Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Meet Sherry Perkins

Meet Sherry Perkins. Sherry is a diverse writer, ghostwriter, screenwriter, grant writer, speaker, and editor. She is published over 150 times in both hardcopy and in online publications.  The Red Book, Sherry's chapbook of poetry and short stories, can be found on Amazon. Her stories pull you from a bar to a funeral, from a plantation to a cemetery, and from New Orleans to James Dean. I'm sure once you read it, you'll be anxious to get your hands on The Blue Book, available soon.

Sherry blogs at Copperhead 1864 and welcomes you to email her with comments, ideas, or questions at louisianawriter (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Simple Techniques for Editing Your Own Work

Hey, readers! I’m so thrilled to be here. As I thought about which topic to approach, many ideas ran through my mind. Hopefully, you can take away something from my experiences as an…editor. That’s right, editing is my topic. Forgive me if I ramble, but I love talking about writing and editing. Here we go.

Not only am I an avid reader and an active writer, I’m also a very, VERY obsessive editor. My junior-high English teacher would be so proud of me. Here are a few basic ideas you can incorporate into your own editing process, before you send your piece to another reader, a contest, or an editor.

 Spelling

1.  Don’t rely on spell check. Depending upon how your grammar / spelling parameters are set on your computer, it’s highly unlikely the software will catch all your errors.

For example: The word “hear” is spelled correctly in this sentence. What if, in your frenzied attempt at getting your thoughts down, you meant to type “here” instead? Here is spelled correctly, but is the wrong word choice. Ooops, and your submission went out yesterday.

2.  A good exercise to check for spelling is to read each sentence backwards. Yes, it’s a lengthy and time-consuming process. Try it. It works.

 Dialogue / Verb Tense / Grammar

            1.  Don’t have your characters speak proper English all the time. Be real in your            conversational dialogues.
            For example: If your character is drunk, his speech should be slurred and jumbled, not   perfect.

            2. Maintain proper subject / verb agreement. Do you remember learning in school that a            singular subject takes a singular verb, and a plural subject needs a plural verb?

                        Susie (singular subject) likes (singular verb) Shane.

                        Girls (plural subject) like (plural verb) Shane.

            3. And let’s not forget the active voice makes for better reading and more vivid action than the passive voice.

 Punctuation

1.  Don’t laugh, but every sentence must have an ending punctuation.

2. The use of ellipses (you know…those three dots) at the end of a sentence also needs ending punctuation. So, this means four dots – YES IT DOES. It may look weird, but it’s correct.

3. Familiarize yourself with what I call the double adjective, phrases like:

            a high-school student                the six-year-old child

            highly-placed diplomats a curly-haired girl

 Readability

1. To check if you wrote exactly what you meant, read each sentence aloud.

2. Check for omitted words.

3. Also, look for redundancy and for words you can omit.

The techniques above are very simple, but they work. How do I know? I use them, I study them, and I do my research. Don’t depend on others, be confident in your abilities as a writer. Produce the best work you can BEFORE you send your work out.

Now, will you catch 100% of the misspellings, the incorrect subject / verb agreement, punctuation, or unintended meanings, probably not. Yet, if you use these methods, you will greatly reduce the simple errors which will help your work look polished. Happy editing!


Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I was lurking on one of my writer's loops the other day and "saw" Paula Mowery talking about deep point of view. That subject always fascinates me so I asked her to be a guest blogger. Paula is also an acquisitions editor for  Prism Book Group so she knows what she's talking about. You can take a look at her editor bio at www.prismbookgroup.com.
I know you'll enjoy and learn from her post.

DPOV Basics
by Paula Mowery

Through my experience of writing and having books published as well as editing for my acquired authors, I have developed some basic things to look for in terms of deep point of view. POV essentially refers to the character the reader is experiencing the story through at a given time. This perspective can be deepen or honed to allow the reader to connect even more strongly with the POV character. To have the reader feel as though she/he is experiencing what the character is experiencing is what the writer wants to achieve. This is the goal of DPOV.

Here is a mental checklist I use when revising my work or someone else’s:

1. Check for head-hopping. The writer must remain in the same POV
until indicating in some way that they will be changing (insert a wingding or start a new chapter). Please don’t make your reader dizzy by hopping from the thoughts of one character to another. When in a certain POV, write only what that character would do, say, think, observe.

2. Only write what the POV character can sense. The POV character shouldn’t give a physical description of herself/himself. For example: Her cheeks reddened. The POV character can’t see this.
Better: Heat rushed up her neck and into her cheeks.

3. Get rid of telling words and just say it. Even in a POV character’s internal thoughts, she/he wouldn’t think the words thought, felt.
For example: She thought he might be tired. He supposed she needed time to herself.
Better: He might be tired. She needed time to herself.

4. Show in order of occurrence.
For example: She shuddered after the knock at the door and wondered at answering.
Better: A knock on the door jolted her. She shuddered. Was it safe to answer?

5. How would the POV character really be thinking? Would the character use internal questions?
For example: He wondered if he should open the door.
Better: Should he open the door?

6. Show emotion; don’t name it.
For example: She was mad.
Better: She gritted her teeth and clenched her fists.

DPOV is a skill in progress. Keep working to give the reader that close-up experience with your POV character.

Some resources that have helped me personally are The Emotion Thesaurus by Ackerman and Puglisi and Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson.

Paula Mowery is a pastor’s wife and former homeschool mom. She has always been an avid reader of Christian fiction. She began writing in the area of nonfiction creating three Bible studies which were self-published. However, she crafted fiction stories which she shared with friends and family. When one of her readers encouraged her to pursue publication, she joined American Christian Fiction Writers, learning more about the world of fiction. Her debut work of fiction is a novella published by Harbourlight, a division of Pelican Book Group – THE BLESSING SEER. She is also an acquiring editor for Prism Book Group.

Learn more about Paula at her blog – www.paulamowery.blogspot.com and you can connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Read more of her writing in her monthly columns on www.christianonlinemagazine.com.
Her new book releases Sept. 13th and is called Be The Blessing.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


Alex Cavanaugh is one of my writing heroes. He is founder of the Insecure Writers Support Group, and almost every blog I visit, I see an encouraging comment from him. He does a great job of promoting others too. During the month of September, Alex starts a challenging blog tour promoting his new book, and he'll participate in his first twitter party. Get dates and details HERE. Alex knows his blog subject well; he maintains momentum!

Maintaining Author Momentum
by Alex J. Cavanaugh
Building an author platform takes time. Looking back, I now understand why my publisher wanted me online a year before the release of my first book. It took me a while to network, make friends, and build momentum.
Most authors grasp the efforts required before and during a book release. They do blog tours, appearances, interviews, giveaways, and start planning the next book. When the dust settles, they retreat back into the writing cave and out of the spotlight.
Call me clueless, but I missed that last part!
I slowed down while writing and ventured online just a little bit less, but I never ground to a halt. Hey, it took me a year to build that momentum! If I lost it, I’d have to do it all over again. I was determined that wouldn’t happen. (I’m ambitiously lazy.)
Now some writers maintain momentum by producing a lot of books in a short amount of time. I’m a slow writer though, so I knew that plan wouldn’t work for me. I had to keep promoting, which meant maintaining my online presence.
Of course, I don’t like promoting my own books, so did other things instead. I just kept building my blog and Twitter following, co-hosted the A to Z Challenge, participated in blogfests, and started the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. After all, I wasn’t online just to promote my book – I was there to support and encourage others.
Did it work? Well, eleven months after its release, my first book hit the Amazon Best Seller chart.
I also wrote my next book during that time, and when it was released, it also hit the Best Seller charts. Both books eventually soared to the top of the Amazon UK charts as well. And while I’m blessed with a publisher who promotes my work, even they said my online activity had a huge impact on sales.
Maintaining momentum is important. So is consistency. Together it’s like a heartbeat, one that keeps your platform alive.
I know every author is different, but if I’d pulled back and vanished, my chances of success would’ve also vanished. No Amazon Best Sellers. No Insecure Writer’s Support Group. No blog growth or opportunity to really make a difference in this community. And it would’ve been a great loss.
Guess there’s something to be said about being clueless!
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He is experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of the Amazon bestsellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, his third book, CassaStorm, will be released September 17, 2013.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013


I first met Anna Castle in my Sisters In Crime/Guppy writing group and couldn't resist asking her to prepare a guest blog for me. She's an interesting person, as you'll find out when you read this post. Anna recently retired from managing a digital archive at the University of Texas at Austin. Writing is now her full time job. Isn't Anna Castle a great name? We'll see it on book covers soon. Learn more about Anna and her books by visitng her website.

The Joy of Research
by Anna Castle

The Internet is great for overviews, generating ideas and picking out clothes or cars for contemporary characters, but it can only get you so far. The library is indispensable for a writer of historical fiction like me. But the most fun can be had by getting out there and looking at the world in which your story is set.

My to-be-published-someday-soon Francis Bacon mystery series is set in Elizabethan England. I can't travel back in time and London has changed a tad since 1585, but many wonderful old buildings have been preserved. Museums are full of intriguing furniture, tools and other things my characters might have used. Places like Kentwell Hall (http://www.kentwell.co.uk/) host Tudor-themed events where costumed re-enactors engage in traditional tasks. I found a character at Kentwell.
I do a lot of walking, a major pastime in the UK. The cities may have changed, but parts of the landscape would still be familiar to my characters. I love the English countryside and trust me, it is all kinds of different from Texas, where I live. They have rain: lots of it. They have these soft, cool breezes drifting out from under dark thickets. In Texas, thickets are full of snakes and rarely cool or soft. Descriptions from my favorite British authors make more sense now that I've walked where they walked when they were writing. Christopher Marlowe might have walked up this very road on his way from Canterbury to Cambridge. How cool is that?

One of the characters in my current WIP, set in Victorian London, finds herself obliged to burglarize some Mayfair houses and country estates. (Her intentions are honorable, I assure you!) My problem was getting her and her crew in and out with the goods undetected. Crime fiction lends a whole new perspective to touring the stately home!

I study these houses like a villain, not an architect. If it weren't for those burglar bars (surely modern), could my gal get in these windows? Then how far is it to the library? Which rooms will she pass on the way? Do they have gas lamps on the landings?

To make the most of my trips, I do a lot of planning; online, of course. I look for houses in my period of interest on sites like the invaluable National Trust (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/). Wikipedia has lists of museums in most major cities with links to their websites, where you can get hours of operation and directions via many forms of transport. The Brits have lots of online resources for ramblers: favorite walks, long and short, all over the country. Everybody everywhere has lots of travel info these days. I know where my characters are from and how they spend their days, so I try to go where they would go and see whatever I can see. I hope these experiences enrich my books. And hey: nice work if you can get it!

Anna Castle is writing two mystery series. The Francis Bacon series is set in Elizabethan England.
The first book, Murder by Misrule, will be published one way or another in 2014. The Lost Hat, Texas
series is set in the present, in the hill country west of Austin, where Anna lives. Black and White and
Dead All Over is under revision. Find out more at www.annacastle.com.


Thursday, August 8, 2013


When Sandra Orchard wrote this post, she had no idea she was writing to, and about, me. I'm one of those writers who has trouble determining my main character's goal. If she'd asked me what Cory's goal is, I'd have said to get the girl. Or I may have asked ... when? before he meets Bretta or after? Before he realizes his life is about to change, or after it changes? Okay, I tend to complicate things--as you see, so Sandra's use of the word urgent really helps. To read an excerpt of her books Fatal Inheritance and Deadly Devotion just click the titles. And feel free to ask questions!

by Sandra Orchard

Your novel’s main character needs a goal.

You know this, right?

But do you really understand what it means?

At a writer's conference I recently attended, I asked every single writer who had an appointment with me this question: What is your hero's goal for the story?

Only one out of eight gave me a satisfactory answer. Most had a lot to say about what the hero or heroine would learn through the story, especially spiritually, since we're talking Christian fiction, but very few of the writers I talked to had nailed down a concrete, visible, urgent story goal for their main character.

If you're writing commercial fiction, and want to be published, your hero needs a goal.

A concrete goal.

New writers often get confused by the lingo. Writing teachers talk about long-term and short-term goals, internal goals and external goals, needs and wants, not to mention scene goals.

I find that most Christian writers don't have a problem with the character's long-term goal, which often tends to be abstract. It's what the character wants (or needs) out of life in general.

Where writers run into trouble is in identifying what is often called the "short-term goal". I prefer to call it the character's story goal, to differentiate it from the very short-term changing goals the character has in each scene.

The character's story goal not only needs to be concrete, it needs to be achievable within the time constraints of the story. The story is over when your main character reaches his/her goal or fails to reach it.

Now, if you're thinking, I write romance…the hero's goal is to win the girl, think again.

Okay, occasionally, winning the girl is the singular story goal, but it's not enough for the goal to simply be concrete and achievable.

It needs to be urgent.

If the hero could wait until next month or next year to pursue his goal or solve the problem then there's no urgency to propel the story forward.

We suspense writers like to call this urgency the ticking bomb. If the hero doesn't reach the goal by a certain time, boom.

In my newest release, Fatal Inheritance, my heroine's goal is to hang onto the century farmhouse she's inherited from her recently deceased grandparents.

Her sister and brother-in-law are fighting the will. Land developers are vying for the land. One of them, or maybe someone else, wants her out of the house so desperately, he or she goes to great lengths to scare Becki Graw into leaving.

As for urgency…

Since the house is in a rural community, that isn't a commutable distance from where Becki worked, she quit her job. She planned to live on her savings until she found a job nearby. However, she hadn't counted on necessary house repair expenses, nor on the suppressed economy in the area that makes finding a job near impossible.

Added to that, her sister's threat to break the will cannot be ignored. She is determined to make it happen yesterday.

Then when Becki cannot be persuaded to go quietly into the night, the threats mount and her choices morph to give up the house or die. Which of course, adds urgency to the cop-next-door's goal to catch the person behind the threats.

When choosing a goal for your main character, be sure his or her motivation is strong. He or she must have something significant enough at stake to keep pushing forward when it would be easier to just quit. But that’s a lesson for another day.

Any questions? 


Sandra Orchard is a multi-award-winning Canadian author of inspirational romantic suspense/mysteries. Her summer releases include: Fatal Inheritance (Aug, Love Inspired Suspense) and Deadly Devotion (June, Revell). She is an active member in American Christian Fiction Writers, The Word Guild, and Romance Writers of America. To find out more about her novels, or read interesting bonus features, please visit www.sandraorchard.com or connect at www.Facebook.com/SandraOrchard


Sunday, July 21, 2013


I'm excited to introduce Judy Alter whose ebook, Death Comes Home releases this week. I spent more than an hour on her food blog called Potluck with Judy, reading about genetically altered foods. Now that's something that'll scare your socks off, so let's move on to something more pleasant: do you plot or do you write like a runaway freight train? Here's what Judy has to say:

Pantsers vs. Plotters
by Judy Alter
Writing habits are individual things. I have long admired people who can plot out each chapter and each scene before they ever sit down to write. Then they have a road map to follow. Some leave room for flexibility, for the inevitable changes that occur when you write, but basically they know where they’re going. And writing a synopsis? Easy peasy—it’s all there in the outline. Some writers use storyboards or whiteboards to keep track of scenes and characters as they write. Or computer programs which allow you to move scenes around and such.

I on the other hand wander blindly about in a familiar world, since I know the settings of my series novels, but with little idea of where I’m going. My publisher now requests a synopsis before accepting a proposal. But recently after I signed a contract, the manuscript began to take a different direction and ended up nowhere near what the synopsis had indicated. When I saw this developing, maybe halfway through, I wrote the managing editor who requested a new synopsis. Fortunately, it passed muster. There’s been one intervening novel since, but now I find my mind going back to the original theme of that earlier project.

The trouble, you see, is that I’m a pantser. I write by the seat of my pants. I prefer to dash off a page of rough notes, get the first sentence, and see what happens when I go from there. Sometimes what happens is magic. Events seem to unfold of their own accord, characters tell me what’s going to happen, and the plot shapes itself, often taking turns I hadn’t expected. Many seasoned authors will tell you to listen to your characters, and they will tell you what’s going to happen. The late western novelist Elmer Kelton used to talk about two of his novels in which the characters took over his typewriter or computer. One was Buffalo Soldier, which he intended to feature a newly freed slave who becomes a buffalo soldier (one of the Negro regiments on the western frontier). But a Comanche chief kept demanding equal time, and eventually the book chronicled both their stories—the buffalo soldier’s rise in life as the Comanche’s way of life disappeared. The other was The Good Old Boys, which he wrote at his dying father’s bedside and based on all the stories his father, a longtime ranch foreman, had told him. The characters, he used to say, took over like a cold-jawed horse with a bit.

I don’t find it usually happens that easily, and sometimes I worry about what’s going to happen next. I also worry a lot if the manuscript is going to reach an acceptable word limit—I have a tendency to rush through things, so that my friend and beta reader is always telling me to slow down. He also often tells me I have too much going on in a book—which I wonder doesn’t spring from my desperate attempt to pad the length. But once I finish it, I rarely make major changes, like moving whole sections around, eliminating characters (I rejected that suggestion recently), and the like.

One trick that works for me when I settle down to write: set a goal of a thousand words a day. I wrote a novel that way earlier this year and found it worked well.

But everyone has their own methods. What’s yours?

Judy Alter is the author of two mysteries series—Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, including Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, and the just-published Danger Comes Home, and the Blue Plate Café Mysteries, which debuted this year with Murder at the Blue Plate Café, with Murder at Tremont House to come next year. Her books are available on Amazon and Smashwords. Also the author of several historical novels set in the American West, she is the recipient of Western Writers of America Owen Wister Award for  Lifetime Achievement and several other awards.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


If there's one thing I have trouble with in my writing, it's setting. I have to admit, while reading I often skip lovely, long passages, jump right to the dialogue. Now that I'm beginning to get a little attention from small presses, I've devoted more time to studying how writer's achieve a sense of place. My education comes late. My writer friend and SLR partner Jan Rider Newman has a fine eye for setting and her short stories prove it. Read what Jan has to share about Fitzgerald's setting in The Great Gatsby.

Setting: The Character We Overlook
by Jan Rider Newman
The Great Gatsby, first published in 1925, has gained renewed attention lately because of the latest movie remake. F. Scott Fitzgerald fictionalized the North Shore of Long Island into West Egg and East Egg. Tom and Daisy Buchanan live in more fashionable East Egg. Gatsby and Nick Carraway, the narrator, live in West Egg.

Setting and sense of place is so important to a story it can be one of the characters. Consider Nick Carraway’s descript 
ions of West and East Egg:

I . . . rented a house . . . on that slender riotous island which extends itself due east of New York — and where there are . . . two unusual formations of land . . . [A] pair of enormous eggs, identical in contour and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out into the most domesticated body of salt water in the Western hemisphere, the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound. . . .

I lived at West Egg, the — well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them. My house was at the very tip of the egg, only fifty yards from the Sound, and squeezed between two huge places that rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season. The one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard — it was . . . Gatsby’s mansion. . . . My own house was an eyesore, but it was a small eyesore, and it had been overlooked, so I had a view of the water, a partial view of my neighbor’s lawn, and the consoling proximity of millionaires — all for eighty dollars a month. 

Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water . . .

Even if you couldn’t afford one of the “palaces” or a twelve or fifteen thousand dollar “place,” wouldn’t you really enjoy living in Nick’s little house?

The home of Tom’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson, provides jolting contrast:

About half way between West Egg and New York the motor road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes — a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke . . .

Could anything else offer more contrast or give a better idea of distinctions between and within classes than the descriptions of where the characters live? Tom and Daisy inhabit the ultimate circle—old-money fashionable. Gatsby is fabulously but newly rich, unfashionable in the Buchanan stratosphere. Though not especially rich, Nick is old-money fashionable and moves within both circles. Myrtle, in that village of ashes, lives above a garage, is poor and desperate.

Where is your story set? What does it say about your characters and their society, their passions and ambitions? If possible, go to your setting or one like it. What do you see? Don’t judge. Just look. See the people, the buildings, the sidewalks, streets/roads, animals, trees, and plants. What does the setting say to you? After you figure that out, ask what the setting says about your story. How can you condense the relevance of your setting the way Fitzgerald did, so it practically tells the story for you?

Good luck!

Jan Rider Newman has published short stories, nonfiction, poetry, and book reviews in competitions and anthologies, print and online literary journals. Her published short stories are collected in A Long Night’s Sing and other stories. She publishes and co-edits Swamp Lily Review, an online literary journal, and is webmaster for the Bayou Writers’ Group. Jan’s current WIP, a novel about the 1755 Acadian exile from Nova Scotia, is close to her heart because many of her ancestors fell victim to it. 
Her family, including two granddaughters, makes her world go around. They plus writing, research, genealogy, and photography keep her busy. 

A Long Night's Sing and other stories is available for Kindle and POD
Jan blogs at Beyond Acadia:  Reading, Writing & Living Well, and her website is HERE.