Critique Groups: Debra Dunbar, Author of Eleven Blood

Elven Blood is Debra Dunbar's answer to fantasy fiction.I’ve never been in a traditional critique group, but last year I signed up for a short-term one at our local college. The class met for four session, one each week, and we discussed the first twenty pages of each student’s novel of their choice. We wound up with 2 critiques per week, so there was a bit of work involved.

The appeal was that the class gave me feedback from a broad swath of readers – all ages, both male and female, writers of fiction and non-fiction. I was finished with the draft of my second book in the Imp series and hoped this would be a great opportunity to have fresh eyes give the novel a review. My hope was that other writers would be articulate enough to let me know any issues they had with the early part of the novel.

And, of course, there is the dreaded “series” conundrum. Is the recap too much? Does it read like an info-dump of what happened in the first novel? Is it too little? Are readers thrown unprepared into a new world and characters, drowning in references they don’t understand? What is critical to bring readers up to speed in the first few pages, and what can be sprinkled in throughout the latter parts of the novel?

I went into the critique group thinking to learn more about my own novel, but it was reading and giving feedback on everyone else’s work that really brought me the most value. I tend to be a rather forgiving reader, skimming over the rough spots and concentrating on what works well. Having to comment on these other works helped me to look closer, to realize that each word, each sentence provides a sense of unity to the flow and tone of the book.

Among the many novel excerpts I read a funny memoir, a promising quirky thriller, a rather convoluted dark drama, and a stream-of-consciousness psychological fiction. And I got feedback on Satan’s Sword– feedback that helped me tighten up the beginning, give my characters more emotion, and balance action with a slower paced descriptive scene. Not bad for a four-week class and a twenty page review!

I’m again taking the class, this time with many new authors participating. Personally, I like this type of critique group far more than the dedicated participant model. I love that each time I get a whole new perspective on my writing, and I love exploring and learning from another author’s work.

Others may work better with a set group that sees their novels and writing style as they evolve, but, for me, this was the best model. Maybe your local college has one, too. If not, perhaps you’re just the person to set one up!

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Author’s Biography and Links:

Debra Dunbar lives on a farm in the northeast United States with her husband, three boys, and a Noah’s ark of four legged family members.  Her urban fantasy novels feature supernatural elements in local settings. In addition to A Demon Bound, Satan’s Sword, and Elven Blood, she has also published a short story erotica series titled Naughty Mom. Connect with her on Twitter @debra_dunbar, on Facebook at debradunbarauthor, and on her website at http://debradunbar.com.

A Demon Bound:  http://amzn.to/MK6nxD

Satan’s Sword: http://amzn.to/Tsi1Wr

Debra will be awarding an e-book copy of A DEMON BOUND (book 1 in the Imp Series) to a randomly drawn commenter at every stop, and a grand prize of a Kindle Fire with an ELVEN BLOOD book cover skin to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour (US ONLY). E-book copies of A Demon Bound and Satan’s Sword and a basket of awesome swag will be awarded to a randomly drawn host.

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Elven Blood is Debra Dunbar's answer to fantasy fiction.

BLURB:

Sam may be the Iblis, but she is also an imp with a price on her head.  The powerful demon Haagenti won’t rest until she’s dragged back to Hel for “punishment”.  Sam knows she can’t face Haagenti and win, so when an Elf Lord offers to eliminate the demon in return for her help, Sam accepts.  It’s a simple job – find and retrieve a half-breed monster dead or alive.  But finding this demon/elf hybrid isn’t proving easy and time is running out.

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EXCERPT:

The hiss of Wyatt’s shower penetrated through the fog of my pre-caffeinated brain.  I was still sprawled on the bed, hidden under a heap of covers, wondering whether I could sneak in a few more minutes of sleep. It was rent day, and I was already late in making my collection rounds.  Stretching, I poked my head from under the blanket and watched a small lizard cross the floor.  It had a scorpion tail, pointed ears and crimson eyes that darted intelligently across the room.  Those red eyes locked onto the bed just as I realized this wasn’t a lizard.  It was a demon—and not the usual Low one either.

There was a flash, and I rolled across the bed and onto the floor just before the mattress sliced into two smoking sections.  Unfortunately I was trapped in a tangle of sheets.  Instinctively I converted my form, deconstructing my usual human one into basic atoms and re-assembling into a creature that was small and hard to kill.

I heard a muffled curse, and I felt the sheets snatched from above me.  The demon was no longer a lizard; he was bipedal with furry, clawed legs and a scaled torso.  Arms hung down past his knees, ending in sharp hooks.  His head twisted and turned, forked tongue tasting the air as he searched for me.

Elven Blood is Debra Dunbar's answer to fantasy fiction.

A Visit with Demon Slayer Cynthia Vespia

Demon Hunter is a horror fiction by Cynthia VespiaTonight, I’d like to chat with author Cynthia Vespia. Her project Demon Hunter has evolved into a trilogy, the kind of fiction that will compel you to sleep with your lights on. Demon Hunter: the Chosen One has attracted many readers, and Part II, Demon Hunter: Seek and Destroy will be out in print November 27, 2009. Cynthia has been a freelance journalist since high school, and has penned several other novels before joining Aspen Mountain Press. Stop by her website, www.CynthiaVespia.com; her trailers are awesome to see. She brings all her writing experience to the printed page. So let’s hear what Cynthia has to say about her Demon Hunter project.

BARBARA: Could you tell your readers a little about Demon Hunter? Would you summarize the theme by saying, “Be careful what you wish for?”

CYNTHIA: Absolutely. We can all find ourselves secretly wishing for a certain aspect of our lives to change but sometimes you get your wish and it winds up not being worth it, or not what you thought it would be. And sometimes it IS what you were looking for…but things don’t always come easily or run smoothly.

Demon Hunter really plays on changes. Life changes, changes of the soul, changes of who you thought you once were or where you were going. Costa Calabrese has just uncovered the truth about his past. Some truths should never be revealed. When you learn you’re the son of the world’s foremost and feared hunter of demons, life’s rules inevitably change. As his lineage is uncovered he must stay one step ahead of the demons who are intent on the destruction of his famed family. With the aide of companions he meets along the way, Costa will travel the great expanse of the land walking in his famed father’s footsteps and taking up the role his blood line now demands of him…whether he wants to or not.

Exploring the classic theme of good versus evil, Demon Hunter blends the highly popular elements of dark fantasy with the proven concept of high-adventure novels where believable, down-to-earth characters take the reader on a journey. It is the story about a nobody who becomes a somebody in the bloodiest of ways.

BARBARA: I was impressed with your book trailers especially DH on YouTube.  How do they work for you? How did you set up YouTube?

CYNTHIA: Thank you, I make most of my own trailers. I believe that even readers are very visual by nature. Let’s face it, these days everyone has a touch of ADD! We want info now and we want it fast. Not everyone has the time to read a blurb; but if you can encapsulate your story in a compelling 2 minute trailer and hook them with the imagery, they are far more likely to seek out your novel for the big read. YouTube is a great place to host your trailers. It gets millions upon millions of hits per day. I essentially started my YouTube to showcase my fitness videos and the video editing projects I’ve done work on in the past. From there I segued into using it as another vehicle for my writing by displaying the trailers.

BARBARA: I see you’ve been a freelance journalist since high school. Could you describe a typical writing day for you?

CYNTHIA: Really no two days are alike…it’s chaos. I juggle a lot of different things (way too much right now) and I’m a terrible procrastinator. But if I have a deadline in front of me, watch me fly. Right now as I work on the third and final installment of the Demon Hunter trilogy I find I get drawn to it at odd hours. If my Muse is awake and wanting to play, I don’t dare deny her, I just go with it. It has honestly been a long while since something kept me up late or woke me up early to work on it so that tells me that DH3 is going to be something very special.

BARBARA: Demon Hunter and your other works have enjoyed great reviews, I notice. Do you have any forthcoming signings or writing events? Where?

CYNTHIA: As of this writing I’m making the rounds on the interview circuit to promote the release of Demon Hunter: Seek & Destroy. It’s the second installment in the DH trilogy. You can catch me on Reader’s Entertainment Radio on 9/13 at 8:30 est. and on Sin City Sessions on 9/25 at 9pm. And as always stay up to date on my official website www.CynthiaVespia.com where you can find the latest news and developments.

BARBARA: Do you think e-books will eventually outsell paperbacks? Why or why not?

CYNTHIA: I don’t necessarily think they will outsell paperbacks. Readers are always going to want to have the feel of a book in their hands. But I do think e-books have found their niche and they are here to stay.  It is the era of technology and you have to be ready to embrace every possible angle. My trilogy of terror Demon Hunter is a proud component of the e-book agenda. You will see a lot more e-books and e-book readers in the future but there is no fear that bookstores will go out of business…people enjoy it as a social gathering, and most bookstores have great coffee too!

BARBARA: What is the once piece of advice you’d give a writer trying to promote their work?

CYNTHIA: Marketing and promoting your work is as important as writing the novel in the first place. You can write the Great American Novel but if nobody knows it exists then you’re going to have a hard time. You have to be a marketing machine. No one is going to be behind your work as much as you are. Even the biggest publishing houses can only delegate so much time and money to new authors. The rest is up to you. And my best advice would be to think outside the box. If you’re doing what everybody else is doing, someone is always doing it better…you need to do something different so you stand out from the pack and get noticed.

BARBARA: I notice that you’re a fan of Dean Koontz. How do you feel the up and coming dark fantasy writers compare with greats like Koontz and King?

CYNTHIA: Oh yes, Koontz got me started on my career as a writer! There will only ever be one Koontz and one King, but some of the new writers coming up have some really unique story ideas. Not everything is black and white in this world and I like when an author mixes shades of gray. There are so many really great authors out there getting lost in the shuffle of the mediocre writers due to the simple fact that they just don’t get enough exposure. I’d like to invite readers to step outside their comfort zone next time they’re picking out a book and try on a different author. You may find a new favorite. An easy way to do that is to get an e-book. They are convenient and not very costly. Demon Hunter: The Chosen One is running for $6.00 per download.

BARBARA: I hear you’re working on a new novel, a dark fantasy, but the rest is a military secret. Can you give us a few hints?

CYNTHIA: I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you! Heh, heh…no, I’ll let my stories slay you instead. The secret is out…Demon Hunter was always meant to be a trilogy. The second installment titled Demon Hunter: Seek & Destroy will be out on Nov 27, 2009. The main players are back from The Chosen One and this time they find their adventures take them out to sea, to the land of the dragons, and straight down into the pit of Hell. There is also a love triangle of sorts added to the mix with some very surprising outcomes. I am currently writing the third and final chapter to the series…I can’t give away too much here, but I will say the opening chapter alone will take you by surprise!

BARBARA: Can you tell us a little about the Fiction Writer’s Guild and how they help authors?

CYNTHIA: Anytime you’re part of a group of authors, you can always benefit from exchanging ideas, critiques, and the latest news events. Just be choosy in whose advice you seek.

BARBARA: Where may people order copies of Demon Hunter?

CYNTHIA: Demon Hunter is available online via:

http://www.amazon.com/Demon-Hunter-The-Chosen-ebook/dp/B007SRTYBE/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1369421649&sr=8-2&keywords=cynthia+vespia
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/demon-hunter-cynthia-vespia/1111388411?ean=2940014120616
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/151759

Cynthia Vespia
Author of Thrillers and Fantasy Novels
www.CynthiaVespia.com
www.myspace.com/demonhunternovel

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