Thursday, July 28, 2016

Need Some Inspiration?

Currently, I'm pumping out a novella, so all writing systems are go. That's not always the case, though. Sometimes I stall out. Come on, admit it. You do too. So for all those writers who are dead in the water for the moment, here are some breaths of air to puff out your little writerly sails . . .

#Inspire a Writer in 5 Words
This is a Twitter feed that, like the name says, is for the inspiration of writers in 5 words or less. Here are some examples: your book made me think, seuss rejected by thirty-four publishers, we want your submissions today.

Inspiration for Writers, Inc.
This blog has it all, from workshops to writing tips to testimonials.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers
Here's a blurb for this book: With 101 stories from published writers who stuck with it and succeeded, you will be inspired and encouraged, whether you’re an aspiring author, a blogger, or a bestselling writer.

You'll find a plethora of motivation on this fantastic Pinterest board.
50 famous authors share their writing inspiration in this blog post.

If one of those sites isn't a writerly kick in the pants, you may want to have your doctor check for a pulse because you might be dead.

5 Reasons to Self-Publish

When I first started writing, landing a traditional publishing contract was the only way to go if you didn't want the big stink eye or your name blacklisted. Self pubbing was for losers who clearly couldn't write well enough to attract the attention of "real" publishers.

My, my, my . . . how times have changed.

Nowadays it's the trendy thing to do. It's not a guaranteed bajillion dollars, but I know a few authors who are making some serious bucks. Money aside, though, here's some motivation for you to self-publish your really-well-written-and-edited manuscript.

5 Reasons to Self-Publish

Control of Content
This is a two-sided coin. On one side, you have the absolute freedom to write whatever you want to, address whatever issues you feel like the world needs to hear. You choose all the content, whether inside the cover or out. The flip side is that the editorial buck stops with you. Grammar. Flow. Plot. You are responsible for any glitches.

The Cover
I've seen some butt-ugly covers in my day, lots of them on traditional books and on those self-published. The difference is that the self-pubbers are shooting themselves in the foot because they have absolute control over how their book is presented to the public. Traditional authors are allowed some input, but honestly, not a whole heaping lot.

It's on Your Timeframe
The only deadlines for self-publishers are the ones you set for yourself. That means your turnaround time from start to finish can be 48 hours if you like...though I do NOT recommend it. But you don't have to wait for a publisher to get back to you with a cover jpeg or even to answer your email. The hourglass is in your hand and you can turn it over when you want to.

Either way, self-pubbed or traditional, you Mr. Author are going to have to market your book. I know. It sucks. You're a writer, not a salesman. But the bonus about marketing a story you've published is that you choose where the marketing hours are spent. You make the connections. You sell the book. And it makes sense because you're the one who's most passionate about your story.

It Gets Your Book Out There
If you wait around for a traditional publisher to offer you a contract on a silver platter, you might be waiting a very long time, especially in this current market. And so will your potential readers. But if you self-pub you can get your story up on Amazon lickety split.

So far I've only self-pubbed one book but it certainly won't be my last. If you're hesitant about giving self-publishing a whirl, here's a little nudge for you. Jump on in. The writerly water is fine.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What Motivates More Than Money?

Newsflash: Writers don't make a lot of money. Best piece of advice I heard when starting this gig was to not quit my day job. That was over ten years ago, but here I am, still pounding away on the keyboard, writing word after word after word. What makes me do it? What is the motivation that keeps anyone working at any job for any length of time?

It's not money, contrary to popular belief. Oh, not that anyone in their right mind would turn down a cool million -- or even a tepid one -- but there truly are other motivating factors that cause you to stay with a profession even without huge monetary incentive.

5 Motivating Factors Other Than Money

1. Seeing tangible results of your work.

I'm not gonna lie...holding a published book in your hand with your name on it is as satisfying as a triple chocolate brownie fresh out of the oven with vanilla bean ice cream and caramel sauce--or even more. When you've worked hard at a project, the finished result is uber motivating to make you want to do it again.

2. The more difficult a project, the more pride you'll feel when it's finished.

Pride is like crack. It's super addicting. All those endorphins and whatnot floating through your bloodstream. And there's no better way to pump up your ego than to finish a super challenging task.

3. Knowing that your work makes a difference in someone's life.

We are wired to help others. Mostly. Except for maybe narcissists and random terrorist organizations. The point is that when your work actually betters someone else's life in some way, you're going to want to continue doing that same thing so that you can effect someone else's life as well.

4. Positive reinforcement.

No one can take a continual brutal beating of criticism. It's the small bits of praise that put wind in our sails. Appreciation is a huge motivator.

5. Environment.

A study at Hiroshima University researched two control groups, each performing the same task, but one group was surrounded with photos of cute baby animals. The other had to look at adult animals. The group in the environment with the sweet little babies outperformed the other. Your surroundings matter.

Next time you want to motivate someone, either a team member at work or your kid at home, use some of these motivators to get them going.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Serial Reader

Just because a word has serial preceding it doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad thing. Yeah, sure, I'm not negating that serial killers are awful. So are serial warts. Serial drive-by opera singers give me the shivers. And let's not forget serial power outages that make your freezer thaw and all your meat goes bad and you have to spend the entire day cooking all the chicken you scored on sale last week at Winn Dixie.

Whew. Let's all take a breath and exhale out such negativity, shall we?

Now, on the inhale, here comes the positive . . . Serial Reader. This handy dandy app lets you read classics in bite-sized pieces. No more choking down huge passages of War and Peace or Great Expectations. Just pure, unadulterated, enjoyment of the classics in small bits that are entirely doable while you're waiting for a bus or standing in line at the grocery store.

Here's how it works:
Every day the app sends fragments of classic texts (which classic is up to you). You subscribe to a classic and voila, daily digestible chunks for you to swallow. It's a great way to finally plow through something you've always wanted to read but never had the time to sit down and study. Available for iPhones and Androids.

Spread the news to your readerly buddies. Who knows? Maybe my books will make it on there someday (cue evil laughter).

Monday, July 25, 2016

Cover Reveal: Out of the Frying Pan

Next up on the new release docket is OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, due to release on September 6th. It's been several years in the making. Okay, so maybe slightly more than that, but hey . . . you can't rush excellence, right?

Though it's not set to hit the shelves until the first part of September, I can let you in on a little sneak preview of the cover. Ready? Drum roll, please . . . (and don't forget an excessive cymbal crash) . . . (and fireworks) . . .

And here's a blurb for the story . . .

Murder in Paradise whips life into a froth for FERN and ZULA HOPKINS. When the retirement center’s chef is found dead, the two ladies get mixed in with the case. Their zany attempts to track down the killer land them in hot water with Detective JARED FLYNN. Should he be concerned about their safety—or the criminal’s?

But there are deadly ingredients none of them expect. Drugs. Extortion. International cartels. And worst of all…broken hearts, especially when the Hopkins sisters’ niece KC arrives on the scene.

Life at Sunset Paradise Retirement Village will never be the same.

So yeah, lots of romance, tons of intrigue, and a huge helping of humor and snark. Plus there will be a few giveaways and some special offers coming up as well. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Worst Writing Advice Ever

As you may have noticed, this blog mainly dishes out writing and/or creative advice on a regular basis. I'm all about positivity and encouragement. That being said, today we're going to cover the "don'ts" because, like you, I've fallen prey to bad advice before (and yes, I do happen to have the ugly white polyester stirrup-pants still hanging in my closet, thank you very much).

Writing Advice You Can Ignore

Learn a new word every day.
Seriously? What the heck for? So that you can spew it out in your manuscript and look like a smarty pants? No, no, no. I mean, if you happen to pick up a new word that you'd like to take on a spin around the block, go for it, but don't waste your time trying to memorize a word a day. Multi-syllable obscure words do not make you a better writer.

Write what you know.
Dude, if you wait to write a novel until you know everything about a particular subject or era, you'll never start. Or if you only write about the things you know really well, like stamp collecting, you'll get way too detailed and bore the reader. Do your research then write, whether you're an expert or not.

Your career hinges on your debut novel.
Really? Says who? Sure, a fantastic debut novel can get you noticed and potentially nab you another contract like pronto, but even if your first book doesn't rocket off the ol' sales chart, that doesn't mean you won't ever sell another manuscript.

Write for the market.
If you don't write for yourself, you're going to get very frustrated. Write the book that you're passionate about, whether or not that's a current trend on bookshelves.

It's the synopsis that will sell the story.
Thank the sweet heavens that this one isn't necessarily true because dang if I can't write a synopsis to save my life. Yeah, you have to be able to jot down the major points of your story, but don't stress over the p's ad q's of your synopsis structure.

And if you'd like to keep up on what's trendy in really bad writing advice, check out The Worst Muse on Twitter.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

3 Key Ingredients to Becoming a Successful Writer

Recently I came across an interesting proposition. Pen Center USA is offering an Emerging Voices Fellowship. It's explained as:
"A literary mentorship that aims to provide new writers who are isolated from the literary establishment with the tools, skills, and knowledge they need to launch a professional writing career."

In layman's terms, that means a $1000 grant and an eight month professional mentorship. Pretty sweet deal, eh? But does a writer really need all that?

I think not.

Stop. Put away the pitchforks and rotten eggs. Give me a chance to explain my position . . .

While writerly bells and whistles are nice, and I certainly wouldn't turn down a thousand bucks if someone handed it to me, these things are not necessary to become a successful writer. What is?

3 Key Ingredients to Becoming a Successful Writer

Determination is a trait every successful author owns. The secret to becoming a writer is to write. Not talk about writing. Not dream about writing. Parking your butt in the chair and writing is what makes a writer. It's not always fun. It sure as heck ain't glamorous. And newsflash: you won't make a bajillion dollars. But if an author is what you really want to be way deep down in the marrow of your bones, you've got to have stamina to keep pounding out words even when the going gets tough.

Rejection sucks. Whew. Glad we got that one out in the open. It's seriously a slap in the face when you read a review or receive a rejection that attacks your writing. In order to become an author, you've got to have the guts to take stinging criticism without getting your hackles up.

A teachable spirit is what sets apart the winners from the wannabes. Learning and growing are part of the process so that you don't stagnate. There's no room for pride in the publishing biz.

So . . . do you have what it takes? And if not, are you willing to do what it takes?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Five Fun and Fantastic Sites

It's summer. It's hot. And do we really need to be outdoors playing Pokemon Go? I think not. We should be parking our warm bodies on the couch inside of our air conditioned living rooms and playing on the internet instead . . .

Passive Aggressive Notes
Everyone gets annoyed. This site shows you the expression of that annoyance. Some of the notes are more aggressive than passive, but they all creatively vent the writer's frustration.

Bad Translator
Ever read a sign in a shop window that's clearly been written by someone who doesn't fully grasp the English language? Here's your chance to create your own terribly sliced and diced sentences.

Found Magazine
From love letters to birthday cards, here's a collection of items that were randomly "found."

Okay, of all the sites I'm mentioning today, this one is by far my favorite. Not that the others aren't entertaining, mind you. I just happen to like chatting with a clever artificial intelligence, and that's exactly what Cleverbot is.

Emergency Yodel
Umm. Yeah. Because you never know when you might need a yodeller. Go head. Push the button. It's so satisfying.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Emily Dickinson and Gilligan's Island

Carl Sandburg is my all-time favorite poet. Emily Dickinson not so much . . . until now, when I discovered a sweet little trick to manage Dickinson's poetry.

Emily wrote her poems with a particular meter (rhythm), specifically with common meter. All that means is alternating lines of eight syllables and six syllables. Yeah, I see your eyes glazing over. Don't panic, though, because there's an even better way to categorize her poetry without all the academic syllable counting.

Remember Gilligan's Island? You know, the professor and Mary Ann? Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip? Yeah. That. Got the tune stuck in your head yet? That's good, because that's exactly how you can "read" Dickinson's poetry. Turns out her meter is the same meter used in the Gilligan's Island lyrics. And now that the jingle is playing in your head, give it a whirl . . .

"Heaven"—is what I cannot reach!
The Apple on the Tree—
Provided it do hopeless—hang—
That—"He aven" is—to Me!

The Color, on the Cruising Cloud—
The interdicted Land—
Behind the Hill—the House behind—
There—Paradise—is found!

Her teasing Purples—Afternoons—
The credulous—decoy—
Enamored—of the Conjuror—
That spurned us—Yesterday!

Pretty slick, eh?  Try another . . .

I taste a liquor never brewed  
From Tankards scooped in Pearl 
Not all the Frankfort Berries 
Yield such an Alcohol! 

Inebriate of air – am I  
And Debauchee of Dew 
Reeling thro’ endless summer days  
From inns of molten Blue 

When “Landlords” turn the drunken Bee 
Out of the Foxglove’s door 
When Butterflies – renounce their “drams” 
 I shall but drink the more! 

Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats 
And Saints – to windows run 
To see the little Tippler 
Leaning against the Sun!

Go ahead and Google more Dickinson poems. You know you want to.

On Feeling Overwhelmed

Feeling overwhelmed is part of the writerly game . . . or actually part of every artistic game. Even worse is that this feeling never really goes away. It keeps walking right in the front door of your life without ringing the doorbell. Not even a howdy-do. Just blammo! There it is.

But why?

It's scary to create. What's in an artists' head is rarely reproduced exactly as envisioned, which can feel like failure. Then there are all the naysayers out there who don't understand your art and question and nitpick until you bleed. Add in a healthy dose of perfectionism, because hey, who doesn't want to create their absolute best work possible, and is it any wonder that an artist is insecure?

One word: deadlines. Take a look at that word, specifically the first half. The word deadline is like a threat, a gun-toting, blow your brains out kind of word. I shudder even when I send my work in a week early just to avoid the dang thing.

Everyone is stressed out nowadays. Time demands are crazy, from the cable guy wanting access to your home to hook up the whatzamagig, to the paperwork for quarterly tax returns, it seems like everyone wants a piece of you. The demands of everyday life eat into an artists' schedule and that creates overwhelming angst.

So . . . what to do about all this? Here are a few coping strategies from Michelle's Magic Bag of Tricks.

Set Goals That are Attainable
The thought of sitting down to write an entire novel is enough to make me break out in hives. I can't do it. That's too big. But I can sit down to write one scene of a novel. That's attainable. Break down huge projects into bite-sized pieces.

Use the Buddy System
No one understands an artist like another artist. Find one to share your burdens and your joys with.

Practice the Art of Saying No
Because you don't punch a time clock or disappear into an office building from 9 to 5 every day, somehow folks figure you must need something to do -- and usually for them. Here's a beauty of a word I've gift-wrapped for you . . . no. Practice saying it in the mirror if you must, but do say it. Often. Especially to time bandits.

You can't completely avoid feeling overwhelmed, and in fact, in small doses it's healthy. It means you're not overly confident. Just don't let it crush you into inaction.

Friday, July 15, 2016

5 Author Facts . . . an Infographic

There's a lot of misconceptions about being an author. I'm here to rain on that parade. Feel free to share or steal.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Thumbing My Nose at the Grammar Police

I'm gearing up to teach a seventh grade English class this fall. As in grammar. As in sweet-mercy-grammar-makes-me-throw-up-in-my-mouth-a-little. Nevertheless, I shall persevere in guiding young and supple minds in the the ways of proper English language usage.

But not with too much grammar.

No diagramming. Blechh. No memorizing vocabulary words. In one ear and out the other. And definitely not too many hard and fast rules. Why? Because clutching white-knuckled onto grammar rules chokes the life out of anyone's writing.

That being said, there are a few, er, guidelines that I like to impart to newbie writers . . .

Heck Yeah Fragments
Do you seriously know anyone who speaks using complete sentences all the time? Besides that freakish aunt you hate to associate with, I mean. Use fragments for emphasis. Like this. Got that?

Use Only a Fewly 'LY' Wordlys
Why is it every junior high curriculum encourages liberal usage of adverbs? Not that you can't ever use them. Shoot, even I do. But sheesh. Where did this 'LY' craze come from? It's my mission in life to slow this particular grammar steam engine down to cruising speed instead of the insane train wreck it's becoming.

Dialogue Breaks
Every time a different character speaks, you must break into a new paragraph. Think about real life. You speak and then the other person does. If you both speak at once, it's hard to figure out what each other is saying. If you blob together different characters dialogue, it's just as hard to figure out.

Keep it Simple
Writing to impress is for tight-laced academia types, not the average Joe Shmoe. If you can get your point across as if explaining to an 8 year old, then you are a rock star of writing.

And that, my friends, is enough knowledge to impart for one day because, you see, that's another lesson in and of itself . . . don't overwhelm the eager writer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Writing Lessons From Poldark

I may be late to jump on the Poldark wagon, but hot diggity-dang! I finally hefted myself into the cart, kids, and for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, feast your eyeballs on this . . .

Mmm-mmm-mmm. Now that's what I'm talkin' 'bout. England. The Coast of Cornwall. A hunky hero. All ingredients for a fantastic tale and here's the blurb for it:

Ross Poldark returns home after the American Revolutionary War and rebuilds his life with a new business venture, making new enemies and finding a new love where he least expects it.

If you haven't yet seen this series, snatch it up. You will NOT be sorry. Based on the novels by Winston Graham, this is some sweet historical fiction on the big screen. Okay, my commercial break is over, but my writerly lesson for the day is not . . .

3 Writing Lessons From Poldark

Slow Down the Backstory
Not all the information of Poldark's background is dumped into the first scene, the first episode, or even the first season. It's meted out, giving the viewer enough details so confusion isn't an issue, but not enough so that there's no point in watching more.

Keep Your Hero Unpredictable
Sure, Ross Poldark is a good guy . . . mostly. Sometimes I'm surprised at the way he handles an issue and I don't always agree with him (the whole Verity/sea captain romance thing), but doggone if that doesn't endear me to him more. He's complex. I wonder, I hope, I want him to make the right choices, but he doesn't always, which is just like real life, eh?

Balance the Tension
Intense action or emotional scenes are what the everyone wants to experience--but not all the time. You've got to give the reader a rest between the tense times. Poldark faces some horrible seasons in his life but they are tempered with happiness.

Next time you're watching one of your favorite series, see what kind of writing tips you can find for some takeaway value. On screen or on the page, a story is a story is a story.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

3 New Books on the Writing Craft

Has your writing hit the summer doldrums? Is your story dead in the water? Here are some new craft books on the market that you might want to check out (besides, of course, WRITER OFF THE LEASH: GROWING IN THE WRITING CRAFT which is currently on sale for $4.99) . . .

by Mary Buckham
Setting is one of the most underutilized and misunderstood elements of the writing craft. And when writers do focus on setting, they often pull readers out of the narrative and jolt their attention from the action on the page.
A Writer's Guide to Active Setting will show you how to create vivid, detailed settings that bring your story to life. You'll learn how to deepen character development, anchor readers to a specific time and place, reveal backstory without slowing things down, elevate action sequences, and more.

by Laraine Herring
Writer’s block. If you are a writer, you know it can be a haunting, terrifying force—a wolf at the door, a vast conspiracy, something that keeps you up at night, spinning your wheels, going nowhere. But what if we’ve been thinking about writer’s block all wrong? What if, by paying attention to its qualities and inquiring into its hidden gifts, we can release that power?
On Being Stuck is an empowering guide to working with your blocks and finding the friend within the beast. Using deep inquiry, writing prompts, body and breath exercises, and a range of interdisciplinary approaches,On Being Stuck will help you uncover the gifts hidden within your creative blocks, while also deepening your relationship to your work and reawakening your creative process.

by Richard Cohen
For anyone who has ever identified with a hero or heroine, been seduced by a strong opening sentence, or been powerfully moved by a story’s end, How to Write Like Tolstoy is a thought-provoking journey inside the minds of the world’s most accomplished storytellers, from Shakespeare to Stephen King.
Behind every acclaimed work of literature is a trove of heartfelt decisions. The best authors put painstaking—sometimes obsessive—effort into each element of their stories, from plot and character development to dialogue and point of view.

Monday, July 11, 2016

You Do You

I’ve been writing for about fifteen years now and it’s taken me this long to figure something out. Something I should’ve learned a long time ago. You ready for this? Because it’s mind blowing.

You don’t have to write like anybody else. You can be you with your words and your stories and that’s okay.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking . . . “Seriously? It took you a decade and a half to figure that out? Sheesh. Slow learner or what?”

But it’s not like that. Of course I knew, just like everyone, that you must have a unique voice to your writing. That’s what sets your writing apart. Yet I always aspired to be like my favorite authors, creating stories they would approve of, mimicking their style, and that is so restrictive. No, it’s worse. It chokes the life out of your own writing.

If you sit down to play the comparison game, you will lose.

So here’s some free advice: don’t do that. Easier said than done, I know, but here are some affirmations for you to print out on sticky notes and slap on your wall. Hopefully it will take less than 15 years to be freed from the bondage of conformance.

Write like you think.
Don’t write how you think you should.

Embrace your passions.
Don’t embrace what you think are marketable passions.

Everyone’s voice has value.
Your voice is as important as any other authors, and their voice is as important as yours, leaving no space for pride or degradation.

Creation is not right or wrong, it just is.
There isn’t a correct way to tell a story nor an absolute wrong way. A riveting story is riveting no matter the style it’s told in.

The art you create is as unique as yourself.
Art is subjective. Some will love it. Others hate it. Your goal is to create, not to get everyone to like what you create.

Sure, these all seem like common sense ideas, and they are, but agreeing with them and believing them are two different things. There is freedom in believing. Freefall into it. You won’t be sorry.

Friday, July 8, 2016

How To Support the Artist in Your LIfe

When kids are asked what they want to be when they grow up, there are a few predictable responses. 

If the kid says doctor or lawyer, parents beam and say, "That's my kid!"

If the kid says fireman or police officer, parents nod and say, "Respectable."

But if the kid says artist, a cold sweat breaks out on the parents brow and the finger pointing starts, "That comes from your side of the family!"

Why is that? Why is being an artist frowned upon?

Sure, there's the usual "starving" artist connotation, but I think it goes beyond that. Those who don't have a creative bent are freaked out by those who do because creativity can't be measured or contained or controlled. Artists are loose cannons and you never know when they'll go off on some wacky artistic spree . . . to which I say, "God love em!"

So here are some fantastic ways to support the artist in your life (and you know you know one) . . .

1. Buy their art.
Even if you don't like the music or painting or the thought of watching interpretive dance gives you hives, buy it for someone else and give it as a gift.

2. Share their art.
Word of mouth is the best way for the world to find out about an artist. Be that mouth.

3. Give them space.
Don't assume your art buddy is dissing you because they haven't spent time with you lately. Artists need lots of alone time to create.

4. Post a review.
Amazon. Yelp. Wherever, rankings are important to artists because good reviews -- wherever you post -- help increase their exposure to the public.

5. Send an encouraging note.
Artists struggle with self-doubt 24/7. Rejection and criticism is part of the artist's day to day life. Send them a warm-fuzzy.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Is it Ethical to Pay for a Book Review?

Some of your best loved books you found high-ranking on Amazon or the New York Times Best Sellers list actually paid for their reviews. What do you think about that? Is it ethical to pay for a book review?


And no.

First off, just so you know, I've never paid for any reviews of my books. Not that my stance makes me a saint. It's just where I, personally, land on the issue. Now that we've got that little disclaimer out of the way, let's explore this issue . . .

When It's Ethical

Top book reviewers are super swamped with authors and publishers clamoring for them to please-please-pulleazzzz read and review their book. These reviewers are sought after because they do a great job explaining the pros and cons of a particular tale. Readers trust them, and consequently, books they recommend sell well.

But reading books takes time. Hours. And writing a credible review takes even longer. Is it too much to ask a publisher or author to finance that time spent reading their book? I think not. Paying a top reviewer for an honest and expedited review is no more schmaltzy than sending out personalized thank you gifts as a promo for your new book.

When It's NOT Ethical

Paying for a guaranteed 5-star review is just wrong, plain and simple. It devalues the "real" fantastic reviews and it's a flat-out lie if the book is a stinker. The real problem isn't that a reviewer receives money to write a review; it's when that money causes the reviewer to lie about the book.

Here are some ways to spot a fake "great" review on Amazon . . .
    - the copy is short
    - the copy is vague
    - the author of the review has very few if any other reviews

Besides buying an author's books, writing a review is the best way to support that starving artist. Unless you want to send them a money order. Or chocolate.

Or both.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Poetic Lesson

Lord knows we don't need yet another hipster populating God's green earth, but today, I am advocating for more poetry reading cool cats to delve into some Sandburg or Frost, especially if you're a writer. Why? Because reading poetry makes your writing better.

Top 3 Ways Reading Poetry Can Improve Your Writing

#1. Imagery.
Poetry shows an image to a reader, painting a vivid word picture the reader experiences. It shows. It doesn't tell. It leaves a lasting impression.

#2. Tight writing.
Every word counts in a poem . . . it should in your writing as well. In this culture people don't have time to read long, flowing descriptions, nor do they want to. Precision with words isn't just a lofty goal--it's a necessity. Less really is more.

#3. Rhythm.
A good story isn't just a tale; it's a piece of music inside the reader's head. Reading poetry gives you a sense of meter and pacing, which when carried over into your story writing, makes your story stand out above those that haven't used that technique.

Interested in expanding your poetic license? Here are a few places to start:
Poem A Day
Poem-a-Day: 365 Poems For Every Occasion
or snatch up any book by my all-time favorite Carl Sandburg.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


No, that title isn't a typo. I'm not speaking in tongues. I didn't slug back one too many Buds yesterday at my BBQ because I don't even like beer. Nasty, vile liquid. Oops. That probably just cost me a few home-brewing fans.

Anyway, you've all heard of NaNoWriMo because you're savvy Writer Off the Leash readers that know it means national novel writing month . . . but that doesn't happen until November so don't panic yet. Today, though, I'm introducing you to a new, geeky celebration of writing that marries technical wizardry with prose. And so, I bring to you (cue the excessive tooty-horns and drum roll)

Yeah, it's a spin-off of NaNoWriMO and it means National Novel Generating Month. Computer nerds spend the month writing code that will generate a 50,000 word novel. At the end of the month they share the novel created by the code. It's all about algorithms (whatever that is) instead of words, because it's actually the computer that creates the words. How that works beats me, but apparently it's intriguing enough to have people give it a whirl once a year.

Code may not create the most spellbinding story you've ever read, but it does expand resources for an author (of words) to use. One guy is working on a program that will first generate a plausible outline for a short story. Then the outline will be used for fleshing out the plot that filters out "uninteresting ideas."

Hmm. After just spending a week brainstorming a few plots, let me tell ya, I'd be the first in line to try that little beauty.

For more details, check out Structure in Computer-Generated Novels.

And don't forget there's only 2 days left to enter the Kindle Giveaway . . .
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Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy 4th You Traitorous Colonials

In case you're looking for something to do this 4th of July, though I'd share a few of my patriotic-type favorites . . .


Turn: Washington's Spies
This is the story of New York farmer Abe Woodhull who's father is a Loyalist but he's got Patriotic leanings. It shows the dilemma many Colonists found themselves in, whether they wanted to fight or not.


Lori' Benton's The Pathfinder Series: Book I is The Wood's Edge and Book II is A Flight of Arrows. Book III isn't out yet.


The Patriot by Mel Gibson. Yeah, I know I"ll get a lot of crap for that. Sure, it's not completely historically accurate but doggone if it isn't an edge-of-the-seat kind of tale. Plus I got to visit Historic Brattonsville in South Carolina where they filed part of it.

Okay, that ought to keep you busy for awhile. I've to got a few Chicago dogs and apple pie to go slam down.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Sometimes a Superhero Cape is Needed

“The plain fact is that the world does not need more successful people, but it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane.” 
~ David Orr

Ever seen a superhero? I'm not talking Spiderman or Deadpool. Yes, I said Deadpool. He's kind of my favorite superhero. Don't judge me.

But actually I'm talking a superhero like the Walmart checkout clerk who pays the extra fifty-two cents for the little old lady with the empty change purse. That kind of awesome person deserves a superhero cape.

And Shanon Weber provides one. One of her missions in life is to recognize the unsung heroes in the world by awarding them a cape and inducting them into the Love Superhero Hall of Gratitude, which is something she made up. In this day of terrorism and hate, what an awesome way to make the world a happier place.

So here is my challenge to you . . . this weekend celebrate a superhero in your little corner of the realm. You don't have to go all out and "cape" them. Just smile and say, "Hey, you're awesome!"

Starting in a small way is still a start.

And don't forget there's still a contest for you to enter . . .

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