Monday, October 31, 2016

Writerly Tips From Edgar Allan Poe

Author Edgar Allan Poe
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

~ opening stanzas from The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe

It's that spooktacular time of year. That means it's time to celebrate Edgar Allan Poe. Whether you love his work or not, there are some writerly lessons to be learned from him.

Know the ending.
Poe says, "Let the writing have its beginning -- at the end." In other words, before you sit down to begin writing your next epic, know what the ending is going to be. If you keep the ending in view from the start, the story will flow naturally from beginning to end.

Write tight.
Poe was a big proponent of keeping the action moving and limiting your words. He said, “if any literary work is too long to be read at one sitting, we must be content to dispense with the immensely important effect derivable from unity of impression.” Of course if you're a novelist there's no way a reader can devour your book in one sitting. But be sure to make your scenes snappy, fast-acting, and always end with a cliff-hanger.

Choose your symbolism carefully.
In Poe's epic poem, The Raven, he first thought of having the repeated refrain (nevermore) come from the mouth of a parrot. But being that the poem is written with a melancholy tone in mind, he changed that to a raven, which is a bird of "ill omen." Do that. Decide on the tone of your story, then use symbolism that ties in with that theme.

Setting is a character.
Poe usually decided on setting last for this reason: to decide what would best compliment the mood of the story. He created his characters first and then created his setting as a character as well.

Try one or all of these techniques next time you sit down to write your Great American Novel -- whether it has a creepy theme or not.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Creativity Killers

Zombies aren't the only things that will eat your gray matter. There are plenty of other brain suckers that will kill your creativity. Here are the top 5 things to avoid when you need to be productive.

1. Self-Doubt
Give your ideas a chance. If you don't, who will? Don't self-talk yourself into believing you are less than adequate, rather error on the side of telling yourself that you're up to the task.

2. Fear
Don't be afraid of failing. Expect it. Sucks the fear right out of not being a success. If you acknowledge that you're going to make mistakes, it frees you up to take risks and some of them will pan out.

3. Excuses
Excuses not only slow you down, they downright sidetrack you so that you never get to what it is you really want to accomplish. Stop telling yourself why you can't do something and replace that line of thinking with why you should.

4. Attention-Deficit
There are way too many distractions in our world. Unplug from the internet. Shut off the phone. Go old school and try paper and pen if you must. Whatever it takes to hone your focus, do it.

5. Negativity
Lord knows there's enough negativity in this life without surrounding yourself with naysayers. Hanging out with people who tell you that "you can't" is a bad idea.

To keep your creative juices flowing, it's important you maintain the mindset of a champion. Set your goal, give yourself a timeframe, then run like the wind toward it. The bonus is that if you're running full speed, zombies can't catch you.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Infographic: Writing Lessons From a Dog

You know the routine . . . copy, share, or steal. It's all yours.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wisdom for Wannabe Writers

Currently I'm up to my eyeballs in correcting creative writing papers. In my spare time, besides penning novels and donning my super hero cape to save the world, I am actually a teacher at a local high school homeschool co-op. I see a lot of young writers commit the same writerly crimes, so I figured, hey, why not blast my spiel to the world at large. And so I give to you today . . .

5 Nuggets of Sage Wisdom for Wannabe Writers

One of the best ways to become a great writer is to read great writing. What goes in eventually comes out, if you persevere and work at it. And don't give me that line about you being too busy to read because I'm not buying it. Shove reading into your schedule with a shoehorn if need be.

Stop wishing away your pre-publishing life. This is the time for you to enjoy your exploration with words. You can write whatever you feel like writing because no publisher has harnessed you with a bit and bridle yet. Run free, little stallion, and laugh at the wind in your hair.

Some days writing will be magic but others it will be just plain drudgery, like cleaning the toilet or vacuuming up dog hair. You just gotta do it because it needs to be done, know what I mean? Don't wait for your muse to show up because some days that muse has packed its bags for Morocco.

There are naysayers out there who will rain on your writerly parade with their negativity. Don't listen to them. Don't even look at them. Keep your eyes on the prize of your art. This is you, not them. You do you.

It's easier to start a new story when the one you're working on stalls out. Don't give in to that temptation. Finish what you start. You can't submit 14 half-finished manuscripts when the requirement is a full.

There. See? Not so hard, eh? That's right. . . you CAN do this writing gig. Trust me, if I can, anybody can.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

It Takes a Village

It's true that writers generally write alone. Think about it. How many fingers can actually fit on a keyboard? But despite that little nugget of truth, it takes more than one person to bring a story to full fruition. Are you writing a novel? Creating some other kind of art? Just wanting to get a project completed? Then make sure you surround yourself with these natives . . .

The Champion

It's an ugly world out there. Everyone's got an opinion and they're not afraid to use it, especially when it comes to art. You're going take a beating, so you need a champion on your side. This is the kind of person who adores your work, believes in you when you don't believe in yourself, and always has a word of encouragement.

The Dart Blower

This is the realist. The one who lets you know when your artistic underpants are showing. The critiquer who isn't just a yes man, but is honest enough to let you know when your art falls short of the bar. Yeah, those words of wisdom might sting, but you'll be the better for listening and polishing your product before it's released to the world.

The Warrior

Someone needs to defend you, you pathetic little artist. This person might wear the hat of an agent or an editor, an art director or even your spouse. The warrior fights for you, defending your art so that you can spend the time creating your art.

The Witch Doctor

Like it or not, you're going to get wounded at some point in time. A sucky review. An outright nasty social media attack. Whatever. You must have someone in your life who brings healing words and comfort to your soul. The kind that knows when to bring dark chocolate and a hot latte.

The Chief

Your art isn't going anywhere if you don't have a bwana to make it happen. Network amongst the movers and shakers in your field and make friends with the powerful.

Without an editor or publisher, a friend and a critique partner, or a prayer buddy, you'll be fighting an uphill battle to bring your art to the masses. Get out there and gather your tribe. You'll need them.

Monday, October 24, 2016

5 Ways to Cope When You're Feeling Overwhelmed

It's every newbie writer's dream to garner a contract or two, but be careful what you wish for, little cowboy. When those contracts come at you, there are these things called deadlines. There's a reason for that word, as in you're dead in the publishing water if you don't get your manuscript in by the agreed upon date.

But no problem, right? Because hey, after all, you're a writer, eh? There's just one small glitch with that line of thinking, Hoss. Life. Sometimes life gets in the way of writing, until you get so stressed out you crumple in a heap of overwhelming despair. Even if you're not a writer life can be overwhelming. How are you going to cope?

Here are a few ways to take care of yourself when the going gets tough . . .

It seems counterintuitive to sleep when you've only got so many hours in a day and you should be working toward meeting your goal, doggone it! But here's the deal, you NEED to get your 8 hours of Zzz's in or you won't be creative. You won't even be coherent. Keep a regular sleep pattern especially during crunch times.

Yes, marketing and social media are part of the writerly game, but every now and then you need to unplug, even if it's just for a day. The world won't come to a screeching halt because you're out of touch for twenty-four hours. Disconnecting from crazy will soothe your inner crazy beast.

Don't freak out over this. I'm not saying you need to put on a leotard or bench press until you're sweaty. Get outside and go for a walk. Breathing in fresh air has a way of clearing the cobwebs out of your mind while giving your body some much needed cardio.

Everyone needs a mindless activity to zone out with. Some like to knit. Others, like me, play Two Dots to unwind. Whatever it is, spend a few minutes each day indulging in a mindless something (key word: FEW minutes, not hours on end).

The Bible advocates being still and knowing that God is God. How are you going to do that if you're running around like a decapitated chicken? Grab a verse and think on it, word by word.

Whenever you find yourself in a busy season, make sure to add these five self-care tips in to your schedule.

Friday, October 21, 2016

3 Essentials in Writing a Page Turner

Everyone wants to be that author -- the one readers are clamoring to read. How does that happen, though? How do you become that author, with tribes of loyal natives willing to trek barefoot through jungles to buy your next book?

Easy. Write a page turner and they'll come back for more.

Okay, so maybe it's not that easy. Penning a riveting story is hard work, but there are a few key ingredients you can add to make the outcome more tantalizing to a reader . . .


Do This: Intensify the story stakes.
Not That: Make life too easy for your characters.

You've got to torture your characters. Your hero has to go from sweet-mercy, to dang-it, to oh-my-freaking-stars-I'm-going-to-die. Think of your story as a journey, uphill, both ways, with the climax at the tippy top. Your characters have to work hard to overcome struggles in order to gain the readers respect, and those struggles need to be something more intense than a chipped nail.

Example: In The Captive Heart, heroine Eleanor goes from losing her job, to losing her freedom, to nearly losing her life.


Do This: End every scene with a gasp.
Not That: Make it easy for a reader to put down the book.

Don't just dangle a readerly carrot at the end of each scene. Dangle a piece of turtle cheesecake. You always want to end a scene or a chapter with a huge unanswered question, that way your reader just has to flip the page and find out the answer.

Example: In The Captive Heart, every scene ends with an OMG moment, such as Eleanor facing a charging rogue bear.


Do This: Have your characters hold on to secrets.
Not That: Make your characters blab everything up front.

Everyone loves a juicy secret. Readers especially. Resist the urge to spill all the beans at the beginning of the story. Dole out background crumbs, hints at what the character has in his past, but don't do the big reveal until the climax.

Example: In (you guessed it) The Captive Heart, hero Samuel hides the fact that his grandmother is a full-blooded Cherokee.

Entice your reader by using these 3 tricks and you will be that author.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Feeling Creative is a Myth

“Have no fear of perfection, 
you’ll never reach it.” 
~ Salvador Dali

In order to meet my deadlines and fulfill my contracts, I have to write 5 days a week, without fail, sit my rumpus in a chair and pound out a chapter a day.

What's your response to that?

Usually I get, "But what if you don't feel like writing? It's not like you can flip a switch and turn on creativity, right?"

Well . . . to some extent, that's true. I personally don't have an on/off switch on any of my body parts. But yes indeedy, you can write and/or create without feeling particularly creative.

How does one accomplish this? By kicking perfection to the curb. If you put off writing until a flow of perfectly awesome words comes to mind, you'll never finish a manuscript, because here's the deal . . .
Writing isn't about perfection.  

It's about getting words on paper, and that has nothing to do with "feeling" creative. Pry your grasping fingers off that myth and slap them on a keyboard instead. Today is the day to create, whether you feel like it or not.

What? You're still here? Go. Write.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Infographic: 5 Secrets to Getting Published

As always, feel free to steal this and spread it like a toenail fungus. Eew. Sorry for the visual.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

In the News

I know. You were hoping for a break from the news, right? You're fed up with all the Hillary this and Trump that. Never fear, though, little cowboys . . . today's smattering of news here at Writer Off the Leash is all happiness and sunshine because it's from the publishing world.

Read For Free with Amazon Prime
Join Amazon Prime and you'll have access to over a thousand titles to read for free on your e-reader or device of your choice. The content is pretty varied, ranging from Harry Potter to comics and magazines.

Kid's Haircut Discount for Reading
Here's a piece of good news in this dark world . . . a barber in Ypsilanti, Michigan, is offering a $2 discount in exchange for the kid reading a book while getting his haircut. Sweet way to encourage reading, eh?

Kickstarter Jane Austen Coloring Book Project
Want to support an artist and spread your love of Jane Austen? This is the project for you. It combines the artist's love of Austen with her illustrating skills. She's pretty close to meeting her goal so I think this one will make it.

Book Sales Are Up
According to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, bookstore sales in August rose by 2%. Could be just from college students snatching up their texts, but hey, a sale is a sale.

There you have it . . . your dose of good news for the day.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Win! Win!

Whew. Party week is over. Good thing, because my tongue is a woolen sock and can anyone tell me why this lampshade is on my head?

But seriously, a HUGE thank you to the best readers in the world. Yeah, that'd be you. Last week was a fantastic launch week for The Captive Heart and I have all of you to thank for that.

There's one last piece of party business to attend to, though. The winner of the Rafflecopter giveaway of a signed Captive Heart copy is . . .

Vicki Geslak

Woo-hoo! A huge round of applause to you, Vickie!

But if you didn't win, don't mope. I've got a few consolation prizes . . .

There's an ebook sale for Captive Heart on Amazon. Only $2.51. Click HERE.

Or if money is tight right now and/or you don't have an e-reader, then check out the 2 new, free interactive literary maps over at Placing Literature.

There's a map for Dickens and one for Sherlock Holmes. Just click on the little map markers and it brings up information about the place as it relates to Oliver Twist or Sherlock Holmes's adventure in the Adventure of the Three Garridebs. Of course there are other maps, too, but these are my two faves.

Thanks for tuning in, gang. We'll be back to our regularly scheduled Writer Off the Leash shenanigans tomorrow.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Inspiration Behind The Captive Heart

As a wrap up to launch week for THE CAPTIVE HEART, here are a few random behind-the-scenes factoids about the inspiration for the story.

The Inspiration Behind the Plot

Currently our freedoms are being chipped away, piece by piece, to the point that makes me wonder where will it all end. I imagined what it might be like to have my freedom taken away completely . . . and so was born THE CAPTIVE HEART. I crafted the heroine to experience the loss of everything then took her on a journey to learn to cope with that loss.

The Inspiration Behind the Setting

Backcountry South Carolina is no more. Oh, don’t get me wrong. There are still rolling hills with drop-jaw gorgeous scenery, but the wildness, the unpredictability is buried in history. Did you know buffalo used to roam in that southern region? Neither did I until I did some digging. I tried to give the reader a snapshot of the area as it was in the eighteenth century, because it’s completely different than what it is today.

Research That Inspired

Before and during the writing of Captive Heart, I did LOTS of reading. My preferred haunt is the fiction realm but to write this story and stay true to the area, I had to read lots of sometimes dry historical non-fiction. Let’s just say I drank lots of coffee. On the flip side, though, I had a blast touring the area and hiking the same trails that my hero and heroine would’ve roamed.

I also couldn’t have done this without the aid of my rural writing buddies. As a city girl, I don’t know which end is up on a horse. Okay, so I suppose I could’ve figured that out, but sheesh! There’s a lot to the handling and care of a horse that I didn’t know about.

What's Next?

Currently I'm working on so many projects that that I’m kind of schizophrenic. It's tough trying to separate myself from all the characters clamoring in my head. My biggest project, though, is a holiday project that will release one book for the next 3 years. Once Upon a Dicken’s Christmas is a Victorian collection of heart-warming yet suspenseful Christmas stories. And actually the first story, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, carries the same theme of freedom but as experienced by the hero’s point of view (as opposed to the heroine's POV in Captive Heart). Here’s a blurb:

Imprisoned unjustly, BENJAMIN LANE wants nothing more than freedom and a second chance to claim the woman he loves—but how can CLARA CHAPMAN possibly believe in the man who stole her family’s fortune and abandoned her at the altar?

And here's your chance to win a signed copy of The Captive Heart . . .

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Cutting Room Floor

Not all scenes make it into movies. Some end up on the cutting room floor. There are lots of reasons for a piece of work to not make the final draft, the two biggest being a lack of space and a change of direction for the story.

The same is true for novels. For all you Captive Heart fans out there, here is a deleted scene that didn't make it into the final draft. . .

Grace babbled on and on about Biz. So far it’d been a losing battle to get her to add Miss in front of Biz’s name. Eleanor sighed, then smiled when Grace twisted and patted her cheek with her chubby little fingers. “Home, mama!”
            She grinned back. “Yes, Grace. We are soon to home.”
            Grace bounced, whipping her head from one side to the other and bumping into her father.
            “Whoa now,” Samuel reached out his arm and stilled her. “You’re wild as a ’coon cub on a full moon.”
            For a moment Grace stilled, then pushed up from Eleanor’s skirts and howled out a word that would make a sailor blush.
            Eleanor’s jaw dropped. Samuel’s face jerked to hers. Were her eyes as wide as his? Apparently Grace had spent more time with Biz than with the reverend.
            Eleanor grabbed hold of the girl’s shoulders and turned her on her lap, drawing her face to face. What to do? Overreacting would make this naught but a game. Still, ignoring the outburst would surely condone it.
            Drawing from years of governess experience, she held up her hand, fingers curled as if she held a great treasure. “Grace, would you like to see what I have?”
            Grace nodded, eyes fixed on her hand. Even Samuel gazed, a curious tilt to his head.
            “I hold a word that’s even better than the one you just used. Would you like to trade for it?”
            The girl’s nose scrunched up, but slowly she nodded.
            “Very well.” Eleanor opened her other hand, palm flat. “But you must give up the other one first. Put it here.”
            “What on earth—”
            She shushed Samuel before he broke Grace’s concentration. “Go on, Grace, take that word from your mouth and I shall cast it away so you’ll have room for the other.” She shoved her open palm closer.
            With solemn movement, Grace lifted her forefinger and thumb to her lips, then pretend plucked the vile word from her lips and gently dropped it onto Eleanor’s hand.
            “Good girl.” She closed her fist over the curse and mimicked throwing it into the dark woods. Then she opened up her other hand and offered a new word. “Here is your new word. Instead you shall say . . .” She waited until the girl’s eyes fixed on her lips, anticipation shining like a bright star.

            “Oogdoogle!” Eleanor tickled the child until she shrieked. Samuel chuckled along with her. And by the time the laughter faded, Samuel pulled the wagon into the yard.

So there's your bonus feature, only for my buddies here at Writer Off the Leash. And here's one more bonus . . . sign up to win a signed copy of THE CAPTIVE HEART.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How Much History is Under Your Belt?

I had a fan-freaking-tastic Launch Party for The Captive Heart last night. Huge shoutout to Community Grounds for hosting the event. Awesome coffee and awesome people.

Besides lots of free-flowing coffee, I gave guests a chance to take a Colonial trivia quiz to earn some chocolate. Think you would've earned one? Here's the quiz . . .


1. In the 17th century, under a ‘headright’ system in the American colonies, a person received a grant of land in a colony for:
A. Ministerial Service                        C. Settling There
B. Military Service                             D. Political Service

2. What is the term for citizens enrolled as a regular military force but called into active duty only in an emergency?
A. Cavalry                                          C. Militia
B. Brigade                                          D. Infantry

3. What was the name of the state created in 1786, which lasted for only four years?
A. State of Franklin                            C. State of Adams
B. State of Madison                           D. State of Jefferson

4. What was the predominant church in the colonial South?
A. Congregational                              C. Quaker
B. Church of England                         D. Presbyterian

5. Who founded the colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations?
A. Roger Williams                              C. Thomas Rogers
B. William Rogers                              D. John Brown

6. The Wilderness Road was the principal route used by settlers traveling from the East to Kentucky. Who is credited with blazing out the Wilderness Road in 1775 through the Cumberland Gap?
A. Meriwether Lewis                          C. William Clark
B. Daniel Boone                                 D. Davy Crockett

7. During the years immediately preceding the Revolutionary War, Virginia claimed and extended its jurisdiction over a part of which other state?
A. Maryland                                       C. North Carolina

B. Tennessee                                      D. Pennsylvania

8. What modern-day military organization was formed in 1790 as the Revenue Cutter Service?
A. United States Marine Corps         C. United States Navy
B. United States Merchant Marines  D. United States Coast Guard

9. The Declaration of Independence has 56 signers. Which state had the most signers?
A. Massachusetts                             C. New Jersey
B. Virginia                                         D. Pennyslvania

10. Which of the 13 English colonies was founded by religious dissenters?
A. Rhode Island                                  C. Connecticut
B. Massachusetts                               D. New Hampshire

Got it? Here's the answers:
1. C    2. C.    3. A    4. B    5. A    6. B    7. D    8. D    9. D    10. A

How did you do? Don't worry. I don't expect you to ace it. Regardless of your answer, you can still enter to win a signed copy of THE CAPTIVE HEART.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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