Friday, April 15, 2016

Hiatus

My readers will have noticed that I have not posted often, or at all, the last several weeks, and that my prior posting had become hit-or-miss at best.

Due to a personal trauma, and to the sudden worsening of several chronic health conditions with which I was diagnosed some years ago, I have chosen to take a hiatus from my blog.

It breaks my heart not to keep in touch with my readers and fulfill your expectations for writing- and reading-related posts.

I will do everything I can to get my health -- physical, emotional, and psychological -- under control, and will make an eventual decision about whether to continue this blog where I left off, in the same vein, or to close this blog "chapter" and, perhaps, open a new one elsewhere.

I appreciate your thoughts and prayers, patience with me, and respect for my decision.

Happy writing and reading!

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from March 14-18

5. "Action vs. Suspense" on Kill Zone (Joe Moore)

Link: http://bit.ly/1U2q8rY

Even romance novels have action --- things that happen. And every genre contends with suspense, which helps drive the plot forward and keep the reader reading. (In a literary novel, for instance, perhaps the suspense element makes the reader ask, "How will the character change throughout the novel?") But action elements packed one after another do not constitute suspense. Check out this post for the differentiation.


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4. "Want to Raise Your Brand Awareness? Put One of These on Your Blog" on The Write Life (Jessica Lawlor)

Link: http://bit.ly/1PnkTLw

Your brand today is one of the most important elements in your marketing campaign and platform. What are you known for? When readers pick up your article or book or poem, what do they expect from you? Here are several optional components you could add to your blog to increase your brand awareness even further.


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3. "4 Lessons for Authors on the Current State of Publishing" on Jane Friedman

Link: http://bit.ly/1pYeMsj

What do you need to know about the publishing industry right now? Are you missing something in your platform or marketing plan? How will you know? Start by perusing this excellent, detailed post from industry expert Friedman and see where you can most effectively up your ante.


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2. "Want to Write a Column? Here Are 7 Key Tips You Need to Know" on The Writer's Dig blog at WritersDigest.com (Noelle Sterne, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/1PnlInC

Have you always wanted to see your name in the byline of a column, whether as a guest or on an ongoing basis? This article gives you detailed tips to keep in mind, whether you're just starting out or have been writing a column for months or years, from understanding how every column you write reflects you to maintaining momentum and producing interesting content.


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1. "6 Ways to Knock Your Next Guest Post Out of the Park" on The Write Life (Razwana Wahid)

Link: http://bit.ly/1WDG29W

There is perhaps no more perfect follow-up to the previous post (see #2 above) than this one, another by The Write Life, which remains one of my favorite go-to sites in the industry. You're writing a column, a post, an article, but do you know what to do to make that offering the best and most popular it can be, to keep readers coming back?


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That's the lineup for last week. What's your current work-in-progress? What do you wish you knew more about as you think about writing and publishing right now?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Book Review: "Uprooted" (Naomi Novik)

Imagine a world in which one characteristic of the landscape --- geographic or otherwise --- dominated your life: how you traveled, what you watched for when you stepped out your back door to do chores, how you had to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Even who you saw again, or not, depending on that landscape's whims.



For the vibrantly imagined characters in author Naomi Novik's masterful novel Uprooted, that characteristic is the Wood, a vast forested expanse that creeps ever closer to the beloved valley where protagonist Agnieszka has lived all her life, and the reality I've described in the previous paragraphs ... theirs.

According to her brief bio, Novik grew up on Polish fairy tales, and Uprooted is a stunning testament to that childhood. Crafted with all the same dedication, care, and detail as anything by the known greats of fairy tale-writing in other cultures --- the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen --- Uprooted absolutely deserves a place on your shelves.

The work is rife with fairy tale elements, from magical abilities and the oppressive, domineering force of the Wood to wizards and kingdoms and towers, in the best tradition of the fairy tale world with which most of us are likely familiar, thanks to Disney's renditions of long-beloved Grimm and Andersen tales.

I can't tell you how delighted I was as I devoured the novel, probably in the span of two days and certainly to the detriment of my other responsibilities, by the unexpected twists and turns, the beautifully rendered story world, the masterfully crafted characters, and the overarching fairy tale atmosphere, if that makes any sense.

As a result of my reading Uprooted, Novik has become a new top favorite author in my estimation, and her work has a prize position on my bookshelves. In a world of e-books and e-readers, I bypassed those editions and purchased hard copies, which is one of the highest honors I can afford an author today.

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Author: Naomi Novik
Title: Uprooted
ISBN: 978-0-8041-7903-4
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1pifujM

Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: "Taken" (Dee Henderson)

What if you knew that the life you were living was not the one you were meant to live? That you were somehow trapped in a world that wasn't yours, where you didn't belong?

How would you survive?

And more importantly, what would you do if you discovered an opportunity to escape?




Author Dee Henderson presents Taken, an exquisitely written work of Christian romantic suspense.

As a long-time fan of Henderson's books and a close follower of her publications, I will admit to feeling thrilled to get my hands on a copy of this, her newest novel. It pleases me to no end to report that I was not disappointed by the tale she has woven.

As in the majority of her books, Henderson doesn't shy away from incorporating her Christian faith, making it a seamless but integral part of the whole, right alongside her exploration of themes like family, loss, new beginnings, reconciliation, restoration, love, and learning to trust again.

You'll meet Shannon, who has recently escaped from a known crime syndicate headed by a notorious family whose members abducted her when she was a teenager, and Matthew, former-cop-turned-private investigator, whose own hideous experience with an abduction case was cloyingly personal and made him a natural choice for help when Shannon needed it the most.

And while the novel is more along the lines of an exploration of character and the rebuilding of a life than typical thriller/suspense elements like car chases and gunfights, I have no doubt that readers from all walks and backgrounds will appreciate the depths with which Henderson masterfully imbues her writing. Taken is a novel not to be missed.


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Author: Dee Henderson
Title: Taken
ISBN: 978-0-7642-1571-1
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1QR8FQT

Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from March 7-11

5. "1 Key Question for Worldbuilding (+ A Handy Checklist)" on WriteOnSisters.com (Heather Jackson)

Link: http://bit.ly/1Rbr7DL

Even authors of romance and suspense and YA set in the typical modern world can benefit from this article, geared toward science fiction and fantasy writers, with its in-depth survey of all the categories you'll need to cover when you sit down to create your story world.


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4. "Self-Care for Writers" on Jami Gold

Link: http://bit.ly/1pG6RjL

It's easy for writers to face burnout and depression and loneliness and a lot of other potentially debilitating obstacles, whether medical or personal or relational or mental or emotional, or what have you. Gold offers stellar tips and the kind of empathy that suggests she's been there, too, in this excellent article on how to combat those obstacles.


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3. "How to Write a Novella: 6 Essential Tips" on Now Novel

Link: http://bit.ly/1T4qKfv

Perhaps the story idea rattling around in your head isn't quite "big-scale" enough for a whole novel. Consider writing a novella instead, not only for the option of a format that better fits your idea, but also because of everything you'll learn when you're forced to work within word count and other space constraints.


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2. "How Has the MFA Changed the Contemporary Novel?" on The Atlantic (Richard Jean So and Andrew Piper)

Link: http://theatln.tc/21hoWjg

This article has the potential for discussion and controversy, but what's the writing industry without a little controversy? These writers wanted to know whether the much-coveted MFA degree was actually making any difference in the books being published, or in the industry in general. Take a gander at the post and see what you think. You might be surprised.


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1. "The Fickle, Frustrating, Beautiful Arc of Your Writing Career" on Kill Zone (Larry Brooks)

Link: http://bit.ly/1VwFSmx

Larry Brooks is a spectacularly gifted author, and one whose guidance should always be given attention. This post challenges you to redefine your definition of success in the writing life, and asks you to reevaluate everything you think you know about writing. 


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There's the lineup for the week of March 7-11 ... which got lost in my drafts folder. Many apologies to my readers!

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Book Review: "Son: A Psychopath and His Victims" (Jack Olsen)

There's nothing more frightening than being afraid to live your normal life.

For the citizens of the once-quiet town of Spokane, Washington, however, over a two-and-a-half-year period, that was the terrible reality: being afraid even to step outside, let alone go anywhere, and especially not alone.

Someone with twisted desires watched from nearby.



Award-winning author Jack Olsen conducted interviews, compiled research through innumerable hours of work, and crafted the results into the nonfiction crime expose Son: A Psychopath and His Victims, about serial rapist Frederick Harlan Coe.

The work is as disturbing and horrifying as it is thorough and well-written, although it feels incongruous to call such a treatise "well-written" given its hideous contents. Nonetheless, Olsen more than upheld his mandate, perhaps both personal and professional, to render an accurate retelling of the facts of the case and the experiences and profiles of the many victims.

His masterful writing --- even about someone so thoroughly twisted as Coe, with his dysfunctional family, failed relationships, unbelievable ego, and complete absence of conscience or empathy --- turned out to be a pleasure to read.

Dozens of women suffered at Coe's hands, even as he led an imaginatively constructed double life. In one, he was a prominent citizen in town, the son of the newspaper editor, liked by his friends, close to his family, and bursting every minute with another brilliant if far-reaching idea or career path.

In the other, though, his relationship with his mother had long ago crossed the line into emotional and psychological incest, codependency, and manipulation; his father was emotionally absent and willingly bailed Fred out of any scrape; his relationships were characterized by distrust, controlled by his rampant mood swings, and full of the unreasonable and even ludicrous demands of someone well out of touch with reality; and not a single one of his brilliant ideas proved rational.

Be forewarned: Son is an absolute tome, packed with meticulous detail and respectfully rendered accounts from Coe's victims and friends, and the content is some of the most psychologically frightening and nightmarish that I've read in a long time.

I can't tell you what inspired me to pick up the book at my local library to read and review, but I can tell you that in spite of the vivid and brutal pictures it paints of a terrorized town and the serial rapist who held sway over so many victims, I am the better for having been exposed to Olsen's expert telling of the story.

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Author: Jack Olsen
Title: Son: A Psychopath and His Victims
ISBN: 978-1-5011-1904-0
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1TIby7d

Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: "Mermaid" (Carolyn Turgeon)

Perhaps you've wanted something more than anything else in the world. Maybe it was the chance to be admitted to the university that has been alma mater in your family for generations. Or the chance to take piano lessons. Or a promotion that would guarantee your introduction into the upper echelons of your chosen industry.

Everyone has wanted something. But to what lengths would you go to make that something yours?



This question is the greatest theme explored in Carolyn Turgeon's unexpected novel Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale.

Written in the style of a work of literary fiction, Mermaid is thick with lush description and its pace tempered by a slow-moving sort of ebb and flow (pun not intended) to the plot and story events. If you enjoyed reading the Emily of New Moon series by L. M. Montgomery, it's likely you'll appreciate the care with which Turgeon tells her tale.

And the work is beautifully re-imagined. Those who recall or grew up with the memorable Disney movie The Little Mermaid may find themselves stymied by some of the plot elements, and yet would find, upon further research, that most of those elements are truer to the original fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen than were those Disney used.

It's not exactly G-rated, after all, for the mermaid to have her tongue cut out so she couldn't speak again, and no doubt it was in Disney's best interest to smooth over many of the original fairy tale's rougher and more gruesome edges.

That aside, Turgeon does a masterful job braiding together the old and the new and presenting them all with her own unique spin. She explores themes like love, loss, friendship, betrayal, disappointment, sacrifice, and more throughout.

If you love those old fairy tales, chances are you'll enjoy Mermaid in a similar but different way.


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Author: Carolyn Turgeon
Title: Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale
ISBN: 978-0-307-58997-2
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1WV97hI

Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Book Review: "Beauty" (Robin McKinley)

Suppose one of your dearest friends in the world got into trouble. Suppose further that the consequences of the trouble were irreversible, unavoidable, and wholly life-changing. Now suppose that you, and you alone, had the power to rescue your friend, at the cost of your own livelihood. 

Would you?




Author Robin McKinley offers Beauty, an re-imagined telling of the story of the age-old classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast

The work is written in the tone and style of an older generation --- think something along the lines of L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series, rather than quite as old as, say, something written by Jane Austen or Emily Bronte.

That said, it's likely that Beauty will fall flat for some readers, who are more accustomed to the fast-paced, quick-witted commercial fiction published today. The story comprises a great deal of stage-setting before the familiar fairy tale elements come into play, along with quite a bit of description and backstory, and the characters are more two-dimensional than well-rounded.

Of course, for readers who enjoy an old-style retelling, or who love fairy tales one way or the other, McKinley's retelling is well-written, full of the kind of vividly rendered setting that one might find in a work of literary fiction, and remains true to the old fairy tale without redefining any of its main elements or boundaries.

If you'd like to pick up a quiet, sweet little work, and if you love the story of Beauty and the Beast, it's likely you'll find yourself satisfied with what Beauty offers.


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Author: Robin McKinley
Title: Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast
ISBN: 978-0-06-075310-8
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1OZD2lN

Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from February 29 - March 4

5. "The Diminishing Returns of Freelance Magazine Writing" on Literary Hub (Kent Russell)

Link: http://bit.ly/1OXIORv

There are controversial topics in every industry from construction to cooking. Perhaps this article stumbles upon, or brings to light, one such topic in the writing industry. Are there really up-sides that outweigh the potential "diminishing returns," in Russell's words, to freelancing as a magazine writer? How do you know? Check out the article to find out.


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4. "8 Things I Learned About Villains From My First Novel" on The Write Practice (Emily Wenstrom)

Link: http://bit.ly/1X7nHSK

While there's a great deal to be said for learning as you go --- striking out on your own to make your own mistakes --- there's also something to be said for heeding the wisdom of others when they talk about their own experiences. In this post, Wenstrom addresses fiction writers who might be caught off-guard by some of her discoveries about crafting villains.


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3. "How to Write a Book Trilogy: 5 Crucial Steps" on Now Novel

Link: http://bit.ly/1R0KBqg

Now Novel is one of my very favorite online writing organizations, not the least for the tremendous depth and insight in their articles on writing craft. This post is no exception. Instead of five brief sentences comprising the article, you get paragraph upon paragraph of guidance, examples, and questions you can apply to your own trilogy or series in progress.


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2. "7 Ways Underwriting Sabotages Your Story" on WriteOnSisters.com (Robin Rivera)

Link: http://bit.ly/1Lau0nX

Okay, so it's probably obvious by now that I really love list articles. This little gem, from what is quickly become another of my favorite online writing sites, is an excellent one, full of the kind of writing tips you might not think about on your own without someone to point them out. You'll want to bookmark this article for when you go back through your story to revise. I've done so for my future reference!


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1. "Please Let Me Motivate You With My Gesticulations and Screams" on terribleminds.com (Chuck Wendig)

Link: http://bit.ly/1TF1u0C

Nobody --- but nobody --- says it like Wendig does. In response to a number of requests from his readers for inspiration and motivation so they could feel energized to get down to work, he put together, probably off the top of his head, what is one of the most honest, forthright, unapologetic, irreverent, insulting, and --- yes --- motivational treatises I've ever read, anywhere, on any topic. If you get offended by curse words, look elsewhere, but if you can overlook them, or even appreciate them, I guarantee you'll walk away from reading Wendig's latest rant absolutely determined to get writing already.


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Another excellent lineup from last week. It's getting hard to cull the best and most helpful articles from so many fantastic sites lately. What do you think?

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from February 22-26

5. "Getting the Pacing Right" on Writers Helping Writers (Becca Puglisi)

Link: http://bit.ly/1QlPxdi

Pacing is one of the most challenging elements of writing an excellent novel. As Puglisi points out in this post, it's the sort of thing that nobody notices if it's done well (and consequently doesn't know how to accomplish in his/her own work) and that everybody notices if it's badly done. That said, here are some of the story elements you'll need to weigh against one another to ensure that your pacing is as fast, or slow, as it needs to be.


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4. "Story Description: Finding the Right Balance" on Jami Gold

Link: http://bit.ly/1QnduO4

Balance is another aspect of writing a novel that requires a great deal of attention and care. How much is too much ... when you're talking about each character's screen time? Or when you're talking about active plot elements versus the down times in between each? Something many writers wonder about is the balance between setting and description, on the one hand, and the rest of the story, so to speak, on the other. Gold offers excellent advice on how to make sure your description does double- or even triple-duty.


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3. "How a Small Shift in Your Vocabulary Can Instantly Change Your Attitude" on Michael Hyatt

Link: http://bit.ly/1QFcJPp

If you have trouble getting motivated to accomplish your writing, or to manage your social media platform, or to keep up with your blog posts, perhaps it's something you're telling yourself that's holding you back. Industry expert Michael Hyatt offers three recommendations for making a small shift in how you talk to yourself, and the words you use, that could result in a monumental difference in your outlook and productivity.


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2. "Pinterest for Authors: A Beginner's Guide" on Jane Friedman (Kirsten Oliphant, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/24vHD7q

What good is Pinterest for authors? It's an excellent question, and one that this article takes time to answer. After all, building a platform often necessitates using more than one social medium, and Pinterest speaks to the visual learners among us more than, perhaps, other media. From reasons writers should use Pinterest in the first place to insider tips to what to post, the guidance you'll find here is unsurpassed for detail and user-friendliness. 


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1. "Creating a Lasting Writing Practice" on There Are No Rules blog at WritersDigest.com (Paula Munier, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/1WRHkhq

Training yourself into a regular habit or practice isn't easy, whether you've committed to exercising every day or learning a new language or mastering public speaking. Writing is no different, and yet it's one of those undertakings that really must become a consistent habit, or it simply won't happen. With patience and wisdom, Munier offers inspiration and insight into how to make writing a regular practice.


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There's the lineup for last week, folks. What caught your eye? What did you notice around the web that spoke to your writing? What are you currently working on?

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from February 15-19

5. "5 Common Problems with Middles" on Fiction University (Janice Hardy)

Link: http://bit.ly/1QTzX4W

Anybody who writes a novel will be well aware that there's something challenging about the middle of the story. You're trying to incorporate subplots and maintain pacing and tension, and build character motives, all at the same time, and make sure it all makes sense when you get to the climax and denouement. Here are five more issues to watch out for as you're drafting, or editing, that difficult middle section.


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4. "5 Reasons You Should Pitch Your Writing to Smaller Markets" on The Writer's Dig blog at WritersDigest.com (Don Vaughan, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/1WBURcI

You've got your heart set on writing for one of the big names in the industry. Maybe Forbes, for business articles, or Writer's Digest, for articles on the craft of writing or the ins and outs of publishing. And that's all well and good. But to build your resume and portfolio, this writer suggests, it might actually be best to start small, and here are five reasons why.


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3. "Hack Your Readers' Brain by Describing the Five Senses" on Helping Writers Become Authors (Heather Blanton, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/217HMia

What you want for your readers is the same thing you want as a reader: when you pick up a book, you want to be transported right into the story world. One of the easiest ways to achieve that as an author in your own writing is to appeal to your readers' five senses. It's fairly common for writers to rely heavily on one or two of those senses, and to kind of overlook or even forget about the others, but to paint the most vivid scenes possible, here are ways to use all five, on every page.


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2. "Working for 'Exposure'? Get the Most Out of It" on Jami Gold

Link: http://bit.ly/1PQxSce

There's a lot of give and take on the question of whether writers should work for free, in any capacity, at any time. But if you're going to write for free, you'll likely be doing it to gain exposure ... a byline, for instance, or a couple of sentences at the end of the post or article with your brief bio and website. And if you're doing it for exposure, well, author Gold has expert tips for you on how to milk that for all it's worth.


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1. "How to Be a Freelance Writer: Skip These 10 Embarrassing Mistakes" on The Write Life (Marian Schembari)

Link: http://bit.ly/1mRqqTQ

Working for yourself has a lot of perks. It also comes with a lot of its own challenges. And freelancing is challenging enough without falling over the ten all-too-common stumbling blocks, in the process. From prioritizing to organizing to networking to taxes and everything in between, visit this in-depth article and head off the stumbling blocks before they trip you up.


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And that's the lineup for last week. Keep in touch!

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from February 8-12

5. "How to Connect on Twitter Without Selling Out Your Community" on There Are No Rules blog at WritersDigest.com (DMG Byrnes, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/1oev2V5

As social media go, Twitter can be a tough nut to crack. You've only got 140 characters, which includes spaces and punctuation (give me a break). People complain when you add more than your requisite share of hashtags per message. And it's often a challenge to find ways to engage and still get word out about your own books. Check out this excellent post on how to circumvent some of the difficulties and make a fresh start on Twitter.

Are you on Twitter? What do you like about the platform? What do you hate about it? What would you change about it?


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4. "Here's a Fun Way to Build Your Freelance Writing Brand --- And It's Free!" on The Write Life (Marian Schembari)

Link: http://bit.ly/1R3sRNP

Working to build your brand can be a challenge, whether you're a freelance writer or a blogger or an author or all of the above. What do you stand for? What do you represent? How do you want people to know you? What do you want others to associate you with? (For instance, what comes to mind when you think of Jane Friedman? Paula Dean? Michael Hyatt?) Here's a (free!) tool you can use to rack up some face-time in your chosen industry.

What's your brand? What do you think people think of when they see your name? What do you want them to think of? What can you change to bridge that gap?


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3. "Are You Confusing Readers?" on Live Write Breathe (Janalyn Voigt)

Link: http://bit.ly/1PVPSmE

Okay, fiction and memoir writers, and even nonfiction writers ... I'm sure you've seen a list like this one before. Still, there's no accounting for how many times it can take before something really sinks in so that we start recognizing it as a problem and work to change it, so I feel justified citing a brief, well-written article like this one. Check your writing against these things, from redundancy to wordiness, that can leave readers confused.

Which one of the pitfalls on the list is your nemesis? How do you watch out for that in your own writing? How can you recognize it earlier?


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2. "5 Common Problems with Beginnings" on Fiction University (Janice Hardy)

Link: http://bit.ly/20xTWeu

As hard as it is to get through that middle hump of your novel, or to craft just the perfect ending to a well-told tale, there's something about beginnings that make them equally difficult. The beginning sets up everything that comes after ... everything. I've even heard it said that the very first sentence of your novel should summarize the entire rest of the story, even if the reader won't realize that until the conclusion. Here are five prevalent challenges that come with starting your story.

Are any of those problems present in your own work-in-progress? What steps will you take to correct them?


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1. "How to Make Beta Reading Work For Us" on Jami Gold

Link: http://bit.ly/1R3tuad

Beta reading has been going on for a while now (as in, decades at least) but it's only recently been given a name. And it turns out that it's one of the most helpful things an author can arrange for his or her current work-in-progress. We authors are too close to our own works to pick out problems with pace and mood and tension and characterization. That's what beta readers are for. Author Jami Gold knows whereof she speaks, and this post is packed with great advice on finding beta readers and establishing working relationships.

Do you use beta readers? Why or why not? After reading the article, did your opinion change?


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And that's the lineup for last week. What resonated with you? What fell flat for you? What are you working on these days? How did you celebrate Valentine's Day?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Review: "Cruel Beauty" (Rosamund Hodge)

When your own father makes a bargain with a monster to marry you off to said monster, and that monster happens to rule the place where you live, like it or not, your fate is pretty much sealed.

Unless you're Nyx, a valiant, rebellious young woman who has never really belonged to the world in which she grew up. Now, with her impending marriage looming, she is even more aware of the dichotomy between herself and the family she has always known, as she prepares to meet her fate not empty-handed but with battle-trained hands designed to kill.

Who hasn't felt trapped into a situation not of his or her own making, and has chosen to become a victor instead of remain a victim in the face of even terrible circumstances?



Author Rosamund Hodge presents Cruel Beauty, a beautiful and intricately re-imagined rendition of the familiar childhood fairy tale Beauty and the Beast.

Hodge's story owes far more to the original French version by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and to an abridged and rewritten edition by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, both published in the 1700s, than it does to the familiar Disney classic with which so many of us have become familiar since its debut in 1991.

The characters in Cruel Beauty are lively and brilliantly created, three-dimensional and wholly unexpected in their dealings. Indeed, those familiar with the original fairy tale might find themselves caught off-guard by the divergence of this story from that one, and yet the divergence is welcome, the newness refreshing and intriguing.

Part fantasy, part fairy tale, part romance, part adventure story, interwoven with lush Greek mythology, under-girded with suspense at every turn, and intended for young adult (YA) readers but well-written enough to fascinate adults as well, Cruel Beauty is one of the most unusual fairy tale retellings I've had the pleasure of reading in a long time, and it's truly an honor to make my readers aware of its existence and excellence.


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Author: Rosamund Hodge
Title: Cruel Beauty
ISBN: 978-0-06-222473-6
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1PJk5ku

Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from February 1-5

5. "How to Find and Work With a Freelance Editor" on Nathan Bransford (Christine Pride, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/1PKxHjT

It's not enough to have a great idea for a novel. It's not even enough to create interesting characters and a fast-paced plot and an attention-grabbing hook. You could have the greatest story idea in the history of the world, but if your work hasn't been edited for those sticky little errors in grammar and punctuation and spelling, you can't expect it to be taken seriously. That's the sad truth today.

It's also, though, an empowering truth. Now you know what you need to do to make your novel or memoir or whatever the best it can possibly be. Get it edited. And here's an expert post on what to look for and what to expect from that process.

Do you have an editor with whom you regularly work? What's your favorite part about the editing process? What's your least favorite part? Why?


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4. "Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 48: No Conflict Between Characters" on Helping Writers Become Authors (K. M. Weiland)

Link: http://bit.ly/1QQX6aI

Maybe you've already got an editor (see #5 above) and you're hot and heavy into the revision process, but you keep coming across comments in the margins in your editor's decisive handwriting: "Boring," "Not enough going on," "Nothing happening." All of that together can mean many things, but one huge indication of "nothing going on" is a lack of conflict. Story is driven by conflict; otherwise, we don't care what happens.

So what does it take to infuse conflict into every single page and paragraph of your manuscript? Start with conflict between characters, and read this excellent post on what you can do to deliberately bore your readers to death, should that be your goal ... or to solve the dullness problem and keep them turning pages.

Where does your work-in-progress (WIP) lack conflict? What three things will you change to infuse conflict into that scene, chapter, or interaction?


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3. "Emmie Mears: Hi, Hello, We're Here to Revoke Your Artist Card" on terribleminds.com (Emmie Mears, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/1T0t06C

Almost every writer, if he or she is honest, will admit to having felt like an impostor. Like you actually have no talent or gifts or ability whatsoever, and why are you even sitting at a desk day after day pretending to be able to write when you know you're only producing drivel that no one will want to read?

That's impostor syndrome. And it's hideous and awful and horrible and debilitating ... and normal. Yes, normal. I promise. Check out this hilarious, unrepentant, uncouth, insightful editorial on the subject by an author colleague of Chuck Wendig's. He only posts the best.

When have you felt most like an impostor? What made you feel that way? What did you do with those feelings? What will you do differently next time?


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2. "13 Productivity Apps to Help Keep Your Writing Goals on Track" on The Write Life (Jett Farrell-Vega)

Link: http://bit.ly/1mnTjXt

You know your limitations. You know what distracts you the most, what you have to do before you can get into the right mindset for writing, what rituals and routines make your muse show up on time every day. You know yourself best. Here are more than a dozen different recommendations for ways that technology can assist you in achieving your writing goals, so you don't stay too distracted or disorganized to create.

What one distraction is your biggest nemesis? Is there any app in the article that will help you eliminate that? What two other actionable steps will you take to minimize its impact on you?


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1. "Nourishing Our Creativity to Help Our Writing" on Jami Gold

Link: http://bit.ly/1SEtBwp

Maybe you find yourself blocked. Maybe you can't figure out how to move your character past an obstacle. Maybe the amazing story idea you had last night or last week looks flat and boring on paper. Maybe you just can't think of the right word. What you need is a dose of creativity, something upon which your imagination can draw and expand.

Whether you see yourself as an artist or not, I guarantee you'll get a lot of inspiration out of this brilliant, beautifully written post by author Jami Gold, whose honest approach to the topic will reassure you that even long-time, multi-published authors need regular infusions of creativity. Why not you, too?

Why not you? What do you think keeps you from being creative? What one new thing will you try this week to jar your creativity back to work, even if you have to take a leap outside your comfort zone to do it? Will you commit?


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Happy Fat Tuesday tomorrow, readers, and happy Ash Wednesday this week! What are you up to these days?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Book Review: The Scarlet Trilogy (A. C. Gaughen)

Ever imagined yourself a swashbuckling outlaw leaping through the forest, inches ahead of the greedy nobility from whom you've just stolen money enough to ensure that your people will withstand another tax season with their heads intact?

No? Just me? Oh, well ... 




For those of you who nodded as you read that descriptor, never fear. There are a number of us, and I imagine one of them is probably author A. C. Gaughen, whose Scarlet trilogy is a tremendously well-written and engaging, and newly re-imagined rendition of the classic story of the hero and outlaw Robin Hood.

The trilogy consists of Scarlet, Lady Thief, and Lion Heart, listed in correct reading order, and trust me when I tell you, you really need to read them in the right order. Otherwise, you'll be thoroughly confused, having been plunged into a melee of intricately crafted subplots peopled with characters compelling enough to walk right off the pages.

My favorite character throughout the series is Scarlet, the title character of the first novel, and the point-of-view character through whose eyes readers experience the entire story line in all three books. She is as three-dimensional and realistic as can be, full of unique qualities, abilities, and contradictions --- like her gruff exterior versus her soft heart for the suffering --- that make her a sympathetic character from the first page.

And anyone who appreciates the original Robin Hood tale will be relieved to know that Gaughen took great pains as she crafted each character, and that she included all the usual suspects, so to speak, from Little John to Friar Tuck, but with her own delightful twists in every individual instance.

It's a delight and a pleasure to present this trilogy to my readers for their consideration, and I can't stress enough how highly I regard the trilogy and its author for its heart-warming, suspenseful, devastating impact.


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Author: A. C. Gaughen
Title: Scarlet
Series: Scarlet (#1)
ISBN: 978-0-8027-2346-8
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1P6xzre

Title: Lady Thief
Series: Scarlet (#2)
ISBN: 978-0-8027-3614-7
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1SleIPB

Title: Lion Heart
Series: Scarlet (#3)
ISBN: 978-0-8027-3616-1
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1TvwPkD

Disclaimer: The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Book Review: "Naked Text: Email-Writing Skills for Teenagers" (Gisela Hausmann)

Adults aren't the only ones who need to be able to communicate effectively in the world today. After all, how many teenagers and young people do you know who are currently holding down one or more jobs?

If you've got a job, or you're a student, or you're volunteering in society in some way, then you're professionally connected, like it or not, and you need to be able to communicate like the professionals alongside whom you're working.



Which is why it's such a pleasure for me to introduce to you Gisela Hausmann's latest nonfiction work, Naked Text: Email-Writing Skills for Teenagers, an in-depth resource for teenagers on the importance of being able to write an effective, approachable, and courteous email.

Hausmann, who is also the author of Naked Words: The Effective 157-Word Email, writes an easy-to-understand and easily applicable guide that, in fact, applies to anybody looking for simple, straightforward, and unapologetic wisdom about email writing. The principles she espouses will even be applicable in personal relationships, as with friends or family members. (Can you really imagine yourself sending a well-received email to your grandmother and not including a salutation?)

Email has leveled the playing field, in many ways, for young people. Today, it's just as easy for a teenager to draft a courteous, professional email and send it to a potential employer, and be taken seriously as a result, as it is for an adult to do the same. Teenagers have an opportunity of which they should take considered advantage.

And with a thorough reference tool like Naked Text: Email-Writing Skills for Teenagers on your (literal or virtual) bookshelf, no one will have any excuses left to justify a sloppy email doomed to be deleted.

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Author: Gisela Hausmann
Title: Naked Text: Email-Writing Skills for Teenagers
ISBN: 978-0-9963893-9-6
Purchase here: http://amzn.to/1QAOTHy

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Top Five: Best Writing-Related Articles from January 25-29

5. "How to Write Better Using Humor" on The Writer's Dig blog at WritersDigest.com (Leigh Anne Jasheway, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/20sTgsI


Humor writing isn't just a genre or a sub-genre. Sometimes, the situation calls for a little humor to get a particular point across, as in a personal essay or memoir. Maybe you're writing fiction and one of your characters is the comic, and whenever he or she enters the room, hilarity needs to ensue. How do you make that happen? Check out this in-depth post detailing five different qualities of humor, and five easy-to-use methods to use them in your own work.


What are you writing now? Would it benefit from a dose of humor? How will you interject that organically?



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4. "Stay Focused: 4 Ways to Delete Writing Distractions From Your Life" on The Write Life (Meg Dowell)


Link: http://bit.ly/1UuKzdN


It's too easy for most of us to use life as an excuse to explain or justify why we're not writing. The truth is, if you're a writer, you write. Period. No matter what your particular nemesis, here are four of the most common things that distract us from work, and what you can do about it to improve matters. Don't be a victim to time and circumstances any longer.


What is the biggest distraction that keeps you from working? What are you going to change this week about your routine, office, or habits to minimize or eliminate that distraction completely?



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3. "The Organized Writer: Making a Production and Marketing Bible" on Fiction University (Angela Quarles)


Link: http://bit.ly/1RU0k06

You've heard of a business plan. You've heard of a marketing plan. But ... a production and marketing bible? If it sounds intimidating, rest assured that once you have all the necessary components in place, you'll be relieved to have the resource at hand. When you're finished, you'll have your e-book publication data, including ISBN information, sales numbers, and reviews, as well as the contents of your marketing plan all in one convenient location.


Do you have a production and marketing bible? What first steps will you take this week to start putting one together? What information unique to your situation will you include?



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2. "The New Way to Write Your Life Story: The 10 Themes of Legacy Writing" on The Writer's Dig blog at WritersDigest.com (Richard Campbell, guest columnist)

Link: http://bit.ly/1P5UrXQ


It's likely that not everyone goes to bed at night thinking, Now what did I do today to further the legacy I'm going to leave behind me? (Unless you do, in which case I'd love to hear from you!) Legacy is kind of a concept most of us assume we can't affect. Isn't a legacy whatever we leave behind that outlives us ... or not? On the other hand, if you're a personal essayist, memoir writer, or autobiographer, legacy probably consumes your thoughts. Here are ten legacy-oriented themes to take into consideration, whether you're writing your memoirs or not.


What kind of legacy are you leaving? What kind of legacy do you hope to leave? What will you do about any discrepancy between the two?



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1. "25 More Hard Truths About Writing and Publishing" on terribleminds.com (Chuck Wendig)


Link: http://bit.ly/1nve7Ok


I haven't highlighted one of Wendig's posts here in a while, but that doesn't mean he's not still publishing excellent expert content and writing tips. This post, in particular, caught my attention because he manages to combine difficult truths about the harsher realities of the writing industry with his signature snarky, entertaining, down-to-earth tone and style, the combination of which somehow leaves me feeling hopeful about the writing world anyway.


Which of Wendig's hard truths did you need to hear today? What would you add to his list for novice writers?



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BONUS: "The 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2016" on The Write Life (Marisol Dahl)


Link: http://bit.ly/1VlsQWs


Two bonus posts in two weeks ... I know, unprecedented (but we can't say that any more!). And this fabulous resource for writers is just way, way too good to pass up. Visit this mother-of-all collection posts, packed with the best of the best blogs and websites in the industry, broken down into categories for creativity, blogging, freelancing, and more. Thanks to The Write Life for putting together such a fantastic reference tool every year!



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And that's the lineup for last week. Let me know in the comments how your January has gone, and what you're looking forward to with the start of February!