Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Winners List & How Do You Manage Your Social Media?

First, I'd like to announce the winners of last week's giveaway.

The winners of the 5-page critiques are:
First crit: Natasha Hanova of 'Writes By Moonlight'
Second crit: Hope Roberson of 'Writing With Hope'
And the third crit--two crits actually (because I'm feeling generous = P)--go to...
Sara H. & Joel P., two of the OYANer students who are studying writing using the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum. Sara & Joel are home-schooled students, both in 11th grade.

The winner of the $15 Amazon gift card is:
Jamie DeMoville Adams


Here's proof Rafflecopter chose -- not me:
= )

To everyone who participated - Thank you!

And to C.B. Wentworth - Thanks for the award and the kind mention. ; )
Visitors - if you haven't started following CB's blog, you should.

I also wanted to throw this in...
For a super-interesting post on indie publishing by Susan Kaye Quinn, click here.


Now for today's blog topic...
Once again, I don't have a guest scheduled and I'm feeling fairly uninspired, so I've decided to ask you for your opinions.

Thanks to Carrie Butler and Melissa Sugar's Get Fired Up blog contest combined with Rach's Platform Building Campaign, I was suddenly thrust into the world of social media.

Don't think I'm not grateful! I'm very thankful for these ladies and their help. I mean, it was the perfect storm. I would have been a fool to say no. But that didn't make it any easier for this forty-something mother of three who barely manages a couple of emails and a personal Facebook account to be launched into the world of professional writers and serious social media.

It was only last week I figured out--as I was staring at my Google reader with the 65 blogs and their collective 600+ unread posts--that I could click a button labeled 'mark all as read' instead of scrolling through each and every blog post to clear the numbers. Ah HA! Now the title of the blog only turns bold when there's a new post. So much easier to see whose blog I need to visit! (I know some of you are laughing, but that really was a woot-out-loud moment for me. = P)

Now that my blog's up and running and my nerves are settling back down, I need to come up with some kind of social media schedule so I can keep up with what's new and form those important relationships in the writing world while, at the same time, not letting my writing time suffer. Since my main blog posting day is Wednesday, I decided to make that my social media day, too, and spend more time than usual visiting blogs and sifting through tweets on Twitter. Still, I could use some suggestions.

  • How do you organize your social media duties and incorporate that with finding time to write?
  • How do you keep up with a Twitter feed that speeds by faster than the winning car at Daytona?
  • What do you set as priorities when you delve into the social media jungle?
  • And how do you not get lost in there?

Tell me, please. I can't wait to read your answers!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Of Early Birds & Worms

I don't have any guests scheduled for today, nor do I have any great words of wisdom bursting forth to type into this big white space ( can stop snickering now.  = P). So I decided to do a pop quiz of sorts and see who is visiting my blog. To reward my faithful followers I'm giving away 2 things. Well, 4 really.

To the first 3 people who comment on this post, I'm giving away a free, 5-page critique. HURRY! If you want a critique, scroll down and comment right now, then come back up and finish reading this!

LOL - Now that that's out of the way, take your time.

For the 4th prize:
For everyone who visits this post until midnight on the 27th, I'm offering a chance to win a $15 Amazon gift card. (That equals anywhere from the better part of one best-seller hardback to fifteen 99c kindle books. = P Keep in mind, it can be used on other stuff besides books.) If you want to enter the drawing for the gift card, leave me a comment and fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Once the contest ends, I'll announce the winners and give out the prizes. This is a random drawing, so everyone who enters has the same chance of winning.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Anyone with email access and the ability to make and view MS Word documents may enter to win the critique - US or international. As for the Amazon gift card, you might want to check their policies first. It looks like international recipients would not be able to redeem them.

Oh, and it goes without saying, but I am collecting email address for the sole purpose of contacting the winners and providing prizes. Your private information will not be shared, sold, or otherwise misused in any way. ; ) Also, if you win a critique, wait for instructions before emailing me your submission.

Check back next week. My goal is to post the winners with Wednesday's blog post.
Good luck! And thanks for visiting! = )

PS: Feel free to share this if you wish. ; )

Friday, March 16, 2012

Turn The Other Cheek

“If you get a bad review, it’s because someone outside your target audience has found your book and gave it a shot. It’s no reflection on them as a reader, and no reflection on you as a writer. If, as an author, you don’t understand this, your writing will suffer, because you’ll be writing not to get bad reviews instead of writing to reward your target audience.”   – John Locke

The current consensus on whether or not authors should reply to a bad review is 'don't.' Some say don't even read them at all. I personally find myself torn between reading my (eventual - thinking positive here) reviews to see if there are repeated comments on certain aspects of my writing that might need improvement and ignoring them entirely to spare my feelings and my motivation.

For a thought-provoking post on the subject, click here. And for a hilarious post on the subject, [click here... Update: Unfortunately, Meljean removed the post, so I had to remove the link. Total bummer, that. It was side-splittingly hilarious.]. (Warning: There's some foul language in this one.) Be sure to read all 5 days worth - the posts are short and it gets better as it goes along.

And, as a bonus, for an interview of Locke on self-publishing, click here.

What do you think?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Novel Recipe by author Dani Pettrey

Today, I'm excited to introduce author Dani Pettrey who is joining us with a recipe for fiction. Prior to publishing her debut novel Submerged, Dani finished as a finalist in several contests: ACFW’s Genesis, Heart of the West, Where the Magic Begins, Golden Acorn, and the Daphne du Maurier. Please give her a warm welcome.

A Novel Recipe
by Dani Pettrey

Today I’d like to share a novel writing recipe. It is in no way intended as a recipe for formulaic writing, but rather a list of fiction ingredients necessary for any story. How you approach these steps and the order you work in is completely up to you. Have fun!

Ingredients for Writing a Novel:

Also called the storyline. Look up the definition of plot and you will get a number of different answers surprisingly enough, but the most concise and barebones definition I’ve found is: the arrangement of events that make up a story. Plot is intricately tied to story structure: the way in which characters, events, reactions, goals, attempts, and outcomes are organized together to create a cohesive plot. I believe every novelist needs to understand story structure.  There are a ton of fabulous resources out there on the topic, but my personal favorite is Story by Robert McKee.

Characterization: Include at least one protagonist and one antagonist.
Protagonist: In romantic suspense you often have two protagonists—your hero and heroine. Without characters you have no story. Your protagonist should be someone the reader falls in love with, someone the reader can identify with, and someone the reader can root for. Some of my favorite characters include Elizabeth Bennett (Pride and Prejudice), Aragorn (Lord of the Rings), and Kinsey Millhone (Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Mysteries Series—22 novels and I still can’t get enough, now that’s phenomenal characterization). 

Antagonist: Every book needs a baddie. Most often it is in the form of a villain (Sauron, Professor Moriarty) but can be nature (The Perfect Storm), society (1984), self (Red Badge of Courage), machine/technology (Terminator) or supernatural (very common in comic book characters—X-Men). It’s impossible to be heroic without opposition which leads into our next ingredient conflict.

Conflict is what keeps your reader engaged in your story, it is the obstacles that force your character to grow and become heroic. Without conflict, there is no growth, no change, and no reason to keep reading. Conflict is what keeps your character from reaching his goals, or at least attempts very hard to.

Point of view: Or POV is who tells your story. Traditionally your protagonist is your point of view character. The story is told through his/her eyes. It is who you live the story through.

All stories take place somewhere. It is amazing to me how profoundly setting impacts story. For example, what if the legend of King Arthur took place in space or Cinderella took place in the Wild West? Authors should work to set their story in a location that will best allow the action to unfold.

Dialogue: The speech of fiction. It is the conversations your characters have. Good dialogue should move the story forward, reveal character, and elicit reader emotion.

Theme: It is the message or takeaway value of your novel. Examples include: Sacrifice (The Green Mile), Love (The Notebook), Revenge (Macbeth).

The beauty of writing a novel is combining these ingredients in a way that will result in a wonderful creation.  

DaniPettrey is a wife, a homeschooling mom and author. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves--the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of one's faith and plenty of romance. She's a huge fan of dark chocolate, is always in search of the best iced mocha and her dream is to one day own a little cottage on a remote stretch of beach. She and her husband reside in Maryland with their two teenage daughters. Her debut novel, Submerged, will be a May 2012 release from Bethany House. You can find her online at

Submerged is available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble,

Other links:  Blog   Twitter    Facebook Author Page


Thanks, Dani. I'm sure writers visiting the site will appreciate your recipe and benefit from such a wonderful dissection of a story's basic but necessary elements.  

And to my visitors, thanks for stopping by. We'd love to hear your comments. 

Hope to see you next week!


Monday, March 12, 2012

Some fun on a Monday - Another Award!

Carrie Butler -- author, friend, and  winner in the first campaign challenge -- has given me another award.  
Thanks, Carrie. = )
I'm supposed to answer these questions and pass the award on to some deserving bloggers. 

  • Favorite Color: Blue
  • Favorite Animal: Dog (Puppy, if it belongs to someone else. LOL)
  • Favorite Number: Any number that doesn't expect me to add, subtract, multiply or divide it with another number. (I'm not bad at math. I just get more than enough practice between balancing the checkbook, homeschooling, and figuring medication doses at work. Blek.)
  • Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink: Orange La Croix
  • Facebook or Twitter: Facebook. Although with their changes, I'm inclined to say 'neither.' And I'll take any Twitter advice anyone is willing to give.
  • My Passions: How much time do you have? :P  If I had to pick 2, they would be writing and the renewing of common sense in our country.
  • Getting or Giving Presents:I'm going to steal part of Carrie's answer: 'Giving...receiving presents makes me all squirmy and awkward.' :P
  • Favorite Pattern: Any pattern that doesn't have a zipper. (I sew...or used to before I began writing. Ha!)
  • Favorite Day of the Week: It's a tie between Tuesday and Wednesday. (I work weekend nights and do laundry on Mondays and Thursdays.)
  • Favorite Flower: In my yard - gardenias; as a gift - roses.
 Besides Carrie, here are some bloggers who never fail to brighten my day:

Your mission?
  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Write a blog post about it with the answers to the questions.
  • Nominate 10 other bloggers and let them know.

Friday, March 9, 2012

I Am Not A Robot!

This is a short post about word verification a.k.a. 'Captcha' on Blogger (Google) blogs.

The purpose of word verification is to prevent automated spam. You may not even realize you have it, because it doesn't require you to do it when making comments on your own blog. But it will discourage visitors from posting comments, so you should seriously consider turning it off.

If word verification is on, your visitors will see something like this when they post  a comment:

After typing their comment, they must decipher and enter the wavy words shown and get them exactly right, caps and all before their comment will be posted. When someone is visiting several sites or posting multiple comments, this gets very old very fast.

From what I've been told, Blogger controls spam fairly well, so this really isn't needed. As an added layer of protection, I restrict anonymous posts to my site. So far, I've not had any problems with spam or inappropriate comments. (5-30-12 Update: I still haven't had trouble, and my settings are the same.)

If you're interested in turning off word verification on your blog, I have two links for you to choose from. One is a blog post with a simple list of instructions. The other (my favorite) is a YouTube video that leads you through the entire process.

*Update 8/15/12: Or you can go to my blog here for instructions and get a Captcha-Free blog button while you're there.

Hope this helps. Happy blogging. = )

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Linore Rose Burkard on Building Characters

Today, I have a real treat for you--award-winning, multi-published, regency romance author Linore Rose Burkard with an article on building characters. Linore graduated from the City University of New York with a magna cum laude degree in English Literature, and now lives in Ohio where she enjoys writing her books, creating her monthly ezine ("Regency Reflections"--free to anyone who subscribes at her website), and giving workshops on writing, Jane Austen, and marketing.

Here's Linore...

Building Believable Characters For Your Novel
by Linore Rose Burkard

Author Joanne Reid once said, "One of the leading causes of rejection by a publisher is poorly developed, one-sided characters."  If you've been reading fiction for any length of time you're probably inclined to agree. Characters can make or break a story. But is there a key to creating characters that aren't one-sided? A method to avoid writing poorly developed ones?

I believe there is.

Experts agree that believable, well-rounded characters share basic building blocks that any writer can use. Some may seem obvious, but even published authors can fail to include one or more of these features.

1. Individualized Appearance. From hair color to style of clothing; posture, facial expression, body language--it all counts to distinguish your character and set him or her apart from the crowd. I recently read a book that was enjoyable but by the last page, I still couldn't tell you what the heroine really looked like. I had a great sense of who she was and how she behaved. But I wasn't sure of her hair color. Don't make this mistake. Keep description short (unless you have a thematic reason for emphasizing it), but be specific, and include all the basics. What are basics? Ethnicity, hair and eye color, stature (tall, short, average), etc. Don't describe each and every attribute, but refer to one or more as an unobtrusive way to convey information.

Example: His six-foot-two height made Sheri, never considered tall, feel like a dwarf. And she didn't like it.

From this we learn that Sheri isn't tall, and doesn't like being reminded of it, but we conveyed the information in an interesting manner.

2. A Solid Background
Main characters need a history that is specific to them. Most or all of this history may not ever need to appear in the book, but if you are going to write the character as well-rounded, you'll need to know it.  Many authors find they rely heavily on the past history of their characters as they write, often creating plot details that work only BECAUSE of that history. Nearly all of Jane Austen's novels employ this type of plot-device in at least one character, and usually more than one. She carefully hides certain details from a person's past until the time comes for a big surprise to the other characters and the reader--at which point the detail/s is/are revealed (discovered), everything makes perfect sense, and the story can end satisfactorily. 

In my first novel, Before the Season Ends, the hero is immune, he thinks, to female charms. His behavior reflects this disinterest, is speculated upon and misunderstood; finally, near the end of the story his past is brought to light by a close relative. Suddenly, all that he is falls into place. His actions make sense, and this is no small thing: Never forget that the reader desperately wants your story to make sense. It gives a feeling of completeness to the book, a satisfaction that mustn't be underestimated. Your characters don't have to be likeable or loveable--but they must make sense by the last page. Even if they are comprehensible to no one but themselves (and the reader), they must at least be that.

3: Emotion (or Motive)
We touched upon this by noting that good characters must make sense. Their actions must align with their beliefs; or, if they don't, there has to be a good reason why not. In other words, MOTIVE and EMOTIONS are everything. Real people have a MOTIVE for what they do, and most of the time, those motives are fueled by emotions.

Fictional characters need to operate the same way. Many plots hinge on the emotions or motives of characters; by making a character do or say things he or she doesn't really believe or want to do or say. That's what CONFLICT is all about. A character at odds with himself, his surroundings, his family, his GOD--any or all of these are conflicts that can shape a story. But to make the conflict work, the character has to reveal WHY it's a conflict. This means showing his or her emotions, even if only in his or her thoughts. So, figure out what your character feels or believes and then use it
to increase conflict or forward the plot.

I can't fit more into a blog post, but I hope these ideas help you in your writing!

Warmest Blessings,

Linore Rose Burkard is an award-winning author of "Inspirational Romance to Warm the Soul". Ms. Burkard's novels include Before the Seasons Ends, The House in Grosvenor Square, and The Country House Courtship. Her stories blend Christian faith and romance with well-researched details of the Regency. When not writing novels, Ms. Burkard gives writing workshops, does freelance editing, and publishes a monthly ezine, available by signing up for free at her website. Linore was raised in NY, but now lives in Ohio with her husband and five children. The Burkards are involved in church, and love swimming, movies and family game nights.  

You can find Linore here:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Blog 
You can find Linore's books here.

Thanks, Linore. I found your post both enjoyable and educational. I'm sure others will, too.  And thanks to my visitors. We love your comments.

Hope to see you back next Wednesday when author Dani Pettrey joins us with a recipe for fiction.
= )

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fay Lamb on Writing Romance

Romance writers, especially those interested in writing Christian Fiction, will enjoy today’s guest, Fay Lamb. Fay wears many hats, but she’ll be speaking to you today as ‘Fay Lamb, published author of romantic suspense.’ Please, give her a warm welcome and enjoy the article.

Writing Romance: When Less is More

There are certain Bible passages that lift my heart or stir deep feelings in me no matter how many times I’ve read them. Genesis 26:8 is one of those. “And it came to pass, when he [Isaac] had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.”

In this instance, sporting refers to a caress. And what a caress it must have been for a king to immediately realize Isaac was more to Rebekah than a brother. In fact, the next verse tells us that in that caress the king knew Rebekah was Isaac’s wife.

There’s nothing scandalous in the Bible’s account, so what makes it touch hearts so deeply?  One single word in the entire account brings it so vividly to mind. Several different words could replace sporting, but would the passage be as memorable if replaced by kiss, touch, or even caress? No. Sporting brings with it a vision of a young man smitten by the woman he loves, leaning in, his thumb brushing her cheek as his lips meet hers. One word brings it to life for me, and I am stirred by the poignancy of the moment.

So why do writers sometimes feel they must trample over readers’ imaginations by bringing us into places we should never go only for the sake of a love scene. Unless the actions of the characters are imperative to the story, less is more.

In my novel Because of Me, young lovers are separated by terrible circumstances. For a long time, all they have of each other are their memories. Wanting to show more with less, I delved into how to capture memories so strong they would reflect the ache in the characters’ hearts despite all that has torn them apart. And I thought of Genesis 26:8.

When the story opens, Issie Putnam is thinking about Michael Hayes:

One thing she’d never forget was the way his eyes, the color of dark chocolate, always followed her lips when she spoke, as if he wanted to kiss them long and deep. He’d loved her then. She loved him now.

A short paragraph that shows Issie’s pining heart, but Issie’s memories also leave no room for doubt. Michael loved her.

Later we find that despite new obstacles between them, Michael’s love for Issie is just as strong. Here they meet for the first time in many years while a storm is raging around them:

“Issie?” Her name on his lips brought a shiver, and she opened her eyes. Lightning illuminated the area for a brief second, and a boom of thunder broke over them. “My truck’s over here. Let me give you a ride home.”
“Are you really Michael?” Cole blinked the rain out of his eyes.
“And how would you be knowing that, lad?” Michael asked.
Issie giggled at the brogue he always mimicked so easily when he’d been around Matilda. Michael’s gaze fell on her lips as if fascinated by her action, the way he’d always done when she laughed.
“Michael.” She found her voice. “It really is you.”

In a love scene, lengthy descriptions of the characters’ touches and actions can do nothing like a few carefully chosen words that evoke the reader’s imagination and show the strength of your characters’ feelings for one another.

God plants those seeds for our imagination to be able to connect pictures of what lovers do. Our God didn't just mention sporting in His book so long ago...He invented it.

Not your typical Christian fiction.

Michael’s fiancĂ©e, Issie Putnam, was brutally attacked and Michael was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Now he’s home to set things right.

Two people stand in his way: Issie’s son, Cole, and a madman.

Can Michael learn to love the child Issie holds so close to her heart and protect him from the man who took everything from Michael so long ago?

Available through all fine book retailers, Amazon, and MountainviewPublishing, a division of Treble Heart Books.

Fay Lamb works as an acquisition/copyeditor for Pelican Book Group (White Rose Publishing and Harbourlight Books), offers her services as a freelance editor, and is an author of Christian romance and romantic suspense. Her emotionally charged stories remind the reader that God is always in the details. Because of Me, her debut romantic suspense novel was released on February 3, 2012, by Treble Heart Books/Mountainview Publishing.

Fay has a passion for working with and encouraging fellow writers. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), she co-moderates the large Scribes’ Critique Group and manages the smaller Scribes’ critique groups. For her efforts, she was the recipient of the ACFW Members Service Award in 2010. 

In 2012, Fay was also elected to serve as secretary on ACFW’s Operating Board.
Fay and her husband, Marc, reside in Titusville, Florida, where multi-generations of their families have lived. The legacy continues with their two married sons and five grandchildren.

You can find Fay here:  Website


Thanks for those insights, Fay. Anyone can hook readers with graphic prose, but it takes a talented writer to draw them in and evoke emotion with such chaste descriptions. Kudos. I'm reading Fay's book right now and, boy, 'not your typical Christian fiction' is right! Fay drops the reader right into the action with a bang and doesn't pull any punches where tough issues are concerned. Because of Me is a plain-spoken heart-tugger from page 1.

Thanks to all of you for visiting. We love your comments. 

I hope you'll return tomorrow when author Linore Rose Burkard joins us with a post on developing characters. ; )

Monday, March 5, 2012

My First Award

Thanks, C. B. Wentworth, for the blog award!

 Here are my words:

Altruistic - Bookcase-collector - Creative - Determined - Eager  
Fun-loving - Gardener - Homeschooler - Imaginative - Just - Kind - Loner
Moon pie muncher - Nurse - Organized - Practical - Quiet - Realistic - Shy
Typing and typing and typing - Unruffled - Visual - Writer
needs a Xanax (kidding) - lover of Yesterday - Zaftig

Who’s next?  It was hard to choose, but these blogs are quite awesome and deserve to be recognized:

Lynda R. Young's blog, W.I.P It

Carrie Butler @ Soyoureawriter

Christy Farmer

Nancy Kimball

It’s easy to accept the ABC Award!  Here’s what you need to do:
1. Use the alphabet to describe yourself.
2. Pass the award to as many nominees as you see fit and let them know.

= )

Campaign Challenge Entry #2

This is my entry in Rach's second campaign challenge. There are several prompts, choices and rules, so I'm just going to list the link.

For my entry, I chose to:
Write a short story/flash fiction piece of less than 200 words based on the prompts. (Word 2010 says 196) 
Write in a genre that is not your own to add difficulty.

Source: piyaphantawong /

Suffer the Children

.       Troy grimaced at the gaping cut on his thigh. He tore a strip from his shirt and tied it above the gash. Dark red rivulets slowed to a stop.
.       Sarina leaned over. “Let me see.” She was beautiful—her green eyes sparkling like puddles in the sun and her auburn hair laying in wet ringlets, framing her face. Made him forget his pain. And rue his fate. 
.       Their fate. 
.       “It’s not that bad,” he lied.
.       As they settled back against the rusted bridge support, a child scampered overhead, giggling. Troy hugged Sarina to his side and slid them further into the shadows. That was no child. The real children were banished and starving, wandering, parentless, forced to scavenge food just to survive. Nothing was as it seemed anymore.
.       Troy managed a smile and brushed a tear from Sarina’s cheek, but he wanted to cry, too. If his mother were alive, she would heal his wound and heal their land. With a simple flick of her wrist, the Progeny would turn to harmless wisps of smoke. But that couldn’t happen now. She’d been the first victim of the coup. 
.       A familiar form materialized across from them.
.       “...Mom?”


Well, it may not be a winner, but at least it's a bit more hopeful than my last entry. 

Thanks for visiting. If you'd like to vote for me, I'm entry # 14. You won't have to scroll as far this time. = )   (*Only campaign participants may vote)