Remember to Fact Check Story Details!

Everyone loves a story told with rich details. Even I say that a story has to be 80-90% factual to be believable. The other 10-20% gives room for "fiction", or the made up part.

But lately I've been thrown out of stories by physical details not in line with reality. They were innocent, but made the reader blink. In baseball terms, they would be counted as errors--which means they were avoidable.

Go the Right Direction

For example: I read a book set in Seattle, where I live. In a moment of hurry, the hero and heroine travel from Gas Works park area to Queen Anne hill. So they backtrack to Eastlake and go around Lake Washington. Uh, wrong!

My art studio is just up the steps from Gas Works park, and I regularly have emergencies for my mother-in-law that require me to drive to her assisted care facility in Queen Anne. The fastest route is to cut through Freemont neighborhood and loop up to the Aurora Ave Bridge, which is also Washington State Route 99. Her book's route and my route go in opposite directions around the lake.

The point is that the moment I read this weird route, I broke out of the book. After that, all details about Seattle were suspect to me. And I caught a couple more errors. But they were all avoidable. Either because the detail was unnecessary (we didn't really need to know the route they took to Queen Anne) or there exist plenty of resources to verify such facts. Better yet: a few beta readers in the locale where the book was written might have caught the blunders.

Anyone who's lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and watched The Graduate can attest to the fact that Dustin Hoffman's character drives the wrong way across the Bay Bridge. The lanes on top of the bridge go INTO San Francisco. The lanes on bottom level of the bridge go OUT of the city.
Now go watch the movie and try not to get thrown out of the story by that error. Heck, they should have had him go across the Golden Gate, where both lanes are on top, and had a more colorful visual shot! Of course, that would have been the longest route to the East Bay. Maybe not...

Take Classes, Interview Experts, Visit Your Locale

Frankly, I'm in the same boat with my book set in New York. My visits to that great city are old, useless, and my travel is mostly for family right now, so I'm not able to go test my book routes.
So I use a lot of maps, guide books, travel blogs and Google Maps street images to verify details.

If I'm not sure of a fact, I either skim the detail or write around it. Or I just delete it when the information isn't really necessary. I also watch documentary footage at times for scenery or visceral details and ask folks who live there for confirmation.

And then there's the kind of details that require more advance fact checking, like police procedures, weapons usage or general physics of an action scene. I've take classes with different law enforcement agencies and read about their world a lot! But the best source I've found for such details is the CrimeSceneWriters group on Yahoo. Or I go interview an expert. Either way, I feel safer knowing I've done what I can to fact check my story with people who know better than I do.

Apply Editing Tips & Tricks

Remember, when editing details, ask yourself:

1. Is this detail absolutely necessary to add color to the scene/character or believability to the story?
2. If in doubt of the detail, can you find a definitive verification of its accuracy?
3. Do you know an expert in that area who can help you get the info right?
4. Can you delete the detail and use some other known/accurate detail?

Good luck, my little devils, and keep writing!

Secrets of the Smirking Editor

Welcome, Eilis Flynn, who's here to give her insight into how editors think and operate based on her years of vast, colorful experience working as both an author AND an editor.

She's also arranged a sponsorship from Grammarly for her post and is offering a $15 Amazon gift card for one lucky person who comments on this post (see details below). Take it away, Eilis...

“I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because we all need to have our work checked!”

Unnecessary Introduction

When I was laid off from my job as an editor and Editor Devil Christine Fairchild kindly offered me a slot for a blog post so I could tell her readers about my editing history, I thanked her and said I would come up with something. And the months went by, and I kept starting and stopping on what I wanted to write. My own fiction writing I could tell you all about; I’m used to shilling my fiction. The part of my life that’s paid the bills for more than thirty years? I was struck dumb. For a few seconds.

Well, it was longer than that (a number of months, I’m embarrassed to say), but I finally remembered that I was giving a presentation at the end of October about editing. Hey, I should get started on that, I said to myself. If nothing else, jot down at least some random notes about editing, and why editors can sometimes be caught smirking. That I can do, I decided. The contents will change as the time grows closer for the workshop, but the intent will remain the same.

Secrets Behind the Smirking

On occasion you’ll notice editors smirking a little. You may ask yourself why. Are they making fun of you or your work? Are they thinking of cruel things to do to their clients’ work? No, not at all (as far as I know; at least that’s not why I smirk). Here’s my theory on why other editors may smirk: they know you’re scared of grammar.

At least some people are. There’s no good reason for it (being frightened, that is, not grammar. No, we NEED grammar, as you’ll see). I think it’s more likely there’s a tiny little bit of childhood in us that doesn’t want to be made fun of if we get something wrong. Everybody has that fear in them, for something or other; for some people it may be a horsey laugh they have, or a funny way they run through no fault of their own, or a tendency to mispronounce certain words (“Schenectady” and “Cinderella” were mine). Editors face that fear every single day and do battle with it. Sometimes it beats us, but more often than not, we triumph! So that could explain the smirk you may see on our faces. We not only meet our fear, but we know we have the means by which to overcome it!

On the other hand, that smirk may be there because while we hold the means by which to give your work a makeover, we know you do too. But because you allow your fear to get the better of you, you may hypercorrect (editors have been known to smirk when they read statements like “There’s nothing between Oliver and I,” because they know the author of that sentence isn’t clear about when to use “I” and “me”). Editors will tell you things like that can rip them, and the reader, away from the story. You have the power to keep the reader focused on your tale by making sure the grammar, the method by which your story is built, remains in the background. If your reader gets jarred out of your wonderful story by clunky grammar, you may never get him or her back into the groove, and the experience of reading your story goes down the drain.

Believe it or don’t, grammar comes naturally to us. It’s how we learn to think; it’s how we communicate. Without grammar, essentially, we devolve into beasts—and even wild beasts have it easier than we do at that point, because they know how to communicate without grammar. Our problem as humans is our fear of being laughed at re: grammar. Grammar should come as easily as breathing or as telling a story. It’s only when we doubt our instincts that we have difficulty deciding what’s right.

Favorite Quote About Grammar

Finally, I have a quotation from a book titled Genie: A Scientific Tragedy that I’ve always had taped up in my office. I’ve kept it in mind through the years whenever someone complains about grammar:

“...[W]e are physically formed by the influence of language. An essential part of our personal physical development is conferred on us by others, and comes in at the ear. The organization of our brain is as genetically ordained and as automatic as breathing, but, like breathing, it is initiated by the slap of a midwife, and the midwife is grammar.”

To Think Clearly, Know Your Grammar

You need grammar to think clearly. So the next time you find your thinking in a muddle...well, think grammar. And that’s why editors can be seen to be smirking: you think you need us to make sure your thoughts are clear, but the secret is, you don’t. You could do it all on your own. And that’s our secret.

And the grammar website Grammarly has kindly offered to sponsor this post, so if you leave a comment, your name will be thrown into the running to win a $15 Amazon gift card! So comment away! (Remember, the best clever/funny reason for using Grammarly each month wins a $100 Amazon gift card!)

Before we go there, though, it’s time for the commercial:
Check out for editing services and pricing.
My latest book as Eilis Flynn, cowritten with Heather Hiestand, is the steampunk vampire historical fantasy, Wear Black:

To find other books by Eilis Flynn, see her Amazon Author page.

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Flynn worked in Wall Street and Wall Street-related firms for almost 35 years, so why should she write anything that’s any more based in reality? Published in a number of genres (fiction and nonfiction), she writes fiction as Eilis Flynn and lives in Seattle with her patient husband and the ghosts of her spoiled rotten cats. She can be reached at, at Facebook, and at Twitter. She can be reached at As Elizabeth Flynn, she’s taking editing clients, so drop her a line at or

From Corporate Editor to Indie-published Historical Women's Fiction Author

UPDATE:  Lisa is giving away her book to one lucky winner who leaves a chosen randomly of course, but be sure to leave your email address :)

Today we have a guest interview with award-winning author, Lisa Costantino, who's recently published her debut women's historical fiction book, Maiden's Veil.
As an editor and an author, Lisa faced the challenge of striving for perfection in her book while making it still feel fresh and alive. Here lyrical passages truly use language to its fullest potential! So it's a must read if you love women's fiction and you want to see a great representation of historical literary fiction. Fortunately, her book is currently on sale, so check it out:

Lisa also offers editing services to authors looking to submit a manuscript to traditional publishing and/or to go indie and self publish their work. And since she's been down both paths, she can tune into issues most newbie authors miss. I know because she edited my book, An Eye For Danger. Feel free to reach out to her when you're ready to polish your manuscript, especially if you're writing in literary genres:
But enough's Lisa...
1) What inspired you to write about pagan fertility rituals, weaving, and the oncoming industrial revolution in the 1700s?
Maiden’s Veil was born from a trip to England to attend some of the traditions celebrated every May. There’s a sizable number of pagans in the UK, and a number of events and festivities that have been carried out for centuries. Once I overheard someone in a pub say they felt like the Lady of Shalott, an idea began to form. I wanted to write about being trapped in a web of one’s own making, and the time period and setting added to the sense of not being able to move forward.
2) Which character do you feel is stronger in the end, Jess or Clarinda, and which one of them is most like you?
Jess is the stronger, because she is able to forgive herself, whereas Clarinda cannot. As for which one is most like me—well, I love to wander through England like Jess, but I’m stubborn and defiant like Clarinda. It’s a tie.
3) If there was going to be a sequel, which is not common for literary fiction, whose story would you most want to move forward with?
Oh, I couldn’t imagine a sequel, but Clarinda seems to be every reader’s favorite character, including mine, so I’m working on a YA novel about a younger version of Clarinda. It’s not a prequel, but rather a story of a young Clarinda in, say, an alternate universe. I love herbology, and the research involved in writing historical fiction, so the time period and the self-sufficiency aspects of Clarinda’s story will carry into my next book.
4) You've won acclaim with this book... how does that put more pressure on writing the next novel?
It’s not the acclaim that’s adding pressure as much as the need to produce another book in a timely fashion. Can someone sell me more time in the day? : )
For tapestry weaver Clarinda Asher, the consequences of her participation in an ancient ritual terrified her remote English village enough to banish her to a lonely hilltop. Centuries later, Jess Barlow and Owen Calder rediscover and perform the Maiden’s Veil, igniting another firestorm as the ritual’s power is resurrected and they set out to complete the task Clarinda began 300 years before.
Lisa Costantino fled the relentless sunshine of southern California to settle in the lit-friendly, rainy Pacific Northwest, where she established herself as a travel writer, book reviewer, and content specialist, while also writing fiction whenever she could find the time. Maiden’s Veil is her first published novel.

Top 10 Marketing No’s-No’s for Authors

Today's guest post comes from the formidable marketing team of C. Morgan Kennedy and Therese Patrick, who offer great tips and tricks on building your brand and book promotion at When they taught at the Emerald City Writers Conference last year, they offered a truly effective workshop on building a author marketing plan, from web site to attending cons to promos, that blew me away. So these ladies know what they are talking about. Without further ado....

Top 10 Marketing No’s-No’s for Authors

1.       No Pink Fluffy anything. This is a pet peeve of ours and it extends to pink-fluffy personas. Unless you write about pink fluffy kittens and unicorns, please leave them off your website, business cards, and other professional communications.  Authors, no matter how cute or perky they may seem, do not owe their success as authors to their looks or personality. Writing GREAT books and letting the world know they exist is the key to success.

2.       No Apologizing. A post that begins with some form of, “Oops!” needs to include a call to action and reason – like “I forgot to let you know my novel is free today! Get it before midnight!” Never apologize for a late blog post because no matter how loyal your fans may be, most will not plan their day according to whether or not you posted a cute tidbit.

3.       No Whining. No one wants to hear about how much you hate promotions, or how tough it is to be a writer, or how many people have not liked your page.  You can write for fun all you want, but when you choose to try to sell your books…well now you’ve entered into a business venture.  Suck it up and do what it takes to be successful or resolve to “let the chips fall where they may” without complaint.  You can’t continue to do nothing and expect to have a best seller.  Plus, do you really want to be perceived as one of THOSE negative, whiney authors?

4.       No Dirty Laundry. You are an author, you write books to entertain and inform readers. So unless your topic is stain removal or chiropractic adjustments, keep the soiled undergarments and skeletons in your closet.

5.       No Rants. Keep your indignation and politics private unless you are an authority who has the power to create change with a rant so stellar it causes peace to break out in war torn countries.

6.       No Shotgun promotion blasts. This refers to authors who load promo materials into a shotgun, climb into the back of a pickup, and tour social media sites blasting “buy my book.” If you are offended by the gun analogy, refer to this point as “No Blind Bowling”.  Target your marketing for specific audiences and your efforts will pay dividends.

7.       No Purple Promotions. This applies to descriptions of your friends’ books as well. Reviews are important but don’t trade gushing praise for each other especially if you haven’t read the book, or wouldn’t buy it if you didn’t need a review of your book.

8.       No Menopausal Meanderings. This applies to men as well. Unless your core audience is menopausal women...otherwise create blog posts, newsletters, and other marketing messages that are suitable for your audience.

9.       No Fad Following. Every year there’s a new gimmick for promotions that costs more than it sells. If you do invest cash in a promotional tool MAKE SURE YOUR WEBSITE IS ON IT! Make sure it represents the same colors and themes of your website and business cards.  And have FUN with it.  Consider how this new thing fits into your overall marketing strategy.  If it makes sense, do it.  If not, don’t waste your time and money.  For example, when author trading cards first hit the scene a few years ago, a lot of our author friends scrambled to have them designed and printed.  Trading cards only make sense, if you frequently attend READER functions.

10.   NO Using Marketing and Promotions as an EXCUSE that you are too busy to WRITE. ONLY 10% of your writing time should be used for marketing and promotions.  Remember, you are a writer FIRST and great books will keep your readers coming back for more!


C. Morgan Kennedy has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University and an MBA from Otterbein College. Marketing and Entrepreneurship were her MBA focus.  Throughout her fifteen year career in Corporate America, she has worked in international and large account sales, corporate training, and product marketing. She is currently a Product Marketing Manager for a $20 million global product portfolio. Ms. Kennedy is based in Portland, OR.

Therese Patrick is an active member of RWA for ten years. For Rose City Romance Writers she was a past treasurer, on the newsletter staff, and has been a coordinator with the Golden Rose Contest teams since 2003. A former Business Operations Consultant and Technical Writer she was part of the start up team for a national electrical services company. Ms. Patrick is a mother of four daughters, lives in Oregon, writes contemporary romance and memoir. She is an active blogger since 2009 and is marketing both her fiction and memoir.

More Lessons from Indie Publishing

Since this is my birthday week (Wed, FEB 6 is my bday), I decided to share what I've learned in the last year since publishing four books as an indie author.

1) Getting READY to be published definitely took a village.
I couldn't be where I am without my husband, who's supporting us financially, and my critique group partners, who helped whip my books into shape and whipped me when I got out of line (just kidding) and wanted to quit the book because I was sick of editing.

The big lesson here was about the psychology of burn-out. Sometimes for authors, this problem manifests as writer's block, sometimes illness, sometimes disgust for one's own work. Basically, you lose rational perspective. This is when friends/family/critique partners are very important in helping you see more clearly. Listen to them and don't give up!

I burned out hard on An Eye For Danger near the last edit rounds, but my village pushed me through. Including my readers at Wattpad, who with every chapter were sending me emails demanding more more more. So don't underestimate the power of having fans. Whoa, that pulled on my heart strings. I couldn't give up at that point, because I hadn't the heart to let them down.

TIP: A big helper was that I created my book cover early, so that made the book feel like more than words hidden in a file on my computer. Making your book real, via announcements and fans, makes you work much harder to reach the finish line!

2) Having no marketing budget makes you very resourceful.
Granted, my husband is carrying our bills so I can launch my author career. But my marketing budget still had to come of my own sales. So there's the chicken and the egg dilemma. How to make sales so you can advertise to make more sales?

My choice was to enter the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program so I could manipulate exposure of my book via the 5 free days. There are so many sites that will promo your book if it's free on Kindle, that the free advertising was indisputably a leg up. My first run scored 12,000 downloads. Yes, free, but the resulting book reviews by readers and the sales bump for the next week were both worth the sting to my ego.

In a six-week period I used up my free days (2 days, then another 3-day run at the end of Oct) and garnered about $1,100 in resulting sales. AND my second free run was a complete disaster, because Amazon's ranking system failed and I didn't get picked up by the major announcement sites (Pixel of Ink and eReader News Today).

But I'm still proud of all the free blogs and promos I did because I made new connections and found new authors and learned new lessons. Very worthwhile to have to forage that hard for exposure!

TIP: Get a blog or web site going via a free tool, like Blogger or Wordpress. But be clear how much time you have to spend on these and what you want to say. I like to give away information and teach, so a short blog is perfect for my personality and time constraints.

3) Staying flexible matters, but the definition may surprise you.
Editing is critical, especially when you're dyslexic. There is no end to the amount of editing I can do on a book. That's partly my problem: I over edit material. Worse, I introduce new errors due to my dyslexia. So staying fluid about updating my book regularly was important. There are still changes I want to make to the current version, and no one can tell me "no" because I own the process. And the book improves every time I clear up more issues.

And then there is my husband, who is the voice of reason. My goal should be to finish writing book 2, not still fidgeting with book 1, he says. Why does that man have to be right so often?

So... flexibility sometimes means NOT acting on your impulses. Hence, I have edits waiting till my other goals are met for the month. Since I was out of the office nearly four whole months due to family issues and personal illness, let's just say I was VERY behind in reaching goals. Again, staying flexible according to what's important matters. The health of your loved ones (and yourself) is more critical than any book!!!

TIP: Get a life coach, editor or a good friend to talk publishing "goals" with you at least once per quarter. I'm easily distracted, so having someone remind me of my life-centered goals kept me on track. Of course, I can't get everything done. But did I get done the things that make me happiest? YES!

4) Starting early with networking and research gives you an advantage.
Sure, I had a website and a blog site and Twitter account and Facebook page...all those are important to have BEFORE you go to market. But I also joined several writing and marketing groups via Yahoo Groups before I entered the game, and thank God for that! I learned so much from folks who were "several hamburgers ahead of me in this restaurant" so I was able to anticipate and make decisions more quickly.

An important aspect to networking is discovering which book sites, reviewers (I wish I'd paid more attention to these sooner!), and bloggers you want to leverage once your book hits the shelves. Let's just say that when I come out with book 2, I'll definitely put my interview and review requests into the right sites sooner! Like before the book is published!

Another example of learning from others: I've been reading posts from authors who've used BookBub, a service that announces books to a mailing list of dedicated readers. Their experience and sales numbers are impressive. So I saved up $360 and bought my own spot (comes out Feb 21st), because I put my book, An Eye For Danger (, on a $0.99 special for my birthday month. Best part, I could rationalize this to my husband by pointing to the testimonies of other authors.

TIP: Get on Goodreads early. These readers are tough on books, but if you win them over, you get great reviews and they pass on the word. And set up a promo schedule FAR in advance if you want to use eReader News Today or Pixel of Ink or BookBub services. These are the best, but they are booked! So "last minute" promos don't fly well with them, and having them on your side can mean hundreds of dollars in profits! Not having them can mean a flailing promo, which can discourage your future efforts. Nothing ruins a book career faster than discouragement!

I hope these lessons help you move forward in your own publishing journey, whether you go indie or traditional! And remember, life is not a vacuum--we need each other. So pass on what you learn to others :)

Yours truly,
The Editor Devil