Monday, January 21, 2013

4 Benefits of Listening to Your Characters

Nothing will pull me out of a story faster than a lack of character motivation. It’s a sure sign that the author didn’t listen to the characters. Sure characters can be obstinate, even infuriating at times, but they’re worth listening to, and here’s why:

Character Believability
Characters know more about themselves than the author does. Like an old friend, we think we know a character, but when we continue to listen to them, we continue to discover more about them. When we know our characters, getting deep into their histories and personalities, their likes and dislikes, they become real on the page, even when those details often don’t make it into the story.

Story Direction
When we listen to our characters they will tell us where the story needs to go. My latest work in progress has an ending that’s been rewritten twice and needs to be rewritten again, all because I failed to listen to my main character. Clearly she is smarter than me.

Breaking Writer’s Block
Characters don’t have the same hang-ups as writers. They don’t care if the story is good enough, or if it’s ‘The One’ which will finally catch the eye of a dream agent. Therefore, they have a clearer head so they don’t second guess themselves. They will continue to guide us through the story—if we are willing to listen.

Writer’s Sanity
Characters will act up even more when we don’t listen to them. Often we’ll end up with a bunch of rebellious characters who’ll refuse to play their part. So we might as well listen to them and save ourselves some grief.

Do you listen to your characters? If so, when do you listen to them?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Top 10 Query Letter Tips for Cretins

Today Chris Andrews is visiting with a fun post. I met Chris, a fellow Aussie writer, at GenreCon2012 and immediately liked his humour and energy. Take it away, Chris!

1: The curiosity factor
The key to a good query letter is intrigue, so withhold the title, genre, word count, and even the reason why anyone would want to read it. In fact, send it to them from an anonymous email account with absolutely no contact details at all. To really pique their curiosity, include a video of your best friend doing karaoke.

2: Have fun!
Drop subtle hints about your story, like: 'Did you notice the attached computer virus?' or 'When was the last time you checked your car's brakes?' You can further stand out from the email in-box with the imaginative use of fonts – the more the better. If the agent or publisher specialises in mysteries, go with Wingdings or white text on a white background.

3: Guidelines are for losers
Would a successful author follow guidelines? Of course not, so give them what they need instead: your life story, a full breakdown of all your hopes and dreams, copies of everything you've written since kindergarten, and your acceptance speeches for all the literary prizes you'll win. If you've got a photo of a cute pet, send that too (it can't hurt).

4: Your time is valuable
So pitch the idea before you've even written the book. If that fails (unlikely), bombard them with any ideas you can think of, making sure you cover additional concepts for the sequels, spinoffs, webisodes, interactive games, and cruise-ship stage plays. Additionally, compile a list of all your ideas and send them to every agent with an email address (at once - so it's obvious they have competition). Save more time by sending it out without proofreading.

5: Their time is valuable too
Sometimes you need to pander to their needs, so skip all the introductory stuff and get on-side immediately by doing your research. Mention their home address, their partners/parents/children's names, their favourite holiday destination (show up and say 'Hi'), and visit their house while they're out to get to know their pets and friends. If that doesn't grab their attention, nothing says 'I really want to be a published author' like delivering a life-sized painting of their mother-in-law to their office.

6: Demand your price
Don't settle for anything less than a million-dollar advance. In fact, demand it before letting them see your manuscript. You're the best of the best, the top one per cent, and with a decent advance you'll even hand it over. They'll be sorry if they turn you down – tell them that too.

7: Bragging rights
You're a brilliant writer, so let them know you've seen the future and you'll sell 25 million copies. Further demonstrate your awesomeness by attaching the cover art you did yourself – every version. Include details about why Oprah will love your book, and your plans to write, direct and star in the inevitable movie. Oscars are assumed.

8: Hand deliver it for that personal touch
Everyone loves attention, particularly book people. For maximum impact arrive via helicopter and stroll into the office made up like a zombie (zombies are hot!). Insist on handing your query directly to your preferred agent or editor, but make sure you 'forget' to erase those naked photos of yourself from the USB (everyone deserves a treat).

9: Go retro
In the 'olden days' they wrote letters on dead trees, so grab your chainsaw and make a nice cross section of your neighbour's favourite hardwood. If the postage is too high, try handwriting with fluorescent ink on coloured paper. For added effect sprinkle glitter in the envelope and spray it with perfume. Bonus points will be awarded if you include a chocolate frog (everyone loves chocolate), but be considerate and unwrap it first.

10: The next big thing is…
You! Because you are, right? Be persuasive! Tell them your mother/friends/teachers loved your manuscript, boast about the decades you’ve spent writing it (as this clearly gives it depth), and explain how your story thinly disguises your incredibly interesting life. It won't hurt to add a list of your rejections too (just to prove how proactive you are). Finally, mention how being a published author is your life-long dream – that always softens them up.

Chris Andrews began his writing career when he boldly and ignorantly announced he could write a better novel than the one he’d just read. While he’s no longer ignorant about the challenges of writing novels, the dream remains. Find him on twitter: @ChrisAndrewsAU or at his website:

If you liked the Top Ten Query Letter Tips for Cretins, you might also like The Cretin's Top Ten Ways to Successfully Pitch to an Agent or Editor

Have you done--or wanted to do--any of these tips? Can you think of any more query letter tips for cretins?


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Reaper by L. S. Murphy

There’s no way sixteen year old Quincy Amarante will become the fifth grim reaper. None. Not over her shiny blue Mustang. Her Jimmy Choos. Or her dead body.

She’s supposed to enjoy her sophomore year, not learn about some freaky future Destiny says she has no choice but to fulfill.

It doesn’t take long for Quincy to realize the only way out of the game is to play along especially since Death can find her anyway, anywhere, anytime. And does.

Like when she’s reassuring her friends she wants nothing to do with former best friend Ben Moorland, who’s returned from god-knows-where, and fails. Miserably.

Instead of maintaining her coveted popularity status, Quincy’s goes down like the Titanic.
Maybe … just maybe … that’s okay.

It seems, perhaps, becoming a grim reaper isn’t just about the dead but more about a much needed shift in Quincy’s priorities—from who she thinks she wants to be to who she really is.

L.S. Murphy lives in the Greater St. Louis area where she watches Cardinals baseball, reads every book she can find, and weaves tales for teens and adults. When not doing all of the above, she tends to The Bean (aka her daughter), her husband and a menagerie of pets. “A Reason to Stay”, a contemporary romance novella, is available as of November 2, 2012. Reaper is her debut young adult novel and was released on January 7th, 2013.

She is a co-rep for the Southern Illinois region of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and a member of the St. Louis Writer’s Guild.

Blog . Twitter . Facebook . Goodreads . Publisher . Amazon

Monday, January 14, 2013

Writing Tips with Darlene Jones

Today I have Darlene Jones visiting with some great writing tips many writers should find helpful. 

You can find Darlene here: Website / Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

Take it away, Darlene.

One of the best writing tips goes back to my novice days. An author I admire suggested that we read our work aloud when we got to the rewrite stage. I decided to try it.

“What’s that?” my husband asked.


“You said something.”

“Just reading to myself.”

“Well keep it down. I’m trying to watch TV.” Luckily for him, I knew he was joking.

Reading aloud showed me where my words weren’t natural or where sentences were too long and convoluted. Sometimes I’d cut out words as I read and realize that I didn’t need them. Other times I’d add a word or two when I read and realized I needed that word on paper to make for smoother, more natural expression.

I do much less reading aloud now that I’m more experienced, but it was a great tip for me as a beginner.

The second thing I think is crucial for writing success is to join a critiquing group. This must be comprised of fellow writers. They know what you are trying to accomplish and what to watch for in your writing.

I’ve used two approaches. With one group, we emailed our work to each other before the meeting. We printed and commented on paper and then discussed the piece at the meeting. We gave the copies with our notations to the writer at the end of the discussion.

The second approach was to come to the meeting, pass out copies to the members and then read the piece aloud. Members jotted notes and explained what they felt was missing or needed.

The critical key in both groups was the one rule that the writer not comment at all during the discussion as the goal wasn’t to defend his or her work, but to take the information and use what worked for them. This worked well as the members of both groups held the mindset of helping their fellow authors so the critiquing was never mean spirited.

There are two added benefits to the critiquing groups. One is that the discussion sparks ideas for all and the critiquing of one piece can help you with your own work as you learn what things to watch out for.

Here’s a simple example.

“I don’t think so,” he said. He shook his head.

One member commented that the natural reaction would be for the action to come before the spoken words.

Bill shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

I realized that was a mistake I made often and I liked the result when I went back and made those changes.

Good luck with your writing.

What would be one of your top tips for writing?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

10 Tips to Get Blog Tours and Guest Posts Right

Before the Make Believe Tour, I hadn’t experienced the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes of blog tours. There's a lot of juggling behind the fanfare. As a consequence, I learnt many important tips I thought I'd share here:

1. Always, always write down the dates you have scheduled for the tour and/or guest post. If you think you’ll remember them, you’re wrong. If you wait until the date is confirmed, you’ll forget. Just write them down. Use a pencil if you must.

2. Blog tours are often organised months in advance. It’s important to send out reminders of your visit a week before you’re due to be featured.

3. Try to have all interview questions in a week before the tour begins because once the tour has started you’ll be too busy to chase up questions, let alone answer them as well. The less panic you can cause yourself, the better.

4. In all your correspondence with your hosts, include the date you’ve agreed to feature on their blogs. This doesn’t guarantee no mistakes, but it sure will help to avoid them.

5. Always double check your posts and make sure they have no errors, and the content is good.

6. Read your emails regularly and make yourself available in case of any last minute changes.

7. Agree to a time of post. This is especially helpful when you live in a different timezone to your host. It’s a mistake to link to a host who doesn’t have anything there yet. It’s also a mistake not to link at all, which brings me to my next point:

8. Always link back to your host’s blog. Share the link on your blog and on other network sites, such as Twitter and Facebook.

9. Respond to comments on your host’s blog. And keep returning to respond to comments even when you’ve moved on in the tour.

10. Always thank the person who has generously given you their time and their blog space.

Carol Kilgore said it perfectly in an email: The best guest bloggers are those who will bring new people, interact with everyone, and have something interesting to say.

And that brings me to the final stop on the Make Believe Tour. The Secret Writer is hosting an ebook giveaway.

What do you think of Blog Tours? As a writer, do you think they are an effective promotional tool? As a reader, what’s your reaction to them?

M.L.Swift has started up a Progressive Book Club.

They post on the third Wednesday of every month.

He describes it as, "A unique blog hop that's an online book club!" So please check it out!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wednesday Writers Workspace

Today, I'm excited to say, I'm over at The Writing Nut where Nuschell is interviewing me for the Wednesday Writers Workspace feature.
Please pop on over to find out a little more about where and how I write.
Click HERE.

I'd also like to thank Christine Rains. I recently won first prize in The Marquis giveaway. I received a digital copy of The Marquis, an ARC of The Alpha, and a signed copy of Fearless which arrived in the mail this morning!

Thank you so much!!

Don't forget to pop on over to the Wednesday Writers Workspace interview.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Cover Reveal: Solomon's Compass

January seems to be the month for cover reveals and new releases. I have another exciting cover reveal for you today. This time it's from the lovely Carol Kilgore, author of In Name Only, with her second novel, Solomon's Compass due out soon. I love this cover!

The death of her beloved uncle, Randy Rankin, brings US Coast Guard Commander Taylor Campbell back to Texas to take care of his estate and find out if he really did bury his treasure. Jake Solomon’s job is to make sure Rankin’s killer doesn’t set his sights on CDR Campbell. Set along the Texas Gulf Coast, SOLOMON’S COMPASS is a story of love, loyalty, and the value of keeping a promise.

Carol Kilgore is an award-winning author of several published short stories and many essays and articles. Solomon’s Compass is her second novel, a blend of mystery, suspense, and romance she calls Crime Fiction with a Kiss – always at least one crime; always a love story. Carol and her Coast Guard husband live in San Antonio, Texas, with two herding dogs that like nothing better than pack time on the patio.

You can find Carol here:
website . blog . facebook . twitter . goodreads . amazon

Friday, January 4, 2013

Cover Reveal: From The Ashes

I'm not sure how it all went wrong.

The concept was simple.

The Trials were made to test us. They were made to challenge our strengths; our bravery.

We were supposed to come out better.

Winning the Trials would make us Superior citizens.

It would bring us honor and demonstrate our loyalty to the Imperial Alliance. I knew exactly what I wanted.

Until I met him.

There was something about him. Something dark. If only I had known the danger it would put us in.

I thought I knew the risks.

But I never imagined the price we'd pay.


An insightful look at the good and bad that exist within us, McKendry's debut is a high-octane adventure that pushes the imagination to the limit as it lays bare the nature of self-reliance, self-confidence, and teamwork. Playing with the concepts of dark and light and how they affect our lives in multiple forms, her novel is a complex coming of age story that encapsulates the heroine's journey from student to leader. A dark tale of love and revenge, From the Ashes is a powerful reminder to think for yourself instead of blindly following what you've been taught to believe.

FROM THE ASHES, coming to Amazon in February, 2013.
Congratulations, Jess!!
What books are you dying to read in 2013?
Make Believe 
There is another giveaway being hosted over at Known To Read as part of the Make Believe anthology blog tour.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Witch's Nocturne and Looking For Reviewers

Description: After receiving an ancient tribal journal from her grandfather, Jenny is sent on a mission of discovery in an attempt to unravel clues to her family's monster hunting past. The journey becomes more than academic when she is asked to confront a coven of dangerous witches who plan to cast an insidious spell on the plains of West Texas.

Witch's Nocturne is the second of the Moonsongs Books, a series of New Adult, paranormal-horror-action novelettes--with a Texas twist--by author E.J. Wesley.

Witch's Nocturne is available now:
Smashwords (ePub & PDF)

Blood Fugue, Moonsongs Book 1, is also available on Amazon
(Free to borrow for Amazon Prime members.)

Note: These stories contain some language and content better suited for mature readers.

~About the Author~

E.J. lives in South Texas. He likes his words and food spicy, and tries to give a little extra 'kick' to the stories he writes. He enjoys reading horror, sci-fi, YA, MG, New Adult--basically anything with words. In true Texas fashion, E.J. is very neighborly, and welcomes you to say 'howdy' at:

Goodreads Twitter Facebook Blog

For something a little different, over at Happy Tails and Tales Blog there is a review of Make Believe plus a bonus playlist has been created to go with each of the stories in the anthology. Super cool!

J. Taylor Publishing is looking for reviewers.  There are heaps of benefits, like getting free ebooks, reading awesome stories, and potentially gaining a greater exposure for your blog. If you're interested, then fill in their form and put my name in the Referred By field. To find out more, just click HERE.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Resolutions for Writers #IWSG

Resolutions often feel like messages to self, sealed in a bottle and tossed into a wide blue ocean. Sometimes they make it back to shore, but mostly they don’t. They have a tendency to sink, no matter how much fluff and hot air we put in those bottles.

Does this mean resolutions are a waste of time? Absolutely not! Resolutions are an opportunity to restart, reshape and renew our hopes and dreams. But it does help to make make both long term and short term goals with a clear direction toward achieving them. Below is my list of resolutions for 2013.

  • I will not let my doubts become a black cloud over my writing. Instead I will make a habit of listening to both the story and my heart, and I will write anyway despite the fears.
  • The blank page will no longer intimidate me. Instead I will pour out my words and know it’s okay to make a mess. Besides, every mess can be cleaned up with a little work and determination.
  • I will no longer allow my muse to rule me. She doesn’t have the power. I do. Therefore I will re-establish my writing schedule so I'll write whether or not I’m in the mood.
  • I will not fall for the lie that writing is more important than reading. Instead I will dedicate a portion of every day to reading and I will read ten more books than I did last year.
  • I will balance my social media time so that it doesn’t take over my day. That means setting a limited time per day for blogging, Twitter, Facebook and all the others.
  • I won’t stop dreaming big, but I will add measureable, reachable goals to steer me towards those dreams. As my hubby often says, ‘Hope is not a strategy’.
  • I will not let my doubts stop me from putting my work out there. Not everyone will love my stories, but that doesn’t matter.
  • Perfection is unachievable. I will remind myself of that, work until I get close to perfection, then I will let go. Otherwise no work will ever get finished.
  • I will not allow myself to get distracted from my goals… unless that distraction comes in the form of a golden ticket, or Johnny Depp.
  • I will stop worrying about the things I can't control. Life is too short for silly things that will only age me faster and stunt my dreams.
  • If I fail any of these resolutions, I will not call myself a failure and give up. Rather than tossing my messages in the bottle, I will hold onto them, read them and remember what I want.

What are your New Year’s resolutions?

This post was writing for Alex J Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.

A Special thank you to Jarmila V. Del Boccio of Making the Write Connections  and Daisy Lancaster of Fresh as a Daisy Soap.

On Jarm’s fabulous blog I won a gift: a handmade soap from Daisy’s collection. I even got to pick from her vast collection! I picked the Avocado Rosemary Moisturizing Facial Soap  and it is amazing!! I love it. As a bonus, Daisy also sent me three wonderful samples: Lavendar Oatmeal, Luscious Lemon, and a Sweet Orange solid lotion bar. I highly recommend these. They are sheer luxury at an affordable price. Thank you Jarm and Daisy!