Announcements for 2017

Suzanne will no longer be offering discounts for first-time clients as of 2017. She has now been with us for two years, and has built up a solid reputation as a whipsmart, savvy, and knowledgeable editor. We are considering offering genre-themed sales for a smaller discount at points during the year (possibly in the realm of mystery and LGBT manuscripts).

Due to her more recent promotion at her day job (now the store manager of an independent bookstore in Worcester, MA), Suzanne is currently tackling one round of copy edits every two weeks and developmental edits in one month. She is working to take on only one large project and one small project a month (one large novel and one short-story novella) until she can finally come back to working for us full-time, which she hopes will be one day very soon. You can follow her on Twitter for updates and publishing news, or on her own blog, An Andro Named Sue, where she writes about mental illness, folklore and paranormal studies, gender and sexuality, and the publishing community.

We are also working to keep a regularly updated page for Convention Appearances. Suzanne loves to go to conventions all around the North East coast. She is currently planning to attend Boskone, NECON, Readercon, and Howlercon. Last year she was given a place on a small panel discussing independent publishing, and is looking forward to getting more involved this year. You can also find her at events with Writer’s Coffehouse New England, run by River City Writers, as well write-ins with Worcester Writers Collaborative.

That’s all folks! Hope everyone’s 2017 is off to a great start, and we look forward to seeing all of your marvelous stories in the months to come.

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Let’s Talk About Sex! Part One: Size Matters

by Suzanne Lahna
Pitch-Perfect-Stills-and-Gifs lets talk about sex gif

It’s no secret that the last month of summer is always the hottest; that’s why Word Vagabond has chosen August to share our three-part series on how to write the hottest sex scenes. We’re going to walk you through step by step to show you what to do – and what not to do – to make the sparks really fly the next time you sit down to write an erotic scene.

First off: Yes, bigger is better. And no, I’m not talking about male genitalia, I’m talking about your sex scene.

Rule the first: thou shalt write a sex scene that is no less than one and a half pages.

If you can’t pull that off, go back to the drawing board. Sex with your characters should be about passion and desire, and occasionally emotions at varying levels of depth. If it’s all three, you will have no trouble at all making the cut. A paragraph is not a sex scene; that’s a cop-out for a ‘fade to black’ (which is fine if the sex is necessary for plot, not character development; do this to up the pacing when needed). If three to twelve minutes has been your average in the bedroom, fire your partner. If you are this partner, fire yourself immediately.

And on that note, let’s talk about foreplay!

Foreplay is a wonderful and beautiful thing that can be used to show how well your characters know one another, and should always include moments of consent when the situation calls for it (i.e., anything that would not be dub-con or non-con. Your happy PNR pairings should have A LOT of consent). If they don’t know each other very well, let it be awkward. Awkward is the new adorable, trust me on this. Humorous sex scenes are incredible on paper; they read real and true.

On the ‘science of sex’ side of foreplay, always prepare the partners if any type of penetrative sex is happening. This goes for both anal and vaginal. Sex should not be painful for a woman, even if it is her first time or if he has a wider-than-normal cock.

Let me repeat: There is no reason for sex to be painful for women.

yes water based lubricant sex scene 1

A fair amount of fingering should be involved in the proceedings, always starting at one and working your way up if it is their first time having penetrative vaginal sex, or if you’re having anal sex. If lube is required, the lube should be water-based, and never ever flavored. Always remember that the g-spot is to women what the prostate is to men, and work to include this erogenous zone in your scenes. Also, weird but cute erogenous zones work great for the awkward couples, like behind the knee or that spot by your hip.

Your foreplay should last at least five to fifteen minutes; aim for ten. Foreplay includes kissing and working up into sex, as any couple or group would.

Anal sex with any gender will require a fair amount of preparation: usually slow and methodical, and at least three fingers before a penis should enter anyone’s ass. Again, water-based lube is the best all-purpose choice, though a silicone-based is longer lasting and more suitable for anal sex.(Do not sit there and tell me you think saliva can be used as lube; it cannot. It will hurt and be harmful. And STAY AWAY FROM KY. It contains awful things which you can read about briefly here, and in detail here.) If a man is participating in anal sex, always include the prostate. And please, if you’re going to do anal, think about rimming. It’s a wonderful part of sex and really should be brought up more in anal sex scenes (thank you How To Get Away With Murder).

But of course, I cannot write this post without bringing up actual sizes, so let’s roll out a bit of science for all of us to remember the next time we’re taking our characters’ clothes off.

For the ladies: the average depth of the vagina is only three to four inches. In some abnormal cases, the vagina can be five to six, but this is RARE. This is why a ten-inch penis is not only uncommon, but if encountered could be painful and would definitely not fit into a woman’s vagina (massive dildos are designed for anal sex, not vaginal!). Yes, it stretches, but it’s not a pocket universe; there’s only so much you can fit in there. Remember this when you’re writing the next part!

For the boys: the average penis is six inches long. That’s it. Also, girth. Girth is the circumference around the penis, and anything pushing five inches is going to take a lot of prep work and simply doesn’t happen often in nature. Remember – girth is circumference, not width!
For an average male: six inches long, with maybe four inches of girth (or one and a half to two inches wide).
For a very hung man: eight inches long and six inches around (no more than three inches wide) is well within the realm of possibility, while still requiring a fair amount of the previously mentioned foreplay.
(I like to keep width below three inches, because anything beyond that sounds absolutely terrifying and simply unrealistic).5.5 inch dildo from love honey sex scene 1

Obviously, you can go bigger, but as a writer and editor, I would save the ten-inch dicks for seriously out-there paranormal romance. Leave the unnaturally large genitals to the super-human characters; it will make for better writing.

Want to know more about what a penis of such-and-such measurement actually looks like in relation to the human form? I highly recommend you take a trip to the nearest sex store, check out the dildo selection, and see for yourself. If you don’t have one near you, go to lovehoney.com and check out the videos on each item to see how it stacks up against the average hand (just like the photo above, featuring a 5.5″ length or Penis of Average Size). This will give you a much better idea of what you’re actually dealing with, regardless of your sex life.

Sex scenes are like every other aspect of writing – research well and practice often!

Part 2 will post by this Friday, and Part 3 will be up next week! So stay tuned for more sex scene tips and tricks!

Scary, but Necessary: Professional Beta Reads

by Suzanne Lahna

I’m a big fan of hard truths in writing. I prefer to be terse, cut to the chase, and end stories on a note that shares very close relation to a mic drop.

Hard truth the first – writing isn’t scary. Writing is easy. It’s a private thing where you can shirk the company of anyone for as long or as little time as you need, a time when ridiculous actions and insane excuses become perfectly valid. You need this type of tea and this exact type set, and also this cat or this dog, and also to watch the sun set from a window while you work; because that’s how your muse works. The only thing easier than writing is not writing at all.

Close-up of secretary’s hands doing paperwork

Hard truth the second – sharing your writing is one of the most terrifying things on this planet, second perhaps only to oral surgery and things seen on River Monsters. But this act is as vital to the health of your story as a root canal is to the health of your teeth – the sooner the better.

In my experience, most stories fall victim to one of two problems: Either you’ve shot the gun too early and gotten too caught up in the heat of the moment to properly research the novel before you began excitedly jamming away at the keys (or penning it out, no judgment here); or you’ve had this baby percolating in your head for so long that you’ve forgotten how to properly explain it to others. Whether too late or too soon, both causes lead to the same effect; the reader is left wondering what on earth is going on here.

Ernest Hemingway quote

Fortunately, both problems can also be solved by the same person: your professional beta reader!

‘But why can’t I use my friend?’ you ask. ‘My friend reads books all the time!’

Honest friends are hard to come by. It’s no secret that those who care for us are more likely to say what we want to hear in order to make us happy, but in the world of writing this can cause more harm than good. Unless your friend has a degree in English, they’re also likely to miss a thing or two, like tone or character problems. A scene could have excellent plot, a quickening pace, perfect dialogue, and well-rounded characters, but lack atmosphere, making it impossible for the whole exchange to feel real.

A professional beta read of an early draft can save authors a great deal of grief by analyzing everything from plot, pacing, characterization, setting, and even historical and factual accuracy, to insure the core concepts of the novel are a solid foundation for the entire body of work. This allows for fewer draft rewrites, giving the author the additional guidance that writers of all ages and areas of expertise can benefit from. Beta reads are a simple and affordable service that can save your novel from being cast aside for years to come, and instead move your story closer to the finish line in record time.

Sharing your story can be terrifying, no matter how many others you’ve published in the past. But the only thing you have to fear from beta reading is change. I don’t know about you guys, but improvements to my novel are never the source of my nightmares. (I did have a really weird dream about a suspended cabin and cryptids one time, but that’s a story for another weekend.) Every book has multiple drafts, and no one is perfect – that’s what makes each of us and the stories we tell unique and incredible.

Don’t be afraid.

It’s only your plot holes that die.

Word Vagabond Summer Editing Sale!

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Suzanne Lahna

You know who loves summer sales? We do! Summer means longer days, higher temps, and more time to write!

That’s why Word Vagabond is having our huge Summer Sale for the next three months on editing services with our newest addition to the team – Editor and Marketing Monster Suzanne Lahna.

You can save on our already low prices by an additional 15% when you book with Suzanne for the months of June, July, and August! So be sure to send your manuscripts her way, and take the time to catch some sun this summer season while you leave the tedious task of editing to the affordable professionals at Word Vagabond.

Don’t worry, we’ll let Suzanne out for a few hours of needed UV rays too.

Check out our Editing Services page, and then e-mail Suzanne at suelahna@gmail.com!

Review: Overcast by Ryan O’Riordan

Review by Manda Disley

OvercastWhen Rebecca Conner loses her brother, presumed dead, in a surfing accident, her family moves back to their hometown and they must learn how to continue their life. Rebecca copes by creating an elaborate made-up world inside her head where her brother is still alive and they are working together to take down a well-known crime lord. Her world is filled with guns, high tech devices, and secrets. She maintains her fantasy world for three years, and that’s when things begin to change—the people she’s been conjuring up in her head are starting to appear in real life.

The premise of this book sounds more interesting than it actually is. For the first few pages, things are okay, but it quickly goes downhill after that. The story is told in third person through Rebecca’s head, but her character is flat and so are all the characters surrounding her. Teenage girls are certainly hard to write, especially if you’ve never been one, but Rebecca reads like a stereotypical background character on a television show geared towards teenage boys. She has no defining characteristics and little to no believable emotions. As a reader you feel no connection to her and are not given any reason to care about her or her story.

On top of this, the writing is not great. The grammar was a nightmare to navigate, so if you are the kind of person who is picky about that kind of thing, steer clear. The descriptions of things were also very messy; they were either too vague or made no sense. Rebecca seems to jump to a lot of strange conclusions about things with no evidence to support them, which is frustrating to read. The setting was also unclear. We know that Rebecca’s family moves back to Matlock after the accident, but it wasn’t until I was halfway done with the book that I realized it was set in England. That is a major writing flaw.

When it comes down to it, this book could have used a lot more help in the editing process. The plot is interesting but incredibly weak, and the writing needs a lot of work. You kind of get the sense that the author may not actually read that much, which is disappointing as reading is one of the best ways to learn to write. There is a second book to go with this one; I will not be reading it.

Title: Overcast

Author: Ryan O’Riordan

Genre: YA Adventure/Mystery

Publication: Hook Books, November 11, 2011

Price: $0.99 (Kindle)

Author’s Website: http://ryanoriordan.com/

REVIEW: Funeral with a View by Matt Schiariti

funeral with a view“Thirty-two-year-old Richard Franchitti didn’t believe in love at first sight until he met free-spirited Catherine and started a brand new life. A devoted father and husband, Richard fought to keep his family together when it would have been easier to walk away.

Tragedy left him with unfinished business.

Now a disembodied spirit, Richard relives his most important days. From the beginnings of unconditional love, to the joy of his daughter’s birth, and all of the difficult times in between, each treasured moment brings him closer to answering the question: ‘Why am I still here?’

He was born Richard Franchitti, but his friends call him Ricky. Welcome to his funeral.” –Amazon.com

As I read the opening scene of Funeral with a View, I braced myself for a depressing read. After all, it’s hard to expect a happy ending when the main character starts off the book by dying. But Matt Schiariti’s second full-length novel surprised me by being both less gloomy and more heart-wrenching than I expected.

Ricky and Cat are ordinary people, and their story is an ordinary one, with a few twists. What makes it extraordinary is the way it’s told. Ricky is the narrator of his own story, from beyond the grave—or, to be more accurate, slightly above it. The chapters switch between scenes of Ricky observing his own viewing and graveside service and extended flashbacks of the years before his untimely death-by-beer-truck. Schiariti ties each flashback into the current events in such a way that the story flows smoothly: past and present each inform the other, adding emotional depth to the story as a whole.

Another distinguishing feature of the narrative is Ricky’s voice. Even when he’s observing the events taking place rather than participating in them, it’s impossible to mistake him for some nondescript voice-over; his individuality comes through in unique speech patterns, expressions, and metaphors that both fit the character and enrich our view of him.

By the end of the book I was invested, engrossed, and, as Schiariti no doubt intended, a bit wrecked. The story did manage to end on a slightly uplifting, even hopeful note, which somehow made it all the more gutting. In the hands of another author, this tale might have fallen tragically flat—in Schiariti’s, it’s one that I’ll no doubt pick up again the next time I need a cathartic cry.

Title: Funeral with a View
Author: Matt Schiariti
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Price: $3.99 (Kindle)
Author’s Website: http://mattschiariti.blogspot.com/