Sunday, March 31, 2013

Taking Care of Me

by Patricia Kiyono

Happy April! We're finally getting some spring-like weather, and that always gives me more energy to do the things I should be doing – like cleaning the house, getting some exercise, and catching up on unfinished projects (crafts, sewing, and of course, writing!).
Our Winter Nano challenge in February/March resulted in the skeleton of a new story, but I really haven't worked on it much since then. A bad cold (I'm still coughing after almost three weeks) drained me so much it was all I could do to go to work and rest up until the next time I had to leave the house. So lots of things have gone undone.
But now it's time to get going. Being under the weather actually reminded me to take care of myself first. I need to get to bed at a decent hour and get enough rest. I should watch what I eat, and make a conscious effort to get outdoors more. When I do that, the rest of life seems to fall into place. And I just heard about another NaNo challenge - the National Romance Novel Writing Month - NaRoNoWriMo - for the month of April. Hmm. If you're interested, check out their WEBSITE.
So I'm going to close this post now, and get to work – right after I get back from my walk. Yeah, I've seen the weather forecast. It's going to be cold and snowy again. Oh, well. I'll just have to bundle up. It's not like I have to dig my coat out of storage or anything. Sigh.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

More crazy thoughts from Carissa

This popped up on my wall today, I think it may have come from a post from my publisher- it struck a chord. I was having a midnight convo with one of my god children who is on track to get her MFA in about eighteen months. She was lamenting the upcoming gathering of family that would once again bring on the "So, what are you studying in college?" and the inevitable looks that read, "Oh great, Polly Anna thinks she can make a dollar writing stories, she'll never get out of her parents basement." or "well, she is her father's child." (he plays bass for a rather famous band) This gifted child, Maddy, was part of a program that went to Japan last fall, she wrote a students guide to traveling while on this little adventure, took her own photos,got the inside scoop from locals on what foreign visitors should know, etc. The guide sold and is going to be marketed this coming fall. Not too shabby for an 18 yr old.(or anyone else) My advice was to suck it up and say the words, "I am a writer, an author, a story teller. I make people laugh, cry, dream, get angry, and a host of other things and I love my job." From time to time I think we all have those moments where we wonder- what in thunder brought us here? No answers...not a clue...not even a hint. I don't care why, I just know I am a writer...and I love my job. My immediate herd of "supervisors" can be annoying & loud, but then again, they're dogs. No man bashing, real dogs,a beagle, a lab, a Saint barn yard, a weimer, (and 2 cats) and from time to time, they find themselves as study subjects for part of a story so I guess it's even. It also goes paw in hand with my theory that at some point in time, I will create a character that draws heavily from people and critters I know, because I can do that- I'm a writer. My friends preface things with, "This is not story fodder." and they know better, it is a real probability that it will show up in some form at some point. Coming home from Alpena last week I was hit with the perfect name for not only my LC in a new story, but also the town, so I pulled off the road, perched on a snow bank and dug through my bag until I unearthed my notebook. I was intent on scribbling this stuff down, so when the cop knocked on my window- I about jumped out of my skin. It was a rather odd conversation with him as he tried to figure out if I was under the influence, lost, in danger, and I assured him all was well- I'm just older than dirt & have story line ADD so I wanted to get it down...he gave me that deer in the headlights look, I laughed. Not advised. As he wandered off I heard him mutter, "a writer,like my day isn't crazy enough." I thought about being offended, but in some odd way, I was amused, so plan B...he'll wind up in a story. After all, I am a writer.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Marketing Advice for your Debut Novel

Hello Everyone! I hope all is well with you today.  My name is Lisa Orchard and I’m the author of the Super Spies Mystery/Thriller Series. It’s been a year since my first book was published and I must say it’s been quite an experience.  I’ve worked hard promoting my books and there’s a lot I’ve learned in the process.

What’s one of the first things a newbie author must do? Well she must first define their target market.  She has to answer the question. Who are my readers? And how do I reach them? When an author answers these questions she’s on her way to establishing her marketing plan.

After an author defines her target market she needs to find out where her readers hang out. For example, if she writes romance novels she needs to learn where her readers get their information about new novels. The most likely place is from Romance Reviewers.  The next step in the process is an author must establish relationships with reviewers so they’ll review her book and communicate that review to the public.

I researched some of the top sellers on Amazon and I’ve found that all of them have a tremendous number of reviews. This is consistent for all genres across the board.  Positive Reviews are the number one way to sell more books. Of course, building these relationships takes time and effort, but in my opinion the time it takes is well worth it.  

Another way an author can communicate with the public is by being a guest on another’s blog.  The best way to do this is to establish a relationship with another blogger/author and then ask them about guest posts. Now, when an author does this she should look for blogs that have a wide following. The more followers a blog has the more people your guest post will reach.  J

There are other ways to advertise your work to the public, but most of these cost money and there’s no guarantee they’ll work either. So when a new author has to choose between the variety of other opportunities out there, I recommend that she communicate with other authors in her genre and learn what has worked for them in the past.  Some things work well for one genre and not so well for others.

I’ve found that workshops, book fairs, and conventions are a great way to get in front of your readers too. Of course, some of these cost money and an author has to determine which ones are going to give her the best bang for her buck.  Sometimes she has to take a leap of faith and just try something and see if it works.

So there you have it…what I’ve learned in my first year of publication.  It’s been an awesome year and I’m on my way. I’ve just sent the third Super Spies novel to my publisher and I’m excited about it! J

And if you’re looking to turn your teen on to reading, check out the Super Spies series!  The covers and blurbs are below along with buy links! They are also available as Audio Books as well!

This book opens in a small town in Michigan where fifteen-year-old Sarah Cole is stuck spending the summer at her Aunt and Uncle’s with her sister, Lacey. She’s not happy with the situation until she befriends a girl named Jackie. The three girls stumble upon the ruthless murder of a reclusive neighborhood woman. One of the officers investigating the crime believes the girls are responsible for her death. Fearing that this officer will frame them for the murder, the girls organize their own detective squad. They become the Super Spies and start their own fact-finding mission.  The Super Spies can’t understand why anyone would want to murder the “Cat Lady” until they start digging into her past and discover a horrible crime that happened thirty years ago. They uncover a connection between the two crimes and attempt to bring this information to the police, only to be reprimanded for meddling in the inquest. Not only are the girls upset by the admonition, but they also struggle with the fact that their exuberant investigating could provide a legal loophole allowing the killer to go free. To make matters worse, the police don’t even believe them. Frustrated by this turn of events, the Super Spies realize it’s up to them to snare the Cat Lady killer, or die trying…


Barnes and Noble: :

This book opens in a small town in Michigan where Sarah and her sister Lacey are now living with their Aunt and Uncle. Still reeling from the fact her parents have disappeared, Sarah starts the school year with her new friend Jackie Jenkins. When Sarah learns the school has been bombed, she’s filled with dread. Uncle Walt is a teacher, and he was in the school when the bomb exploded. Taking matters into her own hands, Sarah decides to search for him. The rest of the Super Spies are right behind her. When a fireman chases them away from the school, Sarah becomes suspicious. She decides to investigate. The FBI arrives on the scene. Sarah realizes this bombing could have even bigger implications. Searching for the bombers, Sarah is introduced to the world of terrorism. She fears that the bombing and her parents’ disappearance are connected and terrorists are involved. To make matters worse, the bombers are determined to finish the job. Can the Super Spies find the bombers before it’s too late?


Barnes and Noble:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Evils of Baking

As I continue work on my cookbook for family and friends, I've been trying out a few variations based on requests from the same group.  That means I'm also researching various methods of baking with sugar-free and vegan options, which means I stumble over other evil deliciousness in the process.

I have found multitudes of Snickerdoodle recipes, many are nearly identical to the old Betty Crocker version that I've been using for decades.  Dozens upon dozens of recipes for the "best" chocolate chip recipe ever, although my hubby can make the most delicious ones using the tried-and-true Nestle Tollhouse recipe. The only difference being that he creams the butter and sugar by hand as his grandmother taught him.

Yesterday though, I found the most evil, most compelling recipe to try out this weekend. It's a homemade version of one of my favorite Girl Scout cookies: the Samoa. The recipe seems easy enough, the only ingredient I don't have is the caramels. I have no plans to include this one in my book, unless I find a "better" way to make them. 

Still, I must try them out. I'm pretty sure I can still let my pants out a bit more.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Starting a New Series

by Joselyn Vaughn

All of my first six books either took place in the same town or had related characters. I had gotten to know the town and the people that lived there: where the junk yard was; who to go to for the best, unreliable gossip; and who would help you hide the body. I had it all down: the characters, the timelines, and the histories.

But now I'm ready to move to another town with new characters. (Whether Minnie will let me remains to be seen.)

As I start this new book, I am realizing how much I have to figure out. I don't know how old Penny is or who she is connected to. She insists on being called 'Aunt', but I haven't figured out whose aunt she is. I don't know Sidney and Joshua's dad met. And poor Joshua's dad, he doesn't have a name. Joshua's first name has already changed once, but he doesn't have a last name. I haven't figured out how long everyone had known each other, how long they've been in town, or how they met.

It's a bit overwhelming. It's kind of like moving to a new city and trying to get settled. You don't know where anything is or how anyone is connected. It takes time to figure out the history of the town and the people in it.

So far, it's coming in bits and pieces. There's a lake. Sidney owns an alterations shop and lives around the corner from Joshua's dad. I don't know how she learned to sew yet. Joshua has a job that allows him to work from anywhere, but he also travels a lot and can take a leave of absence without much of a problem. There's a series of canoe races that are so important to the town that someone brings a trolling motor.

I can't wait to see how the rest of the story unfolds.

Climbing Heartbreak Hill, the last book related to the Ladies Night Out, is coming out soon from Astraea Press.

Tara’s cheerleading career ended abruptly and she faces an upward climb beating the stereotype as dumb blonde in her new calling as an accountant. Framed with defrauding the IRS during the last weeks of the tax season, Tara’s tentative confidence is shaken, but Ryan coaches her in ensnaring the true perpetrator. She cheers him on in discovering his identity as a coach rather than an athlete.
With the help of the junkyard king and a mechanical bull, can Tara and Ryan find the courage to climb Heartbreak Hill together?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Closet Stuffed With Brain Clutter

Kicking Back to think.
Good morning! Today, I’m going to piggyback on W.S. Gager’s post from last week regarding writer’s block.

I have always taken the stance that writer’s block doesn’t exist…well…until last year. Starting around December 2011, I went through fourteen months of what I called writer’s block. Did I still get work done? Sure. I had to. But my productivity was way down from my norm. Every word was a struggle and when I sat down to write, I ended up so stressed out, I generally needed to get up and do something else for a short period of time just to relieve the tension. I was cranky and snappy. I ended up with more migraines than ever.

Writer’s block?


I didn’t understand what it was and for simplicity of explanation, I called it by the name non-writers understand when I explained to them. Writer’s block. What I really had—and still have—is actually Brain Clutter. Brain clutter is the debilitating inability to focus on one thing.

This is what happens:

You have projects due to multiple people at the same time
You have guilt from not being able to work faster
You have self-doubt
You have your day job
You have promotional duties
You have family responsibilities (mine changed in the last year)
You have household responsibilities
You might even have medical issues.

I managed to hit all these marks over this past year. If you haven’t experienced this, imagine you’re sitting at a table with a bunch of people. Everyone’s talking and you’re trying to listen to and be involved in all of them. Overwhelming, right? Trying to focus on one person while all the others are all talking to you is impossible.

People who have brain clutter can’t shut out the distractions and focus on just one thing.

So what do you do?

Some suggest writing down all the things hammering at you. Hammering would be my word, because that’s what it feels like. This options works for many people. It doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t empty the clutter from my brain. In my case, it’s still circling around in there and doesn’t alleviate the stress and guilt. But, writing it down does help me pinpoint the problems.

Some suggest meditation. Sit down and breathe. Focus on getting inside yourself and figuring out what’s bugging you. Cleanse and ground your spirit. This isn’t really in my toolbox, but an internet search can help you if you think this is something that would help you.

Some suggest eliminating distractions. I understand my son’s ADHD. I’m not saying I have it, but when I’m extremely cluttered, I can’t filter out distractions. Here are things that help me:

Remove myself. Sometimes I have to leave, whether it’s merely the room or the house. Let’s face it, when you work from home, even your house can be the distraction (I need to dust…oh, is the laundry done…dinner. What’s for dinner?)

Remove my distraction. Send the family somewhere. Utilize the time while your spouse is working and your kids are at school. I have trouble with this since my son home schools and my husband’s schedule has changed and his free time is in the center of my work time.

Do an electronics fast. Right…’cause I don’t work on a computer. Uh-huh. So…do a partial electronics fast, getting rid of everything but your word processing program. Most computers have a switch to turn off the internet. Mine is a touch button that I accidentally switch off from time to time, but oh my word, it takes a lot of power to turn off. Until you do, you don’t realize how leashed you are to Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Pinterest, EMAIL, instant messaging, Skype, YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, eBay and a bazillion other sites. Even if you only let each have 15 minutes of your time (and like Lays chips, can you really stop?) that’s about 3 hours time.

Still on the fast… And then there’s the phone and iPAD/Tablet. If I let myself, I can spend at least two hours a day on the iPad playing games or reading. Three hours of internet time, two hours of iPad time. That’s five hours. And then there’s the PHONE. Did you know that most smart phones have a do not disturb feature? It’s handy. I use it. But when I don’t use it, I can spend hours on the phone. Take Monday for example when I didn’t turn on that feature. I was on the phone for two hours and fifty-eight minutes over the course of eighteen phone calls. How could anyone get a thing done with constant interruptions that pull your thoughts from your writing?

So if you did the math (and if I actually did all these things in one day, which I didn’t), I would have spent nearly eight hours doing things that weren’t writing. Things that filled up my brain with other worries, concerns or ideas.

I challenge you to track your internet, iPad, phone time. You might be shocked.

Finally, I organize my clutter. I actively write for three different publishers. That means that at any time, I have a minimum of three projects demanding attention NOW NOW NOW! That’s probably the most debilitating thing, and something most writers must deal with. I have four solutions for you, if you have the same issue.

1. Schedule your time. Allot a portion of your day to each project. Right now, I’m writing four books. One gets an hour of my day. Two share a two hour time slot where I might work on one or both of them (they’re part of the same series and take place concurrently), and one gets the main share of my time, which is at least three hours. If I’ve wasted time, the last project gets all the attention. And I feel guilt which compounds my problems. If you’re strict and you stick to your schedule, this works because the demands are being met.

2. Bargain with yourself. I find this highly effective. Stephen King said: I go to the same place to write almost every day. I don’t bring a cell phone. I don’t take an iPod. My mind is thrown on its own resources. I make a little deal with myself. I say, just get five pages out. Five pages, and that’s it. You’re done. Of course I’ll get to five pages and always want to write a little bit more, but without that quota, I’d have a hard time even starting. As soon as I started doing this, I started seeing results. It actually works and works well (for me anyway).

3. Bargain with yourself - part two. Give yourself a reward system, i.e. if you get “x” done, you can watch an episode of Army Wives, Bones, Supernatural, [fill in your own TV addiction]. There are three TV shows I watch when they’re actually broadcast, rather than on DVD or Netflix, but if I don’t get in my writing time, those broadcasts are off the table.

4. While writing down what’s bugging me doesn’t help, writing down what I’m going to write does. But Brynn, isn’t that…writing? No, but thank you for asking. What I mean is, free write/outline what will happen in the next few scenes (or pages) in your book. Then when you sit down to write, you know what’s going on the page.

Does this all eliminate the brain clutter? No. I’m still working on it. Heck, it was only recently that I figured out what it was, but these things help and if you suffer from brain clutter, I hope there’s something in here that will help you.


Brynn is a chatty, bestselling and award-winning romance writer who unapologetically enjoys Twilight, Criminal Minds, Supernatural, NASCAR, men in uniform (or not), coffee, and above all, keeping it real. She’s been a fulltime writer since 2006 and has 46 published novels and novellas to her name. Her latest book, Briar's Cowboys is available from All Romance eBook, Amazon, Nook and Resplendence Publishing.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Minor Details

I was trying to figure out what to write about this month. There were no witty anecdotes, no interesting experiences to relate, not a whole lot of anything. I've been in my office writing and trying to write. We had - well, really, I had muse problems. And motivational problems. But there was a deadline. So, I read some, turned off facebook, tried hard (and unsuccessfully) to not answer my phone and sat down to write. With some success. But it's from the reading that today's post comes from.

The book is on character development, no not the title, and the author mentions how some details are minor and most likely do not bare remembering and certainly do no require large amounts of time pondering over. I agree and disagree. From my perspective as both a reader and a writer, there is no such thing as minor details. There can be too much information or too much description (just as there can be too little of each also), but within the pages of a book, there are no minor details. There is no need, please, for five, ten, or fifteen pages of description of a desk or office unless it is extremely important to the story - then break it up with action and dialogue. For me, reading that much description ends up feeling like I'm reading an inventory sheet. Mattress, 1 each. Box-spring, 1 each. Dresser - 4  drawers, 1 each.

If your Hero is wearing a suit with a tie, the color may not be important or even mentioned. He may not think anything of it as it is appropriate for the situation. Or it may tell us that he's color-blind or that he's not used to suits and can't wait to get out of it. Regardless of why he's wearing it, which is more likely to be of bigger importance, when he gets undressed later, the tie needs to be removed. This is also part of consistency.

This isn't to say you have to labor over every word, every detail, you don't. It's more to say, that there is truly no part of your characters lives, their struggles, and their world that can be arbitrarily discounted or forgotten. "I don't need to remember this, I'll never use it again." You may be right, however, the details bare remembering in case you're wrong. Kind of like that old cliche "Never say Never."

In my free time I'm a genealogist. There are are plenty of times I've looked at class listings, articles, webinars and such and said "I'll never need to know that" and by-passed it. Yeah. Months, days, or even years later I uncover something and uttered something extremely classy like "Well sh*t". Because, yeah that topic I never needed to know about - I do.

If you're trying to figure something out and you look up at a calender or out a window or up at the TV or people going by and find the answer. Great. Use it. Absolutely. Just keep track of it. Minor details are not just part of the consistency of the story, but they also can be part of a character's back story, where he or she came from.

I'm sure there are people who disagree with me and others who could probably say the same thing in a way that makes people sit up and take notice, which makes the most enlightening discussions.

Happy Writing. Happy Reading.

Simone. (Who is happy Spring is almost here).

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Writer's Block: Fact or Fiction

By W. S. Gager
Writer’s block. Do we all suffer from it? Is it a myth? That has been discussed on a writer’s loop I’m on and it made me think about it. I’ve never believed in writer’s block because my early years  of writing was as a journalist. I had to write breaking news on deadline and there wasn’t time to think of the most perfect words. It was a race to get the who, what, where and why down so it could come out in print within hours.  I never had difficulty writing.

In my early years as a novelist I never had a problem writing either. It may not always have been easy or good but the words came. In the last year, the words seemed clogged, lost and my muse was missing. I’ve never believed in writer’s block but I had no desire to write. To compound the problem, I had a book due. It didn’t help that I didn’t like it and kept rewriting and rewriting, never satisfied. I finally finished it and sent it off. I never felt it was good enough until I read it in the text block format from my publisher. 

That book was A CASE OF VOLATILE DEEDS that came out last month. It felt good knowing that book was done but since then I haven’t written much of anything but blogs. Am I suffering from writer’s block? Maybe. The latest release was my fourth in the Mitch Malone Mysteries and I wanted a break from my cranky crime beat reporter. 

I do have another series that has more serious undertones that I’ve wanted to write. It will be very different but still be classified as a mystery. That idea has been bouncing around in my head. I’ve tried to write it, but haven’t gotten anywhere for months. 

The damn broke over the weekend. I was able to get a whole chapter done. It felt so good. I think part of the blockage was stress. Things in my life are falling into place and maybe that is why the inspiration began or maybe it was I just sat at the computer and didn’t leave until the words started. 

I still don’t know what the real cause was but it just proved what the general consensus was in the many emails of fellow writers. You can’t get anything done unless you get your butt in the seat and your fingers on the keys. The words may not be good but you need to get them started. I promise to get my butt in the seat on a regular basis. New characters are calling and the ideas are flowing. 


A Case of Volatile Deeds is just out in kindle. Reviews said "sure to be on the best of 2013 lists." Reporter Mitch Malone dumps his date without a second thought to get a byline on an explosion only to find his date dead and believed to have set the charge. As he investigates, it leads him to city hall, real estate corruption, more bodies and even his own death if he can't get his exclusive in print.

Award winning mystery author W.S. Gager has lived in Michigan for most of her life except when she was interviewing race car drivers or professional woman's golfers. She enjoyed the fast-paced life of a newspaper reporter until deciding to settle down and realized babies didn't adapt well to running down story details on deadline. Since then she honed her skills on other forms of writing before deciding to do what she always wanted with her life and that was to write mystery novels. Her main character is Mitch Malone who is an edgy crime-beat reporter always on the hunt for the next Pulitzer and won't let anyone stop him. Her third book, A CASE OF HOMETOWN BLUES, was a finalist in the 2012 Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

You Can't Do It If You Don't Try by Stephanie Michels

Funny how we always find excuses about why we can't do something.  Maybe it's something as simple as staying within a budget or as complex as doing our income taxes, but we can think of a million reasons why we can't do it. However, we seldom look at the situation and examine why we feel it is so daunting. It could be a lack of self-confidence, but sometimes, it's a form of procrastination.

I'm the Queen of Procrastination, so I was interested in a video seminar I recently happened on. Carol Look discussed some of the hidden reasons for procrastination. It gave me some insight into why I do what I do, so I thought I'd share her four main reasons with you.

Some of the top reasons we procrastinate:
1- Fear of Failure
This is considered to be the biggest reason for people to put off doing something. In the case of our writing, if we never finish a book, we will never run the risk of being rejected. We can happily tell ourselves that we are   writers, but just haven't been able to finish our story due to (fill in the blank with your favorite excuse). Sure, there are times when things legitimately keep us from writing, but the excuse can only be used for just so long. At some point, you need to look at your excuse and ask "what am I really afraid of?"

So someone doesn't like your book, so what? Even the biggest name authors get panned now and then. As for rejections, most big name author were rejected many times before finally landing a contract. It's a rarity for an author to get accepted by the first publisher they contact. even if your work is rejected, you can use the feedback to polish your story, make it better, then send it to the next name on your list.  

2- Fear of Rocking the Boat
Many people are afraid to attempt something (writing, painting, singing, going for a job promotion) out of fear that succeeding will change their relationship with friends, co-workers, or even a spouse. If they get that promotion or book contract, will their spouse be uncomfortable making less than you? Will  friends be jealous and drop them?

Believe it or not, this fear of how others will perceive you often lurks behind procrastination. It causes people to think if they don't go for their dream (whatever it might be), they won't risk losing the people they hold dear. The assumption here is that you have no control over what happens to you, but that's so wrong. You control your life. Communcation is important.  If you think your success could cause a problem with your spouse or friends, discuss it. Get the questions out in the open.    

3- Fear of Change
Much like fear of rocking the boat, fear of change can also be a key factor in procrastination. However, unlike the fear of how others will perceive you or react to your success (rocking the boat), this fear is more personal. Fear of Change causes a person to worry that their success might require them to change their lifestyle or force them to move from their comfort zone to self-promote, etc. On the one hand, the person dreams of the possibilities, but on the other, they fear those changes.

If this is stopping you, face it dead on. Much like the last reason, this fear is rooted in the belief that you have no control. Again, that's wrong. No one can make you do what you aren't willing to do.

4- Fear of Success
Oddly, some people actually fear success. Maybe they fear they'll never be able to repeat their success with a second book or song or painting, etc. Maybe they fear they'll get their promotion then prove to be incapable. Maybe they dream that publishing a book will change how the world perceives them but procrastinate in case they get published and nothing changes. Maybe it's a combination of Fear #2 and #3. Whatever it is, this very real fear also can cause a person to procrastinate attempting or finishing a project.

All these fears remind me of the words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his first inaugural speech: There is nothing to fear but fear itself. Once you identify the fear, you can control or change it. Unless it's spiders (or clowns, Chris). Those are a whole different thing.

As for me, I'm still trying to figure which fear is behind my procrastination. I can see parts of all of these in me at times. It's too much to decide right now...I'll think about it tomorrow!  :)

Keep writing!