Showing posts with label guest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label guest. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


by Aggie Villanueva

You’ve made sure your book is listed on because everyone says you have to. So what’s the big deal? You’ve actually made more sales to your family/friends than on Amazon. There’s probably a good reason for that. You don’t know how to work Amazon’s expansive world of sales opportunities.

Most authors think Amazon’s Book section is just a huge listing of books for sale. far exceeds any book selling site such as Barnes & Noble because they have in place so many procedures to help sell your books for you that there are only a few real experts on the subject. Tip: search Amazon’s help files. And one of the best is the tagging system.

Remember the Tag Section?

Most writers don’t pay much attention to the tagging section of their catalog sales page, to their detriment. The importance of tagging books at Amazon sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. It is another Amazon way for author’s to get high visibility and absolutely free advertising to the millions who visit the customer tag communities.

With a little attention to your tagging section you can rank high in their communities without making one book sale. And you won’t lose that rank in four hours like you do in sales ranking. So what exactly is a tag?

The Anatomy of a Tag

Each tag enrolls your book in a customer tag community. has millions of customers who are passionate about a diverse range of interests, and your book or product fits into several of them. They share experiences and enthusiasm for favorite topics with these communities of like-minded (and sometimes different minded) people. Customer Community pages provide a home on for thousands of topics, with new ones being added every day by our customers. And they host millions of visits daily.

To learn what these communities are all about go to any book's Amazon sales page and click on the name of any tag attached to that book. It will take you straight to that tag's customer community.

Let’s use my book, The Rewritten Word: How to Sculpt Literary Art No Matter The Genre the paperback version, as an example.

Scroll down past my reviews to find the tagging section. the section titled, Tags Customers Associate with This Product. I’ve chosen the tag Writing Skills for illustration. Click on it to go to the community home page.

The screen shot above is a view of the Writing Skills Community Product Page. Notice the pages along the top where customers explore and participate: Home, Discussions, Lists & Guides and Contributors. Each lists the number of products, discussions, lists etc. beside the page title. My book, The Rewritten Word is in the second row on page one at the time of this writing.

The screen shot below shows the Home Page where you can find Forums and related discussions about the topic Writing Skills and at related communities.

You can become active in any of the discussions, and that’s a great practice. The screen shot below is of related discussions in addition to the Writing Skills own forum discussions. Participating puts you in touch with customers who are enthusiastic enough about your topic to get involved. That’s the best potential buyer. Be sure to always include a signature with links that lead people to your own book. I include the link to my Amazon Author Page, and to my book’s sales page.

Why Bother?

Why would you want to do any of this? Because the whole purpose of each tag is to lead customers to a community where they’ll find all the books and products tagged with the same word(s). This narrows the selling field greatly from just being listed among the millions of books in most Amazon browse categories. Customers who visit these smaller communities are passionate about your book’s topic, and therefore more likely to purchase.

This is a place where your book can rank #1 without those hard-to-make sales. But once you reach top ranking, showing up on the first two Product pages of active communities, this will results in sales.

If you want your book to be seen by possibly millions of customers passionate about your topic, work your Amazon tagging section.

For full details of how to utilize Amazon tags to gain these benefits, you may purchase the full industry report at Promotion a la Carte.


Aggie’s Bio: For decades peers have described Aggie as a whirlwind who draws others into her vortex. And no wonder. She was a published author at Thomas Nelson before she was 30, and commenced to found local writers’ groups including, the Mid-America Fellowship of Christian Writers three–day conference, taught at nationwide writing conferences, and published numerous writing newsletters for various organizations. 

Writing since the late 70's, bestselling author Aggie Villanueva’s first novel, Chase the Wind, was published by Thomas Nelson 1983, and Rightfully Mine, Thomas Nelson, in 1986. Villanueva is also a critically acclaimed photographic artist represented by galleries nationwide, including Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. Villanueva freelanced throughout the 80s and 90s, also writing three craft columns and three software review columns, for national magazines, and was featured on the cover of The Christian Writer Magazine October 1983.

Over the years she has worked on professional product launches with the likes of Denise Cassino, a foremost Joint Venture Specialist in the area of book launches.

Aggie founded Visual Arts Junction blog February 2009 and by the end of the same year it was voted #5 at Predators & Editors in the category “Writers’ Resource, Information & News Source” for 2009. 

Now Aggie has launched Promotion á la Carte, author promotional services where, guided by her experience and organizational/marketing savvy authors gain the most promotional bang for their buck.
For more information you can contact Villanueva at Or go directly to Promotion á la Carte.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Interview with author Harriet Tramer

I'm pleased to have as my guest today, author, reporter, freelance writer and professor, Harriet Tramer. Harriet has written a wonderful little book about caring for an elder. Please give her a warm welcome.

Rounding the Circle of Love
Quality paperback, 100 pages
Price: $10.00, plus S&H
ISBN 9781889409504

1. Many other books that focus on caring for the elderly - particularly those who have memory loss - are currently being marketed. Alzheimer’s disease seems to be the topic of the day. Why is this book unique?

This text presents information garnered from experts in many different fields – medicine, law, nursing, exercise therapy, etc. And that fact grants it a different dynamic than a more traditional “how to book” might offer; it is “thought-provoking, or at least represents an attempt to be. Yet, it is both approachable and concise, allowing readers to take good advantage of the time they spend perusing it.

2. What is the major message care givers should gain from reading this book?

When you act as a caregiver for an elder, you must also care for yourself. And that fact often translates into being realistic as regards what you can and cannot accomplish. If you can only devote a limited number of hours a week to care giving, you should be honest about that point. You must avoid over committing yourself, something that could prove disastrous for all involved.

Acting as a caregiver, grants you the opportunity to develop talents you never imagined you had. You might, for example, have always figured that you cannot even boil water. Yet, in time, you might find yourself preparing very appetizing meals for your elder.

3. What message could this book deliver to people who are not presently and might never be family caregivers?

You can accomplish almost anything you set out to accomplish. But often in the process of reaching your goals, you must accept help. And that is something you might, at least initially, be uncomfortable acknowledging.

4. Why did you write this book?

I was a caregiver for my mother (now deceased) for many years. And during that period of time, I came to realize handling these responsibilities can prove very stressful. And I wanted to write a text that would help persons who are facing these challenges.

5. What did you gain from writing this book?

I came to understand that many people with extensive expertise can be called upon to assist caregivers. And the help which is available to them is expanding every day; home health care aides represent the “fastest” growing profession” in our economy. However, I just as quickly began to realize a “harsh” reality. Finances often stand in the way of care givers receiving the support they need. The imperative to close that gap remains powerful.

6. Your book talks about people serving as family caregivers. Increasingly more people, particularly baby boomers are assuming this role. How has this fact changed our world?

It has “transformed” our workplace. Workers who serve as caregivers are under considerable stress. What happens, for example, when their elder needs special attention at the same time they have a work project due? How can employers handle these conflicts with sensitivity? How much is it their responsibility to attempt being “sensitive” in this regard?

On a broader level, gender roles have been tweaked. Once women were the caregivers, no questions asked. But with more women entering the work force some of these responsibilities have fallen to men.

7. How does some of the information in your book break with orthodoxies?

The book presents the possibility that a slower and more literally hands on approach might best serve the elderly. And it also indicates that money spent on high tech medicine at the end of patients’ life might not be a judicious use of valuable resources.

And this quote expresses the opinion – voiced by an expert in the field - that efforts to “label” somebody as having Alzheimer’s at the earliest possible moment are imperative.

Dr. Peter Whitehouse author of The Myth of Alzheimer’s: What You Aren’t Told About Today’s Most Dreaded Diagnosis,

“People with so-called Alzheimer’s can be as much a victim of labeling as they are of their disease,” Dr. Whitehouse said. “We should work from the assumption that everybody is experiencing brain aging and we are all in this together. Because once you start labeling people as having Alzheimer’s you get two groups of people - people who have Alzheimer’s and those who are terrified of getting it.”

8. How does the book suggest people deal with the stress of being a family caregiver?

The answer to that one is a mixed message. They must rely upon their own inner strength, developing talents they never figured they had, as they serve as a nurse, financial record keeper, etc. However, they must come to understand their limits and seek help when they need it. They walk a tight rope, but learning to maintain that precarious balance can greatly reduce their stress.

9. When you wrote this book, did you come away with the impression that being a family caregiver now is different than it might have been even 5 years ago?

The resources that are open to family caregivers now are much more extensive than were the resources available to them only a few years back.

Our economy is responding to the needs of an aging population by offering a wide array of products/ services. The number of home health care agencies is, for example, booming. Which brings up an important issue: quantity does not always translate into quality; you have to be discerning.

10. How can you tell if you are positioned to bring an elder home and provide for their care?

You have to complete a careful appraisal of your financial and other resources. The book has a survey instrument which can help you to do that. Unfortunately, even architectural barriers can make keeping an elder in their home difficult. These are all things which must be considered.

I came to understand that many people with extensive expertise can be called upon to assist caregivers. And the help which is available to them is expanding every day; home health care aides represent the “fastest” growing profession” in our economy. However, I just as quickly began to realize a “harsh” reality. Finances often stand in the way of care givers receiving the support they need. The imperative to close that gap remains powerful.

It's been a honour speaking with you today, Harriet. Thanks for all you do.

Harriet with her mother Frances. Harriet Tramer has worked as a journalist and teacher for more than 30 years.
She drew upon this experience as she interviewed experts in a wide range of fields – law, medicine, social work – while writing this book.
Yet, her connection to care giving is also more personal. She long served as  a caregiver for her mother, Frances

Harriet Tramer has a Bachelor of Arts Major in Political Science from Chatham College, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has a Masters of Science, Applied Communication Research & Methodology from Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio. Harriet also has a Masters of Science, Urban Studies, Specialization in Economic Development, Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio. She is the Adjunct Professor at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland and New School University in New York. Harriet's biography was accepted into Who's Who in America, 2011 edition.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Jim Magwood: So You've Written A Book

So You’ve Written a Book.
Now What?

I believe most of us have stories to tell: from our own lives and experiences; from things we've seen and heard; from dreams and ideas that just pop in on dark nights and lazy afternoons. Writing takes the courage to put ourselves down on paper where others can criticize and poke fun. It also takes the desire to reach and inspire others with word pictures; pictures that will enable them to see beyond the moment, to go beyond their own space, and to dream. Sometimes, the only thing that keeps us going on the project is that this story, this work of art, is coming from our heart and it simply has to come out and be laid gently, lovingly, even tearfully, on paper where at least we can see it. But, we’ve kept at it and it’s now sitting there, and the question becomes, Now what?

You will have all kinds of questions as you move along but there are ways and places to find answers. The main thing is to get your questions discovered and answered before you get crushed in the writing industry.

To quickly summarize the beginning of the process, write the very best book you possibly can. Keep that obvious, yet often overlooked thought in mind as you work. Don’t skimp on self-editing and proofing your work. Spell-checking (over and over); proof-reading (with the nasty red pencil); reading your own manuscript out loud to catch errors your eyes don’t see; checking punctuation and grammar; analyzing the story flow; and on and on. Here are some quick questions to keep in mind.

1. Is there something in the immediate, opening sentences and paragraphs that reaches out and grabs the reader? If your agent or reader is saying, “Where is this going?” in a bored voice rather than an excited one, you’ve lost them before they can even get started.

2. Is the spelling and grammar correct? Are the sentence structures appealing? Is the entire manuscript well laid out? Again, in the very first words and sentences, a publisher is going to be making their decision as to the worth of the manuscript.

3. Who are your characters and how are they developed? Do your main characters quickly take their place in the story? Are they interesting? Do they sound like real people (even if it’s science fiction)? Do they work together like real people would?

4. Do you tell about the characters and the action, or do you make it happen? Action scenes can be exciting; talking or thinking about the action can be just words.

5. How many times have you read something where you said, “Okay. Same old ending.” Or, the last couple of chapters, or the last “surprise” pages, just kind of die out. Consider an ending that doesn’t work out just right for the heroes. The hero kisses his sweetie goodbye and steps outside—onto a land mine. End of story with that sentence. Shocking. Leave your reader crying, and screaming, “Nooooo!!!”

Many of these thoughts sound so simplistic. Of course we do all this. But how many books have you read where they just didn’t make it? Will yours?

There are people out there who say very bluntly that writing a book is simply not fun. That it’s a lot of work and authors often wish they had never started the process. In fact, writing a book is a lot of work, most authors lose money on their effort, and most books don’t even get into stores. You’re going to have people you don’t even know telling you how bad your work is or how much you need to change it. Are you going to be ready to accept the tension, disappointment and cost that will likely come? And the possible lack of acceptance when you finally present it to the reading public?

Yes? Then here’s a thought that I hope you will absorb into your very soul: Don’t let ANYONE take away the challenge, the excitement, the dream and the hope you have as you sit and contemplate your story. DO IT!!! Count the cost, gather your courage, pay the price and DO IT. Bring your dream, your “baby,” to life. WRITE IT!

There are dozens more things you will need to know as you work through the process of writing, publishing and marketing your work. What kind of publishers are there? How do agents look at manuscripts? How do you market your book? This has just been a touch on that process. You can get more help, or “the rest of the story,” by going to my Website and taking a look at the mini-book, “So You’ve Written A Book. Now What?” (

I wish you the very bast as you go along the writing path, and keep these words in mind: DO IT! WRITE IT!

Here is the exciting new novel about a world in chaos with terrorism exploding everywhere. A plan for total domination of the world takes place as the people of the world idly watch. Can the world leaders resist this powerful force as the power struggle comes to an ultimate climax?
As the war of good versus evil rages, SANCTION intensely narrates the lives of the powerful men on both sides of the battle. Computer hacking, missile attacks, cold-blooded murder and pure evil haunt the world as The Plan progresses. Civilians and government officials lock arms in defense of the world as it is seemingly being unhinged. The fate of the world rests in their hands…or does it?
SANCTION is available now through your local bookstores everywhere.

Born in Vancouver, now living in Twin Oaks, California, Jim Magwood is the author of the international mystery novel, SANCTION. You can visit him at his site, He is also the webmaster of a site dedicated to showcasing authors and their works to readers everywhere at a cost any author can afford. Visit The Author’s Inn at

Friday, January 22, 2010

Introducing UK Children's writer Carole Anne Carr.

I'm still a sickie, but my friend Carole Anne Carr has agreed to guest blog today. Please give her a big welcome. Thanks.

Hot Chocolate and Brandy Anyone?

Who am I?

An elderly English woman who has lived through more lives than the proverbial cat and is delighted to be invited to Joylene’s blog.

I live in Ludlow, a medieval market town in the county of Shropshire, which is quite suitable as I am an historian and write historical fiction for older children. I also write silly humorous stuff that I illustrate for the younger ones. I am author, editor, publisher, illustrator when necessary, distributor, and my own publicity agent.

After working in a bank in Zimbabwe, I spent many years as a deputy head in a Shropshire primary school and took early retirement due to my husband’s illness. Then I set up my own art and craft business, making papier-mâché sculptures, became an actress, and after training for three years took up the Office of Reader with the Church of England. However, these various careers kept me away from my husband, and so in 2007 I began to write children’s stories. This came about quite naturally, for when teaching I had written plays for children, had short stories and poetry published, and had worked for a short time as a creative writing tutor.

Unable to find a publisher for my children’s novels, I took a course in Creative Writing and Children’s Literature with the Open University and with renewed faith in my writing abilities, decided to publish my own work.

I had studied medieval history, and in 2008 I wrote three historical novels and some shorter humorous stories for younger children. After the first novel had been printed in 2009, a story about the first Viking invasion of Lindisfarne, I managed to have a few copies accepted by several independent bookshops in Shropshire and surrounding counties, and negotiated a discount price. Selling my books at local fairs, my husband was able to enjoy accompanying me to book signings.

It took about six months to learn how to be a publisher, reading articles on the web, learning how to make print ready files, how to make an ISBN number in the accepted form for the book cover, and where to obtain a number. I studied how to use Photoshop and discovered photographs I needed for the cover and paid for the copyright. Then finding a good digital printer whose prices were reasonable, I spent a long time visiting bookshops, looking for books for the same age group as mine, comparing numbers of pages, whether illustrated or otherwise. Discovering that paperbacks with a similar number of pages were selling for £5.99, and that the price of printing would allow me to make a little profit when selling directly to parents, I added that price to the back of my book.

I set up a virtual bookshop,, so that children and their parents could buy my books if they were unable to find them elsewhere, although once the book signing was over, I had frequent visits to my website but few purchases as PayPal is not generally used by people in England.

With much difficulty I managed to have my books accepted in some branches of W. H. Smith, the equivalent of Borders. I then realised that the story of a little Anglo-Saxon hero who rescues the Lindisfarne Gospels would be more readily accepted in the county of Northumbria where the events took place, and wished I had begun with my Shropshire stories first, for that would have involved less travelling.

After a visit to Northumbria with my husband - and managing to sell over seventy copies during a three hour book signing on the island of Lindisfarne - I was able to interest English Heritage, the custodian of historic sites in England, and Bamburgh Castle, in my work. My books were also accepted by Shropshire Libraries. In order to become known, I joined the Society of Authors, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and Women in Rural Business. Becoming active on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, I created a blog, and invited other friends to contribute, gradually building up a small online community.

I have had my books reviewed in newspapers and in county magazines, and I have created an online network that I can use to advertise each future book I publish. This network led to my first book being studied by the education department in Willamette University, Oregon, and I have sold 600 copies of the book in 2009 with orders coming in for 2010.

After publishing my Anglo-Saxon adventure, First Wolf, in early 2009, I then published an original African folk tale for the young in September of that year. I read the story to local school children and asked them to provide the illustrations. I worked on their drawings in Photoshop, inserted them into the text with much difficulty, and added drawings of my own where necessary and tried to make my drawings match those the children had given me.

Gradually realising that I was producing books that had a ready market, if only I could achieve wider recognition, I decided to concentrate upon these adventure stories based upon my environmental study visits with school children in Shropshire.

It is such a joy, writing and hearing children’s comments about my work, and I hope to write these adventure stories for as many years as I am able.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Turn Your Novel Into a Promotional E-Book

Please welcome back my guest host, Chuggin McCoffee. Chuggin McCoffee is a coffee fanatic that has spent the entirety of his career cultivating and studying all of the best uses and brewing styles for optimal coffee and espresso flavor. His specialty site for all coffee needs, supplies, and Commercial Coffee Makers can be found at

Turn Your Novel Into a Promotional E-book
by Chuggin McCoffee

If you are hoping to market your novel online, one of the most important things that you can do is to turn your novel into a promotional e-book. E-books are a wonderful way to give your audience a sample of your novel subject, and they can be given to your readers for free or at a small price to encourage the sale of your novel online.

To begin with, you must determine the subject of your e-book. If you have written a fictional novel, like a romance or thriller, you may want to simply take 10 to 20 pages of your novel and put them into an e-book form. An e-book will be sold in the PDF form, and if you are simply taking an excerpt out of your book, you can convert it to the PDF form at

If you have a book on a different subject and want to convert it into a smaller version as an e-book, then consider writing it in a "How To" format. This sells well as an e-book, and it is suitable for any nonfiction book that you may have written. For instance, if you have written a book on home decorating, then you would want to convert it into an e-book of 10 to 20 pages that could be entitled "10 Easy Tips For Affordable Home Decorating". The point of the matter is to choose a catchy "How To" title that would be something that people would want to buy. It is also important that it reflects an aspect of your book, while still leaving your readers wanting more so that they will purchase your actual book.

Last of all, there are a number of venues that you can use to sell this promotional e-book. If you are active on Twitter, that is a wonderful way to promote yourself and your sample e-book through social media. Otherwise, it is important to become a part of many different forums on your subject, where you can provide information about your e-book. If you do have your own blog or website, then it is ideal to promote your e-book on your blog, either for free or a small price, so that your readers will be encouraged to buy this e-book. From that point, they can get a better idea of what your novel or book is about so that they can buy it as a result.

Friday, December 4, 2009


It's my pleasure to have Katherine Swarts back with us. This time Katherine talks about something we all (published or not) need to remember.  Please give a warm welcome to Spread the Word founder and inspirational poet, Katherine Swarts.


Schedules get more cluttered every decade. It’s hard today to convince people to make time to read. It’s even harder to convince them to keep reading if the first three paragraphs are dull. Many twenty-first-century readers won’t wait even that long; you have to hook their attention with the first sentence.

The best story beginnings arouse emotion: surprise, humor, concern. They introduce an intriguing situation or a likable character, encouraging readers to think, “This could happen to me” or “Here’s someone I’d like to know.” Don’t ever start with detailed scene descriptions or extensive historical background; if either is essential to your plot, there’ll be time to weave it in after the reader is hooked.

Always begin on the emotional note that will permeate the whole story: a light tone for a humorous piece, a grim tone for a dark one. More than that, your opening must be completely relevant to the rest of the story: no fair introducing an interesting eccentric character solely for his “hook” value, then letting him disappear without doing anything that influences the plot. No writer ever built a fan base by making readers feel cheated.

Don’t drag the opening out too long, either. Beginning with an intriguing conversation and letting it deteriorate into small talk is like setting a hook perfectly and then neglecting to pull in the line. Even once you have the reader’s attention, you can still lose it if the plot doesn’t flow smoothly. A story is not a line of loosely connected anecdotes; it’s a chain of events held together by a theme and leading to a satisfactory ending, as in “This happened; and because of this, that happened; and that made this happen; and this is how it all turned out.” Thus, a start appropriate to the story will relate to the ending—and to everything in between.

Knowing this can help you come up with a good opening. How do you plan to end the story? Design your hook based on that. If the last scene will show a narrow escape from a wildfire, foreshadow the possibility of that fire in the opening paragraph: “Eighty days ago, Michelle would have found the crimson sunset breathtaking. Now it seemed a bloody mockery of the grasslands’ misery. Yet another tomorrow with little hope of rain.”

If you’re stumped, remember that the first draft doesn’t have to be written in the order in which the manuscript will be read. Go ahead and tell the story any way it comes to mind, then quickly reread the first few pages and see if anything jumps out. It’s amazing how often the “real beginning” of a story turns up in the third paragraph—or chapter.

However you ultimately find it, the perfect opening is a treasure worth searching for. It’s a key element in one major secret of success—making everyone as eager to read your story as you were to write it.

 * * *
Katherine Swarts, Spread the Word's founder, owner, and head copywriter, has been writing professionally for more than ten years—and reading voraciously for as long as she can remember. She has a master’s degree in written communications from Wheaton College (IL), and has published over 100 articles.
Katherine has a bachelor's degree in English from Austin College in Sherman (TX), and a master's degree in written communications from Wheaton (IL) Graduate School. She has also studied with the Institute of Children's Literature, which publishes the monthly newsletter Children's Writer; two annual market guides; and an annual writer's yearbook.

Katherine is also a writer of Christian and inspirational poetry.

Visit her blogs:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Yardstick for "Show, don't tell"


Everyone who’s read a how-to-write book has heard it: “Show, don’t tell.” But, what, really, is the difference between showing and telling? If a story’s protagonist implements a technical procedure step by step, is the author “telling” by walking the reader through, or “showing” the procedure through the character’s eyes?

The answer is the sort of helpful, precise definition that leaves beginning writers grinding their teeth: “It depends.” Or, “If it bores the reader, it’s ‘telling.’” As if anyone was ever capable of judging how much she bores others.

Fortunately, there are better yardsticks for judging whether your fiction “tells” too much.

It’s “telling” if a character gives extensive attention to something s/he already knows. (Note that readers subconsciously relate every word of text to the viewpoint character’s thoughts.) While tying running shoes, are you thinking, “I adjust the tongue, I pull the laces tight, I loop one lace over and through…,” or is your attention on where you’re going after tying them? It’s the same with driving or waste disposal; only beginners concentrate on each step. If your fictional computer expert effectively recites every keystroke involved in operating a word processor, it’s obviously for the readers’ benefit and you’ve hurt their ability to enter fully into your character’s world.

It’s also “telling” if one character explains to another something they both know. “As you know, Tom” expositions are as common as clichés, and about as interesting. If you must have one character explain the story’s history or technology in extensive detail, whomever s/he is talking to (besides the reader!) had better be genuinely ignorant of the facts—and you’d better intersperse regular dialogue exchanges or significant action with the paragraphs of explanation.

It’s usually “telling” if it continues for more than half a page without dialogue—or without a change of speakers. The exceptions are single-character scenes and intense action, in which case:

It’s “telling” if you ignore a viewpoint character’s feelings—or if you spell them out. “Lungs heaving, Ryan struggled toward the glimmer of light” lets the reader feel Ryan’s fatigue and desperate hope; “Ryan was exhausted, but he knew he had to make it outside” reads more like a plan-your-exercise-program manual. This means of “telling” is at least as common in more mundane scenes: “Jason was furious”; “Denise thought her heart would break”; “Morgan couldn’t stop worrying about Amy.” Such writing is as bland to read as a thesaurus; it does almost nothing to move the story forward or to distinguish characters as individuals. We all get angry, but the Jason who expresses anger by hurling a cracker box at the sales clerk’s head is a different person from the one who forces himself to smile even as he feels his back tensing and his blood pressure rising.

When fiction “tells” too much, readers needn’t resort to such dramatic methods of expressing annoyance. They simply close the book and write off the author.

Katherine Swarts, Spread the Word's founder, owner, and head copywriter, has been writing professionally for more than ten years—and reading voraciously for as long as she can remember. She has a master’s degree in written communications from Wheaton College (IL), and has published over 100 articles.

Katherine has a bachelor's degree in English from Austin College in Sherman (TX), and a master's degree in written communications from Wheaton (IL) Graduate School. She has also studied with the Institute of Children's Literature, which publishes the monthly newsletter Children's Writer; two annual market guides; and an annual writer's yearbook.

Katherine is also a writer of Christian and inspirational poetry.

Visit her blog:

*Joylene's being interviewed over at Novel Works today.*

Monday, November 30, 2009

Guinea Hen Gets Bathed

My husband recently rescued a Guinea Hen from a farm down the road. She was in dire straits and had he not brought her home for some R&R, I doubt she would have lived through the night; her feet were freezing and she couldn't walk. In the spring she'll go back to the farm, but meanwhile, her and her friend Mr. Rooster are our guests; Mr. Rooster was being pecked by the occupants of the hen house and too small to defend himself. Who knew hens could be so vicious. I kind of feel bad that I don't have a pic of the rooster. Maybe tomorrow.

Meanwhile, my friend Christopher Hoare has been entertaining me with stories, so I coaxed him into sharing one with us today. Chris, a frequent guest host, is the author of The Iskander Series. If you haven't bought a copy of one of his books and you love S/F, you're missing something. If I had to list in three words or less why Chris's books are so entertaining, it would have to be:  STRONG WOMEN CHARACTERS.

Here's an excerpt from the first book in his series titled Deadly Enterprise:

"Gisel turned away quickly. Two wings of the building stretched away from her. Both echoed with the sounds of running feet. Which way? One stretched away into darkness, the other had an open loft door at the far end. The daylight meant outside – maybe the stable yard. A shout of alarm rang out — from the lighted wing. She launched herself forward.

Then a pistol shot, the woof of a black-powder weapon. Gisel sprinted the whole length between fresh stacked bales of hay. More shots — Yohan’s revolver this time. She dove for the edge of the hay loft, and peered over the wooden sill. A groom in the stable yard struggled to hold two frightened horses as he backed them into an alcove. Across the far side, Yohan stood beside an open door. His back was to the wall – his pistol in his hand. He twisted his body to peer inside. From a window behind him the head and shoulders of a man appeared. Six feet away from Yohan. He raised a flintlock pistol, tilting the firing pan uppermost like a good cavalryman.

Gisel raised her automatic and fired in one motion. She swung out of the opening. The man cried out and clutched his shoulder. His pistol hit the ground."

Now here's Chris and Shirl's latest adventure in frugal shopping:

Careful, considered, frugal shopping.....

Well, not quite. One day, many years ago, we went into town to buy a pound of butter and ended up buying a house. Not quite as reckless as it might sound, perhaps, because it looked to be an ideal revenue property that with a little fixing up could easily earn its keep in rentals. And, for awhile it did.

Eventually, after a regular turnover of tenants we found that – unlike the relatively civilized tenants we’d had when we were in the city – these small community, rural, people had different ideas on renting. The damage deposit was really intended to be part of the last month’s rent when they moved on without giving notice. Defrosting a new fridge was fast and efficient if you used an ice-pick on the cooling system. It was merely a family custom to ram one’s spouse’s head through the drywall. Landlords probably like repairing doors frequently after tenants lock themselves out (or spouses looking to keep their heads out of the drywall locked them out).

After a couple of years we called the experience further education and sold the place. I don’t think we lost anything, but didn’t end up much over break-even. By the way – we didn’t forget the pound of butter.

Fast forward to today. We had received a letter from Ford about a recall on our 14 year old Explorer, so arranged to take it in for the 15 minute job this morning. While waiting for the vehicle to be driven inside for the job we took a stroll around the premises. My wife liked the look of the Mustang GT in the showroom, but this was no more than casual tire-kicking.

The salesman was lonely so he came past on his way to the popcorn machine, and I went for some too, to keep him company. We stood around talking cars and the price of watermelons for awhile and no doubt mentioned that the old Explorer is holding up well, but has over 306,000km on it. It makes some odd noises that it never did when it was younger – but what the heck, so do I.

We advanced to the topic of almost new Fusions – just like those two silver ones over there that are just off lease. We took a walk around the lot outside – just for a bit of exercise, to shake the kinks out. I was merely looking at practical things, like the claimed fuel economy and whether they had intelligent, European design, lever handbrakes instead of those despicable North American sh*t flingers operated by the left foot. (The Explorer’s is a joke since it has such a puny amount of force spread over the rear disk brakes. Don’t trust it on anything steeper than a 0.1% grade.)

Shirl had been sitting in another senior’s new Ford Escape the day before, and so the topic of smaller, more economical SUVs than the Explorer came up. A car is nice, but we really need something that can pull a light utility trailer – to collect firewood, and pick up coal from the local Hutterites (that I’ve forgotten to phone about yet again). Salesman pointed us to the money offered for turning in our old clunker, but hold on – it’s years from being a clunker yet. We looked at the used Escapes (I balk at buying new and taking that big hit from the sticker price) as well as a Saturn SUV that had escaped from the GM lot. It was three years old, with 95,000 km for only $11,999. Interesting but no tow hitch – and how much weight could it handle back there?

Strolling over to the shiny silver Fusions I looked at a much more sober red Focus – only a year old. We asked and found out it had just over 10,000 km and had been traded by a young couple who’d had it new for less than a year. With 2 kids already, wife became pregnant with twins. A Focus might be called cute, but not with four squalling kids in the back – they’d gone for an Expedition to house the family. The Focus, asking $12.999, with oodles of warranty left and a four cylinder engine that promised 48 mpg in the country – where we live – it seemed worth taking for a drive. (The Explorer was still not inside for its 10 o/c appointment – gee, should I be suspicious?)

Not bad for room, not bad for pickup and hill-climbing – since my racing days are long over. Front wheel drive, so it should be able to get out of a snowbound driveway as easily as the Audi we had when we first moved down this way. Manual transmission – which had ruled it out for all the amateur drivers. We’ve only ever owned two vehicles with sewer-pump transmissions. The Explorer is manual and Shirl has been driving her brother’s BMW a lot since he went into a lodge – so she managed her trial trip without too much nonsense (only stalled it once and only hit 5000 rpm once when shifting from 1st to 2nd). But she likes it.

“We really need two vehicles in the country.”

“I can keep the Explorer for knock-about trips after firewood or taking the dogs. So we don’t need another 4WD with load capacity.”

48mpg will look good when the price of oil tops $200 a barrel next year. We’d better check at the bank that we can still access the line of credit I used to have when I ran my own business. Whee, 3.75% interest, and we can choose our own repayment schedule as long as the monthly payment covers interest and other expenses. With Canada’s biggest customer looking more and more like falling off the edge of the world next year it’s a good time to turn dollars into necessary utility. In high inflation economies it makes more sense to be a debtor than a creditor.

We pick up the Focus tomorrow at 1 o/c.

Chris Hoare

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Writing Advice from author JUDITH MARSHALL

Please welcome today's guest host Judith Marshall.

Judith Marshall is a author of Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever, winner of the Jack London Prize awarded by the California Writers Club. She is currently working on her second novel, Staying Afloat, the story of a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother who morphs into a sex-starved adulteress.

Do pay attention to your characters. Remember story is as much (if not more) about character as about plot.

Do make your characters original. The beauty of this approach is that your plot will often grow out of a unique character, instead of vice versa.

Do use a less expected way of describing your character; instead of saying her eyes was were “blue,” you could say, “Her eyes were the color of the lake behind her.”

Don’t use stock, cliché, or outrageous names. You will either look lazy or like your trying too hard.

Don’t introduce too many characters at once. Figure out a way of staggering them or focus on one and ignore the others. You can switch the focus later.

Don’t describe just the usual characteristics, such as eyes, hair, and face. Go farther. “The sun reflected off his bald head.” “The skin on her face was drawn tight across her cheekbones, eyelids stretched smooth, forehead shiny and line-free -- all the signs of recent cosmetic surgery.”

Remember readers don’t want the ordinary, the everyday; they want to be captivated. Ask yourself: Are my characters interesting? If not, there’s more work to be done.

I attended the subject webinar recently, sponsored by Digital Book World.  Since I'm knee-deep in promoting my new novel, "Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever," I was quite interested in the topic.  The panel included  Jane Friedman, Publisher & Editorial Director, Writer's Digest, Diana Vilibert, Web Editor, Marie Claire, Dan Blank, Director of Content, Reed Business Information, and Patrick Boegal, Director of Media Integration, Media Logic.  The highlights follow:

1)  If you blog, be sure to use your personality.  Posts should be either entertaining or useful (i.e. for non-fiction).
2)  Bloggers should post two times a week and be consistent.
3)  Book store owners check out blogs.
4)  Use analytics (even the free ones from Google) to determine your ROI for blogging.
5)  Facebook offers an "incredible opportunity with fan pages."
6) Twitter is becoming more powerful every day.  Writer's Digest requires each editor to participate on Twitter.  Authors should be use it, along with Facebook to build an audience.

As much as we authors hate to take time away from our writing, being involved in social media is a must.  Deal with it!  BTW, I hope this post was useful, if not entertaining.

WRITER'S BLOCK can strike at any time in the process – when you can’t finish a book or when you can’t send it out into the world. According to Dr. Jane Anne Staw, author of “Unstuck,” anxiety is at the root of writer’s block.

To remove some of the obstacles to writing, Dr. Staw suggests:

1) Ask your inner critics to leave
2) Don’t think to big (i.e. thinking about the whole novel or casting the movie)
3) Write on a regular basis, so you don’t have to keep starting over
4) Think small – pick a moment and write about it for 15-20 minutes. The best writing is small – the details are essential
5) Remember, writing is about revision: 1st stage – get it down, 2nd stage – flesh it out, 3rd stage – check the flow, 4th stage – polish and fine tune (word choice and syntax), 5th stage – punctuation and line editing, 6th stage – self-dialog.

Monday, November 16, 2009

CHUGGIN MCCOFFEE - How to Market Your Novel Online

Chuggin McCoffee is a coffee fanatic that has spent the entirety of his career cultivating and studying all of the best uses and brewing styles for optimal coffee and espresso flavor. His specialty site for all coffee needs, supplies, and Commercial Coffee Makers can be found at

How To Market Your Novel Online

by Chuggin McCoffee

If you are hoping to gain more exposure for your novel, then it actually pays off to use all of the tools available to you on the Internet!

One of the best ways to begin is to focus on Obviously, this is a site that so many people use to purchase books, and this will directly affect your novel sales. It is important to begin to get reviews for your novel on, which will entice other customers to follow suit and purchase your novel. Even if you have a great book, people may not review it right off the bat. One thing that you may need to do is give away free copies of your book in exchange for reviews on Amazon. This is a wonderful way to let people experience your novel, and then they can provide their honest feedback directly on the website. This will gain several reviews for you, which will work to give credibility to your novel so that other people will purchase it. If you do have your own blog or website, you can also link directly to Amazon so that your readers can review your book if they liked it.

But you don't have to stop with Amazon! Another innovative way to market your novel online is through the use of a sample or promotional e-book. This is something that readers interested in your genre can purchase for a nominal fee, and it will allow them to have an idea of what your novel is about. If you are hoping to market your novel online, then this is a great way to reach your Internet customers. For instance, if these same customers are hoping to download your novel to a Kindle or iPhone in the PDF format, it will allow them to read a portion of the novel in the e-book form.

E-books are definitely all the rage, and your readers will appreciate this opportunity given to them in the form of an easily downloadable e-book. This will also allow them to try out your book before they buy it completely. One effective way to market this promotional e-book is either in Google Ads or directly on your own website if you have a blog. If you already have a blog with loyal readers, then you can use the opportunity of a low-cost promotional e-book to entice your readers into buying your novel.

Overall, the Internet is full of numerous marketing tools for your novel, but it is helpful to know where to begin. Positive reviews and feedback will work to gain circulation toward your novel, increasing your sales dramatically.

Friday, November 13, 2009

AUTHOR JOE MOORE: I'd Rather Have a Root Canal.

by joe moore

The dreaded synopsis. It’s the nasty part of writing fiction that everyone hates. After all, if someone wants to know what your book is about, just read it. Right? The synopsis is right up there with getting a root canal. It’s painful and taxing. But it’s also a fact of life that you’re going to have to produce one sooner or later. Especially if you’re a first-time author. Most writers feel that creating a synopsis is harder than actually writing the book. I agree.

Clare touched on it with her July post. Here’s another look at the task we love to hate.

So what is a synopsis?

It’s taking your book’s 80,000 to 120,000 words and condensing them down to a few pages—a brief description of what your book is about. Imagine draining 99.9% of a human body away and still convey the person’s looks, thoughts and personality. A daunting task at best.

How do you get the job done? First, start by accepting the fact that you have to do it. In order to successfully market your new book, you must be able to tell the story in just a few paragraphs or pages. Barring any unusual submission requirements for a particular agent or publisher, a formal synopsis usually runs a page or two. A great time to write your synopsis is as you do your final read-through before declaring mission accomplished—that the book is done. As you finish reading each chapter, write a paragraph or two describing what happened in that chapter—what was the essence of the chapter as it relates to character, motivation and plot. Keep it short such as: Bob and Mary met for the first time. She thought he was a bore. He thought she was self-centered. They had no choice but to work together.

Also be aware of any emotional threads running through the chapter; love, hate, revenge, etc. and make note of them. But always keep it short.

Once you’ve finished the read-through of your manuscript and making subsequent notes for your synopsis, you will have created a chapter-by-chapter outline. (Don’t you wish you had had it before you began writing your book?) So what you’ve done is condense your manuscript into a manageable overview that hits on all the important points dealing with character development and plot. And it contains the emotional threads that make up the human aspect of your story.

Next step: read your chapter-by-chapter outline and determine the most important elements in your story. If you’ve correctly noted what each chapter contains regarding character, plot, and emotions (motivations), it shouldn’t take too many reads to determine the items that were critical in moving the story forward. Again, keep this new set of notes short and simple.

Even after you’ve completed this task, your fledgling synopsis is probably too long and a bit disjointed. So what you have to do next is blend all the key points together into a short narrative. Here’s one way to do it. Imagine that it’s your job to write the cover blurb that goes on the back of your book. You need it to contain enough information that anyone reading it will become interested in reading the whole book. Begin with your main character and the crisis that she faces. Explain why your character behaves as she does. Touch on the main elements that moved the story forward by referring to your chapter-by-chapter list of events. Always make clear what’s at stake—reveal the “story question”. Remember that you have to tell the whole story in the synopsis. Unlike a real cover blurb where there are no spoilers, the synopsis is going to an agent or editor. You must tell them how the story ends. This is no time to be coy. Tell it all.

A synopsis is a selling tool. It must tell your story in a very short amount of words and still get across the essence of the tale. But even more important, it must show that you can write—it is an example of your skill and craftsmanship. It confirms that you know what your story is about and can express emotion. That you understand plot and character development and human motivation.

What a synopsis is not is the classic elevator pitch or the TV Guide one-sentence description. Instead, it’s the distilled, condensed soul of your book in a few paragraphs.

So, you writers out there—do you enjoy writing a synopsis? Any additional tips on getting through the task without slitting your wrists? Once you’ve been published, does your publisher still require a synopsis before they issue a contract on your next book? If so, do you stick to the synopsis or does the end product differ from the original?

* * *

Joe Moore and his writing partner, Lynn Sholes are the authors of The Grail Conspiracy, The Last Secret, The Hades Project, and The 731 Legacy.   

Joe is a former marketing and communications executive and two-time EMMY® winner with 25 years experience in the television postproduction industry. He has written articles for national and international trade magazines covering the field of professional sound recording and video. As a freelance writer, he reviewed fiction for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Florida Times Union, and the Tampa Tribune.

Joe serves on the International Thriller Writers board of directors as Co-President. He writes full time from his home in South Florida.

The dentist pic is compliments of The Kill Zone and Joe Moore.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blogging Tidbits by Author JO ANN HERNANDEZ

Your response to Jo Ann's guest blog was so positive that I've asked her to come back regularly. Okay -- she was coming back anyway. That you appreciated her advice was icing on the cake. Oops, cliche-alert.

Here's some tidbits of knowledge via Ms Hernandez:

Things I’ve Noticed

Everyone who follows BronzeWord Latino Authors posts and links from @LatinoBookNews knows that I love doing research. Usually I go to a blog and look for their email address and their Twitter name so I can contact the owner and invite them to participate in what I’m doing. Or if I am twittering their article, I want to use their Twitter name so they know that their post had value.

Because of my constant searching, I have seen a few things that work well and a few things that are enough to cause me to want to pull my hair out. Most people will search casually and if they don’t find a way to communicate within a few minutes, they go somewhere else. Here are a few thoughts.

If you have a blog, you want people to connect with you. The email can be protected easily by using words for the @ and (.) like AT and DOT so that your email can be on the front page and look like BronzeWord1 AT yahoo DOT com. Also this information needs to be what the expert calls “above the fold.” The part of your blog that a visitor will first see when they open your blog.

Also, many people who use Blogger will put their email on their profile where the person has to click on the word “email” and an email page opens separately. First, when I had an older computer and really old software, the separate email page never came up for me. Also, because I have a very slow computer, the page takes forever to download. And because this separate email page is from Outlook, an email service I don’t use, I can’t send a message from that page because if they response by clicking “reply” they will go to an account I rarely check. Instead, I copy the email address and post it on a doc page that I will get back to when I am ready to send the invitation. That’s a lot of work to capture one email address. Most people won’t wait for the tedious response.

If you have a blog for people to connect with you, please post your email address in your “About Me” section or in the top of the screen that shows when you open your blog. Allow people to express their gratitude or thanks for what you offer on your page. Or they may have something to add to what you offer. If a big corporation looks around the web, comes across your blog, and likes what they see, they have no way to contact you. They will not bother searching and waiting for separate pages to open up. They won’t.

Most everyone has a Twitter account. Everyone posts the widget that says, “Follow Me” with the little blue bird. Hardly anyone post their Twitter account name. The little blue birdy isn’t enough.

For one thing, when you click on the blue birdy, you are taken to another page. If the person wants to follow you, they have to sign in to their Twitter account to do so. Once they are there, do you think they will go back to your page? Or do you think they will decide since they are there, they will check for messages or what’s going on in Twitter cyberspace? If you had a product to sell, or wanted to interest them in your product/book/music/whatever, you’d lose that opportunity. Completely.

There is a cute blue birdy that has your account name and the number of your followers on the widget with a “Follow Me” message. A visitor could get your name and save it to follow you later when they move on from your blog page. And that’s the key. They stay on your page. This widget can be found at . I don’t have any connection with them. You can see the widget on my blog.

Or you can use the title section of the widget to post your Twitter name, like: Jo Ann @ BronzeWord with the widget underneath.

I am a major non-techie. On my Wordpress blog, when I enter a link, I am asked if I want it to open on my page or a new pop-up page. A new pop-up page keeps the visitor on your site as they investigate the new page and doubles the chances of the visitor returning to finish reading your article or browse the rest of your blog.

Please investigate Google Alerts. This is an easy way to see who is writing about you or your product or talking about you. Just go to Google and sign up. List the names that are your company, blog, and product names and let the cyber angels do the rest. Use quotes around your name or your product’s name. You will find that some little blog in Nebraska liked your article so much they are telling their 15 followers to go check you out. That will enable you to respond to that blogger to say thanks or make an offer and find out that those 15 followers have thousands following them. Wouldn’t you rather know what is being said about you on the Web?

We’ve all heard stories of how a company hears of a complaint on Twitter and resolves the issue for the customer. Now you can be as cool as Twitter and do the same thing by having a Google Alert on your name.

Thank you for allowing me to voice a few things I have noticed during my travels through cyber space. I hope these tidbits assist you in growing your blog audience.

Jo Ann

Jo Ann Hernández
BronzeWord Latino Authors
BronzeWord1 AT yahoo com

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Guest Blogger: Author JO ANN HERNANDEZ on Revising

Please welcome today's guest blogger, Jo Ann Hernandez. There isn't enough room to list Jo Ann's qualifications. She has a Masters of Arts in Writing at the University of San Franciso. Her work has won awards and recognition throughout the United States. Her novel White Bread Competition and The Throw Away Piece continue to this day. I've worked with her since the mid 90s, and nothing she accomplishes surprises me anymore. Bravo, Jo Ann. Thank you for being such a pain when it came to editing my prose.

A little R and R for the Writer (Revise and Revision)

I love to write. I find writing to be fun, enjoyable, and thrilling. Don’t worry. I outgrew that quick enough. I didn’t consider it a career because it was too easy to do. Should a person’s life work be tedious, boring and darn hard? Isn’t that what the pilgrims said? Then some friends told me that the universe needed my voice. Well, hey, who am I to argue with the universe? I did what I always do when I approach a new subject: I read a thousand books, attended conferences, kissed up to, met agents, and finally went for a Master’s in Creative Writing. C’mon. Ask me what my GPA was. Please ask me. I have so few things to be proud of about myself that I have to tell you. A university professor said I was being an amateur by telling it. Being the literary-minded individual with a 3.8GPA, I retorted with a “So?” Actually writing is still fun for me. Takes me to some fantastic places. When, in Joylene’s home, her son complained that I was annoying him. She explained, “I met her on the internet. Haven’t I told you how you had to be careful of the things you get off the internet?” Dry humor wins every time.

The mostest fun part of writing is revision. Be warned that the all-explosive editing shown here should not be done at home without supervision.

In my revision, I break the manuscript into parts. There are many parts and I can only mention a few here. I guess you’ll have to hire “Fresh Eyes” for more. Oh, oh, a plug. Is that allowed?

I do a search of every single 75k word that ends in –ly. You can color them, highlight them, or work on them as each comes up. Up to you and how you work best. That’s the thing about showing and teaching; what works best for you may be different. I tend to work each one as they come up. Thoughtfully. Fantastically. Inherently. Secretively. I secretly hide my faults. Hmmm I secret my faults. I fault my secrets. Hmmm I do secrets with my faults. I hide my secrets. Ohhhh I bury my faults like secrets in my heart. Dang, I’m good. I absolutely love my job. Isn’t this fun?!!!

Then I go on to the really, really hard words. The articles. When I taught a class, I discovered the OWL of Purdue website of grammar. If you don’t feel like writing or aren’t producing, go there and look around. There are little pictures to go with the lesson. They had a stick man jumping IN to an empty pool. There was a kitchen table with a glass of milk ON the table. Can’t quote you the rule or where you can find this, and the pictures are in my brain for life. The vs. A. “A” meaning general, out of a whole bunch. “The” being specific to one of its kind. Amazing isn’t it? To vs too. There are so many more.

Oh sorry, couldn’t forget my pet peeve. Be specific. Specificity is in the details. Did the cloth feel coarse or smooth? How old is old? How fast is swift? Did they fall like a sack or did they fold when they swooned? Details are what make the picture tune in clear. Details are what give the reader the sense of being there inside of the story. And too many details kill the flow of the story in a heartbeat. Ain’t this job fun?

As sport coaches say, learn each movement, each detailed step of the process then forget all you have learned and do it in one fluid graceful movement. Like learning how to drive a standard car. Any of us here remember those?

Ah, the biggie. I have only heard of this in a couple of places, and I was saying this long before then. Crutch words. Everyone has Crutch words - like the stick you put under your arm when you break your leg. If you think you don’t use Crutch words, please wait before submitting your manuscript to an agent so you won’t be disappointed. And the miserable thing about Crutch words is like having allergies. In your home, you’re allergic to dust. At your sibling’s home, you’re allergic to milk. Whichever house you visit, you are allergic to something different. Every single book or story you write will have a different Crutch word. You have to hunt them out.

Crutch words are those little words that show up about every other third word. In writing your first draft, you allow them. They are actually helping you write your first draft. Lately, my Crutch words have been: so, really and just. So I’ve been really writing a lot to just have a few. Then here comes Revision, able to leap tall buildings in a single vowel. You discover what your Crutch words are. It’s helpful to know there are usually only two or three Crutch words in each first draft of each book. As you search, you go to each one and revise, either deleting it or rewording it. Simple. Takes only about four to ten hours. Heh!

Have you seen those “only” sentences?

If you have gained weight.

If only you have gained weight.

If you have only gained weight.

If you have gained only weight.

Got it. Having fun? Isn’t this the best business in the world?

Just two more and I’ll be out of your hair. Clang. Clang. Cliché. I learned about these two words in my two million thousand years of therapy. When using the word “not” you are actually encouraging the person to do what you don’t want them to do. Do not touch the doorknob is translated in the brain to do touch the doorknob. What’s a “really” big hoot is thinking about what you are saying (or writing) without using “not.” I’ve found that my speech and my writing becomes much more positive. Go ahead. Take one day and be conscious of preventing the use of the word “not” in your vocabulary. You’ll surprise yourself with how affirming it can be. And Fun!!!

The other word I learned about is “but.” What I was told is that everything that comes before the “but” is false. “I love you, but…” Oh, I was told that a lot by guys I dated. “I agree with your theory, but…” Can you sense it? “You look nice in that dress, but…” Bash him along side of the head, Ladies. Think about it for a while. I bet you’ll understand, but…..

Okay, my last one. Joylene knows I’m a stickler for this one. There have been quite a few articles out in cyber space about reading your novel aloud to yourself. It’s supposed to help you find errors that your eyes don’t see any more. That’s cool. Go ahead.

What I encourage you to also do is to get someone else to read your manuscript aloud to you. They read along on one manuscript. You follow along with another manuscript and a highlighter in your hand. When there is a mistake, keep from disturbing the reader and highlight what was read differently or awkwardly. Every place where the reader has trouble is a spot that needs to be fixed. Guaranteed.

I have also noticed that when I read aloud from my manuscript, I sometimes still miss problems like missing or repeated words because I know what the text is supposed to say and my brain corrects the errors without my noticing.”

This guy talked about software that would read your manuscript to you on the computer. I’m looking into that right now. The other thing I’ve found when someone else reads your manuscript is that – especially in the dialogue – the person will read it as it is spoken and not as you have it down on the page. Highlight that part. Jot a note if you are fast. That’s an important correction you will want to include to make your dialogue sound natural. How it’s spoken is how you want your dialogue to sound.

One suggestion I keep making is if you have teens in your home or close by, they can earn extra money by reading to you. Also if you have a certain type of character in your novel – military, financial, accountant – and you can find someone in any of those professions to read your manuscript aloud to you, I bet you’ll find ways to improve your manuscript from the way the words automatically come out of their mouth. Don’t believe me. (Get the not?) Find someone and try it.

There is so much more Fresh Eyes can do. I tend to write too much, and before I go, I have to tell you about a book. The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner should be mandatory reading in every writing class and MFA program. A new edition is coming out soon. She is an agent now accepting only non-fiction submissions. This book is not a how-to. It’s a how-come. Talks about the industry and why things happen the way they do. The chapter on rejection is inspiring. You come away from this book with the feeling that you can do it after all. On the last page of the book, she tells a sweet story about waiting for her grandmother at a train station. Her grandmother’s train has been delayed. When the grandmother finally arrives, the granddaughter asks her if she had been lonely. The grandmother answers, “When you have a book with you, you’re never lonely."

Thank you Joylene for allowing me to invade your pages and spread my sick humor. I’ve enjoyed myself immensely. I hope you have too.

Jo Ann Hernández
BronzeWord Latino Authors
BronzeWord1 AT yahoo com

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Guide to Self-Publishing by Charles Jacobs

Charlie's Choice
Weekly Tips to Help You Write,
Publish & Promote Your Work


You’ve made the decision to self-publish your manuscript as it nears completion. You recognize that it will require far more effort than simply turning your manuscript over to a POD house, but you also realize that the financial return can be far greater. However, it does require an outlay of money up front.

Self-publishing is growing in popularity among experienced authors and even some wanna-bes. The sense of satisfaction you receive from having overseen and accomplished the entire process by yourself is an additional bonus that many authors cherish.
There is an important transition you have to make if you’re going to be a successful self-publisher. You must doff your artist’s cap and become a businessperson, for you will be dealing with financial decisions and a variety of chores that must be completed. You can tackle these on your own or hire and direct someone else to do them. In either case, you and you alone are solely responsible for every aspect of producing your book.

None of these tasks is terribly difficult, and professional book coaches stand ready to assist you on the two chores that really demand specialized talent: designing your book’s cover and formatting the interior text. Although it is possible to use templates for the cover and to learn to format, I strongly recommend that you hire professionals for these.

The appearance of your book, both inside and out, is a key factor in attracting sales. Far too many self-published books are amateurishly designed, and that’s the primary reason top reviewers and booksellers are often leery about reviewing or stocking them. However, if your book stands out because of its professional design, you can overcome that stigma.

Pre-pub Requirements
Self-publishing may be done either digitally or with offset printing. The choice depends upon the length of the press run you require. But in all cases, the pre-publication work today is essentially the same.

The first decision you must make is to determine the actual size and shape you want your book to be. The most popular sizes are 5.5 inches by 8.5 inches or 6 by 9. This is referred to in the industry as “trim size.” Most book printers can handle either size. Other sizes are available, but they are used principally for specialty books.

Your next consideration is the cover. The quality of your cover will strongly influence the number of books you sell. There are three segments of a good cover, and each one has a specific function. The spine is the first element a shopper sees when perusing the books on the store shelf. It contains the name of the book in large letters, followed by the author’s name and that of the publisher.

The front cover represents the first “stop” the potential buyer makes. That’s only a three second stop to examine the title, author’s name and if you have done your job obtaining endorsements, a very brief blurb from a recognized person. If that quick look intrigues the customer, he/she will turn to the back cover. This is your selling tool, but again you have only a few seconds to convince the customer to read further.

The several sections of the back cover should include a brief précis of the book, excerpts from reviews, endorsements from worthy sources, a short bio of the author, plus the required ISBN, barcode and the category listing in the top left corner. If the back cover functions well, the person will next flip to the table of contents and glance through the text. The $300 to $600 price for a cover design is perhaps the best investment you will ever make in your book.

Visit the library or your local bookstore. Study the covers on books similar to the one you plan. Next, search the Internet under “Book Cover Designers.” Most of these web sites will offer a gallery of cover designs the artist has created. Review them carefully, and narrow down your selection to three or four. Interview each designer before your make your final decision.

Your next concern is to format the interior text of the book in a style that is easy and comfortable to read. This means selecting a pleasant and inviting type font, spacing out between the lines (called leading) and shaping the computer text to the book’s page. It also involves creating interesting chapter headings and page footers (the page numbers and chapter identification found at the bottom of the page). Professional formatters are expensive, but very valuable. Formatting a book of approximately 300 pages will run between $800 and $1,200.

Smaller But Vital Tasks
Every book that is to be sold to a library or a bookstore must have an ISBN. This international identification number should be placed on the back cover along with a complementary bar code. These are easily obtained from the R.R. Bowker company by clicking onto its web site HYPERLINK ""

Library of Congress Cataloguing is another necessity. (You will find this in the front section of a book.) It can be obtained directly from the Library of Congress, but is not always available if you have written only a single book. The alternative is to click on the Donohue Group, and they will prepare it for you. You can find the company at HYPERLINK "" and click on PCIP.

It would be very wise to officially copyright your book. Although your words are technically covered by copyright as soon as you place them on paper, that designation will not stand up in court. Obtain a complete copyright from the government to protect yourself from any piracy or plagiarism. It is easy to obtain by clicking on “Copyright” in your favorite search engine. Simple instructions and an official application will appear. It is very inexpensive.

You have the option of creating a Table of Contents yourself for your nonfiction book or you can use one of the available software programs on the Internet. Whichever path you take, enter the chapter heading and then highlight some of the important issues discussed in the chapters beneath the heading. Of course, you can’t add the actual page numbers until you have completed all revisions of your text.

If your book is nonfiction, you may want to include an Index and/or an Appendix. These are easy enough to develop yourself. For the Appendix, list references to any material that you think will help your reader by supplementing the information you included in your text.

The Index is a bit more time-consuming to assemble, although not terribly hard. As you do the final edit of the book, each time you come to a subject that should be included in the Index, jot it down. When you have completed all chapters, categorize each of these entries by subject. List them under the appropriate subject heading using a one or two-word designation and the page number. Many authors feel this is too time-consuming and prefer to farm the job out to a freelance indexer. These can be found on the Internet.

Next steps are, of course, the printing of your book and its distribution. It will be your task to select a quality printer and to arrange distribution through a wholesaler and/or distributor. Those topics we’ll leave for future articles.

This column is an excerpt from the blog of Charles Jacobs, book coach and author of “The Writer Within You,” named a Best Book of the Year seven times and winner of both gold and bronze medals. The book can be ordered at HYPERLINK "" For coaching, Charles can be reached at HYPERLINK ""

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Here's an excerpt from Charles' book THE WRITER WITHIN YOU:

"Most of you are familiar with the word genre, as it is used to depict distinct types of literature. Although the fundamentals of creation are essentially the same for every category, you will learn in succeeding chapters the approach does vary somewhat. So it is up to you to determine what it is you want to say, the genre in which you want to present it and how best to frame your work. Should you tackle a full length nonfiction book or begin with an article on the subject? Can the message you want to deliver be more effectively presented as a parable or a longer fictional story? Would you be better served by writing an essay? These questions aren’t difficult to answer once you have carefully thought through your project. Often the choice is inherent in the subject matter you choose to write about. Be sure it is something with which you are completely comfortable, for you and your project will be intimately wedded for a substantial period of time."