Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is that really necessary?

I have been editing my WIP, Loran Rudder and the Secret Key, for months now. For me, edits two through four are the longest and hardest. I am only on two.

I am looking for unnecessary verbiage. I mean, get this, I spoke about a character waking up from "dreamless sleep". I know I have read that same sort of sentence in a lot of books, but really, is that necessary?

Let's consider:

If you are waking up from a dreamless sleep, that means there was nothing in the sleep to talk about. It was formless, void of anything. (I have those a lot so I definitely know about that.)

If it is imperative that the reader know that your character woke up (since them NOT waking would mean they are dead, depends on the story) you could just talk about them waking and stretching, but is the dreamless sleep something that is important? Unless they are having nightmares that are leading them to finding corpses, I mean, then the dreamless sleep might serve a high priority purpose!

Maybe I am just over thinking this but, how much of our writing is just blather? I know we all do some of this "unnecessary" stuff. How many times I have found myself repeating the same thing in a long paragraph? A million of times. It's like I cannot get my brain to accept that I JUST said that.

Want an example?

She woke from a dreamless sleep and stretched. The alarm never went off which meant she was late. The formless dream had meant she slept well, but that wouldn't help her with the boss. He was a stickler for punctuality. She rolled out of bed and tried to recall any part of her  nighttime mind. She couldn't recall anything. No dreams had been there. She'd know if she'd dreamt anything.

Well, okay so that is not a great example but really, those are pretty obvious two by fours you are pounding the reader over the head with.

Happy Thursday, Murderers. Stop that unnecessary stuff and get on with that story!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Book Review: WAR OF THE ROSES - THE CHILDREN by Warren Adler

Copyright 2013 by Aaron Paul Lazar,

The War of the Roses - The Children, by Warren Adler provides an intimate glimpse inside the fragile lives of the surviving children of the original blockbuster book/movie, War of the Roses, an iconic story that resonated across the globe for decades with an international audience.

When the marriage of Barbara and Jonathan Rose disintegrated, it launched a sequence of events leading to their ultimate demise, which left their two children alone. Although this story was told with savvy noir humor which appealed to many, its darker themes also rang true with scores of couples dealing with or about to delve into the complicated world of divorce.

In this intriguing sequel, poor little Josh and Evie were raised by loving grandparents, but the effects of exposure to parental violent screaming matches and obsessions over property destruction for spite marked these kids as damaged.

Often the consequences of divorce and parental discord are intangible, lingering and festering for years to come in the children’s hearts and minds, and frequently such past events can ruin the next generation’s marriages. Mr. Adler’s treatment of this very serious situation is handled tastefully, and in spite of the nature of the subject, he manages to inject some delicious humor into this sequel.

As always in a Warren Adler book, the writing goes down like a cool mint frappe, smooth and delectable. Mr. Adler’s dialog is natural and on target, and progressive scenes draw the reader forward in a rush to reach resolution. His characters come alive on the page and reveal human foibles. Infidelity and dishonesty run rampant in this story, and the length to which a headstrong mother goes to protect her son is rather alarming.

After the first few chapters, readers will feel as if they know these characters, not only recognizing common human frailties in them, but relating to and caring about them.

Josh Rose, son of Barbara and Jonathan Rose, is now a married adult with his own two children, Michael and Emily. His human failings are severe, and although on the surface of his marriage it seems all is golden, we discover there is a quagmire hiding beneath. The dichotomy between the verbalized philosophies of their family versus reality is striking.

Evie Rose, surviving daughter of Barbara and Jonathan, has tumbled in and out of relationships and finds her best friend to be mini-epicurean adventures. A talented cook with no acknowledgement of healthy eating, she whips up fattening, luscious meals to both soothe tears and comfort breaking hearts. Evie relates food to joy, to love, to happiness (don’t we all?). And her upbeat attitude, regardless of her flagrant disregard for healthy eating, is contagious. Evie was unquestionably this reviewer’s favorite character.

Tension simmers between Victoria, Josh’s health-nut OCD wife, and the sweet, foodaholic Evie. Josh is torn between them, yet although he is mindful of his wife’s desires regarding the kids and what they eat, he harbors great love for his sister. Fiercely loyal to her, this allegiance drives a wedge between the family. Subterfuge becomes the norm.

In the end, the grandchildren of Barbara and Jonathan Rose are the instigating factors of changes needed and changes to come. Brilliantly planned, they turn life upside down to force healing in their parents’ relationship.

War of the Roses – The Children is highly recommended as a fascinating look at psychology and family with a tongue-in-cheek flavor that will make readers chuckle and smile. Question – will there be a sequel to the sequel? Perhaps Mr. Adler will consider it.

Recommended for adults only by Aaron Paul Lazar,


Title:  The War of the Roses - The Children
Author:  Warren Adler
Publisher: Stonehouse Press
Genre: Literary fiction
Kindle eBook: $7.69
Trade Paperback: $14.55  
ISBN-10: 1590061128
ISBN-13: 978-1590061121

Author’s website:

Thursday, May 23, 2013

An Unexpected Performance by Kim Smith

I am very proud to present to you my latest book, and it's cover art reveal. I worked really hard on this artwork, let me tell you. My good friends here on Mb4 and family members all gave opinions and ideas.

I have never done cover art before so this was a real chance to figure out how it is done. It is also the best way to find out what looks good and what doesn't BEFORE it is set in stone.

I also have now broken ground as a self-publisher. I have this book and a serial short story (YA) up at Amazon (THE FIRST INSTALLMENT IS FREE THIS WEEKEND!!) and finally have all the info available on "how to do" it. Believe me, it is NOT as easy as some would have you think. But honestly, it shouldn't be easy. It should be RIGHT, and there is a clear difference.

Thank you to all my fans and followers who have been with me through the entire deal, and so here now, I present to you, An Unexpected Performance.

go buy it here : Amazon Kindle and in print

And don't forget, I have an Amazon author page, if you want to go out and read about me, the books, etc. I would love it if you buy the book if you would leave me a review. It helps so much for ranking on the site. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cassie Scot: Normal Detective

Hello, folks!

Today we are featuring a mini-mystery from author Christine Amsden. Her new book, Cassie Scott: Paranormal Detective, just came out last week. Check it out if you can, it's a fun read. We will offer a few fun blog posts from Christine this week to help her zoom her numbers up the Amazon page!

You can help by tweeting and facebooking this article on the icons below found on the bottom of the page. And if you can add "Plz RT" to the tweet, it will help your followers spread the word as well. We all want new mystery writers to succeed, so join the fun and help us help Cassie Scot climb the charts!

Aaron Lazar


Last night, I was just about to close up and go home for the day when an old woman walked into my office with a cat carrier. Inside the carrier, a black cat hissed and yowled. I suppose I would have felt that way too, if someone had locked me inside a little cage. I felt instant sympathy for the cat. Not so much for the old lady.

“Cassandra Scot?” she asked.

“Cassie,” I corrected automatically. Only my parents called me Cassandra.

“I knew your grandparents.”

I tried not to groan. My grandparents had been highly respected sorcerers until they died in a lab explosion a few years back. I never knew what they had been working on, but since that day there has been a swirling vortex in the lab.

Don't ask – I really have no idea.

“Have we met?” I asked.

“Miranda Cleaver. Mrs. Cleaver.”

“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Cleaver.”

If she heard my sarcastic emphasis on the honorific, she didn't mention it.

“Your grandparents used to set wards in my house to keep the demons out,” Mrs. Cleaver said. “Since they've died, the wards have failed. There are now demons running amuck in my house, and Sylvie – my poor cat – has been possessed by the devil.”

“I... see.” What was I supposed to say? She had just walked past a sign proclaiming, “Cassie Scot: Normal Detective.”

“I read your web site,” Mrs. Cleaver said.

“Really? Did you see my list of services and exemptions?”

“Of course.”

“So what do you need?”

“An exorcism. I told you, Sylvie is possessed by the devil.”

I glanced again at the hissing cat, whose yellow eyes shone with very typical feline anger. “I don't do exorcisms. It was listed under exemptions.”

“But you're Cassandra Scot, aren't you?”


“Your parents are Edward and Sheila Scot?”

“Yes.” I felt my face burning. Just because I had powerful sorcerers for parents, didn't mean I was one as well. Okay, so it wasn't just my parents – it was my grandparents, aunt, uncles, cousins, brothers, and sisters. Still, there had to be a second cousin out there somewhere without any magic at all.

Why couldn't people just read the sign?

“Well, then.” She sounded as if the whole matter were settled. She plunked the carrier on my desk and took a vacant chair in front. “I went to your father first. Your grandparents always told me to go to him if I needed anything after they were gone. Your father said you were ideally suited for this sort of work.”

“He did?” My dad wasn't above a practical joke, but this sounded more like something my brother would do. My brother, who looked more like Dad's twin that his son, thanks to Dad's egregious use of youthening potions.

“Nicolas,” I muttered under my breath. “This is war.”

“What's that, dear?”

“Why don't I take a quick look at the cat?”

“Of course, dear.” Mrs. Cleaver clearly had not expected any other result.

I opened the door to the cage, but carefully did not reach my hand inside. The cat stopped hissing. After a moment or two, it poked its nose outside the cage, sniffing the air. Then it stepped outside.

That's when I noticed how very pregnant Sylvie was.

“She needs to see a vet,” I said. “She's going to have kittens.”

“I know. Little demons. It never used to happen when your grandparents were alive.”

“I... see.” I seemed to be saying that a lot. “You know what? I think I'll need to keep her for a few days. I'll call you when she's free of the... demon.”

“You will?” Mrs. Cleaver's eyes shone with relief. Crazy or not, I knew I'd said the right thing. “How much will it cost? I don't have a lot of money.”

“Don't worry about it.”

“I really must pay you.” She dug through her beaded handbag, closing her fist around a bill, which she handed to me with the air of someone bestowing a treat on a young child. “Thank you so much.”

I watched in bemusement as she walked out the door, leaving me to deal with the pregnant cat. I figured I'd take Sylvie home to my sister, Juliana, a gifted healer. She had been begging our parents for a cat lately, anyway.

As soon as the door closed behind the old lady, I glanced at the bill she had pressed into my hands. A single dollar. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.

At least my parents are rich.

“This is the last paranormal case I'm taking though,” I said to whoever might be listening.

Sylvie meowed. I think she knew I was kidding myself. 


Christine Amsden has been writing science fiction and fantasy for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.
At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, a condition that effects the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams. (You can learn more here.)
In addition to writing, Christine teaches workshops on writing at Savvy Authors. She also does some freelance editing work.
Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children, Drake and Celeste.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

How I Met Quinn Hollister, by Aaron Paul Lazar

Quinn Hollister was born amidst unexpected chaos.

I met the protagonist of the Tall Pines Mysteries series when I was laid off from Kodak in 2009 after nearly thirty years of service. I’ll never forget it. The angst. The shock. The feelings of betrayal. And yes, the extra time for writing that was one of the many unexpected blessings associated with the layoff.

Quinn and the love of his life, Marcella, her mother, Thelma, and their bird, Ruby, surprised me right around that same time by appearing in a dream.

I know, how clichéd can you get? But it’s true. The dream was vivid and enticing, depicting a luxurious bird resort in the Adirondacks, and a little tangerine-red bird named Ruby who snuggled on my shoulder and won my proverbial heart.

I’ve never owned a bird. I never knew a bird, aside from those morning doves outside my window. And until this happened, I never thought about birds.

From this bewildering dream the Tall Pines Mystery series developed. And with it, Quinn Hollister, the bird’s owner and husband of my female protagonist.

Life was quite tumultuous at this point, as you can probably imagine, with me constantly on the hunt for engineering work for the day job, but in spite of the trying circumstances of worrying about survival and putting food on the table, I also had some free time to travel locally.

In a strange and convoluted way, the layoffs opened up a new world of opportunity, including the birth of this new, totally unplanned, third mystery series set in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York, as well as the creation of Quinn Hollister. (the other two series are LeGarde Mysteries [10 books] and Moore Mysteries [3 books])

My wife and I found a cabin overlooking the Sacandaga River in Hope, New York. It was inexpensive, relaxing, and a perfect setting for a mystery. We fell in love with the majestic beauty of the area, especially the soft, cleansing waters of the Sacandaga River over which the rustic cabin perches.

Quinn evolved slowly. At first he was an OCD Italian name Joe, until a friend pointed out that he resembled a popular TV character in the Monk series.

I’d never heard of Monk and rarely watched television, but I didn’t want the world thinking I’d copied his persona. So, I encouraged this character to evolve.

Probably because I’d been obsessing lately over my own somewhat distant Native American heritage, Quinn morphed into a tall, serene, half-Seneca antique collector with clear turquoise eyes bequeathed to him by his long-dead English playwright father. Married to Marcella, his wife of eight years, he adores her and manages to drive her nuts at the same time with his borderline case of OCD. This gentle man moves with grace, builds sweat huts, and wears in his glossy black hair long. He swims every morning in Honeoye Lake and likes things evenly spaced and on plan. Piles of magazines must be neatly stacked, forks and knifes should be aligned and parallel, socks need to be neatly separated by color in the drawer, and if a stock pot isn’t clean upon inspection, it will be rewashed without discussion.

I’ve grown quite fond of Quinn and his family, and I feel terrible about what I’ve put them through. Especially in this last book, MURDER ON THE SACANDAGA (est. 2014/2015 release).

Quinn loves Marcella. He’d do anything for her, including putting up with her very annoying mother, Thelma, who lives with them. But there’s one thing he doesn’t like one bit, and that’s Marcella’s long time association with her former lover, Sky Lissoneau.

Sky—Marcella’s first sweetheart—proposed to her twenty years ago after her college graduation. Alas, she broke his heart when she lovingly declined, deciding to pursue her operatic singing career in New York City instead of marrying him. Completely devastated, Sky joined the military and eventually went MIA, where for eighteen years friends and family agonized over his safety.

In Essentially Yours, book two in the Tall Pines series, life changes in a most surprising way when Sky’s backpack arrives on the doorstep jammed with a mysterious collection of essential oils, a password-protected memory stick, a bag of emeralds, and a book of Shakespeare’s sonnets. After an intense adventure involving an evil drug company and a possible cure for leukemia, Sky shows up. While it’s confusing to Marcella (she still has feelings for him, but loves her husband at the same time), Sky’s return spikes jealousy in Quinn, and ultimately this homecoming causes a great deal of grief and what ends up being a tantalizing trio filled with plenty of sexual tension.

Coming back to the subject of my current work in progress, MURDER ON THE SACANDAGA, I really do feel bad about what I did to Quinn in this story. I tore a rift between him and his wife, and almost destroyed their marriage.

What’s wrong with me? Why did I allow such conflict between two happily married people? Didn’t they have enough problems with the big evil drug company chasing them all over the mountains, trying to kill them?

Frankly, I still blame Downton Abbey, which I have recently claimed made me into a virtual  murderer. (You can read about it here if you wish.) I’m afraid being exposed to all kinds of family drama pushed me into a mode I hadn’t yet experienced. Great conflict, high tension, and lovely surprises. Horrible deaths of beloved characters.

(Evil chuckle) Did I tell you I loved it?

In time, my characters and I both found resolution to our problems. After a year of searching, the perfect day job arrived. I am now happily employed at a small German company. Our Rochester office has four employees and an office dog. How cool is that, right?

In the end of MURDER ON THE SACANDAGA, I allowed Quinn and Marcella to make up, and to forge ahead in the world I’ve created for them in the Tall Pines Mystery series. Who knows what book five will hold? I hope I’m not too hard on them. After all, they need to carry on for many more books to come. And I really do have to live with myself. Somehow. ;o)


Twilight Times Books by multi-award winning, Kindle bestselling author, Aaron Lazar:

DOUBLE FORTÉ (print, eBook, audio book)
UPSTAGED (print, eBook, audio book)  
MAZURKA (print, eBook, audio book)
FIRESONG (print, eBook, audio book)
VIRTUOSO (~2014)

HEALEY'S CAVE (print, eBook, audio book)
FOR KEEPS (print, eBook, audio book)

FOR THE BIRDS (print, eBook, audio book coming 2013)
ESSENTIALLY YOURS (print, eBook, audio book)


WRITE LIKE THE WIND, volumes 1, 2, 3 (ebooks and audio books)

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. An award-winning, bestselling Kindle author of three addictive mystery series, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at and watch for his upcoming Twilight Times Books releases DON’T LET THE WIND CATCH YOU (2013), SANCTUARY (2013), and VIRTUOSO (2014).

HONORABLE MENTION Eric Hoffer 2013 GRAND PRIZE * FINALIST 2013 EPIC Book Awards  * FINALIST 2012 FOREWORD BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARDS * Finalist DaVinci Eye Cover Award 2013 * WINNER 2011 EPIC Book Awards, BEST Paranormal * FINALIST 2011 FOREWORD BOOK AWARDS * WINNER 2011 Eric Hoffer BEST Book, COMMERCIAL FICTION *Carolyn Howard-Johnson's Top 10 Reads for 2012 * 2X FINALIST Global eBook Awards 2011 * Preditors & Editors Readers Choice Award – 2nd place 2011* Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s Top 10 Books of 2012 * Winner of Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s 9th Annual Noble (Not Nobel!) Prize for Literature 2011 * Finalist Allbooks Editor’s Choice Awards 2011 * Preditors&Editors Top 10 Finalist  * Yolanda Renée's Top Ten Books 2008  * MYSHELF Top Ten Reads 2008  * Writer’s Digest Top 101 Website Award 2009-2012

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Congrats to us!

We made it into this years edition of Writers Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers--kudos to Aaron, Marta, and SW and huge thanks to our faithful followers!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Research: How much do you do?

When I first started learning to write novels, I had to do a lot of research. I checked out even the most minute details to make sure I got the right. The problem with that was, it all somehow ended up on the page and made for some horrible work.

How much do you research? (and by the way, I am not talking about research on the act of writing, necessarily) - if you are writing a murder mystery, how much research do you do for the info you put in about say, guns?

I believe, in my honest opinion, that you need to know which guns will serve best to do what you are attempting to do on the page. Not every gun has a safety. They don't always jam. Some are not very good choices to bludgeon someone.

But research doesn't have to read on the page either. You don't need to tell me that its a deadly weapon, I know that. You don't need to tell me that your Glock was as black as death. I know that. But if you want to say it was a .45 and it fit nicely in a lady's hand, that's okay.

In other words, Murderers, tell me what I need to know, maybe focus only on a single thing, but don't kill me with your research over it. I want YOUR take on the situation, not Wikipedia's.

Now about that research on writing, and how to write...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Myth Busters, Grammar Edition: Starting a Setence with And or But by Christine Amsden

Please help me welcome one of my fellow Twilight Times Book authors, Ms. Christine Amsden to Murderby4 today. I'm also proud to help her announce her new book release: 

Cassie Scot is the ungifted daughter of powerful sorcerers, born between worlds but belonging to neither. At 21, all she wants is to find a place for herself, but earning a living as a private investigator in the shadow of her family’s reputation isn’t easy. When she is pulled into a paranormal investigation, and tempted by a powerful and handsome sorcerer, she will have to decide where she truly belongs.

"In this entertaining series opener, Amsden (The Immortality Virus) introduces readers to the eponymous Cassie, a decidedly mundane member of a magical family. ...Readers will enjoy Cassie's fish-out-of-water struggles as she fights magical threats with little more than experience and bravado."

And here is Christine's guest blog for today. It's a great one, so pay attention and enjoy!

Myth Busters, Grammar Edition: Starting a Setence with And or But

copyright Christine Amsden 2013

Confession time: How many of you learned in school that you can’t start a sentence with a conjunction such as and or but? Go ahead, admit it. I won’t think less of you. It would make me a serious hypocrite since until late last week, I believed it. Countless English teachers couldn’t be wrong, could they?

Turns out, they were misinformed. Moreover, this may be one of the most persistent myths in education today. I don’t mean to impugn my English teachers who were, as a whole, wonderful people who helped me follow my dream of becoming a fiction writer. They were misinformed. So were the people who taught them. And so on and so forth. (See how I started that sentence with and? It wasn’t wrong!)

Last week when I made style suggestions for fiction writers, I used beginning conjunctions as an example of a rule that fiction writers can and do break. Cora Foerstner, a fellow writer and an English professor, called me on it. She was nice enough to e-mail me privately instead of creating a public post that might hurt my credibility. I appreciated that, although I am open-minded enough to admit when I’m wrong. If that discredits me in some people’s eyes, oh well. Enjoy your perfection.

For my part, I was wrong. I didn’t take her word for it right away — I mean half a dozen English teachers scattered throughout my childhood deserved a fair trial before I passed judgement. Cora and I passed a few e-mails back and forth, I did some research on the Internet, and I contacted my brother, Brian Amsden, who has a PhD in rhetoric from the University of Indiana. Grammar was not part of his coursework (it is apparently not part of almost anyone’s coursework), but he studied it. He shared this quote with me from the CHICAGO MANUAL OF STYLE, 15th EDITION:

“Beginning a sentence with a conjunction. There is a widespread belief–one with no historical or grammatical foundation–that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but, or so. In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions. It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice. Charles Allen Lloyd’s 1938 words fairly sum up the situation as it stands even today: ‘Next to the groundless notion that it is incorrect to end an English sentence with a preposition, perhaps the most wide-spread of the many false beliefs about the use of our language is the equally groundless notion that it is incorrect to begin one with ‘but’ or ‘and.’ As in the case of the superstition about the prepositional ending, no textbook supports it, but apparently about half of our teachers of English go out of their way to handicap their pupils by inculcating it. One cannot help wondering whether those who teach such a monstrous doctrine ever read any English themselves.’” (Section 5.191)

Wait a second…. The thing about ENDING a sentence in a preposition is wrong too?

“Good grief.” — Charlie Brown

At least I already knew it wasn’t wrong to split infinitives. I learned that one ten years ago during my boot camp with Orson Scott Card, who explained that the “rule” was a holdover from Latin where it was literally impossible to split infinitives (because they were just one word). Similarly, the “rule” against beginning sentences with a conjunction is a holdover from Latin grammar. During my discussion with Cora Foerstner, she had this to say:

“Many of these “rules” such as not ending a sentence with a preposition, come from Latin grammar, which is not English grammar. But in the Renaissance, they were enamored with all things Latin, and often tried to force English to conform to Latin “rules” grammar rules.”

Okay, so I’ve gone through the five stages of grief on this:

1. Denial — No way. There’s no way all my English teachers were wrong about this. There’s no way I’ve been a writer since I was eight years old — I’m almost thirty-six — and I just missed this. Okay, yeah, so I never went looking for it because I assumed it was right. I had no reason to believe otherwise.

The trouble with assumptions is that by definition, you don’t know you’re making one.

2. Anger — How could those English teachers have lied to me? They lied to me about Christopher Columbus, too. Made him out to be some kind of saint who “discovered” America like there weren’t already people here and like the Vikings didn’t discover it before he ever did. Grrr… the whole gosh-darn education system is full of mistakes. What am I going to tell my children when their teachers tell them these things?

3. Bargaining — Okay, maybe it was a rule but it isn’t a rule anymore. I mean, that happens. English is a living language, it changes all the time. Ain’t is a word (but I ain’t gonna to say it). So this was a rule, but it became so popular in informal speech to break the rule that the various dictionaries have accepted it. So maybe the beginning conjunction thing is like that, only not everyone has gotten the memo.

4. Depression — I write for a living! This is what I do. How did I not realize this? What else don’t I realize? Am I conjugating my verbs right? Was that question mark supposed to be at the end of that sentence? Or this one?

5. Acceptance — All right, all right. It’s not the end of the world. It is what it is. There is no rule in the English language prohibiting sentences from beginning with conjunctions. There never has been. It’s not like this information changes anything. I’ve been happily “breaking” the rule for years, along with just about every other writer in the world. Isn’t it nice to know we weren’t breaking a rule at all?

(Hey, I’m a psych major. This is how I analyze these things.)




There is no rule in the English language against beginning a sentence withand or but.






So there’s no rule against it. Does that mean I should begin sentences with and or but?

One of the reasons I had trouble accepting this new version of reality is that the “rule” made sense to me. The function of a coordinating conjunction is to join two or more independent clauses, phrases, or words. When you put one at the beginning of a sentence, you’re joining it to the previous sentence. Sort of.

The reason writers have been using and and but at the beginning of sentences for centuries is that there are times when you want to put the emphasis on the connection itself rather than the clauses being connected. Extra emphasis is also put on the second clause or phrase. Because it’s in a shorter sentence. (Because is a subordinating conjunction, by the way, and the same rules apply.) And because the capitalized conjunction calls attention to itself.

This is where psychology comes in. Great, I’m back in familiar waters!

Readers pay more attention to beginnings than endings. You can generalize this truth throughout every level of writing, from words to entire books. (That’s right, words. Remind me sometime to explain why your main characters’ names shouldn’t all start with the same letter.)

I break up my prose into lots of paragraphs for the same reason. When readers skim, they pay more attention to the first sentence in a paragraph. By having more paragraphs, I force you to read more of my sentences. (Bwahaha!)

But this power can be abused. Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you should! I can use exclamation points at the end of half my sentences to show I’m excited! I really am! I mean, look at all the exclamation points!

Variety is one of the keys to captivating prose. You want to vary the lengths of your paragraphs and sentences. You want to use different words, calling on synonyms instead of repeating the same ones over and over again. Starting sentences with different words is part of strong prose as well, so no word should begin a sentence all the time.
I also believe there are some choices which function more strongly in prose when made sparingly. Exclamation points are a prime example of this. Most fiction writers learn early on that exclamation points should almost never be used. Some say absolutely never. I disagree, because I refuse to give up my power to emphasize a point! I give up that power by never using it as well as by using it too much.

That’s where the should comes in. Keep these things in mind when deciding whether or not to begin a sentence with a conjunction:

1. A sentence that begins with a conjunction does not stand alone. Not all sentences have to stand alone, but the most powerful ones will.

2. A sentence that begins with a conjunction emphasizes the joining. This may be exactly what you want. But a lot of times it isn’t. I just gave you an example of a pair of sentences that would have been stronger had they been joined. The but wasn’t that important. Neither were the words that came after. The complete thought was important.

3. Beginning a sentence with and or but calls attention to itself. This may be true in part because of the persistent myth, but even if everyone knew the truth, it is still far more common to see these words in the middle of sentences. It should be far more common to see these words in the middle of sentences, innocently and invisibly getting out of the way for more important concepts.

4. And finally, if you can cut the conjunction without changing the tone or meaning of the sentence, do it. Finally, if you can cut the conjunction without changing the tone or meaning of the sentence, do it. (I see this fairly often. I’m guilty of it myself sometimes. It’s the sort of thing I catch in revisions.)

Writers, enjoy knowing that it is right and proper to use conjunctions at the beginning of your sentences, but don’t overdo it.

More feedback for Christine's book:

~ Publisher's Weekly

"When sorcerers call the shots, what's a girl without powers to do? Get ready for a ripper of a murder mystery full of romance and intrigue, where magic potions bubble, passions spark and vampires are definitely not your friend. Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective grabs you by the heart and won't let go until the very last page. Well-written, immersive and unputdownable. This is urban fantasy at its best. More please!"

–Kim Falconer, bestselling author of The Spell of Rosette

Author bio:

Award-winning author Christine Amsden has written stories since she was eight, always with a touch of the strange or unusual. She became a “serious” writer in 2003, after attending a boot camp with Orson Scott Card. She finished Touch of Fate shortly afterward, then penned The Immortality Virus, which won two awards. Expect many more titles by this up-and-coming author.

Title: Cassie Scot ParaNormal Detective

Author: Christine Amsden

Author web site:

Publisher: Twilight Times Books


Genre: paranormal fantasy

*Print ISBN: 978-1-60619-275-7

Format: 5.5x8.5 trade paperback; 250 pages; $16.95 USD

*eBook ISBN: 978-1-60619-274-0; $6.50 USD

Format: ebook in pdf, ePub, Kindle, Mobi, PRC, etc.

Distributors: Amazon Kindle; Apple iBookstore; Nook; Kobo Books; OmniLit; Sony eBookstore, etc

Release date: May 15, 2013

Price: $16.95

Size: 5.5 x 8.5

Pages: 250

LCCN: pending

Chapter excerpt: