Monday, March 29, 2010

PAGE READERS talks with Joylene Nowell Butler author of "Dead Witness"

Today, at 10 AM PST precisely, I'll be speaking on blogtalkradio with Nanci Arvizu from Page Readers. We'll discuss my suspense thriller Dead Witness, the process of writing a novel, self-publishing, and my next novel Broken But Not Dead, due to be released by Theytus Books 2011. Hope you're able to join us. If you call in, I'll try to answer any questions you might have.

If you can't reach my interview by clicking on PAGE READERS, either link below can be copy and pasted into a new window.

Warning: when I'm nervous, I speak too fast, hence it sounds like I'm gasping for breath during my interview.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010


In his book, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, Donald Maass suggests that too many manuscripts end up in the slush pile because of backstory overload. As writers, we think if we don't include enough background, the reader won't understand the protagonist's motivation or actions. But what we end up doing is stopping the story dead by boring our reader. How many times have you struggled with the opening of a good book because the author couldn't curtail the about of history? And when was the last time you met someone, who within the first moments of being introduced, told you everything about themselves? Come to think of it, I did meet a girl once who felt the need to share her life story.  I remember her face and even her name, but I don't remember what she said.

Backstory (history or background) is a literary device that we writers use to add drama to our stories. Think, Sophie's Choice. Do you remember that moment when it was finally disclosed how, during the Nazi occupation, Sophie was forced to choose which child to send to the gas chamber? Her son or her daughter.

Either through memories or flashbacks or just narrative recollection, backstory lends depth to who the protagonist is and why he's in his present predicament. Unfortunately, if used wrong, it weakens the story. The secret is to know when to add it.

Remember the first time you met your spouse. Do you think you'd be together today if s/he had told you everything within that first meeting? No. It took time to hear his story, to learn his secrets. For instance, my husband discovered my fear of heights during the construction of our current home, some 20 years after we'd met. He asked me to climb three levels of scaffolding to help him paint the window frames. Why did it take that long for him to find out that I was afraid of heights? The subject had never come up before.

Sadly, there is no secret formula for knowing when to apply backstory and when not to. The trick is to entice your reader with red-herrings. If possible, try to hold back for at least the first three chapters. A hint here or there is fine, but don't feel the need to bog down the story by stopping to reveal too much too fast. Let the story unfold.

In Dead Witness, Valerie witnesses the execution of two FBI agents. As the shock wears off, she thinks about the agents' families. Why? Because Valerie's parents died when she was fourteen; she understands that kind of pain. That information is revealed in chapter three, but not elaborated upon. She remembers the night the police came to her door, but how and why her parents died still isn't revealed. And though she thinks of her parents often, it's not until chapter seventeen that her brother Aidan adds to the suspense by admitting to a friend he was wrong about his dad's death being a contract killing. Finally, in chapter twenty-one, Valerie explains how and why her parents died.

In one of my current WIPs, my detective is grieving the unsolved murder of his wife six month previous. Her death has nothing to do with the current investigation, but its impact on him never leaves. In my first five drafts, I struggled with how much information I should reveal to my reader. It was only when I used deep POV that I was able to understand how much he would naturally let surface.

Backstory can be burdensome but also vital to your story. As with all other aspects of writing, listen to what your critique partners are saying, get your hands on a copy of Donald Maass' book, and revise, revise -- revise.

Happy Writing!

Saturday, March 20, 2010


A Half Dozen Hints for Making Time To Write 
© 2010 Katherine Swarts

For all who are serious about becoming authors, but despair of ever being able to fit writing time into their schedules.
One thing that separates true writers from wannabes is that wannabes spend almost no time actually writing, but plenty of time talking about their writing dreams. And a good deal of that talk is about “when I find time to write”:
“That would make a good book—I’ll write it all down if I ever find time.”
“I’ve got a great idea for a novel—I’ll write it as soon as I find time.”
“I could be the next John Grisham, if I could just find time to write.”
Most such people never do find time—because they keep hoping for weeks or months of empty hours waiting to be filled. Nothing else happening. No other responsibilities. No interruptions.
No such thing.
Real writers don’t waste time waiting to find time. They make definite plans to write during the time they have.
Here’s how:
1. Make up your mind first. Repeat until it sinks in, “I am a writer, and writers make time to write.” Firmly believing this also helps you deal with people who consider their interruptions more important than your “hobby.”
2. Don’t feel you must write a whole book—or even a chapter—at every sitting. Think of writing as a marathon rather than a sprint. A page a day, six days a week, equals a three-hundred-page manuscript within a year—and still allows you Sundays and holidays off.
3. Be prepared to make sacrifices. If you’re typical, you’ll be working around a full-time job, family responsibilities, and other interests or hobbies. As the first step in planning your writing schedule, list all the things you do regularly. Then decide which of these you absolutely cannot give up—such as family time, church, or your garden. The remaining items—evening television, computer games, sleeping late on weekends—are things you can “trade” for writing time. Be ruthless; many things you “can’t live without” are actually, on second look, expendable.
Once you’ve decided what you can give up, remove all temptations to go back to it. Take drastic measures where necessary: cancel a club membership; delete all games from your computer; lock the TV room and give your spouse the only key.
4. Literally write writing time into your schedule. Once it’s in your daily planner, it’s hard to excuse neglecting it.
Plan on writing for at least fifteen minutes a day, five or six days a week. Try for the same time slot every day, preferably one when your mind is at its clearest—before work if you’re a morning person, before supper or bed if you function best in the evening.
5. If you’re desperate for writing time, get up half an hour earlier (if you’re a morning person), or go to bed half an hour later (if you’re a night person). No more than half an hour at first. If you show no symptoms of sleep deprivation after a month, and you still want to write more, you can consider extending your “extra” waking time to an hour. Know when to stop, though. Trying to live on four hours of nightly sleep will come back to haunt you.
6. Stick with your new writing schedule, no matter how hard it seems at first. After a month it’ll be a habit, and continuing will be little trouble.
But while continuing may soon be easy, getting started may pose a problem unrelated to time. What do you do if you genuinely want to write, are willing to make time to write—but can't think of anything to write about? The next article will explore that question.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Interview with Joylene Nowell Butler

I'm being interviewed at Susan Whitfield's blog this morning. Hope you can stop by.


Thursday, March 18, 2010


We've had such strong winds this week that they actually blew my satellite off the roof of our house. Heard a loud whacking sound Tuesday night and looked up in time to see the dish swinging toward the front window. DH caught it in the nick of time. Being without my computer is never a good thing. To top that off, DH had knee surgery yesterday. They instructed us to be at the hospital (60k away) by 12:45. We obeyed. They wheeled him into surgery at 5:30 PM, 6 and one-half hours later! He took it well, I didn't. Drove home in the dark. Didn't see any moose, though. Hallelujah. 

But he's fine and I'm back. And here's an interview I found on YouTube for your viewing pleasure. Best Selling NY Author Sonia Choquette -- Tips on how to become a best selling author.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Author Margaret Atwood Interview at DePaul University

Have you ever wondered what your reader's experience will be while reading your book? Does it bother you that you can't control what message they take away from reading your particular novel? As Margaret Atwood says, you can't dictate to your reader what the message is, they'll take away what they take away.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


The Butterfly Effect wallpaper
The Breakup wallpaper
The Benchwarmers wallpaper
Pixar Cars wallpaper
Casino Royale wallpaper
Brokeback Mountain wallpaper
Brick wallpaper
Bittersweet Life wallpaper
Behind Enemy Lines Wallpaper
A Beautiful Mind Wallpaper
Be Cool Movie wallpaper

Assault Precinct 13 Movie wallpaper
Animatrix Movie wallpaper
Anamerican Haunting Movie wallpaper
Analyze That Movie wallpaper

Alien VS Predator Movie wallpaper
300 Movie wallpaper

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

GODDESS FIRE, a review by Joylene Nowell Butler

At first glance Goddess Fire may seem a complex mythic fantasy, but at its core is the basic human condition: a struggle for survival. Twenty years previous, a great plague strikes the land of Egira, killing off most of the men and leaving the land without leadership. Rescuers come in the form of the Vleth, 7' tall women with strange powers, mind readers who convince the Egirans and the Sylvani race who founded the great Egiran cities that they are there for the good of all. In short order, they enslave the men, create an army from the lowest class of Egiran women, whom they call Dames, and train them to be fighters. The Dames in turn strip the Sylvani of their basic rights and force them to yield to the Vleth's supreme power.

The Sylvani are ordered to build catacombs beneath the city in which they are entombed. Unable to feel the light of day, sickness comes and weakens what little strength they have, and yet they are determined to survive.

Ten days prior to the anniversary of the Vleth takeover of Egira, the leader of a small dissenter group learns that the Vleth plan something big for Aeyri Day, a celebration of Vleth supremacy, named after their goddess Aeyri. In celebration of their takeover of Egira, they decide to annihilate the Sylvani. Ten days is all the resistance has to save the Sylvani population and destroying the Vleth, the Dames and the madness that has gained control over their land.

Goddess Fire, to fiction what Avatar is to film, is a spectacular epic adventure. Author Meg Westley has created a sweeping tale in the temperate city of Crescena in the grip of a noble war. Her characters are vibrant women of extraordinary fortitude. While the focus of the story centres around fighting the Vleth, the blend of setting, description and language sets Goddess Fire among the best fantasy novels of this generation. Hollywood would be wise to take note of this incredibly story of honour, strength, and determination.

A writer and dungeon master in her "spare" time, Meg Westley teaches communications at the University of Waterloo and the Stratford Chefs School. Earlier in life, she worked as a stage manager, director and dramaturge. She's been a trustee with the Avon Maitland District School Board since 2000. Passionate about education, politics and theatre, Meg writes in a variety of genres: plays for children, horror stories, academic articles and opinion pieces. She lives in Stratford with her partner husband Jay Klassen; they have two sons. Meg's first novel, Goddess Fire, has just been released. For more information, see

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Review: The Greenhouse Kids, Dan Delion's Secret

THE GREENHOUSE KIDS, Dan Delion's Secret
A REVIEW BY Joylene Nowell Butler

Soft Cover / Color Illustrations
Publisher: Borealis Press
Copyright: 2009
ISBN Number: 978-0-88887-379-8
Pages: 127
Price: $12.95

Dan DeLion loves bugs and spends every Saturday hunting, carrying only his trusted magnifying glass. During a search on the grounds of the haunted Ivy Mansion, he discovers more than he bargains for. Inside a magical greenhouse, a secret is revealed that will change his life forever. Along with his best friends, Holly Hocks, Foxy Glove, and Johnny Jump-Up, Dan DeLion learns what real courage is and that if you believe in yourself, miracles can happen. Together, all three discover that rarely are people what they seem, especially Virginia Creeper.

The Greenhouse Kids, Dan Delion's Secret, 127 pages, (60 minute read) is a book I highly recommend. Author Shelley Awad reminded me how wonderful and inspiring it is to believe. The Greenhouse Kids, Dan Delion's Secret is a perfect story for children aged 8 to 12. I've already purchased each of my grandchildren their very own copy.

About the Author
Shelley Awad was born in Windsor, Ontario in 1958 and currently lives nearby in Tecumseh with her husband, Mitch. She has one son, Aaron, who is completing his PhD in chemistry at the University of Windsor. 
She received her Journalism Diploma from St. Clair College in Windsor. In 1999, Shelley opened her own greenhouse business, Backyard Greenhouses, specializing in residential and commercial greenhouses that she continues to sell across North America.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Are You Using Setting to Your Full Advantage?

I'm choosing random exercises from Donald Maass' book Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, and since spring is in the air, when my finger landed on Setting I was pleasantly pleased. Setting, what Donald Maass refers to as The Psychology of Place, is as important and vital to your story as good characterization and strong plot. But of course, you knew that.

Depending on how many protagonists you have in your story, how does Setting change, influence, motivate or stagnate each of them? If only one protagonist, how does her/his perception of place add a dimension to the story that is unique and original?

Examples: One can only imagine how a character like Adolf Hitler perceives Heaven compared to someone like Harry Potter or Anna Karenina. Or how about during the Olympics, when reporters questioned visitors about Vancouver's weather, those from Russia and the Netherlands (north of 60) were extremely thrilled by how warm it was. Visitors from Florida, California, South Africa and tropical places reported they were freezing.

The idea is to take every opportunity present to use Setting to add diamonds to your story. Use as many settings as possible. And if not, ask yourself why not? Settings cannot be separated from your POV character. As Mr. Maass explain, " and perception are inextricably entwined."

Have you ever visited Seattle, Washington? If you've lived there your entire life, your perceptions will differ from someone who grew up there, left when they were fifteen, and returned forty years later. Life's experiences alters our perceptions. And we're different beings at the age of fifteen verses fifty.

Here's how Valerie McCormick first perceives Seattle during a visit to Lake Union.

Excerpt from Dead Witness, Chapter One
Camera in hand, Valerie McCormick stepped from the bus into intense daylight. She put on her sunglasses and crossed the grass to the edge of the hill. Seattle's skyline loomed in the distance like a giant sandcastle. Closer in, waves rocked elegant yachts, sailboats, and cruisers docked at brown scribbled wharves, jutting along the waterfront. Fifty feet below her, a chain linked fence enclosed acres of quiet warehouses, buildings, and small sheds in both directions. Just inside the gate was the marina office.

Several months later, after Valerie is forced to allow the FBI to fake her death and convince her family she's dead, her perception changes.

Excerpt from Dead Witness, Chapter Twenty-One

Sounds of rain tapping on the patio doors pulled Valerie like a kingfisher to water. After the first two dry weeks of April, the rain cascading down the concrete structures and the darkened glass, made everything look untarnished. Traffic moved below, and people scurried down the sidewalks like ants searching for spilt sugar. Beyond mankind and his impressive towers were things more regal: hazy-gray sky, fir trees, ocean, and snow-capped mountains.
The city was beautiful. Valerie hated it. 
"... insane ... " somebody behind her said.

I published Dead Witness in July 2008, and today I'd like to think I could do a better job of conveying who Valerie is through her sense of place. But that's what writing is about: improving with each book.

Now it's your turn. Write a paragraph with your character experiencing a specific setting. Use all his senses. Don't think, just write. Try first-person present tense. Then third-person past tense. Or first-person past perfect. It doesn't matter.

Then, move forward in time, months, years, and write a paragraph from the same POV in the same setting. You can see how it's imperative that you fully understand who your POV character is and how they have evolved. Because if you describe the setting using all their senses, the setting becomes as important a character in your story as the protagonist.

--happy writing

Friday, March 5, 2010

ASK PZM - March

How important is my book cover?

The front cover of your book is very important, and it is even more so in this age of Internet book buying.

Let’s think about this. You’ll be promoting your book online and linking to its Amazon page or a page on your website where the book can be bought. The cover is one of the strongest emotional connections you can create with a prospective reader.

Look at the size of book covers on Amazon. How clearly can you read the title, the author’s name, “register” what the cover image projects?

That’s how small your book cover will be. And this is why you can’t look at a physical book cover and determine its effectiveness based on that size.

If you doubt this wisdom, think about billboards you’ve driven by. How many times can you barely read the main tagline? Have you wondered why the company and the advertising agency didn’t notice the type was too small or too fancy to read quickly as you drove by?

The answer is that those people looked at the billboard prototype while standing still and not at the distance from which a driver sees most billboards.

The same with your book cover. You have to forget about how you see the cover and put yourself in the mindset of how someone with the attention-span of a half a second will look at your cover.

If you want expert book cover advice, check out John Kremer’s website – he offers book cover consulting. And on a recent book marketing teleseminar for which I was his guest, he rightly noted a problem with the cover of my novel “Mrs. Lieutenant.”

(The words “A Sharon Gold Novel” should not be shoved up right under “Mrs. Lieutenant.” I’ve had advertising design training and I should have noticed this problem but didn’t.)

Cautionary warning: Yes, I know that self-published authors have much more control over their covers than do authors whose books have a traditional publisher. Still, if you think your cover won’t “read” well online, ask your agent to discuss your concerns with your publisher.

How important is it for all my social media profiles to be integrated with my book marketing?

Again, very important. You want to present a consistent image across the Internet. True, you may have different projects (for example, a website for a business that has nothing to do with your book). Yet you still want to appear consistent throughout all social media sites.

The easiest thing to do to tie everything together is to use your photo (rather than your book cover) for your social media profiles. (The exception is for your book’s Facebook fan page, which is different than your own Facebook profile.)

In other words, your photo on your Twitter profile, your Facebook profile, your LinkedIn profile, your profiles on book sites as well as the author photo on your book’s website and the business owner photo on your business’s website should all be the same.

This one consistent photo (with you eyes visible, a smile on your face, and no low-dipping neckline) connects your presence throughout the Internet.

Because, as marketers know, it usually takes quite a few “impressions” before someone interested in your book or business acts on his/her interest. Thus you want that impression to be consistent wherever someone finds you.

© 2010 Miller Mosaic, LLC

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the co-founder of Miller Mosaic Power Marketing. You can get her free report “Twitter, Facebook and Your Website: A Beginning Blueprint for Harnessing the Power of 3 for Your Business” (and your book) now at

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Blue Moon Over Cluculz Lake - Literally

Dear Husband took this photo shortly after 6 AM this morning. I, of course, was busy on the computer. Sometimes I don't appreciate just how beautiful it is here. Shame on me.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

DEAD WITNESS, a review by Harold N. Walters

I received a pleasant surprise this morning. Harold N. Walters writes a column for The Southern Gazette call Book ReMarks. He reviews novels. Today's review was for my suspense thriller Dead Witness. Thank you, Walter.

The Southern Gazette

Daddy’s Boy sent me this book from Prince George for Christmas. Remember Christmas?
Author, Joylene Nowell Butler, lived in Prince George for nearly 20 years. Now she lives near Vanderhoof, still in the same neck of the woods. 

Because of the solitary tree and the field of snow pictured on the cover, my first reaction to ‘Dead Witness’ was, Oh no! Not a story with a lot of snow in it! 
I have no love for snow, not even in books and movies. But, since it was a gift from Daddy’s Boy, I placed it at the bottom of my pile of Christmas books.
Now I’ve read it and I’m sporting a bruised butt, the result of booting myself for not reading it sooner. Dead Witness is a dandy yarn, a Canadian thriller. .... more....

The  Southern Gazette is a member of Transcontinental-Media Community Newspapers. It is based in Marystown, printed in St. John's and distributed to Burin Peninsula residents every Tuesday.