Friday: Showcase


Why English is Hard to Learn

By Anonymous

We’ll begin with box; the plural is boxes,

But the plural of ox is oxen, not oxes.

One fowl is a goose, and two are called geese,

Yet the plural of moose is never called meese.

You may find a lone mouse or a house full of mice;

But the plural of house is houses, not hice.

The plural of man is always men,

But the plural of pan is never pen.

If I speak of a foot, and you show me two feet,

And I give you a book, would a pair be a beek?

If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,

Why shouldn’t two booths be called beeth?

If the singular’s this and the plural is these,

Should the plural of kiss be ever called keese?

We speak of a brother and also of brethren,

But though we say mother, we never say methren.

Then the masculine pronouns are he, his, and him;

But imagine the feminine . . . she, shis, and shim!

If you’re interested, there are loads of angry poets rhyming (kinda) about the English language. Check out a few here!

Friday: Showcase


Today’s post comes from Jonas David, science-fiction author and cat enthusiast. When he was asked to tell us about his writing rules, he wrote the following advice. Check it out! Jonas David

My Rule One is not necessarily a rule that would be number one for any other writer, but it is one I have to keep telling myself.  It is  “Skip to the point.” Details are fine and dandy and can be fun to get lost in, but don’t let yourself get trapped in them.
When I first started writing, among many other things I had a problem of getting stuck because I couldn’t think of specific details or would end up writing about inane, pointless things that the character had to do to get from Point A to Point B.

For instance: Say your character needs to meet her illicit lover in the coffee shop for a clandestine conversation. Well, first she needs to get out of bed, right? Yes, then she needs to brush her teeth and put on some clothes, but what should she wear? Once she’s dressed, she has to have breakfast and maybe read the newspaper, then she has to find her keys and walk out to her car in the driveway. Then she gets in the car and drives to the coffee shop, getting trapped at a red light on the way . . . Or, you can escape the detail trap and just start with her sitting down at their corner booth in the coffee shop.

The above may be an exaggeration, but I often notice a subtler version of it in my writing and that of others. Ask yourself: Is this important to the plot or character development? Does it tell us something we didn’t already know about the story or the character? Is it at least exciting? If you can’t answer yes to any of these, then why are you writing it?

It’s like being trapped in Zeno’s Paradox of Motion: “That which is in motion must arrive at the halfway stage before it arrives at the goal.” It implies that it is impossible to ever reach the goal because you can always move half of the remaining distance to the end.
If you find yourself writing like this, the paradox will become true and you’ll never get to the point. So instead, skip to the point! I this rule think easily fits under Cicero Grade’s Rule One. Mine is just a more specific area in which your writing can get in the way of your story.

Other rules I like to use are “If something can go wrong, it should!” and “Think bigger!”

The more conflict in a story, the more interesting and exciting it is, so don’t miss opportunities to add some. Secondly, why do something small when you can do it huge? Let’s combine both of these into our previous example: Our heroine is meeting her lover at the coffee shop, so what could go wrong? Let’s put her husband at the counter having some breakfast before work. Great! Now our heroine is uncomfortable and stressed, just how we like our heroes to be. But wait, lets think bigger! He turns around and sees her and yelling ensues. Bigger! He gets into a brawl with her secret lover and the police are called. Now we have a story.

So get your fingers on those keys and go write! And when you do, skip to the point where things go wrong—badly wrong!

Which of Jonas David’s stories is your favorite? What writing advice do you agree with, and what are your writing rules? Comment below!

Friday: Showcase


DuoTrope‘s great, but what happens when the free trial runs out? It’s okay. No one will call you the hipster word, here. Well anyway, if you can’t afford a subscription, you might want to consider The Grinder. They update their markets daily and help writers keep track of where their submissions have gone. If you’re writing to publish, this is a great link to have!

What links, as a writer, do you use or recommend? Do you prefer DuoTrope or The Grinder? Let us know in the comments below!

Friday: Showcase

Publishing News

Dun-dun-dun-duuuuuuun! Published on 6 December 2013 and crafted for your reading pleasure, it’s the debut novel of Lexa Cain, Soul Cutter!

The Soul Cutter is hunting again. 

Soul Cutter #0

Seventeen-year-old Élan spends her free time videoing psychic scams and outing them online. Skepticism makes life safe—all the ghosts Élan encounters are fakes. When her estranged mother disappears from a film shoot in Egypt, Élan puts her medium-busting activities on hold and joins the search.

In Egypt, the superstitious film crew sucks at finding her mom. When a hotel guest is killed, whispers start—the locals think their legendary Soul Cutter has come back from the dead. Élan’s only ally is Ramsey, a film-crew intern, but he’s arrogant, stubborn—and hiding dangerous secrets.

When Élan discovers the Soul Cutter is no scam, she finds herself locked in a deadly battle against a supernatural killer with more than her mother’s life at stake.

Élan’s fighting for her very soul.

Previously mentioned here. If you haven’t picked it up yet, please do so here and now. It’s a thrilling read!

Win a Copy of Soul Cutter by Lexa Cain!

LogoHello, fellas and fellettes!

Sorry about the absence, but I’m working on restoring this blog to its former glory. Any “Find the Typo” photos you have would be helpful (send to Cutter #0

I’d like to direct some attention to the blog of Lexa Cain, author of Soul Cutter! She’s hosting a challenge to find the errors (rings a bell, huh?) on the freshly unveiled cover of her novel. You could even win a copy of Soul Cutter!

Ms. Cain’s novel was the first that Cicero Grade Editing has ever edited, and let me say, it was so fun to read, I kept having to pull myself out of the story! I’d get caught up in the action, the mystery, and especially the development of the characters. Now, it’s gone through the majority of the publishing process, and Ms. Cain even details some of that process on her blog, which I think is pretty cool.

Soul Cutter comes out on 6 December 2013. Way to go, Lexa!

If you’re into Young Adult fiction, the paranormal, a good mystery, ancient Egyptian history and mythology, or horror (and even if you aren’t), check out this challenge to win a free copy of Lexa Cain’s Soul Cutter!


*This challenge is no longer running. Winners posted here.*

Friday: Showcase—Shadows Express



Today’s the day! Submissions for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry are OPEN at the Shadows Express E-Zine. Yesterday, the Spring Issue released to some 1600 readers!

Shadows Express is run by volunteers and unfortunately cannot offer payment. What they can offer is a quality magazine for both readers and writers. Each submission is given consideration. Why shouldn’t your piece grace the tables of Shadows Express?


Author Interview — Gary E. Fields

[This is Cicero Grade‘s first interview! The questions were designed to get authors to open up about how they got published, so readers can take a leaf from their books (aha! ahahaha!) and get on the road to publish-dom, themselves. Maybe you could be the next interviewee! Enjoy.]

Today on Cicero Grade we have the Gary E. Fields–possibly the authority on writing stories that show the grittier side of life. Where other authors might rely on the same kind of content to make their stories “deep” or “edgy,” Fields manages to write through the heavy stuff like it’s just another day. That just-got-beat-up feeling you get when you finish that last line of poignant prose? That’s reality finally hitting you after years of sitcom-blinders.

1.       How selective are you in choosing what markets to query or submit to? How selective are they?

I try to be as selective as possible. I believe that in building one’s writing resume, you don’t want it tainted too much by fly-by-night entities, or magazines that also publish, say, teenager poetry. Credibility is a major factor to me. That being said, those same magazines will tend to be the more selective ones. I also will admit that all that goes out the window for the right amount of money (I don’t envision myself in the role of starving artist).

2.       What advice stuck with you throughout the writing-editing-publishing process?

The best advice wasn’t given specifically to me, but to all writers everywhere. I think it’s useful to any genre and any length piece: Elmore Leonard’s ten rules for writing. Look it up and follow them and your writing will improve. Once the writing is solid, editing becomes easier and publishers will start to take your work seriously. Also, know the market. Don’t submit your blood, guts, and gore piece to a magazine that normally publishes family-oriented stories.


3.       What have you learned about short-fiction publishers?

Make your first line great! Many publishers are looking for the first clue that they should move on to the next submission. Hook them and don’t let them go. Keep sentences short and powerful and economize your words at every opportunity. Don’t slow it down for extraneous descriptions and definitely don’t annoy them with flowery words. Any hiccups in the read will send your story to the shredder. And be original!

4.       Cicero Grade’s Rule One is “Don’t let your writing get in the way of your story.” Do you have one defining rule?

Make every word, sentence, and paragraph count. If it doesn’t move your plot, get rid of it.

5.       Are there any common writing rules that you break?

Sure, and most of them aren’t on purpose. That’s why I hire you!

6.       What are your writing goals?

Short fiction is a good way to get started, but I’d like to eventually pay my bills with my writing. My goal is to finish (start) the novel I’m formulating in my head.

7.       What are you working on now?

My focus is writing short stories that will help me build the world for my novel. I may submit some, but my main goal is to use them to flesh out settings and characters.

8.       Which of your published (or completed) pieces are you most satisfied with?

The one that still makes me proud is also the first story published. It was raw and edgy and, because of content, was not easy to find a niche for publication.

9.       Is there something you can never see yourself writing?

I don’t see myself doing ‘trendy’ romantic vamp fiction or anything Lifetime would want to turn into a television movie. I think it’s a good idea to experiment in as many genres as possible, if only to incorporate them into subplots of your work. A line should be drawn somewhere, though. No matter what you do, keep it original.

10.   What do you do for fun when you take a break from writing?

I read! If a writer doesn’t read, he/she will fail. I also play video games, but I try to limit myself as they eat time that could be spent in the creative process.

Author of Interest: Jonas David

Ohi! This is how we greet one another.

Jonas David has been published in 365Tomorrows, Comets and Criminals, Ray Gun Revival… Are you seeing a pattern here?—a science-fiction-y pattern?

Jonas David knows what’s been done to death, and his writing reflects that knowledge; he doesn’t waste your time with stories you’ve heard before. He takes you to a new time and place…sometimes a new dimension. Wherever and whenever you go to, you’ll slip right into the mind of his protagonist and live every experience as someone else. He’s taking the world—and other worlds—by storm.

Jonas David gave me the privilege of editing “Deathday,” which was published in Daily Science Fiction on 12 June 2012. This story will chill you to the core.

Trust me, you’ll want these links: Jonas David on WordPressFacebook, and Twitter.