Friday, November 30, 2012

Debut Novels A Plenty!

So many of our writers are sharing their debut novels this last quarter, and we couldn't be more proud of them!

Kimberly Packard's PHOENIX was released from GoodMedia Press in November.

Matthew Bryant's TOWERS was released from Amazon this past month as well.

Jeff Bacot's ON THE HOLE was released from Amazon several weeks ago.

C.A Szarek's SWORD'S CALL will be released from Gypsy Shadow Publishing in January 2013.

Congrats to all of our debut authors! We're so proud and wish you all the best in your careers!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Self Publishing Tips #4 with Lyn Horner: E-Covers and Table of Contents

For the last time this year, self-publishing guru Lyn Horner returns for her fourth series on how to embed book covers and create table of contents for Amazon publishing. Lyn has had resounding success in self-publishing on Amazon. 
Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us, Lyn!

Amazon requires a book cover to be uploaded twice, once for the marketing image, the one customers see when they shop on Amazon. The other image is the internal one readers see when they open a Kindle book on their reading device. There is a specific place in the KDP uploading process where you add the marketing image, but the internal cover image must be embedded in your book file.

There are various ways to embed the internal cover image. You will find numerous discussions on this topic on the Amazon KDP support pages. Here’s one you might find helpful. It’s a long post, but there is a section about including a cover image. Be aware I have not tried this author’s method, so I can’t guarantee it.

More reading: If you haven’t done so, please download Amazon’s Kindle Publishing Guidelines. Open the pdf file and go to page 13. There you will find Cover Image Guidelines. Read this section carefully. If you have trouble understanding the technical jargon, as I do, you may need to enlist a friend or relative with html experience.

As you know, I employed Kindlegen and the Kindle Previewer to perfect my text formatting. Each time I ran my book through Kindlegen, it converted the html file into a mobi file (a format used for ebooks) but with a warning: “No cover specified.” I had to embed the cover before I could look at my book on the Kindle Previewer.

The Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines state, “Define covers in the OPF file . . .” What’s an OPF file? From my son, I learned it’s an “open package format” file which tells Kindlegen where to find all parts of a book, including the cover. Since I had no idea how to create an .OPF, my computer savvy offspring did the job, using html coding that’s way beyond me.

(FYI, Mobipocket Creator can be used to create mobi files, per discussions on Amazon’s message boards. This app is available on the internet. I think it’s free. I’ve also read that it can be a bit persnickety.)

Once the OPF file is in place, Kindlegen will tell you your mobi file is complete. Great, but you’re not done yet. You still need to create a table of contents (TOC), two actually. The first is an HTML TOC. This the table of contents readers see in the front matter of a book. It allows them to jump to whatever chapter they wish. You need to use hyperlinks to set up the HTML TOC.

First, use a page break to insert a blank page after your title page. Title this page Table of Contents, then list your chapters, including the prologue and/or epilogue if you have one. I like to bold the chapter titles and increase line spacing (do this under Paragraph in your Format menu.) Next, highlight the first chapter in your list, click the hyperlink icon on your toolbar, then go to your html book file. (You need your chapters to be separate for this, not saved as one big book file.)  Click on the corresponding chapter in your file and hit Okay. Go back to your TOC page and try the link. It should take you to the chapter. Do the same for every chapter, the cover, title page, dedication page if you include one, and any other extra features. You have now created your html Table of Contents.

Next, you need to set up a Logical TOC (NCX) for easy navigation through your book. Read page 14-15 in the Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines for an explanation of how the NCX TOC works and why it’s necessary. Amazon has included an example of how to set up an NCX in html code. I won’t try to explain it here because it’s one of those tech subjects that flies over my head. Again, if you are unfamiliar with html code, you will need help with this.

NOTE: Both TOCs must be included in your OPF master file. Once your OPF is complete, you are ready to upload to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

I’m sorry this has gotten so technical. There are quicker, easier ways to publish your book on Amazon, but this is the method I stick to because I want to be sure my books are well formatted and easy to read. In other words, I want them to be as professional as I can possibly make them.

That’s it for now. I’ll be back in 2013, providing the ladies of As We Were Saying want me here. At that time I’ll go into copyright, royalties and book promotion. Until then, enjoy the holidays and keep writing!

Of course we'd love to have Lyn back in 2013! Thanks so much for stopping by and we hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! For more helpful tips on self-publishing, check back in January for more from Lyn Horner!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving Memories with Flo Stanton

Can you smell the fall air?
Yes, we know Thanksgiving is over, but there's still one more week left in November, and another GFW Writer, Flo Stanton, shares her Thanksgiving memories.

What is your favorite childhood memory about Thanksgiving?  
The hunger-producing smells of a luscious, will it ever be ready?, dinner cooking!  Nothin' better.  

Did you and your family/friends cook the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, or did they do something different?  

We cooked the traditional Thanksgiving dinner without exception.

What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving and/or Autumn? 

Sapphire blue skies, crisp mountain air, majestic colors and in days of old, the quintessential smell of burning leaves. 
What did you do for Thanksgiving this year?  

My family and I joined my sister and her family at the Drexel dining room table of my childhood.  The fun-loving memories of my parents, grandparents and nine siblings gathered at that table are blessings in abundance.

Last, and most importantly, please share one of your favorite or memorable recipes for Thanksgiving!  

No recipe.  Just several long distance phone calls asking my Mom how to make her must have sage, white bread dressing/stuffing for my first Thanksgiving married. 

Thanks for sharing with us, Flo!
We hope everyone can come back on Wednesday for Lyn Horner's last series post of the year on Self-Publishing. See you then!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Memories with Jeff Turner

GFW Writer Jeff Turner shares an excerpt from his self-published memoir, "Notes to My Kids: Little Stories About Grown Up Kids," which is a perfect fit for our Thanksgiving Memories series. 

To Roger and Jane:

One of the favorite things we ever did was ride the Segways in Austin the Thanksgiving I was working there.  I wanted to do something other than just walk inside of the capitol’s dome downtown or go have nachos at the Oasis on Lake Travis with you.  So we rode the Segways, and it was a fun time indeed.

Over the years, I had seen the Segway “vehicle” on TV, but I had never seen or rode one.  I remember talking to the place in Austin that gave the Segway tours of downtown and asking questions about them. I asked if they were easy to ride, how hard it was to balance them, and if teenagers like you would enjoy the ride.  Since the answers I got were good, I made our reservations for the tour.
That Thanksgiving was a bit hectic.  I came home to Fort Worth, and it was my turn to have everyone over; so I was busy getting the smoker ready for the turkey and the ham.  We had everyone over, and you two spent the night.  We got up the day after Thanksgiving and drove to Austin and left our stuff at the extended stay place.  The next stop was downtown and the Segways.

We parked on the street, and we walked into the shop and gazed at the odd-looking devices, which looked like an old fashioned pogo stick with two large wheels on the bottom.  We checked in and got trained on how to run them.   Then we departed for our short tour of downtown Austin that cool and cloudy day.

We started down the street in a line; there were around eight of us in total and a guide.  We quickly got used to driving them and how they steered.  It became a very easy and natural thing to do, like riding a bike or driving a car.  None of us wrecked or hit something, which was good.

Over the next couple of hours, we road down by the Colorado River and the streets of the southern part of downtown and went by the State capitol building.  We snaked up and down the little hills and wound our way back to the starting point where we reluctantly parked our two-wheeled steeds.

After our ride, we ate lunch at the Texas Chili Parlor, which unfortunately was not so good, and toured the inside of the capitol.  Of course, we went to a store by UT to look at T-shirts and saw the football stadium, too.  It was a fun day in more than one way, one grey and cold but filled with the warmth generated by the fire of being together and having a good time.

And so it was that day and weekend.  On Sunday, I drove you to Austin’s Bergstrom airport to fly back to Love Field, home, and your waiting schoolwork. And on Monday, I went back to work there in Austin.

That was one of the most fun weekends I had with you two after you were grown.  Riding the Segways was a segue in life because I started to realize more and more that you both were no longer little kids.  In that way, driving the Segways that day was like driving down a new road in the way I saw you two: a new highway of our lives that we were driving down, still together, even today.

Thanks for sharing, Jeff! Keep checking back with us every day for more Thanksgiving Memories from GFW Writers!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Memories with Ruby Johnson

Today Greater Ft Worth Writer member Ruby Johnson shares her favorite memories of Thanksgiving, and special treats, too! Ruby is Treasurer of GFWW and the blog coordinator.  She's also a member of RWA and Sisters in Crime. 

What is your favorite childhood memory about Thanksgiving?
My childhood memories are of my mother. She seemed to cook for days. Her menu consisted of oyster stew, pork roast, prime rib, and turkey with dressing and vegetables. Pies: apple, lemon, coconut, pecan. Cakes: Pound, Japanese fruit cake, and pecan cake. Holidays were the only time we ate sweets so it was a real treat.

After I married, my family spent most Thanksgivings with my in-laws. Everyone brought a dish and my mother-in-law cooked the turkey. My sister-in-law is not much of a cook and she was given the task of making a salad and the dressing to go with turkey. One year she decided to vary her recipe from the one on the back of the package of bread crumbs by making oyster dressing. Oyster dressing requires fresh oysters but she used smoked ones. The result was the worst dressing I have ever tasted. The sound of five grandchildren running and playing, men laughing, drinking beer, and watching football on TV echoed through the house. It was a happy time to gather with family. After dinner (usually by 2pm), we walked on the beach before making the long trek home.
Now, I spend Thanksgiving either in N.C. or Texas. Our menus are a lot different from those of my mother. We don’t prepare the feasts that she did. Turkey, dressing, casseroles, vegetables, wine and dessert make up the menu. But we do have lots of hors’d’oeuvres before we eat Thanksgiving Dinner. Our family is much smaller these days because we’ve lost many members and live in different parts of the country.  However, the immediate family see each other at Thanksgiving or Christmas. It’s a time to share what’s happening in our lives and to be thankful that we can gather with each other one more year. This year I’ll celebrate Thanksgiving in N.C with my two daughters, two grandchildren, and their family.
Autumn brings cooler weather after the hot summers here in Texas. In the N.C. Mountains the fall colors of leaves in red, orange, rust and yellow, mixed with the green of firs are just gorgeous. It makes one aware of the change of the season and God’s hand in providing beauty in our lives. For me Thanksgiving is about sharing.

Most importantly, please share one of your favorite or memorable recipes for Thanksgiving!
I'll share three!

Shrimp Casserole
8 slices slightly dry bread, trimmed buttered, and cubed
2 cups shelled boiled shrimp (remove tails)
1 (3 oz.) can sliced mushrooms boiled and drained
½ lb. sharp process shredded American cheese
3 eggs
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. dry mustard
1 dash pepper
1 dash paprika
2 c. milk
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place ½ of bread cubes in greased  11 x 7x11 ½ baking dish. Add shrimp, mushrooms, and ½ of cheese. Top with remaining bread and cheese. Beat together eggs and seasonings. Add milk. Pour over top of bread and cheese.  Bake in oven for 45-50 minutes or until just set. May be refrigerated before baking.

Ruby’s Pecan Pie
1 cup light brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
2Tb. melted butter, browned
1 ¼ c. pecans, toasted
1 c. light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. white vinegar
1 unbaked 9” pie shell
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Beat eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, and vinegar. Add cooled browned butter, syrup, then mix in pecans. Add to pie shell. Bake 45 minutes in pie shell. Cover edge of pie crust with foil until last 15 minutes. By browning the butter and toasting the pecans you get a really great pie.

Asparagus Ham Roll-up (No Bake)
Fresh Asparagus  (about 15 spears)
Ham Slices (thinly sliced deli or Oscar Mayer)
Cream Cheese softened 2 -3 tsp each (variation: Add a Tbs of honey to cream cheese)
Boil or steam asparagus until tender crisp. Lay two ham slices together. Spread cream cheese on ham slices. Put asparagus spear on the wide end of ham and roll. Secure with tooth pick or tie with chives.

These may also be placed in an unbaked crescent roll. Place on the wide side and roll. Bake in 375 degree oven about 10 minutes. Great with soup.

Thanks for sharing, Ruby!
Ruby got the writing bug in high school when she won an award from the National Teachers of English, and transfered that love through college into her professional life as a certified registered nurse anesthetist practitioner. She has won short story contests, published in the AANA Journal and has contributed to Hospital Topics and  a book on Hospital Management. She currently writes medical suspense.
Friend her on P Johnson

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Memories with Kimberly Packard

This week our Greater Ft Worth Writer members are sharing their favorite memories of Thanksgiving. Today is debut author Kimberly Packard, whose first novel releases today: PHOENIX, from GoodMedia Press. She is Vice President of GFW Writers and VP of Communications at North Texas Commission.
Welcome, Kim!

What is your favorite childhood memory about Thanksgiving?
Actually, it's not so much a family-related memory as it is of my high school friends. We all ate Thanksgiving at lunch, so mid-afternoon we'd meet in this open field to play what began as touch football, but usually ended up as tackle - with the girls being the aggressors. Yeah, girls kick butt.

Do you and your family/friends cook the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, or do they do something different?
We usually do the traditional thing, but rather than cook a turkey my dad would get a fried turkey from a friend of his (did you know that you can't deep fry a frozen turkey? it will explode).

What’s your favorite thing about Thanksgiving and/or Autumn?
There's a smell in the air that is completely unique to Autumn. It's a clean, crisp smell that is filled with a little bit of smoke and spice. It's quieter at Autumn -- I walk the trails in the woods near our house and there's this lovely hush that blankets everything ... that is until my dog starts barking at the squirrels.

What will you be doing for Thanksgiving this year?
Going to my sister's house where we will have a 3 adults per twin ratio ... and sadly we'll still be outnumbered.

Last, and most importantly, please share one of your favorite or memorable recipes for Thanksgiving!
Waiting in line at the Honey baked Ham store in the cold reminds me of camping out for Pearl Jam tickets in the 90s. :-)

Find Kimberly Packard on Facebook: Facebook/Kimberly Packard Walton
Visit her blog at 
Information on her debut novel is available here.
Thanks so much for sharing, Kim!
Come by throughout the week and read more favorite Thanksgiving memories of our members!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Glowing Review of On The Hole by Jeff Bacot

Jeff Bacot is a freelance writer of fiction and blogger of unconventional thought. His novel ON THE HOLE was recently published and released and is available on or Barnes and He is an active member of The Greater Fort Worth Writers group. He is a graduate of Southern Methodist University.

Foreword Reviews gave a glowing review of GFW Writer member (and President Elect) Jeff Bacot's debut novel, On The Hole.
Read the entire review here:

Congrats, Jeff!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Maryann Miller Talks Police Procedural Mysteries

Maryann Miller

It's our pleasure to welcome Maryann Miller to our blog. Maryann has a long resume of sucess in writing and we are so happy she could find the time to share her knowledge with us.
First I want to thank Ruby Johnson for inviting me here today. What a neat place this is. I have  bookmarked the site and will come back.

 Even though I now live in East Texas, I spent many years in Dallas and was a founding member of The Greater Dallas Writer's Association. I miss those days of meeting with other writers and having the kind of networking that the Greater Fort Worth Writers' group has.

 It's no surprise that I decided to set most of my books in and around Dallas.
Me and Ed McBain (Evan Hunter)
 My interest in police procedural mysteries started when I discovered the 87th Precinct Series by Ed McBain (Evan Hunter). I was a huge fan and once followed an impulse to write to him. He wrote the nicest letter back, and we corresponded a few times after that. I wasn't brave enough then to tell him I was writing fiction. My bread and butter at that time was in nonfiction, but I always hoped that by the time I got my first book published I could contact him again and perhaps get an author blurb.

 That wasn't to be. Nor would there be any more 87th Precinct stories when Evan Hunter died in 2005.
What I learned from Hunter's Books
 One thing I learned from reading Hunter's books is the importance of the little details that set the scene in the police station as well as at crime scenes, as well as the importance of getting those details right. That is why I visited police stations, rode patrol with officers, interviewed numerous officers, and had everything I wrote vetted by a seasoned detective.
Interesting Areas of Research
 For Stalking Season, I also did a lot of other research that included visiting a gentleman's club, but I think my son, who is my research assistant, enjoyed the visit more than I did. He took copious notes of how the girls were dancing, just in case I needed those details for authenticity. (smile)

 Open Season, the first of The Seasons Series, was published in 2010 by Five Star Cengage Gale and the second book, Stalking Season will be released this month. The series has been called "Lethal Weapon" with female leads set in Dallas.

  Book Blurb:

In this second book of The Seasons Series,  Homicide Detective Sarah Kinsgly and her partner, Angel Johnson are pitted against another uncanny killer while still struggling to feel like real partners. Neither wanted the pairing in the first place, and it isn't getting any better.

A young girl is killed in a cheap motel, and when her identity is discovered, an influential Dallas businessman brings the heat down on the department. It isn't easy to work under the thumb of the mayor and the police commissioner, and it doesn't help that Leiutenant McGregor has his own issues with the brass.

The investigation takes the detectives inside an exclusive gentleman's club, a prestigious private school, and leads to a killer that surprises them all.


 Sarah stepped closer and tried to look dispassionately at the body of a young woman that was covered to her chin with a faded bedspread. It could have been a child lovingly tucked in by a parent, except for the russet stain of dried blood on her forehead.        

“What do you make of that?” Sarah pointed to the odd marking.

“Some kind of symbol?” Rusty shrugged. “Pretty weird.”

“I’ll say.”

The girl might have been attractive once, but death’s pallor was too stark against the dark puddle circling her neck and cradling her head. A sour odor of long-dead blood mingled with the distinct stench of feces and urine. Pressing a finger against her nose, Sarah fought the wrench of her stomach as she turned back to the officer. “Any ID?”

“Nothing in her purse. She was registered as Tracy Smith. But the manager said he doesn’t know her.”

“I bet half the guests here are named Smith.” Sarah forced her gaze back to the victim. She was young. Maybe eighteen, tops. And so innocent looking, with slim, smooth hands folded over her chest.

Sarah pulled latex gloves on and bent closer to the dead girl’s hands, lifting one finger. “She definitely wasn’t a two-bit whore. Not if she could afford to have her nails done like this.”

Rusty leaned closer.

“And look at this ring.” Sarah turned the stone toward the officer. “I’d bet my next paycheck that’s a genuine sapphire.”

“What do you think?”

“I don’t know.” Sarah straightened. “She could’ve had some rich patron. But then why was she in a dump like this?”

“Maybe he got tired of her and cut her loose?”

“Would you?”

Rusty glanced at the girl then back at Sarah with an ironic grin. “Not likely.”

Review Snippets:

 "So deftly plotted and paced that, although it’s certainly possible to grow impatient with the protagonists’ unwarranted impatience toward each other, they’re appealing enough to keep the pages turning."— Kirkus

 “ . . . gripping second mystery featuring Dallas, Tex., police detectives Sarah Kingsly and Angel Johnson. . . . The relationship between the women is just as absorbing as the search for the killer. Few readers will anticipate the closing twist.”— STARRED Publishers Weekly Review  


To see all of Maryann Miller's other books, visit her Book Page on her blog

 Visit her on her website, MaryannWrites
Purchase her books from and any other bookseller.Her publisher markets heavily to libraries, so you can also request Stalking Season at your local library. Anyone who wishes to purchase a signed copy directly from Maryann, or any of her other books in paperback, can contact her at maryann

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How to Attract New Fans- 4 Quick Steps

By Bob Baker
 Attracting new fans. Admit it, that's what having a book published is all about -- getting more people to read your words, know about you and buy your books. And hopefully, getting a LOT more people to do those things.
Why else do you work so hard to craft chapters, paragraphs, sentences -- even individual word choices? For what other reason do you fight off sleep so you can finish just one more section before you call it a night? I don't believe you go through these things to amuse yourself and hone your grammar skills in obscurity. You work hard because you know you have something of value to offer  and you want to reach as many people as possible with your ideas.
Marketing is the thing that helps you reach that goal. But marketing is also a subject that confuses a lot of writers. Whether they write fiction or nonfiction, are self-published or traditionally published, writers the world over know they need to promote themselves. But many don't know where to start, much less how to continue marketing effectively.
Does this describe you? If so, consider the following scenario:
Let's say you went to an average U.S. city and rounded up 1,000 people and gathered them in a giant VFW hall. These 1,000 folks would be randomly chosen and made up of people of all ages, genders and backgrounds. Next, you'd distribute information about your book, talk to these people and even let them read sample chapters.
After this direct exposure, what are the chances that one person out of those thousand would be attracted to your ideas and personal identity enough to buy your book? Most writers, regardless of how obscure their subject matter is, should feel pretty confident about being able to win over at least one new fan from this group of 1,000. That's a one-tenth of one percent conversion rate.
Now let's multiply that reasonable formula by the entire U.S. population of 285 million people. One-tenth of one percent would be 285,000 people. That would be enough fans to make you a bonafide bestselling author. Right?
So how do you find and connect with those one-in-a-thousand buyers (without the use of VFW halls across the country)? Most likely, you can't afford the massive advertising budget of major companies. These corporations spray their marketing message over the masses, knowing that it'll only stick to a small percentage of the population.
The solution: You must find creative, low-cost ways to go directly to those fans who make up that one-tenth of one percent. Don't waste your time and money promoting yourself to people who will most likely never embrace your words.
Here are four steps to take to reach those new fans:
1. Define Your Distinct Identity
You must have a firm grasp on what your writing (or latest book) is about. And you must be able to define it clearly and quickly. What sets your book apart from others in its genre? What attitude or social statement do you (or your book) make? Generic self-help, romance or science fiction titles won't cut it. Dig deeper and discover your unique identity. When you do finally reach some of those rare potential fans, don't lose them by not being clear about who you are.
2. Describe Your Ideal Fan
Once you have a handle on who you are as a writer, it's time to paint a clear picture of your ideal fan. Can you articulate how your readers dress, where they work, what TV shows they watch, what they do for fun and who their favorite cultural heroes are? Observe the types of people who come to your public speaking engagements or readings, and note what they have in common? Conduct simple online surveys with people who visit your web site or subscribe to your e-zine. Knowing precisely who your fans are will dictate what avenues you use to reach them and how you communicate your message once you do reach them.
3. Determine How to Get Access to Your Ideal Fans
Once you know exactly what type of fan you're going after, start making a list of the various resources these specific people are attracted to. What magazines and newspapers do they read? Where do they hang out? What radio stations do they listen to? What retail outlets do they frequent? What web sites do they surf to? What e-mail newsletters do they subscribe to? For example, if your fans are mostly Harley riders, go to a search engine like Google and start entering keywords related to motorcycles. Evaluate the search results and compile a list of the many good sources you uncover.
4. Network and Promote Yourself and Your Book
Armed with this targeted list of contacts, get busy! Send e-mail press releases to niche media outlets. Contact the webmasters and editors of appropriate publications. Post messages in specialized forums. Visit and interact via the web sites of similar authors or reading groups. Contact organizations and charities related to your writing niche.
In short, go to where your ideal fans are. And market yourself through these outlets relentlessly. Why spend too much time and money trying to promote to everyone ... when you can save money and be far more effective by going directly to those valuable one-in-a-thousand fans?

Bob Baker is the author of "Unleash the Artist Within," "Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook" and "Branding Yourself Online." Get a FREE subscription to Bob's newsletter, "Quick Tips for Creative People," featuring inspiration and low-cost self-promotion ideas for artists, writers, performers and more. Visit for details.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Use Fear To Develop Character And Conflict

By Heidi M. Thomas                                          
If you find this post helpful kindly leave a  comment below.

We’re all afraid of something.

That fear can shape who we are and can create jeopardy in our lives. We’ve all been to the dentist, right? For some, just the word could make you break into a cold sweat. Maybe you’re afraid of the pain, or the buzzing sound of the drill. But most realize that the fear and anticipation of that dental visit is worse than the actual procedure.

Fear of the unknown is a similar situation. For example, both my husband and my sister-in-law recently underwent chemo. We were all nervous about what to expect. What would it feel like? Would they immediately get sick? What would their reactions and side effects be? Our imagination can conjure up all kinds of “what-ifs”. But, usually, once you’ve experienced it, you know what to expect the next time, and it’s not as scary as it was before.

Use that fear and anticipation to build suspense in your writing. Suspense is about anticipation. It is about what we do not have, what has nothappened, about what might happen. It’s about the process of watching events unfold. (i.e.While the victim is being stalked, suspense looms. Once the victim is murdered, the suspense disappears.) Waiting to find out builds suspense and drama.

Fear may be something our character needs to overcome, her internal conflict in the story. That takes us on her journey of development, how she reacts to her fear, how she deals with it, how she wins over it in the end or is changed by it.

As an author, you can use your fear to drive your character (and maybe overcome your own in the process).

A native Montanan, Heidi M.Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series. This post originally appeared on The Blood Red Pencil Blog.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


By Kimberly Packard


That which we call a character

By any other name smell as sweet?

Juliet may have been trying to soothe her lover's concerns over their warring families, but I completely disagree with her notion that a name is a meaningless convention. One of the greatest gifts - or curses - a parent can bestow upon their child is their name. The same is true for fictional people.

Sure, Buffy works if you're a vampire slayer, but would a brain surgeon named Buffy be taken seriously? Or, would Severus Snape be nearly as slimy if J.K. Rowling named him Ben Thomas? Should writers stress over a character's name, or just pluck something from a baby name book and move on? Maybe both.

When I started my first round of edits for Phoenix years ago, there was something about the main character that really bothered me. She felt directionless, meek, and quite frankly, was not my favorite character in the book.

To remedy this, I "interviewed" her ... I also call this "talking to the voices in my head." During this interview, I asked her what she wanted more than anything in the world.

Her answer: to be loved.

I hopped on, did a search and found the name Amanda meant "worthy of love." That was the day Amanda Martin was born. The name also worked perfectly for the alter-ego with her going by her childhood nickname, Mandy.

The other characters in the book came to me pretty easily. Shiloh, a wounded young woman who has dealt with loss her whole life, came fully formed and her name means His Gift. (Maybe she was my gift as she is probably a character I have more in common with than the others). Amanda's love interest, David's name means "beloved." Her criminal ex-boyfriend's name Josh means "God is salvation." Um, yeah-no, but I couldn't find a name that meant "lying thief." Alex, the SEC agent chasing Amanda, was likely named Alexander by his Greek parents, a name that means "Defender of the People," and quite fitting for his role in the story.

For the times when names are hard to come by, there's this great site. This random name generator gave me the name of a character in the follow up to Phoenix, Pardon Falls, Eldridge "El" Calchera. The minute that name flashed in front of my eyes the character solidly formed in my mind.

But should we strive for names that fit our characters, or names that will find a place in history? Nabokov's double named Humbert Humbert is immediately cast in our minds as a creep, and what of his sexually-charged, yet youthful Lolita nickname for his stepdaughter. Are the names what stand out, or the characters?

Is it a literary chicken and the egg? Does a memorable name make for a memorable character, or should the character of Severus Snape stand on his own, even if his name was Ben?

                           About Kimberly Packard
Kimberly Packard likes to say she makes up stuff. That stuff has resulted in the completion of two novels. Her debut novel, PHOENIX, is being released on November 19th.
 In her day job she specializes in media relations, branding and strategic planning, crisis communications, program development and pretty much anything else that gets tossed her way.  She serves as vice-president of Greater Fort Worth Writers.              

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