Friday, September 28, 2012

Creative Writing Masters Programs in Texas

Stephanie Brooks joins us on As We Were Saying to discuss advanced education opportunities in creative writing. She is a freelance writer, essayist, and blogger and currently writes for 

Top 3 Creative Writing MFA Options in Texas

There's a lot of debate among writers about the value of creative writing MFA programs (Master of Fine Arts). While the majority of MFA programs can't guarantee that you'll become a well-known writer, poet, essayist, screenplay writer, or playwright, they do guarantee that you'll have a few years to spend a good amount of time developing as a writer with the help and support of other writers. If you're looking into creative writing MFA programs in Texas, here are three of the top ones you should consider:

1. The Michener Center for Writers (University of Texas at Austin)
The Michener Center for Writers at UT-Austin is consistently ranked as one of the top ten creative writing MFA programs in the nation by Poets & Writers. This MFA program also offers the most funding in the nation to MFA candidates. As of right now, the Michener Center offers $25,000 per year stipends and provides full tuition assistance to all of its writers. Writers can specialize in fiction, poetry, playwriting, or screenwriting at the Michener Center, and they get to spend their time in the 3-year program developing as professional writers in the beautiful, lively, and quirky Austin, Texas.
The Michener Center is highly selective, accepting only around five or six new students per genre per year. The program considers GRE scores, previous academic records, recommendation letters, and writing portfolios during their admissions selection process.

2. University of Houston's Graduate Program in Creative Writing
Ranked 19th in the nation and 11th for poetry, University of Houston's three-year creative writing MFA program has long been well-respected. In fact, Houston's program has been considered one of the best ever since it was founded in the 1970s, when it was the first graduate writing program in the Southwest. University of Houston does not provide full funding to its MFA students. It does, however, typically provide generous scholarships and teaching assistantships that cover most of the costs associated with attending the school. MFA students at U of H can specialize in fiction, poetry, and non-fiction.
Approximately 20 students are accepted to the University of Houston's creative writing MFA program each year. Like the Michener Center, University of Houston considers GRE scores, academic records, letters of recommendation, and writing portfolios when selecting students. Students also have the option of going on to get their Ph.D.'s  in Creative Writing and Literature, if they desire to work in academia.

3. Texas State University's MFA Program
Texas State's MFA program for creative writers is growing in popularity and prestige by the minute. It's currently ranked 45th in the nation by Poets & Writers, and it's attracted the likes of Dennis Johnson and Tim O'Brien to serve as visiting faculty members. Texas State's 3-year program is considered a combination of a studio and academic program. This means that students take a good number of creative writing as well as literature classes before they receive their degrees. MFA students typically fund their studies with fellowships and teaching assistantships. You can specialize in either fiction or poetry at Texas State.
Around twenty students are accepted to Texas State's program each year. Prospective students are assessed by the admissions department based on their transcripts and writing portfolios.

While the MFA programs listed above are arguably the most prestigious in Texas, there are a number of other creative writing graduate programs you may want to research. Unfortunately, none of the programs listed above offer online classes. So, they can be a bit difficult to fit into a busy schedule. If you're interested in online options, you may want to consider the University of El Paso's online MFA program, which doesn't have a residency requirement. Ultimately, you may have to search around a little bit to find the best MFA program for you, but your effort will be worth it when you end up in the right academic environment!

Stephanie Brooks is a freelance writer, essayist, and blogger. She currently professionally writes for and enjoys blogging about education, creativity, and motivation. Stephanie appreciates your comments, questions, and other feedback.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Self Publishing Tips #2 from Lyn Horner

Self-publishing guru Lyn Horner returns for her second series in tips for self-publishing. Lyn has had resounding success in self-publishing on Amazon. Today she discusses Kindle Previewer and Kindlegen. Come back every month for the next installment.
Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us, Lyn!

As previously promised, today I’ll explain the uses of Kindlegen and the Kindle Previewer. Both are free aps provided by Amazon. Their purpose is to view a book as it will appear on various Kindle readers and other devices. By doing so the author or publisher can spot glitches and correct them before uploading to the Kindle Direct Publishing Platform.

Amazon says: “Books that aren’t properly formatted may impact your sales in the form of negative reviews from readers, and in some cases, be removed from the Kindle Store.” More here.

Before I go any further, I must, warn you that using Kindlegen requires knowledge of html code. If you do not know html, or have a relative or friend who can help you, you’d do best to avoid Kindlegen. There are alternatives I’ll mention later in this post.

So, what does Kindlegen do? It converts a book file from HTML, XHTML, XML (OPF/IDPF format), or ePub source into a mobi-formatted Kindle Book. In order to do this, you first must construct an OPF tech file that contains all the book chapters, the book cover image, a TOC (Table of contents), an ncx toc, etc. It’s technical, too technical for me, but luckily I have a computer programmer son who sets up this stuff for me.

Why do I bother with Kindlegen when I could go an easier route? Because I’m a perfectionist and a worrywart of the first order. I want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my books will upload without formatting glitches. In order to be sure of this, I need to proofread it on the Kindle Previewer.

Again quoting Amazon: “Kindle Previewer makes it easy to preview the layout of a book and make sure its text displays properly for any orientation or font size. This tool is recommended for publishers, eBook conversion companies, and individual authors in combination with KindleGen to produce the highest quality Kindle books.” The only way to feed it onto the previewer (downloadable version) is with Kindlegen.

To learn more about these two applications, refer to the Amazon Kindle Publishing guidelines. I suggest you download this pdf file for future reference.

One thing you should keep in mind is that Kindlegen is a command line tool, meaning you can’t just open it and automatically connect it to your book file. You will need to open it from your Start menu, which brings up a black command prompt window. Once there, you will follow specific steps to find your book and run it through Kindlegen. Note: you must have a book cover included in your tech file or Kindlegen won’t complete the process.

Simpler Alternatives:
If you choose, you can just upload your html (or Word) book file to the KDP platform. Here is a link to a tutorial video that takes you through the steps. Once your book file is uploaded you can preview it with the online previewer. Many, if not most independent authors go this route because it’s faster and easier. The problem is, if you discover formatting errors, or your book cover looks terrible, you will need to remove your book, make the necessary corrections, upload it again and hope everything works right. If not, you’ll have to repeat the whole process again. Amazon has provided Kindlegen and the Kindle Previewer so we can avoid those headaches.

There is still another alternative: hire a service to convert your book for you. Many will also do the formatting. Just be careful who you hire. DO NOT sign a contract giving the conversion company any royalties or rights to your book! You should pay a one-time flat fee for the formatting/conversion job. Nothing more. Amazon list of conversion services can be found here.

Okay, I hope all this is a little clearer than mud, and you will know what I’m referring to when I mention Kindlegen and Kindle Previewer in future blogs. Bye for now!

Come back the end of October for the next self-publishing installment from Lyn Horner about creating book covers!
Breaking news: Lyn Horner's DASHING DRUID (2nd book in her TEXAS DRUIDS series) took 3rd place in the Romance Through The Ages contest (Colonial/Civil War/Western Category), sponsored by the Hearts Through History RWA Chapter. Congrats, Lyn!! Find the announcement here:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Book Review of Sulan, Episode I: The League by Camille Picott

GFW Writer member Jennifer Bennett has reviewed the recently released novel Sulan, Episode I: The League by Camille Picott, a new Young Adult Dystopian. If you like this review leave a comment here

"Sixteen-year-old Sulan Hom can’t remember life before the Default—the day the United States government declared bankruptcy. As a math prodigy, she leads a protected life, kept safe from the hunger and crime plaguing the streets of America. She attends the corporate-sponsored Virtual High School, an academy in Vex (Virtual Experience) for gifted children. 
Beyond the security of Sulan’s high-tech world, the Anti-American League wages a guerrilla war against the United States. Their leader, Imugi, is dedicated to undermining the nation’s reconstruction attempts. He attacks anything considered a national resource, including corporations, food storage facilities—and schools. When Sulan witnesses the public execution of a teenage student and the bombing of a college dorm, she panics. Her mother, a retired mercenary, refuses to teach her how to defend herself. Sulan takes matters into her own hands. With the help of her hacker best friend, Hank, Sulan acquires Touch—an illegal Vex technology that allows her to share the physical experience of her avatar. With Touch, Sulan defies her mother and trains herself to fight. When Imugi unleashes a new attack on the United States, Sulan finds herself caught in his net. Will her Vex training be enough to help her survive and escape?"

And now for Jennifer Bennett's review:

Author Camille Picott
Young adult novels have always been my reading indulgence, so when I was asked if I wanted to review the first installment in a new YA series by Camille Picott about a Chinese-American girl named Sulan I was intrigued. Stories about Asian American protagonists are rare, and I was excited to read one.

Sulan, a high school math genius whose mother is an ex mercenary and whose father is a talented bio engineer for a large corporation called Global Arms, has a problem.  Terrorists are wreaking havoc in the general populace and her mother refuses to teach Sulan how to fight, how to protect herself in a world where the American government has gone into financial default and corporations control and police the remains of a dangerously chaotic nation. With the help of her virtual reality high school friends, Hank and Billy, Sulan hatches a plan to train herself using her virtual interface, or Vex. Everything appears to be going according to plan, and Sulan even makes a new friend named Gun who offers to train her, until The League terrorists kidnap Sulan and her friends.

The dystopian America Picott paints in Sulan is realistic, she uses contemporary themes such as global warming and deficit fears as a basis for the collapse of her society, and as a result it immediately engages the reader.  Spring-boarding off of these themes, she creates a world in which, in order to survive, people have come to rely on the companies that employ them for housing, food and security. The western world is now left vulnerable and Picott’s eastern antagonists, terrorists with Asian accents who hide behind SmartPlastic masks, leave us with more questions than answers about who the true villain, the orchestrator behind the scene, really is.

Picott’s writing style in this novel is interesting, her main protagonist is a teen aged girl who narrates the story in first person, yet the character’s voice is matter of fact, logical and, for the most part, devoid of emotion. I found the voice surprisingly masculine, focused more on action than feeling and introspection. But this style lends a great pace to the story and the reader is quickly swept away by the rush of action packed events.

Overall, I found Sulan to be an enjoyable read. The plot is clever and easily appreciated by readers both young and old. Yet I will say that at times the characters, with the exception of Uncle Zed, felt a bit thin and indistinct. But it is clear that Episode One is the tip of a huge and exciting iceberg and I can’t wait to see what Picott has in store for Sulan next.

 If you like this review leave Jennifer a comment. Thanks for the review, Jennifer! Sulan, Episode I: The League can  be purchased on

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Katherine Lowry Logan: The Ruby Brooch

Katherine Lowry Logan
Today we're back with an excerpt of Katherine Lowry Logan's new book THE RUBY BROOCH.
Katherine was born in Louisville, Kentucky, during the tumultuous 1960s. While the rest of the world seemed to spin out of control, she spun stories in her head.
College, marriage, and two daughters kept the muse simmering on the back burner.  It wasn't until the nest was empty that she sat down to write full-time. Life, as it often does, brought tragedy with the death of her husband. Her writing came to a screetching halt.  Following the birth of her second grandchild, she found her writer's voice again.
Katherine is also a long distance runner and lives in Lexington, Kentucky.


And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anaïs Nin

Can a 21st century paramedic find her heart's desire on the other side of time?

From the white-plank fenced pastures of Lexington, Kentucky, to the beautiful Bay of San Francisco, The Ruby Brooch, a saga steeped in family tradition and mystery, follows a young woman's journey as she searches for the truth on the other side of the heather-scented mist.

As the lone survivor of a car crash that killed her parents, paramedic Kit MacKlenna makes a startling discovery that further alters her life. A faded letter and a well-worn journal reveal that she was abandoned as a baby and the only clues to her identity are a blood-splattered shawl, a locket that bears a portrait of a nineteenth-century man, and a Celtic brooch with mystical powers.

After studying the journal, she decides to continue her father's twenty-year search for her identity and solve her birth parents' murders. For safety reasons, she adopts the persona of the Widow MacKlenna. Although a perfect cover for her eccentric behavior, she will be forced to lie and MacKlennas don't lie, or so she thought. Finally, dressed and packed, she utters the incantation inscribed on the ancient stone and is swept back to Independence, Missouri, in the year 1852.

Upon arriving in the past, she meets Cullen Montgomery, an egotistical Scotsman with a penchant for seducing widows. The San Francisco-bound lawyer happens to resemble the ghost who has haunted Kit since childhood. She quickly finds the Bach-humming, Shakespeare-quoting man to be over-bearing and his intolerance for liars threatens her quest.

If she can survive his accusations and resist his tempting embrace for seventy-three days, she might be able to find the answers she seeks, and return home to a new life without changing history or leaving her heart on the other side of time.



Independence, Missouri, April 4, 1852

         IN A SUNLIT corner of the cluttered Waldo, Hall & Company freight office, Cullen Montgomery sat tipped back on a chair’s spindly rear legs reading the newspaper and scratching a rough layer of morning whiskers.

Henry Peters slumped in a leather-reading chair and propped his legs, covered in faded cavalry pants, on a crate marked textiles and bound for Santa Fe. “What you learning ‘bout in that gazette?”

Cullen chuckled at what little real news the paper printed. Since he no longer lived in Edinburgh or Cambridge, he needed to lower his expectations when it came to the local press. Every word of the Independence Reporter had been read and reread, and although he couldn’t find mention of a scientific discovery or notice of a public discussion with a famous poet, he knew Grace McCoy had gotten hitched last Saturday. Reading the paper’s recitation was unnecessary. He’d escorted the bride’s widowed aunt to the nuptials and knew firsthand that the bride had swooned walking down the aisle. Virgin brides and widows. The former didn’t interest him, the latter lavishly entertained him.

He gave the last page a final perusal. “There's no mention of our wagon train pulling out in the morning.”

The old soldier took a pinch of tobacco between his thumb and forefinger and loaded the bowl of his presidential-face pipe. “We ain’t got no more room anyways. No sense advertising.”

The day had turned unusually warm, and Cullen had dressed for cooler weather. Sweat trickled down his back, prompting him to roll his red-flannel shirtsleeves to his elbows. “Mary Spencer’s not going now. We can take on one more family.”

Henry dropped his feet, and his boot heels scraped the heart-of-pine floor. “Dang. Why’d you bring up that gal’s name?”

“It’s not your fault she disappeared.” Although Cullen hadn’t said anything to his friend, he believed the portrait artist he’d seen making a nuisance of himself at the dress shop had sweet-talked the porcelain-skinned, green-eyed woman into eloping.

“Maybe, maybe not.” The joints in Henry’s bowed legs popped and cracked as he stood and stepped to the window.

Cullen pulled out his watch to check the time. Before slipping the timepiece back into his vest pocket, out of habit he rubbed his thumb across the Celtic knot on the front of the case. The gesture always evoked memories of his grandfather, an old Scot with a gentle side that countered his temper. Folks said Cullen walked in his grandsire’s shoes. He discounted the notion he could be hotheaded, with one exception. He had no tolerance for liars. When he unveiled a lie, he unleashed the full measure of his displeasure. “We can’t worry about yesterday, and today’s got enough trouble of its own.”

“Rumor has it John Barrett needs money. Heard you offered him a loan.” Henry wagged his pipe-holding hand. “Also heard he got his bristles up, saying he wouldn’t be beholdin’ to nobody. Got too much pride if’n you ask me. You get down to cases with that boy and straighten his thinking out.”

God knew Cullen had tried. “If I can’t find a compromise, our wagon train could fall apart before we get out of town.”

“You’re as wise as a tree full of owls, son. You’ll figure it out.”

The newspaper had served its purpose so he tossed the gossip sheet into the trash. Then he stood and stretched his legs before starting for the door.

Henry rapped his knuckles on the windowsill. “Where’re you goin’?”

A queue tied with a thong at Cullen’s nape reminded him that his shaggy hair hadn’t seen even the blunt end of a pair of shears in months. “To the barber. Afterwards, I’ll figure out how to get your wagon train to Oregon. There’s a law office with my name on the door waiting at the end of the trail. I don’t have time for more delays.”

Henry’s bushy brows merged above his nose. “There’s more than work awaitin’ you.”

“To quote an old soldier: Maybe. Maybe not.” With the picture of a San Francisco, dark-haired lass tucked into his pocket alongside his watch, and the keening sound of his favorite bagpipe tune playing in his mind, Cullen left the office to solve today’s problem before it became tomorrow’s trouble.
 You can read more (through chapter 44) of THE RUBY BROOCH on Katherine's Blog or purchase  a paperback copy of her book on Amazon or an ebook from amazon kindle.
If you enjoyed the excerpt or have a question for Katherine, please scroll down and leave her a comment or question.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jodie Renner Critiques First Five Pages

Editor Jodie Renner returns to critique another first five pages of a GFW Writer member's work-in-progress. Jodie is a freelance editor specializing in thrillers, mysteries, romantic suspense and other crime fiction, as well as YA and historical fiction. The author of the piece below has graciously allowed us to post the critique, but will remain anonymous.

“Who the hell does he think he is?!!” Charlotte Bellagio brooded as she considered the hurt that filled her heart. [A bit of a confusing beginning. Who is she mad at, and why? Also, can leave out “as she considered the hurt that filled her heart” and leave it at “brooded.”]
She willed a smile to her face as she nodded at her table companions [who is she sitting with?] where they  who had all gathered for this much anticipated event. Most of her breakfast went untouched;, but if her tablemates noticed her mood they didn’t acknowledge it. She kept her heart hidden and the other guests didn’t pay much attention to her anyway. [Why not?]
Charlotte’s fellow convention guests were not aware of [We’re in Charlotte’s point of view here and she doesn’t really know if the others are aware of her feelings or not. Don’t jump into other people’s heads – that’s called head-hopping] the tumult inside her as they waited for the TV show host to make his appearance. Even so she made an effort to relax her shoulders and took a deep breath. [Too many “as” phrases above and below (highlighted). Best to vary sentence structure.]
“That’s good,” she thought as her muscles began to relax. [What’s good? And why are her muscles relaxing now? Best not to have her relax now as nothing has really happened to make her relax, and it’s good to maintain tension. Tension and conflict are what drive fiction forward and keep readers turning the pages.]
Charlotte looked at the clock on the wall and realized that her sister had not come back down from their hotel room. [I’d take out “looked at the clock and realized,” as it’s not the clock that makes her realize her sister isn’t back. Instead, tell how she’s feeling about her sister not being back yet.] Her heart rate climbed. [Why does her sister taking her time coming back make her heart rate climb? A bit of an over-reaction, maybe?] Jen was taking too long to get the cell phone she had left behind; Char needed moral support if she was going to confront the man who had unceremoniously dumped her and broke her heart. [Best to avoid semicolons (;) in fiction, and definitely keep them out of dialogue. Replace with a dash, comma, or period, whichever works best.]
Where was Jennie? [No quotation marks for thoughts. Also, thoughts in italics should be in the present tense: Where’s Jennie? If in the past tense, use normal font, not italics.] Her heart started to palpate [It’s palpitate. Just say “beat faster” – more direct.] while she focused on the door and hoped to see her sister at any moment. Instead Mark Vale sauntered in. [below you have him come in again: “The handsome man strode in the room.”]
Charlotte’s heart squeezed a bit  [avoid qualifiers like “a bit”, “kind of,” “sort of,” etc.] with fear and longing. [I don’t know about “heart squeezed” – maybe “beat faster.”]
Char sat up straight and clenched her fists. She worriedly looked around then back at the door desperate for Jennie to walk in. Charlotte didn’t think she could do it with no visible support. [This idea of her waiting for her sister is repeated several times – best to just say it once or twice.]
There, across the room was Mark Valethe object of her ire. He hosts [need past tense here - hosted or was the host of] the Explorer Channel’s Location Encounters, one of her favorite TV shows. The handsome man [We already know his name so “the handsome man” seems strange, like she’s just seeing him for the first time and doesn’t know who he is.] strode in the room; [he’s already in the room – he sauntered in above] well-formed legs [I don’t know about describing a man’s “well-formed legs…?] filled blue jeans, snake skin boots, t-shirt covered biceps swelled a bit as his arm bent to wave while manly hands used to hard work the loyal fans greeted [Avoid body parts doing disembodied things, like they’re separate: “his arm bent to wave” “manly hands…greeted the fans”.]  while blue-green eyes sparkled at the crowd of adoring females. [Two “while” in one sentence.]
The convention crowd gathered at the Drake Hotel in Chicago by invitation only from Mark himself as a “thank you” [How does she know all this?] for all the work theydve done to help him launch the new online website that helpeds kids, teens, and young adults learn how to change their mindset so they cancould be the best that they can be. [Sentence started in past tense then switched to present tense. Stay in past tense.]
Mark had come [past perfect tense (“past past”) to show events that happened before this scene] came up with the idea while on various locations throughout the world. He had seen saw rural kids in non-industrialized countries working in the fields when they weren’t much more than babies. [How does Charlotte know all this?] They lived in dirt floored huts and often several generations lived within one dwelling. It was a simple way of life and as long as there was enough to eat the kids seemed happy enough. They didn’t know what they didn’t have. Parents of children in poor nations didn’t seem to have as hard of a time with discipline as the parents of children in rich nations did. [How does she know this, and is it relevant to the present story? Too much detail here, interrupting the story line. We’re losing the main focus – that Charlotte has been hurt by Mark and wants to confront him about it.] 
[Above and below, we’ve switched from Charlotte’s point of view to Mark’s POV. Best to stick with one viewpoint per scene.]
So he came up with an idea to take at risk, and spoiled kids, then putting them and an adult in a remote village somewhere far from the US. Too far from civilization to try to run away, the kids hads no choice but to live and work alongside folks that exist in a completely different way from the modern world. Mark believes believed that when kids are put in this environment, away from video games, permissive parents, non-stop TV, iPods, expensive clothes, drugs, alcohol, gangs, and generally negative attitudes, they learn what really matters in life. It’s for kids of any socioeconomic class, race, religion, etc. [Too much telling and backstory here. The story has come to a grinding halt while we’re filled in on Mark’s background.]
Mark and his crew were in Chicago to thank each fan who helped to get this off the ground. This is was the welcome breakfast portion of the day. [Above seems to be told from Mark’s point of view, then starting in the next paragraph, we’re back to Charlotte’s POV – head-hopping.]   
Although Charlotte no longer kept up with Mark’s website she had to come to the convention when the invitation arrived in the mail. She planned to [back to Charlotte’s point of view] confront Mark Vale and tear into him – right here in front of everyone. He had caught her off guard last time and all she could do was stand there and take it. Her mind went blank. Her muscles would not move. So now she would tell him off. With the newfound confidence she’d gained she couldn’t just let this go without at least saying something! How could he have done this to her? She was so angry she couldn‘t see straight. And she didn’t deserve what she got.
The festivities continued as Mark introduced each person who helped build the website and personally hands handed the awards to them. [Back to present tense – stay in past tense for the whole story.] Most of the ladies go went weak in the knees when given a kiss on the cheek. [We’re in Charlotte’s point of view, and she wouldn’t know how the ladies are feeling inside.] A few try  tried to go for his lips. One aims  aimed with her tongue.
Mark Vale’s looks are were robust, sturdy, yet proportioned well. His chestnut colored hair had has [need past tense] just enough wave to compliment the feathered style that reaches  reached his collar length in the back. His blue/green eyes twinkled twinkle with a hint of mischief, and he went clean shaven most of the time – unless his show dictates dictated otherwise. With his large [tall?] frame, around six 6 feet tall, he  and looks looked like he’d be equally at home in the woods hunting deer, fishing for crab on the ocean, or in the double breasted suit of a businessman. Especially when wearing a pair of Levi’s. [Maybe just “he looked like he’d be equally at home in jeans or a suit.”]
     When the morning merriment ends ended, her Charlotte’s breakfast companions returned and told her that Mark is was up on the platform posing for pictures with fans and signing autographs. [Previous sentence needs to be in past tense like the next one is.] Charlotte saw her chance and positioned herself at the end of a very long line. Good. This way she would be able to rip him an even bigger hole.
     When the crowd of guests thinned out she scrutinized him fraternizing with a couple of ladies who were getting autographs and pictures. As the women stepped away from Mark he looked up and his eyes widened with surprise when they fell on Charlotte. Not happily so either. She smiled. A big smile complete with teeth. When Charlotte reached Mark he growled softly through his teeth now in a mock smile,
     “Who let you in here?”
     At this Charlotte produced her invitation and held it up to his eye level. Charlotte challenged, “Why do you hate me so much? I never hurt you! What the hell is your problem?”
The story is starting to heat up here. Definitely getting interesting. Once you solved the head-hopping issues and put everything in past tense, and leave most of the backstory details about Mark for later, this story will really take off! Good luck with it!

Thanks for your help, Jodie! Please visit Jodie’s website at Jodie has published two e-books on the craft of fiction, Writing a Killer Thriller, and Style, Pacing & Voice. Both are available on Amazon.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Contingency Plans: Playing The What If Game
By Katherine Lowry Logan

No matter how prepared I am, whether I’m wearing my writer’s hat or my runner’s hat, something often goes wrong.

 Several years ago, I made a research trip along the Oregon Trail to see firsthand what I was writing about in THE RUBY BROOCH. To get there from Lexington, KY, you take I-64 and head west. That’s exactly the direction I was going when I realized I needed to first go to Cincinnati to pick up my daughter who was traveling part of the way with me. To get to Cincinnati from Lexington you take I-75 and head north. Hmm. If I couldn’t get to the trail's jumping off point in Independence, MO, how in the world was I going to make it 2000 miles to Oregon? I wasn’t real sure. As a recent widow, this was a huge step for me, but my desire to see the trail that I had spent so many hours writing about far outweighed my fear and insecurity.

 Instead of berating myself for my stupidity in getting lost so soon after leaving home, I shrugged it off and found the right road. Part of being prepared is having a contingency plan. I didn’t have one, so I made one up on the spot. “I’ve never done this before. Whatever happens—happens.” The mantra served me well over the next nineteen days, even when I became snowbound in Cheyenne, Wyoming on the way home. 

 These days, whether it’s age or sensibility, my contingency plans are real plans. I have two 5-mile running courses mapped out. One’s flat, the other is hilly. Looking at the elevations, it doesn't look like either course is flat. Maybe I should say one is flatter than the other. I run the hilly course more often because it’s better training and preparation for races. Both courses bring me back to the corner that leads home. In the event something should happen during the first five miles, I’m close to my house. Several weeks ago, when I set out on a 10-mile run with my fuel belt loaded with water and energy gels, something happened.

 Within the first mile, my stomach started cramping and made running all but impossible. Cramps from the left side are usually digestive issues. Cramps from the right side are usually breathing and posture issues, or so I've been told. Mine were right smack in the middle, maybe due to dehydration. Anyway, I circled back to “the corner” and called it quits after 5 miles. If I’d been on a 10-mile loop, I would have had to call for a ride home.

 I suppose some would argue that having two separate courses made it easier to quit. There are some runners who would have gone the distance, sick as a dog. I’m not one of them. Well, after the last few weeks getting ready for the Air Force Marathon, maybe I am.

 When it comes to writing, I have contingency plans, too. Some are good and some are not so good, but quitting and going home because I don’t feel well, is not one of them. On those days, I read. I study other writers. Different authors do different things well. Some write descriptions that bring settings to life. Some write snappy dialogue that makes you laugh. Some write great love scenes that give you that “fly on the wall” experience. By studying another writer’s style you can draw on what you learn and apply it to your own writing, which in a way becomes a blend of all you’ve learned as a reader. 

 There are only two ways to become a better writer: write a lot and read a lot. I did a lot of both during the fifteen years it took to write, rewrite and publish THE RUBY BROOCH. And there’s only one way to become a better runner—run! And always have a contingency plan.
What's your contingency plan? Share it with us.

 Happy writing and running,

                          BIO: Katherine Lowry Logan
Katherine was born the second of five children to a Presbyterian Pastor and a stay-at-home mom. She came of age in Louisville, Kentucky, during the tumultuous 1960s. Sit-in's, bra burnings, the sexual revolution, pot, campus unrest, and the Vietnam War were brought vividly to life by Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News. While the rest of the world seemed to spin out of control, Katherine spun stories in her head.
College, marriage, and two daughters kept the muse simmering on the back burner. She worked as a real estate and tax paralegal in a law firm in central Kentucky, and was actively involved in the life of her community.  It wasn't until the nest was empty that she sat down to write full-time. Life, as it often does, brought tragedy and a screeching halt to her writing. Her husband, best friend, and lover died unexpectedly. Healing was a slow process, but two weddings and five grandchildren have a way of putting life into perspective. Following the birth of her second grandchild, she found her writer's voice again.

Katherine is a long distance runner and lives in Lexington, Kentucky. She is blessed with a wonderful and supportive family and circle of friends who have encouraged her and celebrated each and every step of her journey.
Contact information  for Kathy:
Website: and  Blog: Notes from Tabor Lane
Facebook   Twitter  LinkedIn  Goodreads  Pinterest
Buy her book  The Ruby Brooch at Amazon

Friday, September 14, 2012

Liese Sherwood Fabre: Saving Hope Excerpt Plus

Liese Sherwood-Fabre from Dallas, Texas  is back to share excerpts of her books. After earning a PhD from Indiana University, she  worked with the federal goverment and lived internationally for fifteen years in Africa, Latin America, and Russia. Since her return to the US, she has seriously pursued her writing career..  Her debut novel Saving Hope, a thriller set in Russia, is  available from Musa Publishing. Corazones, collection of literary short stories, is  available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Please take a moment to let Liese know how you liked the excerpt at the end of the post—Ruby Johnson

Book Blurb: Saving Hope

Deep in Siberia in one of the Soviet Union’s former closed cities, Alexandra Pavlova, a talented and unemployed microbiologist, struggles to save her daughter’s life. She turns to her oldest friend for help and is drawn into Russia’s underworld. His business dealings with the Iranians come to the attention of Sergei Borisov, an FSB (formerly the KGB) agent, and Alexandra finds herself joining forces with Sergei to stop the export of a deadly virus in a race to save both her daughter and the world.
She’d heard nothing, merely became aware of his presence beside her. She flinched, dropped her keys, and bolted toward the stairs. The man picked up her keys and grabbed her arm in one fluid movement.
“Don’t run off, Alexandra Alexandrieva. You won’t get very far without these,” he said in a low voice.
He straightened himself and dangled the ring from one finger in front of her face. His slight smile suggested her attempt to get away amused rather than annoyed him. “Besides, I’m not going to hurt you.”
“I thought you were someone else,” she said, glancing down at the hand still on her arm.
He let go.
“Your acquaintance Kamovski, perhaps? Or maybe Ahmed, Vladimir’s friend?”
She squinted at him, trying to make out his features in the hallway’s half-light. “Who are you?”
“So rude of me. Borisov, Sergei Andreivich, at your service,” he said, giving a short bow. “I work for the FSB.”
She swallowed hard, trying to keep her face still and hide her shock. The KGB by any name still made her stomach jerk in fear. “I’ve done nothing.” Her level voice didn’t betray her racing heart. “What interest would federal security have in me?”
“We’ve been watching you for a while.”
“You’ve mistaken me for someone else.”
“Pavlova, Alexandra Alexandrieva. Born August 16. Widow of Yuri Ivanovich Pavlov. Daughter, Nadezhda Yuriyevna Pavlova, currently spending the night with her grandparents. Shall I continue? We do have the right person. You caught our eye some time ago. As soon as you left your job at the Institute.”
“That was several years ago. Any information I have would be of no use to anyone.”
“We’re not interested in what you used to do. We already know that. We’re interested in what you’re doing now.”
“Typing letters? I’m afraid that’s rather boring.” A sound from a floor below made the man cock his head. Footsteps clicked on the tile floor and echoed in the stairwell as their owner descended the stairs. “Perhaps we should continue this discussion inside?”
“I have nothing to share with the FSB.”
“Did you know your friends Vladimir and Ahmed have been seen recently in the company of an Iranian?”
“No one has asked you about your work at the vaccine lab?”
“As you can tell, Alexandra Alexandrieva, we know a lot about you and your family. I can assure you we plan to keep our eye on you.”
“The FSB must have nothing to do these days if you’re following me around.”
“Your father died in service to his country. We want to make sure you don’t dishonor his memory.”
“I’ve done nothing to dishonor him. And I resent the implication I have or would.”
“We want to make sure you continue his memory. We’re here to make certain the Motherland he so unselfishly served remains for the future. You do care about the future, if nothing else, for your child?” His voice lifted at the end, and his gaze met hers, challenging her to deny either her love for her country or her daughter.~~~
Book Blurb for Corazones:
A collection of three award-winning literary short stories exploring the impact of love. “A Stranger in the Village,” nominated for the 2007 Pushcart Prize, describes how the arrival of a young woman into a Mexican mountain village changed sixteen-year-old Hector forever. “Sacrifice” offers an Aztec tale of political intrigue and love. Doña Rosa, a market-place curandera, assists the lovelorn through the heartache of infidelity.~~~
Saving Hope is available through Musa Publishing
Amazon and Barnes and Noble and wherever ebooks are sold.
Corazones is available through
Amazon and Barnes and Noble stores

Contact Liese at

Link Within

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...