Friday, December 31, 2010

Do We Need A Face Lift?

As We Were Saying is thinking about getting a face lift. We need your help! What should we not change? What is crying out for an overhaul? We've changed the page colors. What do you think of it? Too bright, too hard on the eyes, just right? We’re going to be putting a lot of thought into the navigation tabs, page layout, and content . Thoughts? Ideas? Do you have a blog? What do you use- blogger or wordpress?

Also, tell us what keeps you coming back here for more. We’d love to know your thoughts about the website and what we can do better!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

How To Plan For The Best Year Yet-2011

How To Plan For The Best Year Yet-2011

Every year since I was a child, I’ve set aside time in December to look back on the previous year and set goals for the next year.  This was my Dad’s way and we kids all did what he said to do.

This year I’m taking only one day, but I’m also editing a contest submission and outlining another project at the same time.

Why Make a Plan?

A basic principle of planning is stating what you want to achieve. You may have to give up something to get something else – so it’s better to know what’s most important to you.

Donald Miller says in his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, meaningful lives don’t just happen by accident. You have to make deliberate decisions at some point. If you know what you value and what you are working towards, it will be much easier to make the decisions.


  •  Evaluate the Previous Year
  •  State Goals and Focus for Next Year
  • Identify Obstacles and make decisions in Support of the Goals and Focus
Here’s what each one looks like in brief:

Look Back

Look back at the year that’s quickly coming to an end. What went well? What did not go well? Write down at least three items for each category. If you set goals from last year, go back and review all of the goals you set last December. How did things work out?

Lesson Learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward? (Author: Tara Weaver) excerpted from

Ask Yourself Questions

5 Minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010 (Patti Digh)

If you didn’t set goals ask yourself these questions.

What disappointed you?

What surprised you?

Where did you excel?

Where did you fail?

List Your Goals:
  • The goal must be written down and must be meaningful and specific.
  • The goal must have an ending time.
  • Obstacles to obtaining the goal must be identified.
  • A plan must be executed to overcome obstacles.
  • Write down the list of people, organizations, and tools that can help you obtain the goal.
  • Write down a plan of action to obtain results.
  • Write down the things that will benefit you if you obtain the goal.

Categorize Your Goals .

I’ll share an example here from my Writing category:

2011 Writing Goals:

Write 150,000 words and track progress through spreadsheet.


 Write 52+ blog posts, oriented towards writing craft and motivation (50,000)

  Write one book (100,000 words)

After you have your goals set in all the categories, then define the outcomes.

One year from now, what do I want to have accomplished? Write this statement as a short paragraph. Outcomes: At the end of 2011, I will have finished the manuscript for my book and written for the group blog. I will have a list of agents to contact, a query letter and synopsis written.

The list of outcomes highlights the big priorities.

Choose a theme and purpose for the next year. The theme and purpose usually come as a result of the goals. My theme will be Contribution . I want to contribute more through my writing and to my writers groups.

Identify Obstacles to the Goals and Focus

There are always obstacles that come up to keep you from obtaining your goal. For instance if your goal is writing a specific number of words or pages, unexpected company arriving when you haven’t met your page or word goal for the day, can quickly make you adjust your goal.  Losing your manuscript because you didn’t save it, or children misbehaving are all obstacles. List ways you can find the time to write, and the necessary tools to prevent the loss of your work.   Do the same procedure in other categories of your life, financial- spiritual, family etc.

Once you know where you’re going, it’s much easier to plan the route. After setting the goals, you can then figure out how to make them happen. As Seth Godin says “You have to show up to make them happen.”

If You’re Not A Goal Setter

If you don’t believe in setting goals for active life planning, then you will be setting yourself up for failure by the second week of January if you're not committed. Taking life as it comes is not a goal setter's motto. You have to believe that establishing goals and working toward something is worthwhile. But there are other ways to approach goal setting.

A friend of mine mentioned that for her New Year’s Resolution, she sets a goal using a single powerful word to focus on a specific goal. She wants to be more efficient in her work and life. So she chose the word organize. She says she wants to be organized in all areas of her home and life. She says it will make her feel more comfortable and happy . The single word is a reminder about the goal/resolution . If she wants to do something different, she could – but as long as she keeps challenging herself, she’s fairly happy with how things are going with her one word.

Maybe, how we spend our days is how we live our lives. Those moments that unconsciously slip away add up and are gone forever. Will you plan your next year?  Share your thoughts. How did your 2010 go and what do you want for 2011?

We'll be taking a digital break until January, so that we can spend time with our families. See you back here, ready to go January 2nd, 2011.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

How To Write A Home Run Story In 2011

Larry Brooks
Crossposted with permission.   If you like straight talk, this information will be immensely helpful. Thank you Larry for your post.
HOW TO WRITE A HOME RUN STORY IN 2011                          
by Larry Brooks                                                     

Part 1… of Two

We say the same thing every year right about now: this will be our year. This, of course, meaning the fresh new year about to commence.

Because, perhaps on many fronts, the departing year definitely wasn’t it.

Right about now is where one of the most tried and true truths of the universe applies, to the point of cliché. It’s that old definition of insanity: doing the same old thing while expecting different results.

Too many writers get stuck in this loop, many because they aren’t aware there is a better way. But there is.

Perhaps, in 2011, you should do something different.

Where your story is concerned, the following sequential regimen and process just might qualify as something marvelously, brilliantly different. The thing that could break you out of whatever loop, or rut, in which you consider yourself stuck.

And while I can’t guarantee your success – nobody can do that in the writing game – I can do the next best thing. Because your novel and/or screenplay – or whatever other kind of story you’re writing – can’t help but be better for it.

This process breaks down into six sequential parts.

Which means, you get to do the math any way you’d like, as long as you do this in the right order.

I also highly recommend that you tackle these as equal segments of time, if nothing else than for the sake of discipline and focus.

Could be that a lack of discipline and focus was your undoing in 2010. Follow this story development process, and that particular issue will go away in 2011.

Which means, you can write your story in six 2-month segments, six 1-month segments, or six 3, 2 or one-week segments. The further into that sentence you fall, the more projects you can write, and write successfully, in the next year.

Feel free to start in the middle if you’re already somewhere down this path. You may begin the year knowing precisely what story you hope to write, which means you can skip to Segment 3. But, with an asterisk.

The asterisk is: you should never skip Segment 1 if, in the most objective dark corner of your writerly soul, you aren’t completely sure that you’re in command of the requisite tools of the trade.

If you aren’t sure what those tools are beyond “a way with words,” then you more than most are in need of Segment 1.

To skip Segment 1 is like trying to fly an airplane without ground school. Or take out a spleen without medical school. Or survive a troubled marriage without counseling.

You may think you know… but do you? Really?

The lie you tell yourself in this regard is precisely what stands in your way of writing a story that will sell. In this or any other year.

I also caution against jumping around in this sequence… that, too, could be part of the reason you remained unpublished in 2010. The Great Fatal Mistake writers make is to skip one of these segments, or even just phone it in, in favor of the joy of actually writing the narrative.

Yeah, it’s fun to fly an airplane, too… but just wait until you try to land. You’d better know what you’re doing.

The countryside is full of crashed writing dreams because the writer/pilot lied to themselves about Segment 1, and then, out of that ignorance, disregarded one of the other steps.

Don’t let that be you.

Segment 1: Prepare The Storyteller.

You’ve just read my cautionary pleadings. Now it’s up to you. This is the reason most writers can’t sell their work. It’s not their story… it’s them.

Are you fluent in dramatic theory? Do you know the difference between sub-plot and sub-text? Between concept and theme? Because premise and concept? Between inciting incident and the first plot point? Do you even know what a first plot point is, and where it goes, and why, and how it detonates your story if you misplace it, as well as the other major story milestones? Do you know what those milestones are?

More importantly, are you operating out of the belief that those questions are invalid for you, that there is some great and mysterious creative muse out there that will guide you through and around these story-killing obstacles?

These questions are just the tip of the iceberg. You actually can write a home run story without knowing these things by summoning your intuitive, inner storytelling genius.

But let’s get real. There are only a few of them out there, and they are rich and famous. The rest of the names you see on the bookshelves or on the opening credits of a film… they’ve immersed themselves in Segment 1.

It’s Your Call

Read Syd Field, whether you’re a novelist or a screenwriter. Read my story structure ebook. Immerse yourself in the realm of the Six Core Competencies of successful storytelling, available at this link in my new book, or here on the site in the archives. Read The Writer’s Journey, which is not available here. Read about Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake methodology. Read James Frye’s How To Write A Damn Good Novel and his several genre-specific follow-ups. Go to a Robert McKee workshop.

Then, read some bestsellers and not so bestsellers and watch it all unfold before your eyes. Perhaps for the very first time. Reading books in context to something valid, craft-wise, is the most beneficial thing you can do to prepare yourself for writing your own.

Reading or writing without that context… it’s a crap shoot. With very low odds.

Make sure you get it. If you don’t, you’re on your own with that inner storyteller that thinks he/she does get it.

And, remains unpublished as 2010 leaves the building.

Segment 2: Prepare Your Vision For The Story.

What follows assumes you do get it. That you’ve taken the time, put in the effort, and it all makes perfect, illuminating sense to you.

Now it’s time to get to work on your story.

You need to have an idea for a story, and it has to have legs. You need to live with that idea for a while, kick it around and bat it back and forth with your creative peers and mentors, to see if it really is a good idea after all.

Ideas are like cheap lovers. Sometimes they don’t look so hot in the morning.

Ideas are also like not-so-cheap lovers. When you let them go, if they don’t come back to you they were never really there.

But, as you hone your idea into great majesty, remember this: beginning a draft with only that idea on the table, without the following segments of the process having been addressed, is a commitment to using drafting as your vehicle for story discovery. A long and arduous road.

If you do this, you are officially a pantser… someone who writes stories by the seat of their pants. It can work, but it’s the long hard road to get there.

Why? Because there are three other essential elements, or essences, that you need to put into place before your story will work, and there are a list of criteria under each of them you should apply to your plan.

The only pantsers who stand a chance are the ones who know this. Same with story planners, but by definition, what story planners plan is, in essence, those criteria-driven elements

Once again… do the math.

Ready to commit to a long term relationship with that idea? You’re not done with this phase. And you’re not ready to write the story, either.

Has it been done before, and how, and by whom? What is your genre, and does it fit? What is the market appeal of this idea, assuming you can write it well enough, and does your idea fit, stretch or otherwise offend its given niche? Why will anyone else care about this idea and the story that will spring from it?

What gift does this idea bestow upon the reader?

What about this idea will grab a crusty old seen-it-all agent or editor and make them lose sleep until they can sign you?

To Be Continued...
Read Part 2 of “How To Write A Home Run Story in 2011″ early next week.

Larry Brooks is the author of four critically-acclaimed thrillers,  with one of the fastest-growing and most respected writing sites on the internet

Born and raised in Portland, Oregon , he graduated with a degree in marketing communications from Portland State University in 1975 where he  attended  in the off-season from a professional baseball career.  He pitched for five-years in the Texas Rangers organization.

Below are two of Larry's newest books. You may find a complete list of his books at his website.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Writers Digest 101 Best Blogs Voting

 Voting For Top 101 Best Websites ends January 1, 2011.

Every year Writers Digest selects 101 of the best websites  for writers.They 've divided their list into nine sections: creativity, writing advice, general resources, jobs and markets, online writing communities,  agents, publishing/marketing resources, genres/niches and just for fun sites.
If you enjoy the posts at our blog, we would appreciate your nomination.
Here's what you need to do:

Send an email to: and in the subject line reference 101 Best Websites.

In the body of the e-mail, type . This is the  address for  our blog As We Were Saying. You may also add any feedback on the site. Voting ends on January 1, 2011. Every vote helps!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Little Less Conversation, A Lot More Action

 Elvis was right when he sang, “A little less conversation, a lot more action…”

Image courtesy of Mark Robinson and me'n the dogs
No amount of prayer or positive thinking can make you a writer  without action.
This very simple truth is often forgotten. It's easy to talk about writing, another thing to do it.  It's easy to make the mistake of putting an unreasonable time frame on all of your desires. But that's all they are if you don't take action.
Taking action could be a form of repetition. If you do something everyday for six weeks, it becomes a habit. Something that you keep doing over and over until you get results. And, like any activity, even if you don’t get the results you want, if you keep doing and believing, you’ll benefit one way or another.

If you find yourself with fewer hours this month to accomplish your writing goals, then set a goal to write fewer pages. Write one page a day if that is all the time you have, just don't stop. Once you stop, it's much harder to get back into your story. Finish your sentence or leave it half finished and stop, even if you're in the mood to keep going. It makes it easier to pick it up because you think about the story during the evening and will be eager to get back to it the next day.

 Managing your  time can be difficult if you have  many “have-to” things in your life.. Family members can make it tough. They know how to work guilt . “But you’re always on your computer! Are you going to watch this show with me?  When is this heroin addiction of yours going to start paying some bills? It's the holidays, can't you tear yourself away for the family?" Curb the massive flood of guilt by getting up before the rest of the family if that's possible. Give those early hours a positive spin by thinking of the time you will have with your family to enjoy the holiday season.

What is the one “action” you do everyday to keep you growing in your career as a writer? What actions do you take  that other writers can learn from? What do you think about “positive thinking and it's effect on you as a writer”?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Driving Home For Christmas

 Gorgeous Tree in a Hotel

Recently I made a trip to N.C. to celebrate an early Christmas Holiday at Thanksgiving. You never know what kind of weather you'll get in the mountains. I've included a few pictures of the trip. The Holiday season can be a hectic time, but it is over way too soon.  These pictures capture a  beautiful moment in time.

The First Snow of the Season

Christmas means making gingerbread houses.
 A cold mountain stream
For many, Christmas means lots of driving. Chris Rea's song typifies this.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Around The World of Blogs

If you're getting geared up to pitch your book to an agent or publisher, this blog by CJ Lyons on the perfect pitch will help.

Want to know more about the blood camera which might take the place of luminal at crime scenes? Go to C.P. Lyle M.D. Forensics Blog at

Want to publicize your book or find a reviewed book. Check out Reviews by Martha's Book Shelf

Jungle Red  Writers is an excellent blog featuring six mystery writers who write about craft, do interviews, and feature new books.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Time Management Tips To Keep Your Writing On Target

Holidays provide a serious distraction for writers who want and need to complete their work.

So what can you do to enjoy all of the activities of the holidays, and also get some writing done? I’ve listed some of the things I’ve learned over the years when I had a very busy work schedule and family responsibilities.

• Make a schedule of what needs to be done, and when it needs to be done. Go day by day and week by week.

• Combine as many activities as possible, i.e. go to the bank, to the post office, to the drugstore, and the grocery store.

• Inventory the freezer and make room for holiday meals.

• Plan all menus for the holidays, including breakfasts and lunches. Spend one afternoon or evening cooking. Do a mini-freezer cooking session to put 5-10 pre-made entrees into the freezer.

• Make breads, pies, cookies, that can be frozen and used later. Pre-measure dry mixes (like scones) and store in air tight containers. Prepare for drop-in visitors. Collect hospitality supplies, cheeses, crackers etc.

• Solicit help from the family. There’s no reason hubby can’t address Christmas cards while you’re helping the kids make cinnamon ornaments or Christmas cookies.

• Create a master shopping list. Utilize the internet and catalogs for gift shopping.

• Set up a gift wrapping station with all supplies in one place. Wrap presents as they are purchased.

• Get up earlier and/or go to bed later to create that extra time needed to write.

• Utilize the time you spend waiting at children’s functions, doctor’s offices, wherever you spend a few minutes that you can write a paragraph or two. Use breaks and lunch at your day job to write.

What do you do to keep your writing on schedule during the holiday season? I hope you’ll share your experiences by leaving a comment.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turkey Chili

Now this is made with fresh ground turkey not leftovers but it makes a great "bowl of the red" if you get tired of the smoked or roasted bird from Thanksgiving.  This recipe is from Jeff Turner. For the full Turkey Chili Recipe go to the recipe page.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Unified Field Theory Of Branding

CJ Lyons is back to talk about branding. She talked about branding before you publish and now she will guide you through branding after that big day comes when you publish. Welcome back CJ!

CJ Lyons

by CJ Lyons

What is branding? How does an author build a brand?

I'm not a marketing professional, but over the years I've been trying to learn as much as possible about the marketing side of the writing business since I feel it is important to a writer's long term career.

(In fact, I've recently begun a blog devoted to creative entrepreneurs called *Marketing with Heart* where I share these resources:

Let's start with what a brand is.

To me, a brand is name recognition that evokes an emotional response in the audience.

In other words, it's a promise you make to your audience that a book by you will give them a certain emotional response.

When you build your brand you are creating yourself as an ICON (an easily remembered and identified entity) paired with that emotional response.

For those of you who have taken my workshops on building high concept story premises, I hope this sounds familiar!!!

The best way to build a high concept story is to take an universal Icon and pair it with an unique element to create an emotional response in your audience.

For example, Stephen King's high concept for Carrie is: Prom Queen (universal icon) terrorizes small town (unique element).

With branding, you are creating YOURSELF as the universal Icon. Combined with specific sensory details used as your unique elements to create that emotional response.

Which details? Anyone who has taken my classes on world building, knows that I've boiled that down to three types of details used in writing.

Guess what? It's the same three kinds of details used to build your brand:

1. VISCERAL details that reveal the emotion of the author.
These include your choices in colors, graphics, are you smiling in your headshot or serious, the voice of your website (light hearted, casual, authoritative, intimate), the voice of your books (are they dark, sensual, funny?), how you communicate, etc.

2. EVOCATIVE details are chosen to create an emotion in the reader.

These also include all of the above, but in addition to revealing yourself as an author, you are choosing these elements to specifically give your reader an emotional experience.

The obvious evocative detail is the graphics you use on your website and business card, bookmarks, etc. For instance, my webdesigner spent almost a month fine-tuning the colors and graphics on my site, to create an atmosphere that conveyed, suspense, strong women willing to walk into danger, and a sense of a community surrounding them, plus she wanted to convey a "rust belt" feel rather than a glitzy highrise urban feel.

But you can go beyond visuals to evoke emotion in your audience.

For instance, if you add a widget to your website, you could choose a game that is certain to make your audience laugh (a little humor is always good, even if you write serious because people remember people who make them laugh or smile in a positive way) or you might add a section where they can do something good like contribute to a worthy cause merely by clicking, like my own Karma Clicks page at

Instead of focusing on you, these elements of your brand are focused on your audience. Giving them added value and a positive emotional experience associated with your name--whether it's during a virtual visit to your website, watching a video you're in or a book trailer, or hearing you speak in person.

You make them feel good about knowing who you are....which will increase your name recognition when they see your books.

3. TELLING details. These are the specific details that you choose to share with your audience. After all, you can't (and don't want to ) pour out your entire life on your webpage or in your blog or bio.

Instead you edit. You pick and choose the details that will have high impact, build a picture of who you are and what you represent.

So far, I've combined two of the elements I use when I teach fiction writing and used them to build a brand: high concept and world building.

There's one more element (everything always comes in three, doesn't it?). Theme.

In a book, theme is what the story is really about. An universal, primal force that is communicated subliminally to the audience.

I'm talking "big" concepts, this is what people mean when they say to "dig deep." Love/hate, betrayal/trust, venegence, forgiveness, family, outcast, redemption....these are the primal elements we use to bring our stories to life.

We use the same primal elements in our branding. Look at your stories--all the stories, no matter the genre, over the life of your writing career.

If you really think about it (and this is hard! Sometimes having a friend help is a good way to go) you probably have been writing about the same theme over and over, exploring it from many different angles.

For many thriller/suspense authors this theme is fear. For romance it could be the power of love. For women's fiction, the importance of family.

Whatever your personal universal theme, try to give it your own unique twist (hmmm....sounding like building your own high concept isn't it? don't you love it when everything works together in synergy?)

For instance, I discovered (with a lot of hard work) that my theme is: how to find the courage to change the word. It's there in everything I've written since I was five. And in every book I've written, my characters have found this courage through love.

I could distill this personal theme into: all courage comes from love (which I absolutely believe) but since we're talking branding, we also need to remember that it's not about me but about the audience.

All courage comes from love, is a wonderful theme, but it implies that my books might be more on the romance side of the spectrum than they are. So instead, I distilled my personal theme into something that my target audience would respond to without being confused about what I write: Everyday, Heroes are Born.

I like this, it implies that all of us (including my audience) could be heroes, that it's not too late to learn how to become a hero, and that we might all need to be heroes some day.

I even used this theme to create my own subgenre of thriller/suspense novels: Thrillers with Heart.

Can you change your brand? Absolutely, but with great care--once you build a brand, it is a part of you, so cherish it.

Now that I'm moving away from strict medical suspense into mainstream suspense/thrillers with a women's fiction sentimentality through my new partnership with Erin Brockovich (yes, The Erin Brockovich!!!) I was advised that I might want to de-emphasize the medical elements of my brand.

I'm in the midst of revising my website to "feel" more like women's fiction--warm, welcoming, intimate place where confidences can be shared and the audience leaves feeling empowered and inspired--while also keeping some suspense/thriller elements like my articles on forensics, photos of my adventures in research, and some medical facts. There will be more "behind the scenes" info (again, to give that feeling of intimacy, of the reader coming into my "home") and the color scheme will change--less blood red, more mellow golds (think "hearth") and some blues.

I haven't changed. My theme hasn't changed. What has changed as my writing evolves are the specific elements I choose to communicate my brand.

Confused? Take a look at the most memorable writers in your genre. What details do they use to convey their brand? What works, what doesn't?

Then have fun playing with creating your own brand!

Thanks for reading,

About CJ:

As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about. In addition to being an award-winning medical suspense author, CJ is a nationally known presenter and keynote speaker.
Her first novel, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), received praise as a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller" from Publishers Weekly, was reviewed favorably by the Baltimore Sun and Newsday, named a Top Pick by Romantic Times Book Review Magazine, and became a National Bestseller. Her award-winning, critically acclaimed Angels of Mercy series (LIFELINES, WARNING SIGNS, and URGENT CARE) is available now and the series finale, CRITICAL CONDITION, hits stores November, 2010. Her newest project is as co-author of a new suspense series with Erin Brockovich. To learn more about CJ and her work, go to

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Celebrating Christmas At Thanksgiving

Nature becomes very quiet in November, with the glory of autum well on its way and only a nip in the air to tell us that winter will soon be approaching. All of the plants that managed to survive the heat of this past summer are in full bloom. The end of the year beckons in the distance. But one  of the things that happens every year in this month is the gathering of families and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving dinners are traditionally bountiful feasts.  I grew up in S.C. and it was not unual to see a buffet dinner with pumpkin soup, oysters, shrimp, Turkey, duck, chicken, roast beef, ham, barbecued pork shoulder, stuffing, cavier mousse, macaroni and cheese, fruit salads, vegetable salads, tomato aspic, green beans, butter beans, corn pudding, green bean , squash , broccoli cheese,  and praline potato casseroles.  There were homemade biscuits, rolls, cakes and pies of every category. This was a day of high everything, calories, fat, carbs, and protein. Everyone got to take home enough food for a week.
Of course,  thanksgiving was not quite complete without televised parades and football games between rival colleges.

In my immediate family, because we live in different states, every two years we travel to the Carolinas and celebrate Christmas at Thanksgiving. Our menus aren't as elaborate as the ones in the past, but they  taste as good and have half the fat and calories. And all of our Christmas shopping is done! Christmas and Thanksgiving is still the season of the year that gives adults and children alike the warmest of memories to carry with them for a lifetime.

GFWW holiday recipes appear in the recipe section of this blog. If you have a recipe that you would like to share, please send it along. We'd like to receive it. If it's one passed down through your family and you don't know the origin, say that. If you've gotten it from a copyrighted cookbook, we need to know that also. Now it's your turn....

Thursday, November 11, 2010


This post was part of a series I wrote in early October on ideas for increasing Kindle rank at Thank you, Ruby, for asking to repost it here.
I wrote recently about reaching the Kindle top 1000, 8 weeks after releasing my first-ever novel, Hush Money. This post is part of a series talking about some stuff I did that helped me get visibility and sell books.

So I said the other day that Goodreads was described to me as "Facebook for book people." I think that's pretty much true. It's very social networky, and yet the only thing anyone's talking about is books.

I didn't spend much time on Goodreads before I released Hush Money. It's one of those things I probably should have done, but...need I tell you again that I'm not great with the social stuff? If you're not either, try making friends with just a few people who are active there.

One of the cool things about Goodreads are the update emails. People who get those get a digest list of things their friends are doing on Goodreads. Things like: adding a book to their "to-read" shelves, posting ratings and reviews, updating their progress in reading any given book.

Additionally, members who have their Twitter and Goodreads accounts linked are sending out tweets about books with every status update, so you're getting your name out there on two platforms at the same time in those cases. (I suppose this is also true of Facebook? I'm not a Facebook person at all.)

If Goodreads member "Jane" decides to add my book, any of Jane's friends who get those emails may see my book cover when Jane adds the book, when she starts reading it, anytime she updates her progress through it, and when she finishes it and leaves a review. That's a lot of nice exposure for my book cover, and it's exposure to a group of people who might be more inclined toward my book than the average person on the street, assuming that Jane liked my book, and that Jane's friends know their own tastes are often similar to hers.

But how did I get Jane to read my book? Well, if you've spent enough time on Goodreads to make some real friends, you might have some people reading you just because they like you and they're curious about what you've been working on. I had a few of these friends, but not enough to really get going.

After setting up my Goodreads Author stuff, I read about Giveaways. Unfortunately, that section of the site is only for physical books, which I didn't have at the time. But there was the Events section which didn't say you couldn't use it to give away ebooks...

First, I wrote up a post for my blog about giving away review copies of my book, so that I would have something to link to when I set up the event on Goodreads. Then I wrote a brief, to-the-point, no pressure invitation:
I'm giving 100% off coupons to download Hush Money, in a variety of ebook formats, to anyone willing to leave me a review here on Goodreads, at Amazon, on a blog, etc. If you're interested, just send message me via Goodreads or send an email and I'll hook you up. Offer ends August 23, 2010. Please feel free to invite your friends to this event.
By the way, I think it's better to keep things like this simple. Avoid playing the friend card, avoid sounding like a sales person. I think the only thing I would add to this would the the 400 character blurb for the book, so that the user didn't have to click around to look for it.

Two Goodreads friends tweeted me to confirm whether I really wanted to them to invite all their friends, to which I said Yes, please! I had only 8 friends at the time. A very small reach. Once they had sent out invitation, about 350 people were personally invited to come check out my book.

That might scare you. It shouldn't. How many people on their friend lists are actually active on Goodreads? How many read ebooks? How many are interested in spending their reading time on an unknown indie author? In my case, about 10% responded with a Yes or Maybe. And even had more responded, giving away ebooks costs me nothing. If you think of every giveaway as a lost sale, I'd recommend changing your thinking.

To each of those people, I sent a PM via Goodreads with the information to get my book with a 100% off coupons via Smashwords. While I had a form letter that I pasted in, I tried to personalize the messages any time someone made a comment in their event response, and I used different messages for those who said Yes or Maybe. I spent a lot of time that week responding to PMs and emails. All totally worth it.

By the way, very few people emailed, PM'd, or left comments to my blog. Most response I got was just saying Yes, No, or Maybe to the invitation (you get notified of each of those by Goodreads). So you'll want to keep close tabs on that and keep track of your replies. You'll have a few people who do not accept PMs via Goodreads, and for whom you do not have contact information. I don't know how they expect you to give them anything, and I'm not sure there's anything to be done about that.

Did everyone who downloaded a copy give me a review? No, not yet, anyway. I didn't actually expect 100% on that, yet I was very pleased with how many people have come through with reviews. And think of your own TBR pile. This is going to take some time. Smashwords sends out an email to anyone who downloads a book from there, reminding them to come back to Smashwords and leave a review. I think this was GREAT, in that it reminded people they had my book and were supposed to be reading and reviewing, without me having to ask them. I got a small flurry of reviews at about that time.

The event did get a lot of people adding my book, and it did result in more ratings and reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and Smashwords than I would have had without having done it. All of this increased the book's exposure.

Another great outcome of the Goodreads event was that book bloggers hang out there, and they love books! Many of them have to buy a lot of the books they read and review, which gets expensive. So many of my responders were book bloggers! Bonus! I've had 15 reviews on individual blogs since Hush Money's release, as well as a few interviews. It's hard to approach reviewers when you've got no author cred, no publisher validation or reviews backing you up. But the event sort of had them coming to me, in a more low-obligation kind of way than if I gone to them and asked them to review my book for their blog.

Now, I had a lot of people read Hush Money before it was released. Eleven beta readers/proof-readers. Remember that not everyone who is your friend is going to want to read your book, and not everyone who reads and tells you they like it is going to write you a review. It's all percentages and is not personal. But since I had eleven betas, and they were my friends, when I asked for Amazon reviews as soon as it was live, I got 4 reviews right away. So anyone who came across my Kindle page in the early days had something to look at.

Between those reviews from the betas, and the ones that started to show up after the giveaway, it became a lot easier for me to approach book bloggers and ask for reviews because, in my query, I could link to a page full of positive responses to my book. There have got to be very few book bloggers out there looking for stuff to hate. They want to have some idea that this book is for them, and that they'll be able to recommend it. Many don't even write reviews of something they didn't like, so giving time to a book they don't like is a waste for them. They want to have the sense that they're going to like your book before they agree.

At the time of this writing, I've had 247 adds on Goodreads (and I think most of those have gone ahead and purchased because the price is low), 15 reviews on blogs, 20 Amazon reviews, 15 on Smashwords, and 29 on Goodreads (38 ratings). All of those, plus tweeting about them by me as well as others, have helped make me more visible.

And visibility is our biggest hurdle, seconded by credibility.

The reason that I consider the Goodreads giveaway event serendipitous, was because it wasn't something I had planned to do. It was more something that came out of a marketing brainstorm while the book wasn't really moving in that second week of release. And it's really been possibly THE best thing I've done so far. (Well, after that whole writing a decent book and putting it out thing.)

So I hope it helps some of you as well. Sorry I've run long today. I'll hope you'll come back next time, when I think I'll be talking about Blogging and Social Media. If you think other indies might be helped by the ideas in this post, sharing buttons are located below for your convenience. Thanks!


Susan Bischoff

I’m just a girl who wants superhero romance! Is that so much to ask? Why must it always be a tragedy? Why does Angel walk away? Why does Spike—what did happen to Spike? Why did Wonder Woman go back home after the end of season 1 and WWII, then come back, work with Steve Trevor’s grandson, and still not hook up? Seriously! And let’s not even talk about Superman Returns, ok? Let’s. Just. Not.

The Talent Chronicles series began with my desire for more superheroes! More romance! More Superhero!Romance. The first book, Hush Money, is out now, with the second, Heroes 'Til Curfew, due out in early 2011.

Visit me at

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Monday, November 1, 2010


Welcome Keri Arthur from down under to our blog. After twenty-five books, she is imminently qualified to discuss paranormals and urban fantasy.

Keri Arthur

Defining Two Popular Subgenres
by Keri Arthur

The two hottest genres around at the moment are paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Publishers can’t seem to get enough of them, and just about everyone seems to be writing them.

But what--if any--are the differences between the two? There’s plenty of small differences, but the basic--and most important--difference is the fact that one has its feet firmly planted in the romance field, and the other firmly planted in the fantasy field.

Basically, a paranormal romance is a romance with paranormal characters and events. It follows the same rules that apply to all romances and it has the build up of the romance as the heart and main plot of the novel. The only real difference is that either one or both of the main characters often aren’t human, and the story itself can dip into darker waters plot-wise than a regular romance. That said, the paranormal elements have to be a believable, intricate part of your plot. If you can take the paranormal elements out of your story (or swap them for something else—like a disease or an addiction), then they’re not ‘true’ paranormal romances, but rather, ‘paranormal lights’. I’m not personally keen on these types of paranormals, as they usually don’t delve too deeply into the whole mythos behind the paranormal element, but rather tend to keep to surface problems. For example, the somewhat common I’m a werewolf or a vampire, oh woe is me, how can anyone love such a monster theme. Of course, there is a whole boatload of books out there that could be described as paranormal lights, so there’s definitely a market for them regardless of how I personally feel about them.

Like regular romance, paranormal romance covers the whole genre spectrum. They can be humorous, historical, futuristics, contemporary, mystery, fantasy, urban fantasy, scifi, gothic, erotica—basically, if the romance is front and center, then it’s labeled a paranormal romance, regardless of the genre.
Urban fantasy, on the other hand, is fantasy that is set in a modern, urban environment (for example, Melbourne, Australia, New York City, or even some made up city) and it can contain any and all paranormal or fantasy elements (such as vampires, were wolves, shifters, demons, succubus, magi etc). But in urban fantasy, romance and romantic entanglements are not the main plot element, though they are often present as a sub-plot.
Dark urban fantasy contains the same elements as urban fantasy, but usually has serious leanings towards horror elements. Dark and bloody events can and do happen in these novels, and a happy ending is not a necessity.

But if you’re going to write an urban or dark urban fantasy, please do your homework and make the world work. World building is even more important in urban and dark urban fantasy than it is in paranormal romance. In romance, the romance is the key, and while the world building has to be believable and real, it often doesn’t have to be as multi-layered as what’s required in the fantasy genre. While in many ways it is easier to set a fantasy story in a modern day setting, you still have to integrate the fantasy and paranormal elements into your world in a very believable and realistic way. One key element to believability is making sure you include the history of your paranormal elements into the history of the real world. Make sure the paranormal or fantasy elements not only have a history of their own, but that their history entwines within the past as we know it. For example, in Full Moon Rising, I have an off-the-cuff mention of the Olympics, and how paranormal creatures have been competing in them since the birth of the Olympics—and that in modern day times, the paranormals were forced to have their own Olympics to offset their unfair advantage against humans. A tidbit like this mightn’t seem like much, but it gives the overall story a depth and richness that helps the reader believe.

Another important rule to remember is that there has to be limits. A hero or heroine—be they a wizard, vampire or a shapeshifter—who is capable of anything and who wins every battle not only strains our credibility, but often become boring. Unlimited or untouchable prowess robs the story of tension and suspense. Readers need to be worried about the outcome as they read, and if the odds are stacked in favor of your hero, then why would they worry, let alone continue to read? Make your characters doubt, make them make mistakes. Make them hurt. And don’t be afraid to inflict tragic results for weaknesses and poor choices—especially if you’re writing dark urban fantasy. Trust me, readers of these types of novels want and expect gore!
Keri Arthur, a native of Melbourne, Australia  is Australia's first New York Times bestseller in Urban Fantasy. She published the Riley Jensen Guardian Series, the third and fourth novels in that series debuting on the NYT bestseller list. She has written  more than twenty-five books since then.  She has had nominations in best contemporary paranormal category of RT Reviewers Choice Awards,  and the RT Career Achievement award in Urban Fantasy. Her next book Mercy will be released in 2011.

Moon Sworn (Riley Jenson, Guardian, Book 9)
 For more information visit her website at

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Jaxine Daniels
 It's our pleasure to welcome Jaxine Daniels to our blog. She is a prolific writer and has numerous articles on craft on  the cata university website.

We’re going to make a two minute movie. At least on paper we are. I know you’re all asking “What the heck is a two minute movie?” Be patient – we’ll get to it. First, just a quick review of three act structure.

Previously, we did a more in depth study of three act structure (TAS). If you missed it – stop right here – and go back to it. It’s important for our two minute movie.

 These articles on the three act structure may be found at the following website:

TAS – Get your hero up a tree in Act I, throw rocks at him in Act II and get him out of the tree in Act III. Act I takes about one fourth of the book and ends with the first plot point (an event that spins the action in a different direction). Act II takes about half the book and ends with the second plot point. Act III takes another fourth of the book and brings us into the dark moment where all is lost, then resolves the story in a satisfying way.

With that in mind, let’s go on. The two minute movie is a plotting tool that will help us get past the page 30 crisis. You know the point – you’ve taken this wonderful idea and are happily typing along when you hit the wall. Your story comes to a screeching halt because you don’t have a clue what comes next. Writer’s block sets in and you either bang your head against the monitor until you need ibuprofin or you head straight for the harder drugs. Just kidding. I would guess, though, that we’ve all been there.

The two minute movie is a two page – not one or three or four – a two page treatment of your story. Whenever I hear the word “treatment” – very Hollywoodish – I can’t help but think of Cosmo Kramer – but I digress. In this treatment, you “consciously develop your idea” into a story. The idea comes from Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434.

In this two-page, double-spaced overview, you walk your story through the three act paradigm.

Act I gets three paragraphs or so, setting up the characters and their needs. The last paragraph here sets up the first crisis – plot point one.

You’ll use five or six paragraphs to tell the rising action of Act II. Remember to fill Act II with obstacles that stand between where your character is and where he wants to be. This section is the action – reaction part of the book. Each action forces the characters into situations in which the stakes are higher than the last. Each action cranks up the tension until you arrive at plot point two.

And that leaves two or three paragraphs to cover Act III – the dark moment where all is lost and the resolution.

There’s your two minute movie. Hunter suggests that you may want to show this two page treatment to trusted friends who will be able to give good feedback. He states that this exercise not only helps you in the next process (the step outline) but will tell you if you really have a story at all.

Syd Field, in his book The Screenwriter’s Workbook has a similar exercise. He calls his the 4-page treatment. Syd says that “the hardest thing about writing is knowing what to write.” I couldn’t agree more.

His method has the author starting at the end and writing backwards, so to speak. He wants you to map out the ending, the beginning and plot points one and two before you start your treatment.

Here’s how Field’s four pages look:
One half page describing the opening scene or sequence;
One half page describing the general action of Act I;
One half page that describes the plot point at the end of Act I
One half page for the action of Act II
One half page for the plot point at the end of Act II; and
Three quarters to one page for Act III, the resolution.

These exercises are much harder than they look on the surface. It’s way too easy, as you’re writing these paragraphs, to wonder at the why’s – to get hung up with character motivations and the small actions that thrust your character into the bigger moments. However, if you’ll stick to the overview method in this phase of building your story, you will have much better luck staying out of the bogs and moving forward.

Another time that two minute movies are invaluable is in the midst of writing. I have a recurring problem with getting ideas for future books while I’m still embroiled in the current book. Somewhere, recently, I read that when these ideas come to you and you’re concerned about losing them, take a few minutes to an hour to get the idea on paper. That way, the idea doesn’t escape and it won’t be hounding you as you write the work in progress. The two minute (two page) movie would be perfect for getting this idea down before it escapes. Then simply file it away and when you get quickie ideas that go with that story – characters, locations, whatnot – just stick them in the file.

 I'll leave you to your movie making. Don’t forget the most important thing, BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard). Cheers, jax (

You may also be interested in 1.STORY TIPS #5 – OUTLINING YOUR NOVEL –THE SCRIPTWRITER’S WAY. 
Following the two minute movie we have a four-page treatment of our story. The next step is the outline, or the Step Outline. A Step Outline is simply a skeletal version of the story, your two minute move played out scene by scene. Robert McKee...

This is the blurb on my latest book, A SOFT PLACE TO FALL. 

Nic D’Onofrio is a hotshot pararescueman without a mission, on vacation, trying to understand the loss of his best friend in Afghanistan. His teammates say he has a Batman complex, even call him Batman when it suits them. All Nic wants is to ski hard, drink a lot and fall into bed at night, with or without a willing babe.

And then, there she is, stranded on the side of the road in Tahoe. Soft, sweet and so danged vulnerable. Julie. That’s all she knows. She’s wearing her pajamas. Batman does the only logical thing. He takes her home.

A Soft Place to Fall is the first in the Simpliciter Paratus series featuring Bravo Element, a highly trained team of Air Force PJs
Jaxine's book may be purchased at

Thursday, October 28, 2010


This is another exerpt from Jeff Turners book Notes To Stephanie: Middle Aged Love Letters And Life Stories.

father and daughter. http://

The Other Side Of the Sky       

Well, seeing Jane so sad when we left Galveston made me also sad. As I said, when we were driving back, it had been a long time since I’d seen that look on her face. She is usually a pretty happy young lady and full of life. But at her dorm she certainly looked like life had been sucked out of her. We glanced at her Sad-Sack eyes, hugged her goodbye, climbed into the truck and turned for home.

Once we left Galveston, did you notice that there was a shield of cirrus clouds stretching from the southwest to the northeast? It originated somewhere southwest of Houston and flowed northeast with the jet stream. On the top of the causeway with the clear sky, the filaments of these ice clouds arched over the Earth stretching back to the western horizon and beyond. The clarity of the air made the clouds stand out sharply over the land of the coastal plain, its own features visible in such crisp relief that one could see in the far distance the surface slope up to the rolling terrain. And as time and miles unfolded, we were underneath it for a while. Then once we were nearly to Waco, we were on the other side of it. As we drove further north away from Jane and closer to home, I kept looking in the rear view mirror at those clouds, still arching over one far horizon to another.

Perhaps you thought I was just checking the traffic, but my gaze was looking far beyond what was just behind us. And while this visage was, of course, very beautiful, I still kept thinking of Jane, sitting alone in her dorm room on the other side of that sky. The clouds represented crossing a Rubicon: a divide in time and one’s life. We had crossed it, so had Jane, and the past was gone forever as she took one more step into her adult life. She would be at college far from home, pursuing her own dreams and not that smiling little girl standing in a field in the picture on my desk.

Many times, I guess our lives are like this. The past is always on the other side of life’s sky, not ever to be the same again. Just as clouds flow overhead never looking the same, and vanish in the distance, our memory of past events fade over time as they recede ever further from the present.
So, when you gaze outside on a day like yesterday, and a web of cirrus clouds spread across the sky, you should remember that there are some people who are dear to our hearts far away on the other side of those airy wisps, perhaps, also looking up at those same clouds towards us and thinking of home, family, and being loved.

Jeff Turner

Jeff's books are available at

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Author Spotlight
Carol  Preflatish
Carol, Welcome to our blog. This has to be an exciting, as well as, busy time for you. Your debut novel has been published and your second novel is complete. What inspired you to write your first novel, Love, Lies, and Deceit? What ignites the passion and galvanized you to write that second novel?

CP: Thank you for having me here. I've always been such a fan of spy books and movies, it was only natural that Love, Lies and Deceit would about the CIA. With my latest novel, the plot itself was my motivation to keep writing since it was loosely based on a real mystery that happened near my home.

RJ: Could you tell us a little bit about your book, Loves, Lies, and Deceit?

CP: It's about a CIA rookie officer, Julie McBride, who against agency regulations, falls in love with her training officer, Jason Reid. When Jason is arrested for treason, he turns to Julie to help him clear his name and to find the people who set him up.

RJ: You work in social services and your husband was a counter intelligence agent and electronic whiz in the Army. What influence did that have when you developed your characters for your first novel?

CP: So far, my job in social services has not yet influenced my writing. I actually try to keep them separate, although some of my co-workers have been encouraging me to write about some of the antics that go on in our office. My husband has been a huge help with the technological things in my books. He was also a police officer for a while after the army and that helped in my second book.

RJ: Your second book is loosely based on a real mystery. Could you tell us about it and how you developed your novel from a real incident?

CP: About fifty years ago, a family disappeared near where I live and the mystery of their disappearance was never solved. I'm a huge history buff and that story has always fascinated me. I only included the part about a missing family in my story. I changed the names, of course, and I solve the mystery in my book, unlike in real life. I had several newspaper articles about the real disappearance, in addition to reading many of the local history books about it.

RJ: Do you use a particular plotting mechanism, ie. Storyboard, three act structure or are you a pantzer when you write?

CP: I keep all of my notes and research in a three-ring binder. One of the sections is for an outline. It's not a traditional outline like you would think, but more of a paragraph-type outline of the story.

RJ: What do you think makes a good mystery or thriller?

CP: I have to really like the main characters of the novel. If not, then I lose interest in the whole book. Obviously, the plot has to keep me trying to figure out who did it.

RJ: What is your typical writing day?

CP: I have a job that I work at full time during the day, so my writing is usually done on the weekends. I usually spend about an hour each weeknight doing the marketing for my writing, and working on my web page and blog. I try to get my weekend housework done in the mornings so I can write in the afternoons. My husband works on the weekend, so I normally have the house to myself. I do sometimes write in the evenings during the week, depending on if I am close to getting a chapter finished.

RJ: What tools do you feel are a must for a new writer?

CP: I don't know how writers ever researched before the Internet was around. I find it invaluable when it comes to researching a location. I think you also need a good place to write. I have a desk, but I rarely write there. I like sitting on the couch with my laptop, or taking it to a coffee shop. Wherever you feel the most comfortable and the most creative without interruptions is where you want to write.

RJ: What was the most difficult thing you encountered on your road to publication?

CP: My first obstacle was learning about proper formatting of the manuscript. Then I ran into the problem of head-hopping the point of view, definitely something you don't want to do. After learning about those things and getting my first acceptance, I then realized that I had to do all the marketing for my book. I learned real fast about the techniques on how to get the word out about my book.

RJ: What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

CP: I have had many authors tell me not to get discouraged. It's hard not to when you have received so many rejection letters. They told me to keep at it and it would finally happen. I didn't give up and finally, I got that acceptance call.

RJ: What would you like to tell the readers about yourself? What are your future plans? This is your opportunity!

CP: I will definitely keep writing romantic suspense. I'd like to try writing a contemporary mystery with little or no romance in it. I actually have one started, but haven't worked on it for months. I will be starting my next book in November and am already plotting and working on character development. I don't have a title for it yet, but it will be located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and involve lots of hiking and mountain climbing.

RJ: Thank you so much for visiting with us. I wish you great success with your books and hope you’ll visit us again.

CP: Thank you for having me here. I have enjoyed our discussion.

Carol Preflatish says she first started writing in elementary school where she wrote funny plays. Today, she writes romantic suspense, and her first novel, Love Lies and Deceit was released from Red Rose Publishing. Also an avid photographer, she has had photos published in Golf Journal, the official publication of the U.S. Golf Association. Carol lives with her husband in their cabin in the woods of southern Indiana. To learn more about Carol, visit her website at or her blog at
You can purchase her book from by clicking here, Love, Lies, and Deceit for a kindle edition or from for a download of an e-book.

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