Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Self Publishing Tips #3: Creating a Book Cover

Self-publishing guru Lyn Horner returns for her third post in her self-publishing tips series. Lyn has had resounding success in self-publishing on Amazon. Today she discusses Creating an e-Book Cover. Come back at the end of every month for the next installment.
Thanks for joining us again, Lyn!

The Amazon Kindle Publishing Guidelines state that a Marketing Cover Image Is Mandatory. This image is what customers see on your product page.

Amazon Requirements
The preferred size is “a JPEG image of 2500 pixels on the longest side (with a minimum of 1000 pixels on the longest side). Covers with less than 500 pixels on the smaller side are uploaded, but are not displayed on the website.” You can also upload PNG images. I prefer them because colors don’t bleed and the image stays sharper.

The guidelines say not to stretch a small cover image, “because this does not add any quality.” In addition, your “cover image should not infringe other publisher’s or artist’s copyright on the same cover,” and should not “mention pricing or other temporary promotional offers.”

NOTE: I did add an awards badge to my Darlin’ Druid cover after the book won 2nd place in the Paranormal Romance Guild 2011 Reviewers Choice Awards Contest. Amazon has not objected.

Authors are also required to include an Internal Content Cover Image in the uploaded book file. For more details read the guidelines and download the pdf file for future reference. Go to page 14 of the guidelines for cover image requirements.

Graphics Programs
I design my own covers using two programs. One is “Paint,” available under Accessories in my Windows program. Instructions in the Paint help menu are limited, so it requires some practice to master the features. I use this program to combine elements of my cover images (background, cover model photos, book title and author name.)

GIMP is the other program I employ. I’m told it’s very similar to Photoshop. If you fully master it, you probably won’t need to use MS Paint. I use it mainly to blend colors and increase image resolution (number of pixels per inch.) The latter helps meet Amazon’s size requirement. Best of all, the program can be downloaded for FREE here!

Sources for Photos and Graphics
Artwork for book covers can be found in many different places. For my very first Darlin’ Druid cover, a friend let me use a photo she’d taken of Texas Longhorn cattle grazing in a field of bluebonnets (Texas state flower.) Later, I changed the book cover upon the advice of author friends. The new cover is “hotter.”

Some of my background images come from websites such as and They stock millions of images that include landscapes, human faces and figures, graphics and cartoons. Prices vary, but I’ve never paid more than a few dollars for one image. There are also free clipart sites on the net, but always make sure their images are royalty and copyright free.

When it comes to finding models for a book cover, some authors recruit family members or friends to pose for them. Others purchase clipart figures. An author friend clued me in about a male cover model, Jimmy Thomas, who runs a site where he sells electronic photos of himself with female models in many different poses and period costumes. They range from fairly tame to erotic. You can buy a pose for $10, but this doesn’t give you exclusive rights to it. You may see the same pose on other book covers. Jimmy also does exclusive custom photos, but they cost more. You are allowed to alter the poses any way you like. For my “new” Darlin’ Druid cover, I purchased three poses, altered and combined them to suit my book, but I was trained in the visual arts. If you don’t possess some artist knowhow, you may not want to go this route.

Once all necessary graphics are collected in my photo gallery, I use MS Paint to combine them. I start by laying in the background. If it needs some touching up, I may go to GIMP for that. For Darlin’ Druid, I combined three background elements: a cloudy night sky, a Celtic cross symbolizing the Druid connection, and a cowboy riding after a calf, showing the Texas theme.

Next I reopen the image in Paint, add some extra white space to the palette (page,) and use the “Paste From” feature under Paint’s Edit menu to open my doctored cover model image. I then “select” this image, choose the transparent background style in the options box just below the toolbar and drag the image into the foreground of my cover. Finally, I add the book title and my name using fonts available in the “Text” feature on the Paint Toolbar.

I hope all of this makes sense. As I did, you will need to play with Paint and/or GIMP for a while if you want to learn how to apply all the features.
Here’s a condensed demo of the steps involved:

Would I advise you to follow my example? Well, that depends upon how much time you want to spend on your cover. You don’t absolutely need a lot of artistic experience. You might choose a likely photo and use that for your book cover without making any alterations. Adding text and/or clip art graphics is also doable by anyone.

Obviously, the other alternative is to hire someone to create your book cover. Search online and you will find numerous companies that do this type of work. I have not looked into how much they charge, but I’m sure their fees vary according to what you want on your cover. If you choose this path, I invite you to comment about it here. I and others would be very interested to hear about your experience. Meanwhile, I will discuss “embedding” a book cover in your book file on my next blog. Thanks for visiting!

Come back the end of November for the next self-publishing installment from Lyn Horner!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Creative Monday: Writing Prompt

In honor of Halloween and all things spooky and sugary (yes, I've already eaten most of the candy I bought),

Writing Prompt Monday is here!

Below is one line to get you started. Write what moves you for how long you have the jitter bug. Any tense, any genre. The eery, swirling-cloud-covered sky is the limit.
Post the first 4 lines in the comment box to share it with others.

It was the phone call that would lead me to a life of crime.

(Commence the Nightmare on Elm Street Soundtrack)
Have fun! Can't wait to read what people come up with!
Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Plotter or Pantser

Susie Sheehey is president of Greater Ft Worth Writers, in her second term. She writes women's contemporary and romance and has completed two novels in the past year, and is struggling at the half-way point in another. She lives with her husband and rowdy 4-year-old son who loves to push her buttons. 

The epic battle of writers. Planning it out, or going with the direction of the wind, on a whim.
Some believe that plotting everything out first- characters, settings, conflict, climax and ending- destroys true creativity. That it limits where the characters want to go. Some say ‘pantsing’ it can lead you too astray from where you began. Example: Story begins as a horror/suspense with a dog, ends up a comedic romance with a pet monkey.
I’ve always been a planner. Not just in writing- school speeches, work presentations, and my first 3 manuscripts were completely outlined  before I started writing. I needed the road map to keep me on track. My safety net. (Though I refuse to admit I have attention issues. Ooh, Reese's Peanut Butter cup!)
Two months ago, I did something I’ve never done. I sat down and wrote what came to my brain. No plotting, no character sketching. I ‘pantsed’ ten chapters without stopping.
And I freakin’ loved it!
Scared a bit too, thinking the writing would be horrible, the pages full of back story and wandering motivations (and some of it was). But it was damn fun!
And I ended those chapters with the same characters I started with. No road map and I cruised along the highway with the convertible top down. Wind in my hair. No ponytail.
I'm now around chapter 12 and struggling a bit. Not sure how much further I can take it before I give in to my plotter-side and at least put together character sheets. But it’s felt good to go with the flow of my creative side.
Who’da thought it?
Are you a plotter or pantser?
Have you ever tried both?
Consider this peer pressure… Ooh, another peanut butter cup!

Follow Susie on her blog at
Follow her on @susieQwriter or Facebook

Monday, October 22, 2012


Popular book doctor Jason Black returns to critique the first five pages of another submission from a GFW Writers member's work in progress. The author of the work below chooses to remain anonymous. However the member's responses to the critique are inserted .

 “Marti, I need tranquility and you need excitement.”

[The clear contrast in this opening line suggests a deep conflict between these two people, but emotionally, the line feels a little flat. I don’t get a strong sense of how the speaker feels about this observation. Is she upset? Resigned? It’s hard to tell, and I believe that without the emotional component, the line will have trouble hooking readers.]

That’s when the trouble began. Life can be that way.  It can change in ways you didn’t see coming. Kevin moved in with Miss Tranquility and got excitement. Then I was the one who needed peace and tranquility.

[This is confusing, because I don’t know who the speaker was for the original line. I can’t sort out how Kevin, Marti, and “I” relate, nor which one (if any) “Miss Tranquility” corresponds to. The “I need tranquility” part  suggests that “Miss Tranquility” is the same as the opening line’s speaker. But Kevin moving in with her, resulting in “then I was the one who needed peace and tranquility” suggests that “I” isn’t the same as “Miss Tranquility.” It’s confusing!]
This is what occurs when you take the advice of too many critiquers. The original sentence read, "The trouble started when my ex-husband Kevin said he wanted tranquility and I, Marti Webb, wanted excitement. Still a problem getting the MC's name into the beginning.
 But it’s a bit more complicated.  That’s only part of the reason for working in Conawee Beach, S.C. away from friends and family. The other was my inability to see the downsizing coming in my former department any more than I had seen evidence of Kevin’s cheating.
[Ok, this brings some clarity. Makes me think that unfaithful Kevin left the narrator for “Miss Tranquility,” he somehow got excitement instead, and in the process threw the narrator’s life into turmoil.]

Thinking my wealth of experience would count for something didn’t help .
[Wordy. Try just “My wealth of experience didn’t count for anything.”]

What I got was a severance package, a pat on the back and months later, welcome to Conawee Beach.

[To me, sentences which use a double-and construction like this one always feel a little awkward. Consider splitting the “months later” part off into a new sentence, which would allow you to delete the second “and”.]

It was mid-afternoon on a stormy dark fall day
[This isn’t quite purple prose, but “stormy, dark, fall day” does remind me strongly of “It was a dark and stormy night.” You see the parallel.]
 Point Taken!

 in the operating room of Conawee Beach Hospital, better known as CBH. Revised to read: After a long period of unemployment I was settling into my new anesthesia position at Conawee Beach Hospital, better known as CBH. I took a look at my patient something that was a routine every three to five minutes.
[Watch your commas. There should be commas after “unemployment” and “patient” to separate the dependent and independent clauses.]

 The vital signs were  reflected on a computer monitor, and the blue beats of the EKG ran across the screen. The patient’s eyes are taped to prevent corneal abrasions, and an endotracheal tube juts from his mouth. The tube fogged and cleared as the ventilator bellows swish up and down.
[This paragraph breaks uncomfortably into present tense. Everything so far has been past tense. Keep it consistent.]

King Freeman’s dark brown eyes peaked
[“peeked”, not “peaked”]
Yikes! Can't believe I did that.
over the drape separating me from he and Dr. Crawford, “We’ll be finished in a few minutes.”
“Thanks,” I said, turning the anesthetic dials to the off position. Patients breathe out the gases when their source is shut off. I completed the process for waking up the patient and began recording the intakes and outputs- IV fluids, blood given, blood loss, and urine output. I stooped down to read the urine meter hanging under the surgery table. If I’d blinked, I would have missed it.
But I didn’t.
[Nicely done. It’s hard to work fortuitous or coincidental events into a narrative without having them feel forced. But here, you’ve done a nice job of creating an entirely believable context for the narrator to be in position to see it, while also waiting just that one extra beat of “But I didn’t” to let our curiosity build about what “it” is that she didn’t miss.]
I saw something fall to the floor from the surgeon’s pocket as he removed his gown. It could have been a picture; it could have been a packet of sugar.  Either was more likely than what I thought I saw; a suspicious white powder in a small plastic snack bag plummeting toward the floor. If I hadn’t been beneath the table checking the patient’s urine output, I wouldn’t have seen the surgeon place his foot on the packet. But I was. If I’d been less tired, maybe my reaction might have been different. But it wasn’t. 

What I did next was a visceral reaction to what I saw.
Without conscious thought about what I’d seen,
[The previous two lines border on over-explaining. You already let us know she was tired. That goes a long way towards enabling us to infer the rest. If you change “different” to “smarter” or “more savvy” or “more politic” or something like that, we’ll have just enough of a clue to really lock it in for ourselves. Narrative always comes across stronger and more believably when readers can infer the juicy bits for themselves.]
I stood and said, “Dr. Crawford, you dropped something on the floor.”
It’s amazing what you say if you don’t stop to think. Like stating the obvious.  In most instances, others might say I’m not impulsive. But that day, I was impulsive.

Thomas Crawford’s head whipped around, his gray eyes snapping, his hard gaze fixed on me. “Right. I got it,” he snarled.
There was absolutely no reason for his tone or words to have my hackles rising but it did. 
[“but they did.” Subject/verb agreement. The subject is “tone or words,” which is more than one thing, so you want “they.”] Excellent Point
I smiled and said as pleasantly as I could to his retreating back, “Good. We’ll see you in recovery.”
King typed into his notebook. He was waiting to help me take the patient to recovery.  “You handled that well,” he said quietly.
I studied him a few seconds; my eyes sweeping over his huge shoulders, dark brown hair cropped short, shadow of beard growth and his head down intent on what he was doing.
[Run-on sentence. At the very least, you need a comma after “seconds.” This one is so long, though, that I’d suggest a period, and change “sweeping” to “swept” to make a proper sentence out of the rest of it. That aside, she’s clearly interested in him…]
 “Oh, everyone has a bad day once in a while.” I replied. I asked myself what was there to handle. I had worked with irritable surgeons on more than one occasion. I’d have to ask John, my co-worker, who usually worked with Dr. Crawford what his problem was.
Closing his notebook, King said, “You look tired. Did you get any sleep last night?”

“Not much. The pager went off every time I put my head on the pillow.”

I could see the OR Tech and Circulating nurse watching us and wondered what they were thinking. “Thanks for asking.”
[I see this “I could see” and “I could hear” pattern quite a lot in my clients’ work. Generally, it isn’t necessary to explain to readers how a narrator comes to be aware of general stimuli in the environment. You don’t have to say “I could see” for things that are clearly visible. You don’t have to say “I could hear” for things like “his hard-soled shoes clacking down the hall.” For those kinds of stimuli, it’s usually better to simply state what the stimulus was. For example, “The OR Tech and Circulating nurse were watching us, and I wondered what they were thinking.” Or “His hard-soled shoes clacked down the hall.” I encourage you to do a search on your manuscript for the filler-phrases “I could see,” “I saw,” “I could hear”, and “I heard.” Take it as an exercise to revise those filler-phrases out of their sentences.]
“No problem. Let’s get to the recovery room,’ he smiled.  
I was shocked that I found myself attracted to him. I hadn’t been the least bit interested in anyone for over a year, but it was nice to know I wasn’t dead. I knew better. I’d always tried to keep my life private and separate from work. Operating rooms breed close relationships, but they also can be dens of gossip and the staff was watching me closely.

Later that day
[Wait! Hold on! What happened after the previous paragraph? Saying “later that day” signals to us that you’re skipping over a block of time in which nothing meaningful happened, and yet, the way that paragraph ends it is utterly laden with the implication of meaningful things! Was he making a pass at her, there, or was he just making a helpful suggestion? Did she in fact go to the recovery room? Was it a platonic, co-napping kind of thing, or did they get their groove on? You can’t just let that drop. We need more than simply “later that day” and a shift to job-hunting.]
 I am so sorry. An entire page is missing.
I sat on the porch with my lap top surfing employment agencies looking for better positions. Mac, my neighbor’s cat, came up to take his afternoon nap on the steps. The job market is tight in my specialty. I’d been lucky to land this job, but I couldn’t see myself in this job a year from now. Some anesthetists use agencies because they like the flexibility of short term positions. If they don’t like the personnel, they know they can move on.  I‘m not one of them. Having knowledge of the rules of the OR, the individual quirks of the surgeons and knowing where I’m going to be day to day is important to me.
Something was definitely wrong. The staff was watchful and suspicious, the other anesthetist a loner and almost non-communicative. The incident with Dr. Crawford had disturbed me. Was he on cocaine?
[That was the obvious implication…]
The thought of working with a doctor who was high could jeopardize my career if he made an error.
[No, the thought might be scary, but the thought itself doesn’t jeopardize anything. Working with a stoner surgeon is what might jeopardize her career. Be careful that the subject of your sentences doesn’t shift half-way through, or else the sentence ends up saying something non-sensical. This instance is strongly reminiscent of the “Thinking my wealth of experience” sentence from earlier.]
Something, I could not afford.
[No comma after “something.” This type of sentence fragment is perfectly fine in narrative writing, but the comma is definitely out of place.]
 Being an Anesthetist means long hours, arrogant surgeons, and learning to stay focused for long periods of time. It’s a profession  sometimes filled with boredom, contrasted by stark terror, then followed by brief moments of triumph that make it all worthwhile. But one error can kill a career. An anesthesia scandal involving a patient’s death can follow one around.
I had looked forward to the refuge of the beach from the chaos my life had been for the past year and no one was likely to die if I walked on the beach or surfed the internet
[That’s quite a complex, sprawling sentence. I had to read it a couple of times before I figured out what it fully meant. Meaning should be clear on the first reading. Things you can do: reword for clarity, replacing generic words with more specific ones; splitting the sentence into multiple sentences. For example:
“I had looked forward to the refuge the beach would provide from the chaos my life had been for the past year. No one was likely to die if I walked on the beach or surfed the internet.”
Notice how “the refuge the beach would provide” makes it easier for readers to take the meaning, compared to the back-to-back prepositional phrases of the original “of the beach from the chaos”. Everything after the “and” is a whole separate thought, so it splits trivially into a new sentence. Basically, give the reader two easily manageable bites, rather than one bite that’s too big to chew.]
I closed my laptop, opened the screen door of my rented cottage, stepped over the cat and headed down the stairs for the five minute walk to the beach. The smell of the ocean’s moist salty air, the feel of the breeze from the tide change had always helped me to clear my head. Waves crashed into shore and reminded me that life does change just as the occupants of the ocean do.
The echoes of children’s laughter rolled over me.  When was the last time I had felt such joy?  For me, happiness has been like the tides, a fleeting thing moving in slowly and leaving faster. Bleakness was unusual for me, after all I was known for my humor not dog faced sadness.
[These last two sentences create a bit of a puzzling juxtaposition. If happiness was a fleeting thing for her, then we don’t expect her to be known for her humor. We don’t associate joviality with people who are mostly not happy. Also, “after all I was known for my humor” is a tell, in “show, don’t tell” terms. We believe what we see—or rather, what we can infer for ourselves—not what we are told. In these five pages, we haven’t seen any behavior which we would take as humorous. In the small amounts of dialogue and interaction with other characters we do see, there wasn’t any particular humor. Essentially, you’ve given us several pages of evidence that allows us already to make an implicit determination that this narrator is not a barrel of laughs. So when you then try to flat-out tell us that she’s known for her humor, it rings false. It makes us realize “well, she hasn’t been funny so far!” Given the choice between believing the evidence the narrative has actually shown us, through her external behaviors, or a short piece of narrative telling, readers will always side with the evidence.]
 The phone rang as I walked further down the beach. The number wasn’t  familiar.

“Marti.” I recognized the sound of the voice.

[General notes: First, who is this narrator? What’s her name? We’ve gone all this way, and we don’t know her name. For that matter, we don’t even know her gender; I’m assuming female, from the context of the opening paragraphs about Kevin taking up with Miss Tranquility, but these days that’s not a guarantee of anything.
Speaking only for myself, I know that as a reader I tend to get antsy when pages and pages go by without identifying the characters. Sometimes you do that for effect, but here, I can’t think of any reason why there’s a benefit to withholding the narrator’s name. True, it’s harder to smoothly work it into a scene when the narration is in first person, but it’s not impossible. For example, if King was indeed flirting with her, you could find somewhere to work her name into his dialogue. That’s a common strategy. Or you could do it through a piece of self-rebuking inner monologue. Like, when she wondering about whether the baggie contained cocaine, she could also berate herself for making such a faux-pas in the operating room:
Looking back, I couldn’t believe I’d actually said that to Dr. Crawford. It was bound to come back on me later. I shook my head and muttered, “Just call me Smooth-Operator Sally.”
There are lots of ways to introduce the character’s vital stats—name/gender/rough age/role in society—in a first-person narrative. The last four of those are pretty easy, because readers are good at inferring those from context. Name, though, is hard. Names are totally arbitrary. They have no direct relationship to context, so they must somehow be explicitly mentioned.
But do find a way. In the movies, we have characters’ faces to use as an identity on which we hang everything we know about them. In a novel, we don’t have that. All we have is the name, which is why when we don’t get that name, we end up with an uncomfortable, vague feeling like we don’t really know who the character is. Even though the name is just an arbitrary label, it still serves to anchor the reader’s understanding of who the character is.]
Thank you so much for taking the time to critique my manuscript. My take away is:
1. Is the hook good enough to pull the reader into the story?
2. Choose the correct POV. It might have been easier to introduce the main character's name earlier if written in 3rd person.
3. Include something good about the character that we can care about (emotion).
4. Check for misspelled words, punctuation, grammar, syntax errors, redundant words and  long or run-on sentences before shooting if off to an editor. Sloppiness in the intial pages can be a turnoff to an agent or editor  and affect a potential sale. 
If you are a reader, now is your time to ask a question or comment on the above manuscript.
What do you see that would stop you reading this manuscript?

                                           A Note From Jason Black..

I am a book doctor who has helped scores of novelists improve their work over the past several years. I take a very analytical approach to literature, seeking to discover the "fundamental forces of fiction" and understand how those forces play out in narrative. My philosophy is that it is not enough simply to learn the rules-of-thumb for good narrative--use active voice, avoid adverbs, et cetera--without understanding why we have those rules, how they derive from those fundamental forces, and what effect following or breaking those rules has on the reader's experience of our stories. That's what I am constantly working to understand, and what I strive to share with my clients. 
Contact Information:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Query Time and Tax Season

Susie Sheehey is president of Greater Ft Worth Writers, in her second term. She writes women's contemporary and romance and has completed two novels in the past year, and is struggling at the half-way point in another. She lives with her husband and rowdy 4-year-old son who loves to push her buttons. 

I'm knee-deep in that time in my career again… Queryville.  Which inevitably conjoins with Reject-o-season. Much like tax season. It’s painful. ‘But necessary.’
Thanks to some help from dear friends, I had a query letter and synopsis written up fairly quickly and sent out to an agent whom I’ve followed for years. And after a glorious week of anticipation, tax season showed up.
It hurt. I won’t lie, my hopes were built up on this one. I thought it was a perfect fit for them and this manuscript felt better than any of my others. But I have to be grateful I received a response at all. Many people don’t hear anything back when rejected.
But that means I simply have to query out to the masses as I did before. Semi-slowly. Four or five at a time and wait for a few weeks. Which means I need to bust out again and rifle through all the profiles and submission guidelines.
I've since submitted this manuscript into a few online contests (another great reason to follow agents and editors on Twitter), and have received 2 full manuscript requests from it. I know it will be a while until I hear back, but it's 2 more manuscript requests than I've ever had!
Of course, with those 2 requests, I've received another half-dozen rejections. Always hand-in-hand. An ugly partnership.
At this point, I think I’ll take Queryville and Reject-o-season over the horrible season called Presidential Election campaigns. Publishing is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed school girl compared to the upcoming attacks of the political Olympics.
Follow Susie on her blog at
Follow her on @susieQwriter or Facebook

Monday, October 15, 2012

Get Your Writing Noticed: Pace – what keeps us reading

Re-blogged with permission  from Laurence O'Bryan.  Leave a comment below.

Image: The Jerusalem Puzzle cover art on sale 1/ 3/ 13 
I posted last  on theme, and it is critical, but even if you have a great theme you have to keep people reading. To do that your writing needs to have pace.

So what is pace? Pace is movement. Pace is driving forward. Pace is action.

If you spend too much time on exposition, back story and detail then you are going to lose pace. Getting the balance right is the tricky part with pace. Consider your genre and your style as you use the following techniques for adding pace to your manuscript.

I once had the letters RUE above my laptop screen. They were put there to remind me to Resist the Urge to Explain. I used to explain who this person was in my stories, why that person did something and where the others were going later. Now I don’t. Explanations are boring. In the 21st century readers want action. They want novels that zip along. They don’t need to know what the characters had for breakfast.

Another technique for keeping the pace moving is by having a real plot. Shakespeare did this. People get killed, people have fights, people make speeches to skulls. Something happens. You need to have a plot where something happens. I know there was a 20th century literary fashion for stories where nothing happens, but if you want a big readership something has to happen.

The next technique is called in media res. This simply means starting in the middle of the action. Don’t start your story with a lot of exposition, backstory or filler about who your character is, where he came from or why she is there. Start with the gunshot that changes her life, or at the hospital where her mother is dying, or at the club where she sees her boyfriend dancing with her best friend.

So we have three techniques for keeping the pace moving: RUE, plot and in media res. Stick to these and your story will have pace.

This post is the fourth on a voyage exploring the world of getting your writing noticed.
 In the next post, I will cover the area of emotion, making your readers feel something.
Please leave feedback, make suggestions and engage. This series of posts needs you to get involved to make them fly.

If you would like to discuss this post or for me to review your writing and give brief feedback without charge (page 1 of your MS only please) contact me by email:
I will refer to my agent in London, with a recommendation, the best submission I receive between now and the end of this series of posts .

Here are some links to useful information for writers:
The Seven Most Useful Books for Writing Fiction if you want great writing books for my blog on using social media to get noticed.
The reality of being published – 2 months after my first book came out all over the UK I wrote this post
The Accessible Author – how the author’s role is changing
Frantic Editing – a post on the editing process my first novel went through in the summer of 2011

Finally, a big thank you to all my readers, everyone who comments and everyone who visits. I hope you find this information useful on your journey to getting your writing noticed.
Please comment, link to, tweet,  or mention this post. There are links to do that above and below..

Born in the Mountains of Mourne in County Down, Northern Ireland, Laurence O’Bryan was educated in Dublin, studying English and history, then business, then IT at Oxford University.

He spent ten years working in the city of London where he met his wife. In 2000 after his daughter was born, he and his family returned to Dublin. In 2007 he won the Outstanding Novel award from the Southern California Writer’s Conference (one of 300 submissions) for The Istanbul Puzzle, his debut novel. His second novel The Jerusalem Puzzle will be published by Harper Collins in 2013. Contact Laurence at:, His books may be purchased from Amazon and anywhere books are sold.

Leave feedback, make suggestions and engage.
comment here, tweet, link, and share this blog from links above.

Friday, October 12, 2012

CLAIMING THE HEART Excerpt by Sara Luck

Author Sara Luck writes historical romances and shares an excerpt from her one of her novels, CLAIMING THE HEART, about the creation and boom of Ft Worth, Texas and the railroads.

1876 Fort Worth, Texas: When it looked as if the Texas and Pacific Railroad would not make it into town under the deadline set by the state legislature, beautiful Josie Laclede leading a citizens' committee, joins with handsome railroad man Gabe Corrigan to complete the job. The sparks that fly aren't all from the steel on steel.

“People, people, people!” James Courtright shouted in a fine, deep voice. He held his arms up to get everyone’s attention. Courtright, who was Marshal Redding’s jailer and all-around janitor, waited until the room grew quiet before he spoke again. Then he turned to Buckley Paddock. “We’re about to start now, and Mr. Paddock has been chosen to chair the meeting. Mr. Paddock, the floor is yours.”
Paddock walked over to a podium on one side of the room. Behind the podium was an easel, but whatever was on the easel was covered by a piece of canvas so it couldn’t be seen. Paddock stood for a moment looking out over the room. Easily more than a hundred people were present, and he was pleased with the turnout.
“First, I want to thank Henri Laclede for making this dining room available for the meeting, and I think we should all give him a hand.” Paddock waited until the polite applause ended before he continued, “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t have to tell you the problem, we all know it. When we thought the railroad was coming to Fort Worth, professional men from all over the country left their homes and businesses to start anew.
“They, and we, believed that Fort Worth was destined to become the metropolis of Texas.
“But it didn’t happen. The railroad came as far as Eagle Ford, and then it stopped. And what has been the result? New businesses, once with bright futures, have been closed. Homes have been abandoned. The cattlemen who once made Fort Worth their departure point for the drive north now give all their business to Eagle Ford. And the roads into Fort Worth, once crowded with people flocking to the city to start new businesses and enterprises, are now crowded with residents fleeing the city.
“Those of us who stay are struggling to hang on.” Paddock made a sweep with his arm. “I invite you to look around, gentlemen, at this hotel. The Empress Hotel is as fine a hotel as you will find between New Orleans and San Francisco. Yet every room is vacant, and the dining room is not even used.
“We cannot let this condition remain. We cannot give up. We must find a way to overcome this travail, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the task we will set for ourselves at this meeting.”
“Did you see the article in the Dallas Herald?” Daggett asked from the floor.
“What article was that?” Tidball asked.
“I brought it with me,” Daggett said. “The article was written by Robert Cowart.”
“Is he that lawyer who used to live here?” Henri asked. “If I remember, he was always complaining about something.”
“That’s the one,” Daggett replied. “He skedaddled over to Dallas as fast as a rat leaves a rotting ship.”
“Well, what did he have to say?” Courtright asked.
Daggett cleared his throat, then began to read: “‘Fort Worth is rapidly becoming a town of so little consequence that one wonders how much longer it will maintain its charter. There are more unoccupied buildings in the town than there are those that are occupied. Like a hollowed-out pumpkin, it is collapsing in on itself, so lazy a town that recently a panther was seen to be sleeping, undisturbed, in the middle of Rusk Street.’ ”
“What?” Jennings shouted in anger. “The Dallas newspaper actually said we had a panther sleeping in the middle of Rusk Street? Why, no such thing happened.”
“It doesn’t matter whether it actually happened or not.” Daggett tapped the newspaper with his finger. “The thing is, it has been written, and this story will be believed. Soon, we will be the laughingstock of the entire country, and we’ll be known as Pantherville.”
“We may not like what he has said, but it is a pretty accurate description of what has happened in Fort Worth,” Jim Courtright said.
“I think Cowart has gone overboard with his sense of the ridiculous. He knows the people in this town are used to taking the bull by the horns, and in a way he is goading us to do something,” Henri said.
“Pantherville,” Paddock said. “I like that.”
“You like it?” Jennings asked.
“Think about it,” Paddock replied. “Panthers are noble beasts. Quick, strong, intelligent. They are the hunters, not the hunted.”
“Buckley is right,” Tidball said. “Instead of being angered by what the Dallas paper intended as a slur, I think we should adopt it as if it were a great compliment. In fact, I think it is an accolade, whether or not Cowart realized that when he wrote it.”
“I like it so much that I intend to put a panther on the masthead of my newspaper,” Paddock said.
“All right, other than change the name of our town to Pantherville, what else do we have in mind?” Jennings asked.
“We aren’t changing the name to Pantherville—we are merely saying that Fort Worth is the Panther Town, like New Orleans is the Crescent
City,” Tidball responded. “And this is how we are going to become that Panther Town,” Paddock said as he stepped to the easel and pulled off the canvas that was covering it. Displaying a slate board, he put a large dot in the middle, then drew nine lines extending out from the dot. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Fort Worth”—he pointed to the dot in the middle—“and these lines are railroads, starting with the Texas and Pacific.
“These railroads will connect us to San Antonio, Galveston, New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis, Kansas City, Denver, San Francisco, and San Diego. In short, ladies and gentlemen, this is the future I see for Fort Worth. A dynamic city that is connected to the rest of the world. Here we are, in the middle of Texas, but once this comes to fruition, we would be but four weeks from London or Paris.”
There was a murmur of excitement among those present.
“Buckley, that’s very nice and all, but the only thing you have there is a bunch of squiggly lines. It looks like a tarantula.”
“Tarantula, yes!” Paddock said enthusiastically. Picking up a piece of chalk, he wrote above his map TARANTULA MAP.
“You’ve got railroads running hither and yon—there’s only one thing wrong with your map,” Daggett said. “We don’t have even one road coming into Fort Worth yet.”
Paddock held up his finger. “Ah, yes, and that brings us to the purpose of this meeting. Major Van Zandt has some proposals he would like to advance. I think you will find them interesting.”
Van Zandt nodded. “Thank you, Buckley. I’ve discussed this proposal with Mr. Laclede, Mr. Daggett, and Mr. Smith, and they have all given their approval. But whether or not we can actually implement the plan depends upon you. All of you. Because the proposal is of a nature that will require universal participation.”
“Well, quit talking about it, Khleber, and tell us what it is,” Jennings said, to the nervous laughter of the others present.
“If the railroad won’t finish laying the track into our fair city, I propose that we do it for them.”
“What?” shouted at least half a dozen of those in attendance. Others shouted their own questions.
“What do you mean?”
“How do you propose to do that?”
“We can’t do that, can we?”
“I believe we can,” Van Zandt replied. “The reason we have the women with us tonight is because this is a woman’s idea, and who better to explain it to you than she who proposed it? Josie Laclede, will you come up here?”
Josie moved to the front of the room. When she first began speaking her voice was shaky, but as she continued her voice became strong.
“I ask you, what is so special about the railroad crew that abandoned laying the track at Eagle Ford? Were they highly trained professionals who know how to pull stumps or cut trees any better than any one of our people?
“Can they lay ballast and put down crossties any better than we can? And is any man stronger than our own blacksmith, Bull Turner? He can drive spikes as well as anyone.”
Josie was getting the crowd excited as they listened to what she was saying.
“Mr. Van Zandt has asked Walter Roche and his brother to head up a company that we want to call, appropriately, the Tarrant County Construction Company. We say Tarrant County and not just Fort Worth because we will have to call on everyone in the whole county to help out. No one can do this alone, but we can do it if we all work together. And that is where you all come in. No one will be paid for any labor, nor will you be paid for any supplies that you can provide, but everyone will help everyone. If you are a farmer and you need your crop put in, those who are not working on the railroad will do it for you. If you are a shopkeeper, someone, whether it be a man or a woman, will keep your store open. We will become a commune in the purest sense of the word, but when this railroad reaches Fort Worth, we will all benefit. We can do this, and no one will ever say, even in jest, that a panther roams our streets again!”
When Josie sat down, the crowd erupted in hoots and hollers. When everyone had settled down, Major Van Zandt again began to speak. “Do you see why we all love our Josie? But there is one thing missing from her plan. We cannot manufacture rails.”
“Are you telling me you have gotten us all excited again, only to say we can’t do this?” Jennings asked.
“I’m not saying that, but I am saying we will need some help from the Texas and Pacific. I believe they can get the steel if we supply the labor. And they have now moved their vice president, Frank Bond, to Dallas. I believe he should be able to help us.”
“Tell me, Khleber, do we need to vote on this proposal? Because if we do, I vote yes.”
“I vote yes as well,” Tidball said.
The issue was brought to the floor, and the proposal received unanimous approval.
“Then, it is done,” Paddock said, resuming the chair of the meeting. “Major Van Zandt, when will you see Mr. Bond?”
“We leave on the morning stagecoach,” Van Zandt replied. “I’m taking Henri and Josie with me because I believe if the lady speaks with the same passion you heard here tonight, how can Mr. Bond say no?”

Thanks for joining us today for this excerpt from Sara Luck's novel, CLAIMING THE HEART. Follow her on Facebook and read her blog.

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