Posts Tagged ‘fiction author’

Test your spring trivia knowledge…


imageBlogging over on the suspense sisters today.  Do you know the answer to this question?

Of the eight U.S. Presidents who died in office, how many died in the month of April?  

Click the link to find out the answer and to learn of some wacky spring happenings!

Springing into a new season…and a crazy contest!

Series or standalones, pros and cons

I started my writing career as a greenhorn with a three book mystery series set in the tiny fictional town of Finny. I guess you could say, therefore, that I cut my teeth on series writing. However, when that series wrapped I signed on with Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense and I spent a good bit of time writing single books before I once again switched to series. So which is better? In this writer’s humble opinion, there are advantages and challenges to both.

With stand alone books, you can get in there and write a book with all manner of murder and mayhem, because the characters and setting will not have to carry on through another book. Ah the freedom! Characters can be discarded at will. Frankly, it’s easier to write a stand-alone because you have fewer details to keep track of over time. The disadvantage? Your reader may not be as invested in buying your next book. Stand-alones do not provide that built in sense of urgency about what happens next.

The series, by contrast, is a whole lot more complicated. Characters must be placed carefully in the narrative who may not have the spotlight focused on them until a few more books have come and gone. Still, they need to be set into place (and they can’t be cardboard placeholders either) until it’s their turn to shine. All of their pertinent details from eye color to family history must be recorded to ensure the facts remain consistent over the course of the series. Same with the setting, if the entire series takes place in one location. That coffee shop on the corner of Cream and Sugar had better be in the same location in book two, unless you’ve explained the change. Publishers appreciate series book because if readers enjoy the first one, they’re primed to come back for the rest which makes everyone’s marketing job a bit easier.

So what about you? Do you enjoy stand-alone novels or series? Got any favorites you’d care to share?  Giving away a Starbuck’s card and two books this month.


Writing money well spent…not!

20131209-143142.jpgA bit more on the topic of money well spent, or not so well spent. I’ve been at this wacky writing biz for a long time and I can safely say, I’ve wasted my share of nickels. The last post was about what I have found to be worthwhile expenses. Here are a few ways I’ve thrown away some hard earned cash.

1. Printing nifty swifty bookmarks. Now I love a good bookmark, and when Jungle Fire released, I had a hefty box of them ready to distribute. Nice, but then River North sent me a box of a thousand awesome, eyecatching bookmarks. Errgh. My mistake for not specifically inquiring of the marketing department about this particular point. Always know what your publisher will provide so you don’t duplicate efforts. (And another note, don’t put ‘coming in 2014’ or anything like that on your bookmarks if you do design them. It prevents you from being able to use them after the book has come out.)

2. Printing my own business cards. Yes, I do believe in the power of the business card. It needs to be professional, polished and pertinent. My view is, there are so many printing companies that can prepare an amazing business card for you, that it’s a waste of money to do it yourself. By the time you factor in ink, specialty paper and the wear and tear on the computer, I really believe you’re better off offloading this task. I use VistaPrint and I’ve been perfectly pleased with them. An added bonus is you can easily order more, or change your design at any time.

Okay, let’s bare our souls here. Have you ever purchased goods or services that turned out to be a waste of money? Make me feel better about my mistakes. Share, please! Giving away a Starbuck’s Card in a few weeks.

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.


Covers…yes, they do sell books.

I am going to take a moment to thank another group who rarely gets so much as an afterthought, the people who design our covers. Yes, I am blessed to work for a publisher with a top-notch art department who creates original covers for the Love Inspired Suspense novels. In my opinion, they are much more striking and eye-catching than covers which utilize stock art. (Not to knock anyone here.) How fortunate am I that they solicit ideas and imagery to incorporate so the cover really does tell the story. It also sells the book. It’s a fact that books with interesting covers are more likely to be purchased. So here’s a big “Thank you!” to the art department. blog motivational

Do you choose books based on their covers? What do you like in a cover, people or landscapes? All comments get you entered in the November Walmart card drawing. 

Famous first lines…do they grab you?

Attention spans are short these days, aren’t they? We have no time to wait on a slow internet connection, or too many commercials. If we aren’t captured by an intriguing headline, or a fantastic tweet, chances are we’re going to surf on by. The same applies to novels. Catch your reader in the first page, or you aren’t going to catch them at all. Amazing authors can go a step further by hooking their audience from the very first line. Check out the examples below.

In the hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit. – J.R.R. Tolkien

All children, except one, grow up. -J.M. Barrie

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. -Jane Austen

The Man in Black fled across the Desert and the Gunslinger followed. -Stephen King

What first line to do like the best? Which would draw you into reading the novel? thinking

Got a mentor?

Listening to some happy writers accepting their Carol and Genesis awards brought home that every aspiring or working writing needs one very important item; a mentor! All of those same happy authors credited a fellow writer, friend or colleague who taught them the ropes, or simply held their hand when discouragement rained down.

Writing is a lonely business. It’s not often that authors meet their agents or editors. Personally, I’m fortunate if I clap eyes on either agent or editor once a year as one is in Oregon and the other in New York. Daily work days are solitary, spent tapping away at keyboards in the quiet of my little house in the company of a box turtle who lacks something in conversational skills. In such a lonely business, the role of the mentor is crucial.

My lovely mentor, the woman who inspired me to keep trying and to learn more about my craft, is the fabulous Penny Warner. She didn’t blow smoke, she encouraged without painting an overly optimistic picture. (It’s a hard business to get into and every author needs to hear the truth.) Her solid, practical advice was invaluable to me then and now as I plod through this crazy career.

Who has mentored you in some way? What did they enable you to accomplish? All comments get you entered in the September drawing for an Amazon gift card. missing person mom

Blogging about…Oh look! A squirrel! Why we don’t read the classics.

Have you read the classics? It seems, according to an article in the Telegraph that many more people claim to have plowed through these tomes than have actually followed through. A survey of 2000 people found a good 62% of folks fibbed about having read classics such as War and Peace and Great Expectations. I’ve been pondering this (speaking as one who has not read War and Peace, but enjoyed Great Expectations in high school.) Why aren’t modern readers as on fire about reading these great works as readers from generations past? The themes are still bold, the characters vivid, the truths universal. Why the low appeal?

Get ready, I’m delivering up a theory! I believe it has something to do with our modern attention span. We’re used to quick information, delivered instantly in an easily decipherable manner. Older works tend to be wordier, with more complex, antiquated language that requires some stamina. We just don’t have the desire to go to the extra trouble to plow through it. Am I right or wrong? Do you agree with my theory that modern readers have a shorter attention span? I’d love to hear from you and all posts get you entered in the September drawing for an Amazon gift card.

If you want a speedy version of the some literary powerhouses, peruse the following link which boils down five great classics into a tweetable 140 characters.Daydreaming

Killing adverbs and adjectives? A painful writing tip!

Ah those lovely adjectives and adverbs. I adore them, don’t you? Unfortunately, overusing the little darlings produces weak writing. Oh, I know. It pains me, too. Why wouldn’t we want to pepper our work with those lovely adjectives and adverbs that help our readers see exactly what we want them to? Problem is, they help a little too much. Excessive use of adjectives and adverbs slows down the story and, dare I say, bores the stuffing out of the reader. Consider the sentence below.

The tiny brown mouse with white whiskers and pink feet crawled slowly to the trap and hurriedly took the yellow cheese before he ran away.

Okay. I’m getting a picture of this mouse and the scenario, but it’s somewhat unnecessary. Most folks know what a mouse looks like and they will fill in their own mental picture. They don’t need a bunch of adjectives. What is required is strong verbs that stand alone without the aid of adverbs. Instead of took and ran, let’s try something stronger. How about snatched and skittered?

The wee mouse snatched the cheese and skittered away.

Can you visualize the scene? Did we convey the same mind movie in a more streamlined, elegant way that didn’t bore you? And we did it all with only one adjective and nary an adverb. In the words of Mark Twain, “If you see an adverb, kill it!” Thoughts? All comments get you entered in next week’s drawing for a Starbuck’s card. blog motivational

Another good writing investment….

Desert desperate cover, jpgMoney doesn’t grow on trees, nor does it seem to replicate in my bank accounts no matter how often I check on it. Thus, I need to feel confident that each penny spent on the writing biz is doing something productive. One helpful investment I’ve made for my self published works is to spring for professionally designed covers.

Covers sell books, particularly ebooks. Have you ever surfed on Amazon and seen books with the little grey “no cover image available” pictures? I’ll bet you passed them by. Or perhaps a very amateurish looking cover? It might be the best story in the universe, but the cover sends a message. If you are cyber savvy and create your own design, make sure it has good clear images, the author’s name and title in easy to read font and a layout that doesn’t overwhelm the eye. Fuzzy, poorly done artwork implies fuzzy, poorly done prose. Yes, it’s expensive to pay for a cover design, but if you’re cyber dork like myself and you have an ebook to market, find someone who can do it for you. There are zillions. I use Dara England and she customizes each cover for me. She’s a gem and completely worth the investment.

So covers sell books. Do you agree? If not, what other factors make you pick up a book off the shelves? Comments get you entered in the Amazon gift card drawing next week.