Monday, July 30, 2012

#Writing Tip ~ Dialogue Tags

In the spirit of last week's discussion, I realized there is more to think about when writing dialogue.

Dialogue Tags:  Popular wisdom says not to add any tag after dialogue besides "said" or "asked."  Now, I don't always follow popular wisdom, and I will put in a whispered or something on rare occasion, but like regional dialect we discussed last week, this should be kept to a minimum.  The reason for this is "said" and "asked" become invisible words.  The reader's mind skips right over them, and they don't make an impact.  However, creative modifiers like expostulated, articulated, or the ever-horrifying ejaculated will pull readers from the story (and some may have them rolling on the ground with mirth or running for a dictionary).  Be careful with your tags.

In fact, you can avoid too many dialogue tags by having your character perform some sort of action when you need to refer to who's speaking.  This avoids talking heads and shows the reader what is happening. However, sometimes just using the tag is nice. Mix it up.

Names in Dialogue:  I am guilty of this and always have to edit it out, but you should rarely use the name of the person your character is talking to in the dialogue.  Think about it... how often do you call someone their name during the course of a normal conversation? Maybe once when they first walk up to you? Somehow, I use names in my dialogue all the time, even though I know this isn't very realistic.  Sometimes I do it on purpose to identify the speaker without an action or dialogue tag, but use this sparingly as well, and the writing will come across as more realistic.

Commas before Names:  If you do use a name in the dialogue, you need a comma before it and after it if they continue talking. This is a rule I didn't know about and sometimes miss still. Same thing if you use an endearment to refer to the other person, such as honey or babe or slugger.  Example:  "What you doing, Frank?" "Nothing, babe, just taking out the garbage."

Happy writing and thanks for stopping by! Have a wonderful week!

~ Chantel

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Meet Dariel Raye, Author of Dark Sentinels

I'm very excited to have author Dariel Raye on my blog today, talking about her newly released novella, Dark Sentinels Book One: Sable. Here's a little information about her and the book.

Dariel loves books, animals, and all things paranormal. The paranormal romance, “Raven’s Shelter,” one of five stories in Taming of the Wolf, was her second publication, and her first with The Wild Rose Press as a result of placing second in their “Got Wolf” competition - prompted the new “Dark Sentinels” series. Dariel has written articles for The News Item of Mobile, and Black Health Magazine of Atlanta. A classically trained pianist and vocalist with a degree in piano and vocal performance and a master’s in counseling psychology, she completed studies for a Ph.D. with the exception of her dissertation.

Dark Sentinels Book One: Sable

Sable, a sentinel wolf shifter, is captured and locked in his wolf form until Akila, a veterinarian, tries to tame him and unleashes a 6'5" baby blue-eyed surprise.

Dr. Akila Marshall is a veterinarian with a calling – save as many stray animals as possible. The only child of wealthy, yet distant parents, she’s convinced that love is not for her. Until…

Sable’s search for his twin sister leads him to Akila. Born into a rare species of wolf shifters whose main purpose is protecting others, he has always been forced to fend for himself, but Akila’s loving, protective nature draws him – and not a moment too soon. Together, they must learn to trust each other enough to overcome a new, deadly enemy.

I love this cover! Sable looks hot! Buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble:

Thank you so much for agreeing to be here today, Dariel.  You must be very excited about releasing Dark Sentinels Book One: Sable. I truly am! The significance of this release is two-fold. This is my first release since I had to start hemodialysis treatments due to kidney failure, so that makes it precious. I’m very grateful, and this series is dear to my heart because I am very concerned about our endangered wildlife, which includes North and South American wolves.

I was so sorry to learn about your struggles with kidney failure. I've had family members battle that, and I understand what is involved with the long hours of dialysis. How wonderful that you've written such wonderful stories and spread your message about our endangered wildlife throughout your own battle. It's very admirable.

So, tell us a little bit about Dark Sentinels. They lived millions of years ago, fatalities of fear and prejudice. Now, answers to a prayer for survival, they are among us again. Other shifters were nearly extinct, murdered by the thousands at mostly human hands. Capable of shifting at will, without the aid of the moon’s phases, they were born to protect them. Bigger, stronger, faster, and longer living, with highly developed preternatural abilities, they are prized outsiders among their packs. Prized for their ability to protect, yet destined to live as outsiders because of the very differences necessary to prevent the pack’s extinction.

Born to stand at the crossroads between pack-members and their slaughterers, Sentinels quickly learn that they are on their own – a different species. Born human, only two are born to each pack, male and female alphas, brother and sister. Pack members deny them mating privileges within the pack based on fear. No female wants to bear a sentinel because their lives are constantly at risk. When danger comes to the pack, they are on the front line, considered expendable.

When they reach mating age, they leave the pack for a time to find a mate – another sentinel. What happens when a sentinel develops feelings for a human? What happens when malevolent scientists learn how to strengthen humans by using sentinel blood? As you can imagine, with their feral nature barely beneath the surface, Dark Sentinel passions run high. Touch, affection, and loyalty are necessary for their survival, and they are willing to go to extraordinary measures, risk everything, and break every rule for love.

Sounds exciting! I love stories about shifters (and Sable's body doesn't hurt things any either, right ladies?).

Who is your favorite character from the story and why? I know it’s not fair, but I love the hero and heoine equally. They’re both animal lovers, both intelligent – two qualities that are very important to me.

I understand. Tough to play favorites with your "babies." Mom's can't do it either.

Where does the inspiration for your stories come from? I’ve always had a rich fantasy life, and I’ve loved the paranormal since childhood. I was an introverted, “old soul” kind of child who had imaginary friends, saw ghosts, knew someone was at the door before the bell rang, or that someone was calling before the phone rang. I’m dating myself, here, but I used to sit on the armrest of my Dad’s recliner and watch “Dark Shadows” because I just HAD to watch it, but only felt safe sitting next to him. Lots of my ideas for stories, surprisingly, come from reading the Bible, and colorful, detailed dreams.

I'm also a dreamer about my scenes. Perhaps I more daydream, but it is interesting how our muses work, isn't it?

What made you decide to publish shorter stories versus novel-length books? Actually, I have some novel-length works in progress, too, but the combination of OCD/ADD makes me impatient. I enjoy the process, but the satisfaction of writing a story and completing it are much easier to accomplish with shorter works. LOL

What do you have planned next as far as writing goes? This questions is right in line with the previous one. My first novel was a full-length paranormal romance published with 1st Books before I really knew much about the writing business (I’m still learning, as far as that’s concerned), and I just requested it back from the publisher so I can rewrite it, repurpose it a bit and update it to release as a new and improved novel. In addition to that one, I have two more full-length paranormals: a multicultural about a reincarnated couple who were victims of tragic deaths in the past, and a rather dark romance about a messenger/angel who chooses free-will over duty because of – you guessed it – love. Also, I’m planning to release number two in the “Dark Sentinels” series and the first book in another series, “Children of Cain” about descendants of the Nephilim, called “Ishmael.” I’ve also contracted to do a series with Red Rose Publishing. That one’s about descendants of the Nephilim, too, but the entire story line is different.

Wow! You're a busy lady. We'll be looking forward to all of them, no matter what length.

Are you an avid reader?  What genre’s do you prefer? OMG, am I! I have two Kindles, if that’s any indication, and I read constantly – always did. My favorites are paranormal romances (especially vamps, weres, shifters, angels, and demons) and urban fantasy romances with edgy, somewhat dark, yet redeemable characters, and I’ll read some erotica. Tananarive Due is great, and I also loved the late greats L.A. Banks and Octavia Butler – great losses to the literary world, but their bodies of work live on.

I'm all about the romance myself, but it sounds like you make it through a lot more books than I do. What's your favorite book? One of my favorite books of all time is “Lord of the Flies.” As far as romances/fantasies go, my favorite to date is Jacqueline Carey’s “Kushiel’s Legacy” trilogy. Epic, with ingenious world building and intricate characters. Carey’s ability to make me love a masochistic heroine is a testament to her exceptional writing ability. I’ve also found too many great Indie authors to name!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Read, read, and read some more! Notice what you like – what makes you pick up a book and keep reading. Then, start writing and develop a good support system. There’s so much available to writers now that wasn’t just a few years ago, but the knife cuts both ways. Now, writers are so abundant, that it’s a greater challenge to stand out in the crowd. I think in order to become a great writer, you have to be able to first value great writing in others. When people tell me they want to write, but I never see them reading anything, their words or intentions don’t mean much to me. I think you have to first love books to be a great writer.

That's great advice, Dariel.

Anything else you’d like to talk about? The message I’d like people to get from my books is that the most important thing any of us can accomplish is to take the opportunity to do what we love (that old existentialist belief about finding purpose), and surround ourselves with people we love, who love us. That’s a prize worth going any distance for and doing whatever it takes to achieve. Memories of loved ones are tangible, and I believe love overcomes any differences. Everything else passes away.

That's a wonderful message to spread. I love that!

Just for Fun
Favorite color: Two – brown and green (especially together)
Favorite food: Strawberries & lime sherbet (not together, though)
Hobbies: Sudoku & other number games. Also like Spider Solitaire
What is your most perfect vacation spot? Gulf Shores. It’s close and I can take my dog, I can sit quietly and watched the tide roll out or in, and I can just as easily blend into a crowd without having to say a word. Pretty cool. Sounds lovely! I'm jealous about that. I love water of any kind. 

Thank you so much for being here today, Dariel Raye!
Thank you for everything, Chantel, including your honest insights along the way to publishing “Dark Sentinels.” I’m grateful for your friendship J

It's been so nice to get to know you. I'm very glad you contacted me through Twitter and we've been able to develop our friendship. I wish you every success--and I can't wait to read the Dark Sentinels! 

To connect with Dariel Raye yourself, you can find her on the other end of one of these links:

Once again, here are the links to the books:

Hey, Dariel, as a bonus before we leave, can you explain what brought on your fascination with wolves and how you came up with the Dark Sentinels?

“Dark Sentinels: Origins”

Ten years ago, less than 7,000 wolves remained in North America due to humans hunting and killing them indiscriminately, trapping and maiming them, and encroaching upon and destroying their natural habitat through selfish, thoughtless actions. Prior to the 20th century, wolves numbered more than 2 million, and roamed the entirety of North America. In the early 20th century, their habitat was reduced to Canada, a few other northernmost states, New Mexico, and Arizona. 

Although they are still seriously endangered, their numbers have presently risen to more than 11,000 on this continent. Wolves have always had a special relationship with man, and many believe this relationship was always meant to be synergistic. Unfortunately, time and again, man has betrayed them, prompting the intervention of nature herself to preserve her majestic, intelligent children. 

Many Native American, as well as Turkish, Roman, and Mongolian legends in particular, point to the belief that not only has man always depended upon the wolf for survival, but that men descended from wolves. The wolf has been worshipped as a God and an ancestor throughout time, and more than one legend tells of the union of a wolf and a human to produce the first half-human, half-lupine or (wolf) offspring. Tales abound of wolves nursing, protecting, and raising human children. 

In order to protect themselves, they have learned to live in larger packs and maintain closer ties with their half-human progeny, but desperate times account for the resurgence of ancient protectors – Dark Sentinels…

To learn more about these fascinating animals, Dariel recommends the "Defenders of Wildlife" web site at

Thanks for reading! Have a fantastic day! 
~ Chantel

Monday, July 23, 2012

#Writing Tip ~ Dialogue

I think we all know by now Monday is my least favorite day of the week. Back to work, no more playing around and writing as much as I possibly can on my current work in progress.  However, while writing this weekend, I realized one of my biggest problems in writing still exists. Being in editing mode for so long, I'd forgotten about it.

Crafting Realistic Dialogue.  Dialogue is the most important element in your novel. Every class, book, other author ever to offer advice on this has taught me readers prefer dialogue. If you have a scene that can be accomplished by having your characters talk through what is happening instead of writing narrative, that's the way to go.  However, the dialogue needs to seem like real people talking, not stilted or fake. This is actually harder to accomplish than it seems at first shake.  There are a few easy things that help out with this. 

Contractions:  This is where I have the biggest problem. I'm always stuck in that "report writing" mentality while working on dialogue where you never, ever, under any circumstances put a contraction in the paper.  However, unless you are writing a historical novel in a time people didn't use contractions, you need to work these in there.  Contractions read smoother to the reader's eye and keeps them in the moment. 

"They will see my dirty house and I do not want them to," Sarah said.

Bob grimaced.  "Then do not let them in right now."

Stilted and formal, right?  It should really read something like  - "They'll see my dirty house.  I can't let that happen," Sarah said.  Bob grimaced.  "Then don't open the door."  (Okay, this is a really simplistic example and probably not something I'd ever have characters say, but it's just to show the point of how much smoother it reads with the contractions).

I miss this a lot in my writing, but thankfully my critique partners help me out.  Go through all the dialogue in your WIP and make sure you used contractions wherever needed.

Regional Dialect:  There is debate about whether or not to use regional dialect in your book to add flavor and show the personality of the characters.  I rarely do this.  I might throw in an ain't or an -ing word missing the g with an apostrophe instead (somethin' like this) but you need to understand a little of this goes a long way. The way I have seen other authors handle this is to introduce the character by having them speak the dialect the first thing they say to give the reader the picture, but then only throw in a few words sparsely throughout that are written with the apostrophes.  If you have a character with incomprehensible speech (no matter how good you think you pulled it off) the reader is going to get frustrated and put your book down if they have to work too hard to understand what is being said. 

Read it out loud:  Another good way to make sure it sounds "real" is to read your lines out loud.  Does it sound like a normal thing to say, or do you have a hard time reading it out loud?  (This is actually good to do with your entire novel)

Also, as I've discussed before, avoid the dreaded talking heads syndrome at all costs.

I hope some of this helps.  Happy writing and have a terrific, productive week! Thanks for stopping by. 

~ Chantel

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Wonderful World of Twitter

Twitter Tips

A long time ago I promised to do an update on any tools I found to make Twitter less time consuming.  I have found a few methods/tools that help me out a lot.

First off, I take care of my follows/unfollows in the morning.  I quickly follow all the people who followed me (except the ones who are just trying to get me to pay for more follows). It is okay not to follow people back, and I had a hard time understanding this at first.  Next, I unfollow people who haven't followed me back. I use a free program called JustUnfollow At the point you get over 2000 followers, apparently Twitter limits the follower to followee ratio so you need to get rid of people who aren't following back.

Next, I go onto Twitter and spend a few minutes (maybe ten) a few times a week reading articles and retweeting the tweets I find interesting.  I don't do this every day, because I can waste a ton of time here. I have to limit myself to the ten minutes or so of sharing/reading other people's tweets.

After this, I go to my mentions page.  It is easy to hit "reply" and send a quick message to anyone who mentioned me that day. However, I don't send a message to everyone who Tweeted me using Triberr, only the people who have sent me some sort of personal message or given me a shout out. I also check any direct messages and reply to the ones that are actual conversations with me and not just spam to get me to visit their site/buy their product, etc.

Once a week, I use a free program that tracks how many people mentioned me in an easy format where I can give multiple shout outs to thank them and alert my followers these are good folks.  This is where I thank everyone who tweets me through Triberr.

All in all, I've got it down to where I spend only ten to twenty minutes a day on Twitter.  Sometimes when I'm procrastinating about something else, I will go on an extra time and read/RT more tweets from people I've followed.

When I get ready to multiply my reach by joining some tweet teams (you can do this through or find tweet teams other places like Facebook) then there are programs to help schedule tweets. Tweet teams are where you join up with a group of other people and send out their tweet to your followers, and they in turn send out your tweet to their followers.  The scheduling programs I've heard of to do this include and though there are others. I'm sure there is a learning curve with both of these programs, but what they do is allow you to plug several tweets into them in the morning and stagger when they post to Twitter throughout the day.

[I have to add this information right now! Thanks Ruby Barnes for bringing this to my attention.  If you are technologically challenged, like I am, Tweet 140 is so easy to use to schedule your tweets for a tweet team type of situation.  The web site is The basic account is free.  All you have to do is sign up with them, then go to your settings on the top right-hand side. Select your time zone, what times of day you want tweets to go out between, and how many tweets you want posted per hour. Then, copy your tweets from your tweet teams into the queue list and hit tweet.  It automatically schedules your times based on how many per hour you selected! This is so much easier for me than hootsuite or tweetdeck! One thing, it doesn't shorten the URL's for you so if they are long ones that don't fit you have to shorten them, but that can be done for free at I'm so excited by how easy this program is! It is the one I will be using for all my scheduling. Thanks again, Ruby!]

Using these free programs significantly cuts down the amount of time I spend on Twitter each day. Do you have any other tweet tips for me?

Here are a few web sites for more help with Twitter:
New to Twitter or Need Tweet Perspective? Don't Over-Think It - good general information - information on what kinds of things to tweet
Coming Clean About My Twitter Success - tells how to get more Twitter followers (and where I learned about

Happy tweeting!

~ Chantel 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

DRM and Copyright and Format ~ Oh My!

Besides the things I listed last week, there is still much to do before self publishing that has nothing to do with the actual writing of the novel.  I wanted to share with you a few more steps I am currently working on while waiting for my editor to finish proof reading Always & Forever.

COPYRIGHT PAGE:  If you self publish, it is up to you to create your own copyright page. There are certain aspects that must go on this to protect your rights and save you from a lawsuit. Here's a website you can get more information from and sample copyright pages you may legally cut and paste to your own book.  What I didn't know is that copyright pages are, in fact, copyrighted, so don't copy one out of a book without changing the wording.

I've saved mine as a generic Copyright Boilerplate so for future books all I have to do is change the copyright date and insert the correct ISBN/MOBI/EPUB numbers.

DIGITAL RIGHTS MANAGEMENT: You also need to decide whether you are putting DRM on your electronic book or not. This is supposed to help stop piracy of your work, but what I've heard is it just makes things hard for honest customers who might read books on multiple platforms (they can't do this without buying multiple copies of books with DRM). Interestingly, someone also said if the company hosting the DRM goes out of business in the future, the reader will no longer be able to access the book. My favorite books I will re-read many times over for years and years. I would be very upset if I suddenly couldn't access it ten years from now.

For these reasons, I've decided against DRM, but each author must make this choice for themselves. On my copyright page, I included a paragraph about where my book can be legally bought and if it wasn't purchased from those sources, the reader has received a pirated copy and where to report it. I think the convenience not having DRM provides to readers is worth the risk, but this is another thing to think about if you are self publishing.

FORMATTING:  Once my book comes back from the editor, I will need to format it for publication. This is a tricky process, but I'm going to try to do it myself. If you are not confident in your abilities to do this, you can hire a formatter. My friend and fellow author, Rachelle Ayala, formats e-books.  Check her out

However, I took a writing course How to Think Sideways from author Holly Lisle, and it has a comprehensive lesson on formatting. I'm giving it a go. We'll see how this turns out.

Someone also said you can have your books formatted by using this website - but I will caution you that I've not tried this and I don't know how it works.

Instructions are also provided for Amazon through their KDP program here.  Barnes & Nobles has information for their PubIt! formatting here.  Smashwords has instructions for the "Meat Grinder" (seriously, this is what they call it!) here. I'm not doing the meat grinder, as I've heard it is a headache and a half! I've decided to only submit to Amazon and Barnes & Noble for now.

I'm sure there are things I've forgotten to do and I will discover them as I get closer to publication. However, right now I'm waiting on my editor so I'm going to spend time writing my newest book.

Have a terrific week, everyone! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My Favorite Writing Course

Back when I first decided I wanted to be an author, I needed information on how to actually do that. The best help I found was from author Holly Lisle.  Check out her web site for information about her writing, free articles to help aspiring authors, and access to buy her writing clinics and courses.

HTTS Direct: Lesson 1She made a comprehensive, 28-week boot-camp type school where a lesson was delivered on-line every week to learn all her tricks and secrets about writing a book. The course came to be much more than she originally planned, and she has since included information on how to self publish and all other aspects of writing.

Holly Lisle is making each lesson of the course I took available as individual lessons in ebook format, so you can pick and choose which you like best, or buy them in order and take it just as we original students did.  She doesn't have them all available yet, but is adding lessons as quickly as she can.  Check out her store  Buying the lessons individually at the price of $4.99 a lesson, you will take the course for far less than I paid for it, and it was worth every penny!

Anyway, wanted to let you all know about this. I don't get anything from promoting her, but I was so pleased with the things I learned, I thought it was worth passing along.

Happy writing!