Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Interview for Annie Douglass Lima's new book The Student and the Slave!

Take a look at this exciting new young adult action and adventure novel, The Student and the Slave, now available for purchase! This is the third book in the Krillonian Chronicles, after The Collar and the Cavvarach and The Gladiator and the Guard

The series is set in an alternate world that is very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone. Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with "have a rack"), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

The Collar and
the Cavvarach by Annie Douglass Lima
First, a Little Information about Books 1 and 2: 

Book 1: The Collar and the Cavvarach

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

Click here to read chapter 1 of The Collar and the Cavvarach.
Click here to read about life in the Krillonian Empire, where the series is set.

The Gladiator and the Guard
by Annie Douglass LimaBook 2: The Gladiator and the Guard

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Click here to read about life in the arena where Bensin and other gladiators are forced to live and train.

And now, The Student and the Slave, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

Is this what freedom is supposed to be like? Desperate to provide for himself and his sister Ellie, Bensin searches fruitlessly for work like all the other former slaves in Tarnestra. He needs the money for an even more important purpose, though: to rescue Coach Steene, who sacrificed himself for Bensin’s freedom. When members of two rival street gangs express interest in Bensin’s martial arts skills, he realizes he may have a chance to save his father figure after all … at a cost.

Meanwhile, Steene struggles with his new life of slavery in far-away Neliria. Raymond, his young owner, seizes any opportunity to make his life miserable. But while Steene longs to escape and rejoin Bensin and Ellie, he starts to realize that Raymond needs him too. His choices will affect not only his own future, but that of everyone he cares about. Can he make the right ones … and live with the consequences?

Click here to order The Student and the Slave from Amazon for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through November 31st!

About the Author:
Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and
later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her
husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at
Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since
her childhood, and to date has published fifteen books (three YA action and
adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, six anthologies of her
students’ poetry, and a Bible verse coloring and activity book). Besides
writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction),
scrapbooking, and international travel.

Connect with the Author Online:

Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of the first two books in the series!


When did you realize this story was a trilogy?

As I wrote book 1, The Collar and the Cavvarach, I assumed that would be it (and that story can stand on its own). But a year later I thought of a new situation to put my characters in, and their adventures continued in The Gladiator and the Guard. I gave them a nice happy ending in my first draft, but I just wasn’t satisfied with it. Everything else in the story had been polished and felt right to me, and my publication date was only a few weeks away, but I knew the ending was all wrong. It took me a long time to figure out how to make it right, but finally at practically the last minute I changed the final chapter, making the story a lot stronger. That meant there would have to be a third book to show how the characters got out of the mess I left them in. Still, it wasn’t until I planned out book 3 in detail a couple years later that I knew the story would truly end there.

What are the basic conflicts in your story?

There are several. Steene spends much of the book in conflict with his annoying young owner, Raymond. He also clashes with Raymond’s dad, a wealthy businessman who sees slaves as objects that exist for their owners’ convenience. Bensin gets involved with gang members and ends up entangled in their problems, which include several street fights.

What are the main themes of your story?

Freedom, family, responsibility, morality, tough choices.

Tell us about your main character?

Bensin is a slave who is also a very talented martial artist. In the first book, his goal is to keep his little sister safe and somehow arrange for her freedom, which is an almost impossible task in his world, but he is determined not to give up. In the second book, Bensin’s own safety is at stake as he struggles not only for freedom but for the right to choose his own identity. Now in the third book, he struggles to forge a new life for himself and his sister and arrange a rescue for his coach in a setting where he can’t find a job and doesn’t feel as though he fits in.

Is there a villain in your story?

There are a few different people who could be considered villains. I’ll focus on Axel, a gang leader who hires Bensin to train him and his street gang in combat techniques.

What does he want? Why do you like your villain?

Axel values honesty, courage, skill, and teamwork among the young men he leads. But when it comes down to it, mostly he wants money and power, and he’s willing to do almost anything to get what he wants. I guess I like him because he is just who he needs to be for his role. He appreciates Bensin for what he can give, but when he decides Bensin’s usefulness is over, he has no qualms about making use of him in a different way.

Who has influenced your writing?

My high school English teacher, Mrs. Wood, was a big encouragement to me, both personally and in my writing.  She taught an after-school creative writing club, and for various reasons all the other students dropped out one by one.  When I was the only one left, I was afraid she would cancel the club, which was the highlight of my week.  But she was willing to continue, so I met with her every Tuesday afternoon.  I would bring in whatever poems and stories I had written that week, and she would critique them and help me see ways to make them better.  My writing improved a lot during the two years she was there, and I will be forever grateful that she was willing to invest so much time in me.  I really don’t think I would be where I am today if not for Mrs. Wood.       
Tell us about some of your other books.

Besides the Krillonian Chronicles, I have a fantasy series called the Annals of Alasia.

 There are three main books in it so far, but each of them can stand on its own. Each book deals with events surrounding the same major political incident: the invasion of the kingdom of Alasia by the neighboring kingdom of Malorn. Prince of Alasia begins on the night of the Invasion and describes what happens to twelve-year-old Prince Jaymin after he is forced to flee for his life. In the Enemy’s Service features a girl as the protagonist and tells the story of those who were not able to escape from the Alasian palace when the enemy invaded. Prince of Malorn begins several months earlier and focuses on the Malornian perspective of the events leading up to the Invasion.  In each of the books, main characters from the others make brief appearances and interact with each other at the point where the timeframes and settings overlap. I also have a short ebook of “interviews” that I conducted with the characters in the other three books. Annals of Alasia: The Collected Interviews is not available on Amazon, but I send a free copy to anyone who signs up for my mailing list (to receive updates once or twice a year when I release new books).

I’ve also written a short Christian puppet script (Squawky Learns About Love) and put together a coloring/activity book (Hide it In Your Heart) that uses verses from the Bible in colorable fonts. And I’ve compiled five separate anthologies of my students’ poetry.

Books by Annie Douglass Lima:
Student poetry anthologies edited by Annie Douglass Lima:

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Heaven of Heavens

I always think that every religion has its own afterlife.And their own hells and heavens differ from the Christian versions. Buddhist hell for instance differs from Viking hell from Christian hell, etc. So, if we assume that everyone gets to their own religion's version of hell, we will have Hindus finally freeing themselves from the dreaded karmic wheel and entering into blessed nothingness or if they believe in transmigration and have lived horrible lives becoming cockroaches in their nest lives. The Islamic heaven, much like for instance the mormon heaven is pretty patriarchal and made for men and marriage but there is that bonus of being a god and creating your own world. And most of the moslems i know would challenge you on the idea that God loves. For them to call God Father is an insult and to say He loves is to depict him as weak. So we have to not be imperialistic in our spiritual inclusiveness because we are going to insult folks we think we are including.

So....the typical christian heaven is for beings who want a God who loves, a God who so believes in free will that he allows you to leave him and to go to hell if you wish, and the heaven is sexless, a city, and consists of being like God because we can see Him as He is.Let us not be imperialistic and put people into our kind of heaven who don't want to be there. Perhaps the Christian heaven isn't the best of heavens, but it's the one i like. Others may want their own heavens.

I believe what Peter said that God shows no favorites and anyone who truly trusts him in any nation will be saved. I also believe that Jesus is -- as Mohammed calls him-- "the great mercy." It is possible that Mercy (Jesus unknown to some folks in another religion) is saving people whom we may not consider Christian. But the Christian in me believes that any kind of "work" or human self-righteousness cannot be allowed to taint heaven. Thus self-righteous people of any religions, Christianity included, will not enter heaven. There is no "self" there.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Review: The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing

Review: The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing
by Damion Searls

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (February 21, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804136548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804136549
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches

  • This is a book that people will either love or hate. But seriously, how does one write a bio about a vanguard in psychology. Do you write more about the person or about his effect on modern psychology? Do you write about the person's life? Do you write about the effects of the new psychological method at the time of its beginning or its effect on modern culture? This is the balance the writer has to walk. If you like being taken on a lovely walk where you stop and look at various points of the journey, this book is for you. But if you have a rigid idea of what a biography should be like or what psychology was like before or after Rorschach, then you might find the book problematical. This biography tries to get a lot in and it really does. I didn't mind it. I grew to like Rorscach, and to perhaps understand how to see or how to think about seeing or how to imaginatively discern and see.

    This book was sent to me free of charge in exchange for a fair and honest review.  

    Review: Jesus Always -- 365 Devotions for kids

    Review: Jesus Always -- 365 Devotions for kids

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (October 3, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0718096886
  • ISBN-13: 978-0718096885
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 

  • On the one hand, I applaud this book for tackling some pretty heavy topics for a kid's devotional. It's a good stepping stone between the toddler-kiddie kind of devotional and adult devotionals. I'll even say that in many ways this is on a par with a lot of adult devotionals.

    But I have a few issues with this book. First I'm not a fan of the "first person" format. The book is written in devotionals where God speaks directly to the reader. So instead of "Jesus is" we have "I am." Or "Go to Jesus" we have "Come to me." This is a problem because I really think it would be best if this was read to kids by their parents. Children reading this book will have to understand that these messages were written by one particular person pretending to be speaking as God. That is a lot to deal with. They will have to understand that this person may or may not be totally correct in everything, and that this person is not really God. Cognitively, the minds of young children aren't really formed to have that ability to do the mental gymnastics this book requires.

    The second problem is connected to the first: Because the book is written in first person, some of the exhortations -- which would be couched in gentler terms-- just comes off as God nagging the reader.  Or worse: the exhortations sound like a bullying God. The tone is all wrong. Sure, there are sections where the "message from God" is all about love.

    Thirdly, the theology feels a bit like church speak. So if the child you give this book to goes to church, they will be already down with the jargon. It's not a problem with the vocabulary. Yes, sometimes the vocabulary is at times a bit tough for younger kids but kids can learn concepts such as radiant and infinite and their parents can explain some concepts. But wow, a lot of the doctrines and theologies come so fast and furious that more explanations are needed. 

    I received this book free of charge in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

    Friday, September 29, 2017

    POEM: World Enough and Time

    To each house

    its own unique sorrow


    This is what

    the judgmental

    the pontificating

    and the well-meaning

    do not know

    do not fully




    the old world

    to gather everything

    to take into the mind and heart

    everything and all.


    For us humans:

    the diagnosis

    the cure

    is easily proscribed.

    But as the old folks say

    Only Jesus knows.


    To paraphrase Tolstoy:

    happinesses are similar

    griefs are unique and worlds apart


    So the bull-dozing of good-will

    the opinions of the kind-hearted

    and the not-so-kind-hearted

    the counsels, judgements, prescriptions...

    Had we world enough and time,

    We could hear.


    But not now.

    Now…in order to understand

    we must tear down mental walls

    we often fear to tear town

    or build ladders,
    we cannot -- in our humanity-- tear down.


    Sunday, August 20, 2017

    Sparrow Testimony

    Testimony: About ten or fifteen years ago, I was out walking in town when i felt i needed to go to the bathroom. I was in the middle of town and could've gone to the library bathroom and to various bathrooms along the way, but for some reason I kept walking and walked about two miles out of town in great pee-distress to a local park, all the while singing "His eye is on the sparrow." Reaching the park, I raced into a bathroom. There I saw a little sparrow that was trapped in the bathroom and I spent about ten minutes trying to get it out. (It kept flying toward the skylight instead of the open door and it was seriously distressed and got afraid of me.) After i finally freed it, I stepped out of the bathrom and realized I had gone to the men's bathroom. I'm convinced God had heard the little bird'scry and had led me there to help it and to show me His care for me.
    Yesterday, after being sedentary and judging stories, I figured I'd be sedentary out in the sun in the high school playing field. So i took doggie and we went outside. I took a plastic bag to pick up after him. And before we entered the high school, he went to the bathroom. So I cleaned up after him but wanted another plastic bag just in case. I went around looking for one and found a plastic bag in a pile of leaves. I took it and went to sit in the sun. After praying for younger son, singing in tongues, and playing fribee, I figured it was time to return to my other sedentary spot in front of the laptop at home. But doggie was tired and we kept stopping on our return home. At one point, I absently opened the plastic bag. I hadn't thought of looking inside it. And i was surprised to see a cute little insect. Still alive. Immediately I heard Holy Spirit say, "I brought you here because I wanted you to free him. If I care so much for this little insect, I care so much more for you and Gabe. Don't worry, Carole. I haven't forgotten you." #Testimony

    Tuesday, August 08, 2017

    Wish-fulfillment versus Tropes

    Recently, I got a review for one of my books, "My Life as an Onion."

    If you know me, you already know I can be snippy about the kinds of reviews I receive. That is: I can take honest criticism, but being "woke" and a writer (and therefore somewhat insightful) I often cannot help but see the unspoken subtexts going on in reviews. These subtexts are often religious, atheistic, racial, or sexist. If they weren't subtexts, if they were upfront, I probably wouldn't become snippy but when that insightful part of me detects the crappy foundational subtext upon which a review is built then ....yeah...this is when I get snippy.

    In the review, the reviewer said my book was wish-fulfillment but still I kinda challenged some of the wish-fulfillment. He also said he doesn't like romances per se and likes fantasy and scifi. So, aside from reading a review where the praise is so reluctant that there is a sense that the reviewer is damning with faint praise, there is also the whole idea that somehow a book is not quite a book if it is wish-fulfillment.

    So, is my book wish-fulfillment? And if it is, why am I getting so bent out of shape if a reviewer calls a spade a spade? And why am I seeing racism in everything?

    Well, first of all...aren't most fiction --especially romances-- generally wish-fulfillment? It has been said that a story is the soul at war with the spirit. The author manages the battle. A story is often an exploration, and why not the exploration of a wish? It's been said, for instance, that Hamlet is a story where Horatio is a wish-fulfillment characters. He is the dear friend Shakespeare would want and he has given Hamlet such a friend a foil for all the other betrayers in Hamlet's circle. Hell, Shakespeare's plays are full of these perfect "friend" characters. No one sees it as some horrible thing.

    But even more telling... White writers and readers are used to seeing their stories as the default. Therefore stories of the beautiful heroine who is beloved by every guy who sees her are normal. Especially if the heroine is what the general standard conceives as beautiful. So it is nothing to the American male, American white male , mind to take it for granted that a beautiful woman  with Euro-features is the object of lust/love of many men. The author of the romance might be not so pretty..but hell, her stand-in is. If the main character is depicted as ugly or dark-skinned, or fat, the typical American male has a problem seeing such a woman as being capable of turning heads. So I decided to write a story with just that... a slightly pudgy girl whom all the guy likes. Why? Cause I'm from Brooklyn. Cause I'm Jamaican. Cause white male tastes may not be the tastes of all the world. And maybe all white males do not want a lemon-titted girl. But also, because little Black girls should also be given stories where their beauty is seen as attractive.

    The sad thing is that white male wish fulfillment is such a part of our culture that white society doesn't see it. How many times have we read about or seen movies where some old guy meets a young nubile thing who falls in love with him despite his age? Even worse, how many times have we read about or seen movies where the white guy saves the world? We are told it's a trope. But really, when we have stories where Asians or Blacks save the world, the saviors are usually white-washed because Asians and Blacks apparently can't save the world.

    So yes, i'm kinda peeved. Why is my story called wish-fulfillment? But why is the male white story called a trope?
    Especially when the typical standard trope often goes unchallenged in these genres. When was the last time the wrong kind of girl one the good guy in a romance? When was the last time the heroic white male didn't save the world? Yes, it happens...but in typical genre fiction, the typical genre writer does not question his wish to appear better than, happier than, stronger than.... etc.

    Sunday, May 14, 2017

    Poem: Mother's Day

    Mother's Day -- bitter sweet.

    Thinking of
    -- on earth or in heaven,
    blessings and lost blessings.
    Sick children,
    children in heaven.

    Once on my mother's birthday
    She came to me in a dream
    And asked me
    Very sadly
    If I knew what day it was.
    I told her,
    “Of course I know!”

    I'm always happy
    when she turns up throughout the year
    in dreams
    Although she symbolizes
    so many things.

    But last night
    I dreamed of
    my two miscarried children.
    Quite a surprise.
    I was carrying them around
    in a little uterus/enema bag.
    Almost calcified,
    they were encased 
    by toys, might-have-been hobbies,
    my dreams.
    Apparently, I haven't forgotten them.
    Life and the heart are strange things.
    In heaven,
    no death,
    no sorrow,
    no loss,
    no separation any more.
    Although my living children are with me
    I hope to meet those miscarried dreams there.

    Saturday, April 22, 2017

    Poem: A Grudge as great as the Wall in China


    A day will come

    When you will break down walls.


    Not your own

    But the carefully constructed

    Brick and mortar fortresses

    Of others.


    With practiced casualness

    You will trample

    The gates of enemies and friends alike

    And care little that you have trespassed.


    All will call you

    The Demolisher of souls and hearts

    And you will no longer regard

    Or respect lingual and emotional borders.


    Your razing of their walls

    And raising of your own

    Will seem innate,

    born of casual causality.


    And only a few will know

    That you were born

    As grass, as stubble,

    And your transformation

    Into a bulldozer

    Was nurtured

    At the feet of those whose intent was to crush you.


    At that time,

    You will speak what you feel

    And all the grudges you have carried

    Because you were taught to be

    Silent like a sheep that is slaughtered

    Will be gone.

    Yes, all those grudges

    Even the ones

    Seen from space,

    Those ones as great and winding

    And full of history
    As the Great Wall of China.

    Tuesday, March 14, 2017

    What Writers can learn from a Writing Contest Judge

    I recently became a judge for a flash fiction short story competition. It was an interesting experience. Note, I do not say "fun experience" because there were moments which were decidedly not "fun." Especially when I had to (gently) critique a story or reject it entirely. So, I thought it'd be a good idea to share some of the writing advice I gave to some of the contestants.
    The genres I judged were scifi, fantasy, ghost stories, and fairy tales.  

    Follow the Rules
    The very first advice that comes to mind is this: Follow the rules, submit your story to the appropriate genre, try to understand all the elements of a particular genre.  
    One story, especially, had me quite torn. It was the best story I'd read in the entire competition, probably one of the best stories I'd read in years. But I had to disqualify it. The author had put it in the wrong category, the scifi category.  I suppose the author thought the story was scifi, but having a sprinkling of scifi catchphrases does not a science fiction story make. 

    Other authors were rejected either because their stories did not have all the elements of a genre or the authors decided to go meta wink-wink nudge-nudge and parody a traditional scifi, fairy tale, or fantasy story.  It's best to create your own original fairy tale than to play with a well-known one. I cannot tell you how many "not your mother's fairytale" stories I saw. Worse, these "new" twists on traditional fairytales were not so new at all. Competition judges have read a lot; few "twists" are new to us.    

    Know when to begin a story
    Knowing when to begin a story is difficult. It is not necessary to start the story with guns blazing. A story that begins too close to the action might confuse the reader if it is badly-executed. So, should we start a story a second, an hour, a day, a month, a year, three hundred years before the event in the opening scene? Infodumping background and backstory at the beginning of a story is problematical. Most readers will not remember names, places, and dates, presented to them at the beginning of a story. Those captains, kings, nations you dumped on them in the opening prologue will have to be interwoven into the story again. Remember that people generally don't care about facts unless emotion is involved, and they don't care about a character's history until they've lived a few hours with the main character in the present.  Some writers use flashback scenes and others sprinkle backstory into a story, interweaving past events into the present. One warning about flashbacks: it's best not to use flashbacks too early in a story. In a novel, wait a few chapters or you will halt the forward thrust of the story. It's best not to use flashbacks in a short story unless one can get away with it. (And never assume you are so skilled that you can get away with breaking the rules.)
    Know how many characters are needed
    A failed story sometimes has too many characters; this just leads to confusion and a list of names the reader cannot connect to. Sometimes a story has one main character in the beginning then changes to another main character toward the end. Sometimes there is a missing character. Just as there can be a missing line in a story that pulls certain thoughts together, or a missing scene or a missing chapter, the missing character is the hardest character to "see." The writer has to step back and see if everyone present in the story is necessary, and if any essential person is absent. 
    Talking heads
    Narrative beats are not always necessary but long sections of dialog only punctuated by "he said" or "she said" is a lost opportunity to show aspects of the story, characterization, even subtextual metaphors.
    Filtering words
    Words such as "I looked," "I saw," "I glanced," "I heard," "I felt," or "I smelled" are filter words. They put a distance between the reader and the story's narrator. If one isn't careful, these words can overwhelm a manuscript, at every sentence. Instead of writing, "She saw him that morning wearing a blue-colored shirt," tweak the story to make it more active. "The blue shirt he wore" or "That morning, he wore a blue shirt." Instead of "She listened to the sounds of a bird singing in the woods," write "The caw of a raven echoed through the pine barrens." Avoid words such as "seemed," "appeared," "felt," "had the feeling," and "realized." They are often a sign that the writer is telling. Don't write "She seemed happy" or "I realized he was holding his breath" or "he looked scared." Try instead, "A smile flickered on her face" or "His shoulders relaxed and a silent sigh escaped his mouth" or "His hands shook."
    Vagueness never helps
    Use the perfect word. Why use "car" or "sound" when you can use Lexus or hooptie? Or splashing or gurgling? 
    Lack of Voice
    One of the worst problems I encountered was the lack of voice in the stories. Voice is not difficult, and yet it is one of the hardest things for new writers to master. I wil only say that "voice" reveals the narrator's heart. Sometimes it reveals more, such as the author's culture, obsessions, or preoccupations. But at its basic level, voice reveals the narrator's personality and heart.In the same way that a visual artist chooses a particular palette, medium, or subject, a writer chooses --or allows-- voice. Voice is often found in description. The way a character washes laundry can be conveyed in different way depending on the narrator's backstory, present situation, emotional state, age, rank, wealth, hopes. The description of an abandoned house depends on who is describing it. If the description of the abandoned house in your story could fit into any genre or could be done by any author, that description lacks voice. The writer doesn't have to be over-the-top, but merely himself.   
    A story is not a summary
    Know what a story is, how to tell it, and how to end it. A story is not a synopsis or a memo. Stories have elements of fiction, which include characterization, description, action, a story arc, a geographical or chronological setting. Many of the stories I read seemed to have characters hanging in space. The season, time of day, locations, were absent or had no effect on the character. Some stories were more like descriptions of situations; there was no beginning, no middle, no end. And some stories felt as if the author thought the twist ending would make up for the lack of plot.  
    Watch the coarse language
    Coarseness doesn't imply honesty, truth, passion, edginess, or anger, especially if a writer uses the coarse word repeatedly. Also, you never know if the judge is religious or easily offended. If you're going to use a coarse word, make sure it's absolutely needed.  
    Be careful when attempting versimilitude
    Fiction reflects life but in order to work, it can't reflect life too much. The dialog must feel real, have verisimilitude, but it must also be crafted. If two characters are arguing, don't write every word of the argument in order to show how stressed both characters are. Real-life arguments go on forever...but dialog is perfected conversation.  Have you ever seen a movie where characters are having a boring conversation? The boring conversation lasts just long enough for the viewer to understand that it is a boring conversation. Then the scene ends. The writer doesn't give us the full extent of the conversation but manages to cut away after the plot point is achieved. Consider also good dialogs, which are fictionally styled and carefully-crafted but somehow feel real, natural, and free-flowing.  
    Pronoun Referrents
    When using pronouns such as "it," "its," "she," "her," "this," "of them," "these," "those," "that," "there," or "which," always remember that the reader is not inside your head. Always ask yourself if the reader will understand what "it" is referring to. 
    Watch for overly-long sentences 
    Some of the sentences I saw in some stories were doing much too much work.  There is just so much information a sentence can hold. And some sentences work so hard they should be paid overtime. Watch, also, if you overdo it with commas, prepositions, clauses, phrases, etc. 
    I hope this helps you. And happy creativity, all!

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