Thursday, January 31, 2013

Guest Author Carolyn Moncel: A Flash Story A Day Keeps Writer's Block Away

Carolyn Moncel currently resides in Lausanne,  Switzerland with her husband and two daughters. Encounters in Paris is her first work of fiction. Her two latest collections include:5 Reasons to Leave a Lover - A Novella and Other Short Stories and Railway Confessions - A Collection of Short Stories, a finalist in the 2012 Global eBook Awards Short Story Category. An untitled young adult novel co-authored with her teenage daughter under the pen name Ella Swinton will debut in spring 2013.  Visit her website at

“…Write a short story in one day so it has a skin around it, its own intensity, its own life, its own reason for being.”Ray Bradbury
I couldn’t agree more with the venerable American science fiction author, Ray Bradbury.  Writing short stories is, indeed, its own art form. By writing one short story daily, a writer cannot help but become more skilled in his/her craft.  Short stories provide authors with opportunities to create thoughtful, introspective prose.  In that process of creation, authors develop characters, settings and plots with laser-like precision.
However, writing flash or micro fiction (a work between 500 to 2,500 words) is even more challenging because telling a complete story, utilizing few words means that each word must be carefully selected.  Every word must show and tell. And, isn't that what high school English teachers preach to students, anyway?  Stylistically, flash fiction allows an author to say their piece, get off the page and move on to another story. It's the perfect way to train and keep writing until inspiration for a longer work hits.
Sometimes getting started can be very difficult, so here are some tips to get the creative juices flowing:
9781453898215-frontcover3.jpg1.      Start in the middle of the story.  There isn't a lot of time to set elaborate scenes or build characters.  Jump right into the center of the conflict and build the rest of the story from there. 
2.      Limit your location and setting.  Make the reader feel as if they are stepping into a precise moment in time and participating with the characters in their own world. 
3.      Avoid becoming an interloper. Instead, act if you are eavesdropping on an illicit conversation and write your story as if this is the case.
4.      Don't use too many characters.  One or two characters are perfect for flash fiction because you don’t have time to describe your characters in intricate detail.  Sometimes even giving the character names is too much, so don’t – unless the name conveys additional story information or saves your word count.
5.      The last sentence is the ticket.  The last sentence of the story is an extraordinary opportunity to make the reader think.  It's not the end of the story, but instead the beginning.  This is the place where the reader starts to process what they have just read, and as a result, he or she may experience a wave of emotions (happiness, anger, sadness, confusion, etc.)  As writers this is our goal. 

So the next time you experience an intense desire to write a story -- especially a short one, follow Mr. Bradbury’s advice: “…Get it down…There’s a reason why the idea occurred to you at that hour anyway, so go with that and investigate it.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Growing Up

I was recently motivated to dust off an essay that I wrote about six years ago.

The theme and style of the piece as I remembered it seemed in line with material accepted by POUI - The Cave Hill Literary Annual, Department of Language, Linguistics and Literature at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies which has recently agreed to publish another of my jottings and has encouraged me to submit again.

I found the essay, printed it out–I still work best on paper–and sat down to take a look. Embarrassed does not even begin to describe my reaction to my writing. It is certainly well-intentioned and the story has potential but from the first sentence one can see that the author is an amateur, and well, let’s just say that my editing skills were not where they are now.

Although I am appalled that I actually submitted this to be published six years ago, I am pleased to have this concrete proof of sorts that I have grown as a writer. Like many writers, I go through periods of doubting my ability to put words on paper that other people will actually be interested in reading. This self-assessment is a significant event in my journey.

Tell me about a moment in your career when you recognized that you had made strides towards your writing goals.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Book Marketing 2013

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I have big plans for 2013.  I’m going to write more books and sell more books.  

I’m currently working on the final draft of The Mummies of Blogspace9, an epistolary mystery I started last year as a blog project.  Within the next few months, I’ll have all the graphics completed to put it together as an interactive eBook.

I’m also working on my new blog mystery MedicineLand – you can read a new chapter every week at

And I’m churning through the second draft of Aleutian Grave - book 4 in my Henry Grave/cruise ship mystery series.

12 million people take a cruise each year.
Most have fun.
Some die.
Henry Grave investigates.

But as I mentioned in my last post, I am committed to thinking outside the box. As such, I decided to start a line of journals.  It looks now as if the line is going to stop at two, but we’ll see.  I don’t expect or intend to make money from this, but I hope people will pay attention, check out my author’s page, and maybe pick up a book.

My first journal, Mounted, was followed last week by my latest tome – Nocturnal Submission.  

If you like reading novels about vampires, you'll love the cover of Nocturnal Submission. As a longtime fan of mystery and paranormal fiction, I decided it was time to write my own vampire novel. But I only got as far as the cover. So you write the rest. 

Come on!  It's a new year. It's time to stop talking about writing a vampire novel, and time to start doing it! I did the hard part. Now all you have to do is write the text. You can pick up your copy today at for a paltry $5.95.

Also, here’s what the back cover looks like – both beautiful and functional.  In case you missed it, that’s my website address down at the bottom in the giant font.

So what are your plans?  Any new ideas for book promotion in 2013?  I’m all ears.  And hey, if you need a journal in which to jot those ideas down, I have a suggestion.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Follow your bliss and find new readers

One of the things writers give a lot of thought to after they've finished writing a great book, is finding readers.  Whether you're traditionally published or you're going it on your own, promotion is going to be a concern unless you're already so well-known your name comes up in game quizzes and thousands of people have you on automatic buy.

We all know the benefits of social media - Facebook has helped quite a few readers find me and remains my main platform but I also have a blog, Eugenia Writes!.  And on that blog, I often explore a few of my other passions like photography.  Almost every Saturday, I'm one of the participants in the Snapshot Saturday blog hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books and, now and again, when I can find an orange photo I join the lively group participating in Orange You Glad It's Friday.  I love taking pictures and would participate anyway but a couple people also participating in those memes are now among my Google followers.  It doesn't mean they'll buy my books but it does mean that my name recognition rises just a little bit higher every time I'm involved in a meme.

Writers are not one-dimensional people (at least, not usually)!  Share your other interests with others.  If you love cooking, if you're an avid RVer, if you regularly go spelunking - blog about it, tweet pictures, Pin them.  Share articles about your issues and concerns on Facebook.  You'll be surprised at how many new readers you might pick up that way but even if you don't pick up a single one, you're blogging and tweeting about what you love.  Where's the downside?

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Big Bump

The Great Flatlining Phenomenon
In March 2012 I plunged—well, more like tiptoed warily—into the world of indie publishing after vacillating for a year or two. I started with short stories and a novella that I published on the Kindle for a friend, an erotica short on behalf of another friend, and a couple literary-type short stories of my own, written under a pen name. I did not have great expectations, and these were fulfilled with single-digit sales every month for the next six months or so. In September 2012 I added a few more short stories and novellas in different genres, generating sales that approached double digits over the next two months. In November a new release started selling right out of the gate, racking up 16 sales in one day and zooming up the rankings.

I became an addict of the KDP report, watching in wonder as the figures crept up, sometimes in multiples, every couple of hours. The lead title was selling 44-54 copies per week up to the middle December, with the overall trend showing an increase every week. I was hoping for bigger and better things over the holidays as experienced indie authors could not stop talking about Christmas 2011 when they had seen unprecedented sales. We were all waiting for The Big Bump.

The optimist in me rubbed its hands in anticipation of the seemingly inevitable windfall. Hadn't I—well, my press—not sold close to 300 stories in 6 weeks? Having gone from single to double and then triple digit sales, wasn't it reasonable to expect that four-digit sales were in the cards?

The other part of me, the part that knew from bitter experience that expecting the worst is a good way to stay sane in the publishing industry, raised an eyebrow and expected nothing. For that part of me, every sale was (and still is) a miracle, and there was no guarantee there would ever be another. I'm glad this part of me held the other at bay, jeered at it as it made grandiose plans to finally quit my part time job and be, yanno, a full time writer/publisher.

On or around December 18, sales fell to a couple a day, and between the day before Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, nothing sold. Not one copy. Of anything. In any genre.

The battle-weary, scarred and stoic part of me got on with life. There was a novella waiting to be completed, another to be edited for an author with the press, cover images to be found and covers to be mocked up and sent off to the artist.

The excitable, optimistic part of me tore its hair out and banged its head against the keyboard as the fallout from The Great Flatlining Sales Phenomenon of December 2012 made its way across the interwebs, consuming discussion boards, industry blogs, comment threads and private e-mails. Theories were rife: Amazon had changed its infamous algorithm once again! The US economy was to blame! The KDP Select program with its immense wasteland of free e-books had destroyed the industry! The Great Cull of indie books had begun!

Three days after Christmas, sales began to trickle in again. 2 on the 27th. 3 on the 28th. 4 on the 29th. My stoic half is back at work writing, editing, designing covers, researching, and, for the very first time, compiling exceedingly modest royalty statements for the authors who threw in their lot with me and my micropress.

It's business as usual around Lianeland. The optimistic part of me is still sulking, but coming around. It's sitting there in front of ye olde laptop with the stoic half, putting behind it the excitement of The Big Bump That Wasn't—and not a moment too soon. We have work to do.

Happy New Year!

Liane Spicer

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Reading for Writers

In my column a few weeks ago on what I say to new(er) writers who ask my advice I wrote I steer them toward a few websites and recommend some reading. It occurred to me (shortly after reading Eugenia's column) that it would be helpful if I actually shared some of the websites and books I recommend in the coffee shop here.

I'm going to assume everyone here knows about this site, can track down their favorite authors' blogs, and knows where to find the main sites of their favorite genres. To those I meet in real life who don't, I say: "Search the web for sites related to authors you admire or communities of writers in the genre you're interested in." Really. I don't have a rolodex with me at the coffee shop. Beyond that… Anyone who knows me knows I always credit Dean Wesley Smith and his wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, with giving me the kick in the head I needed to get professional about my writing. I recommend their workshops to anyone who can afford the expense and time. For those of us who can't get to the Oregon coast this season, either of their sites is an education on the craft and business of writing. They're both worth studying in depth and visiting weekly (Only because daily would be a bit obsessive). Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch

A few months ago someone (I forget who) recommended I check out Cheryl Klein's website; I did and have since become a fan. Klein's an editor of books for children and young adults – some of which you may have heard; her more obscure titles include the American editions of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and HP & the Deathly Hallows. Not as extensive as Rusch's site, but full of useful information. And fun.

The first book I recommend writers read has nothing to do with writing. It is also the only book I recommend without qualifiers like "this might not be for everyone, but…" Larry Winget's It's Called Work for a Reason is about developing and strengthening your work ethic. The subtitle says it all: "Your Success Is Your Own Damn Fault." Unless you're willing to make the commitment to work at your writing, nothing else will help you.

I have never found a book on the writing process that I agree with 100%. But I usually find something useful in every one. My favorite part of Stephen King's On Writing is page 83 where he calls my uncle a "heavy hitter." However, the most useful thing, the thing that made the book worth reading, was his journalistic epiphany, the moment he realized what "editing" meant. A lesson reinforced by some 1st-draft-to-2nd draft examples. But the real reason the book's on my shelf is page 83. It's bookmarked.

A book that has more to do with work habits than muse is Jerry Weinberg's On Writing: Fieldstone Method. Weinberg designed computer systems for NASA, he's an expert on the psychology of communication including conflict resolution and getting disparate groups to work together. To build a wall of fieldstones, the farmer searches out the stones, collects them in one place, sorts them, then considers each one and how to use in in making the wall she wants. His approach doesn't work for everyone, and not all of his approach works for me, but it's helped me in my juggling projects' components (a big issue for us ADD types) and "Dani's Decimation" – an editing technique – is excellent.

I also recommend Second Sight by Cheryl Klein. It's a collection of her speeches, training sessions, what-have-you, on writing and publishing from the editor's perspective. And it's a perspective I like: "I am extremely wary of the word 'feel' in a manuscript, as in 'Cheryl felt extremely wary.' If you're having to tell me what your character is feeling, that makes me suspicious hat I'm not feeling it too." Second Sight is full of true stories and annotated examples to illustrate each phase of the writing, editing, and publishing process.

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass is almost an exercise in reverse engineering. He takes top-selling novels apart and explains the qualities that made them so successful. (There's also workbook) Maass presents a lot of good information, particularly in how to analyze a novel, and the workbook has many useful exercises, but his approach is not foolproof. And not everyone finds his approach – tailoring your work to the marketplace – palatable.
Another book with a superficially similar intent is Albert Zuckerman's Writing the Blockbuster Novel, a step-by-step analysis of how Ken Follett wrote The Man From St. Petersburg. Now out of print as nearly as I can tell, Blockbuster focuses on the process and choices involved in writing a novel, not writing to market.

I like Lawrence Block's collections of his Writer's Digest columns (Telling Lies for Fun and Profit; Spider, Spin Me a Web; and The Liar's Companion as much for what he has to say about being a writer as for his writing advice. Much of which I actually follow.

And finally, sometimes I read books I hate. I almost always storyboard my projects. Graph paper with circles and arrows or index cards I can shuffle and spread on the kitchen table. I usually see key moments as mountains rising out of a dense fog. I know where they are and in which order I'll get to them, but the path from peak to peak is shrouded in mist. Lately I've been thinking I could benefit from more structure in how I go about my work. To this end I've been reading K.M. Weiland's Outlining Your Novel. It's a difficult and at times painful experience – particularly given Weiland's oft-repeated opinion of folks who write as I do – but I'm taking my time and mining for things I might be able to use in my own work.

How about you? What books or authors have you found most useful in learning your craft?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

And On the Day After, the Writer Rested...for A Bit.

This piece was prompted by a question sent to me last week via Twitter. The Tweeter was responding to my announcement that I'd sent to my editor the manuscript for what will be my next novel. Basically, they were asking, "How do you celebrate something like that?"

Well, I did what I always do when I reach such a milestone: I danced the dance of the victorious, patted myself on the back, and raised a glass of my favorite beverage in salute to my accomplishment.

Then, I treated myself to a coma.

Some of you will recall that I don’t write as my sole vocation. I have a full-time job accounting for a rather sizable chunk of my waking hours. Then there are the other dwellers in my household; a wife and two young daughters who demand care and feeding, as well as time spent with favorite storybooks, playing with Legos or attending tea parties, or shepherding them to school and Taekwondo lessons. This means a lot of my writing takes place in the late evening or early morning hours—a little here, a little there, after everyone’s gone to bed or before anyone wakes up—until all the word slinging and polishing is done and I get to click that beautiful “Send” icon. Soon enough, there will be editor’s notes to address, and copyedits, and proofing galley pages, and so on and so forth. Later, there will be interviews and other marketing efforts, but for that moment? I was gonna celebrate a little.

And that included the aforementioned coma.

Writing—at least, writing on deadlines for someone else—is like any other job and as with those situations, it’s important to give yourself some time off every now and then. You know, like when you wrap up a novel manuscript or other biggie-sized, long-haul writing endeavor. As much as it is restorative for the mind and body, it’s also a reward to yourself for a job well done.

Such downtime doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, although I have to be honest here and say that a vacation to Panama City or Maui wouldn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated. I’m happy just to give myself a brief respite so that my increasingly addled brain can recharge a bit. I spend a couple of evenings putting small dents in my “To Be Read” pile, or I watch a few of those Blu rays or DVDs that have been stacking up in front of the television, each representing a movie I never got around to seeing at the theater. I hang out with the kids and we do stuff of which their mother would not approve, but let’s keep that our little secret, okay?

The breather ended up being a short one, this time around. I had an outline for another novel waiting to be finalized, along with a short story I’ve been wanting to write for a while, and I’m also involved with another writer who’s adapting one of my stories for presentation as an audio drama. The life of a working writer, even part timers like myself, never really stops, but you have to take these sorts of “mental health breaks” every so often.

What sorts of “post-writing” celebrations or rituals do you observe?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Guest author Velda Brotherton: Promotion? Where to begin?

Velda Brotherton
Velda Brotherton writes of romance in the old west with an authenticity that makes her many historical characters ring true. A knowledge of the rich history of our country comes through in both her fiction and nonfiction books, as well as in her writing workshops and speaking engagements.  She just as easily steps out of the past into contemporary settings to create novels about women with the ability to conquer life’s difficult challenges. Tough heroines, strong and gentle heroes, villains to die for, all live in the pages of her novels and books.Visit her website and blog to find out more.

I'm so pleased to be asked to contribute to Novel Spaces. Thanks for asking me here. My concern for a lot of authors, especially new ones who are expected to do all their marketing and promoting, is that they don't know where to begin. Social media today is discussed a lot online and many articles and tutorials can be found to deal with sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, Linked In and Goodreads. However, it seems to me that authors I speak to don't realize how many sites online will display their book covers with blurbs and excerpts free of charge. I call these virtual book stores. Though readers can't purchase books through them, the information and a buy link is available.

Let's begin with the largest and most effect place to display your books. Remember, these are not social media sites where promoting openly has become a no-no. These are sites which are online to help both the author and reader connect. Some are genre specific, others will take all genres. I can't possibly tell you about all of them here, but I can give you examples of a few and let you know what you need to have ready for them. You can always Google to find more genre specific sites once you understand what they are and how they work.

Amazon Author Central is something every author MUST have. It provides a free author page to every author who has an ISBN or AISN and is listed on their site. As soon as your book is listed on their site, you should set up your account because it can take up to a week for the page to go live. You are expected to fill out a profile in detail about you and the book. Be prepared to provide information such as keywords, tags, characterizations and a synopsis for the reader who will go to the site searching for books to buy.

Also check out Amazon Forums where online discussions can expose your book(s) to a new audience. Follow the rules there. Some of the discussions do not allow promoting; others do. Be careful. Readers and authors hang out on these forum discussions and you want to become known as an expert who shares information.

Other features to check out at Amazon are Keywords, Tags and Listmania.

Be prepared, before going to some of the following sites. Have keywords, tags, excerpts, synopsis and a decent bio in a file together so you can cut and paste without searching all over. Oh, and by the way, that bio? It needs to be clever, not one of those author lives in state, she has four children and three grandchildren and loves to crochet. It should be author oriented. The one I use is at the head of this article. I also have a 200 and 300 word bio for when needed.

I recommend blogs here, because there you can have your book covers and information always in view in a side bar. Two popular places to blog are WordPress and Blogger. Both offer free sites and WordPress also has one that has a charge. You should also look for opportunities to guest on other blogs with an audience of readers looking for your book. That means defining your target market, which is a whole other post. If you belong to some Yahoo Groups, there will always be offers from blog hosts.

I'm going to give you an example of some of the sites I use to display my books. If you want a comprehensive list, go to my website; the list is posted on the blog so you can cut and paste the information.
  • I like The Romance Reviews. If you will display their banner on your website or blog you can feature a different book each month on their site. Lots of competition, but a good place to go for both reader and author.
  • Mutt Online is a neat little site that features artists, poets and writers. There you can post copies of your blogs, write articles, display your art work and photographs. Gets you a lot of attention as an author.
  • Western ebooks posts book covers and runs them continuously like a slide show across the site. If you don't write Westerns, Google your genre for sites like this one that are genre specific.
  • Bublish is a fairly new site which has an interesting concept that I like. You must have an ePub copy of your book, which your publisher should provide, or you can create one yourself if you are self-published. Once that book is uploaded to Bublish (the contract guarantees that it is not for sale, but is locked for only the author's use) you make bubbles around your book that include an excerpt, then a bubble talking about how you wrote that scene, or researched it or how you created that particular character. Anything a reader might be interested in. You may make as many excerpts and bubbles as you wish for each book. Bublish then tweets about your bubbles and you are invited by Twitter to join in the conversation. This keeps stuff going about your book on Twitter without being an outright buy thing. I have put two books there and will upload my latest soon.
  • For those who have their books on Kindle, you should be on Kindle Boards. Be sure to follow the rules; they are strict about in-your-face promo. Use the following to list all your books there.  Put your book's ASIN where the # symbol is and this link will post your book to Kindle boards. I found this difficult to post but managed to get all my books there.
I hope these few examples are enough to encourage writers to take the time to find sites where their books can be put on display. The audience goes round the world and numbers in the millions, so make sure you are taking advantage of this free way to promote from the moment your first book goes on sale.

I'm giving away a Kindle copy of Wilda's Outlaw to one lucky reader. Leave a comment to be entered in the draw!

Wilda's Outlaw, published by The Wild Rose Press, is a Western Historical romance that takes place in Victoria, Kansas, founded by a group of Victorians who wished to transplant their ways onto the plains of Kansas. They built castles, shipped over their cattle, sheep and bob-tailed ponies. The experiment lasted about ten years before most of the English settlers either embraced the ways of the West or returned to England.

Lord Blair Prescott found Wilda Duncan, her sister Rowena and cousin Tyra living in an orphanage in Manchester, England. He chose her to be his wife and promised he would also care for Rowena and Tyra until they married. When the young women arrive in Victoria after a year-long trip, Wilda despises Prescott and his controlling ways. She recalls the green-eyed outlaw she met when the train they were on was robbed, and with Tyra's help in locating him, requests that he kidnap her so she won't have to marry Prescott.

Velda Brotherton

Monday, January 14, 2013

What Is a Platform and Where Do I Find One?

The hot topic today, the buzz word in the writing industry, is “Platform.” Writers are constantly told they need one, but nobody seems to have a clear idea of what a platform consists of or how to construct one. If you build it, will they come?

Here's the problem. Many writers, in the thrall of creating a book out of their imagination, haven't bothered to learn how the industry works. Everything has changed, but too many potential authors believe what they've seen in the movies--the romantic vision of art and the written word with publishing hacks doing promotion and getting their book on the bestseller list.

I doubt if that dynamic ever really existed, but if it did, it's as dead as Hemingway. The reality is that Big Publishing isn't interested in any work that doesn't have guaranteed sales right out the door. That's why Snookie got a contract and you didn't. But then again, she has a platform. One built with substandard materials, but one that exists.

Independent presses also have to try for guaranteed sales. They struggle enough without handing out contracts to people who have no sense of promotion. That's why we hope to see something in place, to hopefully hedge our bet that the book will sell. This is why we look hard for the author's platform.

Start with name recognition. Sell yourself by getting on sites where you get a page to decorate and interact with people. Book Town, Crime Space, and of course, Face Book. Put up photos, post blogs, jump into forums, initiate discussions. Have a personality that people will remember.

Start collecting your fan base. Anyone who communicates with you is a potential reader. Research each one, take notes on bits of info (do they have a cat? What part of the country are they from?). Everyone likes feeling they get personal attention. So, make the effort.

Get a website up. Create a bog. Make it compelling. Offer people something they can use, not just your idle thoughts on a subject.

It takes the sale of 200 books for a publisher to break even. Can you come up with that many buyers? Indie presses have distribution, but it's hard to get libraries and bookstores (the ones that still exist) to stock POD books. The public still has trouble seeing the economically feasible format as “real” books. That's why authors have to convince the reading public that their book is worth buying. You do that with a fan base and by physically promoting your work.

This is what a publisher looks for—not promises by writers uneducated in promotion, but those who have an established presence before publication. A platform. This is the author we are willing to invest in and hope for a return.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Portfolio building

A few posts ago I dared to give some advice on short story writing and I am here to give a bit more. This is not about technique or marketing but back to the very basics that if you want to be a famous short story writer you have to write short stories.

Now, please don't write me off as crazy yet, hear me out. If you are interested in short story writing, you may have had this experience. You come across someone who is accepting short stories that fit your profile. You get to writing, creating a story just for that submission. If you are anything like me (the 2011 me that is), you finish it five minutes before the deadline and turn it in. Invariably, although you may have reviewed it carefully, you are basically turning in a first, or middle draft, and invariably, it will be turned down.

So, we have to continuously write stories as the ideas arrive, put them on paper, polish them, have them professionally edited or at least have them viewed by an independent eye and sometimes put them away for the right time. The more you write, if you are honest with yourself, the more your writing will improve. When you come across that perfect competition or publication your only problem will be deciding which story to pick out of your portfolio.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Serial fiction reached its peak in the 19th century, and that’s a shame.  We’re missing out on something.  When Charles Dickens published The Pickwick Papers in twenty installments in 1836 and 1837, he pioneered a new way of delivering and consuming literature.  

Dickens’ work, and that of his contemporaries, gave rise to the cliffhanger.  Weekly or monthly installments of mystery and adventure left readers wanting more.  And that’s what every writer wants.

The format jumped to TV in the 1960s and 1970s as soap operas became the new serialized rage.  But it’s time the literary world reclaimed the serial.  It’s good for writers and readers alike.  

Serial fiction allows the writer an opportunity to get the work out while it’s fresh, and to invite feedback useful for shaping and reshaping the project.  The deadlines keep you on your toes, and there’s no such thing as a first draft any more -- chapter one goes live even before chapter two is written.

Serial fiction allows the reader the opportunity to get in on something brand new.  For a small time commitment, you can read a fresh, new, free, fast-paced adventure.  And if you do’t like something, you can say so.  Comment, and you can be sure the writer is paying attention.

I started writing serialized fiction on my blog over a year ago, and I’m having a lot of fun with it.  My current project - MedicineLand is now in it’s seventeenth weekly installment.  Have a look if you get a chance -

2010 -  California’s Central Valley becomes the nation’s methamphetamine production hub, unleashing a wave of addiction and crime.  Prison populations soar.  

The state bleeds money and resources as two formidable players ascend - the ruthless drug cartels, and the powerful prison guards union.  There’s a fortune at stake as the world’s eighth largest economy becomes a battlefield.

It’s up to the governor now to keep everything from boiling over.  Unless the governor has other ideas.


Dr. Julia Beltran is a geneticist searching for the master control gene for human aging.  If she finds it, you’ll never die.

Adam LaPorte is a former methamphetamine super-lab cook.  Why is he now being paid a small fortune to bake snack cakes for the California Department of Corrections?

Ruth Black runs a private holistic medicine facility.  Her patients shouldn’t even be alive.  Maybe they aren’t.

Governor Schwarzenegger doesn’t like to lose.

MedicineLand - delivered weekly to your e-doorstop, for your e-reading pleasure.

What if a new strain of methamphetamine could shut down the master control gene for aging?  What if it could also shut down much of the frontal cortex?  Eternal life or a chemical lobotomy - it’s all in the application.

Somewhere in the capitol building, some thought is given to bold new ways of pacifying a burgeoning prison population.  Because if those felons can be reduced to mindless zombies, it might not matter if they live forever.

Finding the secret to eternal life was the easy part.  The hard part is keeping it out of the governor’s hands.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A New Years Resolution I can keep

Do you know how long the average New Year’s resolution typically lasts? 4 weeks. Chances are if you made a New Year’s resolution, it would be broken by the end of January. A few tenacious ones may even make it to mid February. Gyms see their greatest new enrollment at the beginning of the year. By March it is only the old faithful who remain. Writers dust of their muses and pledge to write an ambitious number of words a day. Or they resolve to have an even more ambitious number of published work that year, make deadlines without extension, you name it. By mid February those pledges and resolutions fall way short. Eventually they dissipate until the next January 1st.

That is why I made one resolution more than 20 years ago. I resolved not to make any New Years’ resolutions. So far I have done well. I haven’t made a New Year’s resolution in over twenty years. Well that changed this year. This year I have decided to make one resolution: to take more risks.

You see, I’m not a risk taker. Even though I’m not the most organized person, I tend to travel the beaten well lit path. I have a plan A, B all the way down to plan Z. I put myself in hypothetical situations constantly and think of how I would react. If I decide to do something, I research it to death. A simple purchase has me going on and reading the customer reviews; going to Bizrate and Shopzilla to compare prices; walking into or calling the stores to check the prices in effort to determine whether the taxes (in store purchase) or the shipping (online purchase) would make the item cheaper.

But where has all this careful evaluation taken me? Not as far as I would like to go. So for 2013 I resolve to take more risks in my writing; try new genres, new publishing routes. I resolve to abandon some of the self-imposed restrictions and try new things. I resolve to leave my comfort zone and meet people I would not otherwise meet. I resolve to learn at least one new thing, see one new place, talk to at least one new person and set and accomplish at least one new goal.

Am I terrified? Yes. I’d be crazy if I wasn’t. Will that resolution dissipate by the end of January? Possibly. But if it does, I’ll renew it in February. And if I never accomplish the one new goal that I set? Big deal, I’ll set set another goal and try to accomplish that.

That’s my resolution for 2013. One I’m confident I can keep. What’s yours?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Writing better, writing more

I've realized over the years that, what with one thing and another, making detailed New Year's resolutions about how much I'm going to write doesn't really work for me.  At the end of the year, I'll find the list and be amazed and somewhat cowed by my ambition so...this year I've only got two - writer better and write more.  The former may be a bit hard to measure but I'll know how I'm doing by how much passive writing I have to cut during the first revision.  To help myself along, though, I've bookmarked a few sites that I'll dip into every now and then to remind myself of what I'm trying to achieve and I thought I'd share them with you.

1.  The Guardian, a UK newspaper, has a great article here with writers from Margaret Atwood to Geoff Dyer to Neil Gaiman offering advice on writing.  Some of the advice you'll have heard before, some you won't agree with but some just may turn on a light!

2. If you visit only one writing site today, it should probably be which has a huge number of excellent articles on all aspects of writing.

3. Newbie writers or writers who want to try new genres might want to explore Purdue University's Online Writing Lab to bone up on on the basics.

4. This course on writing science fiction and fantasy is free from author, Jeffry R. Carver, and has loads of useful information for writers in ALL genres!  We all want to know more about creating great characters and accepting feedback, don't we?

5.Scholastic has an awesome website for creative writing teachers which takes you through the different steps of the writing process and also offers interviews and profiles of writers and articles on their writing.  Definitely worth spending some time here!

Happy New Year, everyone!  (Oh, and science fiction/horror writer Charles Gramlich has a freebie on Kindle today on creating suspense.  Check it out!)

Saturday, January 5, 2013


So happy - I just met my DEADLINE! Or should I say extended DEADLINE. At first my manuscript was due on 11/30/12 (and yes I got a jump on it six months before), and then after asking for more time it was changed to 1/2/13. I turned it in yesterday, 1/4/13, on a Friday. But even then I was wondering the normal stuff, like would the editor even get to read it since it was fast approaching the end of the work day leading into a weekend, and that if I turned it in on Monday, 1/7/13, first thing, that would give me more time to re-read and tighten it even more, and then maybe on Monday I’d go until the end of the day and if I hadn’t heard from them I’d go into Tuesday, and then . . .

Whew! I’ve written quite a few books and met a lot of DEADLINES, but this one for some reason, even with it being a 40k word novella as opposed to a 100k word novel, was tough in that . . . well, I don’t know why. Maybe because it was the end of the year with the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, the New Year) and all, but I’ve had end of the year DEADLINES before. Maybe because it was around the date of my 12/11/12 Pynk release of Politics.Escorts.Blackmail., but I’ve had pub dates and DEADLINES run into each other before. Maybe it was because it was a continuation, a series title, part two of Erotic City and I wanted to re-read the first book a couple of times to make sure I got everything right. Or maybe it was that I was traveling on tour and back home to L.A. and travel knocks me off my feet, mentally and physically for a few days. I can’t really say why it felt like it was so stressful. But wait . . . I think I just used the correct word, “stress” – DEADLINES are stressful, and with needing to write three more in this series, all six months apart, along with other novels and schedules coming up, I felt stressed. There - I said it.

My mother always said, “Never let them see you sweat.” I’ve lived by that in this business, never wanting readers to know what it’s really like behind the scenes of churning out a novel. But today, I want to admit to the rigors of being a writer, and sometimes I think readers do need to know how hard it is to write a book, especially when your personal life must be tended to, and you must, at the very least, shower and eat. We authors work hard and though we love it, yes we do – I know I do, it's my true gift and my passion – but it is no walk in the park! We must get up from the desk and stretch, get in some exercise, try and get enough sleep, keep up with our notes, do research, interact with the world and answer the phone maybe once a day (and hope our real friends don’t see us as hermits), and pray that our muse is our friend. But, I chose this career. Still though . . . DEADLINE?

So this morning I wondered what it is about the word DEADLINE that bothers me so much. The word itself seems to add to the stress factor. Webster describes DEADLINE as: 1) a line drawn around a prison that a prisoner passes at the risk of being shot (author clears her throat), 2) a date or time before which something must be done (author can handle that), 3) a time after which copy is not accepted for a particular issue of a publication – ding, ding, ding, that’s it! It’s the fear that if you don’t make the DEADLINE, your release date will be pushed back, your publisher will not see you as reliable, there will be no more deals, your readers will forget about you, your manuscript will not be accepted, and a ton of other violations wherein described in henceforth said contract (fork over that signing advance money please, if there was one).

Can we change the name of it from DEADLINE to something else please? I’m open to suggestions. But I guess a horse by any other name is still, a DEAD-LINE! (I refer back to definition number 1)

And still I write! Write on! (Oh, I was just reminded that there's even a time limit in football - maybe I'll just call it my GOAL LINE BLITZ) :)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What to say to your fellow travelers.

Someone somewhere posted a picture of four things never to say to a writer and, being the mindless follower that I am, I "shared" the link on my Facebook page. (Yes, I have a Facebook page. However I cleverly hide my identity by using my real name – no one will ever look there.) What I like about this list is I've had all four said to me from time to time.
Number 1, have you written anything they've read: Based on careful study random memories, I'd say about one in thirty-seven people, upon learning I'm a writer, ask a variation of "Have you written anything I've heard of?" I usually frown thoughtfully before responding: "I don't know. What have you heard?" (If you are not into role-playing games, btw, the answer is almost certainly 'no'.)
Number 3, want you to employ talented relative: About six months ago someone did suggest I have his daughter 'draw' the cover of my next book, though as a proud papa myself, I don't fault him for it.
Number 4, asking if you write like [popular series]: On hearing I write science fiction and fantasy, people often do ask if I write things like Star Wars or Harry Potter, though in recent months many have asked if what I write is like Twilight.

The one I haven't heard as much now that I do most of my writing in my nifty home office, but used to hear at the library or Port City Java, or at social gatherings wherein I was actually writing at the time, is Number 2, wanting me to listen to/comment on their novel idea. Though few people intend to talk for an hour when they begin to describe their bookish vision, it is very difficult for them not to. Until I learned to condense my ideas into one (or two) sentence pitches and one-page summaries, people could have read one of my stories in the time I took to describe it. If, when talking to a relative stranger or someone who just struck up a conversation in the coffee shop, I see these particular sluice-gates about to open, I try to head off the flood with a variation of: "Wait. I'm in the middle of a story of my own and there's a problem I need to work out. I'm thinking about it all the time and have to really focus. Hearing another story idea, with all its potential, would distract me - I could lose my story forever." One reason this works is it's almost certainly true; if I'm breathing I'm working on a story. Another is it's something the other person can understand and respect without feeling slighted.

If the person asking is an aspiring writer who's expressed interest in writing and is serious about wanting to develop her craft, it's a bit more complex. I owe my start to a lot of supportive writers and editors who encouraged me along the way; I can't not support a new writer. On the other hand, I can't be a personal coach and mentor to everyone with a story to tell. (Actually, I tried that early on, thought I owed it to everyone who asked. Wore myself out and made enemies of a dozen neophytes who equated critiques of their work with attacks on their person.) These days I try to gauge what level of advice or guidance to give. Many benefit most from guidance to a few websites and some recommended reading - becoming a writer is at its core a solitary experience, after all. A few anecdotes - not many and not long - to illustrate possible roadblocks, dead ends, or easily missed opportunities might also be useful.

The one time I sorta mentored a writer, we exchanged fewer than a hundred words. I wrote all of Wolf Hunters at the Port City Java at Independence & Shipyard; ninety-seven four to nine hour days in a row. For about a month of that time a young man spent an hour or two each weekday at the table next to mine working on his original story. He had asked if he could work next to me because he had trouble focusing; he was easily distracted and didn't finish projects. He told me sticking close to me while I was writing, even though I couldn't see nor cared to look at what he was doing, kept him honest; it motivated him to stay off the internet and write. I don't know his name or what the story was about or why he stopped coming - though I like to think it was because he didn't need me any more.

What about you? If you're an established writer, how do you respond to new writers who ask your advice? If you're a new writer, what sort of guidance do you hope for from a professional writer?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013



happy new year
Woo-hoo, we’re into a new year! 2013, dang it’s hard to believe. And what do we typically do at the end of the year and the start of a new one? We examine the past twelve months, and set goals/resolutions for the next twelve months. So I’ll start and you can jump in. Well, don’t jump too hard in case you partied a bit too intensely. In fact, I’ll understand if you don’t answer for days.
Party smile
Looking Back:
  • Met goals to launch promotions using ads and Facebook
  • Finished and published two more original indie titles
  • Formatted and released four backlist titles with new covers
  • Read more great books
  • Took time to enjoy myself with movies and TV shows (Fringe and Game of Thrones, love!!!)
  • Started production of my first ever audio book (via ACX). This is exciting! The voice talent I hired nailed the tone and accent, much to my immense relief.
  • Set up Authorgraph, a way for readers to request a personalized autograph for their eBooks.
I ended up doing more marketing and hanging out on social media than I had planned, but that’s okay. I had fun doing that stuff. I joined three fabulous Facebook groups for readers and writers. I may have gotten carried away with Facebook ads, so I’m going to cut back (those low prices sucked me right in). I didn’t see a big bump in sales. On the other hand I did see an increase. Also it could pay off as Apple and Kobo move deeper to foreign markets. For some reason a lot of folks in Asia and Latin America dropped by my Facebook author page. Which I love because going more global is a long term goal of mine. Also, though I’m not sure, I think Amazon is one retailer who may have taken note of my efforts. They’re sending out emails periodically recommending my books.
Looking Forward:
  • Release my first audio book- A Darker Shade of Midnight
  • Do the math on releasing a second one, Between Dusk and Dawn, and decide if it makes business sense
  • Write two more original indie titles, one will be the third in a trilogy. The second book is another holiday theme romance.
  • Begin the second book in another series (Triple Trouble cozy mystery series planned)
  • Write more than I spend time promoting
  • Will attend Romance Slam Jam and moderate a panel discussion on indie publishing (author’s POV)
  • Promote smarter (set it and forget it types of things like in 2012)
  • Get my passport and plan a visit to either Belize or Costa Rica
  • Keep reading great books
One thing I also did in 2012 was to finally get off the pot and decide on a device: eReader vs tablet. I bought an iPad. The Kindle app magically filled up with books (0kay, okay. I went a little nuts buying books). Between my iPad and iPhone I’ve been able to take care of my writing business on breaks from my day job. How much do I love tech toys! But of course they’re not toys. I could see cover drafts clearly, get emails about my marketing projects, etc..
Honestly I wasn’t thinking of all that when I bought it. I just wanted the cool tablet! Winking smile
I’ve seen growth in sales and I did  lot of growing up myself as a professional writer. I developed and implemented plans. Adjusted and changed along the way when it made sense (or just seemed more fun).This is huge because I haven’t been a big planner. I’m looking forward to 2013.