Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dialogue Exercises - #2

Happy Tuesday, good people of the blogosphere! Today we continue on our journey through dialogue exercises. If you missed post #1, please go back and take a gander here. If not, grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

I'm not going to bore you all to tears with a repeat of what I said yesterday. Let's just dive on into the exercises!

Every exercise below calls for at least two pages of dialogue.

Exercise 4: Using dialogue to set mood.
Just like you can use dialogue to set a scene, you can also use it to set a mood. Stick two of your characters in a setting that will enhance the mood and let them discuss what they're seeing or feeling in the moment. For fun, try using a setting you'd never expect to see in your novel and let the dialogue flow. Focus on emotion and try to set the mood with speech rather than scene.

Exercise 5: Adding dialogue to action scenes.
Pull up an action scene you've written where there's little to no dialogue. Read it a couple of times and think about your character as you do. Recall their personality, habits, and opinions. Add no less than sixteen lines of dialogue that convey a few of those habits and opinions. Let their personality shine as you write.

Exercise 6: Increase the suspense with dialogue.
Every character has opinions. Write a scene in which two characters are going head-to-head over action items they believe will garner the desired resolution of the journey. Make it heated but use it to move your story along. Create conflict over something one deems appropriate and the other says will get everyone killed. Decide on an outcome.

Again, I hope you put at least one of these in your pocket and give it a try today. Come on back tomorrow for three more!

What exercises do you use to improve your written dialogue skills?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Monday, April 29, 2013

Dialogue Exercises - #1

Happy Monday, good people of the blogosphere! This week we'll be delving into dialogue. I'll give you a total of fifteen exercises (three per day) you can do to make your dialogue stronger. Nothing ruins a great story quite like stilted dialogue, unnatural sounding dialogue, no dialogue at all, or overabundance of conversation. So, grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

There are so many different ways to use dialogue to improve story flow. These exercises will help you overcome some of the things that stilt a story. Again, this series is part of the writing class I give over on INDIE Books Gone Wild.

Every exercise below calls for at least two pages of dialogue.

Exercise 1: Using dialogue to reveal setting.
Take two characters you've used in a past novel and throw them into a scene together. Only using dialogue, reveal to the reader what setting the characters are in. I'm asking you to use two characters you've written before so you have an idea of the types of things they'll notice. You may want to throw in a conflict here and have them argue about where they are. As another option, perhaps it's a place neither have been before and they're exclaiming over things they see. Remember, be gradual. No information dumps. What would they say?

Exercise 2: Using dialogue to reveal or convey feelings.
Write a conflict scene between two characters you've written that love one another. Do it from one person's POV then switch. Betrayed to betrayer. Feel what they're feeling and use it.

Exercise 3: Weaving dialogue, action, and narrative together.
Using one of the reveal scenes from above, go back and add action to the scene. Put in little facial clues or gestures to show the reader more. Try adding a narrator to the scene. Where would they comment on what's going on? Now cut 1/4 of the dialogue and let the action be the revealing element. Read for flow.

There are a number of things you can use dialogue to do. Rather than giving your reader a couple of paragraphs about the setting, give them lines where the character reacts to what he/she is seeing. Avoid the information dump.

I hope you enjoyed this post and did at least one of the exercises. Come on back tomorrow for more!

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Friday, April 26, 2013

Healing Plot Wounds

Happy FRIDAY, good people of the blogosphere! What a week! Here comes the the weekend, though. I hope you all have wonderful plans. Today, we're gonna talk about some common plot wounds and how you can heal them. So, grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

Problem 1: Your flashback is all mucked up.
Make sure you need it. Remember, a flashback will disrupt the flow of the story and pull the reader into the past for some reveal. It should never be an information dump, but a high-energy scene. If you keep your flashbacks short, all the better. Try working the information into dialogue instead. That way, the story keeps moving forward, but your readers get the information you've deemed necessary.

Problem 2: Your scene has no two-punch.
You know that height of the scene where exciting things happen? Find it in your story and highlight it. See how much you can dump before it happens so there's less drag getting there. You'll likely find a lot of the wordy things before the action can be removed and it still work. Then, give it a two-punch. You know, that little something extra. Some emotion or reaction as the action occurs.

Problem 3: You're holding back your characters because they're off plot.
Suddenly, your characters are trying to go left but you force them to turn right. That wasn't what you had in mind and no-way no-how are you letting them go there. This will hinder your story. Try opening a new document and let the character go the way you think they would. Have a conversation, run a scene in your movie-projector mind, or type a quick scene out where your character faces something out of the ordinary. Don't force them to react a certain way. Let the character decide. Then, return to your story and let them play it out the way they want to. It works. As a bonus, the outcome might surprise you. I didn't intend the twist in The Bird, the characters did that on their own.

Problem 4: Mind-system shutdown.
Overload. Your mind shuts off, your imagination takes a break, or a head cloud invades. How do you turn it back on? Writers don't have switches on the side of their heads. If this happens, try one of these tricks: Act out a scene. Don't imagine it, get your booty out of your chair and act it out. Take a walk and have a conversation with your protagonist. No, I'm not kidding. Sometimes, this is just what you need to understand their vision and/or motive. Maybe those crazies on the street, walking along, mumbling to themselves, are actually writers trying to get back in touch, eh? Write down what your novel means to you. What's the underlying message?

These are just a few of the problems we all run in to. I hope the suggestions above help in some small way.

What do you do when problems smack you between the eyes?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Slimming Down

Happy Thursday, good people of the blogosphere! I can't believe I missed my hump-day post, but working too much is never something I complain about. Today, we're talking about slimming down an overweight novel. These are just a few things you can do to cut out the drag. Remember, a good editor will tell you when it isn't working and give you suggestions on how to fix it. Grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going, shall we?

When you're writing a novel, you generally have three acts. The first is to introduce the doorway and the challenge/opposition. By the time you get to the third, you're ready to bring things to a head and give your novel an ending. What a lot of writers struggle with is the journey, the middle, the part where you are heading toward the end. Sometimes, it ends up with no excitement. On Tuesday, I gave you ways to add to your skinny tale. Now we're gonna talk about ways to slim it down if it's too heavy.

  1. Cut out the boring. If you find the story lacking tension, take some of the scenes out. These can be reaction scenes, dialogue, or scenes lacking conflict. If your editor might lose interest, cut it down or cut it out.
  2. Take away a subplot. You can absorb a subplot into the main plot to strengthen it, or combine two subplots into one to make things more interesting for the reader.
  3. Kill someone off. That's right, kill them. Maybe they're stealing the spotlight from the main character or maybe you just decide their motives aren't for the purpose of good. As an alternative, you can combine two secondary characters and make them into one strong character.

If you craft act two well, you have the opening for a killer ending. You can put your protagonist through hell only to have them be rewarded for their struggles. Or, you can always have your protagonist fail. Some of those endings make a so-so book one that's remembered.

What exercises do you use to trim the fat?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Beating Middle of the Book Blahs

Happy Tuesday, good people of the blogosphere! Today we're talking about middle of the book blahs and how to overcome them. So grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going, shall we?

Again, this is another section of the class offered over on IBGW.

We've all been there. That point where the character is dragging along on their journey toward triumph or failure of their ultimate goal. It's the dreaded middle of the book. After the doorway and before the culmination and reveal of all that's interesting. But how do you overcome the blahs? How do you keep your story from plodding along like a draught horse rather than bringing excitement like the thoroughbreds running in the Kentucky Derby?

A few things you can do:
  1. Add a subplot. This should be done rarely and with care. Your subplot can be brought to a head just before your main plot, but don't let it take over and don't do it too often. A well-known subplot for many readers is the one in the Hunger Games series. I know I reference it often, but it uses many literary devices (and does it well).
  2. Introduce a new character. From out of the wild, here they come, that new character you may have mentioned before but decides to take on a new role. Or, you may not have mentioned this character. Perhaps they only show up in the middle of the book to bring another facet to the action. They need to make the protagonist's life a little bit harder.
  3. Find the glue between the antagonist and the protagonist and make it stronger. Make it matter. Show the reader why these two are in direct opposition by a little reveal of the past.

Now, those are just a couple of suggestions. The options are endless because it's your imagination. Dig deeply and don't allow your reader to go to sleep.

Join me tomorrow and we'll go over how to trim the fat from the middle of a book.

What devices do you use to add drama to the middle of your novel?

On another note, if you'd like a new book to read, Taken Before her very Eyes by Wade Faubert, the one I reviewed back in February is free through midnight tonight! See the review here.

Get it on Amazon US.
Get it on Amazon UK.


Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Monday, April 22, 2013

How to Find an Idea

Happy Monday, good people of the blogosphere! Well, the weekend is behind us, and we're moving into one heck of a work week. Mine is really full of work coming at me from INDIE Books Gone Wild. Formatting for print is among the top of those to-dos for this week. What fun! But I'd like to take a moment today and talk with you all about creating that next great book. Where do you come up with an idea? Following are some great exercises you can do to get those creative juices flowing. So, grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

By the way, this is part of the class I give over on IBGW for writers. If you're interested, check out the page and then fill out the form. It's a ton of fun and you even get a set of books no writer should be without.

  1. You've all heard me go on and on about writing a story based on what you're passionate about. Well, that's exercise one. You can look into the social opinions of others and form your own. This can lead to a great idea for a story. Look at The Hunger Games. What's she writing about, really? Government control of a people and breaking free from tyranny. You can see the author's strong opinions about this issue within the story. She probably thought about a world that could exist at some point and then went on to another exercise, asking what if.
  2. Exercise two is all about taking a known situation and asking what if. Read the paper, watch television, or observe people in action all around you and ask that question. Make a list and let it rest for a couple of days. When you return, you'll see it teeming with ideas.
  3. Listen to music. Hear the lyrics and think about what the singer is saying. Enter Sandman by Metallica could bring out a great novel, right? Write down some ideas about the situations in the songs. Just make sure your music is related to the genre you prefer to write.
  4. For the next one, create a character. Loosely base them on someone you know and then add a splash of yourself to them. After that, you can turn them any way you see fit. Sometimes, a dynamic and original character is all you need. Close your eyes and write down the particulars of the first person that pops into your head. Flesh them out. Give them a journey.
  5. Mind map. You remember when I talked about creating blog posts from a mind map? You start with one topic and branch things off from there. By the time you get to the fourth or fifth spoke, you'll have a ton of ideas.

And there's a few ways you can come up with story/plot ideas when you're stuck. I do a couple of these exercises about once a week. Because of that, I have a folder on my laptop with one or two chapters of some really cool ideas. Will all of them ever be published? I doubt it. But some of them will. Either way, my idea is there in word form and I can reference it at any time.

What exercises do you partake in?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Friday, April 19, 2013

Templates for Using MS Word to Format for Print

Happy Friday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, I'm going to share some news and give you a coupon! How awesome are coupons? If you're an Indie author and you've been struggling to make your book look more professional through self-publishing platforms like CreateSpace, you're in for a treat.

Not long ago, I did a post about MS Word vs Adobe InDesign. I went through a few of the good and bad things for using each. Now, you have some additional options for making your book look awesome with MS Word. I know I'm not far off when I say, many of us just can't afford programs like Adobe InDesign and most of us wouldn't know how to use it even if we could. With InDesign, you can create books that look like this:

Now, I'm not saying you'll ever be able to do that with MS Word. I just don't know if it's possible. What I am saying is that you can have an awesome printed book for little to no cost. Keep reading.

I'm a regular subscriber to The Book Designer blog. His name is Joel Friedlander and he does a lot for those of us in the self-publishing world. If you don't already subscribe, I suggest you do so ASAP. It's a wonderful resource for Indie authors. Okay, moving on.

What's the big news? I'm getting to that!

Joel has partnered up with Tracy Atkins, author of Aeternum Ray and partner over at Dyslexiana, to bring you MS Word templates you can use to make your book look awesome in print. Yeah, I know, it was a little difficult for me to believe as well; but take a look at this post where Joel announces the launch. Those look pretty awesome, huh?

If you hop on over to their website BookDesignTemplates.com, you'll even get to download a free copy of their Book Design Templates Roadmap. It walks you through how to use the templates you buy. If you want to skip all the hubbub, you can go right on in and look at some of the templates available by clicking here.

Prices start at $37 each. But, after you buy one, you can use it time and again.

What's all this about a coupon?

Well, Joel is offering a coupon code for 41% off any template you buy. Holy moly, right? That makes each template's price start at just $15.17!! You can read all about it in his post here.

Without further ado, I give you the code: book41

You can follow Joel on Twitter, too. He's @JFBookman

Happy shopping!

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

10 Tips for Creating a Squidoo Lens

Happy Wednesday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, I'm gonna give you ten tips for creating a great Squidoo lens. If you remember, Tuesday is lens creation day on the Social Networking Schedule. But you don't just want to create a lens that sits there with no activity, right? So grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

First off, let me abide by their request on their Squidoo Logo page and say, "I am not affiliated with or endorsed by Squidoo LLC."

Not that I'm selling you anything, see, but they politely ask that you state this if you use their logo. On to the good stuff!!

They have their own lens making tips that can be found here: http://hq.squidoo.com/tips/

Jo's top ten tips for creating a Squidoo lens:
  1. Be sure you're creating original content and that you have the rights to publish/share said content. If you don't, your lens will be locked and (eventually) deleted.
  2. Decide on a snappy title, give your lens a good number of tags, and flesh out the description well.
  3. Use photos to make your lens aesthetically pleasing. Make sure your images are related to your topic. You don't want a photo of flowers in a post about the apocalypse (unless they're dead, maybe).
  4. Give your readers plenty of sections to peruse by using the add module button on the right hand side of your lens.
  5. Pay attention to the progress bar on the top right hand side and be sure you're fleshing out your lens with enough content to get to 100%.
  6. When/if you recommend products on your lens, make sure they're relevant to your content.
  7. If there's a YouTube video out there related to your topic, add it.
  8. Know what you're creating before you begin to create.
  9. If your ultimate goal is to sell something to the reader, make sure you're easing them into the sale rather than shoving it in their faces.
  10. Above all else, have fun. Create something folks can't (or don't want to) look up elsewhere. Squidoo is all about discussion and creating a community full of information with your own POV. Be original and have original thoughts.
A couple of my lenses:
Book Formatting
Using Flipboard to Manage Social Media
Things I Learned from My Editor

Have you used Squidoo yet? Why/why not?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Jonathan Swift and The Bird

Happy Tuesday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, I'm going over a little something I used when writing The Bird: Writers of the past and their books. Most notably of the many tales I interweave is that of Gulliver's Travels, written by Jonathan Swift. Grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

First, some interesting facts about Jonathan Swift from Wikipedia:
  • Born: November 30, 1667 in Dublin, Ireland
  • Writer of: Novels and Poetry
  • Originally published everything under various pen names.
  • Became Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral and was entombed there upon his death in 1745.
He looked like this:
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.


Now, if you've read The Bird, you'll know my heroine, Stormy, visits the grave of Mr. Swift at St. Patrick's Cathedral where she finds some rather tiny people. When I considered her quest and the golden apple she needed to procure for the witch, I thought how lovely it would be if Stormy had to face some Lilliputians. Seeing as the author of Gulliver's Travels was from Ireland, it made sense in my head to morph the little boogers into the gold-hungry, top-hat-wearing, shillelagh-carrying meanies we know as leprechauns.

Elves get a makeover, too.

I took a number of fairy tales I love and selected elements from them to weave a new-age story. To add to the realism, I also used a number of locations around the world to place scenes in the book. Did you know there's actually a place in Pennsylvania called Ringing Rocks?

It's these things that one must use to bring the element of believability to a fantasy novel. A world, changed ever-so-slightly, that reeks of truth. This is what I mean when I say you should write from life.

If you create another world, you're still using elements of something you've read about or experienced. Try using them in new ways. Step out of the box for a moment and reconsider everything you've been told. Put a new twist on something you know. Writers have awesome imaginations. Give them a workout.

Last, but not least, remember to always have truthiness in your tales. Never be afraid to take that extra step or go that extra mile. Use that word or phrase you've been wanting to. Speak your mind. Indies rock because there's no one lording over them, telling them what they can and can't say.

Is there something you've used from experience or prior readings? How did it spin your novel?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Monday, April 15, 2013

Uncovered Books

Happy Monday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, I'd like to tell you about a cool new service for indie authors. Strap in and take a little journey with me.

This service is a place you can sell your books. It's called Uncovered Books. They're going to sell via iPad and iPhone first, but have plans to expand to other platforms soon. You can check out the FAQ on their website.

Why is this exciting news? Well, they're offering a 50% royalty payment on every sale made. That's right, fifty percent. And you can price your book any way you want except free.

They ask some strange questions about your novel but promise that when readers sign up, the ideal person will be guided to your book. Why not, right?

Their intended launch date is Spring of 2013. This is a chance for you to get in on the ground floor of something new. Seems exciting!

  • You need to have an epub file of your book to upload.
  • They aren't taking non-fiction at this time.
  • No payments until you reach $40 in sales.
  • Payments, at this time, are only via paper check mailed to the address you specify.
I think it's an awesome idea and I hope this company goes boom! and explodes with growth. You can help!

What are you waiting for? Go sign up!

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Friday, April 12, 2013

Is Your Character Sexy or Beautiful?

Happy Friday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, let's talk about sexy vs beautiful. There is a difference! You need to consider how your character is going to be portrayed to the world because each of these gives them different characteristics. So, grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going, shall we?

First, a couple of definitions:
Sexy: sex·y /ˈseksē/  Adjective 1. Sexually attractive or exciting. 2. Sexually aroused.
Beautiful: beau·ti·ful  /ˈbyo͞otəfəl/  Adjective 1. Pleasing the senses or mind aesthetically. 2. Of a very high standard; excellent.

As you can see, they have different meanings. One can be sexy and not beautiful; or, one can be beautiful and not sexy. As we interpret language, we often confuse the two or use them interchangeably. But your character can be one or the other, or both. It's a difficult decision sometimes. You want to avoid the 'I'm perfect in every way' character because they're boring.

I read Pride and Prejudice and thought of Elizabeth as beautiful but not sexy. Her sister, Jane, was both. Why? Well, Elizabeth held herself well but put off an 'I'm better than you' vibe toward men. It wasn't sexually exciting but her face was pleasing to look upon and her mind could stimulate another of the same caliber. Jane, on the other hand, was pretty, carried herself well, and excited men in a bashful, shy way. She was mysterious, sexy, and beautiful.
When I read Beautiful Disaster, I saw Abby as sexy, but not beautiful, because she had confidence. Her looks, as described by the author, were middling to fair.

Think about yourself for a moment. Do you wear pretty undergarments to make yourself feel beautiful or so you look sexually attractive in the mirror? One thing I do, to make myself feel beautiful, is keep my toenails painted. Always. Even in the winter, if you see me without shoes, my toenails are cute. These are things you have to consider when building a character because it's part of who they are. It gives you opportunities for discovery throughout the book. Like fairy dust sprinkled in to make magic, details like these make your character feel more real to the reader and allows a connection to be formed.

What character have you developed that was one or the other? What did you use as discovery tools?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Review: Dark Premonitions by Heather Topham Wood

Happy Thursday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, I'm writing up a review for my Indie Fever Reading Challenge! This makes the third book I've written a review for so far (I'm behind schedule) but oh, what a glorious read it is! So, strap in and let me take you on a little journey!

Title: Dark Premonitions - Second Sight Book Three
Author: Heather Topham Wood
Genre: Paranormal
Length (paperback): 272 pages
Amazon links: Paperback $9.99 Kindle $3.49

Synopsis: Psychic Kate Edwards had her first premonition—a vision of her own murder by a faceless attacker. With very few clues to go on, she has to use her psychic gifts to uncover who wants her dead. Paranoia sets in and Kate wonders if there’s anybody she can trust. As Kate fears her impending death, she’s desperate to seek comfort with her ex-boyfriend Jared Corbett. As she tries to win him over once again, she worries that he’ll never forgive her for the mistakes she has made in the past. Kate questions whether fate will give her a chance to be with Jared again before her existence is ended. Meanwhile, a sixteen-year-old girl has gone missing. The police and her family insist the girl is a troubled runaway, but Kate suspects there’s more to the story. Kate is frantic to locate the girl before her own time runs out. Dark Premonitions is the third book in the Second Sight series.

Not to appear in my review elsewhere: I love this book's cover. The author let the readers vote in a poll on her website and this one caught my eye nicely. It fits well with the first two books and gives off a slightly creepy vibe; perfect for this installment.

If you're a regular follower of my reviews, you know I read, enjoyed, and reviewed the first two books in the Second Sight series. Dark Premonitions was very different. It was won by me in a giveaway held by the author, Ms. Heather Topham Wood. Without any more babbling, I give you my review:

From a reader's perspective: Kate, the main character, is still rash and young. She has a tendency to act before she thinks and those characteristics fit someone who's gone through what she has. I was glad to see her relationship with Declan, the bad boy psychic, come down from its high in the last book. Kate using her psychic powers again was something I was happy to see. What I loved most about this installment is the way I couldn't tell who was coming to kill Kate or when it would happen. I adored the ending as well, it left me wanting the next book right now instead of waiting for it to be published sometime later this year. What was really different about this installment was the constant wondering about when Kate would be offed. This vision is the opener of the book and leaves you hunting for the incident while reading. I laughed, gasped, and was pulled to the edge of my seat, chewing my nails, while reading this one.

From an editor's perspective: Pronouns still needed some work. An example: Kate turned her attention back to Julie as her best friend emerged from the dressing room. Should read: Kate turned her attention back to Julie as she emerged from the dressing room. I caught a number of these throughout the book, but they weren't so bad as to pull me out of the story. There were also a few common phrases that were misused and some places where things were described  that the person narrating couldn't have seen yet. But, all in all, the story flowed well and had a captivating line; keeping me engaged.

My rating:
1 star for giving me more of Kate and Jared and showing me more of her personality.
1 star for making me laugh out loud a number of times.
1 star for making me cringe.
1 star for an excellent storyline.
-1 star for the need for an editor.
Overall, 4 out of 5 stars and a highly recommended read for anyone who loves delving into the paranormal.

I do hope you'll consider giving this book a read. It was wonderful. Beware the cliffhanger at the end; it's a doozy.

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Creating Utopia

Happy Wednesday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, I'd like to talk about Utopian societies. So, grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

Only in a perfect world are there no criminals, jerks, evil dictators, or lazy people. If the world inside your novel has nothing to balance it out, then you're certainly writing fantasy. Consider this when you begin world building and try to create something that helps your world feel very real. Would we all love to live in a perfect world? Of course! But it's not reality.

I struggle sometimes when I'm writing to bring forth the perfect bad guy or evil regime. They have to be crafty, power hungry, and bad to the bone. You don't want everyone to know how bad they really are right out of the gate. People need to trust the protagonist, look up to him or her, and feel like they're getting some kind of help or protection at first.

Some of the best stories I've read are those where you can feel something isn't quite right, but nothing proves it until the end. Take the Hunger Games: You know President Snow is a baddie, and he doesn't show just how bad until the second book. You never see President Coin's evil until she has Katniss' sister killed to spur the girl into killing Snow. But it backfires.

This is what I'm talking about. You need to create something your protagonist must struggle against. What better than the power saturated mind of a leader? You're probably going to want more than one antagonist in a case like that, so people can't pinpoint who's really behind it all.

Keep some mystery.

If you want to create a Utopia, feel free to do that. But where's your protagonist going in a world like that? Unless they're the first bad guy in your world, where's the story?

Remember, your character is on a journey down the path of life. Make it twisty and give them some obstacles in their path. Otherwise, they'll end up plodding along and the action will be nill.

What kind of baddies have you thought up lately? Ever tempted to write up a Utopian society?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Creating Supplemental Book Swag

Happy Tuesday, good people of the blogosphere! Today I'm talking about that stuff we all love called book swag. You know, the mugs, bookmarks, posters, and other stuff that makes us smile. So, grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going, shall we?

If you're a regular visitor to my blog, you've probably seen my link on the sidebar that takes you to my Zazzle page where you can get all kinds of book goodies like mugs, t-shirts, and mousepads.

Zazzle is easy to use, it's a snap to set up an account, and you can have your stuff for sale in no time. Plus, they don't charge you per item so you can upload a lot of designs and have folks buy them. If you check out my store, you'll see I have complimentary items for all my books. My personal favorite is the Indie Author's Guide mousepad. It cracks me up every time.

Plus, you can create a nifty flash panel like the one below:

View more gifts at Zazzle.

Now, for bookmarks, posters, postcards, magnets, etc... I use Overnight Prints. Why? Because the more I buy from them, the more of a discount I get over time. I'm a silver member now, only about twenty points away from gold. Their shipping is really fast and my prints look great! If you've ever gotten a bookmark from me, I bought them there. Like these:
What I love is there's no extra charge for backprinting or extra colors. You aren't limited in your design due to cost. If you have a six color logo and have ever tried to have something printed at a press shop, you'll know what I'm talking about.

Both of the sites above give you handy templates you can download and follow to make sure you have your bleed and safety straight. LOVE it!

As always, I'm not paid for recommending these sites, I'm just sharing the love.

Who do you use for your book swag? Have you ever created any? Why/why not?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Monday, April 8, 2013

It Takes a Team

Happy Monday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, I'm talking about the people it takes to bring a book from rough manuscript to published work of brilliance. Yup, that's right, your publishing team.

We all have folks we love to use for certain things. But how many people does it take to create a book? Let's have some fun and take a look inside this publishing madhouse, shall we?
  • Writer. Without the writer, what's the point? They're the real powerhouses behind all that wonderful literature you consume. Their imaginations open up and drag you, kicking and screaming, into a whole new world.
  • Editor. This is the person the writer should be buddies with. Not cappuccino drinking, dress shopping, book swapping buddies; but someone you get along with that you know has a staunch work ethic along with a firm grasp of the English language and the building blocks that make an excellent book. Like the ladies over at INDIE Books Gone Wild, eh?
  • Proofreader. Someone else who can catch all those niggling little errors that throw readers out of the story. A misplaced comma, period, misused word, or errant thought thrown into a paragraph where it doesn't belong.
  • Cover Designer. Your brilliance in art. Someone who can bring your story into an image that's compelling. They should also have a strong grasp of the art of Typography. This is your book's face. It should be clean and have the makeup applied properly.
  • Book Formatting Guru. We all need one of these hanging around. Someone who makes us look good in print or on an e-reader.
  • Sales Platform. This is the company that sells copies of your book and keeps part of the profit. We don't like them much, but they're a necessary evil and we all have a favorite one.
Yes, it takes a team to publish a book. Who's on your team?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Friday, April 5, 2013

Romancing the Slug

Happy Friday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, we're gonna talk about romance. You know, those scenes you write where things happening on the page steam up the glasses of the person reading. So grab a pen and notebook and let's get going.

First off, let me say I'm not talking about erotica or sex scenes yet. I believe you can do more by hinting and letting the reader's imagination work a bit than you can by laying it out for them blow-by-blow (pun intended). What I'm talking about is romance. Those scenes that make your heart pound and cause you to fall in love with the words on the page just a little more.

On sex after romance: An allusion to an act and the building up of getting there can be more fun to write (and is far more challenging) than spelling out exactly what the reader should see in their mind's eye. There are a few steps to go through before you can have that climactic moment. What are they?
  • Introduction: Boy meets girl.
  • Connection: Girl likes boy because of something boy says/does or a common connection is made. Boy likes girl for some reason as well.
  • Discovery: They get to know one another.
  • Feelings: They begin to tingle when they touch, catch a smile or a glance, or realize this is the person for them.
Only after you build them up, can you hope to achieve that moment where their lips touch for the first time and have your reader sigh and clutch the book to their chest because everything they were hoping would happen, did.

But how to write a scene like that?

Remember your senses:
  • Touch
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Sound
  • Vision
Include those and you'll be well on your way. You never even have to write that steamy bedroom scene. If you build up to it well and then have your characters go beyond closed doors, your reader will feel it.

Don't forget to use your Thesaurus! Not every sigh has to be the same. Change up the language you use. Heavily-lidded eyes can become sexy, bedroom eyes. Tingles can become charges of electricity that shoot through the body just under the surface of the skin and make every hair come to attention.

Use your imagination. And don't forget your feelings bible! If you have a great lovemaking night, record everything you felt, saw, heard, tasted, and smelled. Use it! These kinds of records will help put you in the action and allow you to write the story as though you were there. After all, being there yourself is the only way you're going to put your reader there.

There's another facet to romance besides sex: Those little things your characters do to/for one another that show they care. Flowers for no reason, a random kiss, afternoon picnics, the grand gesture, etc... Don't forget to include those things; because they matter. That's the real romance, right? If you don't have it, your steamy scenes won't feel real.

Have you written a romantic scene that fell flat? What could you have done differently?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Excerpt Chapter One - M

Happy Thursday, good people of the blogosphere! Today I'm bringing you an excerpt of chapter one. I just wrote it, so it'll have a lot of flaws, but the story flowed well yesterday. Enjoy! Oh, by the way, when I began writing my character bios, this symbol got stuck in my head. Rough now, but I think it may be pretty cool if I take some time and make it perfect. You'll see how it fits in!

New Year’s Day 2042

“What were you thinking, Brit? You don’t know what that stuff’s gonna do to you!”
“What I was thinking is: I wanna have a special ability; like everyone else.”
Griffin’s temper rose so high, he could feel his nostrils flare. “Everyone? Not me.” His words came out with a growl, and Brittany flinched like he’d cut her with a knife. Tears sprang to her eyes and he softened his tone. “You know how I feel about that drug. It’s not right to mess with nature.”
She shook her head. “I’ve heard what you think and I believe you’re wrong. People that took M ten years ago are fine, and their kids have been born with an ability. I want to pass that on to my own, our kids—”
He lifted a hand, cutting her off. “There can never be an our again. You just sealed that fate. I refuse to be with someone who’s been tampered with. Remember, those people who took the original version of M, the one that was tested and run through a million clinical trials, paid through the nose for it. You’ve taken some street copy that’s not FDA approved and costs a hundred bucks. There’s no telling what it’ll do to you long term.” She looked down then lifted her eyes to meet his. How he loved looking into those green jewels trimmed by long, thick lashes. His throat constricted with the thought it would never happen again.
“I know you don’t think M2 is safe, but let me show you something.” She lifted a hand and ran it through his hair before passing him a gold disk. “Now, look in the mirror.”
Staring at his reflection, he felt his jaw fall open and snapped it shut. “Put. It. Back.”
Again, she ran a hand through his hair.
His voice shaky, he passed the mirror back to her after a thorough inspection. “Don’t ever touch me again.”
“What’s wrong with you? It’s just a little color change.” She stuck the mirror back in her bag.
Before she could turn around, he was gone. His feet pounded the pavement and sent shock-waves through his body, up to his heart. It was necessary to run from her, because he couldn’t stand to break her heart while looking her in the face. Stopping for a breather, he touched his watch. “New text message, Brittany Rose, I’m sorry about the way this happened but you knew what you were doing when you did it, period, you knew how I felt, period, it was your decision, period. Send.” He heard the whoosh indicating the message had been sent and touched his watch again. “Phone off.” A ping indicated it was powering down. He sighed and turned toward home.
As he walked, he admired the city. Since the induction of the Phaedrons, over ten years ago, there was very little trash on the streets and virtually no homeless. What happened to them was a mystery. Clearion was the first city to be cleaned up, and everyone living on the streets seemed to disappear overnight. People had conspiracy theories, sure; but no one had facts to base any of it on. Some said the homeless were taken to serve the government, others alluded that the Phaedrons killed the poor people and dumped their bodies in a landfill. Griffin shook his head at the lunacy and bent down to pick up an errant flier blowing by. In huge display text, it read: M2 Party at the Hot Spot 6-9 p.m. Friday, January 3. Come get your mutant on! Anger that had begun to recede from the endorphins released by his run rushed back to the surface, and he ripped the offensive page into confetti before putting it in a nearby garbage bin.
When he breezed through the door, over an hour later, his mother had her angry face on. He asked, “What did I do?”
“What did you do? You didn’t answer my calls or texts! I thought you were dead!” Mom’s face turned red. “Plus, I got a call from Brittany, who was in tears, saying the two of you had broken up and she was worried about you.”
“Yeah, we broke up. I turned my phone off so she couldn’t call me. I can’t believe she called you.”
“Well? What caused all this? You two have been going out for over a year and you seemed happy.” Mom threw her hands in the air and slumped.
“She took M2. Ruined us. You know how I feel about it; you feel the same way. So don’t start telling me I made a rash decision.”
“She did what?”
“You heard right. No, I don’t wanna talk about it.” Griffin stormed off to his room. He felt bad about snapping at his mother, but it was silly that she seemed to think she could fix it when she didn’t know why it was broken. Well, she found out. He fell on the bed and sighed, wishing he could cry.
Sleep was a torturous monster, consuming his mind and giving him nightmares. After running from a three-headed, mutated Brittany and waking for the third time in a cold sweat, he gave up and went to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. As the steamy liquid issued forth, he took a peek at the time over the insta-oven: 4:32 a.m. He leaned his head against the cabinet and drew in a deep breath. At least there was no school for another week or so. That meant a respite from Brittany and her gaggle of girly goons. When the coffeemaker pinged, he snagged the cup and headed back to his room to get his virtual reality glasses and gloves. They were a birthday gift from his grandmother last year. He smiled when he thought about Grandma and her fiery temper. She was the one who’d convinced him how much of a temple his body was, and told him mother nature wasn’t a creature to be toyed with. Smart lady.
Sucking down his coffee, he threw on a pair of ripped jeans and a tee shirt before grabbing his VR glasses from their place on the shelf and heading for the door. Just before he turned the knob, he snapped his fingers and turned around to leave his mom a note: Gone to VR, be back later. Love you. He stuck it to the front of the coffeemaker, knowing it would be the first thing she touched when she got up, and left.
Once outside, things looked up. It seemed the day in the building was going to be clear and warm, perfect for a game of Military Training Nineteen, his VR game of choice. He strapped on the glasses, tightening the band so they wouldn’t fall off, stuck his hands into the gloves, and pressed the button on his right wrist to start the game.
Blinking lights invaded his sight: New Game?
“Yes,” he said aloud.
They changed to read: Game Loading… Scanning location… Start!
At once, his empty hands were holding a virtual pistol; which he loaded and held to his chest before beginning to creep up the alley near his house. It was nice living in a suburban high-rise because there was rarely anyone out before seven or eight, and he could play without the worry he’d be bumping into people. Up the alley he went, then down to the lower levels and smaller housing lots via the moving sidewalk.
“This is weird. No bad guys. I wonder—” His words were cut short when a group of men, wearing black masks and a red symbol that looked like an upside down number three in a circle with a bar up the middle, burst out of a nearby doorway and pointed guns at his head. “Gotcha.” His game-face was on and he rolled behind a tree before taking all of them out in six shots. “Ha. One for each of you! Die, scum!”
As he was about to check them for ammo, his VR glasses went green and gave a ring. Pressing the button to answer, he said, “Hello?”
Mom’s voice came back at him. “Honey, do you think it’s a good idea to be out at this time of the morning playing your stupid war game?”
He took a deep breath to avoid losing his temper. “Yes, I do. I need some time for myself and—” The screen went red. “Great, thanks. You just got me killed. I’ll be home later. Don’t call me on my game anymore!”
“Okay, I’m sorry. I’m just worried. I love you.”
“I love you, too. I’ll be home in a little while.” He pressed the button to end the call and read the lights blinking: Fatal shot. You are dead. New Game? “Yes,” he said, and gave a sigh. When the game indicated it was live, he reloaded and took off again, this time even lower in the building to the singles’ lots. They had a lot of scrubby brush there he could hide behind.
Game play was fast and furious once he got warmed up and he took out no less than two-hundred bad guys over the next two hours. He’d had to stab one dude who thought he was gonna jump out and attack from behind. Sissy. Dude didn’t even have a gun. Griffin pulled off the glasses and hung them around his neck before pressing the off button and turning toward home. When he realized how far up the building he’d ventured, he took a moment to walk to the plexi railing and look out over the ‘burbs.
People were just beginning to start their day and the moving sidewalks were in high gear. If he looked straight across, he could see Brittany’s house winking back at him from the upper levels. Mansions, all of ‘em. One level down was where his family resided; the backbone of the ‘burbs, the real people, blue collar workers that fueled the city and kept it running. Under their level was the smaller lots, and under that was the singles’ houses. Those were mostly occupied by teens who’d just graduated high-school and were in college. No one there was married. It wasn’t allowed. According to the decree, married people must both be employed unless one of the two gross over two-hundred thousand dollars a year. Limits on children were based on income. His own parents had hit theirs when his sister was born five years prior. Mom had been sterilized, so had Dad. Griffin huffed. It was just one more way the government found to control the masses.
At that moment, a group of Phaedrons flew by on their aerial gliders. Griffin shrank back and made himself as small as possible. That was trouble he didn’t need. After they’d passed, he made his way down to his house, stopping to admire the evergreens in the front yard.
Mom poked her head out. “Hi, honey! Did you have a good time?”
Griffin curled a lip and gave her a half smile. “Yeah, until you got me whacked.”
“I’m sorry. You’re right, you did leave me a note and I shouldn’t have bothered you.”
“Just kidding. Gee, you’re touchy today, huh?”
She shrugged and gave him mom eyes. He loved when she looked at him like that. It was like nothing in the world could go wrong as long as she was nearby. Stepping up to the door, he shoved it open the rest of the way and grabbed her in a bear hug. Mom hugged him back and patted his shoulder.
“I love you, do you know that?” Her eyes sparkled and he could feel pride radiating from her being.
“Yeah, I do. I love you, too. Hey, where’s Nikki? I’m thinking I’d like to take her to the park today.”
“She’s in her room playing. Wanna hear something weird?”
Griffin nodded.
“She got up asking about you this morning.”
“Did she? Well, I’ll have to treat her extra nice today.” He grinned and headed to collect his little sister.
When he poked his head in the door, she looked up and smiled, showing every tooth in her head.
“Hi, Bubs!” She leapt from her seat on the floor and flew into his arms. “You gonna take me outside today?”
He smiled back, knelt, and stuck her on his knee. “I sure am. But you need your big coat because we’re leaving the building, okay?”
Her eyes got wide. “Oooooh, we’re going to the big park? Outside?
“Uh hu, we sure are. So go get your coat, hat, and boots. I’ll be waiting in the living room.”
She clapped her chubby hands and hopped off his knee, racing for her closet.
His heart warmed at the sight of her so excited and ready to go. When he stood up and turned around, he found his mother standing in the hall. Her eyes were wet.
“You’re such a good big brother.”
A smile he couldn’t stop spread across his face and it grew warm. He knew he was blushing. “Moooom, come on…”
She turned and walked away, but he swore her step was a little lighter.
He put his VR glasses away and donned his own cold-weather clothing before heading to the living room and sitting down to wait.
When Nikki came out, she had her coat on inside-out and her boots on the wrong feet. Chuckling, he beckoned her over and helped her get straight before leading her to the door. “Bye, Mom! We’ll be back later!”

I'm already thinking about the cover. Whaddya think about the story thus far? Of course, I didn't give you the whole chapter, that would've been rude. You gotta have something to keep you wondering!

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A New Title - M

Happy Hump-Day, good people of the blogosphere! Today, I'm excited to announce a new book I'm working on! So strap in and take a gander.

Working title: M
Genre: YA urban fantasy
Length: TBD

Synopsis: It's the year 2042. A drug called M2, which alters the DNA of those who take it, is becoming widely used.

But at what cost?

For a young man named Griffin, the cost proves too high. Banding with other emfrees, he sets out to destroy the producers of M2 and find a cure. But time, a new breed of police officers called Phaedrons, and another young man named Phoenix, are working to stop the emfrees and assimilate them into the masses.

Well, that's the working synopsis for now. You'll have to read the book to find out more.

Yes, I know I'm evil with a capital E. I wrote a page or two while I was away this past weekend and I can't wait to dive in and bring you the first excerpt!

As it is, here's the cast of characters thus far:

Griffin (last name TBD) - Age seventeen, 6'1", 160lbs, brown hair, blue eyes, born August 12, 2025.
Brittany (last name TBD) - Age fifteen, 5'7", 120lbs, brown hair, green eyes, born March 30, 2027.
Phoenix (last name TBD) - Age eighteen, 6', 175lbs, blonde hair, blue eyes, born September 23, 2024.
Articus Bane - Age twenty-six, 5'10", 150lbs, black hair, brown eyes, born September 11, 2016.

I'm booting up my program right after I finish this post to get it all on a page!
Of course, I did a whole character bio on each of the people named above, but that's for me to keep to myself for now. I'll bring more when I know more!

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

INDIE Books Gone Wild

Happy Tuesday, good people of the blogosphere! I'm happy to see you've made it through Monday. Today, I'm officially announcing the start-up of INDIE Books Gone Wild. If you haven't noticed the addition of the logo over on the right side of my blog here, I have to ask if your head has been under a rock the last couple of weeks. Wake up and smell the wonderful!

A little bit about INDIE Books Gone Wild:
We're a team of editors dedicated to helping Indie authors shine. We work individually and as a group to bring you the best edit of your manuscript money can buy. That's right, we charge for our work. But what you get for your money is two sets of eyes; one doing your edit and the other doing your proofreading. That's right, your proofreading cost is built into the price of the editing.

Our goal is for you to seek out the IBGW logo when you consider hiring an editor. If you see that logo, you know you'll get one hell of an edit on your book.

We strive to, not only teach you how to become a better writer as we edit your manuscript, but to help you produce the best book possible. Browse our About Us page and read a few of our blurbs!

As a bonus, we market every book we work on. That's like having a team of people helping you push your book for free!

Services we offer:
Our last item is something special. In the open critique service, you get a four-week writing class, complete with materials, that will give your craft a kick in the ass toward awesomeness. This is great for new authors or established ones. The price? Only $400; and it includes all the books you'll need.

So, if you haven't taken the time to check us out or like our Facebook page, please take a moment and do so now. We're gonna have an awesome contest soon. Here's the link:

So pop over and give us some love!

Do you use an editor? Why/Why not?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Monday, April 1, 2013

A Checklist of Tools

Happy Monday, good people of the blogosphere! Wow, what a weekend, eh? Well, on to another week at the fantabulous Jo Michaels blog. You know you love me. If you didn't, you wouldn't be here, reading this post!

What's that? This is your first visit? Oh my... You should take a moment and give yourself a little tour. Check out the link list on the sidebar, grab your free branding PDF, and browse through some of the awesomeness that's found around here. Then, subscribe via e-mail so you don't miss anything new.

I know it's April Fool's Day, but you won't find shenanigans here. Sorry if I disappointed you.

Today's post is a compliment (call it a checklist, if you will) to my Social Networking Schedule. It's a handy little thing you can flash down to be sure you have all the things you need in your virtual tool belt.

  • Evernote (handy for syncing information across ALL devices)
  • Flipboard
  • Hootsuite (or Buffer)
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Goodreads
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • Facebook Pages Manager
  • Blogger (this got an update and works beautifully)
  • StumbleUpon
  • Tumblr
Social media you should be a part of:
  • StumbleUpon
  • Quora
  • Squidoo
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • A blogging platform (Blogger, Tumblr, or WordPress)
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • Goodreads
Tools you should be using to streamline your workflow and up your visibility:
  • Hootsuite (or Buffer)
  • Flipboard
  • Some kind of schedule, posted where you can see it every day
If you don't have a tablet, you might think about getting one. It will help you on your quest to becoming a force to be reckoned with online. I don't know what I'd do without my iPad. Seriously.

What's the point in taking the time to set up all these social networks?

The more places you are, the more places you can be found. Easy to explain.

How many of these networks are you on?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!