Friday, May 29, 2009

Vote For Your Favorite Saturday Serial! :)

Good Morning Everyone! :)

Below are the entries for the Saturday Serial Contest. Vote which one you'd most like to read!

Entry #1:

Proposed Title: Terminal Jack

Genre: Sci-fi/thriller/horror

Time Period: Near future

Main Character: Graham Black, homicide detective transferred to the Cyber-Ops Division, The unit designed to handle crimes involving cyborgs and cyber criminals.

Villain: Jack Janczek, a psychopath who is caught when his is nearly killed in a shootout with police. In order to serve out his sentence, he is fitted with a total body prosthetic, and is to be “re-programmed” via cyber link via a downloaded program. He discovers the ability to overwrite the programming, and can connect with anyone neuro-jacked directly into the net.

What’s at stake: How do you catch a serial killer who is still in prison, and can “be” anyone, anywhere, at any time?

Entry #2:

Proposed Title: Sin Eater

Genre: Horror/Fantasy

Time Period: Modern

Main Character: Mary Margaret, ex-nun and one of the rare breed of Sin Eaters, whose job it is to save human souls from the demons, but can she handle a full-scale invasion like the world has never seen?

Villain: Asmodeus, Lord of the Demons (and his horde of demons), bent on collecting the soul of every human on earth and becoming the Dark Ruler of Mankind

What’s at stake: The souls of mankind and the fate of the Earth

Entry #3:

Proposed Title: Letters to the 5th Direction

Genre: Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Horror

Time Period: now

Main Character: Juliana
Juliana’s a 12 year old girl who has just inherited a trunk from her beloved grandmother’s abandoned attic. Among old photos and embroidery appears a box of letters her grandmother wrote to Juliana before passing. While reading the letters Juliana accidentally opens the 5th Direction, the super highway to other worlds.

Villain: Murcielaga
Created during the era of the first humans, Murcielaga, is one of the oldest banished creatures. She resides in the world where imaginary beings are kept so as not to harm humans.

What’s at stake: Murcielaga is angry she has been banished for so long. She is deploying her henchmen by the dozens through the 5th Direction into other worlds to create havoc. As revenge she is erasing and controlling people’s memories once she sneaks into their imagination. The history of the human race is about to be lost forever.
Each week we read another letter that leads our heroine into and out of peril. To further complicate the situation, her grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s causing clues to be out of order, have mixed up names and clues written in different languages.


Proposed Title: Dance with the Devil

Genre: horror

Time Period: Modern Day

Main Character: Marlene Andrews has always wanted more than she had. When her husband loses his job as a college Professor, she takes a walk and finds her dream house. A gothic mansion made of gray stone. When she is invited in, Marlene gets more than she bargained for.

Villian: The devil is intent on getting Marlene's baby to raise as his own son and inherit his abilities to trick people.

What's at stake: Marlene’s baby, raised as the son of the devil, could change the balance of good and evil in the world. When Marlene Andrews doesn’t fulfill her part of the bargain. The world becomes darker than it ever has, greed feeds and grows with the evil presence.

Entry #5:

Proposed Title: Blood Moon

Genre: Supernatural/Alternative Earth

Time Period: Modern

Main Character: Cascade, a twelve year old girl on the verge of puberty, discovers that she’s not who she thought she was. She’s not human. Can she survive the “change” without becoming a dreaded Ka-Ghawze (a blood-seeking non-human vampire) or can she overcome her blood-thirst to become one of the Ghawze (one who lives on human energy without killing)? Will she find her uncle McKay, a Ghawze scientist, in time to save herself and possibly the world?

Villain: Dillon, the leader of a group of Ka-Ghawze and Vazpa (humans that the Ka-Ghawze have turned into vampires), works to get Cascade to turn vampire and to help him defeat the Ghawze (who have co-existed with humans for centuries, helping the humans along the way).

What’s at stake: Cascade’s life and those around her, and ultimately, the fate of the world for both human and Ghawze.

Entry #6:

Title: Hannibal Fairfield

Genre: Drama

Time Period: 1860's Civil War era

Main Character: Hannibal, a 14 year old boy from Arkansas during the civil war era. Recently orphaned, Hannibal has a secret, he's really a girl: Hannah Eleanor Fairfield. Upon her mother's death, Hannah changes her appearance to that of a boy and changes her name to Hannibal. Hannibal tries to join up with the Rebel army.

Villain: Sgt. McNeil of the army of thinks he may know Hannibal's secret and tries to get Hannibal expose it at every opportunity.

What's at Stake: If Hannibal's secret is exposed, Hannibal will no longer get to live as a boy and will be sent to live with strangers. She will lose her freedom.

Entry #7:

Proposed Title: None

Genre-Romantic suspense

Time period-modern

Main character: Kathi Ann, a feisty trial lawyer and single mother of six year old Michael. Dark secrets come to the surface and a shocking truth is about to explode.

Villian: Charles Jackson has always had a thing for Kathi. He has been burned once by her, but this time it won’t happen. He’s been waiting for the proper moment to set things straight.

What’s at stake: Kathi Ann's dark secrets could be fatal to her and her son, Michael. She can trust no one, not even Miki Bronson.

Her ex, police lieutenant, Miki Bronson shows up at her door demanding custody of her son. Michael age six is kidnapped. Was it her ex or some other evil at force? Kathi doesn’t know who to turn to when her life is turned into a nightmare.

Entry #8:

Possible Title: Erma's Fetish

Genre: Fiction, Adventure, Suspense, Humor

Time Period: Present

Main Characters: Erma and Clyde Piper

Villain: Sheriff Scotts

What's at stake: Erma's life for excitment, Clyde's mental health, safety of neighborhood's outside possessions.
The old couple steal lawn decorations and such from neighbors at night for excitement.

Post the number of the entry and the title of that entry you most would like to see turned into a Saturday Serial. Spread the word and get your friends to vote too! The more the merrier :)


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Writing Wednesday: 20 Questions

This morning I’m supposed to awe you all with my writing knowledge, to put together a blog that will (hopefully) have writers coming from all over the cyberverse to read and be informed by my practical writing tips.

Today, I’m a blank.

So instead, I’m going to offer up the blog to questions and see what I can answer during the course of the day.

Ask me about anything writing related:

Want to know how much money you can make and where?

Want to know what you should be writing?

Want to know how to get unstuck?

Want to know what an editor really does?

Want to know what to expect after you sign a contract?

Want to know if self-publishing will really kill your career?

Want to know who is still accepting unagented submissions?

Want to know about landing an agent?

Got a question? Ask and I’ll answer to the best of my ability—and if I don’t have the answer, I’ll bring someone over who does :)


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Talent Tuesday: Welcome J.R. Lindermuth!

I'm thrilled to have J.R. as a guest for Talent Tuesday. Let's all make him feel warm and welcomed! :)

J.R. Lindermuth started sending stories to magazines when he was in high school. He got great advice and encouragement from a few kind editors, but it wasn’t until much later anything was accepted. Early on, he found his artistic talent led him to believe writing would be more of a sideline.

When he was drafted, the Army decided he had the makings of a journalist and provided training. After, he worked as a copy editor in South Korea for several years, then as a reporter and editor on stateside newspapers until retiring in 2000.

While his articles and short stories appeared in a variety of magazines, he had yet to seriously pursue publication of his novels. A rocky start with an e-publisher that went belly up shortly after publishing his historical mystery novel, “Schlussel’s Woman” didn’t deter him. He believes a writer should/can never give up. Eventually, he went on to publish seven novels, including three in the Sticks Hetrick mystery series:

Something in Common

When a lonely widow finds the severed head of an unknown young woman on her front porch in rural Swatara Creek, Pennsylvania, Police Chief Aaron Brubaker is baffled.

Cruel Cuts

A rash of animal mutilations and a vicious poison pen campaign directed against an ambitious young lawyer lead to murder in a rural Pennsylvania community.

Corruption’s Child

Retired police chief Daniel ‘Sticks’ Hetrick, still serving as unofficial consultant to his less experienced successor, has another murder to deal with in rural Swatara Creek, Pennsylvania

His latest novel, Watch the Hour, explores the turbulent relations between coal mine owners and their Irish employees in the 1870s Pennsylvania anthracite coal region.

The best advice he received came from an artist. As a boy, he wrote Thomas Hart Benton and asked how he could become an artist. Benton replied with one word: “Paint.” Lindermuth believes the same formula applies to writing. The only way to learn is by doing. Practice, perseverance and confidence.

When J.R. Lindermuth isn’t writing, reading or drawing, he enjoys spending time with his son, daughter and four grandsons. Aside from traveling, he likes walking, especially in the woods and mountains around his home. As the librarian of the county historical society, he helps patrons research their genealogy and is working extensively on his own. He’s fascinated by languages and has dabbled with Spanish, Korean, German, Hebrew and Japanese among others.

Where you can find him on the internet:

Jack's Place:



Author Page:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fun Friday: Serializing Saturdays

Many you may have noticed there wasn’t a blog yesterday. The real world intruded and every second of computer time I had, I used to meet my professional obligations. However, I had some thrilling news I wanted to share and it works perfectly with the contest for this Friday.

I've decided to Serialize Saturdays.

I know many of you are writers, many of you are readers who have lots of ideas, and many of you are both. This weeks contest is very special to me.

I have never offered a serialized story before and I think this would be a great way to celebrate our weekends. We talk about books, about reading, and writing—but so rarely do we get to actually read any fiction on the blog.

There is a wonderful article on the Bijou Blog titled, They'll Never Get Out Alive!--The Cliffhangers about the original serialized matinee movies. Many are still familiar with “The Perils of Pauline” starring Pearl White.

My contest this Friday is unique. I would love to collaborate with one of my readers to create this Saturday Serial—to last eight consecutive weeks. Eight scenes of the same story, each ending with a cliffhanger.

The challenge to all of you is to come up with an idea for a story fraught with danger and excitement. It can be modern, like the television series 24, or fantasy like Xena: Warrior Princess, or horror like Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. The only limits are your imagination (well, and keep it PG13ish ;)

Here’s how to enter:

Write a (very) short description of what you envision in each category:

Proposed Title:
Time Period:
Main Character:
What’s at stake:

An example for The Terminator might look like this:

Proposed Title: Cyborg Killer
Genre: Sci-fi adventure
Time Period: near future
Main Character: Sarah Connor, future mother of the leader of the resistance.
Villain: Cyborg creature intent on killing her to stop the birth of the world’s future leader
What’s at stake: The survival of mankind

The winner will work closely with me on each scene and be credited as a collaborating author, headlining the by-line. If you are not a writer and would prefer to be the creator of the serial, rather than the author, you will be credited in that manner if you wish.

How to win:

Post your idea in the format offered above by Thursday May 28th.

On Friday, the 29th, I’ll list all the ideas in a separate post. Readers will help choose the winning entry by naming the title they are most excited to read. While my decision will be based heavily on the reader’s choice, the ultimate decision will be mine.

Readers will ‘vote’ through the weekend and the winner will be announced on June 1st. I’m truly thrilled at the idea of working with one of you and I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

If you have any questions, please ask! ;)


When the entries are listed next week, they will include a link to your own blog or website as well ;)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Writing Wednesday: 1 Question 4 Answers

Good Morning!

I sent a tweet out yesterday (are we following each other? ) asking if there was a particular writing issue I should cover in today’s blog. Mangopickles (love that name!) offered this in response:

I would write about the struggle of wanting to write.

That’s a highly intriguing thought. The struggle could be a wide variety of things:

Finding the time to write
Knowing what to write
The translation between mind and paper
Wanting to write for a living

I’m sure there are plenty I missed, but I’m on my first cup of coffee :)

So let’s take a quick look at each, because I’m sure y’all are just as busy as I am!

Finding the time: Easy to say, but tough to do—force the world to leave you alone at a specific time. My best writing time is from 5-9am. I protect that time as best I can. Think about it though. You take the time to get your hair done, or work out at the gym. Maybe you even tell people not to call or interrupt your favorite television shows. Don’t be afraid to do that for your writing time. Make a schedule and keep it! :)

Knowing what to write: The answer is on your bookshelves. How ever many genres, styles, types and age—the books you keep all have one thing in common: you love them. Write what you love.

As an example: Gone with the Wind, The Stand, Strangers, and Swan Song are among my top hundred or so favorite books. They span many genres, yet they all have similarities: strong female leads who fight through a dramatic upheaval in their understanding of the world they thought they knew. Now, break down your favorites to their core and you’ll discover your passion.

The translation: This is a TOUGH one, and I’m not going to even pretend to have an answer. My advice, experience as much as possible about what you’re writing, and if you can’t—research like crazy. When you’re stuck, make a list of the senses and give one detail for each. I’ve never fallen through ice, but here’s an example:

Sight: murky depths, brightly lit ice ceiling
Sound: the noise heard when under water
Touch: the achy pins and needles my hands feel when in snow
Taste: lake water really cold
Scent: frozen fish?

Which then becomes:

Instantly the arctic water hit my skin with an ache of pins needles that lasted until I went frighteningly numb. The world turned upside down, the white of snowy ice above me, the deep blue green of a sky before a storm as far as I could see. Pressure changed every sound into a lapping burble as I kicked back toward the surface. Clinging green growth tangled around my foot. My mouth filled with the cold taste of the winter lake but despite my panic, I held my breath and didn’t scream.

So okay, maybe someone who has fallen through ice could tell me how I got it wrong, but it’s a good illustration of how you can take practical steps to help get those images in your mind down on paper.

Writing for a living: If you build it, they will come. Not helpful, I know, but it’s true. Write the best book you can, then make the next one even better, and the next even better and keep working the craft, growing your knowledge and creating a work that will allow you to write full time. This is a great motivator, a wonderful inspiration and I wish you the best on your journey.


Normal is Over. Find out why:
Fictionwise, Echelon Press, Amazon

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Talent Tuesday: Rie Sheridan Rules!

Good Morning everyone!

Please welcome Rie Sheridan for Talent Tuesday!

Rie’s visit with us is especially meaningful to me. Ten years ago I joined Writer’s Village University in a quest to learn the craft of writing. Rie and I met there and I’ve followed her growing career on and off over the years. To have her here, for the first ever event and on Talent Tuesday, is definitely serendipitous.

Rie Sheridan has been writing since she first picked up a crayon. In 1998, she entered HalfPrice Books' "Say Goodnight to Illiteracy" contest, was one of 20 national finalists, and published in the 1999 Annual Anthology. She has also had poetry appear in print in Dreams and Nightmares and Mythic Circle and short stories in online zines, Dragons And Vampires, We Love Writers, Spaceways Weekly, and T-Zero Xpandizine. She likes to spend her spare time reading, writing, and role-playing, and collects action figures, musical instruments, and non-sports cards (though she is really proud of her Joe Montana rookie card....) Rie lives in Texas with her husband Newell and several cats, all spoiled rotten.

A thought about what makes a person a writer:

What makes a person a writer…? Well, to give the short answer, they write. Everyone fits into that category each time they put pen to paper to make out a grocery list. However, in a deeper sense, a writer is a person who lives and breathes words. Must you be published to be a "writer?" No.

My father--one of the wittiest writers I know--shares his insights only with a select group of e-friends--but is he a writer? Oh, yes. Because he manipulates words with the ease of a circus juggler, and creates pithy vignettes that will make you think twice about life. He is only now beginning to expand the readership for the wonderful life-slices he serves up. Although he has always written them, they were personal speculations--private musings. That doesn't make him any less a writer.

I first realized that I was a writer--or wanted to be--as soon as I began to read what other people had written. As I was growing up, when asked the inevitable, "What do you want to be…?" question, my answer was always whatever the flavor of the month happened to be--detective, scientist, teacher--"...and a writer." I started my first novel when I was nine.

I've been published in many non-paid venues. However, I must admit--the $5.00 check from my first professional sale is still uncashed because it is so awesome to show it to my friends and say, "Look! I sold something."

To sum it all up--a person who writes because they have no choice…because the words pour from their fingertips into their pen, or into the keys of their computer, that is a writer. Does this person have to be paid? No. Does it help? There ain't nothing like it!

Rie's short stories appear in Double Dragon's From Within The Mist ebook and The Stygian Soul as well as Mundania Press' Beyond The Mundane: Flights Of Mind. Her anthology RieVisions is available from Mundania Press and novel The Lute And The Liar is under their Awe-Struck Books imprint.

Writer's Exchange re-released her Young Adult fantasy, The Right Hand Of Velachaz, and Yard Dog Press is home to humorous horror chapbooks Tales From The Home For Wayward Spirits And Bar-B-Que Grill and Bruce and Roxanne Save the World…Again.

Midnight Showcase carries romantic fantasy Sidhe Moved Through The Faire. She also has several poetry anthologies – Take Out from the Writers CafĂ©; If My Sandcastle Drowns…Can I Live With You?; Dancing on the Edge; and Straying from the Path: A Baker’s Dozen of Fairy Tale Poems.

Some surprising insider information about Rie:

Sidhe Moved Through the Faire was a NaNoWriMo project several years ago that got picked up for publication by Midnight Showcase.

She wrote the lyrics and original music for a song called “Soul of a Harper” that was tweaked musically and performed by The Brobdingnagian Bards on several of their albums. They even performed it live at their final concert together (YouTube:

Rie has generously agreed to offer up three autographed books for today’s event!

From Yard Dog Press:

Tales From The Home For Wayward Spirits And Bar-B-Que Grill ( )

One of the stories in Tales from the Home For Wayward Spirits And Bar-B-Que Grill – “Zombie Invaders from Mars…or Someplace Like That” – was originally a runner-up in the Killer Frog contest to write the worst possible horror story. I have been told it contains the best way to destroy zombies since Mars Attacks!

Bruce and Roxanne Save the World…Again ( )

From Mundania Press:

RieVisions ( )

“Steel Velvet” – one of the RieVisions stories – was inspired by the texture of the industrial machine I was feeding parts into when I was bored one night at work. And another in that collection – “MacKenzie’s Rose” – was written by hand on scrap paper originally as I worked too. It was a productive environment.

You can find Rie on the internet here:

Blog: Water Off a Crow’s Back
Facebook fanpage:

Thank you so much for hanging out with us today!


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Talent Tuesday Welcomes Ron Adams!

Good Morning everyone! Ron Adams is our special guest today! Let’s make him feel especially warm and welcome :)

Ron Adams is a detective fiction author and the creator of the Joe Banks PI series. He grew up in Randolph, MA but now calls Buffalo and Western New York home. He’s married to the love his life, Trish and they have two fantastic kids. He’s a huge fan of Robert B. Parker, Raymond Chandler, Harlan Coben, and Kathy Reichs. In his spare time he’s an avid sports fan, frustrated guitarist, and loves muscle cars from the 60s and 70s.

His new novel, “Key Lime Squeeze,” is the second book in the Joe Banks series. Mob Princess Angela Boothby wants her husband back and P.I. Banks heads to the Keys to find him. He learns people aren’t just missing his charm.

Watch the video trailer here:

Ron has been especially kind to offer his time and some writing advice.

The Three P’s of Writing

I have had an occasion recently to witness the turmoil of some writers and publishers when things don’t go according to plan. It was a sad thing to watch, and I am grateful to have maintained good working relationships with all the parties involved. I offer, therefore, some assistance for the new, budding, aspiring, frustrated writer still working on getting their masterpiece into the hands of the readers. Please take it for what it is, and I hope these tips can be of some help. I call these the three P’s of writing.

1. PROFESSIONAL – First and foremost, writing and writing well is an art form, one which most of us have invested our hearts and souls in. But publishing is a business. It is a for profit enterprise where the writer must learn to become the best business person they can be, and be willing to approach it in a professional manner. Life is not fair, and the business world is not fair, either. Approach every interaction with your agent and editors in a straightforward, respectful, and professional manner, and most of the time it will be returned in kind. Not always, mind you, but you will be better served in that approach in the long run.

2. POSITIVE- Remain as positive as possible in all your dealings with your agent, editor and publisher. Adopt a can-do/will-do attitude towards all interactions. Be willing to listen to those that may have more expertise, and offer what expertise you can bring in a positive, constructive manner.. A problem solver is easier to work with than a problem bringer.

3. PHILOSOPHICAL – A while back, a friend of mine got me and my wife involved in a network marketing business. Yeah, I know, but I did learn a valuable lesson. They have a philosophy of some-will-some-won’t-so-what in regards to their business. Not the worst approach to take to this business. When going through the process of promotion and building your writing career, listen to those you believe in and trust, listen to the experts, and remember some things will work, some things won’t. So what. Doing is better than not doing, trying is more productive than not trying.

Visit him on the web here:

Purchsase the first in the series "Lake Effect" at Barnes and Noble

Thanks so much for being with us today, Ron!


Friday, May 08, 2009

Fun Friday Quote Contest!

Got a funny quote that will make us chuckle?

Have a favorite saying?

Or maybe a quote you live by?

Share it here today and you'll be entered to win the Fun Friday Quote Contest! :)

Here's one of my favorite ones:

I have a furniture problem, my chest has fallen into my drawers.

What's different this time? You will be entered as many times as you post a comment--so make sure to put them in individually for a second, third, fourth, etc. chance to be drawn from the hat :)

Okay, now what do you win?

You have a choice of one these three lovely prizes:

An autographed copy of Stark Knight.

A personalized (color) book thong.

Or, one of the two unclaimed 4-pack of books:

The Mystery Pack:
Mission Flats by William Landay
The Mayor of Lexington Avenue by James Sheehan
Too Rich to Live by Lawrence Light
A Deadly Yarn by Maggie Sefton

The Romance Pack:
Love Enough for Two by Cynthia Rutledge
Mistletoe Magic by Betty Neels, Margaret Way and Rebecca Winters
A Hero for Dry Creek by Janet Tronstad
Autumn Promises by Kate Welsh

Have fun with this and remember: TGIF! :)


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Thrilling Thursday at the Theater!

Good Morning everyone! :)

I thought we'd leave the library this morning and head on down to the theater :)

I'm a HUGE movie fan and I don't talk about it much here. But since I'm just THRILLED with what's coming out at this year at the theaters, I figured it would be very cool to do a blog about this for Thrilling Thursday! :)

Here's Numero Uno:

"Fate rarely calls on us in a moment of our choosing." Awesome! I can't wait to see this!!!

This one they've disabled the embedding for, sorry!

Darker than my first pick, but still a must-see for me as I'm a fan of the first three movies!! ;)

Okay, I know this one is out already, but how can a girl resist Huge Ackman...oops, I mean Hugh Jackman :)

And last but nowhere near least: Mila Jovavich has signed up to do Resident Evil 4! Yay!! :)

There are TONS more that are coming out, but I want to hear what you're thrilled to be seeing next! :)


P.S. OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Look what Vin Diesel said:

"Good question. Maybe we’re too tight-lipped about the next Chronicles of Riddick film, and I think circa the release of [Dark Athena] that’s probably when you’ll start hearing more about the next Riddick film. It is underway and I almost think it’s a coincidence that we haven’t heard anything, that there hasn’t been a lot of public stuff on the Riddick movie."

*Snoopy Dancin!* Yeah, baby! Riddick is BACK!!!!!!!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Winner! &Writing Wednesday: Self Editing and Body Language

Good Morning everyone!

As promised, we will announce the winner of “The Frugal Editor” by Carolyn Howard-Johnson this morning! Carolyn, you were so wonderful to take time out of your busy schedule to hang out with us yesterday. Thank you so much for treating the blog readers to a great day!

To do this as fairly as possible, I counted the number of individuals participating (excluding Carolyn and myself ;) ) and put that count (7) into a random number generator found here:

The device drew number 6—which means Laura Hyatt (from the MySpace blog) is the winner! Yay!!! :)

Congrats, Laura! Please send me an email address where you can receive your free copy of “The Frugal Editor” from Carolyn ;) Celebrate with some chocolate!

Okay, on to Writing Wednesday! :)

Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King is one of my favorite all time how-to books on the craft of writing. Rather than describing what was in the book, I figured we could do a Random Act of Wisdom.

Using’s “search inside” tool, I selected “surprise me” and it opened to Dialogue Mechanics, page 51:

“Perhaps it’s a lack of confidence on the writer’s part, perhaps it’s simple laziness, or perhaps it’s a misguided attempt to break up the monotony of using “said” all the time (more about that in a minute,) but all too many fiction writers tend to pepper their dialogue with –lys.

Which is a good reason to cut virtually every one you write. Ly adverbs almost always catch the author in the act of explaining the dialogue—smuggling emotions into speaker attributions that belong in the dialogue itself. Again, if your dialogue doesn’t need the props, putting the props in will make it seem weak even though it isn’t.

There are a few exceptions to this principle—almost all of the adverbs that actually modify the verb ‘said,” such as “he said softly” or “she said clearly.” After all, you don’t say something grimly in the same sense that you say something softly. The grimness comes across more by what you say and do through word choice, body language, context—than by how you say it. Again there are as many ways to be grim as there are people, and when you write “he said grimly,” what you are rally saying is, “he said this, and he felt pretty grim about it.” You need to show the grimness, to show what your character does that makes him seem grim.”

So let’s give this a whirl. Can you show a sentence of dialogue and a sentence for the tag that conveys a character being grim? I’ll give it a whirl later on today, but I’m truly looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with.

Some hints to help you:

What challenges do we face in life that makes us grim? The prospect of a very unpleasant event (funerals, death of a loved one) does that for me, but what about a lazy person (work) or a vain person (growing old?)

When we, or our friends and family, or characters exhibit grimness—how does that manifest in body language or physical sensation?

What happens to our voice?

This is how a writer thinks and it’s less analytical than it is observational and empathetic. If you’re having a difficult time conveying grimness, choose another emotion that you would like to explore, but remember: convey it through one sentence of dialogue and one sentence of activity following. (In other words, drop the he/she said part ;))

Hope these hints are inspiring to you and I can’t wait to see what y’all come up with!


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Talent Tuesday: Carolyn Howard-Johnson!

Why You -- Yes, You Who Aced English -- Need an Editor
Why Editing -- Yes, EDITING -- Is Part of Your Marketing Strategy

Excerpted from the Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the HowToDoItFrugally series

"Publishers -- even traditional publishers -- do not want to edit anymore; they want to print a 99.9 percent finished product directly from the author. It's a cost-cutting thing. Many publishers can't afford to give your book that attention they once did." ~ Leora Krygier, twice-published literary author reviewed in the likes of Newsweek and featured on Connie Martinson Talks Books.

Just as I was finishing the Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success, Poets & Writers published Peter Selfin's "Confessions of a Cranky Lit-Mag Editor." It was a kind of mini-rant on how authors influence editors negatively with minor (and not-so-minor) errors. He tells of one author who informs him in her cover letter that she has published three stories in the New Yorker and then "blunders into her essay with 'Growing up, there were two types of food in my family.'" He says it "reads like very sloppy editing" and goes on to reject the piece. (By the way, one of my readers with a master's degree could not identify the error here. If you can't, you will be able to by the time you've finished the section in the Frugal Editor where I talk about dangling participles. If you can't wait, use the Frugal Editor's index to find dangling participles to research this serious grammatical error now.)

The first lesson here for is that attention to detail and craft counts, and that even experienced writers can flub an opportunity if they don't pay attention to that last great step toward publishing, a good edit. Any author who had recently refreshed her understanding of participles by reading the Frugal Editor would not have dangled hers. At least, not that conspicuously. The second is that a flubbed opportunity like this doesn't say much good about you and, if flubs are made frequently, may brand you as a nonprofessional.

Perfection is not possible. Even Editor Selfin admits he overlooks a mistake or two if the writer's voice captures his interest. With better editing we can guard against humiliation and in the process increase our chances for publication.

Leading a horse to water and other all-wet ideas about editing

In the Frugal Book Promoter I talk about branding. In that book, I felt a need to convince authors that sales, marketing and promotion are not dirty words, that we are participating in these disciplines every day when we brush our teeth and choose the proper clothing for whatever occasions loom on that day's calendar.

I don't need to convince most authors to be cautious about errors. There are so many writers who are so uptight about a typo creeping into their copy that their fear contributes to nightmares or at least to writer's block. Thus, the Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success is an easy sell.

Where my job becomes difficult is in convincing writers that they need an editor--a real editor, an editor with credentials--before they begin to submit. Because I am also Frugal, I recognize that my tendency to avoid spending money for something that will probably be done by someone else anyway may well exist in other writers.

I know that many writers will nod their heads and then attempt the publishing process without an editor, even though they may have had the best intentions when they were agreeing with me.
I am also aware (because I hang out with writers of all kinds) that authors fear the sharp pencil point of an editor. These are usually new writers who are convinced that an editor will make their work into something other than what it is or will change it beyond recognition. I want to assure these writers that a good editor won't do that. A good editor will help a writer find her voice, remain true to it and still move the manuscript from a rough rock to a polished gemstone.

I agree that it is no fun to encounter unexpected flaws in one's book. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have written a book on editing. However, mistakes in a writer's query letters, cover letters and book proposals can be more deadly than those in a manuscript. It is in these documents that editing failures can doom your entire book to failure. You and the quality of your book idea will be judged on these first contacts with agents, publishers, editors, and producers as surely as you would be judged at a board meeting if you left rats' nests in your hair that morning.

In the Frugal Editor I approach the editing process of every document as if it were a manuscript. It is easier to edit the much shorter introductions (queries, cover letters and proposals) that are being sent to the people who have the power to accept or reject your work, but the processes used are approximately the same. It is only a matter of degree between a full manuscript and your one-page query letter. So adapt the guidelines in the Frugal Editor. You, and only you, know where your strengths and weaknesses lie. You will know where to abbreviate or eliminate steps for these shorties, and for more intricate efforts (say an academic thesis) you may want to expand on the processes I suggest. In order to get the best possible results from you initial contact with gatekeepers, you may also want to read Terry Whalin's ( book, Book Proposals That Sell, on writing proposals.

You probably already know that gremlins--very clever guys bent on your destruction--are at work during the entire publishing process. You fight them with a vengeance, with every ounce of writing craft and publishing knowledge that exists in your body. If, however, a typo or grammar error slips through the careful net you cast for them, please don't lose any sleep. It will happen to every writer somewhere along his or her career path. Instead, be patient with yourself. And while you're at it, if you see an error in someone else's work, give the writer (and the publisher!) the benefit of the doubt. It's all about Karma. We're all fighting the same gremlins here.

Many mistakenly use the word editing synonymously with finding typos. I worry that the Frugal Editor may contribute to that notion because it does not address essential elements of the writing craft like character development, setting or structure. Those are topics of their own. Reworking these aspects of writing really constitutes revision, not editing. Many complete books cover each of them thoroughly. For me to attempt to stipulate everything a polished manuscript needs would be impossible in one book. To cover revision topics briefly and then abandon the writer to struggle with incomplete understanding would not be in her or his best interest. Therefore, I merely mention that your final draft should take these writing fundamentals into consideration because I can't assume that all authors will have undertaken revision before they move into editing. So, please, before you begin your editing process, review the larger elements of your craft. Experienced writers can approach this with the expectation that they may need only to fine-tune one or two elements of their books, but even minor learning curves are journeys worth taking. Suggested reading for things like the niceties of dialogue (Writing Dialogue by Tom Chiarella), are included in the appendixes.

I include some grammar guidelines. You can tell these are not meant to be complete. I chose them because they are mistakes that many experienced writers (and editors) miss. I threw in a few of the ones that most writers understand but inadvertently make because when a writer does let them creep into her work, they are more noxious to my editing sensibility than the average error. I expect that when I mention some you already know, it will remind you not to backslide. It may even prompt you to check your references for more advanced information on those subjects.

I want you to learn from the Frugal Editor just as I learned from writing it, but I'd also like you to enjoy the editing challenge, the process itself. Pretend the task before you is a puzzle. It's work. It's detail-oriented work. But it can be fun. When you're done, please still hire an editor, especially if you are self- or subsidy-publishing. Books like Dee and Brian's The Publishing Primer ( can help you with that process. The Frugal Editor will tell you how to find a great editor, one that will work for the betterment of your book, and avoid the scams.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson is an instructor for UCLA Extension's world-renowned Writers' Program and was awarded Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment by members of the California Legislature. The Frugal Editor is second in the HowToDoItFrugally series ( after The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't, USA Book News' Best Professional Book and winner of the Irwin Award. Learn more at

The Perfect Mother's Day Gift!

She Wore Emerald Then: Reflections on Motherhood is available both digitally (for greenies who want to save paper, postage and airline fuel) and as a lovely to have-and-hold book for those who still have room in their hearts only for the real thing. And the book is still no more expensive than some of the fancier Mom's Day cards! Find it at today!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Friday Fun Trivia!

Friday Fun!

Okay folks, let’s do some spring celebrating—which in my house means spring cleaning! This means thinning the herd—of great books that is:) See below for a chance to win one of the great four-packs I’m offering.

Now, how to win! Ready for some trivia? The answers are easy to find, but you’ll have to do just a little digging. Answer the questions correctly below and you’ll be entered into the drawing. Monday the winner will be announced—in a fun, unique way you won’t want to miss

Let’s Play: Name that Novel!

Each of these sentences represents the first line found in one of my novels. Match each to the title and send it to me at

1) Shhh…”
2) She stood in the shadows, the gun clenched tightly in her hand.
3) "Okay, move over. You're gonna hit bone, you keep digging at him like that."
4) Don't kick. Don't move.
5) The frigid concrete step froze Kaylee right through her jeans.
6) "Drake."

The Prize Packs:
(I’ve got a little for everyone!)

The Mystery Pack:
Mission Flats by William Landay
The Mayor of Lexington Avenue by James Sheehan
Too Rich to Live by Lawrence Light
A Deadly Yarn by Maggie Sefton

The Romance Pack:
Love Enough for Two by Cynthia Rutledge
Mistletoe Magic by Betty Neels, Margaret Way and Rebecca Winters
A Hero for Dry Creek by Janet Tronstad
Autumn Promises by Kate Welsh

The Writer’s Pack:
Writing the Popular Novel by Loren D. Estleman
Get that Novel Written! By Donna Levin
Just Open a Vein by William Brohaugh
Good Grief, Good Grammar by Dianna Booher

Have fun!