Thursday, March 31, 2016

How to Write an Action Scene

post by Michelle Griep
Every now and then a question gets flung at me, kind of like those suction-cup arrows from a kid's bow and arrow. Currently I've got one sticking to my forehead, and here it is . . .

"Action scenes. Dear gosh. I cannot for the life of me write an action scene. How do you do it?"

Great question. I learned mostly by doing it wrong for my first few manuscripts, so I'll save you the trouble of bad writing on yours.

 7 Ingredients in an Action Scene

Use short sentences.
Keep them choppy. Keep them fast. This is action, folks, not verbose Austenesque description. Think about comic books. Bam! Wham! Kerplow! Not that you need excessive amounts of expletives. I'm just saying short sentences are like the shrapnel in a writer's arsenal.

Tug the heart strings.
Make the scene personal to the reader, yes, even if it's a velociraptor eating a protoceratops. How? Liken the protoceratops to a fuzzy, little kitten. That will hit home to every reader's heart -- even cat haters like me.

Keep it in real time.
This is not the time for backstory or too much internal monologue. Nouns and verbs, baby. Nouns and verbs. Keep the action popping like a bunch of popcorn kernels. Cut any unnecessary details.

Instinct over intellect.
This is also not the time to have your main character thinking lofty thoughts about what's going on. Keep it primal. Gut reactions. No philosophical rants.

It's got to be plausible.
Too many over-the-top stunts won't work. In order for a reader to believe in the scene, the action has to be credible. No one can fight a vampire, zombie, and Chuck Norris while suffering from the ravages of a hemorrhagic fever, no matter how awesome a hero they are.

The stakes have to be believable.
No hero is going to risk his life for a lollipop --  unless it's plutonium in disguise and the world will blow up if he doesn't. See what I did there? I went from unbelievable to believable. Do that. The stakes have got to justify the action.

Add in a time bomb.
Sure, you can use a real one, but a proverbial deadline works just as well. Your character needs to have a timeframe in which to vanquish whatever nemesis they're facing in order for the reader's heart rate to increase.

My biggest piece of advice is to write the scene as you see it in your head then edit it later. Get it down on paper first, then go over it with these ingredients in mind.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Yeah, But How Many Chapters Is It?

post by Michelle Griep
Here's how the conversation usually goes:

Them: "So, you're an author?"

Me: "Yep."

Them: "Are you writing a book right now?"

Me: "Yep."
(hey, cut me some slack...I'm a writer, not a conversationalist)

Them: "How many chapters is it?"

Me: "Uhh. . ."

And therein lies the problem. Why is that even a question? Do more chapters mean the book is better? Do less mean you're a schmuck of a writer? Do people not realize that there is no magic number of chapters that make a book because chapters are entirely subjective? Shoot, I've read some novels wherein a chapter consists of one word. Just one. Really.

So today I'm doing my duty to educate the readers of the world. Books are not generally gauged by a certain amount of chapters, but rather by word count. Here is a handy-dandy guideline (I got these figures from Wikipedia so you KNOW they're reliable) . . .

Novel               over 40,000 words
Novella            17,500 to 40,000
Novelette         7,500 to 17,500
Short Story      under 7,500 words

Now granted, these numbers are a bit fluid. You can find novels that error on the side of being shorter or longer. Most novels run in the 70,000-100,00 range. These numbers are simply the average counts.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Creative Websites for When You're Not Feeling Creative

post by Michelle Griep
Is anyone else out there currently in a sugar coma? Wow. Do I regret that last chocolate bunny I shoved in my mouth. Needless to say, the ol' create-o-meter needle is barely jiggling above zero. So, what to do when you should be writing but your brain is in a fog? Play around on goofy-butt websites, of course. And here are some fantastic time wasters for you to try out . . .

Sweet mercy! Do not visit this site if you have an addictive personality because this place can hook and reel you in. How's that for mixed metaphors? Anyway, this site let's you create music by dragging beats or melodies or sounds into different players. I made some awesome music and I'm not musical. Give it a whirl. It's super fun.

Blues Maker
This is another musical site but with a twangy shade. Create your own blues song. Really, all you do is click the choices and it creates it for you. It bills itself as being "for those days that everything is so messed up, that all you have left is the blues."

Ball Pool
You know those germ-laden ball pits at Mickey D's? Yeah, this is a LOT more sanitary. Go ahead. Play with the balls no matter what your weight or age.

Screaming Beans
Umm. Well. The name kind of says it all. At first you may look at this site kind of like a train wreck, unable to turn away, but then it changes into hilarious bean smashing fun.

Ball Droppings
When you were a kid, did you like playing with those marble games where the little ball rolls down wooden rails until it finally lands? This is kind of like that but the balls make music as you draw the lines for them to travel on.

The Road to Becoming a Successful Writer

post by Michelle Griep
Beware. There's a ditch on each side of the road to becoming a successful writer. Lot's of people swerve left or right and land in the gulley, flat on their back, gasping for breath, and wondering why they never make any progress in their writing endeavors. Here's a little nugget of wisdom for you . . . stay out of the ditch.

One ditch is a perfectionist attitude.

Do you keep writing the same piece over and over, trying to get it absolutely perfect before letting anyone else lay eyes on it? Are you so worried about creating the best possible prose that you find it hard to put together a finished piece? If so, then you, my friend, are a perfectionist. Newsflash: there are no perfect writers. Nope. Not one.

"Perfectionism is a dream killer.
Because it's just fear disguised as trying to do your best.
It just is."

The other ditch is an unteachable spirit.

This is the ditch on the opposite side of the road from perfectionism. Someone who's writing is stuck in a deep rut simply because he won't listen to advice from seasoned writers on how to improve his craft. Your writing will never advance if you don't work hard to make it grow.

"The moment you become unteachable
is the moment you can unpack your things --
you'll be wherever you are for awhile."

The trick to becoming a successful writer is to not veer off into either of these ditches. Just keep plugging along, one word after another, and eventually you'll look over your shoulder and see how far you've traveled.

Friday, March 25, 2016

taken from Matthew 26:36-46

It was dark that night. Scary dark. Evil lived in the blackness. Demons breathed in the shadows. A low-grade stench of sulpher violated the air—even in the garden.
The crunch of gravel stopped when Jesus turned to his three friends and said, “Wait here.” Now, only his sandals veered off the path. He alone dove deeper into the darkness.
            And satan smiled.
            Dampness breached the cloth of Jesus’s coat, and a shiver ran from shoulder to shoulder. Or was that from the human side of him, the fearful side? Whatever, he could no longer put this off. Near the scarred trunk of an ancient olive tree, he sank to the dirt.
            “Father.” His ragged voice assaulted the thick silence. Clearing his throat likely wouldn’t help, but he did it anyway. “Please . . . have mercy. If it’s possible. Oh, please, my God, may it be possible. Let this cup pass from Me.”
            Cup. Huh. Perhaps he ought to call it what it was. Death. Torment.
            He closed his eyes, physically blocking out the images of all that wrath implied. Better to not dwell on the pain. It was more than a man could bear…but could he?
            Should he?
            He sucked in a breath. Sharp cold settled deep into his lungs and forced out words that were right. Words that meant life. Words that would end his own.
“Nevertheless, Father, not as I wish it.” He stood and lifted his face to the black sky. Leaves blocked out a direct connection…visually, at any rate.
“As you will,” he whispered.
There. He’d said it. He’d given his consent. So why did his feet drag, his shoulders sag as he retraced his steps to his friends?
No matter. His spirit would be buoyed along with their prayers. Their cries to God, added to his, would give him strength.
“What!” He froze, gaping, and nearly bent double. The lot of them, all three, slept on the ground. Peter even snored.
Jesus’s sandals ate up the ground. He bent and nudged Peter in the ribs. Hard. “Could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray! Lest you enter into temptation.”
Peter blinked. Half a nod bobbed his head.
Then he rolled over.
A sigh stole Jesus’s breath. “The spirit indeed is willing, my friend, but the flesh…” He shook his head. “The flesh is weak.”
This time each step back to the tree cost him strength that would be better saved for the morrow. As he knelt, his knees hit an upcropped knot of root. Pain shot up his thighs. Was it worth it? Was any of this worth it?
He bowed his head. Sweat beaded his brow, condensed, and dripped down the bridge of his nose. He swiped it away with the back of his hand, then did a double-take. Red stained his skin.
“Oh My Father,” he cried out. “If this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it…God, must I drink it?”
And then it hit him. Was that not exactly what he’d asked of his disciples only an hour ago? To drink of his blood, the blood of a new covenant. Unless he pressed on, pressed through this God forsaken night, there would be no new covenant.
He grit his teeth so hard, the tendons in his jaw crackled…but that didn’t stop him from saying, “Your will be done.”
            Trudging back to his friends, he doubted they’d be awake. Still, one could hope.
            Heavy breathing hit his ears before he even cleared the bend in the path. Disappointment stopped him flat. Where was his support? Could the three men he’d entrusted with his time and message not have spared one hour of prayer on his behalf? Didn’t they care what he was going through?
Abandonment tasted brassy. Metallic. A precursor of what was to come.
            He turned, his feet knowing the routine. His heart…not so much. Though all his life had projected him to this moment, now that it was here, the intensity was gut wrenching.
            For the third time, he knelt. The lonely cry of a nightingale mingled with his voice. “Father, my soul is exceedingly sorrowful…even to death.”
            To death.
            The words rattled in his skull like sharp gravel in a clay jar, scoring his senses. So much depended on him—almost too much. Not only his forehead sweated. Now his tunic clung to his chest, to his back. A back that would be torn open in hours. A chest that would cease its movement beyond that. And then…
            All the fury of hell would be unleashed on him, for never ending days that would seem an eternity.
            But would be an eternity for those he loved if he didn’t go through with this. Peter. John. (look up at audience and make eye contact with several) You. And you.
            The faces of each of his loved ones rose up. Women he cherished. Men he knew. Children…Oh God, the children. None would survive. None would escape. A shudder shook his bones. His heart shattered to pieces.
            Jesus lifted his arms to the heavens. “Your will be done!”
            The night’s intensity deepened. A cold wind rattled through the trees like so many skeletons rolling over in the grave. But peace, such as he’d not known since coming to earth, filled the thin spaces, the hard-to-reach places, in his soul.
            “Your will be done,” he repeated. And Jesus smiled.

            He stalked back to the clearing, to his friends, to the ominous shadows wielding swords and bludgeons, then widened his stance and shouted. “Rise! Let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”

Thursday, March 24, 2016

If Only I'd Known . . . A Piece of Writerly Wisdom

post by Michelle Griep
Remember when you were a little kid and you thought things like:
Woohoo! I cannot wait to grow up and eat chocolate cake for breakfast and never, ever go to bed at night.

But before you knew it you were thirty-five years old and reality like this hit you upside the head:
Dang! If I even look at a piece of chocolate cake I'll gain an instant ten pounds and sweet mercy! If only I could go to bed but I've got to pay the bills first, wash the dishes, throw in a load of laundry, and answer a few thousand emails before my head hits the pillow.

Yeah. The grass is NOT always greener on the other side. In fact, most of the time it's kind of a sickly overcooked pea color with splotches of yellow where the dog peed.

And such is the life of a writer.

When I first started this gig, stars were in my eyes, blinding me to the reality of what an author's life really looks like. There are lots of things I know now that I didn't fifteen years ago, but if I could haul my fanny into a tardis, here's the advice I would've given myself.

Agents, editors, and top dog authors are just people.

I know. This sounds like a lame, made-up piece of stale wisdom, but seriously . . . the first time you walk into a writer's conference and see Ted Dekker, or Francine Rivers, or the acquisitions editor for Penguin or Random House, you can't help but sprout a few hives. When you rub shoulders with big names, it's not only awe-inspiring, it has a way of knocking your self-esteem into the gutter.

But here's the deal -- they're just people. Humans. Sinners, even. They are no more special than you are, little plebian writer. No, really. They're not. I've seen their foibles. Don't give in to feeling insecure about yourself. Your writing dream is every bit as important as theirs. They just happen to be at a different stage in the game.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

On Brussels

post by Michelle Griep
Every blogger in the universe is posting something pithy about Brussels today. Yeah, I'm one of them. Most will lament the bloodshed or the insanity of terror. Some will be hate-filled, others oozing fear. There will be facts and statistics and gruesome details galore. But the one thing that's really worth everyone's attention is the brevity of life. Those people were just going about their business, la-de-dah-de-dah when the last word of the last chapter on their life was written -- and they didn't even see it coming. It could happen to you. It could happen to me.

But it's 100% certain that death will happen, whether by a bomb or disease. No one makes it out of this world alive -- except for Jesus, but He gets a pass because He's also part God.

Anyway, the point I want to make is life is short. A vapor. A breath, and you never know when your last one will be. So live today as if it's your last. You want to be a writer? Then get on that writerly dream pony and ride it. You want to bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies with your grandkids and eat them fresh out of the oven with a glass of milk? Then invite the kiddies over and get to it.

Don't wait until tomorrow to pursue your dreams because tomorrow isn't a promise. Whatever talents God gave you are to be used, not buried in a hole.

I wonder what dreams lie crushed in the rubble of Brussels.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Pen Names of the Famous

post by Michelle Griep
Lots of authors use pen names, usually because they want to write in a genre different from what their adoring fans are used to. But the key word here is adoring. These fans are rabid enough to want to know exactly what that pen name is so they can try out reading some of that other writing. Curious?

Cue evil laughter. I'm here to break the code. Here are some famous authors, the pen names that they used, and the reason why they used a pen name instead of their real name.

Steven King = Richard Bachman
So he could write 2 books a year and not send up red flags to readers that his writing might not be up to par because of so much production.

J.K. Rowling = Robert Galbraith
She wanted to work without the pressure of having to live up to the "Harry Potter" name.

Michael Crichton = John Lange
He was a student at a university and he didn't want his instructors discovering he had such a time consuming "hobby" that might take away from his studying.

The Bronte Sisters = Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell
They wanted to avoid any judgment on their writing based on their gender.

Isaac Asimov = Paul French
His books were being made into a TV series and he didn't want the producer to find out and ruin them.

Nora Roberts = J.D. Robb
The standard "wanted to write in a different genre than her usual."

Dr. Seuss = Theo Lesieg
Had a bit of a bad-boy reputation from a night of drinking so he was relieved of his university columnist stint.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Kickstarter For Creatives

post by Michelle Griep
Any Ramona Quimby fans out there? If so, then you'll love this Kickstarter project I unearthed over the weekend: Walking with Ramona: Exploring Beverly Cleary's Portland. Because of a modest goal and creative incentives,  Microcosm Publishing has already reached their asking price and then some, with 4 days to spare before the expiration.

So, if you've got a fabulous writing project that you'd like to see funded (or any other artistic endeavor), you can do the same thing. Here are some guidelines for getting your revolutionary idea funded . . .

5 Tips For Kickstarter Success

1. Write the description of your project carefully. Give a clear idea of what you want to accomplish but don't overdo with detail. Everyone's on a time budget. Don't be a time bandit.

2. Add a video or some other visual aid like an infographic. A picture really is worth a thousand words, and also some moolah on the side.

3. Rewards are everything. Create some inventive incentives for your donators. The wackier and more unique, the better.

4. Be modest about your asking price. This isn't a get-rich-quick scam-a-rama. Be realistic in what you're asking for.

5. Spread the word liberally. Go all social media guerilla on the world.

Friday, March 18, 2016

3 Ways to Stand Your Ground Artistically

post by Michelle Griep
"Oh, you're writing? Then you're not doing anything. I need to go to Walgreens. Now."

"Sheesh. You can write later. Come on. Live in the now and let's do coffee."

"Could you run to Home Depot and pick up the whatchamacallit I ordered. Oh yeah, and then stop by the post office and mail that box for me. Hey, what's for dinner when I get home?"

Sooner or later, or mostly all the freaking time, artists have to deal with the What-You're-Doing-Isn't-Really-a-Job Syndrome. It's something non-creatives just don't get because . . . well . . . what artists do looks like fun and surely whatever is fun can't be a for-real job, right?

Wrong-oh, Bucko. Believe it or not, some people actually do make money dreaming up and writing stories. Others paint "pretty pictures" and make a killing. Singing, acting, dancing, these are not just hobbies for some people. They're actually careers. But there's a definite disconnect with those who have "normal" jobs -- and therein lies the problem. How do artists stand their ground without feeling like a pretend productive citizen of the realm?

3 Ways to Stand Your Ground Artistically

Verbalize that what you do is what you do. It's not a whim. It's not a passing fad. It's your job. It's how you pay the bills. You don't sit in a cubicle but that doesn't mean what you're doing is any less valid than someone else who does. It's up to you, artist, to communicate that to the world.

Set Boundaries
Schedule your "working" time (be it sitting by a lake brainstorming or stretching out at a gym) then call it that -- work -- in your mind. Lawyers don't walk out on a client when they've scheduled an appointment. Your appointments are every bit as important. Don't give in to peer pressure to drop what you're doing.

If you're a writer, call yourself a writer. If you dance, tell you and the world that you're a dancer. If you don't take yourself seriously, why should anyone else? You don't have to apologize for doing what you love to do. You don't have to feel guilty. Embrace your art and stand proud.

These sound easy to do but whoa baby, is this ever a hard road to walk. You will fail sometimes, cave in to the occasional coffee date or stutter when someone asks your profession. Two steps forward, one step back is still progress. Stand your ground, artist. Stand your ground.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The 6 Stages of Buying a Book

post by Michelle Griep
Shopping doesn't seem all that complicated, does it? I mean, you walk into a bookstore, load up your arms full of books, then whip out your credit card. Bam. Done.

But actually, it's more complicated than that. Subconsciously there's a lot going on before you pick up a book to buy it . . .

The 6 Stages of Buying a Book

#1. Discovery
The reader is introduced to books and authors long before he steps foot into a bookstore (or opens up a tab for Amazon). Via social media, advertisements, word of mouth, a review, or any other means of exposure, this is when a reader first meets a potential book love, whether that registers on the gotta-buy-that-book radar or not.

#2. Awareness
After the initial discovery, a reader continues to hear snippets about a particular book through those same channels. The Rule of Seven says that a prospective buyer will hear or see a marketing message at least 7 times before they buy.

#3. Research
The reader's interest is finally piqued and he begins to check out this potential new author or book. Most likely the reader will pop onto the internet and scope out author sites or reviews to firm up in his mind whether the pursuit ends here or he should continue toward purchasing.

#4. Word of Mouth
Peer pressure works. It just does. At this stage if the reader hears one word about the book or author from someone else, it's like an electrical zap because he'll feel trendy and in-the-know. This associates a good emotional feeling to the book or author.

#5. Purchase
This is it. The reader has decided he simply must buy that book.

#6. Conversion
The reader not only reads that book but develops a relationship with it and the author. Now any sequels or new stories put out will be on this reader's "Must Buy" list. The reader will go so far as to like an author's Facebook page, sign up for a newsletter, or post a review of their own . . . which starts the process all over again for another reader.

That's the flow, folks, whether you realize it or not. Of course it doesn't always work this way. There are exceptions and nothing is for certain . . . except for taxes and death.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How Writers Spend Their Time

Yes indeedy, you have my permission to steal this infographic and slap it up wherever you like . . . except for your mother-in-law's back. It's never a good idea to slap anything there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Artist and Insecurity

post by Michelle Griep
I chatted briefly with one of my authorly buddies the other day. She's in the throes of writing book #5 and is currently battling the demon of Sweet Mercy! Who do I think I am? I can't write a book. I don't know what I'm doing. Gah! Stop the ride; I want to get off!

To which I echo a hearty, "Amen! Preach it, sistah."

Does that freak you out? You're in good company. It surprises a lot of people to discover writers deal with insecurity no matter how many books they've got on Amazon's shelves. Yes, even bonafide big-name-topping-the-NY-Times-Bestseller-List kinds of authors struggle with self-doubt. Such is the nature of creating art. But there are a few tips I've learned over the years to lessen the sometimes paralyzing impact when lack of confidence hits.

Top 3 Ways to Beat Insecurity

#1. Gag the voice in your head.
There are enough haters in the world saying nasty things about your art. You can't do much about that, but you can do something about the voice in your head trash talking your abilities. Shut up the negative comments that you give yourself. Be mindful of your thoughts. Keep the "Can Do" and ditch the "Loser" phrases when referring to yourself.

#2. Stop the comparison game.
You create art like you do because . . . well . . . you are you. You are not Steinbeck. You're not Grisham. And that's fantastic because we already have books written by them. The world needs more of your art, created like only you can create.

#3. Surround yourself with cheerleaders.
If some people suck the creative juices out of your bone marrow, here's a little tip . . . don't hang out with them. Stay with your tribe of people who "get" your art. Not that you shouldn't listen to criticism, even from one of your natives. I'm just saying everyone needs a cheerleader now and then to survive this world of naysayers.

These are the three ways I hold insecurity at bay, but I do have a little disclaimer: a teensy smattering of insecurity is good. It keeps you humble. It keeps you reaching for a more purified and fresh way to present your art. Just be careful you don't wallow in it.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Most Literate Country in the World

So many books, so little time. So personally, I try to cram in as many novels in a year as I can. But apparently not too many other Americans think so because in the latest literacy ranking, the U.S comes in at #7.

Can you guess what the #1 literate country in the world is? Drum roll, please. . . it's Finland. No surprise, really, since that's the country that celebrates Jólabókaflóð.

Want to know the other top reading countries? Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden. Hmm. And who said Vikings are barbarians?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Need a Reason to Celebrate?

post by Michelle Griep
So it's March. Spring hasn't yet sprung. The days are still pretty gray. And worst of all this is the weekend we lose an hour of our lives. That's a lot of reasons to mope. . . unless you happen to be a reader of Writer Off the Leash because shazam! See all that glittery fairy dust in the air? There are LOTS of things to celebrate over the next few days.

Friday, March 11

National Worship of Tools Day
Grab a screwdriver, a jackhammer, or whatever tool strikes your fancy and get yourself over to the nearest church. Okay, so maybe not, but at least go ogle your toolbox out in the garage.

National Oatmeal Nut Waffle Day
You think I make this stuff up? Nope. I don't have to. Oh yeah, and pass the syrup, would ya?

National Johnny Appleseed Day
This is the only fruit I eat. I kid you not. So I just might bite into a honeycrisp in honor of this day.

National Promposal Day
Love is definitely in the air, even if this isn't Paris. Today's the day teens all around America outdo themselves in creative ways to ask out their date for prom.

Saturday, March 12

National Girl Scout Day
Go ahead. Buy a box of their cookies and eat the whole thing in one sitting. What better way to celebrate Girl Scout Day?

National Plant a Flower Day
I would but it just might snow here in the frozen tundra.

National Baked Scallops Day
Umm. . . no. Not a fan. You can have my serving.

Sunday, March 13

National Good Samaritan Day
Go on. Do a good deed today.

National Coconut Torte Day
Remember how I let you eat all my scallops yesterday? Well today I'm cashing in on that little favor by chowing down your share of the torte.

National Open an Umbrella Indoors Day
Here's a thought. . . maybe make sure there's nothing breakable around before you celebrate this one.

National Earmuff Day
Why isn't this one in January when it's super cold outside?

National Jewel Day
No, the ring you found in the Cracker Jack box doesn't count. Go out and buy yourself some earrings at Target, cheapo.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

3 Marketing Cues from JK Rowling

post by Michelle Griep
There's no denying Harry Potter is a best selling sensation. Author JK Rowling wrote a compelling story that sucked in readers. End of story. Or is it?

Nope. The fat lady has yet to sing the finale of this sensation. Rowling continues to add on to the Potter phenomena in ways that can be used by any author . . .

Dole out character insights.
Don't worry. No spoilers here. But Rowling continues to flesh out her characters even though the book series is finished. Fans followe her Pottermore site and find out all kinds of tidbits about their favorite (or not so favorite) characters.

Write fresh, related stories.
Her latest is Seventeenth Century and Beyond, a short piece related to the Salem Witch Trials. Though Harry Potter was purely fiction, Rowling's stretched her reach to incorporate history into the story.

Reach wide and far.
Harry Potter appeals to fans of all ages. That can be challenging to market--or not. It opens the doors to a range of platforms, from Tweets to movies to plastic figurines. Yeah, I know this doesn't apply to small authorly schmucks, but the concept does.

And those are just a few ways that Rowling continues to appeal to fans of her fiction. You don't have to be a big name, though, to do this. I've got one author buddy (waving at you, Ane Mulligan) who's got a great Facebook site devoted to fans of her book series and she interacts with them regularly.

The point is just because you wrote a book doesn't mean you need to sit around and mope because the experience is over. You can continue to share your character and story love with your readers.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Trending Websites

post by Michelle Griep
Usually writers write. But there are times that writers go off-roading on the internet and stumble across some pretty sweet sites. I am one of those writers. Hey. Quit judging. I'm going to share those sites with you . . .

This is kind of like Pinterest on steroids. Basically it's DIY's with pictures and instructions from people all over the world. Some projects are super hard. Others easy. It includes pretty much anything you can think of from building your own dune buggy to how to scramble a perfect egg.

Speaking of steroids, what if Wikipedia got pumped up? Well, it would turn into this site. Anything, anyone, pretty much any any can be found here. It's a ginormous database that let's you explore whatever topic or person you're interested in.

Been writing or reading all day and you haven't been to the grocery store in over a month? Pop on over to My Fridge Food and enter the few ingredients that you do have on hand. With a click of the button, voila . . . instant ideas for a meal.

Ever go to a website and the dang thing just won't pull up? Is it your computer? Your router? Your server? Your neolithic technological skills? Or maybe it's not you and it's simply down for everyone in the world, which would make you feel a lot better. This site let's you know.

Umm. Need I say more? Okay, I will. This is freakishly addicting.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Responding to a Negative Review

post by Michelle Griep
I write historical romance. Keyword there. Romance. Which implies love. Which means, in Christian fiction, boy likes girl, girl likes boy, you'll encounter hand-holding and long, deep gazes, and yes, gasp, even kissing. But judging by a recent review I received, you'd think I'd just penned a sequel to Fifty Shades. Sheesh.

Here's a little piece of advice . . . if romance makes you squirm, maybe you shouldn't read it.

But I only thought that in my head. I did not say it out loud and I certainly did not attack the reviewer by slapping up a defense shield or firing back. Bad reviews happen. It's part of the writing game because this is art, and art is subjective. There are a few hard and fast rules, though, as to an appropriate way a writer should respond to a scathing review . . .

#1. Roll over and play dead.
This is the do-nothing response, as in, well, don't do anything. Don't comment. Don't fight back. Just let the reader own his opinion and you own yours.

#2. Re-read your positive reviews.
Sure, someone might hate your work, but haters gotta hate. That doesn't mean you have to wallow in their words. Instead, camp out in the glowing reviews from those who love your art.

#3. Consider the criticism.
There could be some valuable gems of wisdom beneath all the negativity. After you've had a good cry, mine into that review, looking for a vein of gold takeaway value.

#4. Write.
No, don't write a response. Simply turn to your current manuscript and write harder, better, dig deep into your writerly storehouse and produce better than ever material.

#5. Count it all joy.
Clearly your writing struck a chord in a reader. So, yeah, it was a negative chord, but hey . . . you created a response. In this world of apathy, that's quite a feat.

Negative reviews are inevitable. How you respond, however, is not carved in stone. Before you knee-jerk react, consider trying one or all five of these responses first.

Monday, March 7, 2016

If Then Chart For Writers

Go ahead. Steal this infographic. You know you want to. And you have my permission.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Sweet Read at a Sweet Price

Hot dang! It's a sale. Can you scare up ninety-nine cents by digging around in your couch cushions? Then you, my friend, could purchase yourself an ebook version of BRENTWOOD'S WARD. Swing on over to Amazon to snatch up your copy (or if you already have it, spread the love by spreading the word, kind of like a toenail fungus, only much less disgusting).

Here's a blurb:

Place an unpolished lawman named Nicholas Brentwood as guardian over a spoiled, pompous beauty named Emily Payne and what do you get? More trouble than Brentwood bargains for. She is determined to find a husband this season. He just wants the large fee her father will pay him to help his ailing sister. After a series of dire mishaps, both their desires are thwarted, but each discovers that no matter what, God is in charge.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Pen Names and Avatars

post by Michelle Griep
I've got another new book coming out this September that I co-authored with a writerly buddy of mine. My agent urged me to adopt a pen name since this book is a completely different genre than what I usually write (historical fiction vs. contemporary mystery). I ended up nixing the idea but many authors go this route. Picking a pen name is relatively easy and painless . . . except for the author photo. What do you do? Slap on a wig? Pop in colored contacts to change your eyes? How can you look different without the secret spy costume routine?

An avatar.

Yep. That simple. Lots of authors just go with an illustrated version of themselves. Even if you're not an author, it's fun to play around with creating an avatar of yourself. Here are some of the sites I discovered that are a ton of fun (and free).

This is a super easy site to use to create a graphic likeness of yourself.

Lego Avatar Generator
Ever wished you could be a cute little lego person? Here's your chance.

Think you've got some superhero in your blood? Create a superhero at this site.

Remember the movie with all the blue, umm, avatars? Wonder what you'd look like blue? Check this place out.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

We Are All Overwhelmed

post by Michelle Griep
No one corners the market on needing special attention. It's a very few, rare people who don't careen around life on two wheels. You're busy. I'm busy. We are all overwhelmed. So here are 3 sage words of advice . . .

Get over it.

Cruel words? Heartless advice? Perhaps, but though I write fiction, I am a realist at heart. So whatever crutch it is that you've propped all your excuses atop, excuses such as:

  • I'm too busy to write today
  • I'll write for sure tomorrow
  • As soon as fill-in-the-blank is finished, I'm really going to write that story

I'm here to kick that crutch away, because here's the deal . . . you can't wait for a more peaceful time in your life, a better time, a time when unicorns romp and fluffy bunnies tickle your muse. You are not guaranteed any more time in this life than that which you have right now. This minute. Shake off the paralysis of feeling overwhelmed and get busy writing. How?

1. Snatch 5 or 10 minutes to simply jot down a feeling, an impression, something that's gnawing at your heart.

2. Don't edit. Free write. Spelling errors and grammar be hanged.

3. Daydream. Not all day, mind you, but just a few minutes, staring out the window, letting your mind roam keeps the creative juices flowing.

Go ahead. Try it. Daily. You'll find that jittery feeling of defeat shrink down to a more manageable size.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

If Books Were Photoshopped

posted by Michelle Griep
We've all seen them. Models that look way too good to be true, their perfect bodies godlike, all thanks to photoshop. It got me to thinking . . . what if there was a photoshop for books? With just the click of a button, what might an average book be morphed into?

Covers so eye-candy-alicious that you'd have no choice but to slap down your credit card and buy the dang thing immediately . . . then take it home and frame it.

Characters would not only leap off the page, they'd grab your hand and become your BFF.

No typos or grammar gaffs. Actually, the type on the page would be a piece of art in itself, the white spaces and shape of the paragraphs creating a masterpiece that would make Picasso weap.

Rollercoaster plots that twist and turn and eventually come full circle, leaving the reader breathless . . . and all without feeling like throwing up.

A story so compelling that no matter how horrific life circumstance may be, you'd be completely transported to a different, refreshing and revitalizing world, returning you to deal with your problems with an entirely new perspective.

Think I'm being unrealistic? Maybe, but not any more so than those swimsuit babes on magazine covers that make me feel guilty whenever I'm in the checkout line. Which reminds me, I think I'm out of Chunky Monkey.

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