Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thank You Team Canada

By now we've all seen this photo a dozen times. The news must have shown the famous shot every fifteen minutes. It was a wonderful moment for all Canadians. And in the next few weeks, perhaps even longer, writers, philosophers, intellects will attempt to summarize why the moment was so precious to a country that seems so well adjusted. I'm wondering myself. From November 25th when our son carried the torch, from the opening ceremony right up to the closing, I feel like I'm a different person.

God Bless You, Canada.

Helpful Portrait Photography Tips by Christopher B. Derrick

Next to writing, I love photography of all sorts. So, imagine my delight when I found this site: courtesy of the PhotoArgus

One of the easiest things to do with your camera is take a portrait, and the majority of photos we take are images of ourselves, our loved ones, or complete strangers who have an uniqueness about them that we want to capture, save and show other people.  The spontaneous or posed portrait is a mainstay of the photographic canon.  However, that means 90% of them of boring stilted and uninspired. So how do you increase the punch of your portraits?  That’s what we’re going to talk about today, and hopefully you’ll improve your simple snap shots after reading this.

Portrait Photography Tips
Photo by rolands.lakis

Change Perspective
One of the first things to think about when taking photographs is the consider your perspective — most people just take out their camera, hold it up at eye level of the subject(s) and snap away.  But this is SOOOO boring… why not drop to one knee, place the camera and subject on the floor or get a higher vantage point.  One time we did a group photo of “the fellas” and we gathered in a circle, and positioned the camera to be looking straight up and we crowded around.  It took a few attempts to get it just right, but it’s one of my favorite group portraits.

Portrait Photography Tips
Photo by Laenulfean

Create a Candid Look
Another great trick for more interesting portraits is to have the subject look away from the camera.  When your subject’s eyes don’t bore directly down the lens barrel, it creates a more mysterious  nature and quality to the subject (you ask yourself as the viewer, “what is he or she looking at?”).  The portrait could look more like it was a “candid” photo, if you manipulate your subject this way.  Or if you have more than one person in the photo, have them look at each other… this connection jumps off the page.

Try Different Lens
Also, don’t rely on the “standard” lens; in that people expect you to take portrait with a 50mm to 85mm, by why not try a 24mm?  Sure there’s gonna a bit of distortion of your subject’s features, but that might make the photo (image if your lover held her hand out — it would appear much larger, and the overall image and composition will have a different feel… and that’s what you want).  The non-standard lens issue leads me to another tip, junk all the so-called “composition rules”; so the Rules of Thirds is the first one to go.  Why?  Because sometimes a face dead-center, full-frame is more powerful than anything else or if the face is at the edge of the frame (most of it being truncated) can also be just as powerful in its own way.
A few other suggestions are: use a prop – people love to play with things and it brings out their personality, focus on a body part that’s not the subject’s face (and therefore exclude the face), use the “burst” mode on your digital camera (something that I learned when I first got a point-n-shoot) and you can emulate the photo booth effect.  Experiment, experiment, experiment… otherwise, you’re not pushing yourself or the art.
These just are few tips and techniques and things to think about when designing your next portrait.  Portraits should have a personality to themselves that reveals the photographer and the subject.  That’s how people will remember your work as your work…

Top image by Eddy Van 3000

Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a writer, photographer, screenwriter and director living and working in Los Angeles. He studied film production and screenwriting at the University of Southern California, and continued to expand his photographic knowledge through classes at the Art Center College of Design.


Friday, February 26, 2010

Flash-Mob Dancing in Downtown Vancouver 2010.

Courtesy of Canwest and the Vancouver Sun:

Vancouver 2010: Flash Dance February 25, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


In recognition of BC hosting the Olympics, here's a beautifully narrated video I first saw on Shari's blog. Please do check out Canadian writer Shari Green. She writes teen fiction, dabbles in Teaser Tuesday, and has the grand distinction of being Carol J. Garvin's daughter. Thank you for bringing this video to our attention, Shari. I came away feeling very patriotic. Tom Brokaw's primary reason was to explain Canada to his fellow Americans, but I can't help wondering if our young know all this stuff.

Yay Canada!

If you should be forbiding access, (it does that sometimes) try

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I saw this commercial on someone's blog last week, but now I can't remember where. Whoever you are, thanks. And sorry for my poor memory. The commercial is definitely worth noting. We lost our dear son Jack in a car accident in 1992, and so be forewarned that this will have impact if you've experienced a similar tragedy.

Monday, February 22, 2010

DEAD WITNESS, a review by Christine Hart

Yes, it's true, I never get tired of receiving rave reviews about my suspense thriller Dead Witness. Here's one from Christine Hart. Thank you, Christine!  

How far would a mother go to protect her children (5 stars)

Dead Witness is the best kind of rollercoaster ride in the park! A slow ominous beginning rolls forward, building tension as the bumps ahead come into view. By the time our heroine Valerie McCormick is on her vigilante mission to take down a cartel boss where the FBI had failed, sub-plots keep us rocketing along. From her husband's potential betrayal and her brother's brave search for her – to the continuing mystery around her parents' death – Valerie's life is spiraling towards a dark conclusion.

Author Joylene Butler has crafted a skillfully woven narrative around a simple question: How far would a mother go to protect her children? Valerie's actions answer resoundingly in her heroic journey into the dangerous world of psychotic career criminals, armed only with passion and tenacity. In the face of certain death, she discovers the full extent of her physical and emotional capabilities.

Dead Witness is highly recommended for mystery lovers and anyone from BC who would enjoy reading their own small towns threaded into an international thriller.

by Christine Hart

For your interest, Christine, the author of Best Laid Plans, also creates the most stunning jewelry. You can check them out at her site -

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Please welcome back guest columnist Katherine Swarts, Spread the Word's founder.

Could You Be a Full-time Writer?
A Half Dozen Hints for Taking the Plunge
Writing a book or two is one thing--making writing your sole source of income is another. Ask yourself these six questions before you quit your salaried job.

It may happen after the third book in your series. It may happen after your first novel. It may even happen while you’re still deciding whether to become a writer at all.
But sooner or later, every serious author wonders: Why not quit my “regular” job and write for a living?
For one thing, it’s rarely an adequate living. Only a tiny percentage of writers, mostly commercial or nonfiction specialists, make even $25,000 a year from their word processors. J. K. Rowling notwithstanding, there are few rags-to-riches stories in the fiction field.
But if you insist on considering the full-time option, ask yourself:
1. What is your current writing income? Unless you’re virtually debt-free, with enough savings (or salaried household members) for six to twelve months, the worst thing you can do is quit your job and then start writing. Beginners commonly delude themselves that their talent is so obvious, and publishers so desperate for decent material, that everything will sell immediately. In real life, it takes two or three years to write and publish a high-selling book, or to reach the point of a story a week in major magazines. Wait to go full-time until your monthly writing income reaches at least a few thousand.
2. Are you prepared to write for several hours each day? What was a welcome evening diversion after a day at the office, can become boring when expanded to forty hours a week. Are you willing to give as much time as to any other job?
3. Can you take the isolation? Even if you have no trouble writing all day, you may find yourself going crazy for the sound of another human voice, if only from down the hall. One way to ease the transition is to telecommute, if possible, during the last few months of your current job. (If you hate those few months, at least you’ll know to reconsider quitting!) And after you’re full-time at home, mingle regularly with fellow writers through critique groups and conferences.
4. Are you a good time manager? Some authors, having quit “day jobs” to write full-time, get less done in forty hours than they did in ten. Unstructured time easily turns into wasted time. So before you make writing your regular job, prepare a formal schedule: a specific number of pages (or hours) in the morning; definite limits for lunch and other breaks; a minimum number of submissions a week. And if you don’t have an agent or publisher setting deadlines for you, set some yourself!
5. Are you prepared for a feast-or-famine income—and to put money “in the freezer” for the famine periods? No income flow is completely predictable—even full-time, long-term employees get laid off without warning—but the self-employed are particularly vulnerable to whims of the market. Popular series lose steam. Bestseller markets collapse. New editors remake magazines in new images. If you spend money as fast as it comes in, letting credit bills run up, never putting anything in savings, you may end up looking for a new “regular” job just to avoid bankruptcy. (Incidentally, this can happen even to writers whose work stays on the bestseller lists. The income hasn’t been invented that no one is capable of outspending!)
6. Do you have a business plan? Where do you want to be in a year? Five years? What will be your next three projects? Have you made budgets for travel and publicity?
If you’re still convinced you have what it takes to be a full-time novelist, go for it. May your name always adorn library shelves!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


In our last exercise from Donald Maass' workbook, Writing The Breakout Novel Workbook, we talked about changing your protagonist so s/he was anything but too predictable. Today's exercise centres around your antagonist, whether they be a character, place, thing, or life itself. Mr. Maass advises that you do everything necessary to make your antagonist well-rounded, an equal match for your protagonist, and a character that we believe we understand. That last part interests me, so we'll deal with it last. For now, I want you to come along for the ride and see if you can turn your cardboard cutout into an antagonist as fascinating and memorable as Hannibal Lector. How to succeed is also too large a topic to cover completely in this post today; however, what's below should point you in the right direction.

1. Write down your antagonist's name? __________________________________

In Dead Witness, I have two antagonists: brothers Miguel and Vicente DeOlmos.

2. What is the most important thing to your antagonist? __________________________________________

Miguel DeOlmos honours family above all things. Vicente worships his brother and would do anything to gain his respect.

3. What does your antagonist want? ________________________________________________________
Miguel DeOlmos wants Valerie McCormick dead so that his dynasty remains intact. He believes Valerie's death protects his family and those most loyal to him. Vicente wants anyone who threats his brother's safety destroyed. He also desires that others fear him.

4. What five important moments or actions are crucial to your antagonist and must be part of your story?





First - Miguel appoints his brother in charge of eliminating Valerie so that Vincente feels a part of the family struggle to overcome this adversity. Second - He sends a man to Prince George, Canada to kill Valerie. Third - after Valerie is supposedly dead, as a precaution, Miguel sends someone to watch her family. I won't list the rest so as to not spoil the story for you if you happen to buy a copy.

But go ahead and list the five most important happenings that must stay in your story because they move your antagonist closer to obtaining his goal. If your antagonist isn't a character, there should still be 5 events that move the story forward and get in the way of your protagonist obtaining his goal. Remember: These five or more events, actions, steps must happen to move the story toward its conclusion and, in doing so, create suspense, conflict and thrills for your reader.

Donald Maass ends the chapter by suggesting that your antagonist be on an inner journey just as your protagonist is. The most successful antagonist are a mirror image of your hero. They want, they need, and they desire. They also must appear larger than life, human beings with emotions. Donald also suggests you go one step further and give them a moment of kindness, joy, happiness, or compassion. But don't forget: your antagonist should be truly frightening and don't forget evil. That might be a difficult combination to come up with, but if you do, be assured that your manuscript will be noticed.

Excerpt from Dead Witness by Joylene Nowell Butler   


From the stern of his yacht, Miguel DeOlmos looked first at the calm waters of Puget Sound and then the city surrounding his boat. His soldier, Lope Ramirez had served him diligently for many years. For that Miguel had shown his gratitude. Lope’s only child, Rosa, living in San José del Cabo, had been well taken care of. After her graduation from high school last spring, Miguel had arranged a position for her at one of his hotels on the Sea of Cortez.

And what had he asked for in return?
For several days, Lope had been acting suspicious: sullen and distracted; going so far as to argue with Reynaldo in Miguel's presence. And now Lope's inability to see the woman before she witnessed the disposing of the greedy gringos threatened everything Miguel had worked for. If the family empire fell, Miguel would accept his fate, but what would become of his hermanito Vicente? Although a grown man, Vicente would never survive on his own; his mind was that of a child's.
Miguel relaxed his clenched jaw, his tight fists, freeing himself of his anger. With his emotions now in check, he faced Lope. "Contact Sanchez and tell him to send the seaplane. Then prepare the boat. When we are airborne, instruct the captain to continue through the locks. Someone will pick him up."
"Si, patrón. ¿Y la mujer?"
The sun’s brutal intensity was of no consequence, and Miguel did not blink. The soldier standing before him had become a threat, and Miguel could barely tolerate his presence. After all these years, did Lope not understand that family meant everything to him? "I will take care of the woman. Contact Sanchez."
"Si, patrón, but allow me to assure you the woman was not in the area when we arrived. I searched the grounds. There was no one."
 Miguel lowered his head but kept his glare on Lope.
"I will contact General Sanchez over the secured line." Lope turned and rushed to the radio communication center.
Miguel was sitting on the white leather bench, his eyes half-closed, his arms crossed, his mind saddened, when Lope returned. "Well?" he asked.
"General Sanchez has given the pilot the coordinates. He will meet us in ten minutes. As soon as you are safely aboard, the captain will take the boat through the locks. When he reaches open sea, he will sink the boat and escape on the dingy. The Coast Guard will find nothing."
 Miguel raised his eyes. "You have been with me how long?"
Lope stood rigid, as if to ward off the blow. The flesh under his eyes paled. "Since 1990, patrón. Six years." 
"They have been good years?"
"Si, patrón," he said in a quiet, strained voice. "They have been good years."
"You made a mistake today. You said the area was clear."
The Adam's apple in Lope's neck clawed for freedom. "Give me any order and I will obey without question. I will not fail you again," he said.
"Any order?"
Lope swallowed hard and wet his lips again. He stood at attention; his gaze fixed on the land behind Miguel. "Si, patrón."
"Está bien." Miguel saw the relief on Lope's face. "I do have one order." He unfolded his arms, his right hand gripping his gun. He pointed the 9mm at Lope's head, ignored the horror on his face, and said, "Die." Then he squeezed the trigger.

* * *

In reference to Donald Maass' comment about needing to believe you understand the antagonist. I agree with him, though I'm not sure I want to. To admit I understand Hannibal Lecter is a disturbing thing. What does that say about me? Perhaps it's part of the requirements of being a writer: I need to see, understand and appreciate even the most evil character ever created. Can I write a convincing antagonist otherwise?
Now it's your turn, what does your antagonist want?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Guest Blogging on Bertram's Blog

My friend, Pat Bertram, is spotlighting an excerpt of my novel Dead Witness on her blog Dragon My Feet this morning. And that's not all. I'm also guest blogging on her blog, Bertram's Blog. Thank you, Pat. It's the generosity of friends like Pat that has me waking up thanking God every morning.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Being interviewed never gets old. I'd like to thank Kim Kouski for interviewing me for her site:
It was fun, Kim. Thanks.

Self publishing is one of those territories that I always looked at with curiosity and bit of fear until I met Joylene!! She made everything clear for me and now Self publishing isn’t so scary.  Thanks, Joylene, for a wonderful and cool interview!!

1)      Why did you choose self-publishing instead of ebooks or traditional publishing?
    A writer-friend suggested I print a copy of Dead Witness for Lulu as a keepsake. When my book arrived, my family was so excited that they talked me into printing more. I decided on 100 because I thought that would cover friends and family. When they sold the first week, I ordered 125 more. They sold within the month. One day, a provincial chain-store called, said they loved my book and would I consider stocking their shelves. I said, "Thank you so much, but I haven't anymore, and they're too expensive to print." They suggested I call Sandhill Book Distributors. I did, and the owner said she'd need to read the book before making a decision. A few weeks later, I signed a contract. The owner, Nancy Wise suggested I contact Hignell Book Printers in Manitoba. I did. We made a deal and I had 1000 copies printed and shipped to Sandhill.

2)      What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
    The pros are that you have total control over every aspect of your book from the context to the cover. The cons are it's expensive. You pay for everything. Did I mention how expensive it is to ship books? There's nobody to help market your book, and most stores won't work with a self-published author. Everything is your responsibility. If your book fails, it fails because you didn't do your job.

3)      How does one pick a good self-publisher and what makes a good self-publisher?
    You definitely have to do your homework. Compare prices. Read the fine print. Ask other self-published authors. Will the company help distribute? Will they provide advertising? What do they offer in the way of marketing? Compare. Never ever choose the first one you see. Reputation means everything. You have to deal with bookstores and retail people in a professional manner. You have to believe in your product. Stores want to know that your product is good and that they won't be wasting their time or space stocking their shelves.

4)      How much should one pay for a self-publisher?
    In Canada, the average rate is $3.00 per book per 1000. That doesn't include shipping. To cut costs, the more you print, the more you save. I've heard of places in America that are as little as $2.25 per book.

5)      How do you market your books?
    Hopefully, you won't rush into like I did, but will plan ahead, at least six months. Have your book edited by a professional editor. Prepare media releases, find book reviewers, contact libraries, bookstores, retailers. Print out bookmarks, posters, and postcards. Make a list of outlets that would love to sell your product. Build a blog, webpage and networking community. Set up interviews closer to your release date. Contact bookstores and made bookings. Join your local Friends of the Library. Join as many online marketing sites as possible. There are experts everywhere willing to teach you their secrets. Take them up on it. Pay for a professional book trailer.
6)      Do you have any secrets to marketing that you’d want to share?
    Luckily, with today's technology, there are no secrets. At least, I haven't found any. Believe in your book. Be prepared to sell yourself. Remember that everything you do online is out there for the world to see. Agents and publishers do look at author pages. They're searching for the next J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and J.R.R Tolkien. Make your presence known.

7)      What mistakes did you make that you want to warn others about regarding the self-publishing world?
    I didn't prepare for publication properly. I didn't market myself beforehand. I had no idea how much time, money and effort was involved. I didn't know the market, nor did I understand what it means to promote my work. I had no idea that it would take 80 hours a week, then several more hours on top of that. 

8)      What is the process for publishing a self-published book?
    Okay, your book is ready. It's gone through several online writer workshops. It's been critiqued by the best writers you could find. It's been edited by a professional editor. Start marketing yourself online. Build a credible blog. Make your presence known on Facebook, Gather, Book Place and anywhere else that you believe counts. Prepare your synopsis, query package, and marketing kit. Join blogs like Janet Reid, Literary Agent, ProBlogger Blog Tips, Jordan McCollum, and Write to Done. These people have invaluable tips to share; take advantage of them. Make sure your book is format-perfect. Make your cover standout. Perfect your backcover blurb. Have your picture done by a professional. This is about making you a real person to your reader, not just a name. Borrow marketing books from your nearest library. Find reviewers to review your book before it comes out. Consider providing books on tape. Have a professional book trailer made. After your book is printed, you'll have to distribute it, so find a distributer. Contact radio and newspaper. Set up a virtual book tour. And don't forget to take a multi-vitamin at least six months in advance. You'll need it.

9)      What do you say to others who may poo-poo the self-publishing process?
    Self-published authors aren't any different than traditionally published authors. Some are outstanding, some are good, while some are mediocre and even terrible. But you can't judge a book by its cover or by who published it. If an author does all of the above, then it shouldn't matter who published the book. It should be graded on content.

10)  What kind of success have you had with self-publishing?
    When the provincial chainstore Save On Foods called and asked if they could stock my book, it made all the difference in the world. It was their recommendation to Sandhill Books that prompted Sandhill to connect me with Hignell Printers, and that led to Canada's chainstore Chapters.Indigo. All of this gave me credibility when I approached independent bookstores like Books and Company and Black Bond Books. I made a connection with the local radio station and read during their storytellers segment every Monday for months. And when Sandhill recommended me to Theytus, that lead to me signing a contract for Theytus to publish my second novel Broken But Not Dead in 2011. This is a relatively small success in the publishing industry, but I'm thrilled.

11)  Would you do self-publishing again? Why?
    No. It's expensive no matter how experienced you are. Sure I could probably cut costs this time, but honestly, it's easier with the help of a publisher, no matter how small. But I've got friends who wouldn't do it any other way.

12)  Go ahead and promote your books any way you wish.
    Thanks. Dead Witness is available at, Books and Company, and Black Bond Books. Not to mention and
Synopsis of Dead Witness, ISBN: 97809810305009000
    Valerie McCormick is a wife and mother from small town Canada. While visiting Seattle, she becomes the only witness to the brutal seaside murder of two FBI agents. When she flees to the nearest police station to report the crime, she becomes caught up in a web of international intrigue and danger. Suddenly, she and her family are in the sights of ruthless criminals bent on preventing her from testifying against the murderer. Even with FBI protection, Valerie is not safe. Whisked away from her family and all that is familiar to her, Valerie fights back against the well-intentioned FBI to ultimately take control over her life with every ounce of fury a mother can possess.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Compliments of Alex Sokoloff and her definition of High Concept, she includes a link to Wordplay and Terry Rossio's article on Mental Real Estate. As Rossio explains, mention something, and people either recognize it or they don't. In Canada, Mental Real Estate might be Tim Hortons, Terry Fox, Celine Dion, Cindy Klassen or Shania Twain. Some say using such a device is a cop out. Some say it's a shoe in. What do you think?

Terry Rossio co-wrote with Ted Elliot: SHREK, ALADDIN, and THE MASK OF ZORRO, to name a few.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I've been presented the Sunshine Award for inspiring bloggers by fellow blogger Cher Green. Thank you, Cher. I love awards and being nominated is a surprise and a big treat. I love the chance to thank those bloggers who have come before me and to celebrate a new list with you.

The rules for accepting the Sunshine Award are:
- Put the logo on your blog or within your post.
- Pass the award onto 12 bloggers.
- Link the nominees within your post.
- Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
- Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.

These are 12 blog sites that stand out as the altimate place to go for sunshine and knowledge. Thank you, everyone. I hope you enjoy your award as much as I enjoy your blogs.

Careann's Musings - Carol Garvin

JaxPop - Dave Elbright

Katts Komments - Kathryn Neff Perry

Kim Smith

Christopher Hoare

A.F. Stewart

Marta Stephens

Children's Books at the Cake and Custard - Carole Anne Carr

Meg Westley

Christine Hart

Bronzeword Latino Authors - JoAnn Yolanda Hernandez

Pat Brown

Bertram's Blog - Pat Bertram

Thank you for always inspiring me.

--Happy Sunshine

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Another way of looking at the exercise Donald Maass includes in his book Writing the Breakout Novel -- that focuses on helping you enlarge the qualities of your protagonists/characters -- is to think how you can make your character unforgettable. Who hasn't heard of Hannibal Lector, Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins, or Leopold Bloom? By adding tidbits of humour, action, internalization, by heightening what s/he says, does, and thinks, you give the reader a character that will stay with them, in a story where every moment counts. Take a violent situation and tone down your protagonist's response. Take a dark scene and add humour or emotion. Add a line of dialogue that is totally unexpected. Make the changes to your manuscript. Give your reader a character they'll never forget.

--Happy Writing

Sunday, February 7, 2010


In Donald Maass' book Writing the Breakout Novel workbook, he suggests pushing your character's reaction to the limit by having s/he do something outrageous, something that would be otherwise completely out-of-character. Yet believable. Heighten any scene lacking in suspense, tension or conflict by showing your protagonist saying or doing something sillier, weirder or sexier than ever expected. Something unpredictable.

In Season One, Episode 19, of television series: Veronica Mars, Veronica defends a nerdy girl from being hassled by bullies in a crowded hallway at school. Veronica gets in the bully's face and berates him in front of everyone. Not a surprising reaction, if you understand who Veronica is. But what she does next is totally out-of-character and therefore unpredictable. When Mandy rushes after her to thank Veronica for coming to her defence, (nobody has ever defended her before) Veronica turns on her. She demands to know why Mandy doesn't stick up for herself, why she lets these people treat her so poorly. She then walks away, leaving a shocked and humiliated Mandy in her wake.

In his workbook, Mr. Maass also suggests doing the opposite of making your protagonist's qualities bigger than life. Take 20+ moments in your book and tone down your character's dialogue, action, reaction or internalization. Make it smaller, quieter, understated and unpredictable
In my novel Dead Witness, protagonist Canadian Valerie McCormick witnesses the execution-murder of two FBI agents while on holidays in Seattle. Valerie is married to a high-maintenance Ed. For eighteen years, she's kept the peace in her marriage by ignoring his outbursts. That's why this scene from chapter five comes as a surprise.

  Ed rolled his eyes at her and looked back to the road. "You don't listen. I told you last week they laid off thirty management staff."
  "I'm trying to help. Stop acting like I'm your enemy." She took a deep breath, determined not to argue. "I'll ask Aidan to keep his ears open. He knows a lot of people."
  "Yeah, right. Ask your brother. The famous private eye will know where there’s a great paying job that'll lift us out of this damn recession. Of course, ask Aidan."
  "That's unfair. He always tries to be there for us."
  "You mean he's always made sure I look like a failure in front of my family."
  She opened her mouth to say something but took another deep breath instead. Arguing would prove nothing; it never did. Besides, they'd be home soon. Arguing in front of the girls was forbidden. It was a promise neither of them had ever broken.
  "Aidan's a thorn in my side," Ed added. "And always has been."
  But the girls weren't there, and Valerie couldn't let that go. "Shut up about my brother. I owe him, and so do you."
  Ed kept his eyes forward and had the good sense not to say anything else.
In chapter two of my WIP Omatiwak: Woman Who Cries, Serious Crime Investigator Danny Killian enters the kitchen of retired MP Leland Warner and his wife Sally Warner. Leland lays dead in a puddle of blood on the floor. There's blood and brain splatter across the marble island. Investigators are everywhere collecting DNA. Coroner Betsy Spenser, concentrating on the remains, has the victim's mouth open and is examining his throat and tongue. The scene would be dramatic for any layman. It's a serious situation, a tense moment, and all those involved are taking their job seriously.

Here's an example that may or may not end up in the book:

Betsy looked up at him. "Danny – good morning. Sorry, I didn’t see you.” She flung her wrist high, exposing her watch, and checked the time. “I’m a little surprised I beat you here.” Her eyebrows furrowed. “Is everything okay?"
He stuffed the tissue back into his pocket. Had he become such a creature of habit already that even the coroner saw a difference in him? But why shouldn’t he be expected to mourn the death of his wife and keep his private life private? The grief counsellor said he had to allow himself time and permission to grieve. Okay. But he'd already been doing that.  Most days he coped just fine. Today was different because it would have been his seventh wedding anniversary. Tomorrow, everything would be back to normal; or at least whatever normal meant these days.
The coroner was patiently studying him.
"Morning, Betsy. Yeah, everything’s fine. What can you tell me?"
She hesitated, then gestured toward the window and the small hole. "The victim was shot and the bullet's outside."
"Ah, good to know."
Now you give it a try. Pick 20+ scenes in your WIP and make your character unpredictable by making his dialogue, action, thoughts smaller or bigger than expected.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Spent the day working on my WIP so I could post another exercise from Donald Maass' book Writing The Breakout Novel Workbook tomorrow. To celebrate my small accomplishment, I've been surfing the net looking for interesting sites. Came across an awesome website called Smashing Tips with 25 plus examples of natural sky photographs. If you've stopped by my blog before, you know I love posting pics of Cluculz Lake's sunrises and sunsets.

Here's a sunset photo I took from our deck October 5, 2009:

 Here are a few from Smashing Tips:

Couldn't post the name of the photographers because they didn't accompany the photographs. If you love this kind of stuff, check out the rest at

Friday, February 5, 2010

ASK PZM - February

Thanks for your questions, everyone. Here's Phyllis' answers:

Do I need a website for my book? And if so, when do I need it?

Recently author Carolyn Howard-Johnson and I had a conversation with a literary agent about our proposed nonfiction book about marketing fiction. The agent seemed to question the need for every book to have its own website, while Carolyn and I were definitely on the side that every book needs its own site.

It was only after the conversation ended that I realized what the agent said that I hadn’t focused on. She was talking about whether every book needed a website individually programmed by a web guy that could end up costing the publisher or the author thousands of dollars. That’s the kind of website she was talking about.

As she asked us to add some additional material for the book proposal, I wrote a chapter about book author websites starting with why this type of expensive book website is not needed. Then I went on to write that a dedicated website for your book – not a page on a publisher’s site – is needed for numerous reasons, including establishing your professionalism.

Is this a contradiction? Not at all. Thanks to the availability of lower-cost solutions such as WordPress websites/blogs, authors can have dedicated book sites without spending wads of money.

This brings us to the timetable of when that site should go live.

It seems to me that, as long as you are going to have a website, why not have it live as soon as possible? This way you can use it as a “home” for building your fan base through blogging, social media, YouTube videos, etc. For an example, see the website for Carolyn’s and my proposed book at

Should I tell my literary agent or publisher that I insist on the title that I originally gave my book?
This is a flat no. Agents and publishers have a history of selling different types of books, and a book title can be a very important element of that marketing/sales plan.

On the other hand, if the title is horrendous -- by which I mean so forgettable that even you can’t remember it -- this might be the time to ask your agent to go to bat for you with your publisher.

FYI – Carolyn and I have changed the title of our proposed nonfiction book several times already. And we are prepared to change it again and again.

If I am self-publishing my book, should I pay the added expense of having a professional copyeditor?
This is a flat yes. Nothing screams amateur as quickly and as loudly as typos and spell-check errors on every page.

There’s no law that says a good writer must be a good editor, although it does help. But you can get outside help if you’re not a good editor. And sometimes you’ve just seen the same words one too many times.

FYI – I taught copyediting courses at Temple University in Philadelphia a long time ago. And I copyedited my own novel MRS. LIEUTENANT over and over again. Then after I self-published the book, my mother told me I had used the wrong woman’s name in one scene. Would an outside copyeditor have picked this up? I sure hope so.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the co-founder of Miller Mosaic Power Marketing. You can get her free report “How to Become a Twitter Expert” at

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How To Write a Novel.

Check out Alexandra Sokoloff's blog, author of The Unseen, The Price, and The Harrowing, if you're interested in How to Write A Novel - From Start to Finish. She'll start right at the beginning with the perfect idea, then go from there, mapping out over several posts exactly what to do to finish. Ladies and gentlemen, this is an opportunity of a lifetime at your fingertips. If you've always dreamed of writing a novel, do yourself a favour and follow Alex' posts.


- Phyllis Zimbler Miller's ASK PZM column is aired February 5th. If you have a question for Phyllis, send it to me at cluculzwriter at yahoo dot ca and I'll make sure she gets it in time to post her answer on the 5th.

- My guest blogger, Katherine Swarts is back on the 20th with a post titled: Someday I'll Write That Bestseller.

While you're here, for your entertainment pleasure: the legendary Bob Dylan and Things Have Changed.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Magic and Power of MUSIC

Someone's blog asked the other day if music was important to writing. The question made me smile because I thought music and writing went hand in hand. Judging by the many replies, I wasn't alone.

Back in the late 70s, I had the privilege of seeing Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald on stage at the Queen E in Vancouver. It was a magical evening. Music smoother than silk. And we sat three rows from the stage! Immediately behind me was Art Carney and his teenage son and daughter. He was in Vancouver filming Harry and Tonto. I could hear him explaining to his kids what a thrill this was and hopefully they would never forget it. I never did. When Ms. Ella hit that high note, you want to bet everyone in that audience covered their ears.