Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Review: Affairs of the Heart

Happy Monday to you all! It’s been awhile since you’ve heard from me, and I’ve been away because I’ve been working on an editing book! I can’t tell you too much about it yet, but I will have more information on it in the future.

Today I want to introduce Affairs of the Heart, by Janice Willett. Before I begin, a word on the subject matter of this book. Religion in general and prophesying in particular are often taboo subjects. Most people already have passionate and immutable beliefs on these topics, which makes discussing them difficult. So, I ask that all of you readers—both those who believe and those who are critical—keep an open mind.

Affairs of the Heart is an extraordinary account of messages Janice received from God. The book takes the reader on a journey through Janice’s experiences, from when she received her first messages—and scrambled to understand what certain words (such as torii) meant, to figuring out just what God wanted from her and from us all. 

And, to all those skeptics out there: I actually had to cross reference the research to make sure historical and linguistic references were accurate, and I ended up discovering additional, supporting evidence (which the author was unaware of beforehand and had not previously included in the manuscript) that supported the messages she received. 

Praise for Affairs of the Heart

“Janice Willett is a compassionate and deeply spiritual person. In this book she has written about some of her amazing experiences, showing yet again that there may be more sorts of things in the world than are dreamt of in our philosophies!”
—George Hunsinger, Princeton Theological Seminary.
“After thirty years of being a devoute spiritual seeker, I must tell you that your words deeply resonated within me as only the truth can. Other than reading the Aramaic translations of Christ's words, the Bible, or the Course in Miracles, I have otherwise never felt Jesus' Spirit radiate so undeniably from the written word.”
—John J. Grande, CFP 

About the Author
I am a faith based author who sees myself as just an ordinary person. As I can’t even quote scripture, I question why God chose me for this endeavor … and the answer I get is because I listen and follow directions. I feel that not remembering scripture has actually been a blessing, because what I hear is pure and not confused by any of my thoughts (which is obvious because I had to constantly look up the meaning to words in the dictation, and also that anyone who knows me knows I cannot and do no speak in such a manner as these inspirations read).

As Father Williams labeled me, I am an intercessor in any way that God deems necessary at the time. I intercess for people here and those who have passed and are lost. I intercess from God to individuals also, relaying His divine words to them. I have interceded with those troubled in life, for those dying, diagnosing the ill (many times before they even know they are sick). I bring peace and closure between those who have passed and the living.
Many events are not on demand, they are just presented in God’s time.

My greatest wish is to be alive when Jesus returns in the hopes that I can wash His feet with my hair … it would be such an honor (and so I chose the Confirmation Name Mary Magdalene).

In addition to writing, I enjoy designing landscapes, playing the piano, biking, golfing and various other sports.

Find Janice and Affairs of the Heart here:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Book Announcement: Icarus Incident

I have another book to announce today! Author Nathan Hart released his first novella, Icarus Incident. For those of you who like science fiction novels, this is fantastic read. Here’s a little more about it:

Book Desription
After seven years of hard labor on a desolate moon, Nick Fleming is coming home. Unless his employers murder him first.

Weeks away from completing his contract with Pinehurst’s Mining Industries, he's set to collect the lucrative contract completion bonus and fly back to his family on the home planet. But rumor has it Pinehurst is swimming in debt. And a lot of miners about to finish their contracts have succumbed to mysterious accidents. Fleming remains under the radar until another accident nearly crushes him. Looks like he’s the next target.

However, as Fleming is glancing in all directions before taking a step down the hall, he’s told an industrial spy has landed on the mining colony with the latest batch of mining recruits. Fleming’s new partner, Lyons, has been asking a lot of questions and sneaking around restricted areas, but is he really a mole? If he is, Pinehurst could be exposed, and every miner including Fleming will lose everything he has worked for.

Maybe if he surrenders Lyons to Pinehurst, Fleming has a prayer of surviving his last few weeks on the moon. But if he harbors Lyons secret, the mole will destroy Fleming’s future and give Pinehurst yet another reason to kill him. Either way, it’s unlikely he’ll ever leave the moon alive.

Author Bio: Nathan Hart
A down-to-earth space author who loves super heroes and Vulcans. He's loved stories about spaceships and super heroes for years. Now he's the one who is writing about them.

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

EBP’s Winter Anthology: Submissions are Opened

Elephant’s Bookshelf Press is at it again! Submissions are open for their winter anthology, which revolves around the concept of regret. For those of you who love writing short stories or just want to get your name out there, this is the perfect opportunity.

The editors involved are a wonderful group of industry professionals—many who you might know through Agent Query Connect.

Unlike the last anthology, I am not copyediting this installment due to my own busy schedule. However, I fully and completely encourage each and every one of you to give it a shot. Even if you’ve never considered writing a short story, go for it! This is a great way to meet other top notch writers, editors, and publishers, all while getting the opportunity to showcase your writing.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the submission guidelines and other details here!

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services

Monday, September 16, 2013

Amping up Your Scenes

Has anyone who’s read your writing had a luke warm response? Have agents ever just felt so-so about your manuscript? While there are many subjective reasons why someone might not like your novel, there is also the chance that the scenes in your novel are not entertaining enough, or worse, purposeless.

Believe it or not, this happens. A lot.

Don’t Skip over Important Details
It’s funny that while readers like conflict, sometimes writers shy away from delivering it. If the protagonist needs to steal a prized artifact to forward the plot, don’t skim over the scene. This does happen more than you’d think, and you might even be doing it yourself. The only time you should really skim over a section is if it consists of filler or contains only a minor detail amongst a sea of filler. (To learn more about what filler is and how you should avoid it, click here.)

Ask Yourself, Why?
When you go through your manuscript, ask yourself what the purpose of each scene is. For instance, if you have your main character go to the deli, ask yourself why it is important for the reader to know about this. And I’ll give you a hint, if you’re illustrating the setting to the reader, this scene will need to be either removed or enhanced. Otherwise, it will slow down your book’s momentum, and from there you can lose reader interest.

If you go through the entire day of your main character—from the moment he wakes up, to the shower he takes and the meal he eats—that’s a huge red flag that you need to be asking yourself why the reader should care. Almost always this is an indicator that you need to tighten up your story and thin these sections out.

Finally, Ask Yourself, How Can I Make this Better?
This is an exercise I often advise writers to try out. I challenge them, and now you, to go through each scene and see what aspects would make it even more thrilling and intense. Here is an example:

Scene where main character is picking out a prom dress.

How can you make it better?
Perhaps your main character (MC) runs into her nemesis. Now you have a confrontation.

How can you make it even better?
Maybe that nemesis is holding hands with the boyfriend of your MC’s best friend.

How can you make it even better?
Maybe your MC is meeting up with that same best friend to try on prom dresses, and now your MC faces the dilemma of keeping the news a secret or spilling the beans. That is, if the best friend doesn’t walk in on this herself.

You can keep doing this as much as you want. Just remember that there actually is such a thing as too much excitement, so be watchful of never crossing the line from exciting to unbelievable.

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book Review: Hope’s Decree

Wowee, it’s been a long time since I posted on here! While I’ve been MIA promoting my own book and working with some of you, others of you have gone and gotten yourselves agents, publishing contracts, or skipped all of that and just straight up published your books. I know that because this week alone I’ve had four writers tell me their books are now or soon-to-be for sale, and another who just signed a publishing contract. Congratulations to all of you! 

Today I wanted to introduce Angela Mcpherson’s debut YA novel, Hope’s Decree, which was published through Untold Press. I’m overjoyed to announce this book not only because it’s a fantastic read, but also because Angela is one of those writers who’s become a friend. 

If you love books based on mythology, or just like damn good writing, take a look!

Hope’s Decree

When everything else is lost, there is always hope.

While most teens want an epic senior year, Trinity Whitebone hoped for a normal one. Being seventeen was hard enough. Having the emotions of everyone around you in your head made life more than a little difficult.

Until Blain Heros enrolled.

He screamed hot-god in jeans with just his walk. His intense stare warmed her skin like a thousand suns. Unfortunately, his interest in her seemed to run from blazing to freezing in the span of moments and left her nothing but confused. She could deal with things not being normal, but when life goes from strange to dangerous…

Trinity is the direct descendant of Pandora and fated to rectify the terrors released into the world by her curious ancestor. With powers she didn’t know existed and abilities she never wanted, Trinity tries to walk away from everything her life had become. She thought she could turn her back on her fate, until a band of rogue immortals discover who she is and will do whatever it takes to control her powers. Trinity is left with one decision…Embrace fate or die trying.

About the Author
Born and currently residing in Midland, Texas, Angela shuffles three busy childrennot including her husband) all over the place. She works in a busy pediatric doctor's office as a nurse during the day, and writes at night. She is addicted to coffee—who isn't? And firmly believes chocolate can fix all—especially chocolate ice cream. She laughs a lot, often at herself and is willing to try anything once (she thinks). When Angela isn't rushing kids around, working or writing, she's reading. Other than life experience, Angela turns to a wide variety of music to help spark her creative juices. She loves to dance and sing, though her kids often beg her not to.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Review: Summer’s Edge and Summer’s Double Edge

Today I want to announce the release of EBP’s summer anthologies, Summer’s Edge and Summer’s Double Edge. These anthologies are close to my heart not only because I edited them, but also because I had the opportunity to work with many of you who read my blog.


All stories play with the idea of a short-lived relationship—inspired by the summer fling. (Notice the season?) The stories contained in these two anthologies are sharp, insightful, and at times deliciously twisted. I’m not going to lie, some of the stories I had to put down and take a breather for. I’d find myself tensing up, nervous about where the story was going. That ability to physically affect the reader—especially in a short story—is a sign of a highly skilled writer. And these anthologies are full of them.

Within the two anthologies you’ll find all types of love and romance—along with adventure, murder, and the supernatural. While it’s a great summer read, don’t be surprised if these short stories stay with you long after you’ve finished them.

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services

Monday, July 15, 2013

It’s Not You—Rough Drafts Suck

Hi everyone! Some of you are seasoned writers with many books under your belt. Others of you are struggling to finish that first draft of what will (hopefully) be your debut novel. And others of you fall somewhere in between these two.

As both a writer and an editor, there is one struggle that doesn’t seem to go away: writing a rough draft.

Most of my recent editing tips have focused on what to do towards the middle and end of a novel, but now I want to address those concerns coming from writers who are just beginning their first, second, or third manuscripts.

Why Rough Drafts are So Difficult to Write
Before I continue, let me clarify which writers I am addressing. If you are dismally aware of how little of your story you are managing to capture, then this post is for you. If you think you nailed your partial or complete rough draft, then you absolutely need to read some of my other posts on editing or, better yet, buy a book on the craft. (I suggest Jack Bickham’s The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes as a great place to start.) As awful as it may feel, trepidation is a good thing when you begin a new story.

If you are having difficulty writing a rough draft, I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone. In fact, I’d argue that this is one of the most difficult aspects of the process. But why is this?

Logic Versus Imagination
From a physiological standpoint, it is difficult to engage the area of your brain that is responsible for creativity while simultaneously using the area of your brain responsible for your logic and reasoning skills.

Now, I am not a scientist, so you won’t want to take that information as the absolute truth, but I do think that this sheds some light on why writing a rough draft can be so frustrating. If you can really only use one of these two areas of your brain, then creativity will trump logic. After all, you are creating an entire story out of thin air.

But it’s not only the lack of logic that might make a rough draft difficult to finish. There’s also the issue of coming up with the entire story, which can be draining in and of itself, and remembering to insert all of those delicious nuances that excited you when you began writing the first draft. Both can be incredibly disheartening if you’re struggling with either.

How to Fix This
Keep writing. The truth is that these issues will probably not be fixed today, or tomorrow, or even next week. Writing is a process—a long one. A rough draft is your starting point. And I promise that when you reread what you’ve written in that first draft, it won’t seem nearly as awful as it does right now.

If you are particularly stressed about this, keep a journal at hand to write down all of those fixes you want to make. Some you’ll end up never making because the original story changed, and others you’ll implement in the next round of edits.

But make sure, above all, you continue to make progress writing that rough draft of yours. Rough drafts can be frustrating, but once you’ve completed it, everything that follows will be a whole lot easier in comparison.

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mario Madness Charity Event!

Hi everyone,

I hope your week is going well! I wanted to make a brief announcement about a charity event American Editing Services sponsored that benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Mario Madness is a weekend long tournament that starts tomorrow. It’s a three day video game marathon event that’s live streamed—but that’s not the best part. One hundred percent of every donation goes straight to St. Jude.

Here’s the site’s official “About” page:

Mario Madness is a 3-Day video game marathon where our team will play Mario video games spanning from the original title to the most current generation. The twist? The entire event will be broadcast live for everyone’s enjoyment!
The way this event will benefit St. Jude is that the more donations that we are able to collect on our website during the event, (all donations on the website go directly to St. Jude) the more Mario video games that will be unlocked for our team to play. Furthermore, as certain donation goals are met, we would like you, the audience, to suggest for members of the team or the entire team to do things to keep everyone entertained (keep it tasteful please!).

For more information, check out the Mario Madness website here!

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services

Monday, July 1, 2013

Book Review: The Unearthly, by Laura Thalassa

It’s Monday again! I hope you all are enjoying the beginning of the week (or at least getting by)! Today I wanted to talk about something scary to me, which is my newly published novel, The Unearthly.

Before I include all the normal fun stuff that goes along with introducing a book here, I wanted to explain that I truly empathize with the pitfalls that each of you face when you write. Even though I edit for a living, I too have writer blind spots! That might come as a surprise to some of you, but I hope it also gives you a little courage to continue writing away if you are struggling. Even the woman cracking the yardstick up here and telling you what to do struggles to follow these guidelines. No one escapes without being thoroughly humbled. :) 

The Unearthly is a YA paranormal romance written by Laura Thalassa (my pen name).

The Unearthly

Laura Thalassa

The first time I was declared dead, I lost my past. The second time, I lost my humanity. Now I’m being hunted, and if I die again, my soul is up for forfeit.

After enrolling in Peel Academy, an elite supernatural boarding school on the British Isles, the last of the sirens, Gabrielle Fiori, only wants to fit in. Instead, the elixir meant to awaken her supernatural abilities kills her.

When Gabrielle wakes up in the morgue twelve hours later, something wicked is awakened in her, something even the supernatural community has never seen before. Now the only person who can help her is Andre de Leon, the community's infamous bad boy and the king of vampires.

Yet even his help can’t prevent the repeated attempts on Gabrielle’s life. Someone is after her, and they will stop at nothing to end her short existence. Only Gabrielle cannot let that happen now that her soul hangs in the balance, because she may have met the devil. And he wants her. Bad.

About the Author
Born and raised in Fresno, California, Laura Thalassa spent her childhood cooking up fantastic tales with her best friend. Lucky for her overactive imagination, she also happened to love writing.

Laura Thalassa lives in sunny Santa Barbara, California with her boyfriend, author Dan Rix. The Unearthly is her debut novel.

If you are interested in hanging out with me on my author sites, you can find me at, Facebook, TwitterGoogle+, and Goodreads. Don’t be a stranger! 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Cursing in Novels

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you all were able to see the awesome supermoon and enjoy the longest day of the year!

Today I wanted to discuss an interesting topic in writing, cursing. For most of you, this is not the edit you ever look for, but today I want to address why it’s important to be aware of this edit in particular.

Before I continue, I want to clarify that this is a subjective topic; different writers and editors will have different opinions in regards to it.

What the Editor Thinks about Cursing
Depending on the editor you talk to, you’ll get varying answers. The traditional opinion is to use none or a couple curse words at max. I believe that opinion is changing as more and more individuals self-publish since the novels they release tend to be edgier, and that includes cursing.

I actually happen to like a bit of cursing in the novels that I read. Not so much that it becomes distracting, but enough to know that these are real people that I’m reading about rather than some goofy cartoon that says doggonit instead of goddamnit (and so on). But this too is not black and white—a writer can convince me of anything if they execute it masterfully enough.

What the Reader Thinks
Funny enough, you can have gory murder scenes and raunchy sex scenes without garnering too much reader anger, but if you curse or take the Lord’s name in vain too many times, readers will deduct stars from their reviews. I’ve seen it; it makes no sense in many cases. Still, as a writer, you should be aware of this.

Why Do Readers Get Upset?
Most people curse or have cursed at some point in their lives. Cursing can be distasteful, but it’s certainly not taboo in many real world situations.

So why are readers upset?

My guess is that readers feel that the language itself is getting butchered. And many times writers can dig deeper than a curse word and come up with some truly exquisite ways of expressing themselves. (Just look at all the creative insults Shakespeare came up with instead of cursing.)

There’s also such a thing as escalating emotional conflict too quickly, and I believe this applies to curse words. Readers can feel that the text reads too unnaturally if, at the drop of a hat, a reader goes from content to dramatically unhappy, to incensed, and then back to happy. This same concept can apply to the actual language itself. If the reader feels the writer writes the book a certain way, and then wham, there’s a curse word, it’s jarring and perhaps unbelievable. Curse words stick out like a sore thumb, so the more of these you have, the less believable your writing might be.

What You Should Do
No, you don’t have to remove all of your swear words. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not against curse words in writing. A few of them strategically placed can really improve the shit out of a book.

Instead, assess your own opinion on the issue, and don’t let the thought of a few negative reviews dissuade you—I promise that those negative reviews won’t disappear, they’ll just criticize a different aspect of your novel. I would suggest going through your manuscript and thinning out the curse words wherever possible and leaving in those that enhance the text. Below I’ve also included a great alternative to curse words.

Good Replacements
It’s going to sound ridiculous, but when it comes to curse words, sometimes telling is better than showing. This is one of the few occasions where I’ll ever say that, so don’t go buck wild with the telling! The lines that always seem to work are, “S/he swore,” and “S/he cursed.” Here’s an example of the difference:

“This is fucking bullshit.” 
He swore.

This type of paraphrasing keeps the language classy while allowing the reader to know that the character cursed. 

Because this is such a subjective topic, I’m not going to give you a hard and fast rule here. However, if you want to play it safe, keep cursing to a minimum in your novel. Readers tend to dislike swearing in novels, and they will give your book a lower review—or at the very least comment on it—if it bothers them. However, I do like reading books that are edgier, and my guess is that as more authors self-publish, readers will be exposed to more curse words, and this post might appear ridiculous in a few years. Until then, consider the pros and cons of curse words in your novel based on this information, and correct as needed.

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Must-Read Article on Publishing

I wanted to write up a quick post after reading a fabulous Huffington Post article that is helpful and relevant to all authors and aspiring authors. 

Regardless of whether you’re self-publishing or going a traditional route, it’s important to know where the industry is at and to understand a bit of the economics that go into making your book successful. This article sheds some light on some trends currently occurring in the industry.

Here’s the article. Enjoy!

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services

Monday, June 10, 2013

Em Dashes: The Correct Way to Write Them into Your Text

Happy Monday everyone! Em dashes may appear to be of minor importance in your writing, but this is an important read since I can count on one hand—one hand—the number of writers who have not had to receive this edit from me. 

Em Dashes. Okay, I’m really holding back on a rant because these little suckers taunt me all day, and I dislike writing about copyedits. But this is such a prevalent mistake that I want to help clarify it any way I can. 

What is an Em Dash?
An em dash (—), also a long dash, is a punctuation mark used to emphasize/repeat a section of text—like I did above—or insert an aside/nonessential comment into the sentence—like I’m doing here. The mark has other uses, like denoting the author of a quote, but for simplicity’s sake I’ll leave more thorough discussions for blogs focused on copyedits. For those of you English nerds, Emily Dickinson loved these things and used them all the time in her poetry.

How is an Em Dash Different from Other Dashes
To demystify the em dash, let’s go over two other common types of “dashes.” (In quotes since the following aren’t all considered dashes.)

En Dash ()
An en dash () is different from an em dash. There are lots of subtle uses for this punctuation mark, and if you’re interested in looking it up and learning more about it, go for it. (Can you tell I love discussing punctuation?) For now I’ll just state that it’s most common use is in ranges of values—more specifically, years.

Hyphen (-)
Most of you are familiar with the hyphen, which—like the em and en dash—has multiple uses, but it most commonly used to compound two distinct words or the syllables of the same word. It’s sort of a misnomer to call this a dash, but since they look similar, it’s easy to confuse the two.

What’s Causing the Confusion?
There are a few reasons why the em dash is so difficult to punctuate correctly, listed below.

Different Styles
Part of the reason that there is confusion over how to correctly punctuate an em dash is that there are multiple ways of doing this. Some style guides allow writers to replace an em dash (—) with an en dash bordered by a space on either side ( – ). For the record, I’m against this style in the world of fiction writing for a couple reasons. 

One, the predominate punctuation mark used in the American style (as opposed to the British style) is the em dash, and it is the punctuation mark that the Chicago Manual of Style recommends.

Two, en dashes are also routinely formatted incorrectly. I see this all the time because most (if not all) keyboards don’t have a key for an en dash. That means that, just like an em dash, Word has to auto format these. So, so often I see a single hyphen bordered by a space on either side trying to pass as an em dash.

Formatting an Em Dash
I think I’ve already proven via explanation how much of a headache formatting these little suckers can be. Writers can create an em dash using a combo of hyphens, en dashes, and spaces, but there is only one correct way—okay two correct ways, but I prefer one over the other—to get an em dash.

How to Format an Em Dash
Here’s how you can fix those em dashes once and for all.

Step One 
Come to a place where you need to insert an em dash.

Ex. “Hey wait

Step Two
Insert two hyphens following the word that will precede your em dash.

Ex. “Hey wait--
***Make sure that there are NO SPACES between the word and the two hyphens.

Step Three
Insert the word that follows the em dash

Ex. “Hey wait--what?”
***Again make sure that there are no spaces in between the hyphens and the words that border it.

Step Four
Hit the space bar after you add on the word that follows the em dash, and Microsoft Word will auto format this into an em dash.

Ex. “Hey wait—what?”

Note that Word only auto formats two hyphens into an em dash when a word follows it. This means that if you have punctuation (such as quotation marks) or nothing that follows your em dash, you’re going to have to write in a placeholder word, hit the space key for it to auto format, and then delete the word. You might be able to play with this a little on your own version of Word and set it up to auto format it always, but I’m guessing that many of you, like me, are a little allergic to technology.

Happy writing,

Laura Carlson, Editor
American Editing Services