Monday, August 31, 2009

Anyone Judging Contests?

Judging the work of someone else is a daunting task. It's nothing like buying a book and tossing it aside it you don't like it or throwing a dart and hitting a number. Author's actually like feedback. Even if you never judge a contest, these guidelines are guaranteed to help improve your own writing. Use them to evaluate your WIPS.

Of course this year, I ventured into the EPIC arena and agreed to read and judge five historical books. It's been hard on the eyes, and very difficult to make myself not compare each entry to the previous one. Books deserved to be judged on their own merits, so I've kept that in mind. I hate discovering the type of historical competition out there...and it's growing every day. Oy vey!

I also agreed to judge in the Southern Heat Contest held by the Romance Writers of America - East Texas Chapter. These people have narrowed judging down to a fine art. Instead of the + and - system that leaves you wondering how to assess a final score, the coordinators of Southern Heat have provided me with such great guidelines, I have to share them (by permission of course) with my fellow authors, and also readers who can see what criteria is considered for award winning books.

BTW...if anyone is interested in entering the contest, do it today... the deadline is tomorrow. You can find information and entry forms on their website.

I've learned so much just from reading their judging aids:

Keep your specific category in mind when judging tone or pace. Remember, Historical or Single-Title may have a slower pace than Contemporary. Setting and back story will be handled differently. Information that is vital to the beginning of a Series story may be withheld in Romantic Suspense for the purpose of prolonging the intrigue. Also, the hero may not be introduced in the first chapter, and this may be perfectly acceptable for your category.

Focus on looking at the entry as a whole. Was this an enjoyable read? Often judges focus too much on perfection: margins, grammar, marketable hook, did the author follow all those unwritten rules we've heard so much about?

Often it's best to read the manuscript first before the synopsis, which may "give the story away." After reading the entry, see if the synopsis matches what you've read - in tone, style and storyline.

Here are the things on which the story is actually judged:

Does the entry "show" rather than tell." Is information fed naturally - not too much or too little at a time.

Is the writing vivid and evocative? Does it have a certain spark that keeps you reading?

Are sentence structure and length varied for a smooth read? Are narrative, dialogue, action and introspection balanced?

Is viewpoint always clear?

Does spelling/grammar/punctuation show appropriate skill?

Does the opening pull you immediately into the story?

Do the setting/descriptions enhance the story? Do you get a sense of time and place?

Is the plot original and well-executed.

Is there enough internal and external conflict to sustain a novel-length manuscript.

Is the pacing appropriate to the type of story? Does each sentence move the story forward?

Are the characters skillfully developed - compelling - three-dimensional?

Are the characters' motivations apparent in the first ten pages?

Are actions and reactions believable?

Does the dialogue progress the story?

does each character have their own distinct voice?

Does the dialogue sound like real conversation?

ROMANCE SPECIFIC:

Is the heroine strong enough for her starring role? Do you want to keep reading about her?

Is the hero?

MAINSTREAM SPECIFIC:

Is the main character strong enough for his/her starring role? Do you want to keep reading about him/her?

Are relationships between the characters intriguing?

__________________________________________________________________
Each section of the score sheet has a certain amount of points possible so there is no guesswork involved. I like that, a lot. I've always questioned myself when no values have been assigned or a value as given but there is no equation for how to define it. Example: Twenty-five possible points but seven questions to evaluate the section. When you have twenty-five points and five questions, it's easy to determine each has a value of five. This certainly makes it much easier.

I want to thank Sarah from the East Texas Chapter of RWA for allowing me to share this information. I think it's most helpful and gives great insight into how fairly this chapter treats each entry. Good job!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I've Highjacked Another Blog

My good friend, Phyllis Campbell, posted such wonderful information on Vivacious Vixens, I asked her permission to post it here as well. She graciously agreed, so without further ado...read and learn. I did: (P.S. She hasn't earned the title, Queen of Sexual Tension, by being timid and shy.)


“Have you ever had sex in an elevator?”

Does this line grab you? Make you want to move on?

James Lawrence slid his palm across the woman’s back and down the swell of her buttocks and squeezed. “Now this is what I call a great hand.”

“I’d rather be thrown in piranha-infested waters than go out with a man!”

How about these next lines? How do you feel when you read them?

Kendra Wakefield smoothed her ice blue silk dress with a single white-gloved hand and sat straight in her chair. Lifting the small opera glasses, she peered through the lenses at the faces of the well-dressed couples entering below her balcony box.

The westbound train from Alabama screeched to a halt in front of the New Orleans’ depot. When Juliana Warren finally stepped onto solid ground, she released a deep sigh.

Hmmm…I really didn’t see anything exciting in these last two, paragraphs, either…which brings me to my point. The purpose of an opening hook is to catch the reader’s attention and make them keep reading. An editor once told me, during my appointment with her at a RWA conference, that if the first paragraph of a query or even a chapter doesn’t grab her attention, she usually puts it in the ‘reject’ pile without reading on. Yikes! This isn’t good at all, especially for struggling writers. So if the first line doesn’t grab the editor’s attention, what makes you think the second line will?

Now try some of these opening hooks. Do they catch your interest? Do they make you want to read on?

“Come on, open the door, honey.” Jace Corbett pounded on the solid oak, rattling the gold number 10 hanging in the middle. The late winter wind whipped against his bare skin and underneath the small towel wrapped around his waist. “I’m freezing my ass off.” Literally.

This particular opening is supposed to make the reader wonder why he’s freezing his ass off. And why is he wearing a towel out in the freezing weather? Hmmm… Did this opening work for you? Did it make you want to know more?

Kristine Olsen had never seen so many naked bodies in one place. Considering all the avenues her line of work took her, she didn’t expect a scene like this would shock her.
It did.

And what about this one? Sex sells, which means the words “naked bodies” should grab the reader immediately. But not always do you need sex in your opening to catch the reader’s eye. Using action as your hook is also very good to do! Take a look at the next two story openings…

He’s going to kill me!
Breanna Loveland gripped the shoulder-strap of her seatbelt, her knuckles turning whiter the harder she hung on. Through the windshield, she focused on the snow-packed road ahead. The heavy flakes hit the glass faster than the blades could remove it, making it almost impossible to see. The blinding storm covered the streetlights and darkness surrounded the car. She silently prayed this vehicle had an airbag just in case her fiancĂ©’s reckless driving ended them in some ditch – or worse, head-on with another car.

“I’m going to kill him with my bare hands,” Monica Lange raged in a mixture of anger and sorrow as she paced the floor in her father’s den.

So, now we know what an opening hook is – how can we write one? Take a look at the first paragraph in chapter one of your story. Have you started it where you need to? Is this a place that’s going to make the reader wonder what’s going on and why or have you written too many descriptions or dialogue that doesn’t go anywhere?

Let’s do an exercise. We’ll take one of the boring sample paragraphs and try to make it a good opening hook. Let’s work on poor Kendra Wakefield. We know she’s at an opera and that she’s watching the others arriving below her box. How can we make this more active? Interesting? Why don’t we give her a shaky hand? Kendra Wakefield smoothed her ice-blue silk dress with a shaky hand. Or let’s add some internal thoughts here. Where in the blazes is that man? Or maybe she isn’t looking for someone, but hiding from someone and wonders if others will recognize her. She took a ragged breath. Will they know I’m not who I portray? At this point, if it’s done right, the reader will want to know why she is pretending and what is making her so nervous. Therefore – those unanswered questions will keep the reader from nodding off.

In a workshop given by Donald Maass of the Maass Literary Agency, he says readers will allow you only three lines before their mind begins to wander. That’s not very encouraging, is it? So why not grab the reader immediately?

Never begin with the heroine sitting and thinking. Get her butt off the chair and add some action and unanswered questions! Never open with long descriptions. Never open with weather – unless the pouring rain has flooded the roads and your characters are on their way to the hospital to have a baby… You get the picture. Never begin with backstory. That’s too much information to tell right away, especially when it can be woven into the rest of the story. Instead, open with conflict or just before a moment of change. Say your hero is minutes away from walking down the aisle to his own wedding, but he overhears his soon to be father-in-law making plans with a hitman to kill him after the wedding. Yup, I’d say it was time to make your character change his plans – and fast!

Closing hooks are similar. When you close a chapter, you should try to pose a question or set up a situation that makes the reader want to keep reading. The point is to end your chapter in a manner that encourages the reader to continue with your story. If you end your chapter with your character going to bed…so will your reader. This is not advised. It’s far better for your heroine to be knocked unconscious than to knock your reader into this state. Pose a question and don’t answer it until the next chapter. You may not want to end every chapter this way, but ask yourself “Does this end in a way that encourages your reader to keep reading?” If your answer is yes, then you’re ready to write the next article on hooks. (Big Grin)

**samples taken from my stories and some quotes taken from Donald Maass’ workshop.**

Visit my website to see other stories I have with great opening hooks! www.phyllismariecampbell.com

~Vixen Phyllis~

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ladies, Ladies, Ladies

My husband is always complaining about the horrible state and stench in the men's room. I'd like to tell him that women are so much more tidy and considerate, but unfortunately that isn't the case. Hey, we all do a little stinky now and then, but do we have to be so filthy?

I was prompted to blog about the things that annoyed me today on my shopping trip to Walmart, with of course the first one being my stop in the restroom before driving home. Now mind you,employees adhere to cleaning schedules, but honestly, how much effort does it take to bend over and pick up a piece of toilet paper you dropped on the floor? And speaking of floor...I'm amazed at how many women can't hit the toilet. I know your mother taught you not to sit on the seat, but pah-lease...I don't like walking around in wet shoes, especially when I know what wet them. *yuk* Can you spell F-L-U-S-H? I don't need to see what you left behind.

Can you not push the paper towels down in the trash can when you see it mounding to the sky? Take a clean one, put it on top, and apply a little pressure. You'd be surprised how well they compact. No fuss, no muss! But no, you just toss another one atop the pile and watch it tumble to the floor, then leave with a smirk that it isn't your house. I often wonder what the bathrooms look like in the homes of some of these trashy women...and yes I say TRASHY. The state of our public restrooms reflect the lack of respect we have for one another. That's sad...very sad.

Another pet peeve: Walmart has over a hundred cart returns in their parking lot, yet lazy people leave their carts pushed up alongside other patron's cars, marring and denting their vehicles. I CARE what my car looks like. If you don't, at least please respect mine. I couldn't afford the Cash for Clunkers program so I'm still paying on my older vehicle.

It takes maybe twenty steps to find an allotted cart return area. Maybe you might walk off some of those extra pounds if you included putting your cart where it belongs when you've finished shopping. Yeah...and nothing pisses me off more than finally finding a parking spot and having to get out of my car to move a cart left by some inconsiderate idi-- person. Again...another example of how we treat one another.

Now for the MOST frustrating. I have the greatest of sympathies for those with disabilities who are forced to "ride" in electric carts to do their shopping, but c'mon, you aren't the only person in the store. I swear today, I was haunted by stray shopping carts and overweight women cruising down the aisles like they were on Hollywood Blvd gazing at the movie stars. I can say overweight,because I'm carrying a few extra pounds myself, so I'm not being disrespectful, just making a point. I have to admit that there have been days I've thought how nice it would be to ride up and down the aisles, but when you stop and chat and make it impossible to get past you, then you become a thorn in my side. One particular THORN was in every single aisle I tried today. Because of avoiding her I forgot to get bread, which is what was at the top of my shopping list. She and I must have shared the same needs because she was EVERYWHERE, but parked and exchanging pleasantries with groups of people and barring my way. I finally left before I lost my cool and disconnected her battery. *smile*

Okay...I feel much better now that I've let it all out.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ya Think?


I may have over-extended myself a bit: volunteering to judge two contests...three actually if you count the one that starts in November, participating in a critique group, trying to maintain two blogs, posting to Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, posting promos, chatting and even moderating two loops and maintaining a publisher's Myspace page. In addition I babysit my grandson in the afternoons. No wonder my head is spinning.

So far, judging is the biggest challenge.While reading a few entries, it dawned on me that once you've become an editor, it is very hard to JUST read a story for the story itself. Oh, as the judge, you're supposed to point out obvious flaws and deduct points, but I can't stop focusing on things I've learned that some other authors obviously haven't, and it stops me dead in my tracks. It wouldn't be fair to fault them because before someone pointed out the obvious to me, I was guilty of the same things. For example:

If we are in Cindy's POV, thoughts, realizations, and feelings are assumed to be her's, right? There are just some things you don't need to spell out for the reader if it's a "given." Of course, I won't dwell on the annoyances for me of reading could hear, to sit, and would run. Why not just heard, sat and ran? You realize of course, I've really created a mess in the following paragraph and smoothed out the second. *smile* So which do you prefer:

Cindy realized the temperature had dropped drastically. She could feel goose bumps forming on her unexposed arms. She should have brought a jacket. Feeling totally unprepared, she knew if she hugged herself, she would feel warmer. She thought of building a fire, but didn't have any matches. She knew if she huddled against the tree, the trunk would provide respite from the growing wind.

The temperature plummeted. Goose bumps peppered Cindy's exposed airs. Why hadn't she brought a jacket? She embraced herself against the cold. A fire would be nice, but she didn't have matches either. Not very prepared to be caught out in the elements. She huddled against the tree. At least the thick trunk provided some respite from the growing wind.

How do you feel when you read the following? "she reached to turn off the light." As an editor, I see 'to turn' as considering the deed, but always wonder...did she do it? Unless she had the lamp in her lap, she had to reach. I think I've gone over the editorial edge. Someone throw me a rope and pull me back.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Guest Post: Meredith Holmes of Drollerie Press

Some of y’all may remember me—Meredith Holmes, author of Unseelie and short stories such as Widow’s Walk and Saturday Night. And that came off as more “Hi, I’m Troy McClure!” than I intended… Ginger Simpson has been wonderful enough to host me today on her blog and this just thrills me to my toes. Today’s my birthday and talking about writing and actually writing are two of my favorite ways to celebrate! I write primarily romance/urban fantasy. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I even knew there was such a thing as urban fantasy, much less that I wrote it myself!

Urban fantasy is the subgenre (or maybe it’s own genre?) of fantasy literature which is set in contemporary times or settings. Unseelie, if I may use my own book for an example, is urban fantasy because the main (human) character lives and works in the “modern” world. Although most of the action takes place in the realm of the Sidhe, the time and era is our century. I never intended to jump into the genre of urban fantasy—I tried writing high fantasy and alternate realities, working on creating entire worlds… Well, it didn’t work. I kept slipping in modernisms, making the characters have too many touchstones in modern culture. Finally, I just took a deep breath and let it go, wrote what I imagined instead of trying to force it into a high fantasy mold. Saturday Night stopped being an Anne Rice wanna-be and became a short story about two creatures of the night just trying to get by in evening London. Unseelie stopped sounding like a really bad Tolkein knock-off and developed it’s own voice.

Romance is another odd category, at least for me. Growing up, I read a lot of the really cheesy “rape romance” sort of stories. The kind you find tucked behind grandma’s couch cushions or hidden in college dorms, the 200 page or less stories with big, blown-out, Knot’s Landing hair, super-aggressive alpha-males and meek, ultra-submissive women with “fine-textured skin” who were always models. As I got older, I found better books, better writers—Eloisa James and Laura Kinsale spring immediately to mind. Romance lost some of it’s stigma as a genre; it became less an object of derision and more of a nonchalant “Oh, this? I’m just reading this great novel with complex characters and an intriguing plotline… Nothing rapey or bodice ripping here at all!” (Though, to be fair, I do like me some ripped bodices now and then—just with better writing than used to be prolific in the genre.) It became only natural for me to combine my love of romance with my budding urban fantasy writing and fall in love with the offspring of the wonderful union.

That brings me to this: It’s been almost a year since Unseelie came out, a bit less than that since Widow’s Walk was published as a short story. I’m working on a new series, the Personal Demon trilogy, which combines not only the urban fantasy and the romance genres but some new elements as well—characters embracing non-traditional sexualities and proclivities, self-rescuing princesses, and a good dose of sympathy for the devil. Writing is a journey—I know how trite that can sound, but it really is. If you’re afraid to take the first step into unknown territory, you end up stuck in place. I think about that often as I sit here every day and work on the next novel I’m hoping to submit (after computer problems and this whole thrill ride called pregnancy—I’m finally not sick all the time and I’m in a very hyperactive place so let’s hope that lasts one more trimester!); if I had let my wariness of romance take root, or my insistence that fantasy must be high fantasy, then nothing I’ve written would ever have gotten published. I wouldn’t be sitting here now, this blog post open but the first of the Demon novels hovering just beneath it, begging me to write more, to finish the story and send it to Deena at Drollerie Press and cross my fingers. Today’s my birthday and there is no better way for me to celebrate (well, alone, anyway!) than with writing, and letting these little creations grow.

Meredith Holmes

www.meredithholmes.com

Another Historical Saying

A while back, I did a blog on the origin of sayings we often use today. I received this one recently, and I was shocked. I never wanted anyone blowing smoke up my tushie...and now I know why.

Monday, August 24, 2009

New Contest - September 1

In honor of Red Rose Publishing and my World War II Historical Romance available there, I'm participating in the Blog Tour starting September 1. I've already posted my story in the side-bar, complete with a link to the Red Rose Page that will provide more information on the starting day. I will also be adding the url of the next blog to visit when I receive it. So, get ready to win a great prize (TBA)

You can see the video for Tender Return in the sidebar above my First Love story for the contest. Tell you friends to come and play. It should be fun.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Our Legacy - The Splendor of Romance

Our Legacy - The Splendor of Romance

Have you ever wondered, as a Romance Writer, what legacy you’ll leave behind? Of course, there will be the collection of stories you have written over the years, but what will they say about you, as a person? What feelings will they engender in your readers? What attitudes will they foster? Just because we make things up, create time and circumstance out of ‘thin air’; does this relieve us of the responsibility to consider what we leave in our wake?

Romance… What is its essence? If you look the definition up in a dictionary, the list goes on forever. No wonder the word means different things to so many. Have you considered deeply what it means to you? We should, because whether we realize it or not, it will show in our writing. For the sake of this blog, I’m assuming that we all write for the love and joy of the creative process, and not just the monetary rewards, although we enjoy those, as well. *smiles* If, however, the opposite is true, then the point of this blog is moot. A writer who writes strictly for commercial profit will, of course, write whatever is selling ‘hot’ at the moment.

In general, society often gives voice to their concern over the moral breakdown permeating our culture. On the other hand, they think nothing of strengthening its progression by the very act of being a consumer of products that advance that breakdown. As writers, we can be guilty of the same thing by fueling the fires of decay with the words we choose to immortalize in print.

Romance, as I perceive it, goes much deeper than unsolicited feelings. True, feelings are involved, but romance that leads to love is much more profound. It is a link with another individual that includes principles, values, and that changes and grows over time.

Have you ever considered what deductions your child or grandchild will make about romance or love from reading your work? Humm… That thought can keep you up at night! *winks*

Perhaps we can all consider more closely our Legacy, and in so doing, help to revive The Splendor of Romance, the honesty of commitment, the beauty of fidelity, the character of morality, the sanctity of marriage, and the endurance of true love.

Now, it's your turn. What does ‘Romance’ mean to you?

Thursday Tourist, Lynda Coker

Welcome Lynda Coker, My Thursday Tourist. I borrowed this from Lynda's website:

Lynda lives in the rolling hills of East Texas with her favorite alpha-male, her husband of 45 years. Now that she has retired from the field of Photographic Art, she writes full-time and blesses her husband for patiently sharing her with some factitiously strange, exotic, and mischievous characters.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oh For 1955


That's only 54 years ago!

'I'll tell you one thing, if things keep going the way they are, it's going to be impossible to buy a week's groceries for $20.00.

'Have you seen the new cars coming out next year? It won't be long before $2, 000.00 will only buy a used one.

'If cigarettes keep going up in price, I'm going to quit. 25 cents a pack is ridiculous..

'Did you hear the post office is thinking about charging 10 cents just to mail a letter

'If they raise the minimum wage to $1.00, nobody will be able to hire outside help at the store.

'When I first started driving, who would have thought gas would someday cost 29 cents a gallon. Guess we'd be better off leaving the car in the garage.

'I'm afraid to send my kids to the movies any more Ever since they let Clark Gable get by with saying DAMN in GONE WITH THE WIND, it seems every new movie has either HELL or DAMN in it.

'I read the other day where some scientist thinks it's possible to put a man on the moon by the end of the century. They even have some fellows they call astronauts preparing for it down in Texas .

'Did you see where some baseball player just signed a contract for $75,000 a year just to play ball? It wouldn't surprise me if someday they'll be making more than the President.

'I never thought I'd see the day all our kitchen appliances would be electric. They are even making electric typewriters now.

'It's too bad things are so tough nowadays. I see where a few married women are having to work t o make ends meet.

'It won't be long before young couples are going to have to hire someone to watch their kids so they can both work.

'I'm afraid the Volkswagen car is going to open the door to a whole lot of foreign business.

'Thank goodness I won't live to see the day when the Government takes half our income in taxes. I sometimes wonder if we are electing the best people to government.

'The drive-in restaurant is convenient in nice weather, but I seriously doubt they will ever catch on.

'There is no sense going on short trips anymore for a weekend, it costs nearly $15.00 a night to stay in a hotel.

'No one can afford to be sick anymore, at $35.00 a day in the hospital, it's too rich for my blood.'

'If they think I'll pay 50 cents for a hair cut, forget it.'

Those were the days!

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Touching Memorial


I received the following email from a good friend and fellow author, Rita Karnopp. Rita has shared with a select few of us, her sister's trials with Cancer and I was saddened to hear the horrid disease claimed another victim. The big C might have won the war, but not the battle of courage Diane exhibited in her fight. Her ability to still appreciate life and cling to its joy should be an example for all of us. I thank Rita for allowing me to share this bit of inspiration with you all. I never had the pleasure of knowing Diane personally, but Rita's final testament tells me I missed out on someone very special.

I thought I would share with you that my sister is finally at peace today. Her courageous 14 years battle with cancer is finally over. Her funeral will be the 23rd in Thousand Oaks, CA... I though I would share with you what I will be saying at her funeral ... and it will allow me to express how much she has meant to me all these year...

When Joel (brother-in-law) asked me if I’d like to say a few words about my sister today, my first reaction was… yes… but then it struck me … how will I ever talk without crying.

Then I stated thinking about all the support and love Joel has given me over the years and how much his love has meant to Dennis and me. Not once in all these years has he asked me for anything. I am sharing with you how I feel about Diane… but I’m also sharing this for Joel.

I could describe my sister in one word… and I’m sure all of you who knew her will agree .. that word would be classy. She’d smile when I’d tell her that… I think she liked it …but it was true, Diane was a classy lady.

(Left to Right) Jamie (Rita's daughter), Diane, and Rita during happier times.

She chose not to have children…but when Dennis & I brought Jamie into the world…something clicked between Diane and our daughter. So the joke between us was that Jamie was more her daughter than mine. My daughter is so much like Diane … and many times she reminds me of my sister…and now I treasure that gift more.

Diane was my best friend. She was there for me when we were deserted little children and she has been always been there for me as an adult. I could tell her my deepest secrets and I could share my heartfelt feelings, and she’d always listen without judgment.

But… she never failed to give me her honest opinion—whether I wanted to hear it or not. We didn’t always agree, but we did most times. When we didn’t she’d call me stubborn …and I’d respond ‘ditto.’

We had always been in-tune with each other. We looked so much alike. When Diane got up sick…they would get me up, too….with good reason. When something was wrong with her …I’d get this feeling. The same happened to Diane…she always managed to call me when I needed her most. I’d like to think I was always there when she needed me most.

Our husbands used to tease us about our marathon—talking until 2:00am phone calls! Neither one waited up when they knew we were talking to each other.

Diane was the reason I keep writing. She’d tell me that she and Joel believed in me. They asked about my progress and encouraged me to keep working at my dream of being a published author. After my 7th published book, Diane asked me when I was going to get her favorite book on the best seller’s list? She was pushy… but she kept me on my toes...and that worked for me. I will get that book published and I know Diane will be watching with a smile on her face and pride in her heart.

Today is not about us… it’s about celebrating a lovely lady’s life. One who showed us all more about living than dying. Diane is my inspiration. When I hear people complaining about the ‘little things,’ I cringe. When I catch myself complaining… I stop in my tracks… put it in perspective … and think… Diane had something to complain about—and she never did. She never played the ‘poor me’ song.

Recently Jamie and I visited Diane and Joel. What we saw was shocking…what we heard and felt was the warmth and heart of a sister and an aunt. Not once did she mention her aches, pains or traumas. She wasn’t about complaining…she was about enjoying life.

For an hour and more Jamie and I shared stories of our family… and she listened, smiled and laughed with us. When we decided she might be getting tired… in her classy way…she suggested 'we ‘must’ have more stories to share than that.' She was all about life… enjoying every minute God blessed her with.

So, I will end by saying my inspiration and best friend is finally at peace. The celebration of her life will remain with me the rest of my life. On the wall in my office is a plaque Diane gave me years ago… it sums up how we felt about each other…


My Sister … my Friend

I often think about

The special relationship we have—

How we’ve shared so many experiences,

How we accept each other as we are

And can talk about our thoughts

And feelings easily,

And how through the years

We’ve become closer and closer…

And I like to believe

That if we hadn’t been sisters,

We would have been best friends anyway.


Thank you all for being here to help us share in the celebration of my sister’s life. May the memories you’ve shared with her give you comfort. May her inspiration make you smile, because that’s the way she would have wanted it.


To Rita, I send a big, comforting hug, and to her sister Diane, I say, Rest in Peace, Classy Lady.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Critique Groups

I've been enjoying a recent post exchange within my online historical critique group bemoaning the differences between 'real live' groups and 'virtual' ones. Sadly, in most experiences shared, the face-to-face groups don't get a check-mark in the welcoming, friendly, and helpful columns. On line, we all seem to be on even ground, respectful, glad to have new members, and even remember the rules of etiquette that apply.

Now don't scold me because you happen to belong to a live group that walks on water and has helped you beyond belief. I know they exist, but some of us haven't been fortunate enough to find one fitting that description. Sadly, there is a distinct division between big and small publishers that transfers over to the worth of the author... at least in the opinion of some. I experienced that uncomfortable feeling myself.

I was invited by a "BIG" author and her friend to join them in forming a local writer's group. I agreed, with enthusiasm, thinking what a wonderful way to make new friends with a common interest. In retrospect, I wish I had declined. Our first meeting for lunch went well because we were getting to know one another. But as time passed, it became evident from the friend that "the author" was in charge. Just as well, because I never could have managed to scale the pedestal that author sat on...placed there by her friend who looked at her with eyes filled with awe and wonder. But, I was still excited about the prospect.

The first meeting of the group had a good turnout for a first attempt. I believe there were six or seven us there. When we went around the room and introduced ourselves, I gave my name and explained I was published by several Internet houses. The "big" author had the nerve to say..."What's Internet publishing. I never heard of such a thing. Is that self-published?" Okay...where has she been? In outer space? Didn't she listen to a thing I said at lunch about my credentials? That was humiliating, but I explained the hoops I'd jumped through to the newbies and let it pass.

During the meeting, it was decided we needed a yahoo group where we could download the critiques the week prior to the meeting. Miss Big and her friend claimed no knowledge of how to set one up, so I volunteered to do it. It's not a big thing, but it does require time and effort.

When the loop was set up, I sent a collective email to the group, alerting them and giving them the address. In return, a public message came from you-know-who, informing me that my services as moderator would not be required because she would be assuming that position...based on her reputation, I'm guessing.

She asked me to remove myself from the moderating list and give ONLY her access to make changes, etc. I tried several ways to change the tone in that email, because I'm a "benefit of the doubt" kinda gal, but no matter how I read it...condescending came to mind.

I think there was a thank you for my effort somewhere in the message, but with all her weight heaving and demeaning attitude, it got lost. I asked myself, "Do you really need this humiliation?" So, I removed my moderating privileges, my name, and I made up some lame excuse why I could no longer participate.

I can only imagine what kind of reception my critiques would have received. I wish I'd had the guts to tell her why I was leaving. that would have been the proper thing to do. People can't fix something if they don't know it's broken...how many times have I said that? But I've always avoided confrontation in my life. It's one of the hardest things for me. I'm working on standing up for myself, but taking baby steps. COWARD...yep, and yellow isn't my favorite color.

Even with the missing emotion and tone from written posts, I've never been insulted by anyone from my on-line group... or made to feel less talented or devalued in any way. I've only received encouragement that made me want to keep plugging along, even when snotty people like Miss Big made me want to fold it all up and walk away.

I highly recommend critique groups. Despite being confusing at times because you receive conflicting suggestions...you have to be wise enough to glean the good from the bad and still maintain your own voice. Critiquing is all about learning, and you can't get that type of experience anywhere else... for free.

I've learned and grown with the help of my critique buddies, and I wouldn't trade their friendships for anything. There are never enough eyes to read a manuscript and find all the errors, but a critique group is a great starting place. And, if you are in a face-to-face one and love it, good for you.














Thanks to alfocus.ala.org for posting the picture I used to yahoo clipart. Hope they don't mind that I've borrowed it to make a point.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pot Roast and Carrots by Katie Hines


What the heck does pot roast and carrots have to do with writing? Well, a lot actually. Let's examine the typical pot roast: the roast itself, the seasonings, onions, carrots, potatoes, perhaps celery and other yummy veggies. At least that's the ingredients that go into my pot roast. On occasion, I make gravy, too.

Every story should have a pot roast in it. It should have a central plot, a theme, and several subplots. Depending on how long your story is depends on how large your pot roast will be.

Be sure and lavish lots of spices on the roast. You can sprinkle them on the story through rich conversations and humor. Like spices, adding some humor to your story will add that extra special ingredient of getting your reader to plug into you and your writing and want more.

Now comes the veggies. Now, we have all heard that veggies are good for you. They are, AND they're good for your story. How about taking your character development to the nth degree? Make them so diverse and special that your reader can't put your book down for wanting to find out more about your character.

Veggies also come in the form of plot twists and development. Every good story has a nice, diverse plot, taking your characters and story into places where "no one has gone before." And, don't forget to have your character change and grow in your story. That's really icing on the cake--oh, I didn't mention cake? Here it is, then, that final taste that has you leaning back in your chair and savoring the final moments of the book or story.

Go ahead, writers, now's your turn to cook some pot roast and carrots.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wednesday's Warning

I know, I know, I started another blog for things unrelated to my writing and life as an author, but I'd be terribly remiss if I pretended that the state of the nation doesn't have an impact on my thoughts and my ability to locate my hidden muse. I'd love to continue writing and enjoying my life, but it's hard to focus when changes are coming that will definitely impact me and my family.

Health care reform is a big topic, and just like congress, "we the people" are divided about what is true and what is not. Those without health care see this as a blessing, and truly, I believe everyone should have access to a doctor when they need it, but the proposed government run program is not the answer.

I'm tired of those "pro" Obama advocates appearing on news programs and talking down to us as if we are ignorant and can't see through the BS. Medicare is broke, Social Security is teetering on the edge, so why not overhaul those programs rather than steal $500 billion dollars from them to create another program? Why not just FIX what's in place and create access to medical care for those who don't have it? Like my sister pointed out...worrying about this has taken the focus off the failed stimulus bill and the promise of jobs.

I'm constantly assured that I can keep my current health care and doctor if Obama's reform takes place. I'm not so senile yet that I don't realize that my past employer will drop Blue Cross/Blue Shield in a hot minute and go for a plan that costs them "nothing." Then I can join the millions of senior citizens who'll be forced to meet...the wording isn't MAY, but SHALL, with some government authorized person to discuss how useful my remaining years are and what I possibly can receive in the way of health care. One official was angered at some people referring to this as a "death squad." It doesn't matter what it's called, the end result may follow the same guidelines as the Cash for Clunkers program. I may be deemed useless and not worth of further oxygen, and my family offered $45.00 to sell me out to avoid further draining the government resources.

That's right. If you're thirty-five, you probably are not looking at the big picture. Try imagining yourself at sixty-something and wonder how you'll feel having your private health issues discussed and decided without any control on your part. I want to have a say in how my life plays out, and being forced to meet with someone as soon as I'm sixty-five to discuss personal issues isn't part of the equation for me.

OH...and as far as forwarding emails to the White House...those pesky emails that dare disagree with anything the current administration presents. As per the assistant White House Press Secretary this morning on Fox news...after he skirted the issue ten times...those addresses are KEPT for years and eventually shared for whatever reasons needed. I'm sure I'm on a list somewhere, but all I'm asking people...READ the bill for yourself and decide. Don't let an elected official who has divvied it up to three or four aides to be read and interpreted for him/her make a decision that will ultimately impact your life.

There is far too much involved in this health care reform bill. If you have small children or are expecting, do you really want a government official visiting your home to give you parenting tips? How arrogant has our government become to believe they need to have a say in everything we do?

I encourage you to visit Atlas Shrugs where TWENTY important questions you need to ask your congressman are listed. I'm sure government officials will try to convince you that Pamela Geller (The Blog Owner) and Robert Tracinski (the contributor) are just part of the "angry Republican mobs" out to spread vicious lies, but don't just trust what you hear on network news or from our President's lips...be informed and stop this madness. What better way than to attend a town hall meeting and hear for yourself?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Picture Perfect

I have to brag! I got surprise pictures today...for no reason. I guess my DIL decided to take advantage of having her two sons here on summer vacation to have a family snapshot taken. This is my son, Brett, his wife Carrie, Karyl and Zach from her previous marriage, and the light of my life, Spencer Charles Jones.

I'm a bit prejudiced, but I think my son is a hunk! If I was Carrie, I'd be holding on to him tight, too. :)



Monday, August 10, 2009

One Lovely Blog Award


Thank you Ciara Gold for bestowing this award on my blog. I was awed to read the reasons why you selected me. So...I'm accepting and sharing the award with three ladies who are my role models. You'd be among them if you hadn't beaten me to the punch.

Here are the rules:

1) Accept the award, and don’t forget to post a link back to the awarding person.
2) Pass the award on.
3) Notify the award winners.


Here are my recipients for The One Lovely Blog Award.

MaryAnn Miller - A great friend and confidante, and a very smart lady. She has some amazing articles on her site. MaryAnn is one of those people who comes into your life for a purpose, and she's certainly served hers well in mine.

Lea Schizas - Another wonderful friend and author. Besides devoting so much time to the yearly Muse It Up Conference to aid her fellow authors in developing stronger writing techniques, Lea also co-authored a book on Autism and spends much of her time heightening public awareness about this ever-growing disorder. As if her plate wasn't full enough, she has numerous blogs, and Bragging Rites Unleashed is another testimony to her how much she cares about her peers. Who wouldn't want this woman as a friend?

Anita Davison - My British pal. I found Anita and her wonderful writing through an historical critique group. She's been a source of inspiration, both in writing and life, and I always count on her sound words of advice to keep me focused. I don't think she has any idea how much I value her friendship, her talent, and her wisdom. In fact, she's so humble, I'm sure this will make her blush. :)

Monday Mania... or Maniac

I'm so confused. Just when I think I'm getting a handle on the rules, someone changes the guidelines or adds a little twist.

In conversations with other authors and editors, I've really become more aware of how a story begins. We are told we should SHOW the story from the character's POV rather than telling the reader what is happening, so I'm wondering why so many authors start their novels by using a narrator's voice to set the scene. POV is the window through which we let the reader peek inside, and I become confused when a third-person narrator steals the show.

Now I know there are different rules for romantic fiction, mystery, etc., but I'm not sure how to apply them. Doesn't it seem that fiction writing should be writing? I've been told to avoid semi colons, try to stay away for using 'it', and instead replace it with a solid noun so the reader knows what 'it' is. I also avoid duplication of words where possible? So what makes some authors exempt?

I recently opened a NY best selling novel and read this:

**** **** ran his hand along her smooth, naked thigh, up to her waist, and then down along her flat stomach. His body was pressed against hers; front to back, her head resting on his arm. This moment had not been part of the plan, but it shouldn't surprise him. There had been signposts; furtive glances, comments made only half in jest. The tension had built for the better part of a year. Each of them silently wondering. Neither knowing for sure if it would ever go to that next level. And then they arrived at the private villa overlooking the tranquil beach. The warm, humid air, the crashing surf, the shots of tequila; all coalesced to create a situation of overwhelming sexual tension.


If I wrote this, following the 'rules,' the story would read:

**** **** ran a hand along her smooth, naked thigh up to her waist then across her flat stomach. He pressed the front of his body against her backside and enjoyed the tickle of her hair as it draped over his arm. He'd never planned for this moment to happen, but he wasn't surprised.

I think you get the idea. Following the rules set by publishers can affect the outcome of your manuscript. Some want you to stay away from 'ly' words, instead using stronger verbs. Others require you to avoid passive voice and "to" phrases. I really adhere as much as possible with the last rule because if a characters reaches "to grab", then he/she really isn't accomplishing anything. Why can't he/she just grab? Actually, following the rules have made me a much more polished writer. What becomes confusing is when you're instructed to avoid pitfalls like: seems, reaches, feels, was. Stay in the present tense, avoid passive voice, stay away from author intrusion. Lord...my head is spinning.

Care to share any of the rules you've learned lately? Or what pet peeves you find in mainstream published books? Any books? I always like hearing another's perspective. Why not add more fodder to the frustration?

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Good, Bad & The Ugly

I recently read the absolute worst review I have ever received since I became published in 2003. Normally, I can let the fact that ONE person didn't appreciate my efforts roll off my back, but this reviewer made it personal. I read her novella-length review, and wondered why she didn't write her own novel instead of picking mine to pieces. If she read the blurb, she should have known it wasn't her "cup of tea," so why spend the time on something you know you wouldn't enjoy from the get go? She started out her tirade listing all the things my book wasn't...again, evident from the blurb provided her.

Her points were delivered in her first paragraph, but she felt a need to animate her review with *sighs* and cliches...with which she compared my storyline. I believe she said the idea wasn't original. Am I mistaken, or hasn't the saying "history repeats itself" become popular because history does?

And of course, she lamented there was only one chaste kiss in the story. Could it be because Sparta Rose isn't Erotica, rather sweet romance? What a concept.

My biggest mistake, it seems, was not writing the exact western she expected. She didn't want Little House on the Prairie, she wanted a shoot-em-up, painted whores on a piano, more sex, and a Gerald Butler look-alike for the hero. Sorry, but he does nothing for me and I quite liked the hero I created. John Wayne is dead, so get over it, and Clint Eastwood won't ever star as a sexy leading man again. He's approaching 80! If you want Hang 'Em High or Rooster Cogburn, then watch Saturday reruns on the western channel.

Hey, I've been in a reviewers shoes, several times and I appreciate that it's a demanding and thankless job. I also respect the reviewer's write to their opinion, but when you become "snarky," then you've turned the review into a personal attack and put the author on the defensive. I might have let this whole thing go, but when I read her response to my comment on the site, my rage flared again: Although I know my review came off as snarky and cynical that was not my intentions.

If you know your review comes off as snarky and cynical, then what exactly were your intentions? To invite me over for tea and crumpets?

Wikipedia defines SNARKY as follows:

ADJECTIVE - Snide and sarcastic; usually out of irritation.

Sparta Rose was a labor of love for me. Inspired by the Cumberland Mountains where I lived for a time, Sparta, TN is rich with history, and I attempted to capture some of it in my historical offering.

This nameless person claims her review was her attempt at humor, but I suggest she leave that to comedians. There is nothing humorous about book reviewing. Authors take these written words very seriously and the end result can honestly impact someone's future. What I can paraphrase from this nightmare...although she made mention in a negative way, is her comparison of my story with an offering from Laura Ingalls Wilder. Little House on the Prairie has entertained millions for years, so I guess "it ain't all bad."

Life goes on and reviews keep coming. There are those who enjoy my work and will continue to read my books, and like I've reminded my peers before...there isn't an author alive or dead whose work is appreciated by everyone. This summarized assassination just stopped me dead in my tracks and inspired me to put on the boxing gloves...or in this case, my blogging gloves. Thank goodness for non-violent avenues of stress release.

I applaud all the reviewers out there who know the secret of capturing the good, bad and the ugly, but doing it in a way that a person can appreciate and learn from. I'm never above constructive criticism.

Here's an EXCERPT from this horrible, boring, predictable story with flat characters and an overdone plot:


Ellie delighted in the dumbstruck look on his face. She’d matched him shot for shot. Maybe she’d taken a split second longer, but she’d knocked down all her cans. Wasn’t that what counted? What she set out to do?

Ty still hadn’t said a word. He kept staring at the log as if expecting his one remaining can to fall, or for one of hers to jump back up on it. Ellie couldn’t stand the silence, and containing her need to gloat got harder by the moment.

“Well, aren’t you going to say anything?” Her lips curved into a smug smile.

He shrugged. “I’m not sure what to say. It looks as though your practicing has paid off. Good thing we didn’t really wager anything on it.”

She erupted into uncontrollable laughter. It couldn’t be helped. Her glee at proving she could shoot, and at this moment, better than him, was cause for celebration. She covered her mouth to stifle her levity. It seemed overly cruel to rub it in too much.

“And…just what would you have wagered?” Her curiosity piqued.

Without a word, Ty closed the distance between them, gathered her into his arms and covered her mouth with his. Her eyes widened, and a gasp of surprise parted her lips enough for his tongue to dart inside to mingle with her own. Shivers of delight coursed through her body, turning her knees to jelly. Her startled eyes slowly closed and she melted into his embrace.

Just as she started to revel in the moment, he pulled away and held her at arm’s length. “That’s what I would have wagered,” he said matter-of-factly. “Too bad I lost.”

With a grin, he turned and began gathering up the strewn cans and putting them back into his burlap sack.

Ellie stood, frozen to the spot, her fingers tracing her mouth. Her heart raced. She’d dreamed of the moment he’d kiss her, but this was nothing like she had imagined. It happened so quick, over and done, but it was still magnificent. His lips were so soft, yet demanding, his embrace strong, but tender. She took a deep breath.
Ty fished in the grass for the last can, affording Ellie a perfect view of a taut behind, encased in fitting denims. Years of riding had evidently created strong muscular legs, visible even beneath his clothing. She naughtily pondered his naked form and fought the flush she felt creeping up her neck. Her flapping fingers fanned her face while she tried to compose.

With a loud whoosh of air, she chased the unladylike thoughts from her head and the warmness from her cheeks. Her fingertips again outlined the lips that only moments ago had been kissed for the very first time.

“We best saddle up and get home to check on your pa,” Ty announced.
He startled her from her reverie. She dropped her hand and nodded. Although her legs felt leaden, she walked to her horse, untied the mare’s reins and pulled herself astride. Nudging Chessie, Ellie caught up with and rode alongside Ty.


Now to make myself feel better, I'll go read the 5 Heart Review the book earned at The Romance Studio!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Stress Factor


Thank you, Ginger, for this opportunity to talk about stress that writers might find themselves in at one point in their career.

I'd like to put some humor, but seeing the stress I've been in lately I don't believe any humor might come through.

When we begin our careers as writers we're happy-go-lucky, grabbing how-to books to hone our skills, and penning our stories. We then find ourselves in that stage where we need to begin branding our names as writers, promoting our books - that's when the stress factor begins.

One thing we need to remember is to sit down and evaluate our time available before we commit. Let me explain:

there are many things writers can do to help promote themselves:

write articles and submit them to online zines/magazines, article databanks
set up a newsletter
start a blog
start an online magazine
become an editor or blog writer for places such as About.com, eHow, etc.
interview authors/editors/publishers

All of the above help to get your name out there. But at what cost? Your writing may be affected if you don't organize your time for everything you've committed to. This is why it's very important to make sure you sit down and truly evaluate how much time you have to offer in order for you to complete a new task with the same quality and efficiency you've given to your own writing. If you don't, then stress takes a hold of you, drains you, and you find yourself staring at the computer screen more than actually typing.

I know.

These past two weeks have seen me completely stressed, worn out, lost my Muse, and have come THIS close to saying goodbye to everything I have always loved to do. The one thing that keeps me motivated is my sense of duty and obligation to finish what I start. This isn't always a good thing to possess because it continues to drain your passion when you feel your 'past love' has now become a 'job' - don't get in this rut.

Evaluate - Assess - then Commit!

I had a long talk with myself yesterday - and no, I was alone while talking so the men with the white jackets won't be coming to my home - and made a few decisions. Immediately, that weight I had been feeling lifted and today I feel almost like the old and passionate writer I remember from way back when.

I hope this helps some of you and avoid that awful stress factor.

Lea Schizas

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What makes an Alpha male to you?




I know that you have probably seen this question time and time again, but I never get tired of reading the answers from my wonderful fans. I think an Alpha male can consist of several different things from charm, heart, undying love for the heroine or just wanting to protect the woman of his dreams from the evils of the world.

Alpha males to me are the sexiest to write about because you never know what kind of roller coaster ride they are going to take you on. One minute they can't be without the women they love and then in the same breath they are fighting their love for her. I hate to say it but I'm drawn to write about Alpha males more than any other types. I love how they make me feel and the way the just off the screen of my computer. So, I ask you what nmakes a perfect Alpha male to you and who are some of the sexiest Alpha males you have read?

Marie Rochelle

A Few Things I Haven't Tried

No, I haven't wrestled a potential buyer to the ground until they cry uncle and promise to buy my book!




Nor have I held a gun on someone and threatened to shoot them unless they ordered my latest release.


And I certainly haven't resorted to kidnapping and ransom.


But I have been plugging along at writing and promoting since 2002. Someone smart told me that long before you book becomes published, you need to get your name out in the public's eye. I maintained and promoted a website long before my manuscript became a novel. I also used a tag line in my email signature to advertise my coming release. I ordered business cards with my website and email and left them in various places.

Since then I've done everything humanly possible to encourage readers to try my work. I belong to every 'strangely named' group associated with writing, I blog, I tweet, I plurk, and sometimes I want to scream and yell. I've given away countless numbers of downloads, in hopes that recipient will be so impressed, they'll make a public appearance on Oprah and recommend my book. I've even sent Oprah a copy of my short humorous, but never heard back. I'm certain it got as far as the round file in her aid's office.

I've joined critique groups to enhance my skills, traveled to Nashville to share ideas with other authors, started an author's group locally, but got dissed by a mainstream author who never heard of Internet Publishing. Has she been in a cocoon?

The stigma associated with e-publishing has got to lift eventually. For whatever reason, there are throngs of people who believe that if you are published by an e-pub, it's only because they'll publish everything submitted. There are those who will, and they have given the legitimate houses a bad reputation. Readers need to appreciate that most of us have jumped through hoops and fought frustration to get where we are. I'm pretty darn proud of my accomplishments, whether or not you can find my books in a real store or not. Dang it! I'm a published author and I dare anyone to defy it.

I'm resorting to everything I can thing of at this point. My latest trick was putting MY bookmarks in Nora Robert's books in Walmart. I keep expecting a knock on the door from the book police, but so far so good. I hope Nora doesn't mind. I also left a few post cards featuring my book covers and a blurb in the pockets of clothing in various department stores. Doctor and Dental offices, banks, and waiting rooms where people gather is always a good place to deposit promotion items. People love pens! I have a ton with my name, website, and my tag line, Spice Up Your Life With Ginger!

So...I'm hosting this today, looking for new and LEGAL ways to promote and market my work. Cheap is always good, because money is an issue for all of us. So...readers....what can we do to snag your attention?

Welcome Ron Berry


Work Spelled the Long way

Ah rit, er rote, ah the heck wit it, I put words into some kinda sentences and callt it a boook. I’s wants t’others ta reads it so’s ah can makes me some mony. Ah even lets me friend reads it. He said there t’were a bit o a problemo wit it. Den he sees it. My name wasn’t in big letters. Ah mailed me book to da book people what makes em books for da stores. I gots this big bad letter what says it ain’t fit to print. I says why? Dey tolds me it needs to have goodly spellin. Ah uses spelling chek but all it does is underlines words.

I rewrote the book using good English and punctuation then I published it with Lulu. A few writers read the book again and said it was good enough. Now came the hard part, getting the word out. This turned out to be work. However, I had done much of the work ahead of time because I had a blog and I used that to build a platform. I joined several social networks as well as Twitter. I went a step further and built a website (ok, this needs work but…). Those are the first steps toward self-promotion. Even if you are published with a big name brick and mortar publisher, you have to do much of the promo work yourself. Does it work? Of course. Every time you get your name out there it is one step closer to name recognition. It takes work, but it sure beats getting up at five to go to work at a boring day job. I’m retired and have an income so I am not in need of this being my primary income. I won’t get rich, but I’m writing for me, not to make my fortune.

I am known online as unwriter but my real name is Ron Berry. Click to visit my website or my blog. If it isn’t obvious, I specialize in humor and children’s stories. My first anthology, Laughs from Corn Country has some of my crazier stories and for the entire family is my non-fiction book, Math for the Family. This goes from before numbers through Boolean Logic. It is a fun to read reference book. I am also the proud Grandpa of Kadence Callista Berry.

JSM's Promo Viewpoints


Publicity. Love to receive it, hate to generate it. I was raised in a time and place where ladies did not put themselves forward; it was considered vulgar to work at drawing attention to oneself. Today I know that attitude is archaic, but the lessons learned earliest are learned best.

So – what to do about publicity? I deal with it. When I can afford it, I hire a publicist, and that is wonderful. Things are set up and all I have to do is go in and talk, which I do both at length and extremely well. As an ex-performer, I find TV and radio interviews a breeze, as normal as breathing. Booksignings are almost like holding a party and as hostess I must speak to everyone. As long as I don’t have to set the booksigning up. Calling someone I have never met and telling them I am so wonderful and talented that they have to have me is pure agony.

At booksignings I speak to everyone who comes near and have a smile on my face all the time. I have pens with my name and website on them and use them to sign the books I sell, then give the customer the pen as a gift. Also, I take little gifts – a mug or a small reading light with my name and website on it – for the store/library/wherever liaison who set up the signing, and occasionally for others who are helpful. I hand out personalized coasters of shocking pink to one and all. I have book-related displays and hard candies on the table, but will only give one to a child if his parent is there and says so. It avoids problems and gets the adult within reach of my sales spiel.

The internet is more problematic. When I sell a book I create a PR file with excerpts and set a regular schedule for posting excerpts and pertinent info to a myriad of readers lists, but I rarely join in extended on-line discussions. Quite honestly, I’d rather be writing, Plus, if you do all the internet PR most publishers seem to want you to, you’d never do anything else, including eat, sleep and clean house. I write for several publishers and doing sufficient PR would be an unattainable goal, even if I liked working on the internet, which I really don’t. I even have difficulty keeping my website current. Like I said, I’d rather be writing.

Here’s the commercial – go to my website and take a look. There are excerpts from all my currently published books, and as I write all over the map (mystery, adventure, time travel, traditional Regency, all with a romantic flair) I’m sure you’ll find something you like. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks to Ginger for this opportunity.

Available at Red Rose Publishing

A Pause for A Chuckle with MaryAnn Miller


As we talk about the serious business of promoting -- and honest to God I have no idea what works and what doesn't - I thought it would be nice to inject a little levity.

I've done lots of signing events and spoken for civic groups, writer's groups, and at conferences, but the toughest audience was at a senior center connected to a nursing home. The activities director had assured me that there were lots of avid readers among the residents and they would love to meet an author. I was scheduled to follow the late-afternoon Bingo game when folks would already be assembled and willing to stay since dinner would immediately follow the talk.

I knew I was starting to lose them when a gentleman sitting up front asked if I was ever going to get the glass of water he’d asked for an hour ago. Then three women got up and left, muttering loudly that they must be in the wrong place since dinner wasn’t coming yet and it was past time.

In an effort to salvage something – anything – I abandoned my prepared speech and tried to engage the rest of the audience on a more personal level. I asked if they liked to read. One woman said she couldn’t read but she liked to sing. I told her that was nice, and she asked if I’d like to hear something. Before I could respond, she launched into a lusty version of You Are My Sunshine.

The other residents cheered when she was finished, so I took the hint. We spent the rest of the hour in a sing-along.

-------------------

Maryann Miller is an author, editor, and part-time farmer living in East Texas. Her latest books are One Small Victory and Play It Again, Sam. Visit her at her Website and her blog.

Promo Tips by Anna Kathryn Lanier

Wow, I just glanced at what's been posted already and I feel like a fish out of water. I was just going to list "Things I've done." But, heck, ya'll gave brochures on what to do...lol. All good advise and I've done several of them.

I'm not sure I've hit on anything that really works or is the BANG that caught a lot of interest. One thing I do is promote with other people. It spreads the cost and the advertising around. Sure, we're all on a lot of the same loops, connect with the same people, but there are still areas where I might hit and they don't or vice versa.

I also do a lot of contests, I always have. On my website, on my blog, with other people. I don't think I go cheap on the prizes either. I usually do nice ones. My website contest is on-going. I ask people to sign my guest book. I usually ask a question for them to answer (Like: if you were on desert island, which 5 items would you want? What's your favorite ice cream flavor? Or this month's "Who's your favorite heroine - real or fictional?") I love reading the answers. I post what the monthly prize is and draw on or after the first of the next month.

Usually, on my blog, it's just 'post a comment, any comment on any posting.' I will draw from those who post at the beginning of the next month. For August, I'm doing something different, people have to go to the "Click to Give" website and hunt up an item they have for sale in their store. It's a great site for good causes and I'm just doing it to promote the site.

The third type of contest I participate in is with other authors. Anywhere from 6 to 24 people. It usually involves people going to our websites or blogs and finding the answer or clue to a question. I have found that if you make it too big or too long, people will lose interest. I'd say stick with 12 or less people and less than 2 weeks long. The point is to get people to go to your site and learn more about you and your books. You want to make it easy for them to find the answer or clue. People will get frustrated if they can't find it easily enough and get ticked off. Not a good thing to do when you want them to like you. Don't get cute and hide the clue or answer, but don't splash it on your home page either......I know I've quit doing a contest because it was too frustrating to find the answer. But you do want them to look around your site, see what you have out there that's published. So be careful not to make it either too hard or too easy.

I also belong to a group of gals in my area who are with the same publisher (The Wild Rose Press). We call ourselves The Roses of Houston....though we don't just promote books through TWRP, some of us are published elsewhere and include those in our promoting. One thing we do is goodie bags for various conferences. We pull in together for the cost of the bags, the goodies and the postage. We also put promotion and other writing tips up on our common blog http://www.rosesofhouston.blogspot.com/. And we hold regular contests. Right now, you can win a $50 Amazon Gift Card......check it out.

The hot dusty town of Salvation, Texas has more than its share of secrets in 1873 when Laura Ashton's stage rolls into town. Sheriff David Slade has no idea what baggage his mail-order bride is bringing into his life. Throw in the nightmares from his Civil War days and he's got more than courting to contend with. Laura's a woman ahead of her time, a woman trained in medicine. And she's got a will that could move mountains. Unfortunately, the only mountains in Salvation are in Sheriff Slade's memory. Can the determined doctor heal his pain, or will the dark secret in her past turn up to steal his Salvation Bride?

Anna Kathryn Lanier
www.aklanier.com
http://www.annakathrynlanier.blogspot.com

Welcome, Kayden McLeod

Dear Readers:

In my infantile journey into the world of e-publishing I’ve learned so much, mainly because of two of the best sources I’ve ever come into contact with since I decided to become an author. They are also the best promotional tools I have. First is my Publisher Eternal Press, along with the incredible helpful authors and staff that answer my endless and growing list of questions. Second is my Publicist Dee Owens of Personalized Marketing, who guides me in any direction I take. Together, they have made this new and sometimes scary world manageable and clear-cut.

For those of you who were interested, I definitely recommend researching representation. With the right person(s), it’s worth every penny.

In our world of online fiction yahoo groups are our bread and social networks are our butter. However having said that, there is a fine line to walk between informing readers, and just annoying them. When one deals with yahoo groups, being aware of exactly what the moderators want is very important and often overlooked, i.e. the group rules. Spam promoting these groups are also very aggravating, and I’ve found I dislike rereading the exact same promo over and over in every group I belong to, as much as the reader’s I’ve spoken with. This draws negative attention to one-self and it’s quite self-defeating in the long run. For this reason, I try to change it up as much as possible.

Even though my first release isn’t until December 2009, it’s never too early to start getting your name out there. With the knowledgeable guidance of my Publicist, I’m creating short stories to post both for my website (currently under construction) and giveaways. I wholeheartedly believe this is a great way to promote when you’re new, because it’s gives reader’s a shot to see if you’re worthy of their money and time. Both are something of a commodity in this era, and it may prove to be one of the clinchers that makes or breaks a sale.

And the only way a reader will know if they would like my novels, is to read what I’ve written. That’s my logic, so that’s what I’m doing. I guess in a way, I’ve created a way to take that one step further, to entice my possible readers with my latest short story and vice-versa. Suspicious Circumstances has taken inspiration from both of my up and coming releases with Eternal Press, Deadly Fetishes and Jezebel’s Article. All three are Erotic Paranormal. This one is chocked full of insights and teasers into both new books, and the project was far too much fun to end, so I made it into a series. This will be the first of the free installments of Sara’s Story.

Please, feel free to drop on in and leave a comment on my blog, or you can join me on Twitter or Facebook as well. Links to both are on my link list:

Kayden's Blog

Thanks for reading my ramblings…

Kayden McLeod

Here's to Promotion

Hello Folks, I'm Raven Starr...

Like most authors promotion isn't the first thing I wanna do after writing a book, but it goes hand in hand. You can't expect to have good book sales if you don't get out there and sell your book.

You have to Pimp Your Book!

Yep I said. Pimp Your Book. In my experience I like to start posting blurbs and excerpts as soon as the final edits are done. It could be weeks or months before the book even hits the shelves. Drumming up interest is always a good form of promotion. Leave your readers wanting more with your excerpts.

Join as many yahoo writer groups as you can manage to keep up with. These sites are a great way to reach readers as well.

Everyday I am learning of new ways to promote myself and my work.
1 Interviews
2 Set up chats
3 Blog ur butt off.
4 Invest in a website

No matter what you do to promote urself keep in mind that you have to be unique. Sometimes depending on what story I'm writing one of my characters might stop by to run my Facebook and take questions. Or try free reads, free is me, so I know folks like the freebies. LOL

Speaking of free sign up for the free for now sites like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter, these are easy ways to reach masses of folks.

In the last few months I've been working with a Publicist. When I need her she's there and she has great ideas on how to Pimp My Book! LOL.

So in the nature of promo here are my newest creations coming soon from Red Rose Publishing.
Tainted Blood by Raven Starr



I had a ball writing this story. My first werewolf book. Make sure you check it out.. (gotta throw in a little promo) :)
The next is The Perfect Match by Raven Starr



This story has a twist.

Okay now last but not least, ask questions. Ask what other authors do to promote themselves, bounce ideas off your friends.
Have a great day today. Stay blessed and I hope you've had a good time learning about promo. Leave me a comment and I'll hit ya back.

Blessings,
Raven Starr

The Weird Turn Pro - Angel Martinez

It’s a Hunter S. Thompson saying, one of his best: When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

I think about that a lot these days in the bizarre land of promo. There are people who go to college, study hard and spend their entire lives trying to figure out just what exactly will catch the consumer’s interest. Here I am trying to figure it out on instinct and…weirdness. There’s a point to this, never fear.

One thing I’ve found doing promo for my books is that the author who does self-promo has to find some way to stand out, some unique approach, item, look, feel or offering. (No, not virgin offerings, please, let’s not step over the line here.) For instance, I have two not-so-run-of-the-mill blogs: Erotic Spice and Writer’s Habitat. The first is a free series of erotic stories, a soap opera with my novella Aftermath as the springboard. The characters reappear, develop, grow, more characters are added, and so on. Fun, steamy, and free - people like free. The second is for young and just-starting-out writers who need some help with the basics, a how-to blog on topics ranging from dialogue punctuation to synopsis writing.

Do all the usual things people insist on – the social network sites, the forums and loops, the website, the contests, but make sure you stand out and always be on the lookout for that little bit extra. Such as:

• Prowl around for free advertising. Some review sites give reviewers the option to trade reviews for ad space. Some sites will hold contests of their own for various reasons. Some have ad space available for peanuts (OK, no, don’t try and buy an ad with legumes, use a credit card, but you know what I mean.)
• Find something unique to offer your readers. Something fun or educational, something they’ll remember you for.
• When you send out your excerpts, promos, contests, don’t be afraid to be a little flashy and shout a bit. It’s promo. It’s OK.
• Grab up those opportunities others might chicken out on. Go on an online radio show. Do a library reading. Do some guerilla promo (leaving business cards in various places, e.g.)

Most of all, be you, your quirky, unique author self. We write, therefore our brains are a little warped. Use it to your advantage.

If you’re interested in my writing, I live over at Red Rose Publishing these days. Finn, just released in July, is on sale now. Finn’s Christmas is due in December; Lioness on the Knife and the much anticipated re-release of Aftermath should be next year as well as my SF series, “Anchorage” written under Sandra C. Stixrude.

Come visit my website! Happy Promo! ~Angel

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