds neat, but painful! Why would anyone want to be spanked?

Ahem. You do realize this blog is about spanking, right? I understand if the recent post about Fred Rogers confused you. 😀

But in all seriousness, here is a beginner guide on how to try spanking that won’t hurt as much. You can adjust spanking in ways that will fit for you. If your partner is sensitive and easily hurt, sometimes a verbal reminder is all that’s necessary to correct behavior. If he or she is stubborn or refuses to listen, conversely you may need to both step away from the dynamic to figure out why it’s not working. Spanking is not a cure-all; nor is DD. Some couples come to DD after serious relationship difficulties. DD is a tool to improve communication, but only a tool. How well it works or doesn’t work depends on how hard you work.

That all sounds far too serious? Why can’t DD be fun?

Ask Susie of Her Mischief Managed whether DD can be fun. She has a story about Saturday sockings… 😉

Fun spankings, playful interactions, and humor can all be part of a DD relationship.

And just to show you that DD and fun can be synonymous, here’s a word from Maren Smith:

The irrepressible Maren Smith brings us these twelve tried-and-true ways to earn yourself a spanking. Word on the street is that Maren hasn’t been able to sit down for the past five years, so she would certainly know!

12 Fool-Proof Sayings to Get You Spanked (I know because…well, they worked for me. And remember, often the difference between getting spanked and getting divorced comes down to two little things: delivery and a smile.)

1.)   “Yeah, I saw the Christmas budget, but then I thought, ‘Budget? We don’t need no stinkin’ budget.’”

2.)   Who put you in charge, and was it because they ran all out of monkeys?

3.)   Yeah, I heard you. I didn’t say anything because I thought it’d be more fun to ignore you.

4.)   I’m getting kinda hungry too. Tell you what, man slave, here’s a map to the fridge. How about you go fix us something?

5.)   Man slave doesn’t work for you, I see. Would you prefer “house bitch”?

6.)   I know we’re supposed to consult one another before making big purchases, but…wanna see my new back tattoo?

7.)   Lying is a skill like any other. If you want to maintain a level of excellence, you must practice constantly. (This is a Star Trek quote—Deep Space Nine, Garek, I am such a nerd. Unfortunately, my non-Trekkie hubby took it as a personal failing on my part, and one which required immediate correcting.)

8.)   I don’t have to if I don’t want to.

9.)   You’re not the boss of me!

10.)         (Called his work) Hi, can you put Grumpy on the phone for me please?

11.)         What would you do if I just said…oh, I don’t know…no?

12.)         You call this a spanking? Pfft! Wake me up when you wanna get serious about it.

If you are an Advent Calendar player and have signed up here (Yes, you can still sign up now! It’s not too late!), please choose one or more of the following options:

  1. When did you first hear about DD? How would you define it?
  2. Have you read stories about or tried it in real life? If yes, how and was it successful? If no, why not?
  3. If you practice other types of spanking besides DD, how are they similar or different?

Ana’s Advent Calendar 2013


Visit the main page of this blog to read today’s post and comment to earn your daily prize entry!

Ana’s Advent Calendar 2013


Do you remember, if you were lucky, having an advent calendar as a child?  The traditional kind had small, perforated paper windows to open for each day of December.  Each day’s window revealed a small surprise.  Usually it was a piece of chocolate or candy.  I never had one, but I envied the children who did.  Guess what?  We’re going to have an Advent Calendar, but we’re going to do it my way!

How will the advent calendar work, Ana style?  There will be rules.  Of course there will be rules.

  • Sign up!  (Bonus point if you sign up before December 1st!) Be sure to leave your email address (so I can contact you if you are a winner) and book preferences (S for spanking, K for kinky or edge, and V for vanilla)!  This will ensure that I track your comments to give you credit for each day that you play.  If you have any trouble leaving a comment, please let me know immediately by email.  If you do not sign up, you will not get credit for your entries!
  • Play daily.  Leave a comment responding to a post or answering a daily Advent Calendar question.  Only one comment per post will count as an entry, but you are welcome and encouraged to leave additional comments as part of the conversation.
  • Check for the winner list on Christmas Day!  Those who participate the most will win!

Yup, that’s it!  Oh, you want more rules?  Well, if you insist.  😉

  • Surprise Checks!  Prizes will be awarded during random “surprise checks” throughout the month.  It may be the first person to post on a certain day, a randomly selected commenter on a randomly selected day, the first person to mention a secret word, or anything else.  Surprise!
  • Perfect Attendance award!  Everyone who comments every day (by midnight EST on the day of each post) of the month will win a small surprise.
  • Free book days!  A few authors will be offering one or more books free on select days in December.  Check for details on the blog throughout the month.

Grand Prizes

  • Kindle Fire or Nook HD (winner’s choice), donated by Blushing Books
  • 2014 VIP discount to Loose Id, donated by the same
  • Beginning Domestic Discipline Boot Camp package (instruction book and workbook) and 6-month couple membership to the Learning Domestic Discipline online forum, donated by Learning Domestic Discipline
  • 6-month subscription to Discipline and Desire, donated by the same
  • Paddle from Blondie’s Place
  • Wooden spoon and spatula set, donated by Katie
  • Knitted jingle bell slippers, donated by Celeste Jones (US only)
  • Polka-dot “St. Knickerless” panties, donated by Ami Starsong
  • Content edit of a manuscript up to 25K, by Lina Sacher


Book Prizes

A Little Training and A Little Trouble by Abbie Adams

Becoming a Lady and Marked by the Alpha by Adaline Raine

Spanking Detective, Killer Heels, and Spank Camp by Alice Dark

Ruby Rose (two copies) by Alta Hensley

Fever Dream by Annabel Joseph

Becoming Clissine, Simple Gifts, Desire in Any Language, Editorial Board, The Vengeance of Mrs. Claus, and The Way Home by Anastasia Vitsky

Still, Guarding Hope, and Ivan’s Captive Submission by Ann Mayburn

The Solicitation by Bella Bryce

Destiny’s Chance by Cara Bristol

Lady Katherine’s Comeuppance and Lady Katherine’s Conundrum by Celeste Jones

Toy Run by Charley Descoteaux

Sorority Girl Pledge Time by Cheryl Dragon

The Grass is Greener and The Man of the House by Constance Masters

The Christmas Fraternity by Courage Knight

L’Amore Perfetto and Budde Bear Quilt Top Pattern by Cynthia Kimball

Wraith’s Heart (US & Canada only) and Nowhere for Christmas by Donna Steele

Claiming One and Tell Me (How to Write) A Story: Good, Basic Advice for Novices Ready to Write by E.J. Runyon

Explorations: The First Notebook of Emily Orn Wilkes, Secret Countess of Wessulk (three copies) by Emily Tilton

Correspondence Hall of Shame by Erica Scott

Valkyrie Chronicles: Return of the Asgard, Karaoke Queen (Music of the Soul), and Fracture: Divergence by Erik Schubach

Time of Grace by Gabriella West

South Sea Siren (two copies) by Heather Geoffries

Santa Spanks! and Santa Spanks! 2 by Holla Dean

Bella Rosa by Jade Cary

Taught to Serve, Trust Me to Know you, Trust Me to Own You, and Trust Me to Keep You by Jaye Peaches

Alien Adoration and Alien Lover by Jessica E. Subject

Elizabeth’s Destiny, Lessons of Love, and Dark Obsessions (US) and one Kindle book of winner’s choice by Jolynn Raymond

Magic of the Loch by Karen Michelle Nutt

Spanking Ms. Whitman by Kate Richards

Acting Lessons by Kathryn R. Blake

The Gate, Sharp Bite of Pleasure, and Christmas with the Countess’s Bride by KT Grant

The Story of M: A Seduction, The Story of L: An Odyssey, and The Story of L:

Enlightenment by LA Cloutier

Little and Loved and Michael and Jenna’s Christian Domestic Discipline Marriage by Leena Darling  

Lonesome Oak Ranch and Living the Dream by Leigh Smith

The Texas Rancher and the English Rose, My Texas Cowboy, and The Cattle Rustler’s Bride by Lucy Appleby

Demon Soul by Linda Hamonou

Coming, Ready or Not! Three Tales of Tease and Denial (two copies) and The Journal (two copies) by Liv Honeywell

No Flag (two copies) and Mine (two copies) by Liz Borino

All-Girls Academy and A Date with The Death by Louisa Bacio

A French Affair by Lucy Felthouse

Everything Christmas by Maddie Taylor

Forbidden Deception by Mahalia Levey

Aspen Meadows (two copies) by Mila Kerr

Mr. Short, Dark & Funny, and Three Strikes..You’re in Love by Nancy Levine

Aching To Submit, Taken By The Beast, and Captive’s Desire by Natasha Knight

The Prince’s Lash by Nattie Jones

Dreaming in Blue and Her Moonlight Lover by Olivia Starke

Hold My Hand and Touch My Heart by Paloma Beck
Correcting Kathy and The Winner: Romantek Book One by Patricia Green

Christmas Joy, The Naughty List (5-book set), and Tyler’s Resolution by Patty Devlin

The Spirit of Giving by Penelope Hasler

Song and Sword by PT Wyant

In His Command by Rie Warren

The Ladies of Heatherton Hall and The Countess and the Magician (two-story combination) by Rollin Hand

Tie Me Free by Sandra Bunino

Desperate Housewives of Olympus (two copies of Audible recording) by Saranna DeWylde

Desire and Deception by Sharon Buchbinder

Bound for Disappointment (two copies) by Sheri Savill

A Hell Hound’s Fire and The Beltane Witch (two-book set) by Siobhan Muir

Taking Chances by SJ Maylee

One book of winner’s choice (two winners) by Starla Kaye

Hanna’s Awakening (five copies) and Christmas With the Professor (five copies) by Sue Lyndon

Master-bation, At Sir’s Command (The Torn Series: Book 1) by Suzy Ayers

Mastering Maeve and My Naughty Little Secret (four copies total, reader’s choice, plus one paperback to US or Europe) by Tara Finnegan

Twice as Nice: Anya’s Tale and Erotic Shorts, Volume III by Thianna D

Betrothed to Mr. Darcy by Violet Bedford 

Taking Control and Catching Death by Virginia Nelson

Immoral: Tales of a Vampire Hunter and Amaranthine Rain by Zander Vyne

Surprise Day Sponsors

Dinah McLeod

Leigh Ellwood

Kathryn R. Blake

Maren Smith

Renee Rose

Tara Finnegan

Zee Monodee

Advent 2013

Artwork by Minelle Labraun

Graphic design by Katie


What are you waiting for? Sign up by clicking here!

Visit the main page of this blog to read today’s post and comment to earn your daily prize entry!

Don’t stop: #Satspanks, #SnipSun, #Wewriwa, and #SeductivSnS

This weekend marks the release of Love’s Reprise, an anthology featuring the talents of Lucy Felthouse, Cassandre Dayne, Kate Richards, Olivia Starke, and yours truly. “Complicated Gifts” brings us a follow-up story to Simple Gifts, the story of an injured violinist and her orchestra teacher friend. Passionate and temperamental, Leila gets herself into trouble more often than not. But when their friendship becomes something more than romance, sweet-tempered Carene struggles with her awakening sexuality. What follows is my first-ever sex scene, in which Carene finds out she’s not always in control.


Sneak peek 1

Sneak peek 2


“You like spanking me,” Leila cooed, but Carene was as warm and soft as molasses taffy left in the sun. She couldn’t make her jaws move. “Do you know how long I’ve wanted to do this?” She cupped Carene’s bottom, leaning down to kiss each part of her body. But was it Carene’s body, or was it Leila’s? Carene had lost track of who she was. She was lost in a sea of nothingness, but at the same time she felt cocooned inside Leila’s guidance. She heard a soft rumble before realizing it came from her own throat.

“Don’t…stop,” she whispered.


Love failed the first time. Will a second chance be enough?


Love gets a reprise in these short stories by best-selling authors Cassandre Dayne, Lucy Felthouse, Kate Richards, Olivia Starke, and Anastasia Vitsky. All about women’s relationships with women, the romance and erotica are deep and abiding with musical interludes flowing throughout. Sprinkled with spanking, a little BDSM, eroticism, and true friendship, these stories tell of women who find love thanks to a second chance.
Anastasia Vitsky brings us a story about Leila and her lover Carene. Leila struggles to recover her career as a classical violinist, and Carene fights for the courage to ask Leila to stay. Music plays a part in Cassandre Dayne’s, “Broken Dreams,” a story about the lead singer of a rock band who finds love with her former friend, veterinarian Samantha Mason. Their deep, dark cravings are finally revealed. In Lucy Felthouse’s story, ex-best friends Eden and Janine are forced to re-evaluate their estrangement when their siblings marry. Kate Richards tells the story of pediatric Nurse Kim’s struggle to rejoin the living after the tragic death of her wife. Can Doctor Nora Riley help her learn love can come again? The only problem is that she doesn’t know if she can take a chance on love again. In Olivia Starke’s story, Broken Promises, a witch named Bet gets a second chance for love 70 years after losing her life. If she and her new lover Tabby can survive The Witch’s Curse.

Find the passion, the intimacy, and the desire among women in this anthology written entirely by women. Love’s Reprise will melt your heart on even the coolest days.

Watch the video trailer! (Warning: very naughty!)

Read the first installment in the Carene and Leila romance, Simple Gifts!


Music.  Without the love of her life, how can Leila learn to live again?


Professional violinist Leila Feran is accustomed to fame as the youngest and first female concertmaster of the Philharmonic Symphony.  Driven to achieve ever-increasing heights, she injures her wrist so badly that she may no longer be able to play.  While she recovers, she moves in with her childhood best friend, a pianist and beloved orchestra teacher in a small town.

Carene welcomes Leila with open arms and only one condition: no divas allowed.  And if Leila can’t follow the house rules, she might find herself over Carene’s knee…or worse. In between arguments over physical therapy and house rules, Carene’s zero-tolerance policy regarding divas results in some old-fashioned discipline that changes into something more.


Will Leila and Carene’s new feelings for each other blossom into something wonderful? Or will Leila lose not just a potential soul mate, but also her friend?

Monday Morning Fika with Kate Richards and Maria Coltman: An Aspiring Writer’s First Step

Buckle up, folks, for a long but worthy Fika conversation today! Last week, Kate Richards of Wizards in Publishing chatted with us about her pre-publication services for writers at all stages of their career. This week, aspiring author Maria Coltman tells us about her experience receiving a partial edit and pre-publication consultation, donated by Kate. Following her post is a list of ten questions that Maria asked Kate as part of their month-long work together.

Before we get started, there are two exciting items:

First, Katherine Deane is the lucky winner of last week’s random drawing for a complimentary edit of up to 25K. Thank you, Wizards in Publishing! Best of luck, Katherine!

Second, Kate Richards is offering another prize today, an ARC of her soon-tobe-published book, Dungeon Time! Leave a question for Kate or Maria in the comments to be eligible.


Be sure to come back tomorrow for a Tuesdays with Ana discussion on using shifts in POV in fiction writing. New and aspiring authors, come with your questions! Established authors, come with your opinions and expertise.

I’ve written stories for pretty much most of my life.  The first story of any significant length I remember writing was when I was about nine years old.  All I can recollect of the story itself is that it had horses in it somewhere, and that it had a happy ending.  It took our teacher nearly the whole afternoon to read it out to the class, but sadly, such was my lack of confidence in my writing ability, I didn’t even bother to tell my parents, and can remember consigning it to the wastepaper bin as soon as possible.

This act didn’t prevent me from writing further stories.  I continued throughout my scholastic career encompassing a wide range of topics.  The earlier years were focused mainly on ponies, and then on to horses as I grew – primarily about my adventures with the aforesaid animals.

And then when I was thirteen, I discovered science fiction.  I read John Wyndham’s book The Chrysalids, and I was lost forever in another world.  One that I could see so clearly I could almost taste it – but one that was forever beyond my reach.

I devoured everything our small local library had to offer, and then saved my pocket money and bought virtually everything ever written by authors such as Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein and Bradbury.  I quickly discovered what I liked and what I didn’t – but many of those books published by famous names such as Corgi and Penguin, are still on my bookshelves today.

The thing that stood out for me, was the lack of female writers of Sci Fi.  The majority of books seemed to be written by men.  In fact, in those days, you were lucky to find anything of any merit written by a woman.  Until Anne McCaffrey came along.  I was so excited.  Here was a woman who wrote not only Sci Fi, but romantic Sci Fi.  She wrote (and continues to write) from a feminine viewpoint.  Her ‘heroines’ if you can call them that, are usually strong, aspiring females; but her ‘heroes’ (or main male characters) are even stronger.  Whilst loving, protecting and respecting their females, they invariably stand up to them, taking the lead, being decisive and asserting their control.

It occurred to me that my most favourite Sci Fi books from a whole range of authors, the ones that I have read time and again, are the ones depicting such relationships.  I so wanted to write one myself that it verged on an obsession.  I started to write many, many times.  But would come to a stuttering halt a few weeks later, and usually throw the handful of pages away in frustration and annoyance.

In fact, it was not until 2009 that the latest story swirling around in my head began to gain any substance.  I can remember I was on holiday at the time with my husband.  He noticed that my usual holiday reading was going untouched at the side of my lounger, and he enquired why.  My reply was that I didn’t need to read a book because I had one in my head, and I was fine-tuning it ready for writing on our return.  He laughed, because he is familiar with my little megrims.  However, when we got back I sat down at my computer and began to write.  Heartsong was born!

The words poured out.  There weren’t enough hours in the day to accommodate.  The storyline grew and evolved.  The characters became real to me; they dictated what they would say and what they would do.  In essence, they told me their stories.  It was just for me to bind it all together in order to tell to someone else.  At last I had a substantial piece of work, and in my head there was, and is, so much more to write.  Because I have learned that to tell one story often spawns another and another.

Then, of course, comes the difficult bit.  You have written a book, but what do you do with it?  No one in their right mind would ever think such an endeavour worthy of approaching a publisher with, but what steps should you take?  So initially I became brave and trusting, and I gave around ten copies out to friends and acquaintances of both sexes, and all ages and backgrounds, to read and comment on.  After all, if the story was rubbish, what would be the point in continuing?

The feedback was interesting.  One of my friends was serving out in Afghanistan at the time, and nearly the whole of his unit read it.  They liked the battle scenes best – but wanted more gore, which I was not going to comply with.  The women were perhaps more critical than the men, and I became a little worried that I was trying to rewrite bits to try to please everyone – and would end up pleasing no one.  But at least I had my answer – they said it would make good ‘holiday’ reading.  Believe me, I am more than happy with that reaction.

The next big step was to seek out a literary agent.  I can hear you all laughing.  But remember, I am new to this.  Yes, I have done my research.  I am familiar with a number of publishing houses dealing with my chosen genre.  But the agents don’t want to know.  They are all too busy.  You can’t even get a foot in the door.

So I read lots of advice, most of it freely handed out by published authors, (and some of it in ‘book form’ I had to pay for).  It was like wading through a sea of molasses.  So much conflicting advice!  I became very despondent, because if authors like JK Rowling have to self publish their first couple of Harry Potter books, what is the hope for people like me?

Then I met Ana.  A feisty lady who seems to have more successful books under her belt than I’ve had hot dinners.  Whether she was simply being generous, or whether she has second sight, I am not sure.  But she gave me a lot of good advice and encouragement, and introduced me to Kate Richards – and suddenly there is purpose once again.

Kate told me that she had wanted to write since seventh grade, and like me, had put it on hold for a number of years.  She identified with the fact that I felt overwhelmed, and explained that it would take time to adjust, to get to know and understand the world of publishing, and that I should just feel able to take it one step at a time.

I was worried about whether I should continue with the writing of my second book in a series of what I intend to be three, and she gave me reassurance, and told me to write and finish the books, and not to worry about the rest.  Kate shared with me that she had cried after getting her first real critique from her now, business partner, Valerie Mann.  So you can understand that I sent her my first three chapters of Heartsong with such trepidation I was nearly hyperventilating.

I shouldn’t have worried, because what she has given me I can now get my teeth into.  What she has allowed me to do, is to see my faults through her eyes.  Her advice distinctly lays the boundaries and informs.  Instead of just treading water, I can now work on those faults creating improvement and establishing better writing techniques.  Everything she has suggested is sensible and constructive.  For example, ‘overuse’ of adverbs, repetition of words, considering use of ‘points of view’.  One of her comments made me smile (I don’t think I have fallen into this trap too many times, but it is a point well taken!), she said “…remember, if it is my point of view, I can’t tell you I am pale or that I have a smudge on my cheek, unless I’m in front of a mirror!”

I have found the way Kate has drawn attention to words or phrases in my work with ‘highlighter pens’ very valuable in that it now gives me guidance to do the same with successive chapters.  (I will use the same colours!)

I am very grateful to Kate for answering my questions, although I am still processing the information and I know that certain points will occur to me as I progress.  I have already started looking into attending some writing workshops as she has suggested.   Not only will they help me overcome technicalities, but will perhaps be useful for networking and finding a critique partner.

Kate’s consultation has opened a door for me.  I’m not one to stand teetering on the edge.  My motto has always been Carpe Diem.  A little criticism shouldn’t be the end – it should be the beginning.  It should make a writer even more determined.  She has shown me ‘Round One’.  I look forward to ‘Round Two’!

I’d like to thank you for your time and efforts Kate, you are a very motivating person!

Thanks to you Ana as well!  I just hope I live up to all these expectations…..nose to the wheel, shoulder to the grindstone, put your back into it – help, it’s going to be better than a session at the gym!

Maria Coltman


Maria’s questions and Kate’s answers:

1. What is a ‘critique’ partner, and how would I choose one or be assigned one? What is their role in the process?

That is a common question for new authors. The most important answer is it should not be your best friend from high school or your sister. They love you and may have a hard time stepping back and giving the hard answers. There are critique groups out there, or you can join a great group like  How I found mine, and it seems pretty common, is just connections along the way. Try to have at least one who is published and they should be in your genre. A mystery writer is not the best choice for a romance writer, for example. Usually. There are always exceptions.

A critique partner is one who looks over your book during the writing process. They are looking for ‘craft issues’ like repeated words, passive structure,  head hopping, info dumps, plot issues. They may look more than once. They should be clear and helpful, but never cruel.  And your job, as the writer, is to take the criticism in the helpful spirit intended and always be willing to critique in exchange. The reason an unpublished writer can get published authors to critique is that most of us remember the kindnesses we experienced and try to make time to pay it forward.

2. What are ‘beta readers’? Do they read the whole book or just a specified part?

In general, a beta reader comes into play once you consider your book complete. You have researched and plotted, written and reviewed. To you, it is ready to go. Now…a beta reader comes into play. Their position in the industry is less important, since they really are approaching the book from a reader’s point of view. Consider them your last polish before submission. If you are considering independent publishing, a real edit from a real editor is still an excellent idea. But if you’ve done all your homework it will cost you less. At Wizards in Publishing, we price lower for books that require less work. Most editors I’ve spoken to do the same.

3. As someone entirely new to the process, how do you go about establishing yourself with a publishing house, and how do you know whether it is the right one for you?

Look for a house that has books in your genre. It may sound basic, but it’s a common omission. Then read their submission guidelines. Follow them to the letter. Font. Style. Do they want just a query? If you do this, you will stand the best chance of having your book read to start with.

Many houses have special calls. They may want werewolves for Christmas or steampunk for Arbor Day. These are an excellent way to begin with a new house. You offer what they want. Perfect.

Before considering submission to any house, Google them. See what turns up. I promise you they will do the same with your name. Acquiring editors want to know what is out there what you’ve been up to. Are you a responsible professional developing your brand or a drama queen who will make their editors’ lives hard ?  No matter how great your book, if they find you having flame wars all over Twitter, they aren’t likely to want to deal with you.  Publishers are very proud of their reputation. Their authors need to be an asset in all ways.

The second thing to do is chat up authors who are published there. Even if you don’t know them, they will probably be willing to tell you their experience. If not, it hasn’t cost you a cent. Ask someone else.

4. I am not so stupid to think that my first attempt at a full length novel wouldn’t require a great deal of rewriting and polishing, but how could we ensure that I am able to keep to my original ideas and storyline?

If you have followed all the previous instructions, you probably will for the most part. Publishers don’t have time or interest in rewriting your book. If it doesn’t met their needs, they will either ask you to revise and resubmit or just say no. But read your contract carefully before signing to learn what their editing policies are. Your editor will have a great deal of say in the final product.

5. Last year I attempted to approach two or three literary agents. They weren’t ‘disinterested’ but they simply informed me that they were too busy to take on any new aspiring authors. This made me doubt my ability to write, because I felt as if I was banging my head against a brick wall. Yet month upon month, year upon year, hundreds, if not thousands of new books are published. So if this is the case, where do these people make a start?

Most people don’t have agents. At least not until they have an established reputation in the business.

6. Would I get any guidance in writing a synopsis? I believe the standard length is a page or less. How would I know what to leave out and what to include if the ‘backbone’ of the novel came to more than one page?

A query letter or short blurb is one thing. A synopsis must contain all the major plot points and the length varies. Often an editor will be specific in how long she want the synopsis to be. Detailed or short. It’s worth taking a class to learn how to do one well.

7. How would I surmount the difficulty of the differences between the British use of English and the American use of English? Part of the essential action starts in a small East Anglian village. Would this present a problem?

Every publisher handles this issue differently. The dialogue should be appropriate for the characters. But as to spelling and grammar, they should be consistent throughout the book.  Most but not all US publishers prefer US style. Often a publisher’s submissions page gives you the information you need on this and many other issues.

8. I carried out a great deal of research before even beginning this book as I wanted to ‘know’ the market as far as is possible for an amateur. I discovered that successful themes run in phases of two to three years, then popularity wavers and the next theme takes over. eg vampire, shades of grey type books. I believe the next Star Trek movie is on its way to our screens. How do authors manage to hit the next trend, ensuring maximum interest in their books?

I look at Amazon and other online bookstores and see what their bestsellers are. What books are climbing the ranks? Every author and publisher tries to guess based on marketing data and other factors. And readers are very happy to tell us what they love and what they want. I also like to see what special calls are out there. Publishers have more access to sales data than the average author.

9. I have already started the next book of the series, and written in a couple of ‘hooks’ towards the end of the first book. If this book is absolute rubbish and you say ‘Forget it – you can’t write for toffee,’ I would feel very foolish to be half way through the next one. Should I hold off writing any more for the present, or should I continue? My characters have taken on lives of their own, and it would be very hard for me not to write down what comes next, but now I am rather uncertain. In your experience, what do you think? I even have a third book in mind to conclude the story.

I write because I love it. If someone told me I couldn’t do it, I’d take the time to learn more technique, take more classes…work harder. If you love what you do, it is never a waste of time.

10. I seem to be pretty technically inept when it comes to setting up blogs and social networking. It doesn’t matter how many times I print out instructions from the Help Menu! Is there anyone available who could guide me through all this? When I look at [another author’s] site it frightens me with its ‘professionalism’. Added to that, she is an incredibly gifted writer. Regardless of the fact that she has tried to reassure me, I’m still very nervous of not living up to expectations. Any sage words of wisdom for me?

We all felt like that at one time. Pay someone to set up a site for you that you can handle. You probably have a friend who is better at it and will be glad to help you. We have to promote online but we can be creative getting there. Don’t worry about knowing everything all at once.


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