Wednesday, May 28, 2014

On Writing

When trying to come up with something of value for today’s post, I decided to ask some of my old writing friends about writing and see if they had any ideas or suggestions they could share. They actually had quite a bit to say. Quite a bit, on the various aspects of writing, that is far more valuable than anything I could come up with this morning.

C.S. Lewis mentioned a previous post about originality. Here’s the comment:

Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

My dear friend, John Steinbeck, had this to say when we discussed the post about giving up:

The writer must believe that what he is doing is the most important thing in the world. And he must hold to this illusion even when he knows it is not true.

Anne Sexton agreed and added this:

When I am writing I am doing the thing I was meant to do.

Ray Bradbury put it a little more graphically:

If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy or both – you must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.

I love the advice I received from my dear old friend, Ernest Hemingway:

The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you’re rewriting a novel you will never be stuck.

I like Philip Martin's take on the whole writing thing:

In the end, writing skills are mostly absorbed, not learned. Like learning to speak as a native speaker, learning to write well is not just learning a set of rules or techniques. It’s a huge, messy body of deep language, inspired by bits of readings, conversations, incidents; it’s affected by how you were taught and where you live and who you want to become. For every convention, there is another way that may work better. For every rule, there are mavericks who succeed by flaunting it. There is no right or wrong way to write, no ten easy steps.

Anton Chekhov had some good advice on showing vs. telling:

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.

On giving up, George Orwell said:

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.  One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

And finally, Sinclair Lewis brought it all full circle when he said:

It is impossible to discourage the real writers – they don’t give a damn what you say, they’re going to write.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Your Author Platform

Before you ask, that photo is my cat, Billy. He's a very special member of the family, and he knows it. But back to business.

I almost skipped blogging today, since it's Memorial Day, but I thought I would post this short article since it's Marketing Monday. So, let's talk about marketing. And let's be very specific and talk about marketing YOU!

We've all heard the news. If you're going to be an author—especially a self-published one—you need a platform. I wrote a previous article on this very subject, but it's so important that I wanted to post another one just to drive the point home. If you'd like to read the first one, (which is a bit more detailed and includes a good smattering of great links on the same subject) here's a LINK to it.

What I wanted to concentrate on in this post is the Facebook phenomenon. Nearly everyone has a FB presence today. And there are new pages being set up every hour of the day, even as I write this, and even as you're reading it. So, because it is such a popular social media site, and growing because it's now considered the "thing to do," you need to be there.

You can start out with a simple personal home page. Then, you can create a professional page. And it's all free. Most writers create an author page that their fans can visit and post questions or comments, or learn about the author's newest projects or releases. With your own author page, you can post the art for your new cover (that's always exciting!). Or you can include a link to your "buy" page on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. You can link to your blog where you've posted an excerpt or a character interview. You can include your YouTube videos if you have a YouTube channel. There's lots of things you can do. The important aspect of all this is that your author page will give you another marketing channel. You'll have different visitors than you have on your blog. Different friends than you have on Twitter. It helps expand your universe in a multi-directional manner.

On a personal note, my personal page is getting very close to the 5,000 friend limit that Facebook imposes. Because of that, I've created an author page. It's currently gaining some new followers. It's important that you promote your own page so you can increase the number of friends who follow you. Those are members of your potential market.

If you'd like to visit my author page, here's another LINK. I hope you'll "LIKE" it.

And just so you know, since we said at the start that we were going to talk about you, I used the word "you" (or a form of it) 39 times in this post. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Kindle Giveaway!

This seems like a very good idea for a Fun Friday.

So, yep. You read it right. I'm going to be giving away a Kindle. This should be a fun giveaway, and someone is going to end up with a very nice prize. So be sure to check back for the giveaway details in a few days. 

One thing you might want to do, so there's no chance that you'll miss out on the entry window, is to head over to the right sidebar, at the very top, and enter your email address in the form where it says FREE NEWSLETTERThat way you'll get a weekly summary every Sunday of everything we talked about during the week. Once we get to 100 subscribers, we'll get this giveaway started.

And be sure to leave a comment below and let me know if this is a prize you would be interested in.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Breath of Life

Today is Writing Wednesday. So let's talk about the art of writing, and let's specifically talk about those pesky characters that inhabit the settings you've created. 

I received a call from my sister last night. She is also a writer and has her own blog right HERE. You should visit her some time and tell her I sent you. She does write some darned good posts over there. But, back to our conversation, which actually turned out to be the basis for this post. The phone call went something like this:

"Are you characters real?" she asked.
"Well, they're real to me."
"Yes. They seem real to me, too," she replied."But what makes them real?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, some of the characters in the stories I read just don't seem real. Others do. I'm wondering if the author writes them in such a way that they don't seem real. I mean, does the author do that on purpose?"

I didn't have an answer for her. We talked for a while about it, and the name of Neil Gaiman came up along with the button-eyed-other-mother in Coraline. This character seemed very two-dimensional and not very "real" to me when I met her—at least not real in the same sense that Coraline seemed real. 

After giving it a bit more thought, I felt confident that, with Neil's writing talent, he must have created those not-so-real images intentionally. But, I wasn't 100% certain of that. Perhaps, if Neil reads this blog, he can answer that question personally for us. If you know Neil, please ask him to visit us and leave a comment with the answer we're looking for.

Since we didn't come up with a real answer to the question, our conversation ended and we hung up. But the remnants remained in my head, and a related question started festering and pestering the back of my brain. It was simply this: How do you breathe life into a character and make them into a real person in the reader's mind? What are the ingredients of life that you need to include? I knew some research was in my immediate future before I could put it to rest. Much of the following information was gleaned from an article compiled by writing coach Jessica Morrell. I think she's done a very good job on covering some of the basic elements. In fact, her website is a wealth of information on writing. I highly recommend it. Click HERE and bookmark it for later perusal.

The suggestions below will get you started.

1. Create characters a reader has never met before.
Bring your characters onto the stage with pizzazz, make them memorable, solid and consistent from the first moment they come into view—bigger than life. Whenever possible, bring your characters to life through all the five senses. Don't be lazy and only show us what the narrator sees.

2. Ingredients of a great character
Characters are formed from a group of traits that are consistent and memorable. As you bring your characters to life, first create a base of dominant and important traits. These traits will remain consistent throughout the story and will be important to the events of the plot. It is best to open with a scene, event, or description that displays these traits. Our first impressions of a character should convey one or more of his or her dominant traits. Examples of these traits: strong, intelligent, brave, clever, self-assured, rash, headstrong. Second, add character tags and traits such as smoking, fidgeting, quality of voice that complement and deepen the main traits. Third, add more traits that reveal the complexity of your character. These are traits that appear contradictory, but only appear after the dominant layer is officially established.

3. Use action to reveal character
Whenever possible, characterize through action. Show your characters talking, debating, reaching decisions, doubting, hesitating, or pulling out all the stops. 

4. Larger-than-life characters 
Make your main characters somehow extraordinary or bigger than life. They should stand out in crowd—although that doesn't necessarily mean they must be flashy, just unforgettable. Fictional characters are made of heroic proportions. There is generally something exaggerated or enlarged about who they are. They are important and memorable.  While they can share some traits with your family members, friends, or neighbors, they are much more compelling and vivid. The reader must believe that they are unique, unusual, special, one-of-a-kind.

5. Showing off your characters
Luckily for fiction writers, techniques for revealing character are many. Characters are portrayed via exposition, description, narration and action. Characters are portrayed by conflict with their environment, conflict with other characters, action, self-discovery, self-realization, and change. Dialogue tags can reveal character including physical traits, appearance, mannerisms, habits, expressions and gestures. You can also reveal a character through a self-portrait or confession, anecdotes, dialogue, tastes, interests, possessions, setting, the opinion of others, thoughts, introspection and decisions. (You might want to visit THIS POST regarding dialogue and vocabulary.)

6. Creating emotional impact
In Practical Tips for Writing Popular Fiction, Robin Carr gives the following advice on creating emotional impact via characterization:

'...but they are still just people on the page until your reader relates or understands or believes, or all three. This relationship between reader and character is an emotional experience. Delivering emotion is a tall order. And, it's not just learning to write about emotionally charged situations or learning to describe emotions. It means creating the EXACTLY RIGHT emotions for the particular happening. Sometimes they are subtle. Sometimes a slow tear traveling down a dusty cheek can cause a wrenching in the gut even more succinctly than screaming rage. For this, the writer must know himself well...' 

Carr goes on to recommend that a writer read a novel with the sole purpose of picking up emotional connections. She suggests that as you read you learn to recognize an emotional response in yourself. You may also want to analyze exactly how the writer brought about the reaction.

So there you have what my quick research discovered. I'm certain there is a lot more info out there and other great suggestions and things to keep in mind that will help breathe life into your characters. Feel free to leave a comment on anything that's worked for you in your writing. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Newsletter News

In case I didn't mention it previously, I have decided to create a new schedule for my blog posts on this site. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Here's my logic behind it:

MARKETING MONDAY: Topics related to sales and marketing of your books and yourself as an author. 

WRITING WEDNESDAY: Topics related to writing. This is a huge area so it might include anything.

FUN FRIDAY: This might include contests, giveaways, anything of a lighter nature that doesn't require so much concentration. 

So there you have it. That's the future as we see it at this point and those are the days you can look forward to seeing something new and exciting (hopefully) on this page.

And since this is our first MARKETING MONDAY, the first new and exciting thing I wanted to mention today is my most recent discovery of MAIL CHIMP. It is a FREE service that you might want to check out, especially if you're interested in providing your friends, followers, customers, etc., with an update on your activities, products, work, whatever. (That's a marketing exercise.) Mail Chimp is an opt-in program, so there's never any spam involved. If you take a look to the right, near the top, you'll see a sign-up form. Just enter your email address and you will receive a copy of my newsletter every week. 

There are a lot of possibilities with a newsletter and a large mailing list. (Mine is currently quite small, since I just started it. I hope you will sign up so it can grow a bit more.) Anyway, as I was saying, I can see some potential with a newsletter. For example, if we have a giveaway here on this site, I can announce the details, and the winner, via the newsletter.

So, that's today's topic. Wednesday, I'm going to post an article about openings and beginnings, so be sure and check back for that. Meanwhile, feel free to sign up for the newsletter and share this post with your Facebook and Twitter friends. 

Keep writing!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Formatting Your Kindle eBook

The last time we were together, we talked a bit about publishing your own eBook. Since that's a recent topic of discussion, and since there were quite a few hits on that post, I wanted to continue with that subject and expand on it a bit more today.

If you’re planning on publishing your work as a digital edition (eBook) and selling it through Amazon, here’s a brief primer on some very basic things you need to know in order to give your finished product the professional appearance it deserves. This is not an advanced narrative on .html coding (which you don't really need to know) but rather a few pointers that most beginners will find helpful in getting their manuscript into a professional form. If nothing else, it will provide you a good starting point for avoiding most of the common mistakes that first-time publishers make.

The following information is taken from my new How-To manual on the same subject, and it's written with the presumption that you’re using Microsoft Word as your text editor. If you’re using something else, you’ll have to translate these instructions into the language of that software. So let’s begin.

First of all, you don’t need to include a bunch of returns to get your curser from the end of one chapter to the start of the next. In fact, you don't want to do that. Instead, after the period in the final sentence of your first chapter, hit one return. Then go to the top tool bar and select INSERT, BREAK, PAGE BREAK. That will force the chapter heading to the top of the following page when it’s viewed on an e-reader. Then go back and delete all of those extra returns. If you want to see all of the formatting symbols, go to the top menu bar and click on the paragraph symbol. (It's that little thing that looks like a backward capital P.) That will make everything show up. It's an on-off toggle, so clicking it again will turn them off.

The next item, and one that a lot of authors have issue with, involves paragraph indents. If you’ve created your document using tabs for your indents, don’t remove them. You can format the document to create the indents you need. Following is the simplest and quickest way to accomplish this, but it’s going to involve a little clean up at the end.

STEP ONE: Go to EDIT, SELECT ALL. Obviously, that’s going to highlight everything in the document. But doing it this way is much faster than doing one paragraph at a time. Now that we have everything selected, we need to let the software know what we want it to do with the paragraph indents.

STEP TWO: Go to FORMAT, PARAGRAPH. This will open a new window with several options. You’ll need to specify the choices you want. The top item is ALIGNMENT. Make sure it’s either set to LEFT or JUSTIFIED, whichever you prefer. I personally think the justified alignment reads better.

The next section is the paragraph indentation. The first window asks for a value. Don’t enter anything in this area. To the right of that box is a drop down menu. Click the arrow and select FIRST LINE. When you do that, the default value that should pop up in the next window is .5”. I usually change this value to .2". And that’s it for that part. Click OK.

At this point, you’ll need to go back through your document and adjust anything that shouldn’t be indented. Some of these areas might include chapter headings, copy that you want centered (which will still be centered, but it will be moved to the right of center by whatever indent you selected). You’ll also need to check your first and second pages, which typically contain the title, the copyright, the ISBN data, etc. Be sure to use the PAGE BREAK at the end of those pages as well, and get rid of all those extra returns.

The next thing you’ll need to do is check the indents you just specified. You may discover that some of your paragraphs are indented twice the amount you wanted, since we didn't remove the hard tabs. Word will typically ignore those tabs since you’ve formatted the paragraph, but sometimes it will lose its mind and give you a double indent. Just delete them if you see any.

Next comes page numbers. If you’ve inserted them, you need to remove them. Since the Kindle screen is a different size than an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, which is typically what most writers set their default page size at, and since readers can vary the size of the type on their screen, you really have no idea where the pages are going to break. We really don’t need a page number appearing in the middle of the screen. So just delete them. Also delete any headers or footers you’ve added to your Word document. Finally, when you’re ready to save, save your file as a .doc document so you can modify it later if necessary. Later, when you get ready to covert your book to .mobi, you'll need to save it as an .html file.

We've covered a lot of material here in a short amount of space, and it may sound a bit confusing. If you want a lot more detail (with screen shots) and some tricks on the proper method for adding graphic elements such as chapter heading icons, charts, photos, etc., you may want to download a copy of my new eBook that will give you a more complete and detailed version of everything you need to know. 

Here's a LINK if you'd like the complete step-by-step directions for getting your book formatted, converted, and uploaded to Amazon.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Are you published yet?

As technology grows in leaps and bounds and the economy continues to stagnate, many industries are changing—including publishing.

It seems the team members associated with the various houses within the traditional publishing industry—especially those who work either directly or indirectly in the acquisitions arena—have become an increasingly selective and subjective group. They have raised the bar, and it almost appears that nothing submitted to them with less potential than another Harry Potter is even being considered by the acquisitions editors. Fortunately, that situation is changing.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not a modest person when it comes to my writing. In fact, I will look you straight in the eye and state, quite matter-of-factly, that I am an excellent storyteller. And I'm certain there are those of you reading this who are also excellent writers. I know for a fact that there are tons of unpublished manuscripts out there that are equal to, or better than, a lot of the published books I've read. It drives me crazy that publishers are letting so many good books remain unpublished. The good news is that the old world where traditional publishers ruled with an iron hand and maintained complete control of everything is quickly fading into history. 

Times have changed. The old system that we lived with for so many years is no longer the only way to get a book published. The recent advent of digital publishing and POD (print-on-demand) changed the model. So, a couple of years ago, I decided to ignore the rejection letters and to publish my books myself. 

And you can do the same thing. Each of us now has the option of taking matters into our own hands and becoming our own agents, publicists, editors and publishers. And, with today's technology, it's a doable endeavor. In addition, it can be done with practically no cost.

If you're a writer, you're going to fall into one of two groups: those who have published your own book, and those who haven't. If you're in the latter group, it may be because you're not yet up-to-speed on how to go about it. If that's the case, I'm going to remove that excuse by providing a link at the end of this post to a new book I've just published (it's a 99-center) that will give you and easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide showing you exactly how to format, convert, and upload your book to Amazon. Trust me on this. It's not nearly as ominous a task as you might think. In fact, anyone can do it in a very short time and you're going to be amazed at how easy it really is. Your book can be on Amazon by this time tomorrow!

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment.

Now, here's that LINK.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Good Example of Showing

Although this blog primarily relates to books, communication is the primary subject matter. And even though books have long been the primary medium for storytelling, a few years ago the technology of the motion picture came into the world and offered another method of engaging the audience.

While books and film are obviously two distinct mediums, the basic manner of telling a story remains the same in both. Since we recently discussed the old "show vs tell" topic, I thought we might take it one step further and examine a short clip that demonstrates how the process of telling a story is the same regardless of the medium, and how showing is usually so much more interesting than telling.

This scene begins like a good book should start: We have an opening visual of two characters. The characters TELL us that it's raining and that we're in California. Their dialogue takes us right into the story and we know what's going on: These two are in love. And from his DIALOGUE, the character played by Gene Kelly lets us know that he's about as happy as a feller ever gets.

From that point on, his ACTIONS illustrate how he feels. The lyrics of the song help explain his emotional state, but through it all, he is SHOWING us what's going on in his head and his heart.

Take a look. Keep this clip in mind the next time you sit down at your computer to write a scene. Show the reader what's going on through the character's actions and words. It will make for a much stronger scene.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Show vs Tell in creative fiction

We've all been advised, many times, to "Show, don't tell." It's become a repeated mantra from members of critique groups—like a broken record. Many consider it one of the most important rules of fiction. New writers are continually advised to let the reader discover what they are saying by watching the action and listening to the dialogue instead of reading a descriptive narrative.

Well, brace yourselves for this writer’s opinion. It’s good advice, but it’s not a universal truth that transcends every other rule of writing. While it is true that showing instills life into your characters and scenes, it’s not necessary to “show” all the time. Some things need to be told rather than shown. Telling provides a shortcut. It can offer a better solution for moving the reader quickly from one dramatic scene to the next, keeping the pace accelerated and holding the readers' interest. If a writer uses showing all the time, their words can blur into monotony with the same rhythm and tone. Worse, the important parts, the dramatic parts, won’t stand out, and you will end up wearing your reader out unnecessarily.

In addition, by its very nature, showing requires more words. If you try to write a novel using only showing, it will end up being ridiculously long. In my opinion, telling is not the horrible taboo some writing instructors and critique group members claim it is. Contrary to the previous advice you’ve been given, there are many places in your novel where telling is actually more appropriate. Your objective as the writer is to find the proper balance between telling and showing. The next time you’re given the advice of “show, don’t tell” don’t blindly follow the suggestion without considering the purpose of the words in that portion of your work.

According to novelist Francine Prose: “. . . the warning against telling leads to a confusion that causes novice writers to think that everything should be acted out . . .”

We’re going to leave it at that for today. Even though this post sheds some conflicting light on the “show vs. tell” advice you’ve been receiving, showing is still a very important part of your writing. This post was not intended to downplay that importance but rather to reduce it from a mantra to a suggestion to be used at your discretion. 

As always, please feel free to comment with your opinion.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Plotter or Pantser?

Fiction writers are usually divided into two main categories: Plotters and Pantsers. So which are you? Plotter or Pantser? Maybe you don't know the difference. So lemme splain it. 

Do you carefully create an outline before you type the first word? Or do you just sit down at the keyboard and start pecking away? 

I would love to hear about your style and your reasons for choosing to work that way. Please leave a comment and tell us what works for you. 

Your turn. Plotter? Pantser?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Key Elements

Listen to the mustn’ts, child. 
Listen to the don’ts. 
Listen to the shouldn’ts, 
the impossibles, the won’ts. 
Listen to the never haves, 
then listen close to me… 
Anything can happen, child. 
Anything can be.
― Shel Silverstein

Melissa Donovan has included the great passage above in her article on Writing Forward entitled Excellent Writing Tips from Successful Authors. And it’s appropriate that she begins with that, because inspiration is always the first requirement of creative writing. You may be the best mystery plotter on the planet, but until you have an idea of where your story is going, that skill isn’t going to do you much good. A swift kick-start of inspiration is the best solution for getting things churning around in your head so you can transfer those thoughts to your anxious typing digits.

Once you’ve been inspired and have an idea of where you’re going to take your anxious reader, you can begin. You need to start off with a bang. It's my firm belief that a great opening is the best way to greet your new reader and grab their attention. The following opening line is from Stormbreaker, and it's one of my favorite beginnings.

When the doorbell rings 
at three in the morning, 
it's never good news.— Anthony Horowitz

So a strong start is key to whetting the reader's appetite. But you can't fail to deliver. You need to keep their interest high as the story unfolds. If you don't, they'll put your book down and pick up another. And when it comes to knowing how to maintain a reader's interest, Jodie Renner is one of the best.  She's a creative writer and a professional editor who has written a great post about how that’s done. This is a three-part series entitled Tension on Every Page. You can read the first installment (and it’s very good) at the Writer’s Forensics Blog.

So, you’ve got the inspiration, you’ve grabbed your reader with a fantastic opening paragraph, and you’ve just completed the first draft of chapter one. And as The Carpenter's song from the 70s informs—we've only just begun. You know you’ve got to keep going or you’ll never finish this masterpiece. So how do you maintain that productive attitude and keep churning out those 2,000 words a day? Ann Aguirre has the answer for you. Her post on Writer Unboxed, entitled Five Productivity Tips, is an excellent treatment with some great advice.

So there you are. You’ve got the ingredients of a great novel right here on this page. Now all you need to do is get inspired, keep the tension on the pages, and remain productive. Before you know it, you’ll be typing The End. As we all know, that’s when the editing begins. But we’ll talk about that another day.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


I've linked a new Cornell DeVille YouTube video to this post because I wanted my readers to understand the concept of backstory and how it relates to starting your manuscript out on the best foot. It doesn't matter whether you're writing a middle grade adventure, a young adult romance, or even a picture book. The key point to remember is simply this: you need to capture the attention of your reader as early as possible. Let me repeat that because it's vitally important.


Most new writers love to write. In fact, they love to write everything they can think of in order to inform the reader about every fact and aspect of the story, the setting, the characters, the situation, etc. They will write until the cows come home before they get to the point. And that's sometimes the cause of the reader closing the book and looking for something else that doesn't drone on and on while it meanders slowly in its circuitous route toward something more interesting.

Obviously, backstory is important to your story. However, it's not the most important aspect. Grabbing the reader's attention is the critical issue to consider when you start writing. If you can do that with a narrative hook in the first few paragraphs, you can lock your reader in for another 50 or 75 pages. Provide them with a situation that places a question in their mind, and they'll keep reading until they discover the answer. That gives you, as the writer of this epic, some breathing room that you can use to weave your back story in so the reader can become intimately familiar with your characters while you let the plot play out.

I hope you will take the seven minutes required to view the video below. Then take another seven minutes and read the first few pages of your WIP. After you've done that, answer this question: Does the beginning of your WIP capture your attention? If not, maybe you need to do a little housekeeping and rearranging. Get the interesting bits up front so your reader can discover them early on.

Good luck. For some additional insight on openings, check this ARTICLE.

For a video version of this topic, visit my YouTube channel HERE.

I hope you'll leave me a comment. Keep writing. Someone has to do it.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

YouTube Companion Channel

It's only in the planning stages at the moment, but I have just created a new YouTube channel to accompany my website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter media exposure. I hope you will check out the channel trailer I created, visit the channel, and subscribe for updates as new info is posted.

Why do I need a YouTube channel? Simply because it's sometimes easier if someone explains something in person rather than in printed media. Plus, it allows viewers to post comments and questions.

I hope you'll take a moment to watch the video trailer and visit my new channel.
As always, thanks for your support.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Free Copies of Skullhaven!

Tomorrow is the big day. I'm having a FREE PROMOTION on Amazon for my newest middle grade adventure. I hope everyone who visits this blog will head over there and get their free copy. And, if you enjoy it, I hope  you will write a review to tell other readers what you thought.

If you have a middle grade reader in your home, or if you're a teacher looking for a possible book for your class, please take advantage of this opportunity to get your free copy.



Building your platform

I have received several comments and emails from writers who are actively engaged in building an online presence. This is becoming an important aspect of getting agented, published, and selling your books if you choose the self-publishing route. But how do you do it effectively? This post will explore some of the no-cost avenues currently available.

Obviously, you're going to need a website or a blog. The former is not a no-cost option, but the latter is if you use Google's Blogger service, which is the platform this blog uses. It's simple to create a blog and quite easy to update. You can also use Wordpress. It used to have a cost associated with it, but it appears to be free at this point. Either of those two options will provide a good starting point for getting your name out there on the internet with no out-of-pocket expenditures. Free is good!

After you have a presence in the digital world, where do you go from there? How do you let people know you're out there and ready to share your wonderful information? This is where the power of social media takes over. Digital communities like Facebook and Twitter can get you into the flow and start traffic heading toward your site to read your informative posts.

But, what will I write about, you may be asking. Remember, it can't be all about you. Keep it topical, based on the purpose of your blog and your readership. You can include a poll to get a feel for the demographics and interests of your readers. When I started this blog, I wanted to provide other writers with help and information. I wanted it to be a place where we could share our work and offer suggestions and comments. I placed a couple of polling booths to determine what type of work my readers were writing.

The bottom line is that you need to provide some valuable content that will keep your loyal readers coming back to gain from your personal knowledge and experience and connect to the links you can provide them for even more information. It's also important to keep in mind that a blog is like a new puppy. It's cute and sweet at the beginning, but you have to feed it on a regular basis, usually every day. It won't survive for long if you don't give it the attention it needs.

When you create your blog, be sure to plug in one of those email subscription gadgets to alert your readers when you've posted something new. And if you haven't subscribed to this one, there's a link on the right sidebar just waiting for you to fill in the info. (Hint hint.) Also, Blogger provides a "Followers" gadget that readers can use to become a follower of your blog. (There's one of those on the sidebar of this blog also.) Encourage your readers to comment on your posts. That can provide new ideas for new posts and help build your web presence and increase your traffic.

You can also spread your knowledge around. Offer to be a guest blogger on other blogs, and try to leave comments on other blogs that are insightful. Another opportunity to get your work out there is to enter contests that other writers and agents are having on their own blogs. You may not always win, but sometimes agents may be interested enough to request material from you. 

What I've included in this post is simply some of the most basic info on building your own platform. Hopefully, it will provide a starting point for you. Andrea Brown literary agent Mary Kole has an excellent post on the Do's and Don'ts of creating your platform that goes into a bit more depth than this post.

And, of course, we're all curious. If you have jumped onto the I'm-building-a-platform bandwagon, leave a comment and let us know what you've done and what's worked for you.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Is your modifier dangling?

The subject for this post came to mind when I remembered Groucho Marx saying, "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I don't know."

A dangling modifier is an error in sentence structure whereby a grammatical modifier is associated with a word other than the one intended, or with no particular word at all. For example, a writer may have meant to modify the subject, but word order makes the modifier seem to modify an object instead. Such ambiguities can lead to unintentional humor or difficulty in understanding a sentence. Here are a few examples:

At the age of eight, my family finally bought a dog.
Walking down Main Street, the trees were beautiful.
As president of the kennel club, my poodle must be well groomed.
Screaming for help, David's fingers gripped the edge of the cliff.
After living under a pile of dust for thirty years, I found the documents.

We know what we're trying to say, but sometimes we just get a little confused and end up with something that may be a bit funnier than we intended. Of course, if you're writing humor, the dangling modifier may be your best friend.

Now it's your turn. Give us an example of your own. Just click on that Comment thing and type away.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Digital Publishing—FREE COPIES!

There are probably thousands, maybe millions, of great book manuscripts lying in drawers, gathering dust, and never being read by those for whom they were intended. Why? Because those writers have given up on the traditional publishing methodology and have failed to embrace the new digital publishing model. And it's time those books were published. If you're a writer, and you're ready to publish your book, this post was written with you in mind.

Digital publishing has arrived, and a lot of writers have decided to take the self-publishing route. Many of them have done so quite successfully. Others have procrastinated simply because they have no idea how to go about it. With that dilemma in mind, I created and published a nuts-and-bolts, how-to manual that will help anyone achieve the status of published author—with very little effort and no cost. Yes, indeed, you can have your book published and available for sale on by this time tomorrow. It really is THAT easy to do.

I'm going to put a link to my book explaining the details of digital publishing right HERE. If you'd like to click it and go to Amazon and purchase it, I would certainly appreciate that. (It's only 99 cents.) However, just so I don't sound like a salesman, if you'd really like a copy, and you'd be open to writing a review at some point in the future, I'll send you a copy with no strings attached.

How to Get Your Free Copy—

1. Go to my website HERE.
2. At the bottom next to the word CONTACT, click on the email address.
4. Send me an email with FREE BOOK in the subject line.
5. I'll send it to you in a return email.

I know you're a great writer, and this book will make it a piece of cake for you to get your manuscript formatted, converted, and uploaded to in no time at all. By this time tomorrow, you can be a published author!

Now click the link and order your FREE BOOK!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Treasure of Morro Bay — Book One

I am in the process of doing a revision on Book One of the Treasure of Morro Bay trilogy. Why? Because I am about to format and publish Book Two (Deja Vu), and I wanted to give the series a new look and clean up a few stray typos I found.

I will be doing a FREE DAY on Book One in the near future, so stay tuned for that if you'd like to get a free copy of the first installment so you can read it before Deja Vu comes out later this summer.

Here's the new cover. I would welcome your comments!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Final Cover Design

I have revised the cover design. The background illustration was created by Pierre "Asahi" Raveneau. So far, the responses to the new cover design have all been quite positive. So, if you need any art or illustration for YOUR cover, I would highly recommend checking out Pierre's work.

Here's a LINK to his site.

Meanwhile, don't forget to enter to win your FREE copy of Skullhaven. Check out the post below.

I hope you will leave a comment so I'll know you're out there.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Skullhaven Giveaway

Skullhaven launched today as a digital edition, and I've decided to host the first giveaway. If you'd like to enter, just follow the instructions on the form below. The giveaway ends at midnight April 15th, 2014. Winner will be selected by a random drawing.

To receive 1 entry, Tweet a message about the Giveaway. You can get 1 extra entry every day by Tweeting it. (Use the Twitter symbol below this post.)

For 5 entries, share this post on Facebook. (Use the Facebook symbol below this post.)


If we have 24 entries or less, there will be ONE COPY awarded.
If the entries exceed 25 but don't go past 49, TWO COPIES will be awarded.
Between 50 and 74, THREE COPIES.
Between 75 and 99, FOUR COPIES.
And if we hit 100 entries, I will award FIVE COPIES.

Easy-breezy! Good Luck to everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Hero's Journey

A great deal has been written over the years about the Hero's Journey. It can provide a blueprint for the writer in the construction of their novel.

Orphan --- Wanderer --- Warrior --- Martyr

As a writer, it’s your daunting task to take your character, and your readers, through these stages in the hero's journey by creating that wonderful plot around which everything revolves and evolves. Let’s take a brief look at these four stages and discuss some examples to provide a better idea of the progression.

ORPHAN: This can be a literal or a figurative situation for the hero. Sometimes it’s both. It puts the hero into a more vulnerable position, with no one to help them, so they have to think things out for themselves. Two examples are immediately obvious: Annie and Dorothy. These two characters are literal examples. One is living in an orphanage (like Lilly White in my most recent middle grade paranormal novel Skullhaven—pardon the shameless promotion) and the other resides with her Auntie Em. A more recent example can be found in the Harry Potter books.

Figurative orphans may be more common. Gordie LaChance in Stand by Me is one example. He lives with his parents (who are now totally consumed with the death of his older brother) and Gordie is more or less isolated and forgotten. He finds companionship with his friends and a degree of solace in his writing. Other examples include Homer Hickam from the movie October Sky, Carrie from Stephen King's novel by the same name, and Neil Gaiman's Coraline. In Finding Nemo, both Nemo and his father could be classified as figurative orphans, each of them searching for the other. In Lost in the Bayou, Robin Sherwood is a figurative (and perhaps literal) orphan. In the opening chapter, we learn that her parents have disappeared—fate unknown.

Within this “orphan” environment, the main character is presented with a problem, an obstacle, something that's wrong and simply has to be fixed. That’s where your wonderful plot begins. Usually this occurs with a “situation-changing-event,” such as Gandalf’s visit to Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. When that occurs, they become a…

WANDERER: The hero, dissatisfied with their current situation (whatever it may be) embarks on a quest to resolve it and make it, or the world, better. Your hero may wander through many pages and numerous chapters, or they may only wander for a short time until they come up with a solution. When that happens, they become a…

WARRIOR: This is where things begin to change. Your hero comes up with a plan, figures out what needs to be done and how to do it. But it’s never easy, or at least it shouldn't appear too easy. There must be some struggling, internally and/or externally. Obstacles come flying out of nowhere, slowing and stopping your hero's progress. They have to summon their courage, use their brains, or figure out what can be done to overcome whatever, or whomever, is blocking their success. Typically there is a “darkest moment” where things take a drastic turn for the worse and success and a happy ending seems all but impossible. Your hero may have to make a huge sacrifice, and sometimes put themselves into the most dangerous situation imaginable. This is when they reach the status of…

MARTYR: This is the point where the hero risks everything, faces the danger and lays their life on the line if necessary in order to solve the problem and/or achieve their objective. They may have to dig down deep inside to find the courage to do what's necessary. As the writer, you need to make certain we feel their pain, their fear, their desperation. This is typically the climax chapter where the hero stands up and delivers. This is the defining moment, and the event that changes everything. The dark clouds separate, and the sun shines brightly. As readers, we are relieved that our hero has managed to escape the villain, the jaws of death, their loneliness, or whatever situation you (the writer) have placed them in. Problem solved. All is right with the world.

So there you have it. This is the basic progression. For a much more detailed explanation, check out Joseph Campbell’s narrative at the following LINK.

Your comments are always welcome!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Writing for the senses...

The senses are a very powerful tool for adding realism to a story. As a reader, we enjoy it when the author takes us deep into the story and paints a realistic environment for the characters. As a writer, we need to strive to offer our readers no less.

The excerpt below is from my newly-released MG novel, Skullhaven. I selected it to provide an example of what I'm talking about regarding sensual input.

Skullhaven Cemetery is across the highway from the Sacred Heart orphanage. It lies in a shadowed valley where a misty cloud of fog rises from the ground shortly after sunset. No streetlights warm the soul on a chilly autumn evening, and once you step through the creaking, rusting wrought iron entrance gate, the night wraps around you like a damp shroud. It is an old and lonely place, where lost spirits haunt the grounds until they move on—if they can.
In this example we've covered four out the five senses. The only thing missing is the sense of smell. That's a bit unfortunate, because that sense is perhaps the most powerful for sparking memories and adding additional realism.
I hope you'll leave a comment and tell me what you think.