Thursday, March 18, 2010

Red Pencil Thursday with Saranna DeWylde

Last week, I blogged about the art of critiquing and then did a slice and dice on my own sad first manuscript to show you how it's done. Amazingly, I had some takers on my offer to critique their work for my blog. The first brave soul is Saranna DeWylde. Saranna has already received "the call" and her debut title HOW TO LOSE A DEMON IN 10 DAYS will be a November 2010 release from Dorchester. .

One of the first things I tell my critique partners is: "This is a smorgasbord. Take what you like and leave the rest. All I'm offering is my opinion. Do with it as you will."

The following excerpt is from her new WIP How To Lose An Angel in 10 Days. My comments on Saranna's work are in red. Her responses are italicized and in purple.

Blurb: It's a tough row to hoe for a Cupid that doesn’t believe in Love (3rd in the 10 Days Story Arc) (Very smart. It's important to be able to encapsulate your story in a neat sound bite like this. You never know when you'll get a chance to do an "elevator pitch" at a conference and you need to be able to give an editor a quick idea about your story. She'll use it to sell your story to the marketing and sales department who will in turn use it to sell copies of your book to the distributors. However, "tough row to hoe" would work better for a hero who's a gardner. Can you think of something archery or mythology related that will serve as a metaphor here? Point of grammar. Should it be Cupid who instead of Cupid that?) Yes, yes and more yes. I have a tendency to overuse “that” when really, I don’t need it or it should be another word. A tough cherubim to diaper? A crooked arrow to shoot? Hmm.

Chapter 1- The Cherubim Chore

Falcon Cherrywood hadn’t meant to smite Cupid in the ass with a fireball. (Good opener. Sets a sassy tone. Lets me know you'll have some paranormal elements by mentioning Cupid as if he is real. And unlike me last week, you named your hero right off the bat!)

It had all been a grievous mistake. One he was certainly paying for now that he had to fly a mile in the other guy’s wings. ( ;-))The worst part wasn’t the diaper. He could get over that with the right amount of whiskey. It was the wings themselves. Tristan had gotten some badass black ones that made him look like the Angel of Death. (Is Tristan your hero from book 1 or 2? Is he Falcon's friend? Give me a little more here so I know why he's been mentioned.) In fact, he’d heard the post was open—Death that is. (Since we've got 2 guys being talked about make sure I know which one you mean when you use a pronoun.) He wondered if he could get a transfer. This flow here is a little awkward. You have a great eye! Tristan is from book 2, and he didn’t fare so well. I want this book to able to stand alone, so maybe I should cut him completely?

Falcon had been hoping for black (wings), or maybe a really dark blue. The color of the sky after the oranges and reds had faded to purple—that blue just before the pitch of night. (I think I'd cut everything after purple. Guys are more apt to be color blind or as my DH says "color ignorant." Don't overdo the specificity of hue here.) That would have been acceptable. Love was Hell after all, so he could’ve even made the bat style of wing work for him. (Good! You've slipped in how he feels about love very neatly.) This read “off” to me as well. I couldn’t place it, but it’s so obvious. ;-)

But no, not only was he forced to play the Diapered Archer; he had to do it in pink. By Merlin’s teeth, pink. (I love original swearing like this! Places us in the special world of your story.) If that wasn’t enough to make him reconsider his man card (;-)), they were glittery. Like the inside of a thirteen year old witch’s locker at Academy. He was surprised that his swaddling didn’t have a unicorn print. (I don't think he's reconsidering his man card. I wonder if he thinks someone else is trying to revoke it for him. I like the mention of Academy. You've dropped your reader into an alternate reality and made her scramble to keep up.)

Bastards. (Ah, the man card revoking scum!)

He’d thumbed through his Heaven’s Helper manual briefly, but wasn’t impressed by anything he saw. Even in Eternity, you still had to watch the employee videos about how not to pick your nose in front of the customers. It was ridiculous. The manual actually referred to them as customers. Who were they kidding? If Cupid chose to shoot them, then they could damn well take what they got. This wasn’t Burger King; they didn’t get to have it their way. (This is such fun and I'm enjoying the tight POV!) Yay! Thank you.

There was another problem. (Yay! We wouldn't have a story without them!)

He couldn’t shoot a bow and arrow to save his life. Or anyone else’s. (Yay! He's thinking about saving someone else. I knew he was a hero!) He’d been hoping to find the answer in that sodding manual, but no. There was nothing actually helpful in the thing. Cupid taking archery lessons; another side of ridiculous with an entrĂ©e of are-you-freakin'-kidding-me? (I changed your F-bomb to freakin' because this is a PG-13 blog. But while we're on the subject, let's talk about profanity. You're in your hero's head in a good tight POV. These are his words and they suit his character. However, be aware that the largest segment of the US romance market lives in the Bible belt. You may lose readership by going for the gold in the F-word department. When in doubt, be true to your character, but this is something to consider carefully. If I'm in a psycho serial killer's head, yes, by all means, drop the F bomb. Is it absolutely necessary for a comedy about Cupid? That's what you need to decide. Sometimes profanity is used to prop up the comedy. Sid Caesar, a brillliant old school comedian, complained that modern comics sometimes take the easy route by going for the shock giggle with profanity. Frankly, your writing is hysterical enough without it.) Good advice! You know my problem with “that”? Yeah, I have the same one with the F-bomb.

Falcon couldn’t do much about the wings, but he was definitely changing his outfit. (I expected him not accept those wings without a fight since they are obviously what irks him most. Remember Jack Daniels will get him over the diaper.) The diaper thing just didn’t do it for him, or for the thousands of women who were going give it up to be shot with an arrow from his quiver. He might see what he could do about using bullets instead of arrows. Then he could ask them in all seriousness if they wanted to see his love gun. (What naughty fun!)

Yes, these were the thoughts that occupied (the new) Cupid’s mind as he stood in all of his diapered glory (;-)) at the Pantheon of Gods waiting for an audience.

Boy, there's so much to like here! What a fun, snarky voice you have, my dear. However since you volunteered for this public bath, I feel honor bound to dunk you a little.

I’ve got my nose plug on, dunk away.

Your hero is suffering from the same problem mine was last week. No one to interact with. Have you considered having his friend Tristan waiting outside the Pantheon with him for moral support? I'd love to see what you could do with this scene using dialogue pinging back and forth. Readers like dialogue. It leaves more whitespace on the page and makes the story seem more approachable than reams of narrative.

It’s so funny that you should mention that, I’ve been accused of having too much dialogue and banter. You’re so right though, the story should start right in with the action. I like the Tristan idea. It would be a good way to keep him in the story without a boring info dump and add more interaction.

You've hooked me with lots of questions about this Falcon character. One of the best was that he thinks Love is Hell. The other stuff, his embarrassment over the wings and diaper, is funny, but the 'Love is Hell' touches on his emotions. And emotion is what pulls in your reader and keeps them turning pages. I'd like to see a little more of that interspersed with your sparkling wit.

*likes the sparkles*

You're incredibly talented, Saranna, and you've been a really good sport! Please say you'll come back and guest blog for me when HOW TO LOSE A DEMON IN 10 DAYS comes out in November.

Of course, I’d love to guest blog. ;-)

Thank you so much, Emily. Not just for having me, but for the great critique. (And you know, the talented. I will take that over cheesecake.) This wasn’t painful at all. In fact, I’m feeling energized about my WIP and ready to get back to it with all of these fantastic suggestions. I’m looking forward to seeing what else the readers have to say as well.

Author Bio:

Saranna DeWylde is a full time Amazon Goddess and former corrections officer who decided she’d seen enough shanks and skanks. Originally a horror writer, having written her first story at her 8th birthday party in colored pencil after watching The Exorcist, she further decided that her dark quill was meant for Happily Ever After instead of the things that grab your feet if they hang off the end of the bed. Her debut novel, How To Lose A Demon in 10 Days will be available from Dorchester Publishing November 2010. For more info, please visit

Now it's your turn. Do you have suggestions for Saranna? Did I get it all wrong? What did you like best about Falcon Cherrywood?


Nynke said...

First off: ohh, Saranna, you mentioned cheesecake... It's 10AM, I was just about to start work, and now I have this craving I can do nothing about! Cheesecake...

On a more relevant note: I love the set-up and the laughs - I agree with Emily! Falcon seems like fun (but why is his name Cherrywood?), and I fully agree that he should lose the diaper fast! Although I would probably prefer to call it an old-school loin cloth, if I were wearing one. I wonder how Tristan will respond to it, if you work him into the scene :)

I have one more question: why do you use Cherubim as a singular? I's a plural in Hebrew, after all. I'm a lexical nit-picker, so I looked it up. Turns out people actually used cherubim as a singular when it was first introduced into the English language, so it should be fine. There's a good chance you already knew that, I guess :). Still, why do you like 'cherubim'? For the sound of it? Or to let your cherubim stand out from regular ones?

EmilyBryan said...

Nynke--I'm so glad I know people who are smarter than me! Good catch on the cherub/cherubin thing!

Gillian Layne said...

Congratulations, Saranna, on your debut! I would stop and pick your book up based on the title alone. I like books that make me laugh, and this had me grinning big time.

I love your voice, and your world building. You've mentioned Heaven, angels, witches, and unicorns already, which lets me know I'm in for a lot of fun, richly detailed escapism.

Maybe with the color of the wings, he could compare them to the color of a bruise? Falcon sounds like someone who might have been in a couple of fights. :)

Emily, I think you were pretty much spot on. Things like "row to hoe" I wouldn't have noticed myself, because it's a phrase we use all the time, but yes, the "crooked arrow" or something along those lines would be better. What do I like best about Falcon? His name, for starters. Very strong contrast to his new job. I don't know what he looks like yet, but I'm assuming he's darn hot.

I also like your suggestion about the interaction between Tristan and Falcon--but I love how this into let's me know how Tristan's feeling about his new job. If Saranna decides to "dialogue it up", I hope she keeps the great POV thoughts.

Saranna, thanks so much for sharing your work with us.

Gillian Layne said...

I meant, how "Falcon's feeling" about his job--sorry.

And Saranna, I'm betting just based on the black wings your readers will like Tristan--I don't think I'd cut him yet. :)

EmilyBryan said...

Guys aren't named for predators for no reason. With a name like Falcon, he'd have to be hot, wouldn't he?

Jane L said...

Saranna, Congrats to you on your new book coming out! It was gracious of you to share and let Emily critique it! Best of luck!

Tristan must be a popular name right now, it is the name of the hero in my book, also three books I have read in the past 2 months! LOL!

Unknown said...

Nynke- Oh, I am a cheesecake enabler. *g*

Falcon was originally a supporting character in Book 2, the heroine's brother. Or one of them, anyway. Then he up and demanded his own book, the bossy thing. Cherrywood was more of a consideration for his sister, the heroine in the last book.

Tristan's book is actually next. He got black wings because he's the Angel of Death. He was a war hero, but he's all disillusioned and haunted now. YUM. Oh, was that out loud?

As to the Cherubim, I read, voraciously. I love theology and mythology and most of the text I've read it's been used as such. That and it's got a lyrical sound to it.

Thanks for the great questions and the feedback.

Oh, and Tristan would laugh so hard...

Unknown said...


Tristan seems to everyone talking. I guess I have to keep him. *g*

A bruise? Oh, that's great imagery. Captures me and tickles me all at once.

And yes, Falcon has seen his share of fights. Did I mention he has two brothers that look just like him? The Trifecta of Doom. Where they go, explosions follow. *g*

I think you guys will like the red leather pants that Drusilla talks him into. I know I do. *g*

Thanks for reading!

Unknown said...

Jane L-

I was happy to do it and Emily is a doll for all of her sage advice.

Thanks for the well-wishes and for commenting!

Glynis Peters said...

Saranna, you were so brave. Thank you for sharing your wip with Emily. I loved it. There was only one thing that did not sit right for me, Cherrywood. Falcon has such a macho bite to it, but Cherrywood just felt a little...limp.

Emily did a grand job of critiquing, in fact it has given me courage. I might, I may, I w...well not quite yet LOL.

Thanks to you both for an entertaining and informative post.

Unknown said...

Glynis- It wasn't painful at all and I learned so much. Emily didn't slap me with the ruler at all. It was more of a tap. *g* You should give it a shot.

Limp? Oh dear! *grin* Hmm. Well, I'm not sure how to fix that since he's the heroine's brother from Book 2. I'll have to chew on that.


Nynke said...

So Cherrywood is a family thing. Doesn't mean a guy's friends can't make fun of it, right? :)

Red leather pants, oh gosh :)

Unknown said...


*insert maniacal laughter* Oh yes, they can.

C. Margery Kempe said...

I have to agree with Nynk; one is a Cherub, many are Cherubim. It really made me stop. The voice of Falcon is terrific and lively and gives us a good insight into this guy with an embarrassing problem.

Cherrywood *snicker*

Kudos to you, Saranna for being bold enough for public dissection, but phht, you are an Amazon. Emily -- very insightful!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Kate!

Oh, it made you stop? Not good. He does actually have an army of Cherubim, but we don't meet them until later. So... I will fix.

And you know me, I've got a thick skin and I'm grateful for the feedback. Everyone has been really kind and helpful.

Thanks for stopping by!

EmilyBryan said...

I'm with Nynke. When he gets rid of the diaper, red leather would be a good replacement. Except it will clash horribly with the pink wings!

Unknown said...


Yes, I suppose he is a bit clashy. LOL. I couldn't make him put on the pink leather and white leather, well... he threatened me with Bad Things. *g*

Thanks again for having me. It was a blast.

Nynke said...

This man is going to sport red leather pants and pink wings... and will still be hot and cool. What an achievement!

Thanks for sharing, Saranna!

Saranna DeWylde said...

Nynke- Well, thanks for reading and commenting. *g*

librarypat said...

This was fun. I do like your wit and sense of humor.
I'm afraid I'll have to admit, the first image that came to mind when wings were mentioned and his snarky humor made itself known, was Dwayne Johnson in TOOTH FAIRY with tights, wings and a tutu.
Nice job Emily. I'm glad you are making this a regular feature.
I'll be looking for your books and these characters.

EmilyBryan said...

Thanks to Saranna for being such a great first critique guest and to all of you for your comments!

Red Pencil Thursday will feature an aspiring author Jane Lange next week!