Sunday, January 31, 2010


Are you interested in speeding up the loading time for your blog or webpage? Do you want your reader satisfied and not drumming their fingers while your page loads? Do you want your visitors happy and coming back for more? Then check out Misadventures with Andi and her blog ARE YOU OVERLOADED?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Introduce Your Protagonist as if He was Your First Born.

In continuing with the exercises from Donald Maass' book Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, below is one example of how I'll try to improve on the introduction of my protagonist Danny Killian in Omatiwak: Woman Who Cries when he first appears in chapter two. My goal is to present my reader with a character they can relate to, admire, and possibly like. Of course, anyone who knows me, knows I may end up revising this opening until the cows come home, probably 20x before I'm satisfied. But that's what the joy of writing is about: getting it better and better. It's called revising. And it's my favourite thing to do.

This is what I've got to date; it's subject to change several times before I'm done.

* * * *
Omatiwak: Woman Who Cries 
Chapter Two

RCMP Corporal Danny Killian slipped covers over his shoes, entered the residence through the service door and made a quick study of the open space. Four of his men were busy collecting evidence while Medical Examiner Betsy Spenser knelt beside the remains of an older gentleman sprawled face up on the kitchen tiles. By the puddle of blood under the victim's head and the brain splatter across the top of the island, it was safe to assume that this was in fact the crime scene.

The odour of death lay heavy in the room and even after fifteen years on the force Danny's eyes watered. He closed his mouth and inhaled shallow breaths through his nose.

Today would have been his and Angie's seventh anniversary. Seven years, and all he was left with was the familiar tinge of guilt. Guilt over not finding her killer, even though he was never officially on the case. But there'd been those three months on bereavement leave, then extra hours after work and on weekends investigating. For nothing.

And because his involvement in the case didn't go unnoticed, six months after he was back on the job, when he'd solved the serial killings in Surrey, E-Division used that opportunity to promote him and transfer him out. Danny guessed they were tired of his poor attitude toward the Force, an attitude he’d been advised to hide. Failing that, he chose Prince George because, besides being an hour's flight from any leads on Angie's murder, there were the twenty-years of missing person's cases on Highway 97. Maybe he could give these families some peace, if he couldn’t give himself any.
* * * *

After reading chapter one of Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, I realized my hero wouldn't step inside a crime scene carrying baggage from his life. He'd wait a moment, face whatever was interfering with the mindset, let it go, then do his job.

Hence the above passage changes to something like this for the time being:


Serious Crime Investigator, Corporal Danny Killian located the address dispatch had given him, parked his vehicle behind the coroner’s van in the driveway, and turned off the engine. The engine immediately began to cool, but Danny hesitated. There was a heaviness pushing in on his chest, and though he knew it was grief, he couldn't understand why it hit now. Where was the mindset?

He pulled his favourite photograph of Angie out of his inside pocket and cupped it in his palm. His hand trembled. He felt himself choke up.

Let it go, he warned. Focus on the job.

His transfer to the new detachment came with the agreement he’d attend mandatory grief counselling. Each week, the doctor greeted him, gestured to the nearest chair, sat across from him, and began by asking the same two questions, “How are you, Corporal Killian? Having any trouble focusing on your job?”

Each time he answered, “No, I’m not having trouble focusing on my job, doctor.”

And until that very moment, that was the truth.

Why now?

Because …?

He glanced at the digital clock on his GSP. Jesus! Today was December third, their seventh wedding anniversary. Seven years and all he was left with was the sensation of a cold steel blade sinking deep into his heart. Here he was at a new crime scene while his own wife’s murder went unsolved. A cold case. Anything over forty-eight hours was considered bad. Angie’s case was closing in on one hundred and eighty five days.

He stared at her photo and swallowed the lump in his throat. She died at the Lougheed Mall in Burnaby, the afternoon of May twenty-seventh. He investigated her death the three weeks he was on bereavement leave, then extra hours after work and on weekends; for nothing.

Because his involvement in the case didn’t go unnoticed, four months ago, after he'd found the evidence they needed to nail British Columbia’s third serial killer, E-Division used the opportunity to promote him and transfer him out. It was the kind of promotion he couldn’t ignore -- take it or consider yourself derelict. They were tired of his poor attitude toward police bureaucracy, an attitude he’d been advised numerous times to drop but couldn’t. His last act of defiance was to choose Prince George because it was only an hour's flight from any leads on Angie's murder. He kept his job because it ensued he had access to the resources he’d need if htere were any new clues. Then too, there were the three and a half decades of missing persons’ cases on Highway 16. He thought — hoped -- that he could give the families some peace – something he couldn’t give himself any.


Or just stupid?

He shook his head, stuck Angie’s photograph back into his pocket, whispered “Happy Anniversary, Baby,” then climbed out of his car. He walked to the open service door and told himself: Snap out of it – focus on the job. Inside the porch, he slipped covers over his shoes. He entered the residence, walked down a short hallway, and made a quick study of the open space. Four of his men were busy....

* * * * 
How are you all doing with exercise one? Is your protagonist the kind of hero you've always admired? I hope so. Meanwhile, I'm off to see how I can make his intro better.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I'm a Mr. Linky Award Winner!

My dear generous friend, Marta Stephens, author of Silenced Cry and The Devil Can Wait awarded me the Prolific Blogger Award.  Marta is one of those rare creatures who would drop everything to help other writers reach their potential first. Just ask anyone at Murder By 4. Marta is kind, gentle, and a terrific writer. And now I'm left stammering an unworthy THANK YOU!

But even I have to admit I've come a long way. With the help of bloggers like Marta. Thank you, kiddo. Thanks for all the encouragement and support one author could ever ask for. And thanks to all my readers for supporting me during my short blogger career. I love my Mr. Linky Award!

Here are the official award rules--do what you will with them (follow them to the letter, modify them, ignore them completely).

1. Pass this award to at least seven other deserving prolific bloggers.

2. Link to the blog from which you received the award.

3. Link back to this Prolific Blogger post, which explains the origins and motivation for the award.

4. Add your name to the Mr. Linky. (Will there ever be a "Ms. Linky"?!)

Here are my deserving recipients:

1. Carol J. Garvin,
2. Pat Bertram,
3. Carole Anne Carr,
4. Katie Hines,
5. Katherine Neff Perry,
6. Vivian Zabel,
7. Dave Elbright,

You guys continually inspire me. Thanks!

Thursday, January 28, 2010


In the next several months, I'm doing the exercises from Donald Maas's book Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook here on my blog. I'm convinced that these exercises will help me put some spark back into my manuscript Omatiwak: Woman Who Cries, thus helping me improve upon Broken But Not Dead with my editor Leanne Kruger. I hope you'll join along and apply these exercises to your own work. If you do, let me know how your progress is going. Maybe we can help each other.

Exercise One deals with adding heroic attributes to your characters. (I'm paraphrasing because I don't yet have permission to quote Mr. Maass from his workbook) We all know that our protagonist must grow into an admirable character by the end of our story; but Mr. Maass suggests adding heroic qualities at the beginning. Sure, our protagonist will build toward heroic proportions by the end of our story, but what about the beginning? Shouldn't s/he be someone our readers immediately admire?

Here's how Mr. Maass suggests we do that:

1. Write down the name of someone you consider a hero.
2. Write down as many qualities or actions befitting your personal hero. Qualities or actions that speak of their generosity, courage, determination, strength to overcome adversity, or simple kindness and thoughtfulness towards others. 
3, Apply those qualities to your protagonist by  opening your story with your protagonist acting out one or some of those qualities so that your reader will instantly recognize his/her heroic attributes.
4. Look for 6 more scenes throughout your story where you can show your character acting or thinking in heroic ways.

Donald Maass reads thousands of manuscripts. What he's suggesting in this first exercise is aimed at helping us get our manuscript through the initial first reading to the acceptance pile.

Think Harry Potter, Clarice Starling, Billy Elliot, Dorian Grey, Will Graham, Charlie Brown, Jason Bourne, Jack Carter, Scarlet Ohara, Oliver Twist, Jesus Christ, to name a few.

After I read and gave this first exercise plenty of thought, I realized the introduction of my protagonist RCMP Corporal Danny Killian was anything but memorable. Danny shows up at the crime scene to begin his investigation. Whoopie. To step things up and introduce my reader to a nice guy, worthy of their time, I took that opening and went one step deeper: I showed ...

Danny parks outside the door of the scene of the crime, but instead of immediately going inside, sits for a moment to face his grief and regain the mindset. He's more than normally distraught over the death of his wife because it's their seventh anniversary. He grieves for her, mourns the circumstances of her death, acknowledges that this grief may never cease, then sets it aside and goes inside.

It's a little more elaborate than that, but I hope you get my drift. Now, try this exercise yourself and let me now how it went.

Happy Writing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The WONDER of Us.

Borrowed from my post on Children's Books at the Cake And Custard: The Wonder of who we are, where we came for, and why we're here has always fascinated me. I'm sure once I leave here, God will explain it all. In the meantime I will continue to marvel and wonder.

Hope you enjoy. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


After a 14-day flu, I'm left with a cold, (nothing that should stop me from jumping back into a tight schedule) and I'm trying desperately to get back to work.

It's harder said than done. And now I'm reeling with guilt for not knowing exactly how to do that.

In the proverbial wings, I'm waiting for my editor to start me on a journey of rewrites for Broken But Not Dead. She said we'd begin after Christmas, which is open to interpretation. What does "After Christmas" actually mean?

There really is no rush, Broken isn't due to be released until 2011. So, the way I see it, I could do one of  seven things:

1. Revise one of four finished manuscripts. It's too late for Dead Witness.
2. Continue on the first draft of Dead Wrong.
3. Do housework instead; oddly, there's a lot of it.
5. Scratch housework and read the novels piling up on my desk. (Halfway through Don Maass' Breakout Novel Workbook)
6. Start new children's book that's coming to life at back of my mind.
7. Or, get all other aspects of life in order so I can concentrate 100% on editing Broken when "After Christmas" arrives.

Meanwhile, here's a distraction from The Huffington Post: Crasher Seal

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.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Please welcome back Katherine Swarts, Spread the Word's founder. Katherine has graciously agreed to guest post on my blog on the 20th of every month.

* * *

A Half Dozen Hints for Deciding If You've Got What it Takes

© Katherine Swarts

If you want to write a book, these questions will help you evaluate your potential success in advance.

If you dream of writing a bestseller, you aren’t alone. A 2002 survey by the Jenkins Group found that 81 percent of Americans share that dream.

But most of those books never get written.

If you want your writing career to advance beyond cocktail-party conversation, the first step is to sit down at that word processor! But even before then—if you want to minimize the risk of giving up halfway—ask yourself a few questions.
1. Do you like to read?—more than just the daily paper? An author who never opens a book is as unlikely as a veterinarian who hates dogs. Any good writer reads at least one book a month for pleasure or self-education. If you find reading a chore, writing will be even more boring; and anything you do create will bore readers in turn.
2. Are you a readable writer already? E-mailing your mother every month doesn’t count. Good grades on high school essays don’t necessarily indicate publishable writing ability.
What have you written lately? An annual business report? A church newsletter article? A nature club press release? Did you get compliments on these? Has anyone ever told you, “You should be a writer”?
3. Do you truly enjoy writing? Do you become absorbed in the music of your words? Do you feel a glow of accomplishment on completing a piece? If you’re miserable all through the procedure, and your only feeling afterward is thank-God-that’s-over, you won’t last long as a serious writer.
4. Do you have another, reliable, source of income? Some people do earn full-time upper-middle-class incomes from writing, but none of them started by quitting a job one day, dashing off a letter that evening, and receiving a book contract in the next day’s mail. If you don’t have access to a year’s worth of savings, a top-earning investment, or a spouse with a high salary—stay in your “regular” job until your writing income nears the cost-of-living level.
5. Do you have a record of finishing what you start? Even successful writers occasionally dread turning on those word processors. If you have a history of quitting everything non-essential to your livelihood the moment it gets boring, chances are you won’t finish your first book, either.
(Quick tip: Don’t start with a whole book; write some short stories or articles first. They take far less time to finish, lowering the risk of wearing yourself out. They don’t need agents for publication. And they can bring in extra income while you’re finishing that book.)
6. Are you prepared to stick in there for the long haul? Don’t expect instant fame and fortune. Even top writers aren’t always recognized at first. J. K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book took thirteen tries to sell. Dr. Seuss’s first picture book was rejected nearly thirty times.
And finding a publisher is only the start. Even after all the writing, editing, and re-editing is finished, you’ll have to do your part selling the book. Especially the first time, you’ll have to handle most of the publicity work—distributing review copies, arranging for book signings, sending out press releases. Your publisher will only take over once you become a top seller.
If you can honestly answer “yes” to all the preceding, you may indeed have what it takes to be a writer. Check Suite101’s other “writing” articles—plus the top writers’ magazines and Web sites (Writer’s Digest, The Writer, to learn how to get started!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Disparity by Carol J. Garvin

Carol J. Garvin wrote a beautiful post called Disparity that will most definitely touch your heart.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Taking a Sick Day

I'm still sick, so nothing profound today, just a cute video that will in no way enhance your writing, except maybe to give you a chuckle.

One day Rick was sick and stayed home in bed, but kept hearing water running downstairs. He finally tore himself from his sick bed to investigate, and stumbled onto the cause of such high water bills. Apparently this had been happening all day long when they were not at home. Knowing that few would believe him, he taped a segment of the 'problem' for posterity -- see attached video

Either that, or this cat knows something we don't.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Direct Address - Comma Use.

Today's writing tool is about comma use in dialogue with direct address. I see a lot of writers make a mistake by forgetting to insert a common in these instances, and thereby leaving the sentence meaning unclear. Hopefully this will help:

The rule is simple: when one character addresses another character directly in dialogue, their name is separate by a comma.

"Sharon, what's going on?"
"What's going on, Sharon?"
"John, Sharon wants to know what's going on."
"Sharon wants to know what's going on, John."
"How are you, Barbara?"
"Barbara, how are you?"
"Barbara, give Jane our best."
"Dear Kathy, how's it going?"

"Sharon wants help."
"John wants to know what's going on."
"How is Barb doing?"
"Dear Kathy is a darling girl."

While I'm under the weather with this annoying flu, I hope everybody's safe and warm. Our prayers to those fighting to survive in Haiti and for those who need the strength to keep searching. God Bless.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

We Lost Some Great Minds in 2009

Those of you who know me, know that Marilyn French was a huge influence on me as a woman and a writer. I can't think back to the beginning of my career without thinking of her.

She wasn't the only great mind that we lost in 2009. Here's a tribute...

Monday, January 11, 2010

We’re All in the Same Boat.

While I'm over at Carole Ann Carr's blog, introducing myself to her readers, please give a warm welcome to William R. Park Sr, author of Coma, The Franciscan, The Alpha Search, Overlay, and The Missing Hair Shirt.

Like me, most of you probably could paper the wall with rejection slips from literary agents and publishers. In today’s ‘profit-at-any-cost’ literary business world—very few are willing to take a chance on a new and unknown author as they may have in bygone days. If they do not immediately recognize your name, or an existing client doesn’t say, “You should take a look at this person’s work,” forget it. Your query or MS goes in the destroy-without-delay file.

I once received back a card from a publisher that featured a wide black border on all four sides. I didn’t know if it was a rejection slip or a death notice. Perhaps the CEO died. A top author in the suspense-thriller genre gave me his agent’s email address and said to contact him and use the author’s name. I did. The email reply said that the agent was not interested in representing another suspense-thriller author because he believed the genre was all but dead. And he represented one of the best and most successful suspense-thriller authors in the business. Give me a break.

After all four walls were plastered, I decided to go the route that most of you have taken: seek out a small publisher or self-publish. The first publisher of book one and two of The Franciscan Trilogy taught me a lesson. Watch out where you decide to place your trust.

I self-published the third book in the trilogy because I wanted it to drop a year after the second—so the trilogy could be complete. Then I went the small publisher route again. They did an excellent job with OVERLAY and The Dacian Resurgence—but in the end stiffed all their authors by closing down and keeping the royalties due. The publisher of COMA also did an excellent job—but now I’ve decided to give the major publishing houses another run. My New York literary agent loves and believes in all my work and is attempting to sell both unpublished novels and past work. Only time will tell how that works out—and in the meantime I continue writing.

During the past ten years I’ve had dozens of local and out-of-state book signings with varied success—including being interviewed on Public Radio and FOX-News. One highly successful book signing was at a winery. I mentioned their wine in my second novel, The Alpha Search. The winery invited all their customers to attend and served their wine, cheese, and chocolate. The author presented his case for the novel from the podium with a glass of wine in hand. Forty three books were sold that evening. Books and wine just go together. I suggest you try it.

Book signings were supported by Barnes & Noble and Borders Bookstore. They may claim their home offices refuse to carry novels and do not approve of book signings by novice authors. That’s not entirely true. I’ve always met with the manager or book buyer personally and invited them to coffee to begin a friendly conversation—and presented a signed copy of my novel. This eyeball to eyeball contact is important. In every case, they ordered books to stock and an additional amount for the signing. I prefer that the books appear in the correct genre area in the store as well as a few copies placed in the local author area. Hopefully they may even feature it near the checkout to see how well the book sells.

In my case, I have an advantage. My English-teacher wife edits my work (being a teacher, she doesn’t call it editing—but rather—correcting) and she does it with a red pen. When complete, it looks like she bled all over my manuscript. I’m certain she does mentally as well. My editor/wife attended one of my first Borders booking signings/readings. After a few minutes I pointed to the back of the room and introduced her. At a little over five foot nine she was hard to miss. Then told my story. We first met in that very store a few years earlier. I went on to say that obviously I was attracted to her and when I learned she had two degrees—one in English literature and the other in nursing—I know I had the best of two worlds. She could edit my work and when I sit drooling in my wheelchair, she could take care of me. Needless to say, she’s shrunk in size attempting to hide. That was the last literary event of mine she’s attended.

One thing I learned many years ago when writing advertising and television scripts is—don’t do the final proofread on your own work. We all read the work in the way we wrote it—and become blind to misspelled words and correctly spelled words but with the wrong meanings. Find someone with a keen eye to take the last look before sending it on to an agent or publisher. I did. Errors are an immediate turnoff to those you are hoping to impress.

Today’s book business is tough. But if we truly enjoy expressing ourselves on a white sheet of paper—we cannot quit. We can write and hope to rock the literary boat.

I’ll leave you with the old saying: When God leads you to the edge of the cliff, trust Him fully and let go. Only 1 of 2 things will happen, either He'll catch you when you fall, or He'll teach you how to fly!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Book Review: Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up.

Book Review: Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up by Martha Engber.

  • Paperback: 227 pages
  • Publisher: Central Avenue Press (Jun 15 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0971534489
  • ISBN-13: 978-0971534483
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.2 x 1.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 323 g

As a Canadian, any book I order from the United States is subject to high shipping costs and exchange rates. Consequently, when I finish the book, the number one question is always: am I satisfied?

I read Martha Engber's "Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up" in one day. By page 60, I had a pencil in my hand, a notebook on my lap, and knew without a doubt that I would come away a better writer for having read her book. Yes, I was satisfied! And I may never look at gardening the same way again.

Ms. Engber separates Growing Great Characters From the Ground up into three parts: Part One - The Groundwork, Part Two - The Right Seed, and Part Three - Growth, Cultivation, and Care. Part One has three chapters that explore what a character is, how to gather ideas, and how to narrow your selection. Part Two has two chapters that deal with planting the right seed and letting it sprout. Part Three has eight chapters that teach you freedom to grow, growing with your character, first impression, cultivating credibility, revealing your character, and lastly opening your character to critique. The book is complete with eleven exercises so that you, whatever your level, can capture the essence of what Ms Engbers teaches long before you begin the first draft of your fiction or non-fiction work.

Although she advocates completing her book before you ever write that first draft, do yourself a favour if you're a write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-writer, don't pass this book up. No matter your experience, there is a lot to be learned by reading this book. And if you're an old-timer who needs some inspiration because you've been looking at a blank screen for too damn long, know this: Read Ms Engber's book, try a few exercises, if not all eleven, and when you're finished and have applied what you've learned, I promise "[your]readers will understand what makes your character unique."

Martha Engber's book, Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up is destined to become a must-have for any writer keen on improving his craft and writing great characters. I highly recommend it. Now I'm off to rename my character.

--Happy Reading

Saturday, January 9, 2010

2008 Giller Prize Winner JOSEPH BOYDEN

The authors featured here with the help of MojoSupreme are exceptionally gifted writers of my generation. If you recognize their names, kudos. If you know what the Giller Prize is, then you know they are the pinnacle of Canadian literary success.

Joseph Boyden

Interview With Joseph Boyden Author of Through Black Spru...
Uploaded by MojoSupreme. - Parties, dorm life, and other college videos.

Excerpt of Through Black Spruce by Giller Prize winner Joseph Boyden:
"You know I was a bush pilot. The best. But the best have to crash. And I’ve crashed a plane, me. Three times. I need to explain this all to you. I was a young man when I crashed the first time. The world was wide open. I was scared of nothing. Just before Helen and I had our oldest boy. The first time I crashed I was drunk, but that wasn’t the reason I crashed. I used to fly a bush plane better with a few drinks in me. I actually believe my eyesight improved with whisky goggles on. But sight had nothing to do with my first crash. Wait. It had everything to do with it. Snowstorm. Zero visibility. As snow blinded my takeoff from the slick runway, I got the go-ahead with a warning from the Moosonee flight tower: harder snow coming..."

Friday, January 8, 2010

Interview with acclaimed author ANNE MICHAELS

Interview With Author Anne Michaels
Uploaded by MojoSupreme. - Full seasons and entire episodes online.

excerpt from chapter one of The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels:
"Avery leaned overboard, dipped his teacup into the river, then set the circle of water next to him. He chose a colour and let it seep into the soft hair of the brush, infused with river water. Gently he released its fullness across Jean's strong back. Sometimes he painted the scene before them, the riverbank, the ruinous works that never stopped, the growing pile of stone physiognomy. Sometimes he painted from memory, the Chiltern Hills, until he could smell his mother's lavender soap in the fading heat. He painted, beginning from childhood, until he was again man-frown. Then, almost the moment he finished, he dipped the cup again into the river and with clear water drew his wet brush through the fields, through the trees, until the scene dissolved, awash on her skin. ..."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

10 Guaranteed Ways to Succeed in Blogging

I'd like to believe I'm not alone and all bloggers struggle with blogging. Steve Snell addresses this issue on DailyBlogTips with 10 great tools. Here's the gist of what he suggests:

1. Building Significant Search Engine Traffic Will Take Time.
New blogs generally take several months, at least, before they gain enough trust from search engines to produce any type of significant flow of traffic. If you are planning to focus on search engines as your primary source of traffic, you would be well advised to also focus on some other sources of traffic, especially in the early months.
Building a blog that is search engine-friendly is critical if you want to maximize search traffic, so take care of that from the start and focus on creating great content that others will talk about and link to.
2. Not All Traffic Is Equal.
No two sources of traffic are quite the same. I get a good percentage of the traffic at my blog through social media, and I can attest to the fact that social media traffic is generally less responsive and less likely to stick around than visitors from most other sources. Focusing on stats without looking at the true results can cause a bit of an illusion. Sure, visitors are great, but are they leaving after being on the blog for 30 seconds and never returning?
Search engine traffic is highly sought after because these visitors are actively looking for what you have to offer. But other types of traffic have strong points too. Visitors who are referred from another blog will generally be more responsive since they have been recommended by someone they trust. Every source of traffic has pros and cons, so try to take these things into consideration when you are promoting your blog and analyzing the results.

There are more, but the point is if you're having problems with any facet of your blogging, there's help out there. You simply have to look. Lucky for us, experts, like Steve want to share. Check out his post.

Thanks Steve.

--Happy Blogging
 ps. Sorry to hear about the terrible weather on the east coast. We've got family over there, so here's hoping you keep warm.

Meanwhile, the views around our home:


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

ASK PZM - January

Ask PZM:

Q: My book is coming out in a few months. When is the best time to start marketing it?

The best time to start marketing a book is probably before you’ve written it. Thanks to social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, not to mention free blogging sites, you can start creating relationships with readers even before you write the first word.

Given that your book is coming out in a few months, you want to start connecting with potential readers RIGHT NOW. This does NOT mean joining Twitter and only tweeted about your upcoming book with a link to a website that announces “the best book you’ll ever read” (I’m not making this up – I just saw this).

It does mean sharing information from yourself and others related to the topic of your book. And it’s a very good idea to have a way of capturing emails for when your book is published. This way you have an easy tool for letting people know the book is now available for purchase.

For an example of capturing emails before a book is even written, see the website for the nonfiction book that author Carolyn Howard-Johnson and I plan to write – – and while you’re there, get the free report on blogging to promote fiction.

Q: I want to start on social networking. Which is the best general social networking site to join first?

This is not a one-size-fits-all answer. Much is dependent on your comfort level with different levels of privacy, different site environments, and time available to connect with potential readers of your book as well as potential book reviewers.

Now, in my opinion, as a book author you should want to be as publicly “seen” as possible. Obviously you have to be thoughtful about what personal information you reveal. (For example, I do not make my phone number public even on my own company website.)

What this does mean is that you definitely do not want to “lock” your tweets on Twitter. Therefore Twitter will probably be the most public site for your sharing of information, which can definitely be an advantage.

For your personal account on Facebook, for example, you are offered different levels of privacy and you are required to confirm friend requests. (There is no approval process on Twitter of who can follow you.) And LinkedIn also requires approval of who can connect with you. (Wearing my marketing “hat” I believe this is a big downside to both Facebook and LinkedIn.)

FYI – If you create a Facebook Fan Page anyone can become a fan – that’s the point – and Facebook has dramatically enhanced this application in recent months. If you want to learn how to set up a Facebook Fan Page (different from a group page) with effective keywords for Facebook search engines and external search engines, see

For a general social networking site (as opposed to a book networking site), I do believe that at this time Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are the best sites with which to start. Pick one and, after you are reasonably comfortable on that one, you can add the second and then the third site.

Send your questions for next month’s guest post to Joylene at and Joylene will forward your questions. You can ask to remain anonymous or have your name made public. It's entirely up to you. (If you do use your name, you can include your book title and website URL or another URL.)

Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is an Internet business consultant whose power marketing website is Get her free report “How to Become a Twitter Marketing Expert” at and her free report “Power Marketing’s Top 3 Internet Marketing Tips” at

Monday, January 4, 2010


Reminder: Phyllis Zimbler Miller's column ASK PZM airs on the 5th day of the month every month beginning tomorrow. Yes, it's already January 4th. Where did the time go?

For those of you who suffer from post-Christmas depression, here's a mental health link that's worth checking out: Lucy Robinson, Beating the New Year's blues.

Lucy writes "...Don’t place yourself under unnecessary pressure. As the start of the New Year we burden ourselves with unrealistic expectations about what the new year will bring and what we will achieve. We need to remember that we are not perfect and we shouldn’t expect too much of ourselves."

If you're in the southern States or somewhere in the world where it's warm, check out the view from my front window:

 Guinea and the hen are doing well, and I'm sure if they could, they'd wish you all a Happy New Year.