Posts Tagged ‘Amazon gift card drawing’

Contests: love ’em or leave ’em?

So you’re a writer with a limited budget. (Goes without saying doesn’t it?) Should you spend your hard earned money to enter a writing contest? There are varying viewpoints on this, but speaking as one who has both won and lost multiple contests, here are my tips on how to decide.

1. The entry fee should be manageable. Chances are, you’re not going to win (I know that sounds harsh, but those are the facts), so look at it more as an investment in your writing career. The act of entering will cause you to polish up that prose and whip your manuscript into shape so that’s worth something right there. If the fee is too high, let that contest pass. There are many small contests with manageable entry fees out there. Every one you win or even final in, is a kudo for your resume and your website.

2. There should be an attractive prize to gain. This doesn’t mean there has to be a publishing contract or a cash payout. Sometimes the payoff comes in getting your work before experienced writers and agents. If it’s a contest where written feedback is given, that may be a goldmine of opportunity to improve your writing. How else might you have a chance to have some high level people in your profession eyeball your work?

3.  The contest should have a credible organization behind it. I remember one contest I entered, sponsored by a small romance writers group, fell apart when the woman in charge of my category sort of, well, left town. Never did find out how I did in that one! Romance Writers of America sponsors the Golden Heart (prepubbed) and the RITA (published) and the American Christian Fiction Writers hosts the Genesis (prepubbed) and the Carol (for published work)  which are two great ones to start with.

Here’s a link to a bunch of contests that I’ve had good success with over the years.

So have you ever won a contest? What did you win? What contest would you love to win? Speaking of contests…giving away an Amazon gift card and signed book this month! Comments cherished! image

It’s a jungle celebration!

It’s the one year anniversary of Jungle Fire, my suspense novel set in Guatemala. In honor or this auspicious occasion, I offer a related blog post! “Why did you pick Guatemala for your suspense novel?” is a question I hear frequently. It all goes back to that exquisite skirt.

During my elementary school years, I was assigned a report to be written on a country of my choice. My mother suggested studying Guatemala, because she’d lived there briefly. I hit the library stacks and was mesmerized by the quetzal, the fantastical, jewel colored national bird of the country. Furthermore, my mother showed me a skirt, black, and festooned with the tiniest, most elaborate embroidery I’d ever seen, colors of green, red and ivory against a black background. (I still have that skirt, by the way.) Fast forward more years than I care to admit, and I was given the honor of writing a proposal for River North about a missionary nurse, running for her life, but where should the book be set? Light bulb moment. Guatemala, of course.

Have you enjoyed a book or movie with an exotic setting? What did you like about it? Giving away a signed copy of Jungle Fire and an Amazon gift card this month.

As a bonus, I’m running several mini contests on my Facebook page! Would love to see you there!


What about those “low class” books?


Ah me. It’s true. Snobbism is alive and well in the book world and we all participate to a certain degree. Those wonderful “classics” of literature are worthy, the heartwrenching literary fiction pieces that tell of the tragic journey of the human soul, now those are amazing, are they not? The large books that make us examine ourselves, priceless!

But what about the books that aren’t big and bold, on an epic scale? Does that mean they are less worthy? The little book that made you laugh. The hard boiled detective novel or thriller that absorbed you into the wee hours.  Romance writers are familiar with the “second class citizen” idea. What we write is often considered “fluff” or “purple prose” and definitely not up to par with the above mentioned. Yet these very types of books fill the shelves of bookstores and populate the best seller lists on a regular basis. Interesting, no?

So what is the mark of a worthy book? Here’s my definition. A good book touches someone. It moves them. It makes them, for a moment, stand outside their life circumstances. If a book can do that, whether it’s a romance, sci fi, horror novel or thriller, it is entitled to a spot on the bookshelf or the t.b.r. pile.

So what do you think? What qualities make you feel like a book was worth your reading time or not? Giving away an Amazon gift card on Wednesday!


“I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.”


Uninvited guest, that pesky inner editor!

DaydreamingI’m happily lost in a wonderful story told from multiple perspectives and I’m there! Immersed! Until…..I notice that the writer’s dialogue is just not completely realistic. Hmmmm. None of my Hispanic friends say “dat” when they mean “that.” Awww, nuts. Now I’m peeved. My inner editor has hijacked the story and I’ve lost my reading mojo. Errrgh.

Writers are the most critical readers ever. It bleeds over into our writing life. I can be busily clacking away on the keys, deep in the bowels of a lost mine when that darn editor shows up again. “They couldn’t be down there for that long,” she says. “It’s 2014. They’d have left word of where they were going. The mine entrance would have been properly secured. And really, you’re not going to find bats that far down in the tunnels.” Blah, blah, blah. Sometimes I really can’t stand that inner editor! Oh sure, I know she helps me write more believable scenes, but sheesh. She can get on my very last nerve.

Nothing’s to be done but to keep pushing forward in the draft version and tell that inner editor to keep quiet until the revision stage. Likely she’s not going to obey, but if I let her hijack my story, I’m never going to get the manuscript done. There’s a proper time for that inner editor to do her thing, but not during the creative phase.

One final point, (and don’t tell my editor.) On occasion, my very best writing has happened when I banish my inner editor to the closet during the plotting stage, the initial phases of a project, and just sketch out some key ideas/scenes. Free and unfettered, those wild, fantastic scenes flow with reckless abandon. That is when the best, most ‘out of the box’ ideas happen. (Until I have to let her out of the closet again.)

Do you have that annoying inner voice that gives you a little too much guidance sometimes? Maybe that work critic or the housekeeping advisor? What advice do you usually hear?

Best sellers…would you read any of these?

I am fascinated by best seller lists, because it’s like taking a peek at the pulse of the nation’s readers. Here are the top five print/ebook bestselling books according to the New York Times for this week.

1. The King, by J.R. Ward.Black Dagger Brotherhood continues as a royal bloodline is compromised by a grave threat to the throne.

2.  I’ve Got You Under My Skin, by Mary Higgins Clark.The producer of a true-crime show must contend with participants with secrets as well as her husband’s murderer.  

3.  The Fixed Trilogy, Laurelin Paige, for adult audiences only

4.  Shadow Spell, by Nora Roberts. In County Mayo, a falconer with an unresolved past falls for his sister’s best friend

5.  Missing You, Harlan Coban. Kat Donovan, an N.Y.P.D. detective, searches for the ex-fiancé who left her years before, and for her father’s murderer.

Interesting variety, no? I would probably not choose The King (not into vampire and paranormal) or The Fixed Trilogy (I generally skip imagethings with covers featuring scantily clad people doing unmentionable things), but I would probably give the Mary Higgins Clark book a read, and I enjoy most everything Coban has written. What do you think? Would you read any of the top five bestsellers on the list? Comments get you entered in the drawing for an Amazon gift card.

That dreaded backstory…

So you heard it from an editor’s mouth in the prior post. A key to writing good fiction is to limit the backstory. So what does that mean, actually? Backstory is writing that gives the history of a character’s past. Generally speaking, it slows the story down. Example:

Genna felt the tip of the knife pressed to her throat, her own frantic pulse vibrating against the blade. It reminded her of the time her father taught her how to fish after her brother had gone off to war. How sharp the blade had been that gutted the salmon, how she’d hated seeing the animal’s life spilled out onto the parched wood of the dock.

Okey dokey. We’ve got a whiz bang first sentence and our readers are intrigued. The next bit might be interesting down the road, but right here is not the time to go into Genna’s history with her father. Those details need to be sprinkled throughout the novel and not dropped in ponderous chunks either. With backstory, it’s all about small doses. Less is usually more.

How do you feel about backstory? Generally, do you want to be dropped right into the action, or do you prefer to learn more about the character first? Comments get you entered in the drawing for an Amazon gift card this week.


A Writer’s List of Resolutions

Lose weight? Eat better? Get more rest and don’t sweat the small stuff? Of course those resolutions are perfect for writers (and most of the general population.) Since I make my living writing fiction novels, however, I require some resolutions that are a bit more specific in nature. Here’s resolution #1.

Take the time to imagine. Ridiculous, you say. You’re a writer for the love of tuna!You imagine all the time. You’re right, but sometimes the push to complete a word count, meet a deadline, write blogs, participate in interviews, etc., causes me to cut short my imagination time. Result? The writing becomes mechanical, stale, uninspired. So I resolve to sit myself down in that comfy chair, without the iPad, t.v. or any current works in progress and spend some quality imagination time. The payoff is rich.

Ready? Set? Imagine!
Do you use your imagination to complete work or home projects? I’d love to hear about them. Giving away an iTunes gift card this month.2014 new year