Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ballad of the Highwayman: ON SALE NOW!!!!

Huzzah, everyone! After a horrid week of editing and dealing with technical (as in technology) difficulties and waiting around for the website to work right, I am happy to announce that, after long last, Ballad of the Highwayman is up for sale!

You can find it here:

Or down at the bottom of the page with my collection of book links. It will also be available on Amazon within a few days, I'll be sure to let you know when it gets there.

Please at least take a look at it and tell me if you do decide to read it.
So Stand and Deliver your gold and you'll get a good swashbuckler to read in return!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hazel West is: Now on Goodreads!

Hello everyone! I wanted to let you all know that I am now an official author on Goodreads and you can go and see my author's page there. You can see my author's page here. Feel free to follow me on Goodreads, and don't be afraid to comment on my profile either. If you don't have an account, then start one! It's really fun, and when I get up enough followers, I might start some contests and things. Anyone who reads my blogs can be my friend on Goodreads as well. Just because I'm published now doesn't mean I can't be your friend. :P

I'm sorry for not posting anything more about my new book, but I'm still working on the post for it, it should be up later this week. I've just been trying to get a whole bunch of things done lately.

Slainte, Hazel

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ballad of the Highwayman Sneak Peak!!!

Ooh, an all mysterious sneak peak of my new book, Ballad of the Highwayman. And here it is:

Well, the mysterious lady author has to have a little fun doesn't she??

Besides my new highwaymen outfit, here's the official sneak peak from the back of the book:

"Stand and Deliver!"
Kilroy Allen grew up as a normal boy in the small English town of Newbury, but when his father, an officer in the Royalist army of King Charles I is set up and accused of betraying his king to Oliver Cromwell, Kilroy's life will change forever. Witness to his father’s execution at the hands of the people the man loyally served, Kilroy knows he will never rest until his father's betrayer is found.
Sixteen years later, Kilroy, now turned highwayman at night and trader Jeremy Glennon by day, is still looking for the man who betrayed his father. Stakes become even higher as he realizes he cannot wed his childhood sweetheart, the lovely and capable Sylvia Davies without first putting his father's case to rest. He sets out to find his hidden enemy once and for all, ready to be free of the events that have haunted his whole life.
With good humor, romance and danger at every turn, Ballad of the Highwayman is a revival of the classic adventure story that readers of all ages will enjoy.

Enjoy that for now, I'll have a guest post later on this week to tell a little more about the series!

Slainte, Hazel

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hanging, Drawing and Quartering: You know, that thing Writers do called Editing?

Well, I'm halfway through editing my latest novel Ballad of the Highwayman and decided to write a post on that daunting subject for you, mainly, young and inspiring writers out there. As a veteran of six full length novels and countless "short" stories, (they should seriously give medals for that) I've done my good share of editing.

For you young writers maybe still in school, editing your novel is nothing like editing your school papers. Number one, it doesn't matter content wise as long as you are happy with the story line and what you have put into it. Grammar is a tough thing. It's always the hardest thing for any writer, and don't let anyone tell you differently. Even grammar wizards have problems with their grammar. And don't get me started on how spell/grammar check on Word hate dialogue even though it is correct to the character. If you write in another dialect, specifically Scottish, you'll run into even more problems...

But don't worry! Because editing can also be fun! Yes, it's true, I'm not going insane. Editing gives you the opportunity to make your book better. And anything that will make your book better is a very good thing. Make sure that dialogue flows nicely. Make your descriptions interesting and fun to read and not just dry and boring. Make sure people know what is going on in an action scene. Add fluff and stuff you didn't think of the first time around. This is, by far, the best part of editing.

I won't lie, by the time you're done editing, you will most likely hate your book and everything about it. The way I write is this: I write my book. Usually, I will read chapters over as I write them. This is the first edit. Then once the book is done, I will read it through cover-to-cover to check for, not only more typos, but to see if the story line flows. This is the part where you will see if anything needs to be added or even taken away. After that, I start to format it to publishing size. I'll go over my new manuscript on the computer to make sure everything is good in the formatting and then I will get my proof copy (I publish my books through Createspace) and then, yep, you guessed it, I read it again. Then I make the final editing and then publish it finally. Then I hope that there are no typos left, but really, that's always too much to wish.

Some Tips For You All:

It helps to get several other people to read over your book for you as well. A lot of times another reader will pick up things you missed like flow issues, and maybe some things that don't make sense. This is why you have writer friends. They are not only to drink coffee and chat with, you know!

Another old trick is to read your book out loud to yourself. You'll probably not want to actually read the whole thing, but at least read out some areas you have had problems with. I find that when you read things silently, your mind reads what is supposed to be there, but what might not be. If you read it out loud, your brain takes an extra step to process the words your reading, thus alerting you to other problems. I know there's some scientific explanation for all that, but I'm just a poor historian ;)

Of course you can always hire a "real" editor. But for you self-publishing people...well...let's just say our money goes elsewhere. Like on advertising and moralizing coffee.

Other ways to have fun while editing? Write a silly blog post like me. It really does help. Now I have to get back to my editing because (hopefully) my fans are waiting. ;)

Slainte, Hazel

Monday, October 10, 2011

To the Ladies: Dos and Don'ts with Female Protagonists

Up front, I'm going to tell you that I am not a fan of the single female protagonist. As a lover of anything termed a "guy-read" you can guess that I'd rather read about heroic men then tea sipping ladies, or, even worse, ladies who think they can kick people's buttocks and take over anything the hero might have done. (I of course, have exceptions, as I hold a very very high respect for Louisa May Alcott and her works, as well as her ladies, but none of them are the latter mentioned either.) To me, a female protagonist can really make or break a book, as I'm sure it also can for other people. Today, I'm going to give you writers a little advice on the matter. I don't mean for you to follow it, of course; as with all my advice, it is simply my opinion and you can throw rotten fruit at me if you want to.

A female protagonist really needs to be strong. But strong female characters can come off as "liberated women" A.K.A. Suffragettes. This is something you do not want unless you are writing that kind of thing. If that is that case, just don't expect me to read it. A strong female character usually has a man by her side. The man might even be the real protagonist in the story and she his support and love interest; and when I say that, I don't mean she's just there to look pretty either. She can have her hand in the plot line as much as the hero if you wish it. Do your hero a huge favor and give him a lady who will not get in his way in the last battle, but who can also take care of herself so he does not have to worry about her while the baddie is after him. Again, I'm going to mention John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice books. All his girl/hero couples are as described above. And when reading his books, you can see that it works out well. My Kilroy and Sylvia are like this. She knows he knows what he's doing, and he likewise respects that she knows what she's doing. That's the best way to describe it. In an adventure novel, the stronger the female character, the closer to the conflict she gets to be. If she's a pretty, soft-spoken, tea-sipping type of lass, then she doesn't need to be on the front lines with the hero. And she doesn't need to be on the front lines of the plot either.

Of course, you can have the girl as the main character with the lad as her secondary and maybe love interest. My favorite plot line to use for this character set up is: Girl joins the army dressed as a boy. Yes, I know these stories are predictable and maybe overdone, but it really did happen, you know. Remember Deborah Sampson. The reason I like this plot device so much is because you know these girls aren't going to come across as a Suffragette type, unless she's trying to join the army as a girl to make a point. If she's joining dressed as a lad, she obviously doesn't want anyone to know she's a girl, and they usually did it because they wanted to help their country for good reason, or they were running from something. A great book with this plot device is Ann Rinaldi's book Girl in Blue which can be found in my Amazon Astore.

Some genres expect you to have a strong female character, even if she is not the protagonist. Westerns are like that. Anyone who has ever read or watched a western will know that the ladies get to fight back and keep Derringers in their purses or up their sleeves.

Something I would like to bring up is the fact that, funny enough, men seem to be able to write better female characters than women, one of the reasons I also prefer male authors. Why this is, I don't know, but I think it's a testament to the fact that men don't like their women to be stupid and weak. Again, do your poor tormented heroes a favor and give them a good woman!

And of course, if you're writing historical, no one is going to beat you up for keeping it accurate ;) In fact, you'll get better reviews anyway.

Okay, and here's something that can really determine the life or death of a novel. You need to know how many female characters you are going to put into your novel. Sometimes more than one female character clash badly, especially if they are both strong characters. My advice for this is keep one leading lass, (this doesn't apply to secondary characters that are only going to be seen in a couple scenes) let her marry her hero and only bring more female characters in for the other male characters (side-kicks, the hero's friends or whatever) in the second book. After the hero is happily married and the heroine is not feeling protective. The one thing I hate in a book is a cat fight. If this is what you want, go for it. I'm just not a hugh fan. Guys can beat each other up and become friends, but girls just can't do that. They go looking for revenge and thus, get under people's feet and the plot device to boot. Please try to avoid this. Also, men acting like women and fighting over the girl vocally is not a good plot choice either. Guys beat the stuffing out of each other, they don't "just talk"; NO MATTER what the "poor" heroine caught in the middle might think. Again, a huge make or break point for me.

So, to the ladies: let the heroes be, and if that be not in the passion...then know that in the end, if you do your part right, one and all will cry out, "'tis the fashion!"

Slainte, Hazel

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pepys' Advice Column

I've finally gotten some more letters in! Here are my answers to your questions, dear readers:

Dear Mr. Pepys,
I'm  a writer with two books published.  I have readers who want more, but I just can't seem to get going on this next novel.  I have several scenes written for at least three different books involving these characters.  I just can't get started on my original idea for the sequel.  Should I come up with a new idea that might flow better?
Lost in the Note Pile

Dear Lost on the Note Pile,
Your books are what you want them to be. If the original plot is not working, then try something else and see if that works out better for you. Find something new to inspire you. Go on a trip, meet new people, read more books by other amazing authors. Something will come up and everything will "click" eventually and before you know it, you'll be on a writing spree again!
Sincerely, Samuel Pepys

Dear Mr. Pepys,
Help! I've been invited to an important dinner and I fear I will be asked to cut the main meat dish. I have no idea about the etiquette behind this as I have been at sea for several years. What do I do?
~Flustered Butcher

Dear Flustered Butcher,
Cutting the meat at a supper is not a hard thing to do. Ham and venison are thick, beef is thin, and any fowl is medium. Just remember not to use your sword! That should only be used to cut the cake at your wedding!
Sincerely, Samuel Pepys

Dear Mr. Pepys,
I'm a sidekick and my hero is always running off into battle without me and my comrades and getting himself hurt. I'm tired of patching his wounds and his uniform, not to mention keeping everyone else in line while he's recovering. I don't even get a chance to eat, myself, and I'm loosing weight! Tell me, Mr. Pepys, how can I get my feelings across to him? I don't want to just get up and leave, being a loyal sidekick and all, but I've just about had it with this whole situation!
~Fed-Up Sidekick

Dear Fed-Up Sidekick,
Tell your hero how you feel and make sure he knows you're telling him this as a friend. Make sure he knows the importance of his health to you and your comrades and how he needs to take better care of himself because you can't do everything. Also, you might consider finding him a nice girl to look after him. It's well known that heroes with women to return to are less likely to act rash in the heat of battle.
Sincerely, Samuel Pepys

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Proper Care and Feeding of Your Sidekick

What would heroes be without their sidekicks? Well, they probably wouldn't be alive. Statistics show that heroes without sidekicks are more likely to die before they reach age thirty than heroes with sidekicks.... But enough of the statistics! The point is, that the sidekick is a very important character in a story. Not only does he provide comic relief, but he is also always there to rescue the hero when he gets in too deep. And, let's face it, they always do!

Sidekicks generally get the shaft in a story. I mean, think about it. They don't get the girl, they don't get the spotlight, they don't usually get the looks, they get beat around, used against the hero, you name it. They might get a laugh here and there, but what good is that for your poor sidekick? Since they don't get any of that good stuff, they at least need to get something to eat every once in a while. This is one main reason that in books and especially movies, you usually come to the conclusion that the sidekick is a compulsive eater. This is not true at all, in fact, he probably eats no more than than normal person does, it's just that he's the only one who has TIME to stuff his face. One thing that bothers me in books and movies is when they can go the whole time and NOT EAT ANYTHING! How can they live???? In truth, your sidekick is supposed to be the one to shove food down the hero's throat when he's too busy to think about himself. Your aim as an author is to make your characters seem human. You might know to give them flaws, but did you know that a common and very underused flaw is a grumbly tummy? If your characters don't eat, what are they? Vampires? (oh, there goes that "almost" reference again, bad, bad Hazel ;-) For masters at eating scenes, read Brian Jacques' Redwall books and John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice books. These have eating scenes so good you'll be hungry.

Anyway...moving on. Sidekicks have the toughest jobs in your plot. It's not only a sidekick's job to see his hero gets fed, but also to watch his back. This includes making sure the baddie doesn't stab him in the back, making sure he doesn't get in with the wrong girl (for some reason sidekicks are more attuned to the female kind than heroes often are) and even sometimes rescuing the hero.

Now, sidekicks do not always go unrewarded. That is what sequels are for, my dear writers! Sequels, those books where your hero has his girl, his enemy is dead, and where does that leave the plot line??? Open for the sidekick, of course! Reward your sidekick for how wonderfully he put up with the hero, doing his cooking and laundry and tending his wounds when his bonnie lass wasn't there to do it for him, and give him the plot of the second book. Give him a chance to be the hero and get that brave man a girl! (That is, if he's that brave) If you don't want to write a sequel, well, be prepared for some nagging and sleepless nights.

So, I hope that after this you will all think of your sidekicks in a better light. You know you always loved them, but love them more. Remember, to your heroes, the sidekick is the hero! Or at least he should be, otherwise you might just have to have a talk with that hero of yours!

Slainte, Hazel

By the way, Mr. Pepys is looking for more entries into his advice column! Don't let my nosey characters get a chance to put them in!!!